The Vexed Question of Pseudonyms

It is – to my mind – quite sad that even when you try to have a reasoned discussion online, it invariably gets dragged into name-calling and abuse. Part of this – as I see it – is the pseudonymous nature of online debate. I’m careful to use my real name online. I find it makes me take ownership of my statements and argue in good faith. Now, I do not for a moment suggest that everyone who decides to use an online handle is by extension going to argue in bad faith and be abusive. However, it is a contributory factor in many situations.

Where the hell is this coming from? Well, in the discussion on the prevalence and acceptance of fascist/Nazi symbolism within the gaming community (a discussion that grew out of comments made by me on the Mobile Frame Hangar) it eventually descended into anonymous name calling. Now, if you want to behave like a child and go “Ooooh! You smell!” that’s fine. Just don’t do it here. And, to direct my bloviating at one particular poster for a moment: you do realise that “Politically correct shit. Hope you die of cancer bitch.” is a pretty unpleasant thing to say, right? But, congratulations, you manage to combine hatefulness, total lack of reflection, and sexism into one glorious whole. Go you. Bet your parents must be so proud.

There’s another thing that I should point out (and I did so in the very last post of the above linked thread, but it bears repeating.) The active MFZ community is pretty small (I mean, it’s not exactly the WoW community or Star Trek fandom.) There are threads where people are trying to find games. Threads where people say where they live. WordPress logs the IP addresses of posters. Now, either there are a lot of MFZ players in certain very definite places (somewhat unlikely, but possible) or I know exactly who Some Guy That Thinks Your A Fascist (posting from somewhere in the vicinity of Indianapolis, Indiana, USA), Some Other Guy Who Also Thinks That Your A Fascist (unidentifiable, bonus points for at least using a proxy server or something), Your As Intellectual As My Arse (posting from somewhere around Linden/Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA), and Approve This (posting from Portsmouth, England, UK) are.

As I said, it might be the case that this is a coincidence. Or that there are big communities of MFZ players in certain towns in certain states in the USA or certain cities in the UK. Or, using my Holmesian powers of deduction, it could be that I know exactly who is anonymously posting here. Which is kind of weird, as if it is who I think it is, then you’re already using pseudonyms.

What’s the upshot of all this prattling on? From now on, any non-constructive comments will simply not be approved or will be deleted. This is a place for civil discussion in good faith. I have no interest in pandering to the lowest common denominator just for the sake of ‘the community.’ You are welcome (and indeed encouraged) to disagree, to dispute, to discuss. But attack the ideas, not the person.

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6 thoughts on “The Vexed Question of Pseudonyms

  1. Rafu

    To offer an (oft-overlooked, of late) counterpoint, using your real name online is something you can only do if you have privilege — the privilege of not facing negative consequences for your opinions. More often every day, I see people in (close-knit, privileged) on-line communities who, while talking about games, increasingly advocate against anonymity and pseudonyms on the Internet. This is all right, of course, as long as it doesn’t become mandatory policy (such as on Google+): at that point, we’re conceptually stripping away somebody’s right to safety, and that some people are dicks on the Internet becomes an expedient excuse to make a borderline-totalitarian measure more popular. Since we’re talking fascism, well… let’s be vigilant for hints of it in our contemporary world. Subtler, more dangerous hints than outdated symbols.

    Reply
    1. Malcolm Post author

      Thanks for making such an excellent point. Let me just re-emphasise: I’m not advocating for a completely real-name based way of doing things. What I am advocating against is the use of anonymity as a responsibility-free way of attacking others.

      I’d like to respond to your points in full, but will leave that until I’ve had the chance to formulate a reasoned reply. But for the moment, thanks for contributing.

      Reply
    2. Mercutio

      I wish that the “outdated symbols” were actually outdated, and not in continuous contemporary usage in the world at large, with specific ideology that matches that of the original groups that created such symbols. Sadly, that is not the case, and so-called outdated symbols are not actually outdated.

      Other than that, you have good points that I also agree with.

      Reply
  2. Mercutio

    Incidentally – some speech and opinions should have negative consequences. Freedom of expression does not grant freedom from being held accountable for that expression. This is why “libel” and “slander” and “inciting to riot” and “conveying a threat” are lawful prohibitions on free speech that carry legal consequences.

    Reply
  3. Soren

    There’s a history of this going all the way back to Usenet: the logical extension of ‘the lurkers support me in email‘ is to make some sockpuppet posts in support. Like most common trolling tactics, nobody on Usenet really found a solution, which is why we’re not having this conversation there.

    From the standpoint of sarcastic assholes like me, the best solution is a pay-to-register system like SomethingAwful’s; troll all you want, but you’re paying my hosting bill.

    Reply

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