Anonymity and vindictiveness

I have long railed against anonymity on the Internet, because it is so often a license for depravity. But there is also something called “proportional response.” It is appropriate to show that a video of Nancy Pelosi had been slowed down to make it appear as if she was drunk, since some people were taking it seriously. Was it necessary to expose the identity of the man who posted the video? No, it was not.

(Such things are not new, of course. Craig Ferguson showed a video of George W. Bush that had been slowed down, and it looked like he was drunk. But this was not “fake news.” It was satire.)

The reason it was a disproportionate response is that the video had already been debunked and there is no news value in knowing the name of the person who posted it. The damage that could be done to this man’s life through threatening his employment and exposing him to a torrent of hate mail and death threats far outweighs the “value” of exposing his name.

But, see, that was the point. The message of exposing his name was to serve as an example: If you criticize us or the people we like, we will come after you, we will humiliate you on a national platform, and we will expose as many embarrassing details about you as possible. We saw this in 2017 when CNN found out the identity of the Reddit user who posted a silly clip from WrestleMania with a CNN logo replacing the head of the man Donald Trump hit with a clothesline. I thought that was a low point in journalistic integrity, but this is worse. This is nothing but pure vindictiveness.

The mainstream news media claims to be alarmed when President Trump calls them “the enemy of the people,” but they could reduce the impact of that insult by not acting like the enemy of the people. Doxxing and targeting private citizens who make silly memes and parody videos is not the way to prove you are not the enemy. In fact, this kind of behavior by the media is one of the big reasons Donald Trump is President in the first place.