Thursday, July 8, 2010


Perhaps not as well known as Big Brother, Thought Police, Newspeak or Doublething, Unperson is a term coined by George Orwell in his famous novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984).

What is an "Unperson"? "It is a person who has been 'vaporized'; who has not only been killed by the state, but effectively erased from existence." -Wikipedia (

I can say without a doubt that Blizzard is NOT in the business of killing people. There are some who, during this Real ID business, want to guilt Blizzard into retracting their plans by assuming that by posting real names on their forums it will inevitably lead to the stalking and assault (or killing) of another human being and fellow WoW enthusiast. These sort of arguments are in bad taste and should be avoided.

I will say, however, that Blizzard is creating Unpersons by forcing us to use our real names IF we choose to post on their official forums. How is that? By devising a means whereby a large group of people "feel obligated" to stop posting, they are silencing those voices, erasing them from existence. Sort of. Obviously these people can talk on other forums, but Blizzard says they don't use other forums to achieve the feedback they seek. They want good discussions on their official forums. So it's an Effective, not literal, creation of Unpersons.

According to Orwell's novel, Doublethink can be a complex theory:

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them....To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

We have been told that the reason for displaying real names on the official forums is to essentially scare or shame people into being nice. To eliminate and reduce trolling. This is THE reason being sold to us. I am sure that Blizzard genuinely believes it. They also believe that their parntership with Facebook will be a profitable one, but that fact is inconviently omitted when posting their arguments for the new feature to the end user. By standing firm in their resolve Blizzard is effectively denying the existence of objective realtiy, i.e. the protests from the community, while at the same time vocally stating that they are listening to that reality. In truth they do listen, but since there are more motives than just "reduce trolling and improve conversations" present they must acknowledge both realities at the same time while supplies us with only those words that will allow them to proceed.

Blizzard seems to get the hang of Doublethink and Doublespeak pretty well.

Raise your hand if you think that the opinion of a Supreme Court Justice carries some weight. I don't care if you think that they are political or activists, they are incredibly intelligent people that have worked long and hard to get where they are. Sure, some politics are involved in their decisions, but their knowledge of the law is significant and their wisdom shouldn't be shunned without listening to it first. That said, Vixsin over at Life in Group 5 posted a little quote from a Supremen Court Justice regarding the right of anonymity of an author:

“Despite readers’ curiosity and the public’s interest … an author generally is free to decide whether or not to disclose her true identity. The decision in favor of anonymity may be motivated by fear of economic or official retaliation, by concern about social ostracism, or merely by a desire to preserve as much of one’s privacy as possible. Whatever the motivation may be, at least in the field of literary endeavor, the interest in having anonymous works enter the marketplace of ideas unquestionably outweighs any public interest in requiring disclosure as a condition of entry. (n.5) Accordingly, an author’s decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.

The right to remain anonymous may be abused when it shields fraudulent conduct. But … in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.” (As referenced in:
McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n (93-986), 514 U.S. 334 (1995) )

Anonymity may allow for some individuals to speak freely about some really stupid things, or in a really stupid manner. But the lack of anonymity allows for people to be judged not on the merits of their arugments but additionally on the person themselves (be it race, gender, nationality, sexual preference, etc). Anonymity helps further good discussion, it does not hinder it. What hinders it is the choices people make to say offensive things because they are a bigot or a totalinarian, or whatever. It's in the person's moral structure that they decide how to act and speak, and that is what allows them to choose to be a troll. Anonymity gives them some freedoms, but what is gained by the trolls through anonymity is less than what can be gained from those who truly intend to further a discussion in a productive manner.

Orwell spoke of many devices implemented by Big Brother to destroy all anonymity. Nobody was safe from their spying eyes. Information of all people were held by the State and they decided who was a person and who was an Unperson.

The Original Real ID
Don't take all these arguments literally, they are meant to shine light on a singular issue, Privacy. In the US in 2005 a little thing called Real ID was inserted into a "must-pass" Iraqi War/Tsunami relief bill. There was no democratic debate on the issue by the people or their representatives. There was not a single congressional hearing on its merits. But it passed, and much to the disdain of the States. What it essentially does is standardize driver's licences cards accross the nation into a single national identity card and database. Think of that, the Government attempting to mandate a National ID card where all your most personal information was centrally located.

Imagine if your an identity thief. Currently information is spread out, so it takes hacking into multiple systems to get a lot of information. This would centralize all personal information into one database. As an indentity thief this is good because you just need to hack the national ID security and you're good to go...for life!

My point is that whether it's centralizing personal information or revealing personal information in a centralized location both endanger personal identity security. There are so many good arguments opposing the Real ID that Blizzard is proposing, it's ironic how similar this Real ID is to the Real ID shooved down the throats of the American people by their own Governemnt. It's release was "insignificant" and optional. But slowly each Real ID is continued to be pressed by those in power.

Blizzard, I doubt, will truly listen to their customer. But that doesn't mean that we stop fighting. In 1984 the main character Winston Smith, who questioned Big Brother and their Teamspeak, ultimately was tortured into acceptance and love of State. He stopped questioning, he stopped fighting.

I hope that any others who run a blog understand that I do not and will not judge them or their motives if they wish to not talk about Real ID anymore and the resulting privacy implications. I have my motives for continuing to speak out and they are mine only. I apply these arguments to myself, I hope you can believe that.

My motives for playing have been well documented here on this blog. (Check out my archives, they were some of the first posts I ever made.) It is because of these motives that I will not stop playing. It means too much to me and my family, it's been a relief in a life of much pain. I see this as an opportunity to teach my kids that you can stand up and fight for something you believe in.

I guess that just about everyone is against murder, but not everyone is a Policeman or Judge. We can care about something but not spend a lot of time combatting it. That's my reasoning for asking other bloggers to understand why I will not judge them. This is something that I personally feel that I need to fight against. And I the very end. You will remember me, I will not become and Unperson.

I will still talk about the game I love and all it's wonderful features and it's flaws. It's just that I'll keep fighting against Real ID any way I know how. Thank you, as always, for stopping by and reading my words. I appreciate your attendence.


LarĂ­sa said...

It's a good course to keep fighting. I get so depressed from reading and writing about it. I need some fresh air but the thoughts and frustration just comes back over and over again. That's why I'll try not to post about it. But I don't know if I'll succeed. This is really getting at me. I feel heartbroken. I suppose I'm a bit betrayed.

Gronthe said...

@ Larisa: I really, really do understand why you don't ever want to post about it. To be honest, I won't post about it as nearly as much as I'll do things "outside of blogging" to fight the cause I think is important FOR ME to fight.

I feel sad too, and yes even a bit betrayed. I totally respect any course of action anyone takes because I believe in freedom of will, freedom of speech, and so forth. It gets me angry to write about it too much. So like I said, it may not be a constant topic on this blog but I'll be behind the scenes doing my part is mostly what I'm getting at but didn't make too clear before.

Wulfy said...

Great post. I think the unperson phenomenon is about to become very real on the Blizzard forums, but it's the parallels with the RealID act that are truly scary. How far is this going to go?

Like many, I feel tired and depressed on this issue, so I'm not going to blog on it 24/7. However I do intend to keep blogging, tweeting and generally protesting these changes because, as you rightly point out, it's essential to keep fighting.

Gronthe said...

@ Wulfy: One thing I loved about George Orwell is that he stood up for his beliefs. He actually joined a socialist group in the Spanish Civil War in the early-mid 20th century. You can read about it in a book titled Homage to Catalonia. He was shot for his beliefs.

This fight isn't that kind of fight, but I'm glad to see you and many thousands of others standing up for their beliefs on this. It can be exhausting to write about, true, and an overindulgence isn't healthy either. I'm happy to see that we can support each other on this front.

Don't know if I've seen you comment before, but I'd like to thank you for stopping by and taking a read. You're always welcome in my corner of the internet.