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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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

The only issue I have with Allahpundit is his anonymity. I think it affects the site’s credibility.

BigD on June 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM

It has been my experience that cowards hide behind anonymity.

Snooper on June 7, 2009 at 1:42 PM

And many revel in public displays of their cowardice and stupidity, like The Precedent, to name but one example. Anonymity is not the problem and name calling is a joke.

progressoverpeace on June 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM

Blevins does not have a leg to stand on. If you want to post anonymously then you should not attack other people by name.

He got what he deserved.

gh on June 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM

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 Southerns have crazy relations, we don’t usually hold it against each other.

Cindy Munford on June 7, 2009 at 2:20 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

Don’t be a sissy

DarkCurrent on June 7, 2009 at 2:20 PM

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

Bingo. Now if you had a TV network, like say NBC, then of course, you could make no sense and still be payed attention too.

MB4 on June 7, 2009 at 2:21 PM

At least Rick Moran publicly admitted he was think-skinned. That’s a good takeaway.

BigD on June 7, 2009 at 2:23 PM

Ed, that photo, I didn’t realize that Allah had such pretty nails.

Limerick on June 7, 2009 at 2:23 PM

The only issue I have with Allahpundit is his anonymity. I think it affects the site’s credibility.

BigD on June 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM

The chicks really dig his mysteriousness.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:23 PM

Ed, that photo, I didn’t realize that Allah had such pretty nails.

Limerick on June 7, 2009 at 2:23 PM

He is a cat guy, right?

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:24 PM

steveegg on June 7, 2009 at 2:14 PM

There’s another option incase your interested.
You can….. ignor him.

Many people do…

katy on June 7, 2009 at 2:24 PM

I wish that Al Gore had been doing all of his global warming idiocy under a pseudonym. It was Gore’s standing as an ex-VP that helped give weight to his moronic arguments among the left and many who hold power.

Sometimes anonymity helps in that it leaves the debate to its own merits instead of piggybacking on the reputation of the debater.

I prefer debates that have no real names invovled, at all. Those are the truest debates possible.

progressoverpeace on June 7, 2009 at 2:24 PM

Who knew there were so many adult cry babies out there. If you want to say something, man-up, geesh.

BobH on June 7, 2009 at 2:25 PM

Many people do…

katy on June 7, 2009 at 2:24 PM

Unfortunately, not as many as I would like…

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:25 PM

My mind says that outing bloggers is wrong, but my heart thinks of a few general truths:

1. Speaking your mind carries some risk. As Allah put it so gracefully, criticism is as protected as any other speech.

2. Sniping against someone, written or otherwise, is sure to draw some fire back in your own direction.

3. I’m guessing that this “publius” fellow has never shed a single tear over any academic who was ostracized or denied tenure because of having conservative political beliefs and don’t even blog. So, tough shinola. Deal with it.

4. Having political beliefs that are polar opposite from anyone else in your family is not some great burden. I enjoy it very much myself.

Slaps on the wrist all around, and maybe the formerly anonymous blogger can let his liberal friends know a little something about the barrier between public and private life (paging Andrew Sullivan) and what kind of damage a little information can do.

KingGold on June 7, 2009 at 2:25 PM

I’m losing interest in blogs. I used to love them but they’re becoming truly ugly, I mean porn-ugly. I’m starting to cringe when I read them.

There has to be something more to politics than this “sportification” of the whole thing. Treating current events in play by play fashion with heroes and villains, fanning flames of hate. It’s losing its — dare I say — it’s losing its enchantment.

jeff_from_mpls on June 7, 2009 at 2:26 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

Jeez, I hate people who do this kind of crap on blogs, and believe me they’re everywhere too. Attention whores, all of them.

Oh poor me, someone is bashing me on a blog and I’m going stomp off with my toys and leave so I can hope that everyone will beg me to stay cause I’m so beloved and so important.

Get a grip, get a life and don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.

Knucklehead on June 7, 2009 at 2:26 PM

Ed, that photo, I didn’t realize that Allah had such pretty nails.

Limerick on June 7, 2009 at 2:23 PM
He is a cat guy, right?

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:24 PM

It really does prove that AllahP lives the life of a monk.

William Amos on June 7, 2009 at 2:26 PM

Unfortunately, not as many as I would like…

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:25 PM

Heh.

progressoverpeace on June 7, 2009 at 2:26 PM

The outing of anonymous bloggers is kind of like the arrest and detention of enemy spies. Whether or not it is dirty pool is less relevant than the fact that it’s part of the game.

Sekhmet on June 7, 2009 at 2:27 PM

Ed, that photo, I didn’t realize that Allah had such pretty nails.

Limerick on June 7, 2009 at 2:23 PM

Envy is so unattractive.

Loxodonta on June 7, 2009 at 2:27 PM

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

We already have all your names and addresses and are currently using a good part of all that stimulus money to build more reeducation camps to house you all.

DasObamaReich on June 7, 2009 at 2:27 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

They might strike up a romance. Their cats might even get along. It could be fondly remembered for many years the best day of both of their lives ;-)

DarkCurrent on June 7, 2009 at 2:27 PM

I prefer debates that have no real names invovled, at all. Those are the truest debates possible.

progressoverpeace on June 7, 2009 at 2:24 PM

And this is why it would be in Barry’s interest to regulate blogs…

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:27 PM

Oh poor me, someone is bashing me on a blog and I’m going stomp off with my toys

Knucklehead on June 7, 2009 at 2:26 PM

Steve’s a good guy. He’s been around awhile and I’ve always found him to be a thoughtful guy. Cut him some slack. It’s not a character fault to expect others to treat you with respect.

jeff_from_mpls on June 7, 2009 at 2:27 PM

The only issue I have with Allahpundit is his anonymity. I think it affects the site’s credibility.

BigD on June 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM

The chicks really dig his mysteriousness.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:23 PM

But seriously, wasn’t AP complaining last seek or thereabouts that HotAir didn’t make some lists of influential political blogs? How do you become influential and remain anonymous, unless you’re the Scarlet Pimpernel?

BigD on June 7, 2009 at 2:28 PM

Get a grip, get a life and don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.

Knucklehead on June 7, 2009 at 2:26 PM

It would be quite funny if Ed, Allah granted his wish.

Sue on June 7, 2009 at 2:29 PM

Knucklehead on June 7, 2009 at 2:26 PM

For the record, I didn’t even bash him. I just turned his comments directed at me back on him.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:29 PM

Lefties have been slandering everyone to their right since Goldwater and possibly before. Outing a lefty is a public service, especially if it causes them personal problems. For those on the right who still want to fight by the Marquees of Queensberry rules while the left is either playing by the “rules” of the WWE ( or maybe the Mafia ), I am sorry. You’ve lost this battle. No liberal has any ethical standards whatsoever. They believe you’re a fascist if not worse and destroying you is justified regardless of who you are. I’ll cry for Blevins when Obsidian Wings stops slandering conservatives and issues apologies for their previous lies.

Blevins can whine all he wants. He chose to publish controversial views behind a shield of anonymity and like a back fence gossip blames the person he slandered when he got caught. He has had no compunction for the families of conservatives he has attacked. If he’s ashamed of his views, he can shut up.

kghahn on June 7, 2009 at 2:29 PM

They might strike up a romance. Their cats might even get along. It could be fondly remembered for many years the best day of both of their lives ;-)

DarkCurrent on June 7, 2009 at 2:27 PM

I would like to think that AP’s mental capacity is a lot higher than Strange’s… Therefore, I find it hard that they could possibly have fun together… BUT MAYBE… Only one way to find out.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:30 PM

Hahahahah!

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM

Nice work, and you made it look so easy!

Now what about Grow Fins and the rest of the remnant troll population?

DarkCurrent on June 7, 2009 at 2:31 PM

But seriously, wasn’t AP complaining last seek or thereabouts that HotAir didn’t make some lists of influential political blogs? How do you become influential and remain anonymous, unless you’re the Scarlet Pimpernel?

BigD on June 7, 2009 at 2:28 PM

But the list was based on the number of links to a blog. It didn’t make any sense. Especially, since a number of bloggers on the list are regular commenters. And look how many times HotAir has been mentioned on talkradio.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:33 PM

katy on June 7, 2009 at 1:28 PM

I understand where you’re coming from, but I’m thinking more of crimes like murder.

Ryan Gandy on June 7, 2009 at 2:33 PM

If Theo Van Gogh had been a little more anonymous his body might be a little more alive.

Sometimes, for theo-political [sic] reasons, discretion is the better part of valor.

And more effective to stay breathing in order to keep commenting.

profitsbeard on June 7, 2009 at 2:33 PM

Whenever you are online you are never “anonymous”. When you are online do not expect anonymity.

However, “outing” someone, in a manner in which would bring harm (physically, fiscally, etc.), is harming them. Is being a party to that harm a crime? When does it become a crime? Are you liable for any damages from such activities?

These are all great questions of the Internet. You don’t have to be “civil” on the Internet. But, you do have to CYA.

DSCH on June 7, 2009 at 2:33 PM

I would vote for “Whenever you feel like it.”

It’s only professional (such as it is) courtesy, and I brook no particular right to anonymity.

My second reiteration (or third iteration) is to quote Axl Rose:

You know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby!

fronclynne on June 7, 2009 at 2:34 PM

I would like to think that AP’s mental capacity is a lot higher than Strange’s… Therefore, I find it hard that they could possibly have fun together… BUT MAYBE… Only one way to find out.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:30 PM

True love is never about the intellect.
The biggest obstacle is that Strangelet is a thin brunette.

DarkCurrent on June 7, 2009 at 2:34 PM

True love is never about the intellect.
The biggest obstacle is that Strangelet is a thin brunette.

DarkCurrent on June 7, 2009 at 2:34 PM

She could wear a wig and a fat suit…

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:35 PM

Steve’s a good guy. He’s been around awhile and I’ve always found him to be a thoughtful guy. Cut him some slack. It’s not a character fault to expect others to treat you with respect.

jeff_from_mpls on June 7, 2009 at 2:27 PM

Cut him some slack? Give me a break, he’ll be back in a couple of days just like nothing happened. They all do, they can’t help themselves.

If someone wants to “leave” why not just send Ed or AP an e-mail instead of posting it for all to see?

Knucklehead on June 7, 2009 at 2:35 PM

The only issue I have with Allahpundit is his anonymity. I think it affects the site’s credibility.

BigD on June 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM

But Bill Clinton can’t let Dems know what he really thinks about the current mess.

The chicks really dig his mysteriousness.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:23 PM

And Clinton says, “You know it!”

BuckeyeSam on June 7, 2009 at 2:35 PM

DarkCurrent on June 7, 2009 at 2:34 PM

aw hell, I’m all right with thin brunettes, if AP doesn’t hit it off send her to Tennessee. :P

Ryan Gandy on June 7, 2009 at 2:35 PM

In general I think people should be allowed the shield of anonymity if they desire, but I’m not exactly upset about it.

The Left has been doing this sort of thing for a while now.
As I’ve said before the only way we are likely to get the Left to change its behavior is to treat them like they treat us. Certainly from a philosophical perspective, liberalism is a very ends driven philosophy.

On a related now, what did this “publius” think of the Left’s repeated “outings” of various sorts targeted against conservatives?

18-1 on June 7, 2009 at 2:35 PM

On the one hand, Whelan made himself look petty, since “publius’” anonymity had nothing to do with the arguments at hand. On the other hand, if Whelan suffers in any way because of this, then it inspires hope in ankle-biting leftards everywhere that if they just get a little bit more viciously hyperpartisan and ad hominem, they’ll drag the intelligent people down to their level. So, much like the Iran-Iraq War or the McCain-Obama election, all I can do is hope that both sides lose without the other side winning.

Fabozz on June 7, 2009 at 2:36 PM

I would like to think that AP’s mental capacity is a lot higher than Strange’s… Therefore, I find it hard that they could possibly have fun together… BUT MAYBE… Only one way to find out.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:30 PM

Throw them in a room alone together and see if they mate?

Nice work, and you made it look so easy!

Now what about Grow Fins and the rest of the remnant troll population?

DarkCurrent on June 7, 2009 at 2:31 PM

He did all the work. I am sure he hasn’t really left. Just cooling off. For Grow Fins I’ll have to pray for Ed’s divine intercession.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:36 PM

Anonymous bloggers (and ex-bloggers) suck.

Seriously, if you don’t know one of the major reasons Allah keeps his identity under wraps, you obviously haven’t read his former blog “Allah is in the House.” Fatwa, anyone?

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on June 7, 2009 at 2:37 PM

But the list was based on the number of links to a blog. It didn’t make any sense. Especially, since a number of bloggers on the list are regular commenters. And look how many times HotAir has been mentioned on talkradio.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:33 PM

Okay, let’s just say I think anonymity on the part of one who wants to be regarded as a credible blogger is weak.

I mean, HotAir knows who we all are. They could be subpoenaed one day. I try to keep that in mind when writing my comments.

BigD on June 7, 2009 at 2:37 PM

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.

progressoverpeace on June 7, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Have you tried a site search to retrieve it?

In yahoo.com or google.com -

site:powerlineblog.com progressoverpeace (or whatever name you commented under)

MB4 on June 7, 2009 at 2:37 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

Actually that gets to the crux of this whole “outing” question. It isn’t so much what the outer did as it is what others may also do with the information. I know of a couple of forums where people were stalked to their homes because they were outed by some idiot over disagreements on issues and then, like the ACORN nuts with AIG management, others jumped on the bandwagon and made it their “duty” to toally make this person and their family’s life miserable. I also know of others who were outed and then received threats in letters. So think twice before you “out” someone, as Ed Whelan did, just because you don’t agree, want to be vindictive, or can’t take the heat.

All that said, the internet is not totally anonymous. Most people leave hints and clues that someone, with an axe to grind or an obsession, could use to find out the identity of an anonymous poster. I’ve seen people post family pics, talk about their work, where they live, etc. So it works both ways, think about what you post. If you aren’t willing to take the chance of exposure…either don’t post, be extremely careful as to any personal info you reveal, or be a lame say nothing PC correct commenter.(Last one is a non-choice..LOL)
Whelan was wrong to carry it so far and Blevins was wrong in posting provocative comments if he had to worry about the response.

Deanna on June 7, 2009 at 2:38 PM

So, everybody taking the Ed’s side will do so under their real name, with their personal address included?

snickelfritz on June 7, 2009 at 2:38 PM

On a related now, what did this “publius” think of the Left’s repeated “outings” of various sorts targeted against conservatives?

18-1 on June 7, 2009 at 2:35 PM

Or how about outings of happily closeted gays and Bill Moyers?

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:38 PM

Deanna on June 7, 2009 at 2:38 PM

Good points.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:40 PM

There has to be something more to politics than this “sportification” of the whole thing. Treating current events in play by play fashion with heroes and villains, fanning flames of hate. It’s losing its — dare I say — it’s losing its enchantment.

jeff_from_mpls on June 7, 2009 at 2:26 PM

People act the way they do because it works. Obama, as the most obvious example, would never have gotten elected Senator, let alone president, had he actually engaged in detailed debate about his political philosophy and what specifically he was planning on doing.

This isn’t exactly new, but the media has successfully created a narrative over the last 8 years where Democrats = heroes, Republicans = villains and they will continue to present the “news” in this fashion until something fundamental changes.

18-1 on June 7, 2009 at 2:41 PM

Not everyone who works for the government is an “official” either. They could be someone who works in a diverse office environment and has to abide by certain rules of conduct. This is especially true for anyone in a position of authority regardless of the type of office.

I use a pseudonym not because I believe my views are offensive, but because pop culture and the media have created an environment where my words are easily misconstrued as being some form of cardinal sin or other against the collective.

On the other hand, I despise the trolls who lurk on blogs of all political and religious leanings. They are such cowards and do nothing but hit-and-run straw man arguments — often with no other intent than to change the topic.

In order keep some degree of accountability and integrity, I came up with a unique screen name the true meaning and origin of which is only apparent to those who have the Wisdom to catch the reference. I am glad that over the years my screen name has inspired exactly zero copycats — though I understand I can never provide a garauntee against some future miscreant from commandeering the good name of StubbleSpark.

Bottom line: some people have very good reasons not associate their ideas with their names. Just like we avoid certain topics of discussion around certain people using pseudonyms properly should be considered just good etiquette.

StubbleSpark on June 7, 2009 at 2:41 PM

Throw them in a room alone together and see if they mate?

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:36 PM

What do you think this is? National Geographic?

Ryan Gandy on June 7, 2009 at 2:41 PM

So, everybody taking the Ed’s side will do so under their real name, with their personal address included?

snickelfritz on June 7, 2009 at 2:38 PM

I can remember when a well intentioned commenter told us its name and hometownvillage. People were having hissy fits for good reasons.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:42 PM

Seriously, if you don’t know one of the major reasons Allah keeps his identity under wraps, you obviously haven’t read his former blog “Allah is in the House.” Fatwa, anyone?

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on June 7, 2009 at 2:37 PM

Allah has really matured and become more thoughtful and serious since then.

Man I miss the old Allah.

misterpeasea on June 7, 2009 at 2:42 PM

Ryan Gandy on June 7, 2009 at 2:33 PM

The circumstances in a murder involving the internet are subject to so many variables but..

If murder was involved over the internet then Law inforcement would be involved. Investigations and an eventual outing of the suspect through proper channels. It would be up to the readers to police it and alert the authorities.

katy on June 7, 2009 at 2:42 PM

Anyone who blogs anonymously –and has any kind of readership– should be expected to be outed. Such a blogger can’t really expect anyone to honor his wish for anonymity. If fear of professional and personal repercussions is that big of a deal, don’t write anything that might have that effect. And Publius’ identity apparently wasn’t that closely guarded a secret anyway because somebody else told Whelan (who wrote that he was “reliably informed” about it).

I guess the lesson here is that if you are going to blog anonymously you better make sure nobody knows who you really are. Because it’s going to get out somehow. Or else have a really good cover identity.

Bennett on June 7, 2009 at 2:42 PM

I understand where you’re coming from, but I’m thinking more of crimes like murder.

Ryan Gandy on June 7, 2009 at 2:33 PM

If an anonymous blogger is suspected of murder, let the police be informed, not the blogosphere. If they are a genuine suspect for the crime the police will find out fast enough, and if they are not then removing their anonymity with the accusation of the crime them has accomplished nothing beyond smearing their character.

YiZhangZhe on June 7, 2009 at 2:43 PM

StubbleSpark on June 7, 2009 at 2:41 PM

As far as the trolls… yes, it is annoying, but they can be deleted, if you will.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:43 PM

Why do people get pleasure from bullying others?

Why do people get pleasure from watching others get bullied?

And which world culture is known for such tactics?

Loxodonta on June 7, 2009 at 2:45 PM

The idea that you can have privacy on the web is idiotic. If someone really wants to find out who you are, they can. Pseudonyms and throw-away-emails just keep the script-kiddies at bay for a while. They give you plausible deny-ability and not much else.
On the other hand, Whelan crossed a line. Nothing will come of it, except a these little tempest on the HTML pages.

Iblis on June 7, 2009 at 2:46 PM

I wonder what we would be saying if we were discussing When is it OK to “out” anonymous Chinese bloggers?

or

When is it OK to “out” anonymous Iranian bloggers?

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:46 PM

Cut him some slack. It’s not a character fault to expect others to treat you with respect.

jeff_from_mpls on June 7, 2009 at 2:27 PM

Nobody treated him disrespectfully or at least no worse than the barbs he was flinging.

What do you think this is? National Geographic?

Ryan Gandy on June 7, 2009 at 2:41 PM

No, the Beijing Zoo. Action cams! AP use to be into pandas mating. Except they don’t. The lady panda is never really into it and the boy panda has “performance” issues.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:47 PM

Why do people get pleasure from bullying others?

Why do people get pleasure from watching others get bullied?

And which world culture is known for such tactics?

Loxodonta on June 7, 2009 at 2:45 PM

We live in a world of sinful beings, if you will.

For you conservative a/Atheists, you can at least agree that man’s motives cannot be trusted all the time.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:48 PM

I wonder what we would be saying if we were discussing When is it OK to “out” anonymous Chinese bloggers?

or

When is it OK to “out” anonymous Iranian bloggers?

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:46 PM

Ask the owners of Google!

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:48 PM

How sadly embarrassing for Mr. Whelan.

Regardless of whether he was right or wrong in the initial argument, the way he handled it smacks of petulance, immaturity, jealousy, and intellectual insecurity.

Pretty pathetic.

Professor Blather on June 7, 2009 at 2:49 PM

Ask the owners of Google!

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:48 PM

Yeah… we know what they think already. We also know whom they voted for (shocka!)

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:50 PM

How sadly embarrassing for Mr. Whelan.

Regardless of whether he was right or wrong in the initial argument, the way he handled it smacks of petulance, immaturity, jealousy, and intellectual insecurity.

Pretty pathetic.

Professor Blather on June 7, 2009 at 2:49 PM

Yes, I’ll be sure to check out his blog… /sarc

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:51 PM

Good points.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:40 PM

Thanks. People think that being anonymous protects them, but it doesn’t. I was on a forum where a poster became so OCD about some of the women posters that he obviously spent hours and days tracking down their posts in several forums to dig up info on them. He then posted, on several sites, their names, addresses, work, etc. with hateful comments about them. A couple of them still fear for their safety, thanks to anonymous letters.

Deanna on June 7, 2009 at 2:51 PM

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:46 PM

Wouldn’t be saying much of anything, personally.

Ryan Gandy on June 7, 2009 at 2:51 PM

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on June 7, 2009 at 2:37 PM

I see you had a blog til January. Who are you?

CWforFreedom on June 7, 2009 at 2:52 PM

Wouldn’t be saying much of anything, personally.

Ryan Gandy on June 7, 2009 at 2:51 PM

So you have no opinion on this?

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:53 PM

I see you had a blog til January. Who are you?

CWforFreedom on June 7, 2009 at 2:52 PM

You forgot the “Where do you live?” ;)

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:54 PM

For you conservative a/Atheists, you can at least agree that man’s motives cannot be trusted all the time.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:48 PM

That’s the first time I’ve been called an atheist in a long time. I’m Catholic, which to some commentators here means I’m not a “real” Christian, but an atheist? Whatever gave you that idea? Or, is your writing or my reading off today?

The reason I mentioned my concern for Allahpundit is because I care about people. Even you!

Loxodonta on June 7, 2009 at 2:54 PM

I prefer debates that have no real names invovled, at all. Those are the truest debates possible.

progressoverpeace on June 7, 2009 at 2:24 PM

Of course, a certain wise Latina would disagree.

MB4 on June 7, 2009 at 2:54 PM

That’s the first time I’ve been called an atheist in a long time. I’m Catholic, which to some commentators here means I’m not a “real” Christian, but an atheist? Whatever gave you that idea? Or, is your writing or my reading off today?

The reason I mentioned my concern for Allahpundit is because I care about people. Even you!

Loxodonta on June 7, 2009 at 2:54 PM

No, no, you misread me.

I know you are Catholic. The first line was directed at you.

The second was directed to people that don’t believe in sin.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:55 PM

Of course, a certain wise Latina would disagree.

MB4 on June 7, 2009 at 2:54 PM

Which would bring her, uhhmm wisdom into question.

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:57 PM

Man I miss the old Allah.

misterpeasea on June 7, 2009 at 2:42 PM

Yes, I wrote an epic poem stating as much, entitled: Where Are the Allahpundits of Yesteryears? Won a Nobel Prize for it, too.

Blake on June 7, 2009 at 2:59 PM

Loxodonta on June 7, 2009 at 2:54 PM

BTW, I’m one of those people, that cringe with some of the “real Christian via denomination” arguments…

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:59 PM

I will go first and announce my true identity to the world.

I am actually the Sultan of Kabula.

Ed Morrissey is really George the Third, and Allahpundit is actually the Queen of Spain.

PercyB on June 7, 2009 at 3:01 PM

posts on this or similar blogs are public statements, so I don’t like the idea of hiding behind fake names. There’s a whiff of cowardice to it: If you don’t want to stand behind what you say to strangers in public, don’t say it

But, I have no problem with continuing the nics, or with anyone who uses one–except for trolls. If someone consistently uses their anonymous non-identity to spew out abuse-seeking insults and lies ( in some cases as a source of income ), this site and others should ban them

This site won’t ban people unless they go bat-sh+t crazy, and they allow debris like crr6 and benny wanker to go on and on with one-liners which hijack numerous threads.

John L. Bradley, posting here as…….

Janos Hunyadi on June 7, 2009 at 3:02 PM

Allahpundit is actually the Queen of Spain.

PercyB on June 7, 2009 at 3:01 PM

Allah, a queen? No!

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 3:03 PM

As someone who comments at Hot Air and chats on the Ed Morrissey Show under a pseudonym, I expect that nobody should ever consider my arguments too seriously, even if I intend to make a serious case. Even though there is a distinction between the man and the argument he is making, how serious can one person be taken if they refuse to present themselves honestly? Regardless of any potential ramifications of having family/coworkers/public know that they are “that” person on the internet. In many respects, anonymity is a form of cowardice. You attack someone else –justifiably or not– and the other person has no way to meet their true opponent.

Look at what anonymity has brought us on the internet. For the worst, there are many number of people who know they are immune from serious repercussions since they are safely within the comforts of their home, so they snipe, and just be complete a-holes in chat rooms, blog sites, etc. because they know they can get away with it. These types are the yellowist of cowards because they would never dare repeat what they post on the internet to people in real life, least they enjoy getting a good beating.

I understand the “freedom = anonymity” argument, but with freedom, comes responsibility. And I think that many who chose to be anonymous neglect the responsibility part. People are certainly free to be anonymous, but where is their responsibility? What is the responsibility of those who wish to remain anonymous?

If one is to be taken seriously on the internet, they need to be honest and upfront of who they are.

- Donald Woods, a.k.a. Weebork

Weebork on June 7, 2009 at 3:06 PM

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:53 PM

That’s not what I said. If we’re debating the definition of “crime” as it relates to American bloggers, everyone in China or Iran would be dead before we finished the first sentence.

Ryan Gandy on June 7, 2009 at 3:07 PM

Ann Althouse weighs in here. She, of course, is a law professor who chooses to blog under her real/professional name but has no problem with Publius opting for a pseudonym. She interprets Whelan’s attack as a case of “you a law professor.”

After reading all the back-and-forth myself, Whelan comes off as peevish and self-righteous, both in his first blog statement yesterday and especially in today’s self-defense. Aside from legitimate exposure of demonstrably damaging criminal behavior, I am against all forms of outing.

Terrie on June 7, 2009 at 3:08 PM

That’s not what I said. If we’re debating the definition of “crime” as it relates to American bloggers, everyone in China or Iran would be dead before we finished the first sentence.

Ryan Gandy on June 7, 2009 at 3:07 PM

Well, I didn’t say anything about crime. Is it “OK?” Especially if we we’re say a non-Chinese citizen outing Chinese citizens…

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 3:09 PM

It really does prove that AllahP lives the life of a monk.

William Amos on June 7, 2009 at 2:26 PM

Is he a hero or a monk
A Nero or a drunk?
Is he robust or very pale?
At least we know he’s male!
Who is Allahpundit?

PercyB on June 7, 2009 at 3:10 PM

Allahpundit is actually the Queen of Spain.

PercyB on June 7, 2009 at 3:01 PM

Allah, a queen? No!

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 3:03 PM

If Allah is a queen, he is a KP-loving lesbian queen trapped in a man’s body.

Terrie on June 7, 2009 at 3:11 PM

I’m one of those people, that cringe with some of the “real Christian via denomination” arguments…

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 2:59 PM

Based on my reading of your posts, that’s what I thought.

This outing business really troubles me. On the Green Room thread, What about the right not to wear head covering?, I wrote about the culture of coercion in which Muslim women live, as well as the liberal coercion that permeates much of the media and academia.

One of the things that should unite all conservatives, and even libertarians, I hope, is that coerced choices are not freed choices. Coercion should have no part in our culture, yet it does so more today than when I was growing up.

I don’t want children being forced to grow up in a jungle dominated by narcissists and bullies.

And I don’t want adults being threatened and intimidated into submission either.

Loxodonta on June 7, 2009 at 3:11 PM

If Allah is a queen, he is a KP-loving lesbian queen trapped in a man’s body.

Terrie on June 7, 2009 at 3:11 PM

Now, that is a very appropriate response…

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 3:12 PM

Exactly. Your own reasonable anonymous post is evidence against your own argument.

YiZhangZhe on June 7, 2009 at 2:13 PM

I’m not sure that follows.

As I said, I have no problem with people, not limited to myself, engaging in polite discussion anonymously. And many people DO manage to maintain a respectful demeanor while posting under a pseudonym. It is when the conversation stops being civil that the the concept of anonymity can server to protect the ones who should be held accountable in public for the cheapening of public discourse.

I am not familiar enough with the postings involved in this specific case to have an opinion one way or or the other. But, if the quality of the analysis and commentary was as low and lacking in reasoning as Mr. Whelan seems to believe, I find the argument that the poster should be protected from professional consequences in this his area of profession rather dubious. Should someone be allowed to escape censure for incompetent work simply by not placing their name on it?

Again, I am not clear on the situation. It could be that the work was posts involved were highly or at least modestly competent and polite but that Mr. Whelan is just thin skinned and not capable of accepting criticism. If that is is the case, I think outing the blogger was probably wrong. I just think that you sacrifice your right to have your anonymity respected when you stop respecting the others in the discussion.

We owe the public square the duty of not letting it be overrun by thugs in masks. Wear a mask if you want. But respect the others there so that they will respect your choice.

And I have no problem with others feeling I set the bar too low. I am open to other views. These are the ones I have now.

OBQuiet on June 7, 2009 at 3:13 PM

According to Google my real name is Nom De Guerre.

But all my friends just call me Procopius.

What risk could there be in composing The Secret History of Mohammad?

^~@):-{>

profitsbeard on June 7, 2009 at 3:13 PM

I don’t want children being forced to grow up in a jungle dominated by narcissists and bullies.

And I don’t want adults being threatened and intimidated into submission either.

Loxodonta on June 7, 2009 at 3:11 PM

I don’t want this either, but what can we do to eliminate this? I think the best thing the individual can do is to encourage those that look up to them (i.e. their children) to respect their [the mentor's] opinion, but in the end make their [the mente's] own decisions (and be responsible for these decisions).

Upstater85 on June 7, 2009 at 3:15 PM

- Donald Woods, a.k.a. Weebork

Weebork on June 7, 2009 at 3:06 PM

You said it about as well as It can be said

…….and I managed a typo in typing my own name: my middle initial is “J”, not “L”. Miss Foltz, my high school typing teacher, would be reaching for her plastic ruler by now if she saw that–although she smacked the desk rather than we ourselves if she saw any dumb typos or any slacking

Janos Hunyadi on June 7, 2009 at 3:16 PM

I think dirt-dishers who throw all kinds of garbage over the transom are fair game. (I have in mind of course anti-Palin bloggers.) If they can dish it out, they should be able to take it.

ddrintn on June 7, 2009 at 3:18 PM

Blake is a hugely insightful blogger with a style that can repel. I learned the hard way. That said, I have come around. Anonymous is better, you can leave what you say here and don’t have to worry about phone calls and mail. People who have written Letters to the Editor can tell you that it can come back to bite you.

Cindy Munford on June 7, 2009 at 3:20 PM

This is almost the only site I post on now, but I used to post on sites where, if the topic were controversial enough, nasty personal insults flew. From that I hope I’ve learned some moderation. Most of the push back Allah gets is basically good natured and obtusely affectionate(how’s that for a NRO sort of remark?)I have no desire to know who he is because it’s more fun guessing and, in many ways, more telling—not of his identity, but of his real identity. I think that’s true of a lot of folks who post here or any where—after a while we get to ‘know’ us better than we all might like?

jeanie on June 7, 2009 at 3:20 PM

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