It’s difficult to participate in politics anonymously. When you donate money to a political campaign, that donation is made publicly available. When you participate in a political protest, your face will appear on any number of cameras recording the event. When you think that you’re being clever by participating behind the scenes, your identity is a single lawsuit away from appearing in public court documents:
Anonymous fans of a white nationalist podcast network could have their identities exposed as a result of a lawsuit against the men who promoted the so-called Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.
One figure named in the lawsuit is Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, a prolific white supremacist podcaster. Peinovich runs a racist but influential podcast network called The Right Stuff, which currently hosts scores of different shows focused around building a country for only white, non-Jews. Most of the fans who comment on the network and its related forum are anonymous, but that could change through the process of discovery in the civil suit against him and others.
A federal court judge denied two motions this April filed by Peinovich to stop court orders requesting information related to individual users that visit his website—strengthening the odds that anonymous fans of The Right Stuff could have their names and whereabouts made public as a result of conversations they had in the lead up to “Unite the Right.”
Smart individuals who are pushing a widely reviled agenda would use an online anonymity tool such as Tor to conceal their identity in case a lawsuit like this forced the people running their online communities to hand over user information. But conspiracy theorists who think every ill in society is caused by the Jews generally aren’t the smartest bunch so I won’t be surprised if a lot of them end up being named in public court documents.
While I couldn’t care less if the identities of a bunch of white nationalists become publicly known, the lesson being taught here is important for anybody active in controversial political activism to learn. For example, if you are a sex worker who was advocating against the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, it’s feasible that the people running any online communities in which you participated could be coerced into turning over any information they have about you. If you used an online anonymity tool such as Tor, there will be less personally identifiable information to surrender (since Tor doesn’t stop you from posting personally identifiable information, it cannot stop all personally identifiable information from appearing on an online community).
Just because you’re not making campaign contributions or working as a staff member on a campaign doesn’t mean your participation in politics can’t be made publicly accessible information.