Saturday, July 9, 2011

Anonymity & The Online Disinhibition Effect

The practice and proliferation of so many 'anonymous' comments and postings on the Internet has become so annoying that it's now a pet peeve of mine.
And, I suspect that a growing number of others have come to feel similarly.

This article pretty much sums up my views on anonymity on the Internet.

One reference within the above article directs to this site which is also helpful in understanding what's going on with all the anonymity being practiced, particularly on the Internet.

Respecting privacy is certainly desirable, but I wonder if that is really what is going on in many instances. There are definitely situations where anonymity has been useful, like in exposing wrongdoing in government, institutions or elsewhere. Watergate comes to mind as a clear example.
But many other instances -maybe most- involve pettiness, meanness or just deliberate mischief making. None of those need to be forced upon us, at least not on the Internet commons.

Different media outlets have differing policies on anonymity, with some prohibiting it and others severely restricting it because it gets in the way of a civilized exchange of ideas or opinions.
Others seem to be blissfully unaware of any problem, or glad to encourage such conduct in the interest of attracting invisible verbal fistfights.
And, of course one is never required to read or believe anything anonymous anyway. Its a matter of choice But people are tempted to use it as nasty gossip which can do serious damage to others, often unfairly or even maliciously.

Point is, the Internet is an open forum that is available to practically anyone these days. That much is good. But, it's also potentially bad, too.
Without unduly restricting Internet use, ISPs and various websites and chat rooms could fairly easily institute simple restrictions by requiring limits on anonymity. Of course, everyone won't like that, but I think most people will support the idea in the interest of common good.
Then too, all those 'anonymouses' out there are creative enough they can always find alternate ways of expressing themselves.

Honestly, the idea of so many calling themselves 'anonymous' is ridiculous, don't you think?
By now it must have become the most common name in history! I wonder how long it will take to have someone actually given that name.

Close cousins of 'anonymous' are the legions of clever pseudonyms that talk to each other -and themselves- regularly.
You've probably noticed that a few of these characters like to dominate comment columns with multiple postings within a short time.
It's like their need to vent or be heard on a subject overwhelms their better judgement. You think such folks probably just need to 'get a life'? But, what if that IS their life? Get a better one!

Some time ago, I chanced upon a clever website written by Mike Reed that describes a whole range of Internet persona he calls 'Flame Warriors'.
Check that out here for laughs.

Climatology: Natural Science or Political Science?

Think politics doesn't affect what information is accepted as true? Read this article.

As if we weren't confused enough, now this revelation. Or, this one. Or, maybe this one?
All three of these citations report the likely impact of switching from burning high-sulfur to low-sulfur coal.

It seems -according to scientists [but what do they know?]- that sulfur dioxide actually shields our atmosphere and reflects more of the sun's energy back into space, thereby somewhat masking our global warming -uh, excuse me- climate change.
So, producing more acid rain from dissolved SO2 prevents our noticing that average global temperatures are rising. Imagine that!

But, maybe those choosing to question whether global warming exists, or that we as humans have been responsible for part of it, won't believe that either? It's a free country, so pick your poison, and while you're at it feel free to choose what you believe -like a faith or religion.

Point is, if only 'politically correct' things are accepted as truth, how can that be used as a solid basis for our national policy and practices?
Mustn't we also verify alternate views from those science suggests? As Reagan said, 'trust but verify'.

Hey, I like diversity and believe it to be both a principle and product of our system of government, but at some point common agreement is necessary to advance the common good.

So, without my further editorial comment, here are several random quotes from various people through time that seem to have bearing on our current 'debate' over climatology and the projections of what effects mankind has -and is- contributing.

Read 'em and weep - or don't.

Learned Institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty. - James Madison

The struggle to save the global environment is in one way much more difficult than the struggle to vanquish Hitler, for this time the war is with ourselves. We are the enemy, just as we have only ourselves as allies. ~Al Gore

"Facts are stupid things." ~ Ronald Reagan

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. ~Richard P. Feynman

"Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn't even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.'' ~ Rep. Michelle Bachmann

We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive. ~Albert Einstein

To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed. ~Theodore Roosevelt, seventh annual message, 3 December 1907

To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one's own in the midst of abundance. ~Buddha

We cannot command Nature except by obeying her. ~Sir Francis Bacon

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. ~Chief Seattle, 1855

As we watch the sun go down, evening after evening, through the smog across the poisoned waters of our native earth, we must ask ourselves seriously whether we really wish some future universal historian on another planet to say about us: "With all their genius and with all their skill, they ran out of foresight and air and food and water and ideas," or, "They went on playing politics until their world collapsed around them." ~U Thant, speech, 1970

Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth. ~Albert Schweitzer, quoted in James Brabazon, Albert Schweitzer

Remember when atmospheric contaminants were romantically called stardust? ~Lane Olinghouse

The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition. ~Carl Sagan

One of the first laws against air pollution came in 1300 when King Edward I decreed the death penalty for burning of coal. At least one execution for that offense is recorded. But economics triumphed over health considerations, and air pollution became an appalling problem in England. ~Glenn T. Seaborg, Atomic Energy Commission chairman, speech, Argonne National Laboratory, 1969

The victory of Christianity over paganism was the greatest psychic revolution in the history of our culture. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. ~Lynn I. White, Jr., Science, 10 March 1967

When some high-sounding institute states that a compound is harmless or a process free of risk, it is wise to know whence the institute or the scientists who work there obtain their financial support. ~Lancet, editorial on the "medical-industrial complex," 1973

You go into a community and they will vote 80 percent to 20 percent in favor of a tougher Clean Air Act, but if you ask them to devote 20 minutes a year to having their car emissions inspected, they will vote 80 to 20 against it. We are a long way in this country from taking individual responsibility for the environmental problem. ~William D. Ruckelshaus, former EPA administrator, New York Times, 30 November 1988

In an underdeveloped country, don't drink the water; in a developed country, don't breathe the air. ~Changing Times magazine

"Never mistake activity for achievement." -John Wooden

Denial is a form of cowardice which is afraid to face up to the realities of life. -G Edwin Osborn

This is a beautiful planet and not at all fragile. Earth can withstand significant volcanic eruptions, tectonic cataclysms, and ice ages. But this canny, intelligent, prolific, and extremely self-centered human creature had proven himself capable of more destruction of life than Mother Nature herself.... We've got to be stopped. ~Michael L. Fischer, Harper's, July 1990

We shall continue to have a worsening ecologic crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man. ~Lynn White, Jr., "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis," 1967