Anonymity is an intoxicating thing, turning an everyday schlub with a keyboard into a vicious tyrant, drunk with power. For all its immense value, the Internet has bred a population of armchair kvetches marking proverbial fire hydrants all day without even having the decency to sign their work.
At least on Facebook, where people generally give their names, it’s mostly hugs, support, and smiley faces, but on sites where the identities are made up, it’s daggers, hemlock, and spooge in your face.
I first noticed this phenomenon years ago, when I was ordering Indian takeout at a neighborhood dive and felt a nearby customer burrowing through me with her beady eyes, clearly wanting me to mess up in some way. I unremarkably ordered a tandoori chicken platter and asked if I could have vegetables instead of the sausage side dish—which I did every time I went there—and they complied, as always. But sure enough, this ended up as an item on Gawker, and Beady Eyes was obviously the messenger, making it sound like a world-class incident of galling proportions—the famed “veggies instead of sausage” debacle! Emboldened by her anonymity, the woman managed to turn a non-event into a stunning monument to rudeness (i.e., her own) via sheer distortion. Well, if you’re reading this now, honey, eat shit and die, OK? I’m nice, witch!!!
Even more annoying are the douches who routinely post things—any things—contrary to what you write, whether it be “zzzz” or some impulsive argument designed to wear down your gay nerves. Once, I blogged about a certain porn star’s bizarre diary entry and someone chimed in with, “He promotes barebacking! You’re a stupid, irresponsible dumbass for not saying that!” But I’m the one who broke the barebacking story! Anonymous probably wouldn’t even know about it unless I’d written about it—again and again! And this time, the item had nothing to do with the guy’s curious distaste for condoms. Every time you mention Halle Berry, do you write, “Noted car-accident lady Halle Berry . . .”? And it wasn’t a positive story I was running anyway. Eat caca, Anonymous! With sausage on the side!
At least on my own blog, such effrontery counts as traffic, so I actually welcome it. But the bilious opinions on other people’s sites are an unredeemable downer. Last year, I judged something called the Broadway Beauty Pageant and came home to this comment on a Broadway board: “Michael Musto should never open his mouth in public again.” Oh, really, Anonymous? The reality is that I’d gotten a text literally 40 minutes before the pageant, saying they needed me to sub for a judge who was otherwise engaged. I frantically rode my bike up to 95th Street and had all of 12 minutes to greet people backstage, learn the pageant’s rundown, pose for p.r. shots, and write 10 Broadway-related questions for the Q&A section! Though frazzled, I scored a lot of laughs onstage and was congratulated by the two other judges, and an organizer begged to come back. And it was all capped off with that sour critique from you, you no-named monster? Fuck off! Then again, here it is, a year later, and the pageant didn’t bring me back, so what really hurts about the faceless dissing is that maybe it was right. If so, I really hate you, Anonymous!
I opened my mouth again in public anyway, and it was duly noted by yet another Broadway chat board where people seem to loathe me even more than Spider-Man. (I’ll keep it, you know, anonymous.) There, someone with the pseudonym “JoeJohn” started a post titled, “Has Theater Talk jumped the shark?,” referring to that TV show’s panel discussion episodes, like the ones I appear on. Wrote JoeJohn, “Michael Musto as a serious critic? Ugh!” (As if I ever tried to pass myself off as a serious critic. Ugh!)
“Guillaume” agreed, adding that many anonymous posters on the board are a lot more “knowledgeable, witty, and engaging” than we panelists come off. Well, perhaps some of them are, but would Guillaume and JoeJohn be in their front ranks? I doubt it! For one thing, “jump the shark” is an expression that has long ago, well, jumped the shark. And I did a little search—I’m obsessed—and here’s one of JoeJohn’s other observations: “I’m becoming addicted to Antenna TV, too. Glad to see Maude is back. Enjoyed seeing Mrs. Naugatuck. They’re also showing Hazel, not a great sitcom, but with a great actress who’s always a joy to watch: Shirley Booth . . .” Riveting stuff, no? Is it in time for the Pulitzer deadline? Zzzz.
How about Guillaume? Well, his only other posted comment was his reaction to a new musical I just happened to catch some terrific scenes from. His take on the hype? “Ick. I’ll be tossing that flyer when it shows up in the mail.” How knowledgeable, witty, and engaging! It reminds me of the famed adage: “Those who can’t . . . teach anonymously.”
But you can’t beat enemies who are as unidentified as they are uninformed. They’ll always win because they have all the time in the world to clank out one more recklessly bitchy comment behind your back. Whenever that nyah-nyah routine sends me into a rage, I try to catch myself, realizing, “I’m getting mad at a pseudonym! This is really silly!” And yet, in our quest to be loved by absolutely everyone on the planet, the cowardly hate can be wearying.
Oh, well. I’ll stick with putting my name on things and getting paid for them—and that’s consolation enough. In the meantime, fuck you, Anonymous. And you, too, Anonymous. And as for you, Anonymous, your mother sucks cocks in hell.