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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

How to deal with anonymous cowards on the Internet

Found this article at The State's website:
Internet's anonymity leads to nasty comments

The Associated Press

When a California woman recently gave birth to a healthy baby just two days after learning she was pregnant, the sudden change to her life was challenging enough. What April Branum definitely didn't need was a deluge of nasty Internet comments.

Postings on message boards made cracks about Branum's weight (about 400 pounds — one reason she says didn't realize sooner she was pregnant). They also analyzed her housekeeping ability, based on a photo of her home.

And they called her names. "A pig is a pig," one person wrote. Another suggested that she "go on the show 'The Biggest Loser.'"

"The thing that bothered me most was, people assumed because I am overweight, I'm going to be a bad mom," Branum says. "And that is not one little bit true."

It was yet another example of how the Internet — and the anonymity it affords — has given a public stage to people's basest thoughts, ones that in earlier eras likely never would have traveled past the watercooler, the kitchen table or the next barstool.

Such incidents — and there are countless across cyberspace — also raise the question: Is there anything to be done about it? Or is a decline in civil discourse simply the price that we pay for the advance of technology?

"The Internet really amplifies everything," says Jeffrey Cole, of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. "We have a lot of opinions out there. All of a sudden there's a place we can go to share them." Add to that the freedom that anonymity provides, he says, and it "can lead to a rowdy Wild West situation, with no one to filter it."

"It's all things said reflexively, without thinking," says Cole, who tracks the political and social impact of the Internet as director of Annenberg's Center for the Digital Future.

"My guess is that if you went back to these people, a lot of them would have second thoughts."

And if you asked them to add their name, as in a traditional letter to the editor? "They’d be embarrassed..."

I can vouch for how true this is: as both the recipient of anonymous attacks, and being one who has sadly let the safety of being behind the keyboard get the best of the better angels of my nature.

Over the years, I've done any number of things that seemingly never fail to beckon losers who apparently have nothing better to do than insult others. My little "stunt" when I proposed to Lisa was one of them. So was that first commercial from my school board campaign. There's a reason why the commercial's page on YouTube is set to where comments are posted only after I approve them: it's the only way I can keep the profanity off the page. Bunches of twerps have tried to post something to the effect of "you f---ing idiot". And when Forcery was released... well, let's just say that "Marty Broxterman" showed me a whole new level of nastiness that comes with (a) being a legend in one's own mind and (b) lacking self-discipline over one's carnal nature.

Like I said though, I'm not entirely innocent when it comes to "posting nicely". I've written things on the 'net that I'm not too especially proud of when I look back on them. But every time, I did have the guts to make it so that what I wrote could be attributed to me one way or another. That's the way I've always operated: when it comes to writing, I can't remember a time when I was at all completely anonymous. Want to see me at some of my worst? Go to Free Republic or Liberty Post and search for posts by "Darth Sidious".

That's the biggest reason why I quit doing the "political message boards" thing: those places make it way too easy for you to say something that you'll regret later. I decided the best thing to do would be to give it up entirely.

But anyway, back to people who thrive on being anonymous insulters...

When I did my "proposal thing", it was something of a shock to see some of the nastiness that it evoked. But I was wise enough to expect it when I started posting my campaign commercials. I knew the savagery would be coming, even when I was putting the commercial together... and I did it anyway.

Wanna know what I think about people who hide behind the Internet's anonymity when they attack others? I think they're a waste of humanity. And I'm absolutely serious about that.

People like me - the ones who are writing things and producing videos and making music and all of this other stuff - we're the ones who are producing things. We're engaged in creating new and different things. People like us are the ones who are following a different drummer. Hurting other people is not on our agenda. The goal of achieving "fame" or "money" or "power" doesn't appeal to us. For me and, I like to think plenty enough other people, we're just trying to find and fulfill our purpose, however best we can. Insulting other people, even anonymously, doesn't figure into our equations at all.

But then there are those who have embraced the American culture of Schadenfreude. The ones who are not happy unless they are lashing out at someone that they don't even know. They're only hurling their insults because they really are too scared to put a face and a name to their words. But do you know why they do it in the first place?

It's because they won't do anything productive of their own, because they're either too timid or too lazy to commit to doing it. And they are too jealous of those who are brave enough to put themselves on the front line. Their fear and jealousy are too much to bear, and so they deal with their frustration the only way they know how: by viciously attacking those that they resent.

I don't let them get to me. Because if I afford them that, then that is time and energy that I would spend feeling bitter about it, that would be better used on more productive things... like writing a book or making more films. Which is going to infuriate these losers even more when I've shown that I can still produce something and they have... well, nothing at all to show for their nastiness.

Hey, I made a commercial that put my name and photo in The New York Times. Is even one of the bozos who've tried to insult me able to boast of doing that?

I'll make it short and sweet: my campaign commercial is going to be watched and enjoyed twenty years from now... long after the twerps who keep trying to post "F--- YOU!" to it are completely forgotten. I doubt they'll have made anything by then with the staying power of the Death Star blowing up a schoolhouse.

Wanna know how to deal with these very sad saps? Don't worry about them here in the present. Aim for the future instead. That's where "they" are too frightened to follow you toward.


Jenna St.Hilaire said...

Amen! Preach it, brother :-D