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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hiding in plain sight

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: [CENSORED] you, you [CENSORED]ing [CENSORED] [CENSORED]. Signed, Anonymous.

I do not like anonymous Internet jerks.

I don't mind mildly critical anonymice, or jerks who are willing to put their names behind what they say, or even jerks who post under Internet names that link back to their own blogs.

I'm not talking about my own readers. I love comments, and I don't mind when people comment anonymously, even with something that's not so nice. You guys aren't the problem. Keep your comments coming! They make my day.

But I do get annoyed when a critical mass (ha!) forms. This is easier than it should be online. Voices of reason simply don't carry as well as hysterical ones do. And the anonymity makes it worse.

I follow an anonymous blog that's critical of one of my former employers. The Tea Makers has been going since the summer of 2005 and claims to be written by a member of the CBC's Toronto management team. I'm really not sure why I still read the thing, but it's probably out of some sense of solidarity with my former co-workers.

Although it was quite good early on, it has degenerated into a bitch-fest with at least one full-time troll. Goody. It's too bad, because they do have a good point: The MotherCorp could be better than it is, with more creativity, flexibility, and all those "ity" words its management team spouts at every opportunity (there's another one!). The problem is that that good point gets lost in the bile. The CBC's new president commented on the last post, asking if he was wasting his time.

I talked to a reporter about this a few days ago for a story he was writing. Anonymous criticism's too easy to do. It means a lot more when you're willing to put your name behind what you're saying. It's hard to drum up much support for your cause when you hide behind anonymity, especially when the person you're criticising has been honest about his or her own identity and opinions. If you really believe what you're saying, make it count. Use your real name.

I can't believe I'm defending CBC management. This is what the anonymice have brought me to.


Anonymous said...

CBC employees are given access to e-mail so that their managers can spy on them. The Teamakers is a blog which is maintained by CBC management - a blog which is looking for troublemakers. Posting under the name quimet is the same as posting anonymously. People like you just don't like dissenting opinions, and that's too f@#%in' bad.

Megan said...

Wow. You've just made my point.

Ouimet linked back here, saying that I think Tea Makers is too hard on CBC management. That's not what I said at all.

I've been pretty hard on CBC management at times: just look through the posts labelled "journalism". I think their management style is horrid and they've made some major mistakes over the past few years.

I think most journalists would agree with the point I actually made, if not with Ouimet's incorrect summary: Criticism means more when it's not anonymous. If you really believe what you're saying, you should have the courage to put your name behind it.

Allan said...

Funny and angry, two of my favorite characteristics of a blogger.

Megan, when I first interjected myself into the blogosphere it was as an Anonymous.
I didn't trust anyone, and disliked most of what I saw and read (just like Hubert!) I had seen "Forums" and thought they were a chaotic madhouse. And I knew that if you post to the internet your words were there, potentially, forever.
Male voices seemed to dominate the conversations, and though often smart and well-informed, they tended to be not very friendly, and oddly possessive and protective of a space the "regulars" somehow considered their private/public turf.

Some of the comments I read were shocking to me. Some people were clearly bent on simply hurting others, and even revealing confidential information that could damage a person's livelihood. It was as if the internet was a lawless new frontier, with writers unconcerned that rules of conduct apply to everything everywhere.
Some of these people were of the view that they could get away with anything, in the firm yet naive belief that their true identity would never be discovered. And if you tried to go after them you were ridiculed and often just became more frustrated.

When I say that I was anonymous, that's not exactly true. I decided to adopt a fake name that was obviously made up. I wanted to be able to differentiate my comments and my persona from the others, and to some extent "own" the ideas and sentiments that I would contribute.
So many lazy people used that Anony tag that you couldn't know if you were dealing with ten different people or just the same one. This made it even more irritating and unhelpful.

But I'll get to the point I want to make here.
There were times I absolutely flipped out. Times when the unfairness of "the system" seemed a hopeless dilemma, and fighting it even more pitiful than Don Quixote jousting windmills.
But I found a way to survive in this battlefield of the few brilliant and the many absurd (the idiots you and Wandering Coyote are familiar with).

(a) I narrowed my involvement to the areas of public discussion that I respected, thought worthwhile, and from personal experience believed that I had some education to offer and contribute. And when a point of view was absent in the back and forth between the yokels, I took time out to insert it, if only just to mess with them, but more often to try and broaden the perspective.
The bullies would often gang up and attack me, but I was familiar with the printed word and could be even more relentless than they if it was worthwhile.

(b) It was apparent that many of the Anon comments were authored by people who were just plain ignorant, either because they were too young or too old to know any better. But some were obviously even smarter and funnier than me, and it was the content of their thoughts that mattered most to me, and not the labels they chose for themselves. In other words, it was what they were saying that mattered most, and not their identities. And it was largely futile to speculate or assume who each of them might be. (it's been amusing when someone would accuse me of working for the CBC - for the record, my only paying gig with that fine institution was an interview with a new band called Creedence Clearwater [a disaster] for which I was paid $50 and never saw the money because the Actra fee cancelled it out). But the CBC has been a part of my life a bit more than as a viewer. I have friends who work there today as well.

(c) You've heard of the Mandlebrot Set, Megan, and perhaps Buckminster Fuller and his Synergetics and other writings that touch on something we've come to know as CHAOS THEORY. I think it applies perfectly to all the free expression that occurs on the internet.
Combine that with a deep and certain faith, a faith in humanity, and I have no problem sleeping at night despite what goes on at a billion web pages every day.
Because no matter how immense the tsunami of idiocy, cruelty, bullying and blatant stupidity that gets added to this global database there eventually comes along a Christopher Hitchens, Hunter S. Thompson, Bill Brioux, "Alphonse Ouimet", Herbert Lacroix, Jules Carlyle, Jesse Hirsh, Don Young, Paul Gorbould, and yes, even someone named Anonymous, and a Megan, to remind the pathetic population that all is not so simple or easily categorized and dismissed.
In other words, for every however many devious and discouraging voices that we encounter, there eventually and inevitably surfaces a fearless human who'll suggest the Emperor get dressed before leading a parade.

So I subscribe to Trudeau's Desiderata, even when nothing is going right.
But I do not take it's assurance as an ode to complacency, and am mindful that for all his gentle manner and insistence on forgiveness, even Jesus Christ kicked over a few tables in the temple. Or when as a child we encounter the first images of Auswitch and are forevermore frozen in shock at the unspeakable horror of the world in which we find ourselves.

We know the world is far from perfect and hardly ever fair.
Some people can't even be bothered to spell-check.
And others go on and on just to say ... you're right on about that, Megan, those people are total losers. But they have their place and purpose, so don't sweat it too too much.
Remember always the power of ONE, one Martin Luther King, one Howard Stern and one Terry Fox.
And one Megan, as the person who can change everything despite the odds.

Anonymous said...

OK then, what is "allan's" real name and who is "quimet" - they work for the CBC as managers and they blog and post comments anonymously attacking anyone who is critical of the CBC - double standard pour mois?

Allan said...

Ouimet has done a zillion hours of first-rate work, and even endured a fair amount of anguish during the past couple of years in creating Tea Makers and allowing it to survive.
She could have closed down after the lock-out, as most everyone did, even the infamous CBC Drone.
She did need to take a break at one point, and was sorely missed.
The blog remains largely as a public service, and as a further choice and alternative to other CBC websites.

Her anonymity has my respect and admiration.
For three reasons:
- being truly anonymous, tells me that there is no self-serving agenda at play
- Ouimet will never be able to take credit for her great achievement, at least not until she wins the lottery
- everyone is allowed to speak as freely as the law will allow. Their comments are not hidden, and if you really want the spotlight you're welcome to submit an impulsive essay and have it take the place of prominence as the post of the day. If you need to pull Ouimet aside for a private comment, an email address is supplied. It all amounts to something rare - fair play.

Why Ouimet does what she does, I don't know.
She certainly has a talent for making fun of the CBC at their expense, and is perhaps the most skilled writer at that blog. She's both sharp and gentle in her remarks, so it's easy to guess that she's secretly in love with that behemoth institution. It happens to the powerful as well - Knolwton Nash and Patrick Watson. They won't let go.

You've already seen my real name, and probably guessed I'm not a drummer in a Danish metal band.
Even my photograph is right there in front of you.
Are you sufficiently impressed and in awe?

Now how about you.
Are you an agent of CISIS or in fact Richard Stursberg pretending to be paranoid, confused and deliberately silly?
Will your mental and spiritual well-being remain intact if you never know the face of Ouimet?

You no doubt saw Hubert T. Lacroix, the President of the CBC, drop in recently to chastise the miscreants that gather there. It was a cool move on his part. He probably saw Test The Nation and realized that bloggers can rule! But he still has a lot to learn.
And we'll have to teach him.
Teach him that Tea Makers is the best friend the CBC ever had.