There’s been a lot of talk about Adrien Chen of Gawker outing the personal information of one of Reddit‘s vilest contributors, ViolentAcrez. I’m seriously conflicted in how I feel about this. John Scalzi has a great post up about this whole mess and reading both it and some of the comments over there is what really crystallized my thoughts.
On one hand, I despise men like ViolentAcrez. From everything I’ve read, he’s a bully, a troll, racist, homophobic, and misogynistic. And he has a serious case of “Anything I do to others is fine, but I’m gonna cry like a fucking whiny brat if it happens to me.” I do not feel sorry for him. I have no sympathy for him. I have no pity for him. He is a pathetic excuse for a person who is finally learning that actions, even those that are supposedly anonymous, have consequences. He’s also learning that our actions affect not only ourselves, but those people whose lives are entwined with ours.
However, I’m uncomfortable with this situation as well because not too long ago, a website called Stop The GoodReads Bullies outed the private information of at least one reviewer who posted negative reviews. Like ViolentAcrez, Wendy Darling had done nothing illegal. She had simply done something which the people at STGRB found distasteful and wrong just as Adrien Chen found Violentacrez actions to be distasteful and wrong.
Both Wendy Darling and ViolentAcrez have had their meatspace lives impacted by their online actions. They’ve both received hate mail and death threats. ViolentAcrez lost his job.
So here is where I’m conflicted – I feel no sense of outrage over what happened to ViolentAcrez. As I said above, he is a vile, disgusting human being who delights in degrading and shaming those who aren’t him or like him. In fact, I’m perfectly okay with Adrien Chen having outed him. And I’m perfectly okay with him being fired over it.
But I’m not okay with what happened to Wendy Darling. In fact, I was extremely outraged by it.
So the questions I’ve been asking myself are – Where’s the line? When do we get to decide that a person is deplorable enough in their online persona that their meatspace life becomes fair game?
With so much publicity surrounding this issue, I can’t help but wonder when we’re going to see more such outings. What happens when somebody who finds homosexuality morally repugnant and a sin decides to publicly out an online homosexual gay-rights activist? What if that activist lives in a place where his/her life could be at risk if people knew s/he was gay? Or an equal-rights for women activist is outed as living in an extremist country?
We never mind when the negative consequences affect “The Other Guy” because he obviously “Had It Coming To Him”, but what happens when those same tactics are used against “Our People”? Can we really cry foul? Can we really condemn it without being hypocritical?
Thus my dilemma.