Yours Freely. Anon.

No internet anonymity – no freedom of speech (forget Wikileaks for a start). And not just for opponents of brutal dictatorships, but for every Trotskyite bank clerk, and outraged whistleblowing nurse, and anyone whose beliefs would compromise their business if known by their network of contacts.

The demand individuals should only be allowed to express opinions on presentation of valid ID is not British and not nice. There are plenty of laws now against stalking and harassment. And ways of tracking down almost any ordinary internet user, as the Levinson Inquiry is revealing too clearly. For decades the gutter press monopolised ‘Trolling’, smearing anyone they fancied and destroying lives and businesses at will, and in the process Perverting the Course of History, which should be a criminal offence. Nobody minded much then, except the victims.

The current hysteria with its demands that everyone have the ‘courage of their convictions’ is a recipe for the far greater 24/7 intimidation of career politics. The timid clerk terrified of revealing his radical tendemcies to the boss. And the resulting homogenous bland obedient suburban paradise of corporate consensus.

Blaming anonymity for Redneck internet hoodlums is an enormous blunder and betrays an ignorance of how social networks function, especially as personal development tools. Anonymity not only allows people to express their political beliefs in confidence, but also to express ‘experimental’ beliefs, to see if they survive the barrage of instant internet Peer Pressure. Shooting from the hip from a position of security. You make yourself look a fool with your infallible solution to world hunger, so what? You will remember why it was a bad idea for a long time, if your peers are no more than usually frank.

Some people read Proust or listen to Wagner to develop their minds – some throw their ideas and opinions on the mercy of message-board natural selection. Why should they have to prove their identity to enjoy the endless fun of learning this way. Remember ‘fun’?

The demands to remove all privacy from social networking is bizarre coming from many of the same people who scream Big Brother! at Facebook and Google for their policies. The distinct feeling is that they wish Tim Berners -Lee had been strangled at birth. And their outrage at the depravity now  made visible by the internet exactly mirrors the same disgust of previous generations of the genteel when the expansion of literacy or other forms of exposure brought then too near the lower orders for their comfort. And exposed the reality of the society they were living in, as opposed to the fantasy they learned in school.

The late Victorian middle classes blamed literacy for the working classes getting above themselves, and their descendants now blame the internet for ‘Trolling’, which is like blaming Gutenberg for Mein Kampf or Razzle magazine.

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