Sunday, July 29, 2007


But don't belligerence and anonymity make an attractive couple!

Michael Miner

I hadn't planned on preaching a sermon on this right now, but I saw this excellent statement (in a completely different context), I just couldn't resist. And before I continue, it's important to point out that there are some bloggers out there who give anonymity a good name. As it were.

I understand that some of the anonymous folks in Eretz ha-Cyberut (Fake Hebrew for "the CyberWorld") are hareidim who are afraid of destroying their families or making their children unmarriageable if they make their true opinions known under their own names. I feel very bad for these people.

Nevertheless, when I read praises of the freedom of speech that anonymity affords, I don't join in the cheers. Anonymity all too often means freedom from accountability. The shiddukh between belligerence and anonymity isn't just attractive; to many of the anonymous, it seems downright irresistible. At this point, they lose my sympathy. They corrupt their claims about freedom of speech and reveal themselves to be mere cowards.

It's easy for me to give advice, since I'm Modern Ortho in a shul that tolerates some diversity of opinion (and I'm probably pretty marginal in the shul at that), and so I don't have much to lose. Nevertheless, I'm not sure this freedom of speech is really that free if you have to hide all the time, or that the things being risked are always worth keeping. Imagine you make it known that you fail one or more of Maimonides' litmus tests for the true faith or that if you had a choice, you'd wear a six-panel yarmulkeh instead of a Toireh-miSinai-dikeh four-panel yarmulkeh. And now it's shiddukh time. A wonderful young person won't marry your child because his or her parents won't allow it because of your forbidden thoughts! Vey'z mir! And I'm not being sarcastic with the V"M—it must be a very painful situation. But on the other hand, does your child really want to marry someone who's so dominated by narrow-minded parents? Do you really want such makhutonim?

Well, as I said, it's easy for me to give useless and obvious advice, and the advice took me off topic. My real point is that abusive speech is bad, and doing it anonymously makes it worse.