Thursday, 25 September 2008

My Soapbox; internet rules of engagement

A lot has been said about internet communication, and how blogging and commenting fits in to our information diets, but I'd like to add my two cents.

Let me start with the things I love about new media and the blogging culture. I think it is wonderful how the internet provides a stage for people of all ages and walks of life, to get whatever it is they want to broadcast out there. Wether it's the sidesplitting adventures of your seven cats, the paintings you made with your toes, or your specific take on hetorodox economics in relation to global shift, you can spread your personal gospel without obstacle. Never before was it this easy to find kindred spirits and to exchange ideas in real time. People find each other in shared passions, life stories, opinions, or a sense of humour and I am convinced that these exchanges can be a powerful weapon in the fight against ignorance, censorship and even lonelyness. Hell, if nothing else it's an endless source of entertainment, and my daily dose of healthy belly laughs from my favorite sites has saved many a dreary day. However (my favourite word since my Zimbabwean tourgide used it in slomo as well as four times in every sentence he ever spoke), it isn't all hugs and kisses on the ol' interweb...

Even though I believe it's a good thing to have a critical mind, and to express that criticism whenever you feel your arguments have more merit than others, the grim tone that rules many internet discussions bugs me somewhat. It isn't the venom or passion behind it that irritates me, it is the cowardly anonymous name calling, atrocious spelling and poorly argumented accusations that really rub me the wrong way. This is not a stab at people who have commented on this site! I welcome reasonable counter arguments, and for the most part, that is exactly what I got. But I do take take a stand against the uninformed, impolite and unfunny sadbags who just love to dish it out from the safety of their own keyboards, but are nowhere to be found when it's time to reap what they've sown.

In the Netherlands there is a very popular online forum ( that thrives on venemous comment threads. A competing newsblog ( recently placed a fake leftist petition online which was promptly spammed by the "geenstijl" commenters, unknowing that their IP addresses were collected and later published, so other bloggers could block their comments. On the one hand I found this to be very amusing. I think it's good to hold people accountable for their actions, but on the other hand, these statements would never have been made if not for the presumed anonymity.

So what can we do about it? I think it's wrong to try and silence those we disagree with, however uninformed, rude and annoying they may sometimes be. I think our only option is to be as vocal as they are. To be omnipresent with counter arguments, wit, patience and reliable information. We won't be able to shut them up, but if we are able to bug them as much as they bug us (and perhaps show them that being right and being loud are not synonymous), I'm sure the blogosphere will be a happier place for it!


Misssy M said...

I agree with everything you say about anonymous commenters however, as annoying as these people are, I think it's important that anonymity is guaranteed if that is your wish.

I don't know if you have read the utter nonsense about that Latvian EU MP wanting it forbidden to be an anonymous blogger. There is also a subsequent story about a European parliament blogger being forced to take his blog down.

Some info on that here:

and here:

Pants said...

Thanks Misssy, I had not read that. Of course I don't think we should ban anonymous blogging. There are many reasons people choose to stay anonymous, some of which are more than valid (especially in political blogging). This post was not aimed at people who write freely on their blogs as it was aimed at those who try to piss all over things others have written. Those who are mean because it's easier than forming a wel rounded opinion.

Thanks for keeping me on my toes!