'Why I Like Vicious, Anonymous Comments'

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Vicious Internet trolls are destroying America, right? Paul Krugman thinks so. Salon's Matt Zoller Seitz isn't so sure. In fact, he kind of likes them. Not likes them likes them, of course--nobody's contrarian enough to enjoy being called an idiot in ALL CAPS. Rather, he respects them. You know, from a sociological perspective. Perhaps it's best just to let Seitz explain.

[F]or all the downsides of comments-thread anonymity, there's a major upside: It shows us the American id in all its snaggletoothed, pustulent glory, with a transparency that didn't exist before the Internet. And in its rather twisted way, that's a public service. ...

And yet anonymous comments -- all of them, even the written equivalent of high-speed drive-by shootings -- serve a useful function. They show us what the species is really like: the full spectrum of human behavior, not just the part that we find reassuring and enlightening. ....

The self that we show in anonymous comments, the fantasy self, the self we see in the mirror when we fantasize about being tough and strong and feared, the face we would present to the world if there were no such thing as consequences: That’s the real us.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.