Sunday, June 04, 2006


STEVEN DEN BESTE @ USS Clueless gets a bit excited about anonymous posters

he quotes his target - Demosthenes

“I don't want my arguments here to affect how people treat me in real life (unless I let them... and more importantly I don't want interpretation of my arguments weighed by how people perceive my beliefs and interests- I'd prefer the arguments to stand on their own, and the reputation of Demosthenes to grow and exist apart from my reputation and credentials in real life.”

Steven argues
1) They are unaccountable for their actions
“By posting under a pseudonym, Demosthenes in his person is accountable to no-one. He can lie, cheat, distort, deliberately deceive, or libel with impunity, because there are no potential consequences for him in doing so.”
2) They are ashamed
“I don't care who Demosthenes is, but I do care that he's ashamed to admit who he is, and afraid to accept the social consequences of expressing his opinions.”
3) They are in a sense dangerous
"The nameless human behind the blog hopes that the synthetic avatar Demosthenes will take on a life of its own. It's a disturbing ambition"

I take a fairly slack attitude towards being anonymous, but despite my bias I suggest Steven has the weaker position.

1) You are accountable in a sense as long as you use a consistent pseudonym. If one used many different names and was constantly making dubious statements of fact about certain things (e.g. trolls) clearly this would become a big issue but otherwise their credibility rests on their reliability in the same way that anyone elses does. But Steven does not seem to be attacking just the "troll" set of anonymous bloggers - he is attacking them all (although Demosthenes as a example).

2)Being anonymous doesn’t mean you are ashamed of your position.
What Steve is assuming is that there is some strong latent reason to want to use your name address and workplace. T some people there is - maybe they have a need to be famous or maybe they are a party hack and it reflects well on them.
But it is also possible they just don’t care or can't be bothered with the potential for ad hominem attacks wasting their time. I’m also not sure liable counts since how often have international liable cases been taken against named bloggers?

3) The growing of the avatar without the person behind it is no more dangerous than with that person. Steve talks about how it permits people to, as party employee, troll other websites. The thing here is that if you were a party employee and you posted under your name you would loose the potential to be able to oppose your own party without consequences as opposed to loosing the ability to support it. Probably these people upon pressure would just retreat to their own groups and become more

In an ideal world you could argue your position based only on the evidence - and other people would ignore anything you said that was just opinion wihtout supporting evidence. Giving someone the opportunity to say "but your chinese so your biased" or "but your from the south" or "but you are a labour supporter" doesnt add to the debate for any intelligent reader (although it may effect the less intelligent ones).

The way he looks at the issue is a sad inditement of US politics, in that he seems to assume people are completely partisan, that debate won't result in rational solutions without retribution to assist it and that people don’t take reputation of the speaker into account when evaluation evidence.


Blogger Demosthenes said...

I'm the fellow in question... it's actually really strange to see that come up again, so much later.

In any case, I don't disagree with much that you've written here, and I particularly agree on the "consistent pseudonym" issue. The point I was trying to make is that every pseudonym has a reputation in-and-of itself, but the advantage of using a pseudonym is that the reputation is based solely on the quality of what the person says.

That said, he wasn't merely attacking all anonymous bloggers- he was angry with me at the time because I was a constant thorn in his side and did what I could to break down his pretentious nonsense about the War on Terrorism, the so-called clash of civilizations, and all the rest of his poorly-researched pontifications.

That he chose to attack me directly showed that I had some success. That he was forced to do it in this fashion, instead of getting Free Republic goons to visit me at home, shows why pseudonyms make sense.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Genius said...

Yes such arguments can often spill over into real life, and even if they don't people like you might encounter on free republic like to keep up the pretense that it just might do that (to keep one on the back foot).

Anyway thanks for commenting on the post

12:03 AM  

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