Anonymous the Bot
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
- Oscar Wilde
Anonymous is an interesting idea, isn't it? Not only the hacktivist anarchist collective, or the pithy quotes that you see online that were unattributed. But the deeper idea of a person with no name, a source of thought with no identity.
If an idea has no source, does it exist? Could I exist if I never had parents? Causality and the mechanical nature of reality seems to suggest that all things come from somewhere and all people from someone. But then you read a statement, a question, a comment and the author is "Anonymous" and that always tripped me up. It tripped me up when I was younger, because I figured someone should be proud of what they said or wrote. Not putting your name was cowardly and not knowing who said it and attributing it to no one was annoying, ignorant and lazy. So there was this whole period of my life, probably before the age of 13, where any sentence that started 'someone once said,' or 'i can't remember who said it' was met with an eyeroll and supreme indifference. Here comes someone trying to seem smarter than they actually are...look at them go...
Then you're a teenager and it seems as though everything that you say is a liability. Every action and relationship is a reflection of your virtue as a person. One day you're up and another you're down, your stock is fluctuating minute to minute by the who, the what, the where and the how of you. All of a sudden, anonymous becomes that blanket of comfort and you understand the absolute necessity of anonymity to be who you really are - to say things without being afraid, to have an effect without risking yourself, your standing. Anonymous becomes the best of allies and many people get stuck at this level of understanding to the point that people honestly can't conceive speaking their mind or confronting certain problems without their friend, anonymity, holding their hand and leading the way.
And now at the last level, I look upon anonymous with a sigh again. Because there are certainly places and situations in this world where to speak one's mind is mortally dangerous. And there are certainly things said that are worth repeating even if you didn't know who said it. But I sigh. I sigh because, it is a profound sense of self-importance to think that the forces of the world are trying to destroy you for your one, partial, small, unimportant opinion of one thing, today, that probably won't matter to anyone, including yourself, ten minutes from now. We do ourselves a disservice to use anonymity like a magic wand applicable in every way, when it should at best be a spark or a scalpel, used to start things that couldn't be started any other way or cut a path to the truth that couldn't be reached in any other manner. Too often the rationale becomes if you spoke your mind and put your name to what you thought, others can hold those thoughts against you. Well, are we still fourteen years old? Or at one point, are we going to take that deep breath and say to ourselves 'If I speak my mind, and you hate me for it, why should I care what you think of me? Why shouldn't I want to know that you hate me? Why shouldn't I want to give people like you a wide berth and find more people like myself?" Why should we be afraid of the whole world and everything in it and every possible consequence of our actions, like a child? Why shouldn't we think about what we say, say things with pride, stand by them for as long as we can, and then change what we say and think when something better comes along?
Why shouldn't the uncomfortable things that we say simply be used to clarify who we will be comfortable with?
So, I see many comments and messages on the internet from our old friend Anonymous, he's more active than ever. And sometimes he has something interesting to say, and I confess, I read pretty much everything, so more often than not I listen. I imagine sometimes Anonymous speaks for someone somewhere in this world not necessarily because they are afraid but simply because they are lazy and can't be bothered to add their name. To that I always wonder: if you can't be bothered to add your name, how important is it to add your thoughts? Nonetheless, anonymous speaks and I listen. But I still sigh. Because no matter how smart anonymous seems in this instance, anonymous is still missing that larger point about the value of saying things and standing by what is said and by understanding the world through the reactions of those around you to what you say.
And then I can't help wondering if in the age of the Net, if all those messages that anonymous leaves isn't just a bot. Just a random assortment of code, spitting out words assembled by algorithm just to appear like a real person. No thought at all behind the words, just like all those anonymous thoughts existing without a source to stand behind them.
Is Anonymous real? Or is it just the approximation, the imitation of the real?
(P.S. Just kidding, I wrote this. Me. Kamil!)