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Behind Anonymous

Alex Coccia | Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Anonymous is the inciter. Anonymous is the underground poet, the published author. Anonymous is the coward, the bigot and the bully. Anonymous is the well-wisher, the tipster and the answer. Anonymous is conviction. Anonymous is safety. Anonymous is the masked, intentionally and unintentionally done. Anonymous is the fear of repercussion. Anonymous is the advantage of the eloquent. Anonymous is the good and the bad of human opinion. Anonymous is nameless, faceless, and lost.

Anonymous can be everyone and everyone can be Anonymous. The question is, “Should we?”

There are many characters, but only two distinct forms can lie behind the guise of Anonymous. Both human forms deserve credit for their words, which the moniker Anonymous shields from any direct response. The first form is the humble one. The second form is the coward.

Anonymous the Humble writes for the sake of writing. Anonymous the Humble contributes his or her words to the library of human invention. Some of the most brilliant quotations for inspiration are of anonymous authorship, claimed by no single person and owned by everyone. Perhaps the intention of recognition was not present in the author, perhaps it was not given by the audience. Whatever the case may be, Anonymous the Humble is not given or does not seek the credit he or she is due. Anonymous the Humble can also be seen in testimonials or witness statements, doing what he or she can to make a situation better. The humble one sees an injustice and instead of putting his or her name before the cause, contributes to its goals by spilling forth the heartfelt words that might push the cause to fulfillment of the goals. The humble one gives everything and asks for nothing.

The trick is that Anonymous the Coward can and often does claim the role of Anonymous the Humble. It may seem as though Anonymous the Coward and Anonymous the Humble share the same characteristics. They may both want to present ideas for the benefit of humanity. They may both believe firmly in their cause and want to see its goals fulfilled. They may even both write anonymously out of fear of punishment or retribution. One may say it seems like a double standard — that the Humble is not reprimanded for being anonymous while the Coward is. Yet, the difference between the Humble and the Coward is the content of their contributions.

Anonymous the Coward writes through faceless courage in order to incite destruction, to post confrontational subject matter without any fear of confrontation, to bully without fear of being known as one and to insult with the protective thought that when someone insults back, they are insulting the Coward’s words, and not the Coward himself. Like alcohol as liquid courage, anonymity also provides a vehicle for which people can say what they might not otherwise say. This written form of liquid courage lets the coward hide.

But of course that is the reasoning of the coward. Anonymous the Coward does not want to start a conversation to which he or she could contribute fruitfully. In many cases, the desire to be judged by what he or she declares to be true rather than what belief he or she may have reached through an exchange of views seems noble and necessary. But the content of the coward’s comments — the hurtful, disrespectful, disingenuous, thoughtless, spiteful comments — says a lot more about who that person is.

Of course, we are more than our words. Which is exactly why we should claim them. The moment that the words we deem necessary to write are claimed, then we can begin true conversation. The words are then animated with a sense of life, because they have been given a human soul within which they can rest. If they are your words and you truly believe them, claim them. If they are your absolute convictions, or even your acknowledgment of a progression of thought, claim them. If they are meant to be a part of constructive conversation, claim them. Claim them. Otherwise, do not write them.

Alex Coccia is a sophomore. He appreciates the conversations he has in the Student Welfare and Development Lounge. He can be contacted at acoccia@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.