Perusing the usual suspects this morning, I came across a piece at Liberty’s Torch which bears some commentary. In it, Francis explains his view on the recent unpleasantness from CNN and anonymity in general:
I do disapprove of what CNN did. There are Internet users with good reasons to keep their real names a secret. Certainly the maker of that video was within his rights to travel under an anonymizing moniker. However, allow me to say that:
- I have much more respect for persons who don’t hide their identities when they express themselves;
- Had this fellow traveled under his right name, CNN would have been unable to do him any harm.
I understand that in our time, a policy of openness about who you are and what you believe is double-edged. Those who find your thoughts persuasive will respect you more than otherwise. However, those who find your sentiments (or you personally) offensive or threatening will be able to target you. If you regard yourself, or persons you love, as too vulnerable for my policy, I understand your decision.
But remember the breadth of the Internet, and the tissue-thinness of the concealment an anonymizing moniker provides. What CNN did to that video maker, it can do to you. For that matter, it takes far less clout and far fewer resources than those possessed by CNN to do it.
Just a quick thought. Feel free to dismiss it as the blather of a man who probably has “nothing to lose.” Except that if you really knew how much I have to lose, and how often vicious persons have threatened me and it, you might sing a different tune.
Personally, I am very divided on this issue. As a result, I continue to operate under a sort of partial anonymity. I am immune to casual attempts to discover my identity. But I don’t operate under any sort of security, and, indeed, my photograph is in the upper right corner. It is also present on my Twitter feed. My Facebook friends are aware of my generally Right-wing leanings, now. I have spoken about family history, and it would not be difficult at all to discover my identity. Indeed, I’ve been doxed before.
At the same time, I don’t sign my name at the end of every piece for a very important reason: it could cost me money. Among my clients and business partners, I deliberately avoid political discussion. No doubt a good many of them are fully aware of my views anyway. But by avoiding discussion of such matters, we focus more readily on matters of business.
Fact is, I don’t expect most folks to understand my views or how I came to believe them. And if any are inclined toward Leftism, not only would they fail to understand my views, they would possibly come to see them as racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or whatever. It is likely I would lose business.
Now, one might say I am being dishonest with them. But that’s not true either. I explicitly avoid political discussion with them, and they grant me the same courtesy. There are no lies exchanged, only a shared understanding that political discussion can ruin otherwise good business relationships. Now, if CNN came and made a national news story out of something I said, the issue would be forced with them. Their compatriots would ask “why do you associate with him, he said (insert something they don’t like here)?” The relationship would thus be damaged, or destroyed.
On the other hand, I am not personally afraid to air my views. So I attach my photo. And to folks I trust aren’t out to cause me grief, I readily disclose my identity.
Nonetheless, if CNN made me the subject of one of their Maoist Struggle Sessions it would cost me a considerable amount of business. I could afford to suffer the loss, mind you. I generally live below my means and have significant savings and assets. Furthermore, while some of my clients are undoubtedly Left-leaning, many others are not and would probably stick by me even in such an event.
And this circles back to one of the strongest reasons to maintain some level of anonymity: your income. Character assassinations from the Left generally focus on your income. They want to get you fired from your job, or ruin your business, or render you unemployable. And they will twist and spin your words to do this, if necessary. They may even invent lies out of whole cloth, if they don’t find enough to incriminate you. They will take your words out of context, or interpret a joke seriously. If you’ve ever said anything hasty or angry on the Internet, they will unearth it and use that too.
Remember when that poor chef was tarred as a racist because she used the N-word once, decades ago, right after she was robbed?
If Leftists had respect for free speech, anonymity wouldn’t be necessary. And even today, as Francis says, putting your name to a thing shows a level of conviction that the anonymous often lack. But on the other hand, signing your name to a thing can carry a financial cost that one must be comfortable paying. It’s a trade off. Using your name grants authenticity, but can render you and yours more vulnerable.
Only you can decide if the risk is worth the reward. For myself, I have decided to split the middle. I go to no great effort to hide myself, but I maintain a sort of gentleman’s agreement to avoid too much political publicity for sake of my business relationships.
The fact of the matter is, it would be very unwise for CNN or any other entity to dox me and make me the focus of a struggle session, for then I would be freed to sign my name to all of this. The cost would have been forced on me anyway. They would get no apology from me, no grovelling. And I would only become more forceful about my opinions, not less.
Because at that point, what have you got to lose by just going with it? And that ties into another point. If the Left and the media keeps up with tactics like this, it could get very ugly. I have resources and alternate sources of income to carry me through such a time. What happens to folks who don’t have such resources to call upon? If you destroy their livelihood, you will have created an enemy with nothing to lose. You will have put their backs to the wall.
The Left ought to reflect very carefully on this. The anonymous denizens of the Internet could become a lot more dangerous if pressed into a corner. I wouldn’t recommend this course.