Big blogosphere debate on whether anonymity and vitriol damage blogs. My own view, having had my fair share of anonymous comments (usually from people working for the BBC!), even a rather strange blog stalker, is that they’re clearly harmless males from the gutter of geek culture. Why put the views of 71 million bloggers at risk, especially those who are expressing themselves within the context of a politically hostile environment, because of the actions of a few juvenile, electronically-hooded idiots?
Neither do I really have a problem with anonymity. There may be times when you don’t want your employer, government or other agency find out who you are. It’s also easy for people without blogger accounts to simply click that button. I rather like the robust comments, even the vitriol!
If we want freedom of expression we need to take the rough with the smooth. Let me give a personal example. Typical of the timid, geek critics is Daniel Raven, rich-kid partner of the wonderful Julie Burchill. Riding on the coat-tails of Burchill, whose essays in the book are superb, this singularly untalented writer has a chapter on new media in HER latest book, where he has a relentless go at me, and the industry he has worked in for years. The story is as tedious as his writing, and for some reason he calls me ‘Charlie’. While berating his fellow workers as ‘tossers’ and hating their ‘showing off about DJing’ (he is exactly one of those himself and pens another tedious essay on local Brighton bands later in the same book), he is typical of these powerless, geeky kids who like to have a go, but not to your face. "Anyone who's lived in Brighton longer than five minutes will tell you that what this town really needs is more plumbers," he says (but the little darling wouldn’t possibly consider being one himself – which is probably why he works in the very company he berates). However, at least he put his name to the diatribe. The point of the story is that there will always be remnants at the end of every group who are a bit inadequate in real life but use media when they want to appear brave. Fortunately, the anonymous posters and gutter geeks are all too obvious, easily spotted and easily ignored.
Me and Jerry Springer
I have also received letters and vitriol from fundamentalist Christians, who objected to me, as a board member of the Brighton Dome and Festival, agreeing with the decision to show ‘Jerry Springer the Opera’. In a debate for all parties after it was shown, you had to be there to feel the full force of their irrational wrath. Everyone on the room who was not of their ilk was lambasted as ‘Going to hell’. However, they have a right to protest, write to Board members and express their views. In this case it showed them to be the fanatics they are.
The internet is truly a bottom up medium and we need to resist those who want to see it as some sort of sterile, newspaper letters' page.