There are some people who thrive in the conditions of anonymous slander and violence. I know quite a few pepole, for example, who love the anonymous hero of V For Vendetta, with his Guy Fawkes mask and his fanatical devotion to violence against tyrannical states, despite his own adoption of tyrannical behavior in those areas of his own control. There are many people who find it liberating to put on a facade and act as they are not, while having a persona say those things that they truly think and believe that is somewhat distanced from them personally, to avoid having to take responsibility for what that persona says or does. As for myself, I find that particular practice abhorrent, and tend to dramatically reduce or eliminate any credibility I give to sources who do not have the courage to man up and speak under their own names. The use of such tags as “anonymous sources say” is a response of cowardice, of someone wanting the credit and reputation of being a reputable source of truth and information without having the courage to take accountability for their words, and that is a cop-out and a sign of moral cowardice.
As someone who happens to be very talkative, there is a passage of the Bible that gives me a great deal of pause, Matthew 12:33-37: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mout hspeaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” I must admit that I find this particular passage somewhat terrifying personally, in light of the extreme results of one’s utterances. To the extent that we are held accountable for our words here and now, we await no future unpleasant accounting of our behavior.
Of course, we should note that our words and actions are merely the fruits of our beliefs and worldviews. If we truly love and respect other people, that love and respect is going to find its way to some kind of expression. If we hate people, have contempt for them, or are filled with all kinds of wickedness and evil, that wickedness and evil is going to find its way out in some fashion. Either it will find its way in course humor or unacceptable behaviors, or it will find its way out through the development of some kind of split persona, with a respectable outer face and a private life of wickedness and evil. All of us, to some extent, in some fashion, are filled with wickedness and evil, and either we will tend to flaunt that evil or disguise it so as to appear more virtuous than we are. It is our actions when we think we are hidden and anonymous and off the record that give the truest opinion of what we say and believe. At some point, though, we need to recognize that we are never off the record when it comes to our ultimate accountability for our words and actions, a fact which ought to govern the way that we live.
As is often the case with technology, the explosion of the internet has had two very contrary effects. For one, it has made understanding who people really are rather terrifyingly easy. The pictures we post of ourselves, the things we “like,” the articles we read, the music videos we watch, the songs we listen to online, the items we purchase, the messages we send, and many more behaviors are carefully recorded and used to create a composite picture of our identity and personality and behavior. Because so much of our behavior is vastly more public than in generations past, most people are public figures to a vastly greater degree than they are really comfortable with if they want to enjoy the connectivity that results from the development of the digitial world. On the other hand, other people have used the same connectivity by seeking to build up anonymity through the use of technology, seeking to exploit the possibilities of public discourse while keeping their own identities private, so as to enjoy the freedoms of our present age without taking responsibility for their use of these freedoms.
For a season these evil men and women may propser. To the extent that we hunger for insider information and gossip, we may be willing to tolerate these juicy tidbits of privileged information coming from anonymous sources because we like to hear news coming from sources that are not privileged to give that information and are unwilling to own up to their leaks openly as that may have repercussions for their career and reputation. Being a fan of sock puppets (like Lambchop), but also the sort of person who likes to point out the ridiculous and corrupt nature of the communications of others who engage in anonymous nasty discourse, I call the fake personas of people sock puppets. While Lambchop was an innocent and rather cute persona, most sock puppets are calculated to do harm to others. I can think of at least a few online personas I have tangled with in my short and evil time on this earth and the most nasty and vicious among them were those conducted under a mask of anonymity (aside from those who felt as if they had some sort of privilege to speak openly and harshly because of some perceived closeness to me). May the day come when all of the secret darkness inside of us is exposed to the light and rooted out, and may we have overcome our own partially evil natures by that time.