Tuesday, February 11, 2014

On Doxxing

Doxxing: a new word for a new social phenomenon.  I was just reading an interesting article about it.

My students are always amazed when I tell them of the "old days" (when I was their age), before the age of personal computers and the internet.  They simply cannot conceive that there was a time when people communicated by hand-written letters or expensive long-distance phone calls, when "self-publishing" involved mimeograph machines.

Who imagined back in the seventies that one day anyone could "publish" anything globally, instantaneously, and... anonymously?  

Because of this, it has always been hard for me to wrap my head around the way people take "anonymity" for granted nowadays.  I'm very ambivalent about it.  I'm not sure if it's a positive social element.  In fact, I've often sensed that, at least as it has been practiced on the internet recently, it can be downright pernicious.  The freedom to say anything one damn well pleases without the risk of social disapprobation brings out the most careless and cowardly behavior.  It divorces actions from consequences.  (And yeah, I'm including myself here.)

I believe public discourse probably functions better when opinions are attached to real people.

What would happen to the "manosphere" if everyone was simultaneously and forcibly "doxxed" as I have been?  How would they react if they had their names, their addresses and phone numbers, their work and sexual histories revealed and disseminated to the most hostile imaginable audience?  Would these tough-talking guys just slink back into the woodwork, or would their "movement" finally evolve into a reality-based force for change? We'll probably never know, but I find it amusing to speculate.

I once had a conversation with the writer Joanne Greenburg, who published her first and most successful book, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, under the pseudonym "Hannah Green" in order to protect her parents' privacy.  She told me that she regretted it, and that pseudonyms generally caused more trouble than they were worth.

If I were to do it over again, I must say that I would not have used a pseudonym.  Of course, that means I might have been a mite more circumspect about the personal information I revealed!  But on the other hand, maybe not.  Truth is, I'm just getting too old to be very self-protective of my "image" or to present myself as anything other than what I am.  Call me crazy, ugly, fat, old, barren (!) -- I really don't care, you're probably right, it just doesn't matter.  See, I have pretty much lost all my vanity.  There's a great deal of freedom, as well as time-honored patriarchal tradition, in becoming a shameless crone operating on the margins of polite society.  That freedom is, perhaps, the greatest consolation of age.  And it has ever been thus. 

*Standing ovation*
This post now comes up #4 in a search for her name.  The sad thing is I bet she is above-average looking compared to the other posters on manboobz.

Hmm...  "above average in appearance"... Am I damned by faint praise here?
Ruin my reputation?  I don't have a "reputation" to ruin.  In fact, I am so completely inconsequential, so utterly without influence or public recognition, that even if you littered the internet with slander about me, no one would care one bit.  I've been employed at the same institution for fifteen years, and the admin there already know I'm a mixed bag of nuts.  And contrary to what Forney may believe, critical thinkers do "consider the source".  Anyone whose opinion I care about is unlikely to give much weight to online attacks from noxious trolls. 

The real mystery is why Matt Forney et al care what I say.  After all, in their world, I have long outlived whatever usefulness I once served as a woman, and now hardly count as a human being at all.  I reckon I'm about as much a threat to Matt Forney as a mosquito. A mosquito with bad knees, a full-time job, and a mortgage.  Who lives on the opposite coast.

So life proceeds apace at Casa La Strega.  After a flurry of hits on my blog (though I suspect no one hung around long enough to read anything, unfortunately), and a handful of inane, anonymous comments, nothing much is different.  I awake each morning and find there are no flying monkeys circling my roof, after all. I go to school and plod, more or less cheerfully, through my daily grind, I make plans for Valentine's Day with my sweetie, I chuckle at the characterization of myself as "a dangerous narcissist" as I clean up dog poop, drive my neighbor's kids to school, pay utility bills.


  1. A couple of thoughts on what would happen to the manosphere, if no one could pst anonymously anymore:
    1. Most married people and people who wish to maintain a relationship with their kids (like Deti) would be gone.

    2. A lot of the run of the mill young, frustrated and ignored in the real world guys would be goe too.

    3. However, some would stay, and they would, effectively, risk burning bridges with civilized society and further diminish their chances to find a relationship by doing so. That's not a positive thing, necessarily. I think Matt Forney started to blog under his real name and showed us his real face because he felt like his life was at such a low point, that he had nothing to lose. He admitted as much in his original introduction. Many boys, being a bit immature for their age and melodramatic, might feel the same way. That doesn't mean that they are right about their future prospects, and that they won't bitterly regret their decision later.

  2. You make a good point. One of the positive aspects of online anonymity is that it does allow young people to "experiment" with different identities as they struggle to find themselves.

  3. Replies
    1. Btw, I agree with you about anonymity. "Anonymity" plus "the average person" seems to be "raging asshole" and tbh, I have never understood how such a giant network has been left so unmoderated for so long. I think something like South Korea's real name on the internet policy would be very beneficial worldwide.

  4. I believe most who've stayed anonymous in the manosphere would take off running if they had to connect the inane, hateful things they've said to their real life identities. Roosh and Forney and Elam wouldn't go anywhere, but their 'political movement' would all but vanish.

    But gosh, the idea of no anonymity is definately a tricky one. The optimistic side of me would like to believe that everyone having to use their real name would lead to more responsible discourse, but so many have proved that's not necessarily true.

    And besides, though most of those men are completely harmless, you don't know what ticking time bomb might be reading that violent rhetoric and getting ideas.

  5. Oh and btw, I'm really glad that you have gotten over this fairly quickly and with such resolve. That is really admirable.

    Also "Expect us"? Lol.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. What makes me chuckle is the 'us' part of that sentence. Would that be Fatt Horney and his imaginary friend?

    3. I am guessing it was some sort of "Anonymous is legion" sort of thing.

  6. "I suspect no one hung around long enough to read anything..."

    I popped through via a link from PZ Meyers (Pharyngula), but stayed because the writing is good. This blog is now added to my morning roundup!

  7. Well, I'm here because of the backlash. And because you are exactly the kind of person I want to read. Subscribed to your RSS feed. I don't comment much, if at all, but I read everything.
    And I like everything I have read thus far.

  8. Well, I'm here because of the response to the doxing. I liked what I've read thus far, and subscribed to your RSS feed, and will read everything you post in the future, because I like your style and what you write. I do not comment much, but I read everything, and will continue to do so.

  9. Well, I'm here because of the backlash. And because you are exactly the kind of person I want to read. Subscribed to your RSS feed. I don't comment much, if at all, but I read everything.
    And I like everything I have read thus far.

  10. I'm also here from Pharyngula and this looks like an interesting and (thank god) well written blog. Like the governator, I'll be back :)

  11. I hung around to read and to put you in my feed

  12. I am here from Pharyngula and I stayed to read. And I will be back.


Thanks for commenting!