Anonymous Conversation

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person.  Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

–Oscar Wilde

I almost feel that this should go without saying.  Unpopular opinions can’t be aired in the public square without serious recriminations.  The state might guarantee freedom of speech, but it doesn’t guarantee you protection from the social consequences of what you say, which can often be just as devastating as criminal penalties.  It’s a conspiracy that everyone’s a part of.  We all know what the score is, and a large portion of our adolescence has been the pedagogy of what things can be said and what things cannot, particularly in mixed company.  Perhaps we would all love to speak the truth, but I imagine this isn’t the case.  Too many of us benefit from the indulgences granted by this policing of speech, which is functionally little different than a policing of thought.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, particularly in light of the possibilities provided by the default anonymity of the internet.  This is something that bearded nerds discovered long before society in general was even aware of the internet’s existence.  Various different fora provided a means for those in the know to exchange ideas either entirely anonymously or under adopted handles, which nevertheless provided similar protection.

What’s interesting is what this has blossomed into, especially in the last election.  From the epicenter of various anonymous imageboards, a sort of internet culture that had only previous been fringe began becoming mainstream, influencing the narrative of even legacy media, most famously with the slanderous libel that “Pepe” of all things being a symbol of white nationalism.  But the second you had a major candidate for president complaining about internet memes before the national and international media and therefore the entire world, it was realized that the mainstream had completely lost control of the narrative, which was slipping into the hands of hundreds of thousands of people, operating independently and congregating of their own volition on the internet, people who didn’t even know each other–people who didn’t own majority stock in massive news organizations, people who were just regular Johns and Janes.

This power didn’t come from decades of planning, regular militaries, and huge volumes of cash.  It came from a combination of two things–the truth and humor.  The former to bring wickedness to light and the latter to abuse it not only thoroughly, but in such an amusing manner that the truth would be easily disseminated, most often in the form of memes, amongst general nobodies not even a direct part of this mass movement.

It’s such a simple concept.  Do an honest man’s job and laugh as you do it.