I’m reading and editing the comments about game cheats, and it brings to mind something I’ve long noticed about cyberspace, namely the cowardice of computer machismo.

I’m not talking about friendly posturing before a game, at least there’s some sort of test involved in the process. I’m talking about situations where there is no test.

I first noticed this in various computer forums, where I saw people saying things to each other that would have made longshoremen and Marines cringe.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between the two. The longshoremen and Marines wouldn’t be hanging out in some computer forum under some anonymous handle, they’d be hanging out in some bar, with the recipient of the chosen comments (or at least his friends) in the immediate vicinity.

They knew damn well that their words had consequences, sometimes instant ones. If they said them, they had to be ready to back them up, and with a fist, not a quip.

There are no such consequences in cyberspace. There are no real penalties for overaggression. There is no deterrent like an old-fashioned beating.

If there is no risk, it’s all a sham. It proves nothing. Britney Spears could do this just as well. For all you know, Britney Spears IS doing it just as well.

This is what troubles me about cyberspace: it lets the coward roar like a lion without ever having to be a lion, unlike real life.

Pretty soon the coward thinks roaring is all there is to being a lion, but he isn’t a lion, he’s a crab: hard on the outside, soft as the Pillsbury Doughboy on the inside. Crack the shell, and he’s helpless.

Being a man has nothing to do with uttering the right macho phrases or projecting the right attitude. Being a man means accepting responsibility for your actions, and accepting the consequences of those actions.

If you don’t have responsibility and you don’t have consequences, you don’t get a man. You get Peter Pan. Peter Pan can only be Peter Pan in Never-Never-Land.

And cyberspace is Never-Never Land for those who want it to be.

Email Ed

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