I'll be honest. When I first saw the comment from "thechosenone" on my post about rape trials, I was inclined to ignore it. It didn't seem to warrant a response for a lot of reasons. For instance, having worked for years in and with domestic violence prevention programs, I've encountered more than my share of men who hate women but are powerless to do anything about it beyond the occasional burst of ugly language or show of physical violence. They were, as a class, a weak and ineffectual bunch, but even in that company, the Rev in his silly Dr. Seuss mask with his vague plans to finish college at some point seemed pretty irrelevant.
And then, too, there was the fact that no one seemed to be all that interested in his little rant. He posted a cute little attention-begging "I just couldn't resist" on his MySpace blog, and in the week since an overwhelming...um...ONE visitor clicked through. If even his friends weren't all that interested in what he had to say, it seemed to confirm the idea that I shouldn't be, either.
Finally, but perhaps most important to me, his little rant was very poorly spelled.
Still, he'd randomly appeared out of nowhere to call me (and one of my friends, for good measure) a name I haven't been called since some drunken frat boy took issue with my desire to remain fully clothed more than 20 years ago, and then was so proud of himself that he had to post a link to his clever comment. That seemed odd behavior even for a 21-year-old guy in Indiana. More importantly, the issue of anonymous comments and how they affect discussion has been cropping up all around me lately.
Usually, it seems to me, when people use the veil of anonymity as a means of ranting without risk, they show themselves to be fools. That only makes sense, if you think about it. Although there are occasionally valid reasons for anonymity, for the most part what it means is that the writer doesn't want to be associated with his own comment. In short, even HE knows he sounds like an ass. Unable to provide support for his position, he resorts instead to rough language and misplaced gloating.
In the case of my little visitor, he's made his MySpace page private--now that the horse is long gone. Maybe he's worried about anonymous comments. he shouldn't be concerned, though. He should know that anonymous rants only make their authors look the fool, and that if someone DID have the poor taste to drop by his blog and curse and carry on at him, it would only make his position look more cogent by comparison.
The whole experience has clarified my position on anonymous comments. I've always thought opting for anonymity said something about the commenter's credibility, but I don't think I'd fully considered how anonymous negative comments can bolster a writer's credibility. The more vile, incoherent, rude, juvenile (and misspelled) a rebuttal is, the clearer and more level-headed the original statement appears. So I guess I owe the man from Crown Point a thank you...not only did he shed some revealing light on the very mentality the original post addressed, but he gave a little boost to my Technorati authority. So sorry I can't return the favor.