Friday, November 02, 2007

Anonymity

This isn't really an anonymous blog. It also doesn't (shame on you) have a particularly large number of comments, although this is partly because I don't tend to write pieces that especially call for them. When I comment on other blogs it's usually as 'Tim', for the rather obvious reason that that is my name. The whole thrust of the anonymity debate that recently gripped the British blogosphere was never particularly germane to this corner of it. However, Ben Macintyre's article in the Times today is helpful in the way it puts internet anonymity into a more general historical context.
Dizzy's argument here is that, essentially, the internet has always been an anonymous place - that it's your playground/kingdom and that if you don't like it, don't allow anonymous comments on your site, and don't visit sites that do. Even then of course - that chap calling himself Doctor Crippen (welcome back by the way), how do we know that he's really called that? He isn't of course, he's just as anonymous as a commenter called 'anonymous'. It's a feature of the internet, it's not possible to avoid and there's little point in trying.
That said, there can be little point in pretending that anonymity doesn't impact harmfully on manners. Comments on the internet are generally extremely rude. I'm, gasp, even guilty of this myself. If I were to discuss with Polly Toynbee the merits or otherwise of her articles, while I would make broadly the same points to her face as I do in blogging, I'm pretty sure that I would cut down drastically on the 'are you stupid or something, or what?' elements of it. Similarly, there was a commenter here a while ago who, while disagreeing with me and what I said, did so relatively politely - largely, I suspect because I replied. On his own site, which I can't remember now, I think he was rather ruder. One of the reasons why Comment is Free comment threads descend into the abyss so often is because there is so little response. The commenters are throwing their vitriol into an empty space.
So, ultimately, there's no point in worrying about anonymous commenters, or anonymous bloggers. If they write well, read them. If they don't, don't. It would be nice to think we could all be as nice on the page as we are off it, but it's not true in all cases, so if you particularly want to spread around opprobrious epithets, by all means do so - but remember that anonymous sniping was never a great badge of honour.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Political Umpire said...

Interesting post and good blog. I blog anonymously for a variety of reasons, but leave plenty of clues as to my real name on the site. Also I give it out to anyone who asks and whom I decide is not a net psycho. As you say, if you don't like any of it don't read any of it.

9:50 am  
Blogger Tim J said...

Which is more or less exactly where I am. Return the compliment on the blog incidentally - especially for a Kiwi...

5:01 pm  

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