Violentacrez and Internet Anonymity, End of Print Newsweek, NFL Picks Week 8

Chicago bisected bridges are the coolest. I think they should raise them every day just so I’m entertained at lunchtime.

  • I’m one week late to the party on this, but I too have my informed-Internet-guy opinion on the outing of Redditor Violentacrez by Gawker. Short version? Totally OK with it and, in fact, excited to see it happen.

    The first question is always whether anything illegal occurred. This dude skated right up to the line of any number of anti-harassment and child-pornography statutes, but he apparently didn’t cross any of them. Question No. 2 is whether there’s a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech. Did the government get involved here? No, it’s two private actors. (Three if you count Reddit itself.)

    So with that out of the way, it’s situational-ethics time. I fully agree with this post at Popehat:

    Is this a bad thing? That’s a question I’ve been struggling with for years. To the extent that I think that it’s bad, it may just be because I disagree with the consequences that the marketplace of ideas produces in a particular case. If “Violentacrez” had said and did everything he did in public under his own name, I’d have no problem with the marketplace of ideas producing social consequences. So why, exactly, should Violentacrez expect to have a protected right to be free of those consequences? Put another way — why should someone who devotes himself to upsetting people, and who promotes creeper forums, not be treated like someone who devotes himself to upsetting people and promotes creeper forums?

    The thing to remember is that the Internet is an extension of the public space. Internet anonymity is just a mask, so if you don’t want to be found out, you’d better buy a high-quality mask and take damn good care that you’ve glued it tight to your face before you go running down Main Street shouting every manner of obscenity, waving giant up-skirt photos of the very same people walking down the street next to you. And if your behavior is offensive enough to spark huge levels of interest in finding out who’s this asshole in a mask such that someone manages to follow you home, watches you take off your mask on the porch and then goes back to the street with an even bigger poster saying “THAT ASSHOLE MASK GUY IS MICHAEL BRUTSCH”? Karma is a bitch, and you should have known you could be found out at any time.

    Do I feel bad about him losing his job? Nope; that’s the benefit of at-will employment. What about his wife’s health insurance? Chalk that one up to the broader national stupidity of tying health insurance to employment in the first place. This is a case of reaping what you sow, and I hope it reinforces the fact that going online doesn’t divorce the consequences from the actions.

  • And one more relevant piece: If your website’s full of assholes, it’s your fault.
  • The editor-in-chief from my years at TIME, Jim Kelly, wrote a Vanity Fair article defending Tina Brown in the aftermath of Newsweek ending its print edition. Now never mind that only the dead-tree version of Newsweek, not the magazine itself, is going away; it’s frustrating that people assume the outdated print format is the whole of the magazine, but that’s not my issue with the piece. Never mind also that I think Tina Brown got way too trollish with the magazine. Jim writes that Newsweek, and the broader newsmagazine format, is a victim of Internet-media consumers caring more about their friends’ opinions on the issues than they care about expert takes and analysis. In truth people have always cared about their friends’ opinions, but the idea that people no longer want expert insight is just wrong.

    The problem here is that expert insight is defined very narrowly: a collection of people, writing under the same publication umbrella, who really know their stuff and want to help you understand their interest and outlook. This still exists! Themed content sites featuring expert analysis are all over the web. The big shift is that in this day and age, the expert is as likely to be publishing on his or her own than to be writing for a single title. Writers can be their own titles and are freer than ever to move between different publications and sites, providing both a richer base of opinion for outlets and a greater equity and sense of control to the writers themselves. Juan Cole from the University of Michigan (go Blue) is a great example of this: He knows a lot about the Middle East, he knows people want to know about the Middle East, and he started a very popular blog to connect the dots and get the expert analysis flowing. How does this at all show that expert analysis has been devalued? Throw in friends who read these expert opinions and now have the heightened ability to share them with via social media, and we’ve now shown that even those derided friends’ opinions themselves have a greater expertise-disseminating role than ever.

    Expertise isn’t dead, it’s just free to do its own thing. That’s unfortunate for newsmagazines, but a huge boon to inquisitive readers.

  • And in the wake of a week where I almost broke even on picks and the Steelers won a game, my Week 8 locks. Some really strange lines on Yahoo! this week – system glitch?

    Last week: 6-7; Overall: 36-65 (ouch)
    At Minnesota -6.5 Tampa Bay
    New England -7 St. Louis
    At Tennessee -3.5 Indianapolis
    At Green Bay 0 Jacksonville (!!!)
    San Diego -2.5 At Cleveland
    At Philadelphia -2.5 Atlanta
    At Detroit -2 Seattle
    At NY Jets -2 Miami
    At Chicago -7.5 Carolina
    At Pittsburgh -4.5 Washington
    At Kansas City -1.5 Oakland
    NY Giants -1 At Dallas
    At Denver -6 New Orleans
    San Francisco -7 At Arizona

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