Dear A Leftist™,
I try to always put my name on anything I write or say. Why do some leftists stay anonymous online? I think if you wouldn’t say something face to face you shouldn’t say it at all!
-Loud, Proud and Looking for Allies (name redacted)
Dear LPLA (can I call you LPLA?),
Thanks for your question! Here at Ask a Leftist™, ironically enough we remove all names from the questions we anonymously answer! Although the context of who is asking questions and making comments is important, we believe that the protection of all involved in this situation is more important. It is this same calculus that leads many people, especially on social media to post anonymously. For many leftists, being open about their views in person or online has led to real life consequences such as unwanted conflict with family, harassment from people in positions of power, job loss, and direct physical harm.
You’ve probably heard and maybe internalized something along the lines of an old powerful man saying, “Tut tut, young lad, if you can’t risk your neck for those you’re purporting to help then keep your mouth shut!”1 To this we at Ask a Leftist™ say: “Sit down old man, how dumb do you think we are? You’d love that to be true so you can proverbially slit our throats and shut us up before we can build support.” We would also add, “And don’t even start on the false equivalency shit around bigots being doxxed for advocating harm to our friends and neighbors being the same us standing up to those who would do the harm.”2
Historically on issues both large and small, punishments have been doled out for those that speak up about injustice. Locally in Vermont, activists put themselves at losing their jobs, jeopardizing housing and familial relationships or being harassed by police. Ask around a little among your leftist friends and you’re sure to hear about organizations that have fired people for their political views that they have expressed online or in person.
Stories about the harassment of leftists by those in power are kept generally private or given token attention in the media. Most punishment for speaking up for leftist ideals among friends, at work or on social media happens quietly and in private by those in power. Sharing stories publicly about one’s experiences of being punished for one’s speech brings about a new round of potentially unwanted attention.
We would be remiss if we did not also note that it is wonderful to be able to find protection in anonymity but this is not available to everyone or beneficial in every situation. While balancing risks, one’s own power and vulnerability, and the others involved in a situation, almost all leftists have taken open, non-anonymous stances either in solidarity with others or gone out on a limb by themselves. Remember, just because someone is anonymous on occasion does not mean that they always are or haven’t previously suffered consequences of non-anonymity.
Ask a Leftist™ encourages all people to analyze how their own silence, anonymity or visibility affects others in any given situation and to advocate loudly and proudly for what they believe — whenever possible.
- The old white man in this example was not very aware of gender norms and assumed only “lads” would be the ones speaking. He was wrong about many things.
- This could be a whole other column so get at The Rake on Twitter if you have a question about it.
A Leftist is the author of the wildly popular advice column “Ask A Leftist™”.