#4: You're going to be doxxed.
You got online when things were pretty normal.
Anonymity was mostly just a way to talk politics without getting into it with your lib cousin on Facebook - so you were careful, but not that careful.
Probably should have nuked your account & started over when you realized things were getting serious, but you didn’t. Maybe you were lazy; maybe you were thinking, absurdly, about your Brand. You could nuke now, but you’ve already said all the stuff that’s going to get you fired, & you can’t sweep away the breadcrumbs tracing them back to your younger, more innocent self. Besides which, you are now a niche right-wing micro-celebrity, & there is the Brand to think about.
You no longer care if you get in a fight with your lib cousin, but now it seems like the enemy has transmogrified from self-dealing hustlers & zealots into a cabal of literal blood-drinking pedophile satanists in command of the entire Western order. Rather than just being corrupt & indifferent, it now feels like they actively want to poison you, humiliate you, starve your children, etc.
But you still call them names & waggle your dick at them online, out of habit. You definitely don’t treat them like they’re possessed of infinite supernatural malice, & have the power to publicize everything you’ve ever watched & said & done on the internet. Maybe you’re betting you’ll never be important enough to be truly & totally vaporized by the eye of Sauron. Maybe you think a Chinese airburst EMP will wipe out the data centers before it gets that far out of hand. Maybe you’re a bullshitter.
Fingers crossed, the worst that happens is your anon posts don’t stay anon.
So once in a while, you rifle through the archive, & think of what it would mean if this or that hot-take were publicly disseminated.
You’ve got a list of greatest hits that you would love to get fired over - things you know to be true & that needed to be said, things that the world hates but that God requires you to affirm. (You don’t go out of your way to affirm them at work, of course.) You would bravely & loudly fall on that sword. Maybe Tucker would notice.
But that’s not the stuff they want to get you fired for. Ideally, they want to find something really dumb & vicious & careless that you said to a maximally sympathetic & undeserving victim; something that feels wrong to you as well as to them, because the game is to make your values the servant of their values.
They want to catch you saying something cruel about a woman, so that your conscience will condemn you for cruelty, but you’ll be made to apologize for Sexism. And you know nothing ruins an apology like an explanation, so you won’t insert this nuance, you’ll just apologize - & then you really are scalped. And assuming they found the right victim, you probably get fired anyway.
Of course, you try not to be dumb & vicious & careless, but everybody says things they regret, & when you’ve said 25,000 things to a permanently archived public database - well, they can’t all be winners. You hope that you’ve avoided the most obvious traps just by avoiding being obvious (on account of your Brand) - but virtually everything you’ve said is a nuance trap like this. It doesn’t have to be something you are actually ashamed of - just something that you couldn’t explain to your employer’s tight-faced political officer in less than 90 seconds.
Which is why nobody volunteers this stuff at work, or with casual acquaintances.
You’ve spent years online, getting weirder every day. (And so, by the way, has Human Resources, in the opposite direction.) It would take hours to bridge the gap in assumptions & worldview.
“So, you don’t think [X] should be allowed to vote?”
“Well… I’m not really convinced that anybody should be allowed to vote”
It’s possible, if you’re articulate & your interlocutor is patient, to find your way back to a place where they’ll treat you like a sane, moral, well-adjusted human being. But you have to utter a dozen outrageous forbidden things to get there, & each time they have the opportunity to just balk & say “fuck you” or “you’re fired”.
But this isn’t a new problem, & it isn’t just a problem for highly online weirdos. Nobody’s inmost thoughts are universally compatible with everybody else’s. In real life this process unfolds slowly, one nibble at a time, over months or years - & if you hit a wall, you stop & change the subject. It’s a little disappointing, but the relationship continues to whatever depth & scope it can, & in most cases that works out fine. You don’t need to plumb the depths of your neighbor’s soul to be comfortable lending him your weed-whacker.
This is the only way you can be at peace with people who are very different from you.
Maybe you’ve lived in a racially mixed neighborhood. Most of the time, this is fine - it was even fine in most such places last summer, during the race riots. Your kids played together, you watched the fireworks on the 4th of July together, you hung out by the pool together. It was pretty easy to deduce where people stood, & you had to leave some things unsaid, but everybody minded their business, & got along just fine.
To the extent that pluralism works at all, that’s how it has to work. There has never been a “national conversation” about anything, ever, & if someone demanded that you have it out with all your neighbors in a place like that - or simply revealed all of the private opinions that each group expressed within their own communities - there’s no question that there would be violence.
This isn’t peculiar to race - it was much more true of religion, when people were serious about religion. There are aspects of being a man that you can’t make your wife understand, & vice versa - even though you love each other, & chose each other, & would very much like to understand. The less you have in common (especially morally & culturally), the more you have to leave unsaid to keep the peace.
To even try to be free with everything you think is a spiritual intimacy. A person with whom you can eventually unpack the whole burden is more than a friend.
(And corporate messaging that invites you to “bring your whole self to work” & unilaterally offer that kind of intimacy to your boss, so that you can make rent, is a nauseating solicitation to prostitution.)
But virtually all Western socialization & thought is now mediated by the internet.
We all hold court online, which means we do it in full view of everyone else, which is why we’re continually at each other’s throats. The midrange of tribal intimacy - in-jokes & conjecture & solidarity & creative ferment - is actively offensive to those it excludes. But it still needs to happen, which is why black groups & gay groups & trans groups (& our groups) create “safe spaces” where outsiders, if they are welcome at all, are not welcome to complain.
Normies tend to believe that anonymity causes tribal hatred & polarization; in fact, it’s a method of quarantine. If we have to have wildly incompatible cultures & value systems living on top of each other & shouting in one agora, it’s better that we keep the tribalism online, & hate each other only as “PissGroyper1488” & “TERF_Ceausescu” or whatever.
Besides which, no one can be constantly & permanently committed to public judgment about everything we say - & not just because we say dumb things when we’re teenagers. People need room to be wrong & cringeworthy sometimes, & not just in the sense that once in a while you ostentatiously Forgive an evildoer because they’ve Grown So Much since then. If we’re going to do all our thinking on the internet, & the internet is public & eternal, & the penalty for getting it wrong is permadeath, it has to happen anonymously or it will not happen at all.
(Try to think of someone who is funny under their real name right now - you can’t, & it isn’t because the Left Can’t Meme, liberals were capable of being funny pretty recently.)
But anonymity isn’t a permanent solution.
First, it’s a pain in the ass for every authority with any say in the matter (the IRS, law enforcement, the regulatory bureaucracies, the tech companies, etc.) & there’s no established political norm that you have a right to it. The tech companies used to believe in anonymity, until people started using it to Spread Dangerous Misinformation instead of just buying drugs.
Maybe someday Urbit figures itself out & buys you a little top cover, if you’re not doing anything interesting - but there’s no such thing as personal opsec against a state actor, let alone The State Actor. There’s unbelievable heaps of money & power in your data for a hundred different constituencies, & if the technology exists to extract it, they won’t restrain themselves forever.
But more than that, anonymity is only a band-aid on the fundamental problem the internet created. People may not know exactly which windows to put the bricks through, but they know what The Other Side’s dialogue is like, & it’s not a handful of bad apples. Everyone on both sides has learned that regular dudes, when they’re among their real friends, say & believe things that are insufferable to us. The world got very small, & we really got to know each other, & we realized that we truly, genuinely dislike each other. We can’t go back to not knowing that.
Basically, secular liberalism is being discredited by reality the way communism was in the late 1980s. We’re realizing that we could only live together “in spite of our differences” because we were ignorant. We tried to pretend that we had no enemies - that we were all one people, one tribe - & we lost the social technology for maintaining peaceable boundaries.
So it’s going to come unglued.
Nobody’s going to be content with secretly despising & being despised by enormous swaths of the country, especially not people in positions of power. As the divide becomes more dangerous, They will be more insistent to know which side you’re on, & institutions with the power to reveal that knowledge will lose the pretense of impartiality. We’re deep enough into this process that it hardly needs to be pointed out.
There’s no going back to naive live-&-let-live classical liberalism. Human Resources is now in the role of Saddam Hussein: an iron fist holding together a territory of fractious mobs with no unifying self-concept. The smart ones already understand themselves in this way, which this is why they declare anything that threatens their power to be a threat to “our democracy”. They’re the only guardians of the fiction that keeps the peace, & maintaining it requires more costly & invasive means every day.
Guys, everything will be great.
You know what is coming for this culture. It’s going to be destroyed - & long before it is destroyed, it’s going to become an unbearable hell. Maybe you were hoping to time your exit, make a little more money, watch a little more Netflix, eat a little more plastic meat - but maybe your plan would have come too late. If God calls you out of Babylon ahead of schedule, you don’t ask questions & you don’t look back.
Not to say it’ll be easy: you’ll lose friends whom you like & respect, especially those on the wrong side of this or that identity divide. You might try to explain yourself, but they’ll walk away really believing that you’re a monster who wants them to die, & that you were only pretending to be their friend. You’ll replay those conversations over & over afterward, & wish you could have found the right thing to say.
But eventually, your social universe will be composed of people who saw the whole picture, & decided you were still worth knowing: the ersatz tribe you were building online will converge with whatever parts of your real life were robust, & make something like a real tribe. No one I know who has gone through this process has wished that they could go back.
You’ll be cut off from those parts of the economy that are hostile to you (most of them), & you’ll almost certainly be poorer than you are now. The tradeoff of liberalism was to abandon the intense loves & hates of tribalism in exchange for individuality & limitless access to markets - but most of us have already concluded that that was a shit deal. It’s better to suffer together than to be comfortable alone.
You might have to move to be closer to some people, or they might move closer to you (because eventually they’ll be in trouble too). You will have to rely on God, & your friends, & your physical body more - & be more dependable, so that others can rely on you. You may need to show leadership, & be bold when you feel afraid. You will go to bed more tired.
While you have time, you should set aside some food storage, & a little money to meet your fixed obligations. If you can, you should learn to grow food. Build professional relationships with like-minded people, so that you still have a network when it goes down. Develop some skills that will still be useful once you are forbidden to lick butt at a globocorp - maybe even some skills that will still be useful when there are no longer any globocorps to lick butt at. Get jacked & raise beautiful children, so that your doxx is a rebuke to your enemies.
You're an excellent writer. Each thought flows so elegantly into the next.