Don’t let the door hit ya’ll on the way out. In my continuing and passive-aggressively brooding battle to not-so-quietly ignore all the trolls of the digital universe, a new chapter unfolded yesterday.
CBC announced that they will soon be stopping all anonymous commenting on their news websites. Huzzah!
If you haven’t witnessed this (now soon to be thankfully extinguished) flame of our broken culture, check it out (a) before it’s gone forever and (b) knowing in your soon-to-be-bruised heart & soul that this failed forum is scheduled to be doused with a big old bucket of cold, fresh, common sense. Finally.
Of course, the comments on the “we’re changing the comments” story were just amazing. Virtual temper tantrums, claims of censorship with tax dollars, and weak little banners being lifted claiming rights violations and the end of free speech. All of this from a troupe of folks who (1) are the first in line to electronically shout, yell, scream, pounce, and derail anyone or anything that conflicts with their own narrow viewpoints and (2) have really only been asked to put their names on their vitriolic trolling.
The free ride for trolls is coming to an end. No more climbing out from under the publicly-funded CBC bridge to yell at passer-bys.
And guys, it’s not that I’m against you having the right to say what you want to say. I’ll set my own efforts out as a model: Go build your own bridge. Go make your own website, blog, channel, or feed, then write, record, say whatever you want. When all of our collective “precious tax dollars” are no longer being used, luring & railroading us, we who are crossing the good-faith bridge of a public website, we the average, unsuspecting readers treading along with the hope of reading real news, written and edited by trained reporters, but rather tricked, corralled into reading your oft-hateful and agenda-driven drivel tacked unfiltered at the end of those otherwise-useful articles, when that no longer happens… then we’ll see something very interesting. We’ll see just how many people actually care to actively seek out and read what you have to say.
After all, there’s no charter right to fame or an audience.
Now here’s the rub. I write all this but I also get that there is fundamental need for some form of anonymity online… somewhere. There is always an argument to be made, and I will be the among first in line to defend that notion, that the ability for persecuted or risky opinions to see the light, that this is fundamental to our efforts to maintain a free and open society. We need a place for minority opinions to be published anonymously, to protect people who can’t publish those ideas without overt prosecution or censorship — the wrath of other people, governments, corporations, or whoever — and we should support that. Freedom for anyone to publish their ideas is what the internet has provided us with as humans, and virtually everyone who wants to find out the method how, has the means and power.
What we do with that power, bent for good or evil is a whole other problem, but I digress…
I would argue the point, however, that (a) the comments section of a public news website is not the ideal location for this anonymous and gaping hole, and in fact if anything has proven counter-productive to that purpose, and (b) more importantly, very few of the trolls arguing the particular point of open, uncensored discourse are actually arguing that point by their own example. My own experience of reading (and receiving) such discourse –on CBC.ca and on this very site of mine– has been one that almost always is more on the side of laser-focused censorship by bored & righteous individuals –trolling– than the defense of a so-called safe space for unpopular opinions …as so many seem to claim. Trolls, and there are always trolls, climb out from under any bridge built in good faith and demand a toll and our fealty to their disjointed ideas.
Thus, anonymity in the comments sections of online publications is a failed experiment, it kindles a dank, dark corner for trolls to hide, and it’s time to find a better way to have these conversations. Safely. Secretly if need be. But not that way.
In the end, I suppose, we’ll see how many people are willing to share such angry and destructive ideas when their name needs to be stamped on them. It’s control, yes, but I don’t think that it is censorship; It’s reclaiming a public a space for civil conversation. We need that, too. In 2016, we need that more.
And the trolls? There will always be trolls. We all know that. But they’ll just need to work a little harder, and go find other bridges to hide under.