There are a million angles to this very fascinating event: about gender, social power, anonymity, the gaze, the culture and political economy of the internet, trolling, play-acting (or claims of, in self-defense), and on and on. At internet speed these have already been well hashed out.
What I don’t think it is “about”, however is “freedom of speech.” There’s always a lot of talk in these cases about chilling effects and vigilantism and “first they came for the pedos” and the like, but I think in this case it’s a shallow reading.
"violentacrez" was free to post what and however he liked. I mean, he still is! He could just say fuck it and keep on creepin’ on (somewhere other than Reddit) now that he’s jobless and hated, right? He’s suffered some consequences of Adrian Chen putting two and two together and the world reacting, but his freedom remains exactly what it was. Gawker is free. I’m free. Consequence is not the same thing as lack of freedom. Consequence is a necessary part of freedom. You speak, you get judged, others speak their judgment, and around it goes.
I say this in light of this reaction from Freddie DeBoer, which I disagree with strenuously. If I can summarize his points fairly, they are: 1. a moral standing argument: the Reddit creep scene is disgusting but Gawker is only marginally better and in some respects worse. 2. A slippery-slope/PATRIOT Act kind of argument: that applauding any “chilling effect” on speech acts such as these will probably harm leftists and dissidents more than it will hobbyist misogynist trolls. And 3. an “honesty” argument, that Brutsch’s/violenacrez’ “open depravity” is better than Nick Denton’s tabloid sensibility. I think all of these are flat wrong but I encourage you to give it a read. (Again we’re on internet time here so these have all been argued by others elsewhere). Deboer’s general take is that “this is what it looks like when internet liberals get self-righteous.” I think it’s more “this is what it looks like when people talk.”
Two things in DeBoer’s post stick out that I wanted to call out specifically.
Change won’t come from a few high profile outings but from a general change in the tenor of a culture that continues to view women as repositories of sexual pleasure.
This makes no sense, or rather, it contradicts itself. In a culture of free discourse, how else would a “change in tenor” be effected but by, not a few, but by hundreds of “outings” like this, and other constant social pressure besides? DeBoer has just said, you laid one brick here, but fuck that, we need a house.
And this, where DeBoer goes after one of his constant targets: the incestuous and clubby nature of our internet/media culture:
If you’d like to depress yourself, you can find photos on Facebook of, say, arch media critic Alex Pareene at industry parties where people like Jacob Weisberg are mere feet away.
Mere feet! What’s Pareene supposed to do, deck him?