In Defense of Anonymity

By Patrick Casey

Viral clips circulated online on August 25, 2020, in which a rifle-toting teenager fled a mob of antifa, only to stumble and, as a last resort, fire his AR-15 in self-defense. The subsequent arrest of this teenager, Kyle Rittenhouse, evoked mass sympathy from conservatives, who understandably saw in him a son, grandson, friend, or brother. Many donated to Rittenhouse’s fundraiser, hoping to ensure that this young man would be spared the cruel fate of life in prison.

One of those kind souls was Lt. William Kelly, an officer at Norfolk Police Department. Unbeknownst to Lt. Kelly, who donated anonymously, his donation would soon be anonymous no more. The Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo suffered a vicious hack, which led to its data being shared with journalists by ‘transparency group’ Distributed Denial of Secrets. Many donors, including Lt. Kelly, had their identities exposed as a result. Norfolk PD fired him, citing his “egregious comments.” Those comments? “God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong.”

Clearly very egregious stuff.

Lt. Kelly couldn’t have possibly known that the fundraising site would be subjected to a complex hacker attack. For that reason he was wise to donate anonymously, even if, in this woeful instance, such a protective measure proved insufficient. Yet Kelly’s unpersoning is by no means an isolated occurrence. Indeed, such doxings are tragically common these days.

In totalitarian times – when those in power vehemently oppose political expression at odds with their ruling ideology – there is a price to pay for dissent. This is why anonymity, that is, the ability to engage in lawful political activity while hiding one’s identity, is an invaluable, non-negotiable asset to the right, one which we would be fools to relinquish. Hands down, it is one of the best protections against tyranny available to us.

Most conservatives would likely agree that America is becoming increasingly totalitarian. But what many miss is the fact that totalitarianism is far from a mere specter lurking in the distance; it’s already here, albeit in a way at times difficult to detect.

Totalitarianism comes in two forms: hard and soft. Hard totalitarianism occurs when the state busts down your door, seizes your samizdat, and carts you off to the gulag. In other words, it involves state power being directly wielded against otherwise law-abiding dissidents.

Soft totalitarianism, on the other hand, is subtler. It arises when a ruling class constructs or supports a system wherein those who dissent face an array of social consequences: character assasination, unpersoning, debanking, unemployment, deplatforming, and so on. Sound familiar? Note that the difference between the two is ultimately one of means, as both entail the same end: the suppression of dissent, however lawful or righteous.

Soft totalitarianism is what we find ourselves living under now, but its hard counterpart is drawing ever nearer. One need only observe the increased weaponization of the national security state against conservatives – from the nightmarish J6 DC Gulag, to the FBI targeting parents who object to critical race theory – to see which way the wind is blowing. Like it or not, the road ahead is dark and strewn with hazards, especially for those who dissent openly.

Anonymity is thus of vital importance to the right. It allows us to effectively circumvent soft totalitarianism, as it’s difficult for the establishment to unperson those whose identities remain unknown. And in the era of the internet, it is online anonymity which we must safeguard most passionately, particularly on large platforms like Twitter. Conservatives would do well to bear in mind that platform access, while undeniably important, is only half of the battle. After all, what good is having the ability to use a social media platform if to post anything remotely controversial on it is to commit social suicide?

Nevertheless, some who otherwise dissent against elements of soft totalitarianism will, from time to time, float the idea of doing away with online anonymity. “Once you get 5k followers,” wrote Dave Rubin on Twitter in April 2019, “you can no longer be anonymous. Many journalists are using anonymous accounts as proxies to do their dirty work.” Although it is true that many journalists conspire with anonymous antifa accounts to dox and harass conservatives, removing anonymity from the platform altogether would amount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as it would harm conservatives more than journalists.

Responding to Dave Rubin, Bret Weinstein chimed in, writing, “There is a value to having anonymity as an option, but I’m not convinced the benefits have potential to exceed the staggering cost.” As to what the “staggering cost” to which Bret Weinstein refers might be, your guess is as good as mine. But if his other tweets on the subject are an indication, his Twitter experience has suffered from what he believes to be bot networks disrupting otherwise edifying discussions on the platform. And while I truly wish Mr. Weinstein the best in his battle against the bot armies of Twitter, as far as I’m concerned, this is not a valid reason to give up the ability to remain anonymous on the site.

The aforementioned tweets are, admittedly, a few years old. However, the proposal to trade platform anonymity for something else is a recurring one. In the wake of the announcement that Elon Musk had purchased a major share in Twitter, many on Twitter took to tagging him in their tweets, hoping that he would read their suggestions for the site. Actor and conservative James Woods wrote on April 5, “Dear @elonmusk, welcome to Twitter. I join millions of users in hoping your presence will restore integrity to this once valuable forum. Two thoughts: Remove all politically motivated algorithms from the site. Make people have to use their real identities to end abuse.”

His tweet did numbers, amassing an astounding 45,000 likes in under twelve hours. Its first proposal, of course, would be worthwhile to implement were it to have the intended effect of protecting right-wing content on the platform. The second, though, would be disastrous for conservatives. Contrary to what Mr. Woods believes, ending Twitter anonymity would only lead to further abuse: doxing, harassment, firing, etc. To remove anonymity altogether would be to force conservatives to choose between suffering considerable social consequences, limiting their content to what is regime-approved, or abstaining from the platform altogether. None of these are acceptable options.

Others joined in the discussion as well. Martyr Made, a podcaster known for his collaboration with masculinity guru Jocko Willink, offered suggestions to Tesla’s founder as well. “The best reform Twitter could enact would be to give a blue check to anyone who verifies their identity. The artificial aristocracy of the blue check is one of the ways they amplify and confer legitimacy on certain discourse. @elonmusk” He continued, elaborating on his proposal by suggesting a two-tiered system: a filter that would allow verified users to avoid the unwashed, anonymous masses should they so choose.

As far as proposals for Twitter improvement go, these rank low, as they fail to address the fundamental gripe many have with the platform: its biased censorship of right-wing content. Moreover, as many pointed out on Twitter, this would most likely marginalize non-verified users. We already suffer from targeted suspensions, shadow bans, and limitations on what we can say. Ghettoizing us wouldn’t exactly improve the situation.

While I’m far from keen on these ideas, they are admittedly not calls to abolish anonymity on the platform. But after a torrent of replies from argumentative, anonymous accounts, an embattled Martyr Made tweeted, “lol people who object to this idea act like they’re using anonymity to write the Federalist Papers, when really they’re mostly just spewing bile at celebrities and regular people for kicks.” To be fair, while the average Twitter anon is probably not, in fact, writing a modern equivalent of the Federalist Papers in tweet form, the ability to anonymously participate in the digital public square remains one of safest and most effective forms of dissent.

Those right of center calling for an end to platform anonymity have one thing in common: They aren’t anonymous. Unlike most, they are self-employed, employed in conservatism, or financially independent. Many of these types aren’t malicious. But as a result of their unique life circumstances, they fail to comprehend the cost of dissent. It’s thus up to us to remind them. To his credit, not only did Martyr Made apologize for his tweet deriding anonymous posters, but he eventually withdrew the suggestion altogether after receiving DMs from an “anon frog.”

Elon Musk did eventually weigh in on the discussion, perhaps in response to these large conservative accounts. In a reply to Dave Rubin, a 77-follower account wrote, “We need to validate or should I say ‘Verify’ everyone. This get’s rid of bots, multiple accounts and keeps banned people from coming back. Banned for legit reasons of course. Make Accounts worth losing.” The Tesla CEO replied with one word: “Yes.”

This exchange is unideal for two reasons. First, as we’ve established, online anonymity is vital so long as there is a social or even legal cost for dissent. That Twitter’s largest shareholder does not seem to agree bodes poorly for us. Second, this is evidence that whatever influence Elon Musk will have over Twitter very well might be wasted on nonsensical ‘solutions’ to imaginary problems, while real problems – such as the systematic elimination of right-wing content and accounts – go ignored. But given the recent announcement that Musk will not be joining the Twitter board, it’s unknown what level of influence, if any, he will be able to exercise over the company.

As we’ve seen, the motivations behind right-adjacent proposals to do away with platform anonymity vary. Dave Rubin wishes to prevent journalists from using fake accounts to do their dirty work; Bret Weinstein longs to use Twitter free from bot armies disrupting his discussions; James Woods wishes to end abuse on the platform; and Martyr Made wants (or wanted) a bifurcated system to allow users to filter out the rabble.

But it should be remembered that many left of center, too, take issue with platform anonymity as it currently stands. A quick Twitter search from verified accounts maligning anonymous users as “cowards” makes this clear. One video tweet from check mark Chris Packham, a wildlife conservationist and TV personality, reads, “Trolling destroys homes, careers, reputations, and lives. Cowards that generate hate, hiding behind anonymous accounts is something that MUST end.” The video received 26,000 likes and nearly half a million views. Is Mr. Packham railing against antifa creeps who dox conservatives for their views? Unlikely. He, like many verified Twitter users, desires a platform in which those who “hate” – which in liberal parlance amounts to most forms of right-wing political expression – are unable to do so anonymously, if at all.

Some verified Twitter users go beyond railing against online “hate,” which may or may not even exist, to accuse anyone using the platform anonymously of cowardice. Sahil Kapur, Senior National Political Reporter at NBC, wrote on Twitter, “lot of tough talk on this website from anonymous accounts too cowardly to tweet under their real names.” This is an amusing line from someone whose political views are clearly in line with the most powerful institutions in America. As a senior reporter at NBC, it is doubtful that Mr. Kapur has ever had an original, let alone controversial, thought in his life. It’s easy to decry anonymity when your views are thoroughly establishmentarian.

Regardless, equating anonymous political activity with cowardice reveals a deep ignorance of – or even worse, contempt for – our great nation’s history. Martyr Made didn’t reference the Federalist Papers for no reason, as this collection of essays was written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay under the pseudonym “Publius.” The Federalist Papers, as any student of American history should know, were written to persuade the colonies to ratify the Constitution. The decision to publish them anonymously stemmed from the fact that Hamilton and Madison had attended the Constitutional Convention. Were they cowards for this? NBC’s Senior National Political Reporter would have you believe so. The reality, however, is that the brave men who founded America were unrivaled heroes who fought for – and won – their freedom from a powerful empire. It should go without saying that these cretinous, effete journalists, who look down their noses at anonymous dissidents, are simply unfit to cast such aspersions at the Founders.

True anonymity, I will note, is almost nonexistent. If the authorities want to discover who is behind a Twitter account, know that they can. For this reason, it’s best to avoid even joking about anything potentially incriminating. And as the unfortunate Lt. Kelly learned the hard way, the potential for data breaches and hacks is always present. Nevertheless, we must fight to retain whatever remaining anonymity exists on the internet, particularly on social media platforms. Without it, our ability to speak out against the blatant, escalating insanity all around us will be snuffed out, never to return.

Those who lean right yet float the prospect of doing away with anonymity often have relatively good intentions. But as the 12th century theologian Bernad of Clairvaux famously wrote, “L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs,” or, “Hell is full of good wishes or desires.” I think I speak for us all when I say that a future in which one cannot express his opposition to the evils of child transgenderism, anti-white indoctrination, or mass immigration without suffering crippling social and financial consequences is a hellish one indeed.

Patrick Casey is the host of Restoring Order. He can also be found on Telegram.

17 Comments Add yours

  1. Aguy says:

    I agree 100% with the intent of the message here. But please be aware total anonymity is impossible.

    Pseudo-anonymity is really what we are defending. Stay anon online, practice opsec rigorously— but please please take steps to have a back-up plan if you are doxxed.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. E M Lowden says:

    I don’t think anyone actually needs to have this pointed out, but obviously the two Jews who started this debate clearly are not arguing in good faith. Hollywood Actor James Woods might be, but considering he himself hasn’t been unpersoned, he’s clearly also on the side of the Rootless Cosmopolitans whose interests are threatened by dissent.

    Rather than, for the sake of argument, taking what these creatures say at face value, it seems far more helpful to highlight them as enemies, and point out why they are enemies, and nothing they say can be trusted. It’s not the method you’ve chosen here to make your case, I understand; you have taken a more typically conservative style of argumentation rather than denunciation.

    Is there anything to be gained from Buckleyesque debate that ignores interests that are clearly at play, though? If as you point out, we’re living under soft totalitarianism, it seems more helpful to learn how to discern who the tools and creatures of the totalitarian system are, rather than pretend high-profile Jews and Hollywood actors are ever merely more moderate friends of dissent.

    Anyone who opposes online anonymity is clearly either an idiot or an enemy. Full stop. That’s the thesis that is most helpful to argue and it’s not that difficult to prove.

    Like

    1. Joe Anon says:

      As soon as I see someone railing about “Jews” I know I’ve found the lunatic fringe.

      Like

      1. E M Lowden says:

        We can drop the word if it makes you uncomfortable.

        Let’s instead propose a hypothetical: I have a distinct ethnoreligious group (meaning we have a group bound together both by shared history and family relationships as well as spiritual and ideological commonalities) who are overrepresented in positions of social influence (entertainment and media), economic influence (banking and finance), and political power (NGOs, political lobbies, as well as the executive and judicial branches of the US government). This hypothetical group is a small minority of the overall population – perhaps 2 percent, 3 if we’re generous, and did not play a major role in the organization or founding of said government, meaning their access to influence and power were acquired and, presumably, motivated.

        In this hypothetical, would you regard it as lunacy to conclude that this group has unique interests which they pursue, and because of their political and social overrepresentation decidedly have a defined interest served by the suppression of dissent against the status quo?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. NotGay says:

        As soon as I see someone railing about “Jews” I know I’ve found someone with balls to speak the truth.

        Like

      3. Anonymous says:

        Noooo you can’t question le heckin heeberinos!!!

        Like

  3. Political affiliation needs to become a protected class, like race, age, gender, etc.. That way,. people on the right can have grounds for filing discrimination lawsuits. This could all stop very quickly.

    Like

    1. E M Lowden says:

      “The monster has gotten too big to command, let’s feed it more” hardly seems a prudent conclusion.

      Like

  4. NC says:

    Yes we do live in TRANNY tyranny , the T&T of the left.
    PaPaaC&KtM

    Like

  5. bcstat says:

    Patrick (if that is your name), fear of reprisal is not a sufficient justification for anonymity. Lack of courage is why we are at this moment. Courage is the answer, not hiding.

    Like

    1. Mike says:

      Not so fast. I am a conservative employed in a religious non-profit full of liberals. Expressing my opinions openly (without anonymity) online could be dangerous to my career. It is not lack of courage that makes anonymity important; it is the left’s totalitarianism which intends to crush dissent (and therefore freedom) however possible – loss of job, loss of reputation, loss of privacy. They will stop at nothing to silence non-leftist POV’s.

      Like

    2. Adam Smith says:

      Courage when you have a good chance of succeeding is admirable. Courage when you’re almost certain to lose is stupidity. Palestinians have courage, but they don’t seem to be winning.

      If the odds are against you, bide your time and invest in areas where you can get a return. Goal is to get a higher return than the opposition. If they’re still outrunning you, one has a serious problem. Re-evaluate and try again. If your resources eventually surpass that of the opposition, the odds are in your favor and striking may be the correct decision.

      But committing suicide is a guaranteed way of get a one-time negative return of 100%. There are no do-overs in this life. It’s game-over if we get it wrong.

      Like

      1. Well said, also hello Myth of the 20th cohost Adam Smith

        Like

    3. Patrick is indeed my real name. When it comes to the consequences for dissent, I speak from personal experience. I didn’t detail any of this in the article so as to avoid making it about myself, but I’ve been botted from dozens of payment processors and social media platforms, subpoenaed by Congress, maligned relentless in the media, home address doxed on antifa blogs, and prevented from working a normal job basically for the rest of my life. I don’t regret any of it. Through the grace of God I’ve been able to stay afloat financially, which is the way they really get you. So believe me when I say that while courage is admirable, charging headfirst into artillery fire with no way of winning — committing suicide — is neither noble nor advisable. It’s good to have public representatives for wrongthink, but most people should do what they can anonymously. Those who want to pursue real world change under their real identities are best off keeping their rhetoric Tucker-tier and seeking influence and connections outside the dissident ghetto.

      Like

      1. Adam Smith says:

        Thank you for this article and your work, Patrick.

        Like

    4. Mchaha says:

      Have the courage to gulag yourself and save us the trouble. Sincerely, your enemies

      Like

  6. Half says:

    Elon is the wild card. He reminds me of one person. All multi billionaires are cautious with him. He does more while he sleeps than he does when awake. What he is doing makes perfect sense to me. As long as he is who he represents himself as I like the guy. He broke ground that would have laid undiscovered. Look it I one paragraph and study it. If it means nothing to you then you are not getting it. Gates announces the earth can only support 250,000,000 people. He is a planet killer but not earth. He won’t succeed. Elon announced one month before the bat lady let the spliced gene, in China. It could be misunderstood, “preserve the consciousness” and “one zeta flop could contain the human brain.” Both are untrue. He announced this when he debated a Chinese billionaire in true Elon fashion. Ahh, do you know what we are here for..Elon knew what he was there for, warning the world what was about to happen. One month later, the bat lady released the spliced gene and the jab activated certain people. Nothing is a conspiracy. There are no co-incidences. It’s all true. Except time travel, all we have is now. Space travel is a fairy tale. Ask one question. Why are more and more sats being put up. It is the excuse that will be used to completely blanket the earth so no one fries past the limit placed on us. Elon released 60,000 sats in one launch. Many blew up but you do get the point, don’t’ you. Elon mentioned all the things in the past that were marvels. All truths. At the end, he said, we went to the moon, we forgot how to do it. Take that and study it. All public, all on vids.

    Like

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