Let me start by saying I know anonymous speech is important.
I will follow that up by telling you that your anonymous speech is probably not really important. Nothing you say will change the world. It won’t even change a single mind.
If your profile states you are a free speech advocate and you don’t show your face or name, and you spew hate and rage at people, you are not about free speech really. What you mean is you want to be able to be a racist, or a bigot, or just an asshole, without any consequences. I get that desire. I wish I could punch people in the face, or call them names if they wore stupid outfits. But I can’t. It’s just not how we do things in society. If I think your religion is stupid and/or dangerous (and I probably do) I most likely will not tell you I want you dead for practicing it or just claiming it. Seems like an odd way to advocate free speech, telling someone I don’t know that I hate them and think they should die or get raped. I mean, are you technically free to say that? Sure. But that’s not really the common meaning of a ‘free speech advocate.’ My fear is that the numbnuts of the world will mutate the term ‘free speech advocate’ in the same way they’ve mutated ‘feminist’.
That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.
You are right to hide your name and your face because history will judge you and it will not be pretty. You are not at the forefront of any sort of movement. You are not a thought leader. You are not paving the way for others to have an easier time expressing their opinions or changing the way the system works.
If you are on twitter and are anonymous and when I call you out do not come back at me with Alexander Hamilton or James Madison or John Jay. “They were anonymous! Does their speech not count?!” I mean, really? Do you think you are any of those men? My fear is that those of you who sit behind your computer composing 140 character messages might truly believe your contribution to society is the equivalent of the federalist papers. But back up for a second and think about what you are actually contributing.
If you are truly afraid your ideas or opinions will cause you harm, you have to think of why that might be.
Do you possess government secrets that show our government is spying on people or killing innocent civilians? If you do then hell yeah, your safety is at risk.
But that’s probably not it. We don’t live in a society that has slavery so it’s not like you are risking life and limb to say slavery is bad and we should abolish it. Women have rights, so it’s not like you are taking your chances by being a suffragette. We’ve moved society to a fairly egalitarian position so unless you are advocating reducing rights, what’s the problem? Who will want to hurt you?
Ah, that’s it, right?
Are you advocating for fear? Are you saying people should be raped, killed, tortured for their beliefs? Are you saying things that might be a little less maniacal – like blacks are stupid and women are just walking vaginas – but are still, let’s say, borderline maniacal? If you are saying any of those things then maybe your thoughts are not actually contributing to the marketplace of ideas. I’m not saying you don’t have a right to say them, but I understand why you don’t want people to know you have dumb thoughts in your head. The marketplace has all of those ideas. Most of them have already been rejected. All you want to do is get some attention. Which is fine. Everyone needs a little virtual love now and then. But I maintain, if you are a free speech advocate who truly believes what they are saying, put your money where your mouth is. Show yourself.
You are not Alexander Hamilton.
You are a coward.
You are feeling stifled because your employer won’t want to keep you employed if you get online and say that you hate blacks, jews, gays, mulims, women, white people? Or, do you want to be able to say you hate them to the folks themselves? Person shows up at the business and you say “you fucking towelhead, go fuck yourself.” Is that how you want to be able to conduct yourself? Or maybe when a gay couple walks in you just want to be able to roll your eyes and pretend you don’t see them?
You know what? Go tell your wife you hate the gays and muslims. Tell your mom, tell your friends over a beer. Maybe you could, you know, keep it to yourself? Pretend to be a normal person who gets along with others? Suck it up. You are not a free speech advocate. You are a person who has antiquated ideas and opinions and is unable to continue to hold onto them and still have your place in society.
That’s actually how this works. That’s how all of this works. That’s the marketplace of ideas.
That’s political correctness? I didn’t even think people still used that term. It’s life in the United States right now. You are absolutely allowed to ask questions, have thoughts and opinions and even say them. But if you think that it is unfair political correctness to hold back your thought that all muslims are murderers and should die, tough shit. You live in the world. And, worse than that (for you to whom this post is addressed) you live in the United States of America which actually is made up of a lot of different kinds of people who believe a lot of different kinds of things. If you don’t like it, leave. Go find an island that you can inhabit with other people who are dependent on others for a livelihood and want to be dicks free of any backlash.
Most of the anonymous speakers are not advocating rational or thoughtful engagement. Some do and that’s always appreciated. They speak their minds and give time for rebuttal and dialogue. You know, the way conversations work even in that strange twitter world. I actually don’t agree with lots of people with whom I communicate. And you know what, it is okay! We all live and we learn and we move on!
There are those, though, who use the term free speech as both sword and shield. They use it to justify their vitriol and to prevent real free speech advocates from questioning their motives. It’s absolutely frightening, I imagine, to want to say something with no basis in fact and yet just feel like you need to say it and well, you have a platform for it so just say it! FREE SPEECH!
So, to you anonymous folks out there with free speech advocate as your tagline, I’m calling you out. There are real, honest to goodness free speech advocates who risk themselves every day to say things you are too afraid to say. Maybe they’ve got the freedom to say it because they have money. Most likely they have balls. This country’s freedom came at a price – courageous people built it and there are others who are carrying on this tradition. None of those people is you.