You know those women who talk to other women through the stall dividers in women's restrooms? Well, they should be banned. Banned, banned, bannedity-banned. And because they should be banned, I want you to pay for policecritters to patrol women's restrooms and toss 'em in the pokey. Because women in women's restrooms say bad things about people, and that's bad. And I shouldn't have to put up with it. And if I shouldn't have to put up with it, it should be against the law.
The LA Times had an Op-Ed article on Saturday called Douse the online flamers which took something close to the above and ran with it. It's by Andrew Keen, author of Cult of the Amateur, which I haven't read but I'm sure I don't like. Apparently people are saying bad things about other people on teh intarwebs, so it should be banned. Not sure exactly what: the internet, people, badness. Something has to be banned. Oh, it's "anonymity", apparently. Needs to be banned. He begins by referencing some Web Creation Myth only he is privy to, "the innocent dawn of the Internet Age" when "the idea that we might all be anonymous on the Web promised infinite intellectual freedom. Unfortunately, however, that promise hasn't been realized."
It hasn't? Oh noes! Write a nice print book about it, Andrew! Oh, you already did.
The article goes on, "[t]oday, too many anonymous Internet users are posting hateful content about their neighbors, classmates and co-workers; today, online media is an increasingly shadowy, vertiginous environment in which it is becoming harder and harder to know other people's real identities."
Evidently, everybody but me is spending their time hatin' on each other. (And I'm not doing so well either.)
Like this: "the case of a couple of female Yale Law School students whose reputations have been eternally sullied on an online bulletin board called AutoAdmit by "Sleazy Z," "hitlerhitlerhitler," "The Ayatollah of Rock-n-Rollah" and others. Having been publicly accused of lesbianism with the dean of admissions at Yale Law School, possessing "large false breasts" and indulging in exhibitionistic group sex, the two women filed an amended complaint...in...Court."
ZOMG! The internet has enabled rude people to be rude about people! Anonymously. And "eternally". Up until now there must never have been an avenue for expressing rudeness. Then the internet comes along and enables hate. Stupid internet. I knew there was something wrong with it.
Being accused by people called hitlerhitlerhitler of having unfeasibly large breasts must be an incredible burden, because of course, everyone on the planet is going to prefer siding with someone called hitlerhitlerhitler on the prestigious AutoAdmit bulletin board over siding with you.
He goes through two more cases. One, unfortunately, resulted in a suicide – it was a tiff between neighbors, a type of personal interaction that clearly was possible only after the invention of Internet Explorer 7 – and one was a fight on Yahoo. Have you ever been on Yahoo? Have you ever even heard of Yahoo? Don't see many hands up there. I have – I'm member of more than twenty Yahoo groups and we've had some knock-down-drag-out fights there, all of which would have been exactly the same, but much, much worse, if they'd been a fight at the Women's Institute, or the Church fete, or the school rummage sale. In fact, the major difference between a storm in a teapot and a storm in a Yahoo group is the wind speeds in a teapot are far higher.
After that thorough review of the hate coursing through the system of tubes we hold dear, he concludes, "these cases indicate that the U.S. Supreme Court soon might need to rethink the civic value of anonymous speech in the digital age. Today, when cowardly anonymity is souring Internet discourse, it really is hard to understand how anonymous speech is vital to a free society."
Yeah, freedom of speech sucks. Whose idea was it anyway? People only use it to hurt each other. Or they do nowadays. It's not clear from the article, but it looks like they didn't before the invention of the internet. Clearly punishing the internet is the way to go.
So what should we do about it, pundit? Apparently we should introduce "more legislation to punish anonymous sadists whose online lies are intended to wreck the reputations and mental health of innocent Americans."
Or alternatively, we could teach innocent Americans the rhyme about sticks and stones. Either way. Your call.