Internet For Assholes
This week: Disposable Identities for Assholes

Notice: Lou Cabron is the online nickname for Danny Bonaduce. "I hooked up with GettingIt editor Paul McEnery while promoting my morning radio show in February," Bonaduce says, "and he suggested a Web column using a pseudonym. Former child stars are perennially short of cash, and this seemed like an easy way to fulfill the requirements of my probation."

See also...
... by Lou Cabron
... in the Whoa! section
... from September 29, 1999

For me the toughest thing about filming The Partridge Family was -- er, you didn't really buy that, did you? Someone says they know David Cassidy personally, and you automatically believe them? The Internet is built on trust, a shared hallucination of community -- but this also means bored jerks like me can impersonate anybody online.

It was business as usual when an asshole turned up in an AOL Star Trek chat room as "ShatnerWil," claiming to be the famous television overacting ham. Ongoing ridicule followed, since the room's regulars had seen six previous Shatner impersonators. Unfortunately, this time it really was William Shatner, and Entertainment Weekly was chronicling his historical meeting with his skeptical crop of online followers -- including the fan that insisted to the online actor that "Shatner doesn't talk like that. I met him once. He has an ego bigger than Texas..."

If this story has a moral, it's probably that everyone hates people who wear toupees. But it also shows that especially gullible people will believe any information they receive online, simply because it's text on a screen -- making them targets for any asshole who can type. Plus, at this moment in history, the entire world is migrating online -- which means an ever-replenishing crop of first-timers. It's a golden opportunity for mischief!

When someone you know first gets online, they won't recognize anybody's email address! Send them a message identifying yourself as their ex-roommate. Drop hints of sudden wealth, pending court appearances, possible job opportunities, and rumors about the losers they've dated. See just how stupid they really are...

For extra fun, track down that ex-roommate you're pretending to be (Let's call him Target B). Then pose as that newly online friend (Target A) that you're already messing with! (Target A would have a new email address either way, right?) To get extra sophisticated, play "middleman" forwarding email from Target A to Target B -- changing key words, but stringing them along innocuously until you gradually start messing with their mind. ("By the way, I always liked you, but was never sure how you felt about same-sex relationships...")

It's fun sticking words in your chosen victim's mouth -- and the possibilities are endless.

  • "I'm a legless shut-in now. I spend most of my time masturbating."
  • "My fiancĂ© has chlamydia."
  • "Prison was rough."
  • "I've been selling my body for smack."

You can create your "disposable identity" at one of the standard free email services like Juno and Hotmail. But if you're on America Online, it may be right at your fingertips.

AOL grants all users an endless supply of fake screen names -- the only limit being five at one time. This unique culture of unaccountability has been blamed for a number of AOL's ongoing ills -- from child pornography traders and hackers to the junior-high- school-orgy quality of AOL's chat rooms.

But hey, don't let that bother you. You're an asshole!

You're on your way to being a very special kind of asshole: the pseudonym-jockey. If you can create one "disposable identity," why not create a whole battalion of them? Then the next time you get in an online flame war, you'll have your multiple personalities to back you up. ("I'm WITH ya, Lou!" "Yea, me too!") Marshall your army of imaginary supporters with pride. Think of it as online ventriloquism, with the Internet as your puppet.

And the next time there's an online vote about an important issue -- why vote only once...

If you want to keep your email address, changing your online identity is even easier. For instance, if you're using Netscape 4.0, select the "Preferences" option from the Edit menu, and click on "Identity." Then type in something creative.

  • George Lazenby
  • Ginger Spice
  • Tipper Gore
  • Napoleon

Just ask yourself: Who do you want to be today?

See also:
Anonymity for Assholes
Stalking for Assholes
Religion for Assholes
Death for Assholes
eBay for Assholes
Portals and Personal Ads for Assholes
Newsgroups for Assholes

Lou Cabron is GettingIt's resident asshole.