Internet Virulence

In posting my last entry, I had no idea I would stir up a hornet’s nest of virulence – and certainly no intent to do so.  Some of you may have noticed the comments posted on my blog over the weekend suggesting I was in cahoots with The New York Times or the S.E.C. – or possibly just deluded, incompetent, and hopelessly corrupt.

My intent was simply to contribute to understanding the human tendency to deny being victims of fraud.  I never claimed to adjudicate the problems of specific investors, though some claims still do seem sillier than others.  If anything, the virulence of the attacks confirms my point:  it is often intolerably humiliating to accept having been victimized, and so the victims must direct their rage elsewhere.

Some commentators were threatening, while others tried to alert me to the extent of the campaign to discredit me.  One person directed me to a website dedicated to attacking me.  Some helpfully tried to fill me in on the facts of the case.  In any event, the whole experience was enlightening if a bit alarming.  I have managed to get most of the particularly offensive comments removed, though anything with information was retained.  For those interested, enough remains to give you the flavor of the emotions aroused.

The whole process brought another issue into focus:  the ease with which virulence expands and is amplified on the internet.  Perhaps it is anonymity that opens the floodgates.  Perhaps it’s the speed of electronic communication, the opportunity to react spontaneously, driven by unconsciously shaped emotions.  Maybe it appeals to the latent grandiosity in all of us to speak to the crowds we imagine out there.

Whatever the reasons, I have a new respect for the power of the internet.  We tend to think of it in terms of an “information explosion,” but there are emotional explosions worth thinking about as well.