(image by rawpixel.com, courtesy of Freepik)
In 2011 I was between jobs and decided to design, code, publish, and administer a website and blog to replace my first amateur website published in 2003. While my original website used my actual name my new website would also include a personal blog, and as I wanted potential future employers to hire me based on my job-related skills and not my political ideology, religious beliefs, social viewpoints, or patriotism I decided to write under an alias – The MUSEman – and provide only a bare minimum of personally-identifiable information.
Unfortunately, when I finally landed a new job one of the conditions of employment – in addition to the usual full background check and drug tests – was to inform Human Resources of my online presence: Every Website and Blog I created, every Social Media site I belonged to, every Alias I used when posting comments or content, etc. If I didn’t tell them, withheld anything, or they didn’t like what they read, I wouldn’t be hired, and if employed by them could be fired without notice. Fortunately, being mature adults I knew to respect my employer’s reputation and they knew their employees had personal lives and First Amendment protection outside of work.
Well, imagine my surprise after reading what former Republican Governor and presidential candidate Nicky Haley said recently:
“…when I get into office, the first thing we have to do, social media accounts— social media companies, they have to show America their algorithms. Let us see why they’re pushing what they’re pushing. The second thing is every person on social media should be verified by their name.”
– Nikki Haley (R-SC), former Governor and Republican presidential candidate, Nov. 14, 2023
Nicky Haley might not know this but there are many reasons why people prefer to remain anonymous:
Perhaps people don’t want to be judged a past they’ve moved on from, are trying to establish a career (or trying to protect one), are afraid their point of view will subject them to discrimination, vilification, censorship or violence, or fear retaliation by taking the moral high ground as a whistleblower. Anonymity alone doesn’t necessarily imply misrepresentation, malfeasance, or malice. However, the elimination of anonymity in an effort to prevent those abuses would have a crushing effect on Free Speech: Unlike libel or slander, where a person intentionally writes or says something to harm a certain individual or group, that person’s freedom of expression would now be limited to the least tolerant member of society, whether it be an overly-sensitive Snowflake, Leftists engaging in “Cancel Culture“, companies seeking to avoid liability, or government organizations protecting “National Security“. And in an internet-connected world everyone could instantly know exactly what “belly button” to target if they felt even the least bit slighted.
Believe it or not “Anonymity” has played a part in a number of important achievements throughout history. For example, imagine how different the world would be if these people were forced to use their real names:
- Benjamin Franklin, as a young 16 year old apprentice in 1721, wrote 14 letters using the pen name “Silence Dogood” for his brother’s newspaper The New England Courant. He also wrote under the names Martha Careful, Busy Body, Alice Addertongue, Polly Baker, Richard Saunders and Anthony Afterwit.
- In 1759 François-Marie Arouet, whose writings ushered in The Age of Enlightenment, anonymously wrote “Candide” – a satirical book critical of France’s tyrannical King and Catholic Church – using the name Voltaire, because criticism of the authoritarian King or church could be punished by imprisonment or worse.
- During 1787 and 1788 America’s Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote The Federalist Papers using the name “Publius”: Their 85 essays provided the foundation for the United States Constitution, which describes how the Federal government is organized and operates, and what rights are given to America’s Federal Government, the individual States, and her Citizens.
- Authors and sisters Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë wrote using the names Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell, respectively, as they had “…a vague impression that ” authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice” by male critics. Charlotte Bronte didn’t reveal their true identities until 1850, after the death of her sisters and five years before her own death. (1816-1855, collectively)
- Before he wrote “Vanity Fair” William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) submitted magazine articles under a variety of pen names such as Charles James Yellowplush, George Savage Fitz-Boodle, Michael Angelo Titmarsh, and “The Honorable Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs”.
- As a young writer Samuel Clemens took the pen name “Mark Twain” from a recently-deceased “ancient mariner”, protecting his acerbic and sardonic wit and sometimes controversial social commentary in his many books from censorship.
- Eric Arthur Blair, an anarchist and dedicated Marxist-Socialist, wrote his books “Animal Farm” and “1984″ under the pen name George Orwell, perhaps to avoid attacks by his fellow Socialists as his books pointed out the disadvantages of a single-party totalitarian Socialist State.
- Even today’s politicians on both sides of the aisle used fake names: Unlike Hillary Clinton (see more below), who simply destroyed 33,000 emails while under federal investigation*, Vice President Joe Biden used the names Robert L. Peters, Robin Ware, and JRB Ware on over 82,000 emails, some potentially implicating him in illegal activities. Democrat Congressman Anthony Weiner hid behind the name “Carlos Danger” as he cheated on his pregnant wife (and, top Hillary Clinton aide) Huma Abedin with a 15-year old girl. Closet Democrat Mitt Romney called himself “Pierre Delecto” on X (formerly Twitter) when writing tweets supporting Mitt Romney.
So, Ms. Haley, instead of assisting in the destruction of our First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment Rights and advancing the Surveillance State and Social Credit System under the guise of protecting “National Security” why not require some of the following?
- Social media and search engine firms must post their search / rank / exclusion algorithms, including a plain-English explanation.
- Social media must identify and remove bots (using a transparent, open, verifiable process), and publish publicly-available summary reports of their accomplishments.
- (To her credit Nikki Haley did say she wanted to get rid of “…the Russian bots, the Iranian bots, and the Chinese bots.”, but not by investigating questionable computer code, suspicious online activity, or known foreign agents: Instead, she wants to monitor the activity of every individual.)
- Any implementation of AI needs to be clearly marked as such, including identification of its’ source, especially if the source is government.
- Companies must provide an actual physical address where customers can contact them, and actual humans who will reply.
- The default for Privacy Protection on the internet should be Opt-in (the user gives permission to have their personal information collected, stored, shared and sold) rather than Opt-out (those actions are done by default unless the user says no).
- All ads on the internet must use a “Close” icon which is clearly shown and in a standard location and format.
Finally, there’s an excellent chance you’ve just completely undermined your already slim chances of being elected president, and possibly your political career. But don’t blame me for writing this… I heard this “Anonymously”. If I’m wrong about this just call me “George”
Did you know?
Hillary Clinton, two-time failed presidential candidate and former Secretary of State during the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack and the failed “Russian Reset” with Vladimir Putin, destroyed 33,000 emails she considered “personal” despite being under federal investigation for having a personal computer with government information on it and being told not to destroy any information. The investigation found 38 people responsible for violating government policies, but not Hillary Clinton.
Thanks for Reading! (and, please don’t out me!)