June 7, 2009

Obsidian Wings, outed.

He's a lawyer, recently turned lawprof. Why pierce his pseudonymity?
[Y]es – I criticized [Ed] Whelan rather harshly. But that’s what the blogosphere is about. Blogging is not for the thin-skinned. And you would think that someone who spends their days trying to destroy other people’s reputations in dishonest and inflammatory ways wouldn’t be so childish and thin-skinned.

Anyway, I’m not sure whether I’ll start posting under my own name or not. And there were several people who already knew – it’s not like this is a state secret. But still, if I wanted my name out on this blog, I would have done so. It should have been my choice.
Here's Ed Whelan, exposing "publius" in the National Review. On what grounds?
In the course of a typically confused post yesterday, publius embraces the idiotic charge (made by “Anonymous Liberal”) that I’m “essentially a legal hitman” who “pores over [a nominee’s] record, finds some trivial fact that, when distorted and taken totally out of context, makes that person look like some sort of extremist.” In other of his posts (including two which I discussed here and here), publius demonstrated such a dismal understanding of the legal matters he opined on—including, for example, not understanding what common law is—that it was apparent to me that he had never studied law.

Well, I’m amused to learn that I was wrong about publius’s lack of legal education....
Whelan wanted to do a "you a law professor" attack on his opponent. You've got to establish that the person is a law professor first, of couse, but it's not really worth doing, especially if the blogger isn't using his status as lawprof to bolster his opinion.

"You a law professor" attacks are a running joke here on my blog, because they've been aimed at me so often. I don't flaunt my status as a lawprof, but I know it's part of the sense of what this blog is. Even so, I think "you a lawprof" is a pretty lame argument, normally wielded by opponents who don't want to bother making substantive points. It's about on the level of proclaiming you're a moron.

Glenn Reynolds writes:
I think blogging anonymity is fine — though in the absence of a track record I tend to trust anonymous bloggers less — but is it a “despicable” act to identify an anonymous blogger? I’d say it depends. Certainly the political operative who leaked the Foleygate story via an anonymous blog had no right to anonymity. On the other hand, what about people who blog in a non-hitjob fashion but just want to avoid job repercussions? I’m more sympathetic there. But if you appoint yourself someone’s anonymous blogging nemesis, you can probably expect to be outed.
I think you should expect it and be fully aware of the risk, but it would take a lot before I would feel justified exposing someone who had chosen the cloak of pseudonymity, certainly something quite different from the usual name-calling, insults, and bad arguments and criticisms, no matter how unfair or vicious.

Publius now needs to decide if he wants to merge his professional identity with his blogging identity and blog under his own name. This is a subject I examined back here, responding a lawprof colleague of mine who had chosen pseudonymity. I said:
Oscar wants to be free to use naughty words and otherwise break out of the professorial mode. But my experience is that even though students know who I am and can and do read this blog, they seem to accept this as a separate mode of mine and don't use it as a basis for talking to me in a newly confidential way. In the law school, the student-professor relationship is very well established. It really doesn't break down, even when students read your personal journal.

Of course, there are things I won't say here, but these are things I wouldn't say even if I used a keyboard name. I would never insult or demean or deliberately hurt the feelings of students. I wouldn't casually knock my law school (though there are some considered criticisms I would be willing to make). I wouldn't hurt my family or acquaintances or even reveal much of anything about them (without permission). So there aren't really any significant ways using my own name limits me. Like Oscar, I care immensely about freedom as I do this blogging. But I also want to be aware of myself as an identifiable person, responsible for what I say (which is true whether you use a pseudonym or not). And I don't mind getting personal credit for anything good I might happen to say. Also, I kind of like being a public persona.
More here.

UPDATE: Whelan apologizes. Good.

96 comments:

Synova said...

I think that pseudonymous is different from anonymous.

(But then I would, right?)

Ann Althouse said...

@Synova I agree. The correct term in this case is pseudonymous. Glenn is speaking loosely.

Bob_R said...

I'm with Synova and Althouse. I think that maintaining multiple persona is a healthy thing - especially separating your work identity from your personal life. I also don't think it's that hard to do - at least for professors.

I have to say that when I saw the quote "And you would think that someone who spends their days trying to destroy other people’s reputations in dishonest and inflammatory ways wouldn’t be so childish and thin-skinned." I misunderstood and thought it refered to "publius" rather than having benn made by him. Guess it cuts both ways.

I think that hiding behind anonymity when making personal attacks (justified or not) is a cowardly act. Still, I'm uncomfortable with what Whelan did.

By the way - my last name is Rogers.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I blog semi-pseudonymously only because I talk about my family, and they haven't asked me to talk about them on the internet. (They also haven't asked me not to, but I'll wait for a positive "I don't care if you use our last name" from each of them before I do.) If it was just me, I would have no problem giving my full name.

rhhardin said...

On the bright side, without misunderstanding we'd never agree on anything.

reader_iam said...

I think Whelan's wikipedia stub ought to be amended as follows:

"As a small boy, Whelan was known for yelling at children with whom he was quarreling, "I'm gonna tell your mommy on you!" High-minded even then, he did not hesitate to follow through.

An excellent education and a lifetime of achievement have not tempted him away from his principled core, and, decades later, he has remained true to his inner small boy."

rhhardin said...

Self-righteousness is the homage virtue pays to vice.

Donald Douglas said...

Anonymous. Pseudonymous. Sheesh!

Ann, I started blogging largely after reading this blog. How could I possibly love it here so much if you blogged anon/pseudon?

The pictures alone are worth it!

And of course, you're a conservative blogress diva (did I get that right?), and your readers come to score! (Or they used to anyway.)

I get that "you the professor" stuff too, "You're a Professor, Really?"!

Jim Hu said...

I agree that Whelan's being a jerk. But I also think that "publius" is a pretty pompous pseudonym. What are your favorite ostentatious pseudonyms? I'd also nominate "Hume" over at Secular Right for political balance.

AlgonquinS said...

Is it ok to comment while posing as a piece of clothing?

Joan said...

I read the first few links, and I think this whole thing is ridiculous. All Blevins had to do was not reply to Whelan. Instead, he replies and gives Whelan the pretext for his outing post.

It's just a bickerfest between two uninteresting men, and not worth anyone's time.

Although I was kind of cracking up at the comments at publius's, suggesting that Blevins file a civil suit against Whelan. On what grounds, I wonder -- Blevins didn't have to say anything at all. Whelan made an allegation and Blevins, of his own free will, confirmed it.

They're both idiots.

Maguro said...

Pretty dickish of Whelan, and all because the other guy called him a "legal hitman"? Actually, "legal hitman" sounds kind of cool...a lot more glamorous than "National Review blogger".

Joan said...

But Jim, "publius" isn't pompous because it's not capitalized!

Because we all know that e.e. cummings was not in the least bit affected...

The Federalist Papers Obsidian Wings is not.

Synova said...

I guess my point was that a person using a pseudonym can very well have a track record and reputation built up... and an anonymous person can't do that.

Jim said...

As I posted elsewhere, it's fine to post anonymously if you're laying out a policy position or just pointing out the daily news because your reputation is irrelevant.

However, if you want to stand up and attack someone else's reputation, then it is a cowardly act to hide behind a pseudonym and you absolutely, 100%, no-doubt-about-it deserve to be "outed."


I have no sympathy for Blevins: he thought he was exceedingly clever going after Whelans while he hid behind his pseudnym. Ha, ha! I got one over on him, and he can't do anything about it because no one knows who I am. Well, guess what Mr. Too-Clever-By-Half? When it's *your* name and reputation at risk, all of a sudden it's some kind of horrible crime to go after you? Yeah, in your "I'm a victim" world maybe, but not in the real one.

It would be one thing if Whelan "outed" Blevins just because he didn't like his posts. But that wasn't the case at all. Blevins went after Whelan, and then hid behind the skirts of his anonymity. And I'm supposed to feel sympathetic? Not hardly.

If Blevins didn't want to wind up with a bloody nose, then he shouldn't have started the fight.

Bissage said...

One man’s basic human decency is another man’s competitive disadvantage.

Daryl said...

I recognize that if I ever went after someone too harshly, my pseudonymity would be in jeopardy both because they would have an incentive to pierce it, and they wouldn't feel as much of a backlash for doing so.

Prof. Blevins wanted to harangue Mr. Whelan non-stop, not just attacking Mr. Whelan's ideas, but attacking him personally and professionally with shoddy ad hominem attacks. And Mr. Blevins wanted absolute immunity from the same kind of ad hominem attacks.

Why should we feel sorry for him? If I was ever outed, I doubt that any liberals would raise their voices in my defense, except in a perfunctory "say it now so they can't call me a hypocrite later" kind of way. And by then it would be too late. I would be outed and I would lose my job.

The same liberals who worked to get Prop 8 donors fired are now sobbing, sobbing, heartbroken, because this formerly-pseudonymous cyberbully is now on equal footing with the target of his bizarre obsession.

The same liberals who out closeted gays who have sex in private insist that they have a right to publicly harangue people with complete anonymity.

Although, I'd be pretty embarrassed, too, if the whole world found out I had a man-crush on Ed Whelan that manifested itself through pseudonymous cyberstalking. How can Prof. Blevins' students ever take him srsly from now on?

* * *

By the way, people who hide behind anonymity or psuedonymity to attack elected officials--that's completely different. We see again and again elected officials retaliating against bloggers, especially when bloggers threaten to expose corruption or scandal. Keeping your identity secret while harassing a politician with ad hominem attacks and insults is perfectly legitimate.

Also, a few stray remarks, or even a Five-Part Series, on anonymous blog targeting a named person doesn't mean a person deserves to be outed.

Gary Farber said...

"However, if you want to stand up and attack someone else's reputation, then it is a cowardly act to hide behind a pseudonym and you absolutely, 100%, no-doubt-about-it deserve to be "outed."

I'm assuming "Jim" will be posting his full name, and other identifying information, in his next comment.

Mary Martha said...

My first thought when I read about this was of 'Jack Dunphy' - the pseudonym of an LAPD officer who writes on NRO. I do wonder if the editors at National Review have considered that they are now just asking for people to try to 'out' him.

I think that there are many valid reasons for having a pseudonym on the internet. I would hope that respecting obvious wishes for a veiled identity would be common courtesy. Of course, I say that as I post on the internet with a pseudonym.

blogging cockroach said...

if publius was a cockroach
he wouldn t have these kinds
of problems

Daryl said...

And you would think that someone who spends their days trying to destroy other people’s reputations in dishonest and inflammatory ways wouldn’t be so childish and thin-skinned

Actually, I would EXPECT someone like that to be childish and thin-skinned. I would be SHOCKED if "a person who spent his days trying to destroy other people's reputations in dishonest and inflammatory ways" turned out to be a mature, thoughtful individual.

If, on the other hand, I knew Ed Whelan was a good guy, and I knew I was attacking him unfairly, I might be surprised if he yanked my anonymity out from under me.

Either way, it speaks very poorly to Prof. Blevins' intelligence, that he would write something so stupid. I thought law profs were supposed to be smart? Obviously he just conned his way into the job despite a tremendous intelligence deficit.

AllenS said...

There are two kinds of law professors, tenured and untenured.

blogging cockroach said...

yes publius should have picked his fights
with a wee bit more caution realizing that
as daryl says the only people with whom
to pick blog fights with are overly civilized
wimps because given the lack of
wimpishness or civility in the blogospear
the only outcome would be heads
they win tails you lose

EnigmatiCore said...

It was a dick move by Whelan.

blogging cockroach said...

but at least nobody ever says
and you a cockroach

AlphaLiberal said...

My reasons for pseudonymy are similar to Obsidian Wings.

Ann: "I don't flaunt my status as a lawprof," .

Where is that eyeroll emoticon again?

As a (mostly former) practitioner of the "You a law professor" criticism leveled at Ann Althouse, I don't think she got the point.

Ann: Even so, I think "you a lawprof" is a pretty lame argument, normally wielded by opponents who don't want to bother making substantive points. .

Nice poke in the eye. When I used it I had the mistaken impression law professors of all ideological stripes shared a dedication to basic legal principles like presumed innocence, habeas corpus, etc.

Hey, I learned I was wrong and that was a bad assumption. THAT's what makes it a bad argument.

Ann: It's about on the level of proclaiming you're a moron.

That's basic misdirection, hiding behind a red herring. And an evasion from the core arguments. Helps you to avoid addressing substantive points.

AlphaLiberal said...

As far as Whelan, he is responding to critics with scorched earth tactics. It's a response wholly disproportionate to the criticism.

That's why he's Wanker of the Day over at Eschaton.

Mortimer Brezny said...

If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Publius went to war with Whelan and Whelan won. Stop crying.

blogging cockroach said...

of course sometimes it s fun
to pick a fight or give a good fisking
to a compleat moron
o t o h
such morons tend to do good
enough jobs on themselves

montana urban legend said...

"responsible for what I say..."

Responsible to whom or to what? To the whims of political and social pressures? Or responsible to the strength of an idea itself regardless of who expressed it?

blogging cockroach said...

which is why i think althouse will simply
roll her own eyes without of course
too much expenditure of effort

blogging cockroach said...

i think if we re talking disembodied ideas
we really should bring sir archy in on this

Palladian said...

"As far as Whelan, he is responding to critics with scorched earth tactics. It's a response wholly disproportionate to the criticism."

Aww. Poor thing!

I do love the delicious irony of AlphaLiberal complaining about the unfairness of "scorched-earth tactics". Come on, you and your pals specialize in scorched-earth tactics!

"That's why he's Wanker of the Day over at Eschaton."

Such an honor is probably a good indication that you're doing something right.

blogging cockroach said...

oh palladian i don t know about bringing
a 36 pounder to bear when flypaper
looks like it would do the job
seems like a waste of powder
and shot to me

Palladian said...

I'm not "anonymous" here, but I do use a pseudonym when commenting to denote the fact that what I say here is not necessarily from the same perspective or with the same style as something I'd write or say under my proper name. When I explained this once before, a commenter here interpreted it as meaning that I was commenting as a character and making things up, but that's not what I meant nor what I do. Using a pseudonym is a way to highlight the fact that I'm operating in a different mode here than I do in my regular life. To me, fora such as this one are a place to play with ideas and language and conversation in a fluid and flexible way. This often confounds dogmatists of every stripe who seek to make the enterprise as rigid and regulated as they seek to make every other aspect of human life.

As for this particular case, it's similar to situations in which I often find myself: someone is using anonymity (or closed pseudonymity, where the real name behind the pseudonym is hidden) to launch personal attacks against another party who has chosen not to be anonymous or to have an open pseudonymity. I'm sometimes the target of commenters who have the benefit of knowing my real name and my physical appearance and my career and use this unfair advantage to launch personal attacks that cannot be reciprocated. As far as I'm concerned this makes piercing their anonymity fair game.

Palladian said...

"i think if we re talking disembodied ideas
we really should bring sir archy in on this"

The 18th century was the golden age of anonymous/pseudonymous writing.

montana urban legend said...

I don't follow Obsidian Wings all that much or ego-driven blog wars. But I think the irony of feeling self-righteous about outing someone who goes by the name Publius is rich.

Alexander Hamilton, as you might know, was killed in a duel - another antiquated (but socially respectable) way of defending one's reputation and honor even in its own day. Perhaps this business of outing should be seen in a similar light.

Of course, the Hamilton affair led to quicker measures to outlaw the barbaric practice. I would hope that forced outings don't suffer the same fate. But I guess that would depend on which idea you find more scurrilous - Being open to granting more respect to strong ideas than to those who express them or the idea that a public figure be treated in a gentlemanly way (however the fuck one defines that).

I think the former is more easily defined, which is something that lawyers might want to consider.

blogging cockroach said...

of course i m deathly afraid of getting stuck
to flypaper myself which i suppose is one
reason i m a cockroach

blogging cockroach said...

actually it looks like you ll need the grapeshot

Palladian said...

"of course i m deathly afraid of getting stuck
to flypaper myself which i suppose is one
reason i m a cockroach"

Stay out of "motels" when traveling.

blogging cockroach said...

in a 48 pounder with a double charge
see how fast i can change my mind
the advantage of only 960 brain cells

blogging cockroach said...

oh i don t travel much
being here under the fridge beats buzzing
around bright lights you can t quite figure out

mcg said...

I'm really rather surprised to see MUL commenting on this of all threads given the apparent delight he took in piercing my pseudonymity once I'd pressed his buttons one too many times. Maybe he was drunk then or something.

blogging cockroach said...

and palladian has a clear shot at you
boom
but sticking close in small spaces means
no one can drop a cannon ball on me
altho tommy says he s getting a laptop
which means i m going to have to watch
out for getting slammed

Palladian said...

"I'm really rather surprised to see MUL commenting on this of all threads given the apparent delight he took in piercing my pseudonymity once I'd pressed his buttons one too many times. Maybe he was drunk then or something."

Leftists aren't known for their consistency. They are, however, often known for their hypocrisy.

Frodo Potter said...

I have to come down on the side of publius. I would have a lot more sympathy for Ed Whelan if he were some poor schnook with a 9 to 5 job. Good Lord, the man writes for National Review, does he not? Before anyone jumps on me, I would have an equal lack of sympathy for Katrina vanden Heuvel or anyone at The Nation. Nor would I have any sympathy for Sully or Hitch. This is not about ideology; it is about decorum and decency. It is also about respecting the long and honored tradition of using pseudonyms.

As someone named C.S. said at Obsidian Wings, pseudonyms are a kind of compact. Pseudonyms can function as a tool to allow us to focus on the merits (or lack thereof) of arguments.

I too am a teacher and thus am careful about what my public persona puts forth. I want my students to think for themselves. I also want to avoid backlash from some of my colleagues. Professor Althouse has chosen not to use a pseudonym and I respect that. But I think she also had tenure before she started this blog

Let me reiterate what I posted at Obsidian Wings. It is indeed a sad moment when, just as 21st century America has discovered the ability to have the kind of back-and-forth arguments that the Founders did, we are willing to ruin it by selfishness and cowardice.

mcg said...

I find myself coming to the conclusion of "a pox on both their houses"... but with Ed Whelan coming off worse overall.

I do think that Ed Whelan comes off as petty and thin-skinned in this round. I don't read Bench Memos all that often, really only when someone else links to it, so I don't read his material much. And I suspect that's true of most people. So, like many other blogosphere spectators, I now know him more by his outing of Publius than I do about his other writings. Of course, I can say something similar about Publius: I know him as the guy Ed Whelan outed and that's about it. It would have been far better for Ed not to bother.

That said, I do see this as one of those times where the "he had it coming" argument is not entirely inappropriate. This isn't an issue of violence where said argument is entirely out of bounds. I think that there is something a bit smarmy, frankly, about a pseudonymous blogger making a sustained attack against a blogger whose identity is known and public. This isn't a matter of whistleblowing or anything of the sort.

Publius mentioned his personal and professional reasons for remaining pseudonymous. I don't think it's reasonable to *depend* on this though. On this I have some personal experience. It's not easy to maintain an airtight pseudonym; unfortunately it's pretty easy to inadvertently establish a connection between your public on-line persona and your pseudonymous persona. And then all it takes is for one person to be motivated to search for that connection to be outed.

mcg said...

It is indeed a sad moment when, just as 21st century America has discovered the ability to have the kind of back-and-forth arguments that the Founders did,

What does this even mean? That last 200 years have been some sort of dark era for debate? It's as if you're taking Publius' self-serving pseudonym seriously, as if he's somehow revived the spirit of the Federalist Papers. Nevermind that they didn't constitute "debate" at all.

we are willing to ruin it by selfishness and cowardice.

Hmm. Certainly, pseudonymity must be acknowledged as motivated by some combination of selfishness and cowardice. I mean, look, I say this as someone who chooses to be pseudonymous in this context. My reasons for being so are mine, hence selfish.

elHombre said...

In my opinion, there is a distinction between blogging and commenting. Commenting is rarely taken seriously. Blogs are intended to be.

When a blogger holds him/herself out to have specialized knowledge and takes another person in the field to task, it places the credentials of both at issue and the reputation of the latter at risk. Whelan had every right to expose publius and place his credentials on view for those following the controversy.

I read this comment elsewhere and I agree with it: "Anonymity is something you, and you alone are responsible for maintaining. Depending on the cooperation of others is not part of the rules."

It also seems indisputable that the anonymous blogger is posting comments for which he is unwilling to take responsibility.

Frodo Potter said...

Your point is taken, mcg. Let me clarify. I don’t think that the last 200 years have been a dark era for debate and I was careless in not making that clearer. I *do think* that the last 20-25 years have not been full of highlights in the history of civil, reasoned debate.

I don’t think that publius has singlehandedly revived the spirit of the Founders. I *do think* that the blogosphere collectively has helped revive that and that pseudonyms help facilitate that spirit. When one tries to pierce a pseudonym, then that spirit is threatened.

As to your comments about selfishness, well yes, we are all a little selfish, so no argument there. But there is, for want of a better expression, enlightened selfishness and not-so-enlightened selfishness.

Incidentally, as to your point about not constituting debate, when publius opens up his blog for comments, then there is the potential for debate. Andrew Sullivan does not allow debate; publius does. I might point out, just as an aside, that the Socratic Dialogues were really Plato’s Monologues. That doesn’t mean the ideas are worthless.

As for cowardice, I stand by my assertion that Ed Whelan is a big boy. He has a pretty big power base and really ought to develop a thicker skin. Therefore, I view him as the bully and not publius.

Pogo said...

It was an Alinsky tactic used against an Alinsky tactc.
Fire with fire.


Unless one is consistently opposed to the use of Alinsky tactcs, rather than merely rejecting its use by one's opponents, then it should not only not bother you, it should be expected, perhaps even welcomed, as a matter of honor amongst combatants.

Queensbury rules assume all players abide by them, If not, they're merely a virtue, with observance being its own reward. They cannot be invoked by those refusing compliance.

Mike said...

I blame my high school Latin teacher for explaining what ad hominem means. If she hadn't done that, I wouldn't be so annoyed every time I see it misused.

traditionalguy said...

Blogging is a full attempt to create a following and the person doing it needs to be disclosed. Commenting is a hidden activity, and is fair even when done anonymously. Very few commenters list any info about themselves, and that's Ok for them since they are mostly outside visitors sampling the group.

emccabe said...

I have been blogging (to almost no acclaim, but what the hell) for well over four years. I have used a nom de plume ; I have also displayed my photograph in the banner of the site since my first post. The former makes it easier for me to write about sensitive, personal matters using a different identity; the latter provides for full disclosure.

Any blog should be evaluated on its demonstrated merits, or lack of same. The who is much less important than the what.

mcg said...

I *do think* that the last 20-25 years have not been full of highlights in the history of civil, reasoned debate.... I *do think* that the blogosphere collectively has helped revive that and that pseudonyms help facilitate that spirit.

On these points I think I agree but would go further. To me it seems plain that the Internet facilitates far more debate than ever could have occurred during the era of the Founders. I think the opportunity to debate is far more readily available than it was 200 years ago. Just about anyone who wishes to participate may do so. Of course at times that means that it is far less intellectual and informed. But I think it also means that it is at times far more so.

When one tries to pierce a pseudonym, then that spirit is threatened.

Well, I certainly must agree that it can be used to intimidate. That's what I felt a certain commenter was attempting to do when he started using my real name. But this is where I think your reference to the Founders is off. I mean, how did debate occur in that era, but in person? And how anonymous is that? The Federalist Papers were published under a pseudonym of course; so if you wanted to debate the authors, to whom would you go? Both due to the short time frame and the limits of communication there wasn't a lot of back and forth.

So again, I'd say there is greater opportunity for debate now than in the Founders era. Anonymity and pseudonymity probably enhance it for a time but I don't think it's particularly essential to it.

Incidentally, as to your point about not constituting debate, when publius opens up his blog for comments, then there is the potential for debate. Andrew Sullivan does not allow debate; publius does. I might point out, just as an aside, that the Socratic Dialogues were really Plato’s Monologues. That doesn’t mean the ideas are worthless.

Agreed on the last point, and I think that's the point I'm making about the Federalist Papers. The actual debates that led to them were conducted in person and were hardly anonymous.

As for cowardice, I stand by my assertion that Ed Whelan is a big boy. He has a pretty big power base and really ought to develop a thicker skin. Therefore, I view him as the bully and not publius.

Agreed. Again, I conceded that I think Ed Whelan, net net, comes across petty and thin-skinned here; he comes across as a bully.

But a pseudonymous blogger, or even a commenter, can come across like Ralphie's trash-talking nemesis in A Christmas Story---the one that had the benefit of being able to hide behind the bigger bully. I wonder if Publius would choose his words differently stripped of that protection. And if he would, shouldn't he have in the first place? Again, I would feel differently if he were a whistleblower or if the target of his animus were a current government official. But it was neither of those things. It does seem like a certain measure of cowardice might be involved there. And I understand that in saying so I indict myself to a point.

yaro said...

Whelan knows better than to belittle anonymous blogging as only being self centered.

One obvious reason for anonymous blogging is to build an image.

In the factory, you make perfume and in the store you sell hope. Its the same thing with blogs.

Blogs have an image and it is always more than the sum of the people involved.

Nasty, Brutish & Short said...

I used to blog under a pseudonym, and I had very good reason for doing so. I was an associate at a law firm, and the partners just would not have understood it. NOT AT ALL. Even though I never (well, until my last week there) blogged about work, and I certainly would never blog about clients or confidential matters. That's an ethical violation, whether you use your own name or not. But even though I was always appropriate, I was some times edgy, and the partners would not have been amused.
So, I think it was pretty awful to expose this blogger. But I have to say, I knew that was always a risk, especially if I got in a flame war or something like that. So, boo on the guy who did the exposing. And as for the guy who was exposed... what did you expect?

Frodo Potter said...

mcg, well argued. I am heartened by the fact that we agree on a number of points and I appreciate your civil approach. Of particular interest is your assertion about the blogosphere enhancing debate. “To me it seems plain that the Internet facilitates far more debate than ever could have occurred during the era of the Founders. I think the opportunity to debate is *far* more readily available than it was 200 years ago. Just about anyone who wishes to participate may do so. Of course at times that means that it is far less intellectual and informed. But I think it also means that it is at times far more so.”

I think you have hit upon an important truth. It has been repeated so often as to become a truism, but the Internet is indeed something of a leveler. At times the quality of debate is uncommonly powerful, rising, if I may be forgiven my enthusiasm, to the level of sublimity. Of course, at other times, it does indeed not only fall to the ridiculous, but to the gutter. One wishes for some way to ensure that “at times far more so” could occur far more often. But that may be less the province of the Internet than of the schools and universities.

We might also all do well to view this opportunity for debate less as the need to be right, or even a chance to make a point, than as a chance to learn, so that the blogosphere does indeed become a kind of dialectic. That certainly might be one way to help facilitate those happy moments of “at times far more so.”

Let me indict myself here in that I am less disturbed about revealing Jeremy’s identity, than say that of Alpha Liberal, garage mahal, or Beth. To what extent am I (or are we corporately) responsible to protest when other commenters out him as Gene Olsen, psychology professor? Should we protest? Do we need to protect the rights of someone many of us find aggravating at best?

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dfp21 said...

In real life, when I'm verbally assaulted by a nobody, I try not to reward the person with a reaction. Because to be ignored is the ultimate put down. But if I wanted to engage in a debate, I would start with "And who are you?" Is that question verboten?

rcocean said...

Anytime the cockroach comes out- its not boring.

And it was terrible Whelan outed him - after all they were such good friends.

montana urban legend said...

Oh my GAWD I'M JUST SUCH A LEFTIST. Like, let's go nationalize the airline industry and the beverage industry and the banking industry (check - thanks for that one Chief Republican Finance Minister Paulson) and the health care industry and the consumer appliance industry and the highways and the roads and the sidewalks and the airwaves and the election commission and the blah blah blah whatever. GOOD ONE YOU LIKE TOTALLY GOT ME! My Lockean "leftism" is like just so totally outed.

Read up sometime.

As for mcg, you have never given any indication that you intend to keep your identity private. And as for the both of you mfer's (although I mean this more affectionately in mcg's case because he acts more decently to me than Palladian - even if I have grown accustomed to Palladian's outbursts and see them nowadays more for the ill-informed, defensive, cutesy and catty, if occasionally humorous potshots that they are), you're both proving my point regarding an inability to separate an argument from the person making that argument. If this were not such a problem for some people, pseudonymity and anonymity would serve no purpose. And neither would an addiction to trumpeting one's identity all over the internet when simply trying to make a cogent point as if that were some requirement of reasoned discourse and thoughtful conversation.

Someday I will go to a right-wing website (or maybe Amazon.com) and post obscure, uncited quotes by Ronald Reagan to see how many people recognize them. That will be a fun game to play. A true conservative will take note of their own ideological spokespersons' inconsistencies. Every partisan is always 100% consistent in their iron-clad logic and foolproof reasoning. Oh, wait...

Palladian said...

Uh oh, someone's been into the glue again...

montana urban legend said...

So in other words, you admit that you cannot engage a single word of what I said and will just throw out ad hominems instead. (As always).

Dude, I made a cogent point. Some people are addicted to shooting messengers and simply cannot engage a message or a point that they are averse to. That is the point.

Next time I will express it less illustratively, if that throws you off. (Although, in all fairness, I was just trying to be entertaining. I assume that a mindset ill-disposed to engaging logic and factual information might respond better to "infotainment" - the until-recently dominant form of mass media).

Derek Kite said...

What is interesting about this situation is the understanding that as a non tenured professor his career could be damaged if what he wrote was tied to him personally.

First off, if he is an idiot and can't write or argue a point without losing his job, why is he teaching in a university?

Second, are universities that silly? The way to get a job is to suck up to some touchy fool? Maybe that is why the US has hit the wall.

Whelan over reacted. publius got what he deserved. The principle involved is don't say or do anything that would create trouble for yourself, and take responsibility if it comes.

Derek

montana urban legend said...

mcg, I'm having trouble recalling the situation in question (must be the "glue"), but if you are under the impression that I was trying to pierce an identity that you are not interested in revealing then I apologize. If memory serves, we might have been addressing some purported area of expertise on your part, which might have made me curious as to how you put yourself in a position of knowledge over something that I questioned. But you are right. Even appeals to intellectual authority are overdone in my book and I shouldn't have taken that approach - even if you did not make it clear that you are just "mcg" here and no one else. And that is good enough for me.

Peter said...

I never thought to blog under a pseudonym, mainly because a poor ol' country boy like me can't hardly spell it. Fortunately it's spelled out right over there in the first comment. But I think I understand the rules now. A lefty gets to out anyone because of teh hypocracy and only lefties get to define hypocracy.

So if Michell Malkin happends to take a picture of a McMansion of the affluent folks who don't buy health insurance for their kids, that's awful She's outed them, even though she mentioned nothing about the address. But a Lefty can post a list of names on addresses of those favoring Prop Eight.

Nice set of rules.

BTW, not that many care but I only use my first name here but anyone who cares can click, and there is my full name and a small picture on the first page of my blog. Being both retired and armed, I don't care who knows who I am.

montana urban legend said...

"Second, are universities that silly?"

Hahahhahahahahhaa, etc.

Yes, Derek. To be blunt, I don't think you do get it. Universities are about the most mindlessly political institutions in American life (with the exception of the Congress and the RNC/DNC, etc.)

And I have a strong feeling that you will not find many people on this forum disagreeing with that assessment, either.

montana urban legend said...

I must say that Frodo's comments are the most intelligent I've seen on this matter, and perhaps even on this blog ever. I'll even go further and defend his point against mcg re: The Federalist Papers, seeing as how pseudonymous writers with an opposing viewpoint could have (theoretically) published their own monologues as a series of responses.

But the issue as I see it is one of a mythical standard of absolute civility that no two parties are will always agree on. To the extent that debate is polarized, it is liable to become uncivil. (And this is one heck of a polarized country, still. I know. I know. That's not the point. But it provides some context). Perhaps we should all strive to achieve this standard. But my problem is that such a standard is poorly defined, prone to culturally-specific and personal meanings, and at the end of the day would be nevertheless deferred to at the expense of lively debate. If the trade-off is between debate that is allowed to (and even prone to) veer off into what is felt by whomever to be a lack of civility on one hand, and deference to civility at the cost of defending unpopular viewpoints on the other, then I would surely prefer to err on the side of the former.

Do y'all seriously disagree? Does the context of questions regarding how our First Amendment rights have been decided in judicial fora really indicate anything contrary - whether the challenge to free speech was an obscenity law, defamation, you name it...?

montana urban legend said...

I also note, for the record, that as of June 7th, 2009, @ 8:06 PM Central Standard Time, mcg has been posting comments on Blogger using a picture of a dashing male figure with brown hair, a goatee, wire-rimmed glasses, and a white undershirt underneath his clothes with a navy rim as his avatar. Unless this is the oddest form of image appropriation, I'm assuming it's a picture of him. In which case, I must say, if pseudonymity was ever his aim, he does a very strange job of going about conveying that.

I mean, he could always use an avatar of Greek columns, or a flute, or a cartoon character. It's not a dating site (at least not for some of us;-0); a real-life image of yourself is not required and is not even the norm!

What can I say? These are some of the odd (but incredibly pertinent) types of things that I tend to notice.

mcg, if you are offended by my description of these details which you so handily provided me (and everyone else with an ethernet port and ISP) then let me know and I will delete this comment faster than the Googlebots can say your real name (which I already must have forgotten).

Palladian said...

Greek columns? It's the facade of a building by 16th century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio. You know, Palladio? Whose devotees were later called Palladians...

Not quite as observant as you think you are, are you, Woodsy Owl? Or perhaps it's not the power of observation you lack, but wisdom....

mcg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mcg said...

I'll even go further and defend his point against mcg re: The Federalist Papers, seeing as how pseudonymous writers with an opposing viewpoint could have (theoretically) published their own monologues as a series of responses.

Oh, there's no doubt that they could have been responded to, yes. And I'm sure they provoked debate amongst local groups. But given that there were 80-some-odd papers published over the course of less than a year, and given the publication and communication latencies at the time, and given their pseudonymous publication, there really wasn't an opportunity to engage in a real back-and-forth with the authors themselves.

mcg said...

As for mcg, you have never given any indication that you intend to keep your identity private.

Other than the fact that I use a pseudonym and never my real name here on this site? Uh, OK.

Don't play dumb, MUL. You are the only commenter ever to use my real name on this site. Not only that, you actively went searching for details that were not readily available here on Google. I do admit that there were more details available here on Blogger than I had intended, thanks to unforeseen cross-pollination between their services. But you went beyond that to thing that took some actual digging.

But more to the point, you used my personal details with the express purpose of intimidating me, which is not unlike what Ed Whelan did.

Unless this is the oddest form of image appropriation, I'm assuming it's a picture of him. In which case, I must say, if pseudonymity was ever his aim, he does a very strange job of going about conveying that.

Of course it is. Now, what does that have to do with pseudonymity? I'm not the only one who uses my real picture and conceals other information about my identity. We reveal what we want to reveal.

Go click on my picture, everyone, get it out of your system. I dare say you'll agree that it's a bit of a yawner.

mcg, if you are offended by my description of these details which you so handily provided me

Look, I know it's not a stretch, but don't play dumb.

then let me know and I will delete this comment faster than the Googlebots can say your real name (which I already must have forgotten).

Like I said, maybe you were drunk at the time. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised. But I *wouldn't* mind, actually, if you'd delete the prior comment on the old thread, yes. I would appreciate it.

AllenS said...

Allen is my first name, S is my middle initial. On my profile, that is a picture of me, circa 1947-48. Some people who comment here know my full name.

AlphaLiberal said...

Palladian:

I do love the delicious irony of AlphaLiberal complaining about the unfairness of "scorched-earth tactics". Come on, you and your pals specialize in scorched-earth tactics!

I'm trying to think of one. Can't.

I push back hard against conservatives in debate. You guys think that's sick and wrong and libs should just be doormats for the right wing.

Please note: the world has changed. We're not taking it anymore. I'm not saying we should do personal damage to people we disagree with, as the "outer" has here. Just fight for our beliefs and drop the meek wimpy liberal routine.

mcg said...

Like I said, maybe you were drunk at the time.

By the way, MUL, I didn't say this to insult you as some sort of drunkard---rather, because you seemed particularly, uncharacteristically off your rocker in that prior thread. You had gotten yourself wound up tighter than a duck's ass. :)

Salamandyr said...

From an aesthetic point of view, he deserves outing just for using such a pretentious, arty name.

Obsidian Wings sounds like something dreamed up a by 13 year old girl for her livejournal.

Zeb Quinn said...

Maybe I missed it, but nowhere in this drama is it stated how it was that Whelen came to be "reliably informed" that pubius was Blevin. Whelen is slyly not mentioning the means how he came by this information. That makes a bit of a difference too, depending.

mcg said...

That's a good point, Zeb. I'd be interested to know that as well.

montana urban legend said...

Like any human being, I'm not perfect. And I'll admit to being as liable to getting carried away with a minute point as any hot-blooded American can be. But I honestly haven't a clue of even what the topic was that prompted the discussion in question. If you can clue me into it, I will dig up the archives (it must have been from months ago by now) and delete the offending comment.

And yes, you are perfectly right to assert control over which elements of your identity you wish to allow into the public domain and which you prefer to remain private. But I honestly never would assume that a real-life photograph would accompany someone who chooses to keep any aspects of their identity private. As I said, it's more common on Blogger to use symbolic if even pictorial avatars than true-life shots of one's face. But I think this gets us, again, back to my point - that it is not recommended to ever assume that one's own perspective or assumptions are, or should be, universal. We were both making assumptions here, of which I had reason to believe that mine were perfectly reasonable. But I was apparently mistaken about your own preferences and have no problem conceding that, being decent about it and obliging your perfectly acceptable request.

As for Palladio, I was vaguely aware of this personage from reading Palladian's descriptions on Blogger -- and not from any intense yet entirely amateurish interest on my part in architecture. If I was mistaken in using the word "Greek" in describing the columns she used, so be it. I understand that Greek columns were conspicuous for belonging to one of four styles, or "schools"? as determined by the style of capital on the column. But I didn't realize it was technically incorrect to refer to a tendency to employ columns generally as "Greek", especially when the columns in Palladian's avatar seem pretty simple from afar - as was one of the styles in question (Doric, if I'm not mistaken, or Tuscan - if I wanted to get really technical about it. At the least, it appears reminescent of a Tuscan pillar - which in any event would make it not Greek. Which goes to show you how much I do or don't know. [Again, I never claimed expertise in this].).

mcg said...

It was the one where Seven Machos, ElcubanitoKC, and I were ganging up on you---not that long ago, though. It was your 10:47 post on this May 21 thread. I really do appreciate it.

montana urban legend said...

No problem man. Done. If you go back and check it, you'll see.

"It was the one where Seven Machos, ElcubanitoKC, and I were ganging up on you---"

It's not as if you guys make it easy on me!!!

mcg said...

Much obliged. Now, given your feedback I'm now going to seek out a generic baby picture of myself or some other random thing to replace my profile pic with.

mcg said...

There, that should do it.

mcg said...

(works on a couple of different levels doesn't it!)

Palladian said...

"If I was mistaken in using the word "Greek" in describing the columns she used, so be it."

Um, Andrea Palladio was a man.

Palladian said...

A MAN, BABY!

mcg said...

Did someone just say Man Baby?

Palladian said...

"Did someone just say Man Baby?"

Dude, what you look at in private is your business...

Freeman Hunt said...

Am I right in thinking that this is a modern problem? Has there been another time in history when people thought they had some unassailable right to make statements that couldn't be traced back to them?

I know that people used to publish pamphlets and whatnot anonymously, but I don't get the sense that they thought anyone else had an obligation to aid in their anonymity. Perhaps I'm wrong. Does anyone know?

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Palladian said...

A Reply as true as Steele,
To a Rusty, Rayling, Ridiculous, Lying,
Libell; which was lately written by an impudent
unsoder’d Ironmonger and called by the name
of An Answer to a foolish Pamphlet Enti-
tuled, A Swarme of Sectaries
and Schismatiques.

The Divell is hard bound and did hardly straine,
to shit a Libeller a knave in graine.

William said...

Unlike many here, I have not yet completely transcended all racial, sexual and class prejudices. I enjoy being able to have a forum where I can express my lurid sexual fantasies regarding Nancy Pelosi. This is a place where you can reveal what's going on in the back of your mind. You can only tell the truth about who you are if you lie about your identity....During my corporate years I wrote many detailed memorandae that proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that I existed. None of them were ever read and thus my existence remained moot. I survived two mergers and several downsizings because of my irrelevance and obscurity....Many here who reflect on the pseudonymous nature of their writing should take note that their obscurity exists not only on the internet. Any biographical details you post about yourself will soon sink into the wide Saragosso sea of google. The one exception is good looking women. Good looking women should post photos of themselves, preferably with cleavage. Good looking women always elevate the tone of any discussion. The weight, fame, and baldness patterns of male commenters hold little interest for the public at large. Only the pixels you post matter, and that very little.

mcg said...

Well I'll be darned, Ed Whelan apologized.

reader_iam said...

I'm not surprised. OK, I am surprised--in that he didn't it do earlier this weekend or at least yesterday. (Or, alternatively, a couple weeks hence, but that's a whole 'nother thing, given events)

The bottom line is that Ed Whelan screwed the pooch and now he doesn't like the dead weight he's finally realized he's woken up next to after the equivalent of a quickie Vegas marriage entered into for kicks and the show.

He should have paid attention, sooner, faster and more quickly, to the advice that he--there can be very little doubt, right?--got behind the scenes from almost minute one (given that he manifestly lacked a key internal "alarum" before his initial action).

Now he's got, after all the public uproar (and without doubt behind the scenes) just this:

"It didn't take me even a whole week to reconsider the implications."

***

Alternative, more dignified and professional take (heh): Whelan found his OWN reputation, and therefore his OWN professional options, to be affected, despite his high-minded public persona. This caused [strike]an existential crisis[/strike] a clarifying moment.

Consequences: They're not just for those whom you dislike and/or even those who are pseudonymous.