One day, I was walking past a faculty member’s office in graduate school, and I saw the iconic New Yorker cartoon, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” It was not long after I had put up my first website, but the cartoon had nothing to do with that. It was a reference to newgroups and AOL. The cartoon works on many levels, but it communicated a widely held belief — then and now — that you can be anyone online. I thought it was hilarious. But there is a problem with the cartoon.
The truth of the matter is that “nobody knows you’re a dog” is only something that neophytes believe. Once you’ve been on the internet, you come to realize: everyone knows who the dogs are. I’ve seen it in my own life as a blogger. I used to make silly comments on other blogs. I was often pedantic. In a general sense, I did a lot of things that screamed, “I’m new to this!” That’s not to say I’m perfect now. I offend people when I don’t mean to. I make jokes that fall flat. But I don’t think anyone mistakes me for someone who doesn’t know more or less what he’s doing. And that’s just as true of the stuff that I’ve written on this blog.
But when a commenter comes here and starts yelling at me, I quickly know what breed of dog they are. They think they are anonymous. But the truth is obvious. Because of what I write about, I’ve often gotten people claiming to be successful at business. They say this because of course I’ve never run a business because I’m a liberal with profound doubts about capitalism. And they think that they can claim to be successful businessmen (It is always men!) because they’ve made a fetish of capitalism. But if that were the case, what are they wasting time on my site? They obviously don’t come here because they like the content. They are just trolling because they are bored.
For the record, I assume conservative trolls are either high school boys who can’t attract a girlfriend or people on disability who spend most of their time in a state of outrage as a result of Fox News and hate radio. I also get college age boys who just can’t believe that I don’t see the deductive beauty of libertarianism. But the point is that I know who they are. I don’t just know they are dogs, I know the breed, I know the sex, and I very likely even know the kennel.
The reason I bring this up is because Scott Eric Kaufman posted a flame war he had with someone on a listserv, I Want to — but Can’t — Hate the Person Who Roped Me Into This Conversation. It all started with a neo-Confederate who was upset that someone wasn’t giving Robert E Lee respect. Kaufman wrote pretty much exactly what I would have, that Lee “fought treasonously in defense of slavery, end of story…” Thus began multiple exchanges between Kaufman and someone who he is too kind a person to expose. But it isn’t much of a conversation because the neo-Confederate mostly just spits bile and posts enormous emoticon images (really, check out the article).
But I was struck by the end, when the neo-Confederate wrote:
The neo-Confederate repeated this kind of thing. Yet he knows that Kaufman works for Salon and thus does, in fact, work for a living. But here’s the thing: I’m certain that the neo-Confederate did not have “big boy worky time.” But I’m not getting at the fact that he is clearly just trying to save face and get out of the flame war he started. That’s obvious enough. I’m getting at this: he doesn’t work at all. He talked about his 85 year old mother (who can kick Kaufman’s “little sissy ass.”), so I figure he is in his late 50s or early 60s. He’s never really had full-time employment. He is either now living off his mother’s Social Security or is on disability — very likely for mental problems.
I don’t mean to put the guy down. In fact, like Kaufman, I feel very sorry for him. And I could be wrong about who he is. But one thing I am 100% certain of: he isn’t the regular working Joe who he claims to be. He’s too crazy. The best you can say about him is that he was drunk. And that either means that he was going to work drunk, or he was lying about going to work. Regardless, this little dogie is not fooling anyone.