By now the Mena - Ben faceoff at Les Blogs has become part of blogosphere history. You can read the posts and comments I just linked to discover the whole story, but here are some thoughts I have, having witnessed it all from the front row.
In short, Mena's speech called for civility in the blogosphere, with a particular rant against people hiding behind anonymity in order to behave as they never would under their own name or in person (i.e., nasty, mean, etc.). She used the backchannel at the event as an example, and seeing her speech called "bullshit", promptly exploded. For the record, she called Ben an "asshole" to his face, so, in fact, did not invalidate her argument in the least! (Of course obfuscating this behind clever headlines is so much more fun. And am I hearing a bit of JAHW* floating through the commentary?)
I think Mena has a point about civility. I also think, sadly, that she is tilting at windmills a bit. It is indeed a social problem as a whole. But, that being said, it doesn't mean that the topic is an invalid one to consider at a blog conference! For god's sake, we bloggers are always talking about "conversations" and "we are people not brands" etc. etc. Yes, we are people. We are a microcosm of society. Therefore, talking about an issue like civility or anonymous rants is an absolutely valid topic. Because if we say that a blogging conference isn't the place to talk about it, where is that place? By constantly relegating certain discussions to the "outside" of the room, we will never get the chance to discuss them. (It's like ethics - a few of us brought up the topic and I swear I heard a collective groan. But more on that later.)
When Mena lost her temper, she got real. She stopped reading her speech, and therefore it all become much more interesting. I wish she had started the discussion differently - mainly by not reading prepared remarks, but having a conversation with the audience. Difficult, I know, but perhaps more effective. We'll never know.
I also find it intriguing that the same people calling for corporations to have a more human face are lambasting Mena for creating a PR disaster. Hey, humans aren't perfect. We have tempers, we have passions, we make mistakes (and I am not calling her actions a mistake, mind) and we create waves. But, it seems that perfection is still required for corporate "figure heads", as she was called. (And why do people simply chuckle when Marc Canter falls asleep through much of the conference? Doesn't that show imperfection too? I guess indifference is more acceptable than passion.)
My last thought: If you don't have a true need to be anonymous (e.g., you will get fired, put in jail, killed), you shouldn't be. Here's why: Because so much vicious, idiotic crap is done via anonymous postings, more and more of us simply ignore anything that doesn't have a name attached to it. That means that the voices that must be anonymous will find it harder and harder to break through. To me, that means that people hiding behind anonymity just for kicks are acting unethically. But, sadly, they probably don't care.
*Just Another Hysterical Woman