politicians, crowds and online anonymity
November 8, 2011
Politicians will always fear crowds – that may be one reason why we are always told, crowds obliterate reason along with corroding the whole idea of accountability, turning individuals into feral animals. That if you must know is the real reason why online anonymity is feared by all governments – in the whole idea of online anonymity, they don’t see the individual. Rather to these custodians of power, what drives it is the idea, a myriad individuals have some managed to reduce itself into a single dysfunctional glob – hence they believe rightly or wrong anonymity or the idea of crowding is stupider – proned to anti social behavior that may even have the power to spread like a “contagion” infecting more and and more people.
But do crowds or for that matter online anonymity that takes the form of mob really make us all dumber?
Does it have the power to appropriate your or for that matter my personality, in so far as altering who you or I really am?
I don’t believe it does – you see, this year, as the world watched a crowd after crowd topple autocratic governments from Egypt to Libya – what many failed to notice was, these people who gathered night after night either in Tahrir Square in Egypt, the Al bourdin fountain in Libya and even the Al Jamihnin café in Damascus didn’t really have a plan – not a coherent one except for perhaps the willing to take part in the simple act of coming together in one place. Contrary to what the press may say, these protest remained peaceful. Sure, you could say, these protesters also used social media, but that was really an adjunct to what was really happening.
My point is crowds, be it the idea of protesters gathering in the public square or being part of an anonymous group of netizens posting comments in a blog can change the way people behave. This I don’t believe is such a bad thing. Granted being a part of such a crowd can lead you to do things you wouldn’t normally do and might even consider silly; but that doesn’t for one moment suggest that what you may have said, wrote or shouted out at the top of voice did not really come from the real you – it just means, you never knew you had the courage to verbalize these things, if not for the whole idea of being a faceless individual hiding in a crowd. But that’s not to say that personality you have decided to adopt at that moment in time when you shouted out at the top of voice or decided to tap away at your keyboard as an anonymous poster isn’t “you” or that it’s an irrational part of you that the crowd managed to bring out like Mr Hyde in Dr Jackal. That’s to say, when someone shouts out in the public square that if he doesn’t hunch and stands erect, he’s two inches taller or someone hacks away at the keyboard that dishes off Mr Government for this or that which they consider either stupid or dumb, that person isn’t really giving up his individuality or for that matter identity; if anything, he or she enjoying the glorious feeling of being part of something bigger than himself – that’s hardly a character defect or for that matter something to be ashamed about – it just means, you are human. Breathe. Today will be a great day.
“In America, if you tell your co-workers in your company that you blog – you will most probably be given a promotion – they call you an active citizen and in America, they like people to be fully engaged. In Korea, you will probably, get a double promotion, because over there blogging just means you’re thinking out of the box and everyone in the office will probably want to sit down and talk to you, as they probably believe, if they do so, they will somehow come to see the world slightly differently – but in Singapore, if you tell your boss, that you’re a blogger – then most probably, he will begin distancing himself from you – you will go around like one of those Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland wearing a star of David patch – soon, you may even find yourself in a cubicle with no telephone and with a view of a row of urinals – because you are considered so toxic that the lavatory is the only place that human resources considers it safe to put you in – what they really fear is, you will infect the others with your deviant thinking.”
Extracted from a thread in Ekunaba and Phi Beta Kappa – The Brotherhood Press 2011
“You know that tails wind that whips up like a tornado in June when you circumnavigate the cape of Good Hope? There I was sailing with the crew and we watched her come our way – she was fierce, make a hand like a tiger and imagine that you have razor sharp nails – that was what she looked like. I knew, I had to do something – either tack my way out or maybe turn the boat towards her. So I looked around the boat and what I saw was a group of people who were all either praying or murmuring to themselves, why didn’t I stay at home. As usual Darkness was in the galley sleeping. So I turned the wheel hard to port, started both the electric and diesel engines and rammed her as hard as I could into that swell. Guess what? We made it to the otherside. That wave was evil, it lifted up the boat, a good 10 feet, but we made it over the crest. I dont even know how I did it. All I know is if I was alone, I would probably have curled up underneath my bunk. But that day, I just had the confidence to do that because I knew I had all of you right behind me on the wheel.”
JDAM – The Cape of Good Hope / Expedition: 902 / Chronicler in the Book of Ages under the Chapter: Paraffin Blue Waters – The Brotherhood Press 2011