As I write, I remember the insightful words provided to my niece and nephew. “In the world of Twitter and blogs, almost everything you do can be tracked. In fact, you are tracked.” Yeah, of course there are methods that help anominity. Incognito web browsers, hidden VPN services, fake email addresses, hidden websites, etc., etc. Still at the end of the day, given the right amount of resources, some blind luck and time, writers, bloggers and others can be identified.
This past week, a CNN reporter used details of user’s Reddit account to crack his real-life identity. After CNN contacted the user using the blog name “HanAssholeSolo,” he became remorseful and published an apology on same site.
Two things of note. First, the apology,
“I am in no way this kind of person. I was trolling and posting things to get a reaction. I love and accept people of all walks of life. I would never support any kind of violence.”
Second, CNN stated they reserved the right to expose the blogger should the blogger begin reposting vile and hatred.
To the first, we really don’t know if this user actually accepts people from all walks of life. One can always present an outward appearance of love and harmony, yet it is in the shadows of life, where one is unseen, that demonstrates whether life is lived through principles of a higher calling. Are we to believe a principled man would write such vile? At the moment, it appears unverified.
To the second. CNN’s response drew swift condemnation as outright blackmail, in that withholding the user’s identity was a form of blackmail and thus led to further condemnation by various bloggers. Blogger “Weev” wrote that unless CNN staff personnel and reporters resign and denounce the network’s acts of blackmail, both CNN employees and family members are fair game. (Ironically, “Weev” fails to note his own use of blackmail.)
Moving forward, both CNN and the blogger missed an essential lesson. The “Butterfly Effect.” Had the first act (that of the blogger) not occurred, neither would have the second. Yet, just as referees misses flagging an act of unsportsmanlike conduct, the retaliatory offender almost always gets punished while the initiator remains relatively unchallenged. Accordingly, had CNN not responded sophomorically, the third act, CNN’s alleged complicity in potential blackmail and twitter condemnation would not have occurred.
So let’s propose an alternate view. In Buddhism, “ethics” or “morals” generally refer to three components of the eightfold path: “right speech,” “right action” (in which taking life is discouraged), and “right livelihood.” In essence, our actions and non-actions have consequences.
If the blogger had proposed his opposition to the news media in both right speech and right action, CNN would never be accused of blackmail. I agree that all Americans have the right to free speech, even assholes. Accordingly, the blogger has a right to free speech, but in American, does free speech require hidden identities, fake names, and insistence that one’s opinion is not reflective of overall character?
Criticism of both the news media and the government is an American right. However, that criticism should be performed in right speech and action. Political commentators fail to remember that both the government and news is neither completely wrong nor right. Both have positives and negatives.
Accordingly, the free speech we use should propel all people to a new level of honesty and integrity. And that my friends is what CNN and the blogger may have missed.