Stanley Fish, a professor of humanities and law at Florida International University in Miami, writes for the NY Times on education, law and society. I’ve been reading Fish’s column for several years.
Fish has long been a standard bearer for civility, even on the Internet, and he was one of the few members of the media to consistently protest the vulgar sexism and misogyny so prevalent in the 2008 Democratic primary that targeted Hillary Clinton. He also defended Sarah Palin against similar attacks in the general election.
In today’s column, Fish discusses the abuse of free speech by too many anonymous Internet bloggers. He writes:
The practice of withholding the identity of the speaker is strategic, and one purpose of the strategy (this is the second problem with anonymity) is to avoid responsibility and accountability for what one is saying. Anonymity, Martha Nussbaum, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago observes, allows Internet bloggers “to create for themselves a shame-free zone in which they can inflict shame on others.” The power of the bloggers, she continues, “depends on their ability to insulate their Internet selves from responsibility in the real world, while ensuring real-world consequences” for those they injure.