A less than entirely pleasant exchange on Twitter made me consider the issue of self identification. I don’t mean identity, which has been hijacked by the left. I mean self identification. Who you are, not what you are.
Self identification matters because without it, there can be no free speech and therefore, no free society. It is impossible to debate when one party is hiding his identity and the other is not. Without free society, we live in a dictatorship.
This has become hugely important, since large numbers of people use anonymity to harm others with no fear of being exposed. The cult of anonymity has become pernicious today and nobody seems to realise how dangerous it is.
Anonymity is the enabler of totalitarianism. It effects this in two ways. Firstly, it allows people to spread toxic ideologies without fear of reprisal. They can say what they want, be as vile as they can be, and mummy will never find out how reprehensible has been their behaviour. Secondly, as we have seen all too often, anonymity protects the very people who do the most to shut down free speech.
When was the last time you saw an ‘independent fact checker’ — for which read ‘paid shill’ — actually admit his or her name? How often was someone on a major platform told ‘Your content does not meet our standards’ without even the courtesy of a name — and I am sorry, but ‘trust and safety team’ has to be read in the inverse.
Self identification should be automatic.
In real life, this never happens. Self identification is automatic. When we meet someone, we exchange names. Even police officers are required to identify themselves by name. Every single democracy demands this basic protection for its citizens — but on the Internet, anything goes. Reputations can be ruined by anonymous trolls with no chance of redress. In some countries — the United Kingdom is one — police will respond to anonymous complaints, but even allowing for this egregious abuse, if officers visit they must identify themselves by their names, rank and badge numbers.
There are clearly severe problems in the case of allegations of rape where men are identified by name but women are not, even if their claims are found to be bogus. However, this is still the exception. On the Internet, it’s the rule.
Mike Tyson observed, a couple of years ago, that we all had got far too used to saying anything we wanted without risk of a sore face and Mike was right. The sore face is a powerful moderator of social interchange and Internet anonymity removes that.
It gets worse. By allowing anonymity, we accept that we do not live in a free society. If we did, why would we need to be anonymous? It is de facto an admission that there is no freedom of speech. So which is more important, protecting the most fundamental value of a free society or allowing a few ignorant trolls to say things that, if they said them in real life, would get them a good — and deserved — smack in the kisser?
This is made even worse by living in a poisoned culture wherein it is no longer ‘innocent until proven guilty’ but ‘guilty even if proven innocent.’ This is bad enough without allowing any anonymous ne’er-do-well to make claims and accusations that are hurtful, damaging and potentially dangerous, from the safety of anonymity, so that no redress may ever be had. Good luck suing for defamation when you don’t even know the real name of the evil scumbag who ruined your career.
I hear women saying that anonymity protects them from verbal attacks by men. Sounds fair until you realise that most of the worst insults and false claims of illegal or reprehensible behaviour actually come from women. Jordan Peterson pointed out that men’s weapon is physical violence but women’s are innuendo, character assassination and lying. He is right and an anonymous internet, with no requirement for self identification, gives the harpies free rein.
In the Medieval period, Europe was anything but free. There was no such thing as ‘free speech’. Spies were everywhere and a careless word could end you. Our theatre evolved from the Commedia dell’arte, which was a masked revue. Why was it masked? Because it was the only way the players could comment on the powers of the day without ending up in an oubliette or worse. Free speech was more important to the players than their safety.
Even the humble Punch and Judy show, the delight of ice-cream and candy-floss beach holidays, was originally a scream of desperation against vicious authoritarian governments. Although nowadays most commonly performed in a more or less fixed miniature proscenium, originally the ensemble was carried on the shoulders of the puppeteer — why? So he could take to his heels if the men-at-arms arrived. This was also why the ‘swazzle’ was used — it disguised the voice.
Egregious power grab
We have just experienced two years of the most egregious power grab in recent peacetime history, on the pretext of a nasty cold. People were prevented from visiting their dying relatives, separated from their families and forced out of their jobs. Having sex was even made illegal! And the writers who should have been able to expose the Gummints for their lies and manipulation were told to shut it or be ‘cancelled’.
There was never any justification for this and we now know that in addition to the misery imposed, the destruction of lives and economies, that more people — at least in Europe — may have died as a result of the ‘anti-Covid measures’ than from the disease itself. Governments know how soft we are now. They will do it again and again until we are worn down.
Didn’t you notice how monkey-pox was being set up as the next way to shackle is — until they found out it overwhelmingly affected the ‘gay’ lifestyle. Oh, can’t have that, it wouldn’t be politically correct. The only possible hope for us is to stand to the cause of free speech, to insist that we will not be silenced by soldiers, anonymous internet trolls or bogus ‘plandemics’.
We need courage and openness to fight them and that means removing anonymity from our Internet spaces. If you would not say something under your own name, why should you be allowed to say it under the veil of anonymity? The internet is awash with bots and government shills, all doing everything they can to shut down your freedom. Fighting back starts with self identification: those with the courage to do so standing up, announcing whom they are and refusing to back down in the face of the faceless.
There’s a storm coming. Be ready, be proud and be yourself.