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.”
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.