If my “cheap shot” offended you, take heed

October 23, 2009 | Drew Forrester

On Thursday, my “Cheap Shot from the Bleachers” (go to the WNST.net audio vault to hear it) centered on folks who contribute to the world (sports or otherwise) via the internet and utilize a fake name and/or e-mail address in an effort to hide their identity.

A number of you – way more than I thought, frankly – reached out to me via e-mail and a large percentage of you defended the practice of maintaining your anonymity.

Chris wrote:  “It’s none of your business who I am.  That’s the beauty of the internet.  I can say whatever I want.”

“Peter Pan” wrote:  “Lots of authors use fake names.  Steven (sic) King isn’t really Steven (sic) King is he?  It’s just a way of creating another character that doesn’t really represent you but you maintain control of that character.”

Steve Carlise says:  “I don’t post my real name because there are times when I’m at work posting and I’d rather not have my boss or co-workers know I’m doing so.  It makes perfect sense in that way doesn’t it?”

Those were excerpts from three e-mails I received.

Laughable.  All three of those…and many others I received from people trying to reason with me that it’s OK to hide your identity.

For the record, here were excerpts of MY reply to those three:

Chris:  “The funny thing?   You can still say whatever you want even if you DO post your real name on the internet.  Ever think of that?  I post at WNST.net and occasionally on some local/national sports web-sites/message boards and I either use my real name (here) or DF1570.  You’re right, the beauty of the internet is “you can say anything you want”.  But NOT attaching your name to it doesn’t give you that right anymore than attaching your name to it does.”

Peter Pan:  “First, it’s Stephen King and that IS his real name.  He did use a pen name (Richard Bachman) for some earlier works.  Second, I think there’s quite a difference between an author using a different name and people posting information on the internet.  If you don’t see the difference in that, we probably shouldn’t debate this one very long.  People use fake names on the internet because they’re afraid to reveal their true identity.  They fear – I assume – that people will think less of them based on a position they take.  If they’re not afraid of being disliked, why wouldn’t they just post their real name? 

Steve:   So, do you post your real name when you contribute from home but ONLY post a fake name when you’re at work?  Do you?  I doubt it.  

It never ceases to amaze me when I surf the web and read web-sites, blogs and message boards that allow for reader contributions and I see 99% of the folks using a fake name (otherwise known as a “screen name” in the internet world).  One of the biggest reasons it’s strange is this:  some of the points people make are actually VERY GOOD.  Some of the people posting stuff are educated, intelligent sports fans.  We have no idea who they are, though, because they’re afraid to reveal their identity.

We know, obviously, that the MAIN reason people are afraid to reveal their identity is because it gives them the freedom to “lay the smack down” (that’s from Chris – above) without fear of retribution. 

It’s gutless, mostly, and sad…because we should all be thankful in the U.S. that we’re still allowed to speak our mind and say whatever we want. 

Here at WNST.net, a large portion of those who respond and contribute to my blogs do so using a fake name and a fake e-mail address.  I don’t discern between the cowards and those – like Brian Scheeler, Al Southworth and Jerry Brotman…just three examples – who are professional enough to post with their real name.  I post the “fakers” comments just like I post the ones provided by people using their real name.

But I don’t laugh at Brian Scheeler and Al Southworth and Jerry Brotman.

I laugh at people who elect to post stuff using an alias. 

It’s an epidemic on the world wide web.  People who don’t have the courage to tell everyone who they are continue to brag about what they know, what they think and, often, when they’re right. 

But they’re not willing to brag about who they are.

I don’t get it.