Poll: When is it OK to “out” anonymous bloggers?

posted at 1:14 pm on June 7, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

In one corner: Ed Whelan of Bench Memos.  In the other: Glenn Reynolds, James Joyner, and Rick Moran.  All four are highly respected bloggers, but they have squared off over a contentious point in the blogosphere.  Is there ever a time when one blogger should tear away another’s anonymity?  If so, what threshold should abuse meet before taking that action?

Ed Whelan got steamed over a rather personal style of criticism for his analysis of the Sotomayor nomination from Publius of Obsidian Wings, an anonymous attorney who has blogged for years under a pseudonym.  Whelan explains why he felt it necessary to expose the blogger while rebutting the criticism:

One bane of the Internet is the anonymous blogger who abuses his anonymity to engage in irresponsible attacks.  One such blogger who has been biting at my ankles in recent months is the fellow who calls himself “publius” at the Obsidian Wings blog.

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.  I’ve been reliably informed that publius is in fact the pseudonym of [redacted].  I e-mailed [redacted] to ask him to confirm or deny that he is publius, and I copied the e-mail to the separate e-mail address, under the pseudonym “Edward Winkleman,” that publius used to respond to my initial private complaints about his reckless blogging.  In response, I received from “Edward Winkleman” an e-mail stating that he is “not commenting on [his] identity” and that he writes under a pseudonym “[f]or a variety of private, family, and professional reasons.”  I’m guessing that those reasons include that friends, family members, and his professional colleagues would be surprised by the poor quality and substance of his blogging.

Publius responded:

As I told Ed (to no avail), I have blogged under a pseudonym largely for private and professional reasons. Professionally, I’ve heard that pre-tenure blogging (particularly on politics) can cause problems. And before that, I was a lawyer with real clients. I also believe that the classroom should be as nonpolitical as possible – and I don’t want conservative students to feel uncomfortable before they take a single class based on my posts. So I don’t tell them about this blog. Also, I write and research on telecom policy – and I consider blogging and academic research separate endeavors. This, frankly, is a hobby.

Privately, I don’t write under my own name for family reasons. I’m from a conservative Southern family – and there are certain family members who I’d prefer not to know about this blog (thanks Ed). Also, I have family members who are well known in my home state who have had political jobs with Republicans, and I don’t want my posts to jeopardize anything for them (thanks again).

All of these things I would have told Ed, if he had asked. Instead, I told him that I have family and professional reasons for not publishing under my own name, and he wrote back and called me an “idiot” and a “coward.”

While Glenn gave a measured and somewhat disapproving view of Ed’s actions, James and Rick passionately denounce the outing.  James:

While I generally find the practice of revealing people’s secrets to the public distasteful, there are times when it’s appropriate.  Public officials who are abusing their power is the most obvious case.   Here, however, there is no public benefit achieved. Whelan is simply annoyed that Publius had been “biting at my ankles in recent months” and critiquing his blog posts.

Jeopardizing a man’s career and family relationships over something so petty is simply shameful.

Rick, as is his wont, writes at length about his outrage:

The point is, there are a lot of good reasons for bloggers to remain anonymous and Ed Whalen has no right to decide differently just because he got steamed about someone’s response to his analysis. Did Publius commit a crime? Was he slandering Whalen? If not, Whalen’s fit of personal pique looks low, tawdry, childish, and vengeful. The closest Publius got to getting personal with Whelan was in calling him a “know-nothing demagogue.” And this was after making the point that Whelan knew better and was simply pandering to conservative sensibilities.

Holy Jesus, Ed. I’ve got pretty thin skin myself but it would take a helluva lot more than that to set me off. Questioning my integrity will do the trick as will trying to tell me what to write on my own site. And if you plan on commenting on this or any other post without reading what I’ve written and instead, substitute what you think I wrote or make the same points I made in the post and try and convince me I didn’t make them, you might as well be prepared for some skin flaying because that is my number one pet peeve.

But a “know-nothing demagogue?” In the rarefied atmosphere you inhabit at NRO and other elite bastions of opinion, them’s might be fightin’ words, but in the blogosphere, that’s almost a compliment. To point out that almost any blogger has experienced much, much worse (and dished it out accordingly) would be to mention the obvious to anyone who has spent more than an hour reading blogs.

When I first began blogging, I used a semi-pseudonym, a nickname I’d had for two decades before blogging, for much the same reason as Publius.  I worked in the corporate world and not academia, but I didn’t want my firm’s customers or my staff to get uncomfortable working with me.  My family already knew about the blogging, so that wasn’t a motivation for me, but otherwise I completely understand why Publius wanted to retain his anonymity.  My success eventually outed me, and it did cause me some problems — most of which were self-inflicted — but I’m happy about how it worked out since, for obvious reasons.  Had someone else outed me instead, I would have been furious, and for good reasons.

Had Publius published Ed’s personal information, or had slandered him factually, I could understand the need to make his identity public and force him to bear responsibility for such attacks.  However, as Rick says, calling someone a “know-nothing demagogue” doesn’t qualify.  It may be annoying, and I think it reflects very poorly on Publius, but that’s the kind of ad hominem attack bloggers get from Day One.  Truman’s Axiom comes into play here — if a blogger can’t take that kind of heat, he ought to reconsider blogging.

Ed’s a great blogger, but I think he let Publius get too far under his skin, and he reacted poorly in outing someone and risking their professional career.  Outing Publius didn’t do anything to advance Ed’s argument, but made him look vindictive and petty instead.  Bloggers should worry less about the anonymity of bloggers (which isn’t a “bane” at all) and respond to the arguments instead — or ignore them.

Do you agree or disagree?  Cast your vote in the poll below, and this poll will take multiple answers:


Update: SteveMG asks me the following in the comments:

I’m curious as to whether your bloggin changed substantively once you became public? Did you say things anonymously that you wouldn’t have publicly? Even if it didn’t affect your job, friends, et cetera? In other words, did the “cover” of anoynmity give you – consciously or not – a freer hand?

I don’t think it changed my blogging at all, mainly because I always prepared to get outed, accidentally (as it happened) or otherwise. I was never inclined to hyperbolic writing, anyway.

Update II: Ed Whelan responds here. Michael Krauss agrees with Ed. And Joe Gandelman has a good roundup of thinking on this issue.


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I would think that if some government official was using a blog anonymous to attack critics then there is a problem in that instance.

Or if they leaked government information via their blog.

It has to be the case of a crime. Such as the Palin email hacker

William Amos on June 7, 2009 at 1:19 PM

Exactly, a crime should be the only reason.

Squid Shark on June 7, 2009 at 1:24 PM

National Review needs to kick Ed Whelan to the curb for this.

Watcher on June 7, 2009 at 1:25 PM

Who decides who is “irresponsible”? I would think this will damage Mr. Whelan’s blogging career.

Cindy Munford on June 7, 2009 at 1:26 PM

Am pleased to see that the reasonable position is well in the lead. There are exceptions to every rule. As for this issue, “publius” isn’t an undercover agent or whistleblower. Whelan made a mistake, but it will likely to a lot more harm to him than to “publius,” upon whom latter the main effect will likely be 15 minutes of internet stardom among his 1 zillion fellow self-righteous full-time snarling internet nobodies. Now he’s a nobody with a name. Last I checked, the world hadn’t stopped on its axis.

CK MacLeod on June 7, 2009 at 1:26 PM

I would be very careful about clicking the crime answer.

With the direction our Governement is taking us, they will make anything they deem offesive, a crime.
First they create the outrage, then they create a law to combat the outrage, then… you realize you’ve lost another liberty.

Beware

katy on June 7, 2009 at 1:28 PM

A lot of the hatred and venom comes from anonymity, people will say something without respect for accountability. Many blogs feed off of anonymous posters and it is the blogosphere’s lifeblood. Anonymity also allows some people to speak truthfully without fear of reprisal. Anonymity can be as empowirng as it can be degrading.

Without the posters a blog is nothing more than an editorial page, or even less, a newsreader.

The only time you out an anonymous poster is when you care less about integrity.

Rode Werk on June 7, 2009 at 1:28 PM

Blevins attacked Whelan’s professionalism. Therefore, Whelan had the right to expose Blevin professional or lack of professional background. STCL? LOL!

And I don’t buy Blevins whiny excuse. He wants to keep on making snarky blow the belt remarks without facing any consequences. If his family, clients, and job get a low opinion of him because of his blog, it’s because he earned it.

They have been trying to out Allahpundit from day one. The fact that they have not succeeded doesn’t mean the left’s $hite doesn’t stink.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:29 PM

As katy pointed out, answering a “crime” could change with the current government. Until that time comes, only reveil a person’s name if a real crime has been committed.

moonsbreath on June 7, 2009 at 1:30 PM

Whelan’s response should have been not to respond.

Full stop.

Certainly not outing the person.

Why let an anonymous attack bother you? If the person making the attack is unwilling to sign on to it, it’s not worth responding.

OTOH, if the person remains anonymous even for legitimate reasons, I think there’s an extra burden to be more judicious in their criticism of others. Don’t let the anonymity allow you a free hand.

Shorter me: Whelan erred.

SteveMG on June 7, 2009 at 1:30 PM

I think most of you who want to kick Ed to the curb would feel differently if it was your ox getting gored repeatedly and publicly.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:31 PM

I kind of like the anonymity of blogging. I’m not sure that I would be using this site if I had to use my real name, and let everyone know who I really am.

Tommy_G on June 7, 2009 at 1:31 PM

Note: This anonymous blogger wrongly attacked the blogger. What is his defense? I am sorry, but if you are an anonymous blogger and you start throwing around wild attacks, what do you think is going to happen?

I am not condoning what was done .. but I am just throwing this out there for you all to think about.

Ian on June 7, 2009 at 1:32 PM

Ed:

When I first began blogging, I used a semi-pseudonym, a nickname I’d had for two decades before blogging, for much the same reason as Publius.

I’m curious as to whether your bloggin changed substantively once you became public?

Did you say things anonymously that you wouldn’t have publicly? Even if it didn’t affect your job, friends, et cetera?

In other words, did the “cover” of anoynmity give you – consciously or not – a freer hand?

SteveMG on June 7, 2009 at 1:33 PM

The horror! Someone is now held accountable and embarrassed by their intemperate remarks!

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:33 PM

Anyone who focuses on the name, rather than the content, is practicing the lowest form of argumentation possible. The fact is that debates are about content, not personality. This is the lay version of the “empathy” requirement for logical determinations. This sort of stupidity is inexcusable and serves no productive purpose.

I don’t know when our society really began to be infected with this outrageous type of stupidity, but it is unhealthy and pathetic. There are far too many people roaming freely among us who hold college and post-graduate degrees, but who are in dire need of a decent 8th grade education. The Precedent is a shing example of such, as his appeals for empathic judges reflect his world-class stupidity no less than his identification of “profit and earnings ratios” – not only showing that he didn’t understand what “P/E” stands for, but he also didn’t have the brains to realize that the factors of a ratio are never connected with “and”. The Precedent must have an unusally difficult time with mathematical word problems, as his current skills fall short of those of the average 8th grader.

Those who concentrate on character, when the debate is about content, are the lowest scum of the pseudo-intellectual world, which is pretty darn bad.

Now, if someone moves out of the realm of debate to reveal private information about someone or some other non-debate offense of equivalent seriousness (and name-calling does not qualify) then reciprocity-plus is well-warranted.

progressoverpeace on June 7, 2009 at 1:33 PM

Ed: Thin line in your survey. Ed Whelan was repeatedly and personally “smeared”. Is that “slander/libel” or a “dishonest ad hominem”? Ought a supposedly sophisticated professional like publius justify his anonymity by such a thin line? I find Ed Whelan’s writings to be compelling, honorable, open and truthful. Publius, not so much.

clorensen on June 7, 2009 at 1:34 PM

I think most of you who want to kick Ed to the curb would feel differently if it was your ox getting gored repeatedly and publicly.

If someone was attacking me personally or professionaly but was unwilling to do so publicly or “sign on” to those attacks, I would completely dismiss those charges.

Whelan should have too.

SteveMG on June 7, 2009 at 1:34 PM

I just want to know who AllahP is so I can send relief

DarkCurrent on June 7, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Sometimes you get the bear.
And sometimes the bear gets you.

frizzbee on June 7, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Given how liberal nutcases have treated Michelle Malkin and her family, as well as other conservative bloggers and their families, I do not blame anonymous bloggers at all for writing under pseudonyms and guarding their identities zealously.

I don’t think that liberal bloggers need fear for their safety or property to the same degree that conservative bloggers do, but I still find it unacceptable to out a guy’s identity like that. If the purpose really was to prove or disprove the guy’s legal credentials, then it seems like Ed could have just found out for himself and said on his blog, “Well, I have obtained confirmation that publius really is a lawyer. Color me surprised!” He didn’t have to name him.

That said, I assume loss of anonymity is always a risk for bloggers who try to maintain privacy, and one should always be cautious about committing anything to the internet that you aren’t prepared to own if your anonymity is ever compromised.

aero on June 7, 2009 at 1:37 PM

I’ve been blogging for a couple of years under different names and different sites, and all of it almost entirely anonymous. Coworkers don’t know. Even members of my family don’t know.

With previous blogs, I was posting content primarily related to my career field, and now it’s mostly political stuff. My current site, which is mostly to rant against the tidal wave of government expansion, has been hacked twice, and I’ve received numerous veiled personal threats about it as well. I’m not too keen on being “outed” for obvious reasons, even though the content of my blog is pretty tame.

If we’re really worried about attacks coming from blogs, you know the best way to counter that? Use your ideas to counter back. If you have someone biting at your ankles, use reason and logic to show what fools they are.

There’s really no need to out someone, unless you’re looking to cause them personal harm in some way, like ruin their careers or relationships.

12thMonkey on June 7, 2009 at 1:37 PM

SteveMG on June 7, 2009 at 1:34 PM

Easy to say when you have no professional reputation.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:38 PM

The horror! Someone is now held accountable and embarrassed by their intemperate remarks!

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:33 PM

Exactly! I find it humorous that Whelan is the one being attacked when this person wants to attack him unfairly and hide like a coward. Put your damn name to your words like a man. If you don’t want to stand behind your principles in public then shut the hell up.

Dritanian on June 7, 2009 at 1:38 PM

Outting someone is just plain stupid and dangerous. There are too many nuts and whacko’s in the blogosphere that take some of this stuff way too seriously.

Charles Johnson over at LGF has been outting people lately, with picture no less.

Really stupid and childish.

Knucklehead on June 7, 2009 at 1:38 PM

Only for a crime.

The Founding era saw many who remain unknown who put their ideas out anonymously and pseudonymously: the original Publius was Hamilton, Monroe and Jay and there are still arguments about who wrote which piece. Luther Martin was quite vitriolic in his views and yet there was his name in the open for all to see. Federal Farmer was reserved, reasoned, and offered solutions, and yet no easy name goes to him. This was true of many, if not most, who wrote to start a discussion and wanted it to go beyond themselves: to not concentrate on a person but the ideas presented. There was, and is, no backing for your ‘good name’ showing that you will be temperate in your disposition, mild in your responses or utilize good sense. The later political era right after the founding and attacks on political figures actually make our era seem pale in contrast… then it was about personalities, not ideas. Now where is the duel so as to defend personal honor and make sure that people concentrate on ideas, not personality?

Yes, we are too civilized to survive. When it is all about personality and character in politics, ideas flee. And soon there are no ideas in politics and we become a Nation of men, not laws.

ajacksonian on June 7, 2009 at 1:39 PM

I find Ed Whelan’s writings to be compelling, honorable, open and truthful. Publius, not so much.

clorensen on June 7, 2009 at 1:34 PM

I think that’s a good point. Unfortunately we have become a society filled with a need for instant gratifiation, results and retribution.
If Ed’s writings are indeed good, let the reader be the judge and Ed’s reputation will follow.
As will his critics…

katy on June 7, 2009 at 1:39 PM

Easy to say when you have no professional reputation.

Agreed.

But the same principle applies.

SteveMG on June 7, 2009 at 1:40 PM

Those who concentrate on character, when the debate is about content, are the lowest scum of the pseudo-intellectual world, which is pretty darn bad.

Now, if someone moves out of the realm of debate to reveal private information about someone or some other non-debate offense of equivalent seriousness (and name-calling does not qualify) then reciprocity-plus is well-warranted.

progressoverpeace on June 7, 2009 at 1:33 PM

Praise the Lord.

Right on target.

12thMonkey on June 7, 2009 at 1:41 PM

Outing bloggers is surprisingly good!

Aristotle on June 7, 2009 at 1:41 PM

It has been my experience that cowards hide behind anonymity.

Hell, Greeny Greenwaldo has been caught many times with his sock puppet armies.

Trolls post comments under many aliases giving the impression that there are many of “them” with opposing views.

If you click on “Snooper”, you find my actual identity. I have nothing to hide and some fear “retribution” from the “tolerant” trolls. I hope they do pay me a visit. I have invited many to meet me in DC and have some coffee after rallies. The cowards never show up but their armies of anonymous hordes do show up from time to time.

It all boils down to credibility. I never trust the “anonymous source”. Your basic troll never offers anything that can be verified and substantiation makes them tremble.

Just my take.

Snooper on June 7, 2009 at 1:42 PM

But the same principle applies.

But the principle still applies.

Even though, as stated above, anonymity allows people to engage in smears and personal attacks that they would otherwise not do. Or get away with.

The sword is, admittedly, double-edged.

SteveMG on June 7, 2009 at 1:43 PM

Answer: Never.

I agree with progressoverpeace.

I don’t know who Ed Whelan is, but given this action I would never hire him, nor I would trust anything he writes.

If he can’t defend his arguments ideologically but must respond in childish antics then it only proves that childish antics is how he runs his life.

We derided assassination last week when somebody took a gun to Tiller. But this week we take a poll on the morality of political assassination?

I don’t think so.

Skywise on June 7, 2009 at 1:44 PM

aero on June 7, 2009 at 1:37 PM

Ditto.

And what Rick said.

freeus on June 7, 2009 at 1:45 PM

“Well, I have obtained confirmation that publius really is a lawyer. Color me surprised!” He didn’t have to name him.

aero on June 7, 2009 at 1:37 PM

Now that we know that he is a lawyer, the next step is to determine what kind of crackpot lawyer he is. Can’t do that without a name. And Whalen can’t back up his opinions without a name. Seriously, I can’t get excited about what the left does all the time. Did Blevins ever object when leftys were exposing rightys? How about those who revealed the names of those who donated to Prop 8? Don’t know but I doubt it.

There’s really no need to out someone, unless you’re looking to cause them personal harm in some way, like ruin their careers or relationships.

12thMonkey on June 7, 2009 at 1:37 PM

Oh, but its’ okay for anonymous blogger to cause others
harm?

I am sure that everybody that knows Blevins personally, professinally, and at his job is aware that he is a total leftard. What he is trying to protect is the fact that he is a total a-hole, too.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:46 PM

Is there ever a time when one blogger should tear away another’s anonymity?

Yes. If there is good reason to believe that the person is going to commit a serious crime if they are allowed to stay anonymous. Other than that, shear pettiness would be about the only reason.

MB4 on June 7, 2009 at 1:46 PM

When you attack someone by name, you name yourself — we are not in revolutionary times where the original Publius could go appropriately unnamed.

Yes.

But the response to unnamed attacks should be to ignore them.

Again, easy for me to say; my reputation wasn’t being smeared.

SteveMG on June 7, 2009 at 1:48 PM

I think most of you who want to kick Ed to the curb would feel differently if it was your ox getting gored repeatedly and publicly.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:31 PM

Put your damn name to your words like a man. If you don’t want to stand behind your principles in public then shut the hell up.

Dritanian on June 7, 2009 at 1:38 PM

Exactly. People who want to be able to publicly smear someone by name but have their own identities cloaked in anonymity are hypocritical cowards. They have no care for the reputations of others, yet theirs are to be held sacred? Their own behavior toward others should be the barometer for how they are treated.

DrMagnolias on June 7, 2009 at 1:48 PM

It has been my experience that cowards hide behind anonymity.

Snooper on June 7, 2009 at 1:42 PM

I would really like to have my voice heard without my family finding themselves the target of rabid hostility. If it’s just me… fine. I’ll deal with what I have to. But I’m really a coward because I don’t need my sister, or mom or girlfriend, the subject of abuse because of my political opinions?

As I posted above, my little site has been hacked twice, by two different crazies. You’re suggesting I need to have this happen not only to my blog, but at my front door, as well?

Not super keen on that. Let the strength of your ideas stand. No one needs to know who I am. If I make no sense, no one will pay attention to me.

12thMonkey on June 7, 2009 at 1:49 PM

There is no real anonymity on the net. Just about everything leaves a trail. You can try to hide. It just depends on how much time and effort somebody wants to go to to find you.

I’d bet most of us are already on a list for posting here. Think about that.

trigon on June 7, 2009 at 1:50 PM

Whelan made a mistake. Under the circumstances, it seems somewhere between brattish and dishonorable.

petefrt on June 7, 2009 at 1:50 PM

Liberal bloggers have nothing to fear from having their identities known. They are merely parroting the lines that the mainstream media, to one degree or another, are already saying. Conservative bloggers, on the other hand, because they say thing that are politically incorrect, can be blacklisted in society. And a guy who calls himself allahpundit, runs the risk of being killed.

So liberal bloggers have no valid reason to be anonymous. Right wing bloggers do.

keep the change on June 7, 2009 at 1:51 PM

When is it OK to “out” anonymous bloggers?

I’d say when they commit a serious crime AND NOTHING MORE.

Slander? Don’t we all?

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 1:51 PM

Conservative bloggers, on the other hand, because they say thing that are politically incorrect, can be blacklisted in society. And a guy who calls himself allahpundit, runs the risk of being killed.

keep the change on June 7, 2009 at 1:51 PM

Yes, agreed. One wonders how many outed Righty Bloggers would be black listed…

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 1:52 PM

One bane of the Internet is the anonymous blogger who abuses his anonymity to engage in irresponsible attacks.

This is so, shall I say irresponsible, as who is to say definitively what is irresponsible? What divine being?

Plus, if what one person says is so irresponsible, it should be rather easy to counter that person’s arguments. If the message is so irresponsible then it should be no more or less irresponsible regardless of who said it.

MB4 on June 7, 2009 at 1:53 PM

On a bit of a tangent, this whole anonymity thing has been, lately, bubbling in the right blogosphere. I have been shocked at the number of alleged conservatives who have taken a stance against anonmity, for the dumbest of reasons.

Powerline recently decided that they could no longer tolerate any anonymous postings at their site (as if one can know if a posted “name” is real, anyway). They made all sorts of moronic arguments that were immediately rendered moot by the fact that they were moderating all future comments (which kills the whole “civility” issue). But, they pushed on in their ignorance and declared their new line of intellectual barbarism.

I had posted at the Powerline forum for years, since it started, basically, and had written, literally, thousands of posts. The morons at Powerline had decided that they no longer liked their forum, so they just threw it all away. All of that work that I had put in, and it was a lot of work, was just tossed into the trash because some jerk decided that he didn’t care anymore. I come from academia, and while I understand that the posts on Powerline’s forum were their property, I could never imagine that any decent person would treat someone else’s intellectual work with such disregard and such an appalling lack of care. For these intellectual savages to then claim that they were disallowing anonymity was the ultimate insult.

I signed my comment, “progressoverpeace”, as that was the handle used for all of my forum posts, and, needless to say, it didn’t make it through moderation. They just threw that one away, too. I lost all respect for the Powerline crew. It was one of the most pathetic internet displays I had ever seen.

progressoverpeace on June 7, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Ed, did you mean for that poll to be multiple choice?

Seriously, I was (and depending on who you ask, still am) semi-anonymous. Instead of choosing a nickname for a nom de blog, I chose something that would, with very little digging, would tell people who I am. Even though the two names have been linked for quite a while, I keep the shorter one because it’s easier to type.

Like this place, I have a fully-anonymous co-blogger. While Shoebox isn’t anonymous for the same reasons Allahpundit is, he does have his reasons.

As for Whelan, you already said it best – “Truman’s Axiom comes into play here — if a blogger can’t take that kind of heat, he ought to reconsider blogging.”

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Oh, but its’ okay for anonymous blogger to cause others
harm?

I am sure that everybody that knows Blevins personally, professinally, and at his job is aware that he is a total leftard. What he is trying to protect is the fact that he is a total a-hole, too.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:46 PM

How was the anonymous blogger causing Ed Whelan harm? By using bad arguments? By calling him a poopy head?

Skywise on June 7, 2009 at 1:55 PM

Conservative bloggers, on the other hand, because they say thing that are politically incorrect, can be blacklisted in society.

keep the change on June 7, 2009 at 1:51 PM

No. People can be blacklisted for voting republican, belonging to the GOP, or supporting the WOT, period. So, I have no sympathy for this twit Blevins who wants a pass on being an a-hole.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:55 PM

#2 Crime, slander, outing others. It’s better to discount anonymous bloggers than to out them.

I comment anonymously because I’m in a very liberal academic field. Not drinking Dear Leader’s kool-aid might have some repercussions.

rbj on June 7, 2009 at 1:55 PM

Unconvincing.

Professionally, I’ve heard that pre-tenure blogging (particularly on politics) can cause problems.

And yet you decided to blog, particularly about politics? Uhm, actions have consequences.

I also believe that the classroom should be as nonpolitical as possible – and I don’t want conservative students to feel uncomfortable before they take a single class based on my posts.

Oh come on. If you are a law school professor, students assume you are liberal unless you have a reputation as an eeevil, backward conservative. If I’d’ve felt intimidated by taking classes from liberal professors, I’d’ve felt intimidated for 3 straight years. And law students aren’t exactly shrinking violets.

Also, I write and research on telecom policy – and I consider blogging and academic research separate endeavors.

Seems to be a non sequitur.

Privately, I don’t write under my own name for family reasons. I’m from a conservative Southern family – and there are certain family members who I’d prefer not to know about this blog (thanks Ed). Also, I have family members who are well known in my home state who have had political jobs with Republicans, and I don’t want my posts to jeopardize anything for them (thanks again).

Republicans aren’t quite as zealous at enforcing strict ideological requirements as Democrats/liberals. I find it hard to believe your family members would suffer because of your blogging. Even if they would, you knew this, and yet you decided to blog anyway. It could jeopardize you professionally, it could hurt your family members, and yet you did it anyway.

If blogging could have negative consequences for you, and you do it anyway, and you do it anonymously, don’t abuse your anonymity, and don’t do things that would make others want to “out” you.

Like be a jackass.

misterpeasea on June 7, 2009 at 1:56 PM

Ed seems to have fallen into the liberal mindset by taking the quick and easy way out.
Humiliate or expose your adversary.
This creates a climate of fear and fear will ultimately repress free thought and free expression.

Those who abuse the freedom will wither on their own. But this move does more long term damage than we may admit.

katy on June 7, 2009 at 1:57 PM

Oh, but its’ okay for anonymous blogger to cause others
harm?

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:46 PM

What do you mean by “cause others harm?”

The only people who should be worried by anonymous attacks are people who can’t defnd themselves with reason and logic.

If someone is “biting your ankles”, go and defend yourself. The fellow who had his ankles bitten had his own blog… he wasn’t voiceless.

The blogger was being called a “legal hitman.” Doesn’t exactly seem like something to thrown down the gauntlet about. If you can’t find some way to defend yourself from criticism like that, maybe you should reconsider voicing your opinion in a public forum in the first place.

12thMonkey on June 7, 2009 at 1:57 PM

if a blogger can’t take that kind of heat, he ought to reconsider blogging.”

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Tell that to Blevins!

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:57 PM

progressoverpeace on June 7, 2009 at 1:53 PM

You should ask them for a database dump at least of your own posts. It’s the least they could do. You might also still be able to retrieve them by other means.

CK MacLeod on June 7, 2009 at 1:59 PM

No. People can be blacklisted for voting republican, belonging to the GOP, or supporting the WOT, period. So, I have no sympathy for this twit Blevins who wants a pass on being an a-hole.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:55 PM

But a supporter of the Right may not have much documentation of this. Further, they if they don’t write anything, the only threat they are to the left is as a voter. What if a Righty made some good arguments and then the left (in an attempt to silence said blogger) exposed them and this meant they would not be tenured or what have you?

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Uh, this isn’t a squabble over a one time post, folks. It’s been an ongoing thing.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:00 PM

katy on June 7, 2009 at 1:28 PM

Your reasoning was somewhat similar to my own.

Also, since blogs are international, in which jurisdiction is it determined that a ‘crime’ has or hasn’t occurred?

If somebody is concerned that a crime has occurred then let give their accusation and testimony to a police officer.

The onus however is really on bloggers … to make sure that they keep their online identity and offline identity completely detached so that other people can’t reveal their offline identity on a whim.

YiZhangZhe on June 7, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Ed

Rick: To point out that almost any blogger has experienced much, much worse (and dished it out accordingly) would be to mention the obvious to anyone who has spent more than an hour reading blogs.

True Dat

Dr Evil on June 7, 2009 at 2:01 PM

I have more respect for bloggers who put there real name in the byline.
It is very easy to do to much e-sniping when you are anoymous, on the other hand you proably get a more honest debate about issues anoymously if you just moderate the personal attacks that is.
We can see it at work in the comments section and I’m to blame as well.
It is way to easy to just say anything when nobody knows who you are. It would put a damper on trolls as well if you had to put your name on your post.
I’m torn over the subject really, free debate vs me to ism.
The subject at hand should be the topic but in the world we live in when logic fail try character assaination seem to be the in thing.

kangjie on June 7, 2009 at 2:01 PM

I would “out” bloggers if it’s necessary to expose a conflict of interest. To recall a situation before blogs existed: A highly placed Microsoft employee used to troll the forums on Compuserve under a fake name, masquerading as an unsatisfied IBM customer in order to damage IBM’s reputation. That is the kind of person I would “out.”

Daggett on June 7, 2009 at 2:01 PM

Just a small nit to pick but if Moran is going to weigh in shouldn’t he at least know the names of the parties he is weighing in about?

Sue on June 7, 2009 at 2:01 PM

Those who abuse the freedom will wither on their own. But this move does more long term damage than we may admit.

katy on June 7, 2009 at 1:57 PM

Correct.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:01 PM

The problem is when an anonymous blogger “breaks the fourth wall” and allows its readers to take away the impression that they are more than just some dude with an opinion–such as the “impression” that the anonymous blogger is some sort of insider with special access to things not known by the general public. In Alaska, the “Mudflats” blogger got outed by another Democrat as just a Democrat with an opinion—which blunted a lot of Mudflats’s criticism of Sarah Palin once it became clear Mudflats wasn’t privy to anything beyond what you could read in a newspaper.

In the late 1990s, as the satanic ritual abuse myth was finally being completely debunked by the likes of Elizabeth Loftus, an anonymous critic named “Curiojones” popped up. This Curiojones person seemed to know a lot about the inner workings of child protection work, and left a lot of people with the impression these charges were still being taken seriously. Targets of hers, like Dr Loftus and an actual Satanist (but not a ritual abuser) named Michael Aquino, had to contend with protesters, and having their personal and professional lives under a cloud of suspicion.

Then in 2000, it was revealed who Curiojones was—a former child protection caseworker (as in too former to be up on anything like a current investigation) named Diana Napolis, who would later make headlines by stalking Jennifer Love Hewitt and Steven Spielberg.

It took “outing” Napolis before a clue began to sink in with the SRA believers who were hounding SRA critics armed with the “information” Napolis was sending out.

So my line on when to “out” an anonymous blogger is when the anonymous blogger is using anonymity to charge his or her criticism with the implication of “inside information.”

Sekhmet on June 7, 2009 at 2:02 PM

I am torn. I feel that someone who wishes to remain anonymous should have that wish respected. However, I also feel it is wrong to behave boorishly but hide behind a mask.

I’ve been finding more and more that anonymity seems to produce high levels of incivility. And I do not think that incivility should be excused or ignored. If a person behaves the oaf, call them on it. If they are not forthright with their identity, courtesy would seem to demand at least one attempt at allowing them to improve their behavior while masking their identity. But if that does not correct the issue, how else is the rude scoundrel to be chastised but to be made public?

And the fact that I am posting this behind a pseudonym is not lost on me.

OBQuiet on June 7, 2009 at 2:02 PM

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 1:53 PM

But what about Ed Whelan’s situation: He is not anonomous. He posted on NRO, which does not accept anonomous comments. He’s being attacked personally on a third party site by a law professor seeking to undermine him. If Ed W. does not find this a “fair” aspect of the blogosphere’s mores, he is to shut up by either (1) “reconsider[ing] blogging” or (2) keeping quiet about his detractor’s identity? Odd deal.

clorensen on June 7, 2009 at 2:02 PM

Tell that to Blevins!

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 1:57 PM

When you give me your last name, hometown, and blog address, I’ll take you seriously. Until then, don’t bother.

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 2:03 PM

clorensen on June 7, 2009 at 2:02 PM

See my comment to “Blake”.

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 2:04 PM

You should ask them for a database dump at least of your own posts. It’s the least they could do. You might also still be able to retrieve them by other means.

CK MacLeod on June 7, 2009 at 1:59 PM

Yeah, I was thinking of that. I don’t think they’ll do it, though. Too much work, you know. They could have just closed the forum, but left it up, at least for a while.

And it wasn’t the first time they’ve pulled this sort of stunt. Earlier, after I had stopped posting there, I heard that they had just erased all postings that were older than 2008, or some other date.

Things seemed to really change at Powerline after one of the principals put up a thread about stopping anonymity in the forum and pretty much all of the posters disagreed with him. It was all a shame, because there was a very good set of posters in that forum.

progressoverpeace on June 7, 2009 at 2:05 PM

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 2:03 PM

There is a difference, though, between the blogger and a commenter.

DrMagnolias on June 7, 2009 at 2:05 PM

When you give me your last name, hometown, and blog address, I’ll take you seriously. Until then, don’t bother.

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 2:03 PM

And if I ever give a $hite what you think of me, I will! Until then, you don’t bother.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:06 PM

My question would be, “Are you credible if you blog anonymously?’ And my answer would be, “No.”

If you don’t want to sign your name to it, don’t put it out on the internet and purport to be a respectable source. And as much as I enjoy Allaphpundit, I find the fact that someone of Michelle Malkin’s caliber employs an anonymous blogger to be rather a professional disgrace.

I’m just sayin’.

BigD on June 7, 2009 at 2:07 PM

See my comment to “Blake”.

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 2:04 PM

See my comment to “You”.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:08 PM

Rather than worrying about the identity of bloggers, perhaps it would be better to use the anonymity issue to teach people how to verify information and how to ask questions that would test the information offered and evaluate its worth.

‘Anonymous sources’ are nothing new. Journalists, authors and politicians have been using them for years. The only difference that blogging brings is that now everybody can have an audience.

Let the problem become an education that leads to better debate.

YiZhangZhe on June 7, 2009 at 2:09 PM

Put your damn name to your words like a man. If you don’t want to stand behind your principles in public then shut the hell up.

Dritanian on June 7, 2009 at 1:38 PM

Agree.

Connie on June 7, 2009 at 2:09 PM

My question would be, “Are you credible if you blog anonymously?’ And my answer would be, “No.”

If you don’t want to sign your name to it, don’t put it out on the internet and purport to be a respectable source. And as much as I enjoy Allaphpundit, I find the fact that someone of Michelle Malkin’s caliber employs an anonymous blogger to be rather a professional disgrace.

I’m just sayin’.

BigD on June 7, 2009 at 2:07 PM

True… One tends to trust the non-anonymous blogger; however, shouldn’t the blogger’s words, arguments, and if you will, actions speak for themselves?

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:09 PM

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:06 PM

Believe me, I won’t.

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 2:10 PM

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 2:04 PM

Why post/read comments?
1.Lorensen
Charleston WV
None

clorensen on June 7, 2009 at 2:10 PM

Let the problem become an education that leads to better debate.

YiZhangZhe on June 7, 2009 at 2:09 PM

Exactly.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:10 PM

I will worry about out anonymous bloggers and/or commenters when the “legitimate” media stops using anonymous sources at the White House, the State Department, the Congressman/Senator’s office, etc. etc. etc. If Mr. Whelan wants to out somebody then how about these sources that the country actually bases decisions on, not somebody who hurt his feelings.

Cindy Munford on June 7, 2009 at 2:10 PM

Ed Whalen’s outing of Publius was not done for the greater common good, but for the most personal and vindictive purposes. But my criticism goes beyond the impact Mr. Whalen’s actions may have on his target. Has anyone considered the impact this highly publicized and vindictive outing might have on other anonymous bloggers?

I don’t want people feeling a need to restrict their contacts with others on line, their internet surfing for research or pleasure, or their postings, because they fear having their identities exposed simply because someone doesn’t like what they write. In some cases, anonymity is far more than just a ploy or even a convenience, but a necessary means of protecting property and life.

At the moment, I’m thinking of every person who posts here anonymously, and especially Allahpundit.

Thanks Ed, for defending our anonymity.

Loxodonta on June 7, 2009 at 2:11 PM

I had to shut down my you tube page because another you tube user posted my address on radical islamists sites.

There is “embarassing” and then there is flat out dangerous. If the poster or blogger wants to remain undercover, then that should be thier choice. To me, outing bloggers or posters is a clear violation of privacy because you simply don’t know why they don’t use thier real name.

sonofdy on June 7, 2009 at 2:13 PM

misterpeasea on June 7, 2009 at 1:56 PM

Thanks for composing the post I was mulling over.

Publius mentioned previously practicing law and noted the effect that knowledge of his blogging would have on his clients. So what? Lawyers deal with two general conflicts all the time. One type includes all forms of conflicts of interest that should preclude the lawyer from accepting an engagement. A second type includes “positional” conflicts. In this second category, lawyers and law firms must keep in mind that it’s not a wise idea to advocate a certain position because it may alienate certain clients. For example, an insurance defense firm that serves as local counsel for some auto insurance companies isn’t going to be likely to accept plaintiffs’ cases against insurers that the firm doesn’t currently represent. So, in that regard, I don’t buy Publius’s argument.

Also, his whining about repercussions for family members is unpersuasive. Only the Left hunts down contributor lists to undertake protests at homes–see Proposition 8 and ACORN.

Finally, he’s probably a hero in academia for the stances he takes. What’s the fallout?

Our primary example is AP. He blogs responsibly–no problem. From what I’ve seen, Publius abused his anonymity. In that case, if he could be found out, no problem here.

BuckeyeSam on June 7, 2009 at 2:13 PM

Loxodonta on June 7, 2009 at 2:11 PM

Oh, and if I may add… we are all concerned (not really joking) that if AP was not anonymous, then Strangelet would track him down.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:13 PM

And the fact that I am posting this behind a pseudonym is not lost on me.

OBQuiet on June 7, 2009 at 2:02 PM

Exactly. Your own reasonable anonymous post is evidence against your own argument. Most of us are using pseudonymns quite openly yet we manage to have polite and reasonable discussions here at HotAir.

Anonymity isn’t really the issue.

YiZhangZhe on June 7, 2009 at 2:13 PM

It’s been a good run, but because of “Blake”, I’m out of here. Ed, AP; please delete my account.

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 2:14 PM

I do not use my real name here or anywhere else on the internet because I’m embroiled in a (seemingly) infinitely long legal dispute and do not wish to further muddy the water for myself or my family.

I do have opinions however, and as long as it’s still legal to use anonymity on the internet (how ya gonna stop it?) I intend to do so…at least until this lawsuit is over and done with.

I admit though, that I do call people names some times, although deservedly in my opinion, but when someone points out that I’m wrong (at least on my blog) I admit it and fix the problem. I don’t approve of liable, but I also don’t think saying things like zerobama is a socialist, communist, marxist, fascist scumbag is liabelous. I think it’s the truth and I dare him to prove otherwise when his actions to date have only reinforced my opinion.

As to when an anonymous blogger should be outed, yeah, when they commit a crime somehow, either by directly perpetrating the crime or inciting someone to do so. Otherwise let it be. The people most bothered by it aren’t conservatives, most often it’s liberals getting called on their B.S. that get upset because they don’t know who to practice their art of personal destruction on.

Spiritk9 on June 7, 2009 at 2:14 PM

BigD on June 7, 2009 at 2:07 PM

Allah doesn’t represent himself as anything but a dude with an opinion. His criticisms of the 0bama Administration or Sarah Palin come as a moderately conservative guy with a blogging gig—no implications that he has even seen 0bama or Palin in real life, much less served on their staffs or something like that.

Sekhmet on June 7, 2009 at 2:15 PM

Let the blogosphere regulate its own. That is the beauty of it we have all enjoyed and profited from for years.
Especially in politics.
This will get ugly if we let regulations and fear into the mix.

We’ve completely lost any sense of personal responsibility that comes with freedom.
We’re free to post anonymously but with that freedom comes a duty to be our best.
We need to learn to police ourselves or eventually the Government will do it for us.

That… will be the end of the internet as we’ve know it.

katy on June 7, 2009 at 2:15 PM

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 2:14 PM

Huh?

progressoverpeace on June 7, 2009 at 2:17 PM

It has been my experience that cowards hide behind anonymity.

Snooper on June 7, 2009 at 1:42 PM

Is it preferable for someone to hide behind, in the sense of being shielded by, fame or money or power? Like say a Sean Peen or Chris Matthews?

MB4 on June 7, 2009 at 2:17 PM

There is a difference, though, between the blogger and a commenter.

DrMagnolias on June 7, 2009 at 2:05 PM

Not according to Bill O’Reilly

katy on June 7, 2009 at 2:17 PM

katy on June 7, 2009 at 2:15 PM

+1

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:17 PM

I think Allahpundit has better reasons than anyone to remain anonymous, the main one being that he would be a target for head removal.

Also, he’s not anonymous to the people he works for or entirely throughout the blogoshpere, has a reputation to maintain, and blogs with a level though sometimes disagreed-with head. I would like it to stay attached to his shoulders. There is little he writes I wouldn’t attach my own name to if I could get away with it.

The only disgusting thing he has ever posted, I my opinion, was a picture of sandwich. Or sandwiches.

SarahW on June 7, 2009 at 2:18 PM

It’s been a good run, but because of “Blake”, I’m out of here. Ed, AP; please delete my account.

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 2:14 PM

Why do people feel the need to stomp off in anger on the internet? Just leave already. You accomplish the same thing without the fanfare. Unless you wanted the fanfare.

Sue on June 7, 2009 at 2:18 PM

It’s been a good run, but because of “Blake”, I’m out of here. Ed, AP; please delete my account.

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 2:14 PM

Hahahahah!

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM

Not according to Bill O’Reilly

katy on June 7, 2009 at 2:17 PM

:) For the record, I don’t like anonymous commenters behaving badly, either.

DrMagnolias on June 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM

I think we can all see the difference between:

I plan to kill politician X

and

Politician X is a idiot and needs to be impeached.

These days X is just about everyone in the beltway.

sonofdy on June 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM

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