Cybercreeps Run Amok: Internet Libertarians Should Learn Civil Discourse

The happiest and most peaceful parts of the World Wide Web are the places where people are buying things. The nasty parts of the Web are where people are doing what the Founding Surfers intended: expressing themselves and forming communities.


Having spent a decade working at the devil Microsoft and then at a big “old media” institution, the Los Angeles Times, I am amazed by the hostility that greets any effort to stroll into the clubroom and buy the boys a round of drinks.–Michael KinsleyCybercreeps Run Amok: Internet Libertarians Should Learn Civil Discourse (Washington Post (will expire))

Of course the cyberutopians are lofty idealists. And yes, there are plenty of people who choose to express themselves by cursing at people who disagree with them. The anonymity and immediacy of the internet draws out that part of human nature.

“Give me meatspace any day,” writes Kinsley, curling up in his mainstream media bubble. Oh, for the good old days, when the only way the unwashed masses could complain was in carefully vetted letters to the editor.

I don’t mean to fisk Kinsley, who’s a talented journalist who’s earned his place of prominence as a liberal commentator. I was thus surprised to find the implied praise of commerce and restrictions on dissenting voices.

Kinsley probably didn’t write the article headline, which doesn’t have room for the qualifying words (like “often” or “maybe”) that Kinsley puts in his essay. Still, Kinsley is approaching the issue with a particular mindset, so I’m amused with his suggestion that the problem lies within cyberspace.