One of the ways you can tell you're arguing poorly about an issue is when people who have little opinion on the issue read your argument and hope things go against you just for spite. I confess to the latter with a recent post on Google+ by "Siderea B", a post which has been floating through my social circles. There are quite a lot of these posts associated with people who are paranoid about personal information, people who want the world to recognise their gender identity that involves learning new pronouns and/or grammar, and so on. This one seems to be getting the most reposts, so...
- I'm not sure whether she has a point on the terms of service. It's generally nice to spell out as much as possible in terms of service, but not everything's going to fit there and it's not like we're paying for service. It's not really a big deal; if a service isn't working out or if it adds new terms, you might grumble about it (as I have with Livejournal, with much better reason) or leave.
- Still, as she "cannot abide" and intends to leave, good riddance. Her arguments below are inflammatory and stupid.
- She claims the requirement for real names is sexist. That's bullshit. Using pseudonyms to hide identity may sometimes be helpful in various social circumstances, but one should not oblige service providers to make that easy/possible. If they say no, that's fine. There are plenty of reasons to require real names, and if someone setting up a forum wants to require that, it is ridiculous to imply that the only reason they might require that is some intent to diminish women.
- And if she's claiming that those policies are sexist even if the people instating them are not sexist, there's no way that could follow. No reasonable definition of sexism would permit that. Some policies may accidentally disadvantage groups, but that's not always even a bad thing. For example, anti-drug laws might place a heavier burden on religions that have rituals involving altered states of mind. Considering the drug laws to be by that understanding antireligious (or whatever more specific term might be considered) without any specific intent against those religions would be irrational.
- She claims that the requirement for real names is culturist. This is perhaps true, but being culturist is not a bad thing. We can call anything culture. Anything we do is potentially normative. Any structures we make have cultural impact. We should not try not to be "culturist". We should also not try to be the ultimate hosts, allowing anyone to do whatever the hell they like because to do otherwise would be an undue burden. We're an actor too, and so is google, and so is everyone else. If some of us choose to set something up and set some rules with it, if others don't like those rules, they certainly can complain, but we should not expect the defenders of liberalism, in that role, to join in those complaints. Names are a very basic part of human interaction. It's ok to require them on various forms of ID, online or offline. Some other cultures handle them differently. Cope or don't show up at the party.
- She claims that the idea of having an actual real name is a "parochial white, middle-class, American assumption.". Well no, it's a fairly common assumption, and posing her dislike of the rule as some kind of lithmus test for how associated we are with the classic source of evils in the multiculturalist flavour of liberalism, it's divisive rubbish. She then adds in that it's colonialist and really gross. Fail.
- She then talks about her notion of the internet and how whatever slices of it she frequented did not have this policy, and how she hoped this would be the way she wanted.
It's true that this disagreement over policy is very simple, and people might reasonably come to understand how they're going to feel about it (if they'll even have a strong opinion; I honestly don't, although I think Google's decision here seems one reasonable option). There's not a lot of depth she could add to that, but what argument she provided was junk name-calling that the multiculturalist/pomo flavour of liberals, at their worst, provide as a first salvo in an argument. As enlightenment liberals, we reject this as we reject them.