The War on Anonymity

I have this rule, where I publish anything, that’s been a draft for 6 months or delete it, so – there you go:

It’s quite funny that people used almost exclusively pseudonyms, when it was almost guaranteed that nothing (“bad”) could have happened anyway (net was still primarily populated by geeks and the like) and now that privacy is going down the drain, new services start to enforce “real names”, as if they were trying to make this the norm. This world is crazy, right?

– Me

In almost every corner of the Internet, it’s possible to run into people who talk about/refer to anonymity, without (apparently) having the slightest clue what that really is. Weird, right? It’s not like it would be a complex beast. IMHO quite the opposite. I followed discussions in some (“german”) forums (and I believe it’s nowhere as bad as it is “there”), where it’s possible to post as unregistered users or by registering a static nick. Now, everyone writing something as an unregistered user, was considered to be anonymous (it was the unchallenged truth there), while all the people who could call themselves “BatmansGrapplingHook” (if they wanted to) were supposed to be these well-known, trusted community members (naturally the “good”, registered members frequently treated the unregistered members like shit, like second-class posters…). A stance, that repulses me, to say the least. The former basically contains every major misapprehension someone could have, concerning anonymity. This condition is apparently so unknown, that the word is very often used, when people are talking about pseudonymity, at best. It’s really demagogy at this point. Anonymity would mean, to exist in a state, where one is completely untraceable. Pseudonymity only means, to use a nickname, like many people even do with their friends wherever and not just on the net. How the hell is someone supposed to be anonymous, when (yes, in most cases) it takes one fucking phone call to get the real name and address? Yes: THAT MEANS YOU ARE NOT ANONYMOUS AT ALL, DICKWEED! When are people finally getting that? And know what would truly be anonymous, since this is always brought up by people who hate the net (and this is clearly the case, since the same people don’t scream around in public places that they don’t know the names of all these strange people surrounding them, panicking at every step…) and wish it didn’t exist? Go somewhere on foot with sunglasses and buy stuff using cash while leaving the cellphone at home… Unbelievable fact: No IP/email address will ever tie the concrete person to this (and if someone thinks that clothes are recognizable: those aren’t registered to a name either and can be thrown away too, again without a trace…)!

Another huge _myth_ is, that conversations done face to face, would be almost magically cool, always. I guess some people are to dumb, to notice when there’s often this little thing going on face to face, called “arguing” or “fighting” or yelling at someone until someone’s ears start bleeding… But for some it seems more desirable not to dwell on that any further, because it’s true and derails their point instantly… Before I go into it, I’m just gonna say, that I’m not against offscreen discussions, I’m just arguing against dangerous fools/fascists, who actually want to forbid any other kind. First of, trolling is usually seriously uncool, I’ll give’em that. But facing the facts, it’s no problem. None. Never. Because, other than in “real-life” (another stupid expression really, because the Internet is as real as anything else in our world – DUH!) tabs can simply be closed when something isn’t worth reading, contacts can be deleted, blocked, ignored… Filters automatically sort the spam into an extra folder… Try to do any of that, if you are in a bar with some friends, and some jerk talks crap. Know what’s gonna happen? Social protocol is gonna keep you from just getting up and leaving (your friends behind). No, that would be unfriendly. You’ll gonna stick it out until your friends decide to leave too. Good thing you weren’t in a situation, where closing a browser window would have sufficed, right?!? That doesn’t even take into account, that the Internet is basically about only seeing what its user wants to see anyway. Typical example today would be Twitter, the timeline consists only of people the user himself has selected. If someone is frequently confronted with “offensive” content, chances are he’s using it wrong…

Next up is, obviously, that idiots describe it as the worst thing in the world, when people feel like they can say anything at all, anything they really wanna say. This is always described as the worst thing imaginable to them. No one ever points out, that this can also be a not just good, but really great thing. Isn’t a discussion much more worthwhile, when people are really honest? How rewarding is it, to hear careful statements, that people give because they fear their “social position” might get downgraded. This is boring and makes many dialogs superfluous – a mere waste of time. Further, if someone really hates your guts, don’t you wanna know? What good is it, to have people lie through their teeth all the time? It’s not that bad, not being friends with every living person on this planet. No one ever is! It’s normal!

The next vital aspect is, and this one should never be forgotten, that discussions should always primarily be based on facts. When do discussions usually start to go south? Exactly, when people start to become personal. When suddenly the “bad haircut” of the opponent becomes an issue, which has nothing to to with the topic. So it’s absolutely possible, that people who complain about anonymity, are just *beep*, who miss sabotaging a conversation using such tricks, that can’t be used online… How horrible, right?!? Bad Internet! Also, there is no way to exploit looks/clothing/perceived social status to get ahead in an anonymous online discussion, such things are completely circumvented and “winning” still/only depends on having the better arguments. No wonder some people are furious, every time they are confronted with such a situation! How horrible and strange that must be for them (that’s why Facebook was introduced for those people, to spread old-world posturing to the net :P)!
It’s like those guys who plagiarized their dissertations and justly lost their doctorates. Now some of them try to shift the focus on the founder of the wiki that uncovered their cheating, since this guy lost his pseudonymity. Even if this dude had a motivation of his own, it still wouldn’t change the fact that they were the ones who cheated and deserved to loose their doctorates… It would be the job of the public to not let the cheaters get through with such a technique. Sadly I have no trust in that, but for the sake of this text I will only point out, that with true/intact anonymity it would never have come to this…

And after all that, now it gets really ugly. Because how is stuff like whistleblowing supposed to work, if you can’t share any information in anonymity anymore? Reporters/journalists, their whole craft really, should be up and protesting against any such notions. Sources won’t ever be able to tell a story, if they have to fear to be exposed for it. That’s already “tricky” enough as it is.
But democracy is even more at stake because of this anti-anonymity mentality, than “just” for the “endangering actual journalism” part. In many democratic countries it’s a corner stone, that citizens must be able in elections to cast their vote in secret, in anonymity. Tracing votes back to the concrete person who made them is forbidden, yes, but it’s forbidden because people would no longer be completely free to share their views and that would be a damage to the democratic process itself… Douchebags who agitate against anonymity full-time should try (possibly for the very first time in their lives) to understand this – not just “know” or hear – but understand, actually realize the principle beneath this. Because they either haven’t, or…

A lot of these politicians statements are really about them being afraid, that someone might criticize them and they can’t sue the person, because he/she could be “anonymous”. They appear to see themselves as these warriors on a battlefield and as such they wanna know as much as possible about their perceived enemies. Most of these fears are unfounded (shocker!), because it usually proved to be much more easy to sue someone, than to do “damage” by criticizing. There is an imbalance and it’s not against those in power, is all I’m saying. This imbalance is so obvious, that it appears to be ridiculous to not even want to grant the small feat of some anonymity to others (movements like Anonymous and LulzSec seem to make them shit their pants). The fact that it was the Internet, what helped the people in several Arabic countries to get rid of their “regimes”, makes complaints against all this seem all the more unsympathetic.

It’s all really just an extension of my earlier 11 part series “why they hate it”. If they can’t come up with new/fresh arguments against the net, they try it this way, in the hopes of getting some more support, by people who don’t recognize this method. It’s sad, that those dudes don’t want to understand, that there is not always a difference between opinions that are now visible for everyone because of the net and opinions that always existed (=even before), but remained unknown.

tl;dr: So, anonymity is being actually untraceable, hasn’t necessarily to do with using a nickname… and is more often than not really GOOD.

PS: Oh, and if you thought this/the above is about (or has anything to do with) no accountability, be ashamed of yourself because you belong to them. :P Because it isn’t. Quite the contrary. Some of the stuff is even what creates accountability. Think about it, but hopefully you won’t have to.

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