I’m not entirely sure what a full philosophical or pragmatic defence of internet anonymity would look like, but one thing I do know is that neither would look anything like Mark Granza’s “In defense of anons”.
Granza’s main concern in his piece seems to be to point out i) that there are different kinds of anonymity and ii) that the kind that really matters isn’t anonymity at all; in fact, it’s a form of pseudonymity, with ethical obligations attached to it that ensure the mask is worn in a responsible manner. Only a select few accounts qualify for this rare distinction, and the individuals behind them are the ones that have a shot at “landing a book deal” and taking their rightful place amid the ranks of the known. Fundamentally, it’s these accounts that provide anonymous posting with whatever legitimacy it might have, and it’s these accounts alone that can justify the excesses of those making use of anonymity for less productive reasons.
The mass of real anons, by contrast, are subject to less responsibility and behave with little to no restraint. We’re talking about your cumgroypers, anime PFPs, classical statue heads, Mel Gibson Fans and so on. Their kind of anonymity is a necessary outlet for people who don’t really have much of any value to say, and they certainly aren’t likely to land a book deal (although I, for one, would love to know the backstory of Mel Gibson Fan 74). Given the current political climate, these people should have the right to say whatever it is they want to say without the risk of persecution – and the only way to ensure that is to allow them to speak out of impenetrable darkness, even if all they do is annoy other people. Nobody should have to risk their livelihood and personal relationships for the sake of posting that “shut up, bitch!” video of the Rock under a few tweets they don’t like. These people can, of course, just be muted or blocked.
Before we get going, I think it’s worth putting Jordan Peterson back in his box under the stairs. His beef with the anonymous community is personal, not philosophical. The increasingly shrill tone of his outbursts (demons! the dark tetrad!), and their increasingly strange prose-poetic form, is indicative of a man who is still unwell. Indeed, it’s not even clear whether the “Jordan Peterson” we’re interacting with on Twitter really is the man himself, or his daughter Mikhaila, who has taken on a role not unlike that of Jamie Spears in the months and years since her father’s well-publicised battle with benzodiazepine addiction. Mikhaila has her own reasons to dislike anonymous posters on Twitter, not least of all the constant reminders of her three-day dalliance with a certain Emory Andrew Tate III in Romania.
And while we’re at it, let’s put Patrick Deneen in that box too. It’s abundantly obvious why he wouldn’t be happy with my friend L0mez for being published in First Things. The presence of anonymous Twitter posters in the hallowed pages of such a publication indicates a clear loss of control for tastemakers like Deneen, who believe that nobody, least of all a totally unknown quantity who hasn’t been subject to their post-liberal gleichshaltung, should be allowed to slip through their networks of patronage. Heaven forbid, they might even have something important and compelling to say! A similar response was evident when I published my first essay with American Mind, a publication of the Claremont Institute, way back in early 2022. Not long after, Bill Kristol sent his attack poodles at the Bulwark after me. When Kristol tweeted the resulting hitpiece, which lamented the continuing moral “decay” at the Claremont Institute, his replies were full of people like “Ostrogothic King” force-feeding him the unpalatable truth: “Funny that someone named @babygravy9 has far more interesting things to say than anyone at the bulwark, the entire output of which seems to consist of indignant sputtering.” Ouch.
So. When it comes to distinguishing between different kinds of anonymity, I can see what Mark Granza is trying to get at. There really is a difference between the typical behaviour of an anonymous account created solely for the purpose of trolling – and such things do exist – and the behaviour of an anonymous writer with a reputation, a large following and a bibliography of publications. I’m one of the latter; although I started out as the former, more or less (I had no social-media ambitions beyond having a bit of fun). There are many things that a troll account would readily do that I simply don’t or won’t do. Certain types of behaviour and certain topics of conversation are totally off-limits, and would have ended my Twitter career many months or even years ago if I’d decided to pursue them. In the beginning, I didn’t do these things largely for reasons of temperament, but as my account and influence grew, this became a much more conscious thing for me. As things stand, I have 170,000 followers and the ability to reach as far into the mainstream media as most named commentators.
Granza claims that the fundamental difference between “pseudonymous” and “anonymous” accounts is precisely the reputation accounts like mine have built up, which demands that the poster, whoever he or she may be, act with responsibility, or circumspection at the very least, rather than “screwing around”. By contrast, a truly “anonymous” account has no ties to “any identifiable entity”, giving it an ephemeral nature that permits a total lack of restraint if desired by the user. In support of this distinction, Granza cites a Youtube video involving a boring German man with a horrid ponytail and noodle arms that I just couldn’t be bothered to watch. But I don’t think we need a 50-minute lecture to understand that this distinction misses something fundamental that unites any and all accounts that operate under assumed identities.
Let’s put to one side the linguistic quibble that to be anonymous by definition you would have to be “without name” (all anonymous accounts on Twitter are therefore pseudonymous accounts, technically, since they all have names). Consider the example of J.K. Rowling. When she decided to write again after finishing the Harry Potter series, she wanted to do so without the baggage of being “the Harry Potter woman”. She wanted a clean slate. She chose, therefore, to write her Cormoran Strike series of crime novels under the gruffer nom de plume of Robert Galbraith. Initially, this was a well-kept secret, but pretty soon people found out. And what was the consequence? Nothing. Well, nothing bad, anyway. Rather, the discovery that Robert Galbraith was actually the Harry Potter woman provided massive exposure for a forgettable series of novels that would otherwise have been quickly forgotten, leading to more book sales, television dramatisations etc. Rowling might have wanted to maintain the fiction of being someone else, but she had absolutely no reason to fear being unmasked.
Pseudonymity in this case is just a distancing device, which may be adopted for a number of reasons but has nothing to do with ensuring the writer’s sovereignty or personal safety. Other writers may choose pseudonyms because they simply don’t have a writerly name. Bob Fudgepacker may be the best thriller writer in the continental United States, but with a name like that there’s no chance he’ll be taken seriously…
So not only is Granza’s distinction between “pseudonymous” and “anonymous” accounts an affront to common sense, to our everyday understanding of what a pseudonymous writer is as opposed to someone trying to express themselves without any reference to who they really are, but it also minimises the fact that neither “pseudonymous” nor “anonymous” posters want to be found out. Yes, a poster like me might have a reputation to preserve, but there’s one thing that remains as off-the-table for me or Benjamin Braddock or Lafeyette Lee as it does for the lowliest shitposter and that’s, of course, our actual names and faces. None of us wants, personally, to be an “identifiable entity”, even if I may want people to know that, behind the mask, it’s still the same handsome bodybuilder who has published all those fascinating articles in American Mind and that wonderful new(-ish) book The Eggs Benedict Option. This existential need for self-concealment is at the base of the entire phenomenon of anonymous Twitter posting, and no amount of definitional jerrymandering can change that.
And the thing is, as an anonymous writer builds a more prominent profile, the risks actually become greater, not smaller. The investment in anonymity grows, rather than shrinking. When I was “Turning Point Çatalhöyük” and had all of five followers, no journalist or Antifa scumbag had any interest in revealing my identity, in contrast to the situation today, where barely a day seems to pass without some fresh smear claiming I and others like me such as Bronze Age Pervert are members of the “Unabomber right” (kek!) or leaders of an emerging “raw food movement” that “may present the potential for violent consequences” (kek!). As silly as these claims may sound, the aim of the hitpieces they’re drawn from is clearly to flag me and my more influential friends as valid objects for intervention by the security services.
This hardly presents anonymous figures like me with an easy route to mainstream acceptance, even if we were looking for that, which most of us aren’t. Thankfully, being anonymous now offers its own distinctive routes for influence and success largely on our own terms, not least of all self-publication. Bronze Age Mindset, self-published through the Amazon KDP platform, has sold many tens of thousands of copies since its release in 2018, regularly trouncing the most astroturfed establishment authors in the classics, ancient history and philosophy, including Mark Zuckerberg’s fat sister Donna. As well as self-publishing books that have also sold many thousands of copies, I’ve created my own magazine, MAN’S WORLD, and website, which racked up more than 350,0000 hits during the release week of the latest issue.
It’s impossible, I think, to write an honest account of internet anonymity today without mentioning the case of Douglass Mackey, a.k.a “Ricky Vaughn”. His omission from Granza’s “defense” is instructive. Ricky Vaughn, for those who don’t know, was a prominent anonymous poster during the 2016 election cycle. Although it’s difficult to quantify social media influence, Vaughn was widely identified as one of the key players in Trump’s victory. The MIT Media Lab, for instance, named him ahead of NBC News, Stephen Colbert, and the Drudge Report in its list of the top 150 influencers of the election. His memes and posts were regularly retweeted by some of the most important figures on the American right.
In 2018, the man behind the Ricky Vaughn account was revealed after Paul Nehlen, a congressional candidate, posted his name on Twitter. A gleeful Buzzfeed exposé followed not long after. Mackey retired to Florida hoping to avoid further media attention, but in January 2021, just a few days after Biden took office, he was arrested in West Palm Beach on charges of interference in a federal election, for a Hillary Clinton meme encouraging black and Latino voters to cast their votes by text. Now, two years later, he’s been convicted of voter suppression and faces years in jail.
Mackey’s real crime was helping make the unthinkable – a Trump victory – happen. For this he had to be punished by the regime, just as Alex Jones, Steve Bannon and Roger Stone also had to be punished. What the Mackey case makes clear, and what Granza completely misses, is that anonymous posting is a key tool of political organisation on the right, one that has the power to influence, and perhaps even sway, elections. People are not posting anonymously just to pursue a career as a writer from an unusual angle, or simply to vent their frustrations about men with willies being allowed to enter women’s toilets; this is not just a “culture war”. At issue is the narrowing possibility of real political change, something Trump’s victory genuinely represented, even if the man himself has so far failed to live up to his promise. This is why internet anonymity, in its best and worst aspects, matters and why the regime is so desperate to do away with it. Douglass Mackey is a stand-in for you, if you hadn’t guessed already.
To me at least, Mark Granza’s overriding concern with prestige, with the justification of anonymity solely as a pipeline to advancement in the conventional world of writing and politics, is nothing more than a reflection of his own personal aims in our sphere. He is, by his own account, an entryist, and his newfound friendship with Rod Dreher, a man who has repeatedly smeared and doxxed anonymous posters, should give us all pause for thought.
Anonymity doesn’t matter only when it serves as a staging post for a career as a facephag personality on the right. In fact, when that’s all it serves to do, it doesn’t matter a damn, since it doesn’t really change anything at all. The distinctive contribution of anons, high and low, big and small, is to say the things the regime doesn’t want us to say, to break the hold of our ridiculous captured media and intellectual elites, whose venality and subservience would shame even the lowest form of communist kakocracy.
You either defend the anons – all of us – or you defend none of us. It’s that simple. But it helps if you actually understand what we’re doing, and genuinely care, in the first place.