Will Online Anonymity Kill The Singapore Internet? – A Study in Human Expression – Part 2

July 13, 2008

Take me to Part 1 of this article:

Will Online Anonymity Kill The Singapore Internet? – A Study in Human Expression – Part 1

What’s telling is even in the recent discussion to ‘deregulate the net,’ I have noticed much to my consternation; how anonymous bloggers, posters and readers are often rebuffed with such wanton disregard; it seems as if they don’t even exist as an online entity? Not one at least that even warrants the slightest modicum of recognition.
I do wonder; are we perhaps seeing the emergence of a new social hierarchy online? Something akin to apartheid, where a new uber class of bloggers who prefer to blog openly see themselves as even superior to anonymous bloggers. Thereby allowing the former to impose their set values on the latter?


It’s something to consider very seriously when we discuss the issue of anonymity in the context of the internet.


Is it such a wonder: the argument in the anti- anon camp is usually paraphrased along the trite cut and dried line;

“If you don’t even bother to step out of the shadows to be counted; then you don’t deserve any rights! In fact, you forfeited your rights!” To paraphrase; you don’t have a right to anonymity!

Don’t believe me be? Then consider this then: Q: why didn’t any of the 13 bloggers provision a means to recruit the participation of the anonymous bloggers?

Sure, according to them, they informed everyone and all the proceedings were basically open for all to participate.

But what if the mechanics of participating; first requires you to compromise your elemental right to your privacy first? What if it’s not even possible to remain anonymous while participating in the process? [perhaps we should all insist that ALL gays register themselves in a central bureau of information; that way everytine they apply for a job, visit the dentist or go anywhere near the kiddies playground; we can ALL ascertain their suitability and mitigate the risk accordingly?

Coming to think of it; wouldn’t it better if we just dispensed with the co-axial cables and batteries and asked gays to sew a star of David badge on their lapel like the Nazi’s did to the Jews? 

Do you see where I am going…..it’s a slippery road….it’s function creep?

Or perhaps, we should consider the moral and ethical counter point viz-a-viz that sort of information MUST always remain privileged; not only is it an outright violation of one’s privacy; but it’s arguable there’s no valid justification for releasing that sort of privileged information. 

For starters, it can NEVER be abduced, used or even considered without the “clear and present” risk of prejudicing a gay man’s elemental rights to equal opportunities in virtually every area of work, life and play i.e that sort of information has to be anathema to the public domain. The assumption here; whatever way you cut it; the benefits will always pale in comparison to the deficits; in the same vein, providing a blogger blogs and someone reads (and it could be just him and his sister); then why should he even be required to subject himself to a artificial process of pre-qualification that necessarily jeopardizes his right to privacy?

Doesn’t his rights accrued to him by default? Isn’t there supposed to a presumption of ‘rights?’ In very much the same way many of us would consider it morally abhorrent, if an employer treated sexual orientation, gender, religion or creed as valid consideration for turning down an applicant?

So tell me; are we going forward or backwards? You see this whole discussion is jugular to how we may choose to scale the entire of issue anonymity online. And you thought this was just going to be a leisurely read……it’s complicated……very complicated…..but there is no running away from it…that’s the nature of the beast. 


What emerges is this argument, symptomatic and even a trifle comic, is an indication not only of a highly inflated sense of what should and should not be termed kosher blogging, but also of a tremendously limited, almost hysterically antagonistic view of broadly painting the rest of blogosphere using one brush, one color to convey only one understanding of one reality by one class of bloggers.


To say that without stepping out into the open one doesn’t deserve any rights; is not only the denial of the right to privacy. But it suggest all the ills of our society could for one moment be magically prescribed a cure, if only we foreclosed on online anonymity and compel everyone to wear name tags; that unfortunately can only remain true if anonymity as a social theory and school of thought never once had inchpin in the human heritage; or as a concept or ideal, it has absolutely nothing to offer to the ongoing social narrative.


The flaw of such presentist arguments fails to register how the right to privacy has always been an indelible feature of every civilization; you can even say it’s part and parcel of the human condition; trying to elide it; is akin to the foolish enterprise of proclaiming: only 13 blogs make up the Singapore blogosphere and not a single one of them is even anonymous! The question isn’t one of believability as remains one that relates to fidelity and how well it manages to capture “reality” without divorcing itself from the truth? Or whether this or that site will one day evolve into the Singaporekini? Again how believable that may be pales in comparison to how this can be reasonably accomplished when this site only aggregates what one version of reality?


I guess one way to appreciate the importance of this social calculus in the context of anonymity is by asking ourselves whether it’s even possible to build a diverse and vibrant online and real world community without provisioning for the anonymous blogger, poster, whistle blower and reader?


My view is you might as well try to bake a cake without eggs or cook spaghetti without tomatoes; it cannot be done. Not without the risk of hollowing out what really counts and driving out the good stuff; what happens when virtual community is no longer densely populated and heavily trafficked? How would the social narrative read like, if it’s only penned by one segment of society that denies access to all others? Wouldn’t the sense of estrangement be heightened?

Again these are some of the questions you need to consider.


You see, I see it this way; for anything to grow holistically, that’s to say assume an organic trajectory; it first demands recognition of diversity along with everything the term naturally implies; and that simply means, we need to decamp from the simple idea anything in anonland is something to be necessarily feared; rather I believe it should be embraced and if possible even understood in the good light of it’s historical and social context.


What are the social impulses that accounts for anonymity? What exactly are the social and political conditions which gives rise to it as a behavioral school of though? Was it always there all along? What form and shape did it take previously? How is it juxtaposed against the present?


One thing remains firmly fixed in whatever lines of enquiry, we may choose to pursue; we are not dealing with anything new; this isn’t a ‘new’ menace anymore than graffiti which once peppered the walls of ancient sepulchers or ruins, as in the Catacombs of Rome or the Pyramids at Luxor represented alien visitations; they’re simply a genre of what we consider today as human expression. Nothing more or less.


I guess if we care to juxtapose this on today’s online ruminations; they are in essence one of the same reality. These ancient rants may range topically but their compact as a pill one liner witticism bears out to be one of the same reality when we look at much of the online gabble that’s floating around.


The one that really appeals to be was penned by an anon temple slave some 3,000 years ago in Giza, “Fuck the Pharoah! Why can’t he just die in a hole like the rest of us?” To literati anon’s the likes of Thomas Paine who once started publishing his anonymous newsletter “Common Sense” in the 18th century, where he made strenuous calls for “a determined declaration for independence.”


Both the temple slave and “anon” Paine and many others we frequently see in blogosphere today may well be one of the same reality.


And if you are wondering what value does anonymous blogging bring to the table? Then consider this; what would have happened if King George and his merry men had today’s technology to shut them out from penning the social narrative? Paine would have probably have languished in obscurity and an important voice of the movement for independence would have been silence forever and the United States as we know it today would not have even existed!


Little wonder in 1790 Thomas Jefferson fought hard for the First Amendment precisely to protect not just the “official” press but also the anonymous bloggers of his age; who first spread the radical idea of a free nation dedicated to the ideal that “all men are created equal”, that they are all endowed with certain unalienable rights, doesn’t even matter if they decided to speak on a gilded podium or a soap box – we live under one sun.


I suspect in our age as we begin to grapple with the online Babel of what it means to be a netizen? Or how we should relate to each other as a community online?


Many of the problems we as a community have to wrestle over aren’t so different from the ones which our ancestors once faced in the real world. While certain problems like hate speech and racism will always continue to persist and perhaps even from time to time scissor the social narrative. Along with such pressing questions like how can we best stem the rising tide of the electronic culture that threatens to reduce each writer and each reader into an island?


One thing will always endure; there will never ever be any magic bullets, short cuts and secret trap doors; only the high road. We can no more discount anonymity from our human history anymore than we can attempt to redraw our understanding of our world by denying that it is an indelible part of who we really are.



Darkness 2008


I remain proudly anonymously yours forever. And I want you always to hold up your head up high and never allow anyone to put shame in your heart….now that you know your illustrious history……you have a good reason to defend it….Go and write your story.


“Darkness: “Hello my name is Bad Boy, I’ve been working on this game for nearly a year and this is my first broadcast. Is anybody there? Please talk to me. I need to find out whether this works. Please.”


Anonymous: J  No need to shout, I hear you loud and clear. It works! Bad boy you say? What kind of moniker is that?”


Darkness: A stupid name, but I think that’s beside the point – I hear you! And that means it works. I have a feeling anon this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”


First Recorded Transmission in the Strangelands / icered.com / server 0001-A / 21 July 2002 @ 0650 GMT – From the Chapter I – The Dawn of Man – The Book of Ages


[This article was once written by Darkness – and posted in ASICS, PBK, Strangelands, The Intelligent Singaporean, WOS and The Singapore Daily / The FILB has managed to reconstitute this article by weaving together seamlessly discussions and materials pertaining to the subject of “online anonymity” which were both posted in the commentary of Phi Beta Kappa and from transcripts of Darkness address in the “Great Hall” to the “8 Immortals” on the issue of community moderation 98529EV Hansard 16 Vol 4 Primus – considerable creative license has been taken and every attempt to preserve the grammatical and spelling mistakes have been carefully undertaken to make sure your reading enjoyment remains a memorable one – the brotherhood press was ceased all publications – this is a joint effort by both the FILB and the Mercantile Guild – The Brotherhood Press 2008]

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