How a Comment about Raping Joan Rivers Changed The Way I See Net Anonymity

By Joseph Randazzo
Joan Rivers
Photo Courtesy of Joan Rivers Official Facebook

Two weeks ago, I wrote an article defending Joan Rivers’ joke comparing her living space to the basement of the two kidnapped Cleveland women. I had to defend her because people without a sense of humor have a selfish way of taking away things I like. It’s also weird to me that 20-year-olds without a comprehension of life want to burn down an 80-year-old woman’s legacy.

Personally I was proud of the article. However, the next morning when I checked to see if it was published, I saw my very first horror show comment at the bottom:

“HERO? Please. I never thought Joan Rivers was funny, and I think she is less funny now, if that is possible … There are plenty of comedians making a good living without being offensive. Maybe Joan needs to get kidnapped, raped, and tortured. Then she can tell us how hilarious she found it. And I don’t care who thinks I need to lighten up. Everything seems to be a joke, these days. Guess what? Some things are not.”

At about 7:26 a.m., with one eye glued shut with crust, I was trying to take in everything this person said. Here was someone who likes “nice jokes”, and then followed up that statement with another talking about how a woman needed to be raped.

I tend to have a few thousand thoughts an hour, and this one has been making guest appearances in my head space over the last two days. I kept thinking that if I was going to defend Rivers’ joke, and if people came down on this guy in order to silence him, would I be a hypocrite for not coming to his aide because I felt he’s a bit rapey?

I came up with a few conclusions. One was that I’m glad the idea of raping the elderly has never crossed my head. For all my faults, realizing this makes me feel like less of a terrible person. The other conclusion was to absolutely defend his right. We should all have the right to say what we want because if this guy didn’t, then how would any of us know he’s a creep?

I love using the late great Patrice Oneal’s point about how people reveal themselves. If you’re a terrible person, then your actions will show it. There is only so much hiding you can do before it all comes out – especially with the internet. Nobody is safe.

The moment where people reveal their identity is a beautiful thing. This is why when people talk about fighting the government’s ability to get their paws on the internet, I think we shouldn’t completely rule it out. If we have to walk around with ID’s in our regular lives, our cyber lives shouldn’t be any different.

Whenever I bring this idea up, someone will always counteract it with a point about the NSA. Jim Norton, another great comic you should be YouTubing immediately, says that we’re so obsessed with the lives of celebrities that we don’t deserve the right to complain about Big Brother watching us.

I completely agree with Norton. We haven’t earned the right to complain about net anonymity because we haven’t shown this same outrage in other facets of our life. Sure, we’ll lose the obscenely clever Twitter handles from Opie & Anthony fans with governmental-supervised net IDs, but at least you will no longer have to think twice about meeting a person off of OKCupid and wonder if your date is actually Christian Bale from American Psycho.

Joseph Randazzo is a writer for Follow him on Twitter @theLBjoe, “Like” him on  Facebook or listen to him on the Keith and Joe Show Podcast.