Thursday 31 May 2018

Pseudonyms are not True Names - and corrupt the soul

My comment, to be appended to William Wildblood's excerpted-article yesterday which concludes the time has come to call things by their true names and not worry about the consequences.

Among the True Names, ought to be the use of real personal names instead of pseudonyms; internet 'anonymity' has shown its real nature by-now.

When 'they' want to get you, pseudonyms will be no protection (instead, 'evidence' of thought crime); but, whatever the probable risk-benefit pragmatics; hiding behind anonymity while firing-off judgement is corrupting for the soul; as is made obvious on a daily basis.


Duggus said...

So is it better or worse than remaining silent behind your given name?

Duggus said...

So is it better or worse than remaining silent behind your given name?

Michael Dyer said...

I'll be honest, I'm not sure that's true.

Even Jesus concealed Himself at times, as did Paul, and that's all a pseudonym is, concealment. It's important for the same reason that the secret ballot is important, it actually enables more honesty to occur.

It provides some measure of protection. Not absolute sure, what would provide that anyway?

I post under my real name here, but do not hesitate to use pseudonyms elsewhere. I try to maintain the same attitude that I only say what I would say in person, but people have been SWATed and worse for being doxxed over basically nothing. Exposing yourself for no reason seems unwise.

I don't believe that it corrupts so much as reveals corruption that is there.

Bruce Charlton said...

@D - That is for each to decide for himself.

But we now have 20plus years of internet experience to draw-upon - and the promised social/ intellectual benefits of internet pseudonymity/ anonymity have not materialised; indeed, quite the opposite.

This point applies to the many other domains in which anonymity has been introduced (usually by bureaucrats or the bureaucratically-minded) in modern life (including what-used-to-be science).

I regard it as part of a long term demonic strategy to make us regard ourselves either as existentially-'anonymous' or having arbitrary identities.

Bruce Charlton said...

@MD - I agree that the secret ballot is a good parallel, but in a bad way!

pyrrhus said...

Bruce, as some people have explained on various websites, people use screen names to minimize the risk of losing their jobs by commenting on very non-PC matters, which is real in many companies and government agencies in the US. Sure, IT experts could find out who is behind the alias, but they don't work for free. And most SJWs are digital idiots....

Michael Dyer said...


Still not totally convinced that all anonymity should be eschewed as a legitimate means of self defence, but I read your post on voting and touche. I also know that open hatred is better than secret love, that being said.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Some "pseudonyms" are truer than others.

On the whole, I think that it is true that leaving comments anonymously invites a temptation to be irresponsible. On the other hand, I find that there is also a temptation to try and protect one's own name when it is at stake. There are many people who knuckle under to the diabolical zeitgeist of our time precisely because they cannot remain anonymous. There are also too many who hesitate to speak boldly for fear of looking foolish, and then there is the refusal to admit that one is actually being foolish because one has posted foolishness under one's own name.

Still, if there were some practical method to consistently prevent people from falsifying their identity without destroying the freedom of communication the internet has to offer, I'd be in favor of it. But our actual situation is one in which the freedom of communication is an illusion supported by the invitation to post falsehoods under false names.

The internet is not free. It would be nice if, instead of only "doxxing" those who dare to question the prevailing narrative, everyone were putting their genuine personal information out with their opinions (especially most celebrities, who might not be celebrities long if they weren't allowed to lie about such things).

But, ultimately, honesty is only meaningful because it is a choice. To live in a world where nobody lies simply because they lack the option would be rather dreary, if not actually hellish, I think. It would, at any event, not be the same as a world full of people who had consciously committed to be honest in all their dealings.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - What I find is that we are having the same discussions about the theoretical pros and cons of internet anonymity now, as 25 years ago; as if we did not now how *know* how things have worked out over the longer-term. This immunity to actual experience is characteristic of many bad ideas.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Well, the problem is more that it is not a single topic.

The question of whether anonymous comments are (or should be) generally considered less trustworthy than comments made under a traceable name, especially a name that can be reliably associated with the public identity of a legally accountable entity, has been basically settled.

And probably always was, based on social experiences long predating the internet.

The question of whether sufficient controls should be imposed to make anonymity on the internet impossible is entirely different, and the results depend greatly on what social function the internet should serve. In fact, there is very little real anonymity on the internet anymore, mostly only the illusion of such.

My own perspective is that nothing on the internet can be trusted at all, nor ever should have been. The mechanisms that make anonymity an illusion also make identity credentials an illusion, the people that can (and do) track all our online activity can also fake our online activity perfectly against our wishes whenever that seems to their advantage (and they do it more often than anyone knows).

But the same has been true of every other form of human discourse, in some degree. Of course, the falsifications are generally rare, if they are too common, then trust in the credentials that are known to be subject to falsification plummets, and the falsification of those credentials no longer serves any purpose.

But I feel that those with control over the credentials are forgetting this.

As they often do, just before the end.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - I think the problem of pseudonyms is actually a very bad one.

What happens in mainstream social media is that people such as myself, who write under our own names and addresses (topically, I would also include the likes of Jordan Peterson or Vox Day/ Theodore Beale - on different sides) are actually subjected to far more sustained and aggressive critique than the armies of purist and self-proclaimed hard-line chickenhawk anonyms whose coherence and history is unknown and unverifiable.

On the plus side, given that most spiteful internet comment is inaccurate, uninformed and dishonest - my own real history and opinions can (at any point) be checked pretty easily by anyone who is serious about learning them, and is prepared to click their mouse a handful of times.

It is a bit like the historical distortions operating against those who keep records and to favour those who destroy the evidence of their misdeeds - e.g. the focus on *relatively* benign US slavery rather than the larger and more sustained but no-survivors North African slavery; or the focus on the documented evils of National Socialism rather than the as-bad but denied/ concealed evils of the Soviet Union.

Chiu ChunLing said...

In that sense, it's back to the question of whether a name is reliable or not...

My own given name is...rather common. Google it and you'll find hundreds of people who are better known by it than I am or ever likely will be.

My other given name (I was fortunate enough to receive a spare) is more uniquely mine. There are other people named Chiu ChunLing, but I feel somewhat less lost in their slightly smaller numbers.

While I've never really set out to establish "my name" as a authoritative source, I think I have a sense of how difficult it is for most of us to be anything other than intrinsically anonymous in the world at large, even if we try to make our name widely known. Perhaps I shouldn't say much, as someone who really hasn't tried...but I've thought of trying, and I know what the mountain looks like from the foot.