The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.” So sayeth not Grendel69 on Twitter, but Alexander Hamilton, writing under the name Publius, the handle he adopted along with James Madison and John Jay when they were writing The Federalist Papers. But if Twitter had existed, well, Hamilton may well have been a shitposter, one who made Grendel69 look like a lightweight.
ot everyone agrees with this assessment. Jordan Peterson, for example, recently waded into the argument, naturally with a series of tweets. The good doctor summed up his thoughts: “Most anonymous accounts are counterproductive. And I never said they should be banned. I merely said that the anonymous accounts should be separated from the real people.”
I’m fairly confident that Alexander Hamilton was a real person, unlike some bot accounts on social media, though he was much more limited in his ability to disseminate his ideas. He couldn’t just generate a thought and hit send, reaching audiences of potentially 20 to 30 people, as do those bot accounts. He had to get out there and hit the pavement. I’ll leave it to you to decide which approach was more effective, but online trolls haven’t sparked a revolution for freedom (yet). Which isn’t exactly a point in Peterson’s favor. The point of free communication isn’t how effective it is, but whether or not it happens at all.
There’s also the fact that anonymity doesn’t exactly prevent invective. As has been noted, including by this publication’s own Bridget Phetasy, people are more than willing to be dicks while using their own names and faces. Anonymity doesn’t slow them down. And while the “block” function doesn’t prevent someone from riding a horse by your house and throwing a brick with a scroll tied to it through your window, it’s still a lot of effort to say “ur mom.”