Calhoun’s Cannons ,The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA, for Feb 14, 07
On AnnonyMice & The Blogs-O-Fear
To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful.
Edward R. Murrow.
The blogosphere is a dichotomous place in which to work . It is at once a place of great honesty and great lies. It is both credible and incredible. It can serve up both heat and light. It gives the illusion of intimacy, but often only delivers the distance of anonymity.
I started writing my blog in 2005 (http://www.calhounscannon.blogspot.com/) at the invitation of “Newsstand” Greg McClure, who started the Central Coast News Mission (http://www.newsmission.blogspot.com/) as a sort of virtual country store with a virtual pot-bellied stove around which local writers and readers could gather to whittle and chew and chat about the day’s events. The only difference would be that while the writers would have to put their names on their opinions and statements, others wishing to post their comments were free to remain anonymous.
And therein lies the most interesting aspect of the blogosphere: Anonymity. That often blessed state is not granted to me as my name is on everything I post and readers can verify or attack my credibility. Either way, I must own my opinions and claim responsibility for my statements. But readers wishing to post comments can do so anonymously and the results are often very interesting to watch.
Los Osos resident Bev Moylan expressed this process very well indeed: “The anonymity of a blog is a way for some people to express their thoughts with no consequences. For others, the choice of anonymity on a blog is a way to act out without fear of being caught. Expressing opinions anonymously when they are obscene, defamatory, or misleading, or are simply untrue statements and suppositions disguised as facts is the equivalent of a drive-by. Destructive anonymous posting is a guerilla tactic to avoid embarrassment and responsibility while allowing those who practice it to vent rage and hostility at will without fear of reprisal. Anonymous assassination does nothing, however, to advance the discussion nor add to the knowledge base.”
But is sure is fun, as any blog reader can tell you. Like taggers running under the cover of darkness to scrawl potty words on a wall, a lot of adult posters revert to juvenile behavior, secure in the knowledge that Mommy can’t catch them and spank. Thus, posting often becomes the cyberworld’s version of the old crank telephone call to strangers to ask them if their refrigerator is running or if they have Prince Albert in a can.
Even more interesting is to watch the displaced aggression that often occurs among the posters, the human equivalent of dogs fence-fighting. For example, Poster A will rage at something I’ve written and before long other posters will join in and in no time I’ve been completely forgotten as the posters start snapping at one another. Can’t get through the fence to get at the real dog? Then bite the one nearest you.
But there is also an even darker side to the blogosphere and that is its inherent ability to be used for deliberate disinformation. As the old saying goes, A Lie can be halfway around the world before Truth gets his shoes on. Anonymous posting can be a great vehicle for people with hidden agendas or personal vendettas to claim a moral high ground in their postings while really engaging in a deadly high-tech parlor game of Telephone: . . . Pssst, did you hear? Pssst, pass it on . . . all the while avoiding accountability for their actions.
And since so many people operate on information fragments anyway– a snippet of headline, a partially remembered factoid that may or may not be true --the possibility for manipulation and falsification of information grows ever greater.
Add in an utter lack of accountability and you can end up with the challenging and potentially dangerous mix we have today: The blogosphere “noise machine” feeding an ever fragmenting Mainstream Media, all chasing those lucrative ratings dollars. It is a double-edged system ripe for abuse even while offering its own antidote: The cure for bad speech is more and better speech.
Meanwhile, the biggest caveat of all when entering Blog-O-World still pertains: If a person is unwilling to own his or her opinions, put a name, a civic and personal reputation behind them, what good are they?
Just more static in a world filled with the growing din of meaningless, furious buzz.