Yesterday Elie wrote about the NYU “professor” who twitted a pitiable comment about obese people not being able to obtain Doctorates. The Interwebs had a field day with the comment. And the sociopaths who have every word of this site transmitted to their email just so they can snark went bananas. Two days ago, a comedienne debated a friend of hers regarding the appropriateness of rape humor, and the responsive comments were frankly disgusting. As were many of the comments directed at a Cheerios ad that featured a bi-racial family. Finally, I wrote some weeks ago about the secrecy surrounding mental health issues in our profession, and someone with no medical qualifications likened a psychotic break to over-stress in the workplace. Now, of these examples only two come directly from this site. But all of the hate, misogyny, racism, phobias, etc. are displayed here on a weekly basis. Are you really that stupid?
It is 2013, there is no anonymity on the Web, and folks just spew hate like there can be no repercussions, no consequences, no loss of jobs, no tanking of careers before they even get started in the real world. It blows my mind. Look, I am fully aware that the First Amendment allows you to say just about whatever you wish, and Disqus allows you to write as “guest” as often as you want. I have no illusions of anyone crazy enough to write horrible thoughts on a legal blog changing their ways based on my say so. But, my word, do you think so little of yourself that you would so carelessly flout a fiction such as “anonymity” in a down (terrible) hiring economy? Really?
Let’s say, just for shucks and giggles, that a certain hacking collective took offense at a post on this site. I don’t know, something decrying their abusive tactics, blah blah blah. Then they hit the site, or Disqus, and all of your names are published, along with every comment you’ve ever written. Then let’s say that a writer for Gawker media did some digging and found you on Facebook, Google, your home address, your job, etc., and outed you to the world. You would lose almost everything. If you think it can’t happen, trust me it has, it did, and it will again. Google it.
I am no moral arbiter, I have sinned in many of the ways decried in this very column; and I was once “outed.” When a stranger calls you on an unlisted cell phone number and begins ranting about things you have posted supposedly anonymously, it tends to make your stomach (and other body parts) tighten into impossibly tense positions. And I wasn’t even rude; just sticking up for what I believed to be principle. I learned my lesson without much more than heart palpitations. But some of you (all of you?) are going to be interviewing one day. God help you if the prospective employer has a file with information that doesn’t paint you in the best light. Once that information is out there, you cannot take it back. Oh, you can backtrack, make light, and say it was just a joke, but it is still out there.
No one has upset me, I am not “angry” — more than anything I am being cautionary. I have enjoyed true belly laughs at some of the regular commenters on this site; but you know what, they are smart enough not to travel into territory that would preclude employment. That’s what this site comes down to, isn’t it? Gossip about the employment goings-on at various legal venues such as firms, courts, the Illinois Criminal Court. Sometimes the columns are quite worthwhile, and other times they could use some improvement. But I know from personal contact that there are a great many folks who take away career nuggets from this site. As future or current lawyers, I would hate to have your careers taken from you because of your participation on this, or any, site. Hey, let’s be careful “out” there.