Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Place for Hate

Posted by Teresa at 5:25 PM
I love the internet. I practically live on the internet. However, like everything else
in this world nothing is perfect. The internet is not perfect; it has some very big flaws.
The major flaw I see on the internet is hate. From racism to homophobia- the internet
has it all. To make my point I'll use this snippet from a news article about the Bernard
Madoff scandal:

But the allegations against Madoff are particularly wrenching for some
in the Jewish community, who fear that the sensational case is fanning
vicious stereotypes about Jews that go back to the Middle Ages.

The Anti-Defamation League cites a spike in anti-Semitic
online after Madoff's Dec. 11 arrest. A columnist for
the Israeli newspaper Haaretz lamented the case as "the answer to every
Jew-hater's wish list."

I believe more good comes out of the internet than bad. I think that is important
to point out. People share thoughts and ideas like never before because of the
internet. It just makes life easier with speed and efficiency. That doesn't mean
it doesn't have its drawbacks.

I believe one of the biggest strength the internet holds is also its biggest drawback.
What is that strength/drawback? Anonymity. On the internet one can post practically
whatever they want without having to give their name. This can be a good thing. For
example, a victim of a crime can tell their story online without having to give their
name so they can prevent it from happening to others. Or perhaps someone from an
oppressed country can share what's going in their country anonymously with the world
because of the internet. See Tibet.

Anonymity also has its drawbacks. People can post hate online without being
publicly shamed by being anonymous. That is exactly what is happening. All one
has to do is take a stroll on YouTube. The article linked to in the beginning of my
post mention the increase of anti-Semitic comments because of the Madoff case.
Here's a Youtube video about the Madoff case and you can see there are several
anti-Semitic comments posted. Content Warning.

Last year I read a great article by Thomas Friedman about what it means about
the Hamas fighters wearing masks. These two paragraphs stood out to me:

Putting on a mask is also a way to gain power and enhance masculinity. People
in black masks are always more frightening - not only physically, but because
their sheer anonymity suggests that they answer to no one and no laws. In our
society, it’s usually only burglars, rapists or Ku Klux Klansmen who wear masks
- either to terrorize others or make it easier to break the law. The mask literally
says: “I don’t play by the rules. Be afraid, be very afraid.”

I had never thought about it until this article but terrorists thrive on anonymity.
They hide their faces. No I'm not comparing hate spewing anonymous commenters
on the internet to terrorists. They are no way equivalent! However, what I do find
relevant between this Thomas Friedman article and hate on the internet is anonymity.
I think evil can lurks in anonymity. People become more arrogant when they think
they won't be caught. They aren't going to be held accountable.

My post is not about censorship or anything like that. I'm not someone who likes to
censor. My post is mainly about acknowledging a flaw in a medium I adore. Perhaps
we should take the time to think about why hate prospers online.
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