Who are you?
I know who I am: a cranky old man with a lot of conservative-libertarian opinions. I don’t trouble to hide myself, or what I think. In fact, I glory in all of it. Yes, I’ve attracted some haters. And yes, at one time there was an attempt to do me harm for saying what I think. (Never fear, he’s all better now.)
I go by my full and correct name. I always have and I always will. That compels me to stand behind my words. Apparently that’s not an attractive prospect to some:
Billionaire Elon Musk has revealed part of his plan for Twitter’s future if his bid to become its new owner is successful as expected.
The revelation came in response to a tweet from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who said that all users should verify their name and identity.
“I hope @elonmusk will insist that all Twitter posters use their real names & not be keyboard cowards hiding behind silly little sophomoric screen names. Be man enough or woman enough (if you even know what that is) to stand by what you say! If you can’t own it don’t say it,” the former governor said.
So far, what’s there to argue about? Governor Huckabee’s opinion isn’t binding on anyone. Elon Musk himself made that clear:
The tweet caught the attention of Musk who has spoken about authenticating Twitter users in the past.
“Authentication is important, but so is anonymity for many. A balance must be struck,” he said.
But other Twitterers were much less happy with the notion:
When I lived in China, they’d just started all the “real name online” nonsense. A few years later, they now have their Social Credit System. If they don’t like your post, your score goes down, and that could affect your ability to travel or even buy property.
No thank you.
— Seneschall 🇺🇸 (@Seneschall) May 1, 2022
Anonymity is necessary for a lot of people to be able to exercise free speech. Therefore a platform that does not guarantee anonymity for the speakers cannot truly be a free speech one.
— The Ultimate Life Form 🇺🇦 (@SleeplessMosher) May 1, 2022
Tired of having to collectively stress about what explosion of hate crimes is happening bc some billionaire with an ego problem unilaterally controls a massive communication platform and skews it because Tucker Carlson or Peter Thiel took him to dinner and made him feel special
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) April 29, 2022
Let’s pass over the fallacies in the above tweets and ask the central question:
The slander, vitriol, obscenity, and threats we’ve seen in so-called social media are, if not entirely unknown, at least far rarer (and less dramatic) among persons who must face the world in person. He who must stand behind his words will be held to account for such scurrilities. The typical venom-spewer of Facebook or Twitter is unwilling to do so. That’s consistent with the maxim that the typical bully is also a coward.
Freedom of expression, a Constitutionally protected right of Americans, is not supposed to guarantee freedom from any and all consequences. He who defames another must expect to be compelled to give evidence: real, verifiable evidence in support of his contentions. That’s the import of all libel and slander law. The awareness of that possibility is part of what keeps us minding out words; the other part is the instruction in courtesy we received at our mothers’ knee.
But libel and slander run rampant on the Web…nearly always from behind anonymizing monikers the social-media sites generally protect from penetration.
I’ve always granted more credibility to those willing to put their right names to their statements. I’ve said so repeatedly. The general reaction to the Huckabee / Musk exchange persuades me that most other Americans see things similarly. But watch the reactions from the Left in particular. These are the persons most prone to using slander, vitriol, and threats to intimidate those they dislike. There are a few on the Right as well, but the Left is where we find the highest concentration of such miscreants.
It strikes me that those inclined toward scurrilous emissions on the Web realize that in a regime where authentication is available to anyone who agrees to it, their personal depravity and inferiority will be too obvious to conceal. “Freedom of speech” is a terribly thin cover for their fear. I expect they know that. That adequately explains their aversion to authentication, even if the user must agree to it.
To those who insist on remaining anonymous on the Web: Is that because you know yourself to be unable to speak your mind without the use of slander et cetera? Or are you just not a very good shot?
Take your time; I’ll wait.