Saturday, 27 October 2012

The paradox of anonymity

As an avid commentor on the Huffington Post I have come to realize that there is a paradox of anonymity. People are by nature skeptical and yet, at the same time, quite uncritical of their ability to cull out the truth. But that is not the paradox I'm talking of here.

I try and be honest of and to myself when I post a comment. But I've seen over the last few months instances where someone writes something and another challenges that person's assertions. Almost invariably, as if by good fortune, that person had the right credentials all along, which sometimes leaves one incredulous going by the choice of vocabulary and level of analysis demonstrated by the comment poster just challenged. - I happen to suffer the same skepticism and uncritical belief in my abilities to see the truth when I see it.

I'm reading a book right now that my aippakuluk ordered for me online. The book is called, Baudolino, by the great Umberto Eco and I must admit that I relish every word ever written by that guy and this Baudolino is no different - I just love the guy's writing. Reading Eco is like drinking a thousand year old single-malt, like the milk of paradise of the Coleridge fame.

But I digress: the main character in the Eco book is named Baudolino, a person with "two major gifts - a talent for learning languages and a skill in telling lies". Eco has a way of spinning yarns around familiar but innocent-sounding adages of the old world, and I doubt that I'd spoil anything by telling you that the Baudolino character is a study of human nature in the guise of the saying about the liar from Crete. Eco is that good.

A couple of days ago, I posted a comment, re: Niel Young asking who Bono was, something to the effect that U2 is a group of great showmanship but anyone with some knowledge of music wouldn't call them muscians and that Mr Young's apparent slight was probably with respect to Bono's tendency for self-righteous prickery. An angry response came into my in-box promptly saying that I know nothing of music and that the Edge had been voted the greatest guitarist sometime ago by the RollingStone magazine.

When I replied back I had to mention that I love U2 as a rock band and that I actually know how to play guitar and a bit of harmonica and know a few musical scales to go with that, and that the Edge has a huge bank of pedals and processors to make the music sound good. It was then that I realized I sound exactly like the posters who just happen to have a degree or specific knowledge of the subject and I gave an audible groan...

The greatness and weakness of anonymous posting (I give my real name, by the way) is like the archetypal mask: it gives the wearer some feeling of safety to be honest, but this cuts both ways; the mask also gives one license to lie without much consequence to worry about.

Jay

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