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.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 5 6 7 8

JetBoy on June 7, 2009 at 10:18 PM

On more than one occasion, I have witnessed someone give a blessing to another person, only to swear at them vilely after they were gone. I suspected you of feeling the same way, as to me you seemed so disrespectful of some with whom you disagree. In that thread, I admitted that I might have been in error in that judgment about you. I hereby retract fully my statement questioning your sincerity and apologize for making it.

I may be remembering wrong, but believe you were one of the first people here I defended. I know I’ve been very stern with you in those Prejean threads, but my anger has solely been with your views, not who you are. I apologize if I got too heated in those arguments, but I swear to you that if I could I would put myself in your place if you were ever threatened with any harm. And, if I post here long enough, will again join in threads defending the right of homosexuals to be treated with respect, as I will do for other groups as well.

But, I confess that I’m tired of such arguments at the moment, and so have not come to the defense of others, including you, when I know I should have. I will try to do better.

Loxodonta on June 7, 2009 at 10:53 PM

dartagnansblade on June 7, 2009 at 10:39 PM

Have you seen how long this thread has been up? Finding new things to say about the topic is tough after almost ten hours. Besides, this is our phone.

Cindy Munford on June 7, 2009 at 10:55 PM

Potfry on June 7, 2009 at 10:42 PM

Welcome.

Cindy Munford on June 7, 2009 at 10:57 PM

He did have a convo with another commenter I won’t name (but sure you know who) whom I have much respect for…but Lox continued to belittle me, as I read through it the next day.

I don’t remember who but I remember he was involved in several different debates.

If Lox did “redeem” himself, it certainly wasn’t to me.

JetBoy on June 7, 2009 at 10:30 PM

I was convinced (in that thread, iirc) that he is generally sincere himself.

I didn’t get the impression that he was belittling you but he wasn’t arguing with me so I can certainly understand that you might feel differently.

gh on June 7, 2009 at 11:02 PM

I dont use my real name, not because I am trying to remain anonymous but because I’m old school.

doriangrey on June 7, 2009 at 8:34 PM

If your handle is “doriangrey,” I’m assuming you must be old, old school.

Dr. Charles G. Waugh on June 7, 2009 at 11:08 PM

I’ve had more than one argument here with a poster with whom I agree mostly or entirely on their political position, but can’t tolerate the contempt they show for a whole group of people. I don’t know if arguing against such hateful attitudes is the correct approach. And sometimes I am simply not up to such an argument, so simply avoid such threads. But I confess that I am intolerant of intolerance and a hate hater.

There’s a new book out, “Snark,” which I really want to read.

It’s just amazing to me what goes on. I’m a big believer that how you act when “no one is looking” is your mirror to your own character.

On-line is a great mirror, huh?

AnninCA on June 7, 2009 at 11:14 PM

Indeed, what part of “By any means necessary” don’t we conservatives understand?

18-1 on June 7, 2009 at 6:52 PM

I wasn’t implying that we conservatives don’t understand the concept. I was *saying* that we need to adopt the same approach and tactics.

Were you absent the day reading and comprehension skills was introduced in school?

mrpeabody on June 7, 2009 at 11:14 PM

At TNOYF, after we coined the phrase “Islamic Rage Boy,” we started to receive some emails that were, shall we say, less than supportive.

So, yeah, I’m a fan of anonymity, but I’m not so naive to believe that some lunatic with extra time on his hands can’t track me down.

That’s why I have my wife start my car each morning.

Potfry on June 7, 2009 at 11:16 PM

Those who have nothing to fear have nothing worth saying.”- Stalin’s late Butler.

profitsbeard on June 7, 2009 at 11:26 PM

You want anonymity? Then shut up and don’t post.

Tim Burton on June 7, 2009 at 11:29 PM

….or blog

Tim Burton on June 7, 2009 at 11:29 PM

AnninCA on June 7, 2009 at 11:14 PM

People, when restrained, act in accordance with what they think will serve them well. Remove said restraints, and they return to their natural behaviour.

OldEnglish on June 7, 2009 at 11:32 PM

That’s why I have my wife start my car each morning.

Potfry on June 7, 2009 at 11:16 PM

Heh! can’t be too careful.

OldEnglish on June 7, 2009 at 11:33 PM

I stay anonymous because I am a hideously grotesque creature, who has a hunch back, hasn’t washed since the last time I went out in the rain, have a face that makes women and children scream “Dear God! What is that???”…….

……. My stench causes decomposing bodies to vomit, and the sun light burns my wart filled, pussy skin to burn. My eyes are red,yellow, and one is larger than the other that I can not close.

From my crooked nose, are coarse hairs that puncture the moles around my mouth, and my breath, if you get close enough, will melt your skin……..

Other than that……

Seven Percent Solution on June 7, 2009 at 11:40 PM

My pseudonym is also a nickname I used for many many years on IRC because I was a VeNT NuRSE, or, by trade, a ventilator nurse taking care of patients with tracheostomies on ventilators, usually comatose patients but also many with muscular dystrophy. Many people know that my real name is Dan Farmer.

If you fear someone knowing who you are, or what you are doing or saying, you probably should not do or say it.

Of course that’s just my humble opinion

Vntnrse on June 7, 2009 at 11:44 PM

If you fear someone knowing who you are, or what you are doing or saying, you probably should not do or say it.

Of course that’s just my humble opinion

Vntnrse on June 7, 2009 at 11:44 PM

It all depends upon the what and why. If it’s a case of saying or doing something wrong – yes. However, if what one wishes to say or do may cause harm to come to one unjustly – then no. To be frightened into silence is just plain wrong.

OldEnglish on June 7, 2009 at 11:49 PM

It was a few years ago, forgive my lapse in memory as to exact timing, that Ace got into a similar personal spat with a guest blogger over at Wizbang. At the time Wizbang was one of my daily “must read” favorite blogs.

And I remember when it finally came to a head, and Ace literally threatened to make that guest blogger’s life a living hell if he continued to cross Ace. I can’t remember the guest blogger’s name, and spending an hour looking for the original posts tonight I didn’t even come close to pinning it down.

But shortly thereafter the Wizbang guest blogger announced that he was taking a personal leave of absence from blogging for awhile, and attempt to assure everyone that it had nothing to do with his distasteful interactions with Ace. But what stuck in my mind was how coldly menacing Ace’s threats were, and vicious.

That was when I stopped reading both blogs, and only followed Wizbang weekly, then monthly, then not at all after a spell since no one there stood up for their guest blogger publicly, who I thought had received a very serious and reprehensible threat.

Does this mean that I think Ace should have been outed? Do I think other bloggers should stand up for their guest bloggers unless that person is clearly in the wrong? Or is it something that should be handled privately, behind the public venue scenes, tastefully, since it’s an issue affecting the bloggers personally rather than their guest readers?

To this day I cannot read something Ace writes. That cold, menacing post flies right back into my conscious awareness, and I wonder who else he may have intimidated and/or threatened similarly, albeit behind the scenes so as not to get a reputation which could potentially hurt his blog following.

Do I think Ed Whelan was right in outing the yappy little dog that was nipping at his heels? I don’t know. I do know how much time and energy and finances go into attempting to produce a successful blog. To have someone, another blogger someone who hides behind an sock puppet, trying to drag down your blog and your reputation as a blogger to me seems wrong.

I know that I had to assume a pseudonym when another blog reader began stalking me and harassing me at a blog I read daily and where I posted frequent comments. If necessary I would reveal my true identity on my own, but would prefer to keep that creep out of my life so that I can enjoy the blogs I follow without having to deal with smarmy little farts who never learned how to play with adults outside of the grimy sandboxes where they practically reside. I don’t make it a habit of personally attacking some other reader and/or commenter at the blogs I follow, only their arguments within the framework of the issues/events being discussed. So I doubt I’ll ever have to worry about that coming into play.

Interestingly, I agree with Michael Krauss, but I also agree with Joe Gandelman’s round up. It’s a tough call.

KendraWilder on June 7, 2009 at 11:51 PM

At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

– 1 Corinthians 13:12

I confess that I only know partially. And now, as my last few posts have been very tiring, I shall sign off. Until we meet again, please take good care of yourselves, and if you need to do so, protect your anonymity.

Loxodonta on June 7, 2009 at 11:58 PM

Wow–this seems like the old dueling days! Who gets to choose the weapons and do you get seconds?

Pistols at dawn!

I can see how being too conservative would hurt your career. And how you might need to vent… but there really isn’t an excuse to be stupid and mean to anyone. People still deserve respect.

There are real people behind the aliases. We shouldn’t forget that.

It’s almost like reading some one’s thoughts.

petunia on June 8, 2009 at 12:01 AM

petunia on June 8, 2009 at 12:01 AM

The “outed” blogger was a liberal. Although you may be correct that Mr. Whelan has hurt his career, it won’t be because he is either liberal or conservative just fed up with dissension from that particular person. But he certainly started a conversation.

Cindy Munford on June 8, 2009 at 12:07 AM

It all depends upon the what and why. If it’s a case of saying or doing something wrong – yes. However, if what one wishes to say or do may cause harm to come to one unjustly – then no. To be frightened into silence is just plain wrong.

OldEnglish on June 7, 2009 at 11:49 PM

I do agree actually, it just seems that so many on the left are trying so very hard to frighten into silence, those of us who are conservative or on the right. You’ve just taken my thought to the next conclusion. Thank you!

Vntnrse on June 8, 2009 at 12:10 AM

I admire the courage others have to use real names. But I don’t trust strangers enough.

Trust is hard to build and easy to destroy.

petunia on June 8, 2009 at 12:17 AM

Vntnrse on June 8, 2009 at 12:10 AM

Glad I’m not just whistling in the wind.

OldEnglish on June 8, 2009 at 12:21 AM

Were you absent the day reading and comprehension skills was introduced in school?

mrpeabody on June 7, 2009 at 11:14 PM

Ironic.

Someone agrees with you and you get confused. Better luck next time.

18-1 on June 8, 2009 at 12:58 AM

Ed…….

…….. why did two posts of mine of self depreciating humor get knocked off?

Seven Percent Solution on June 8, 2009 at 1:02 AM

This is all about liberals and the state run media…who are completely spineless and spread lies…and have roaches searching for anyone that disagrees with them…to find out personal information about them to try and silence them…communism anyone? Joshua Micah Marshall of the nazi-communist talking points memo comes to mind. Joshie boy lives in a an upper Manhattan apartment with his wife and son…paid for by his billionare socialist boss in San Francisco. When certain elections heat up or things just aren’t going their way joshie is sent instructions on who to attack. And he knows, like Olbermann…the NYT, etc. that lawsuits take time…but mainly he knows he has backing. The lesser lib bloggers see these sites and think they can quote and attack without impunity. It’s up to conservatives to fight back. Joshie is going to have something coming back his way this election cycle…have you picked out your liberal site to organize and attack yet? Because that is what it takes…they also have fake conservative sites popping up…although they are pretty weak…arm yourself with your beliefs and fight back.

BTW…I’ve been challenged publicly and anonymously for my beliefs and will never back down for something so many gave all for…. I’m working harder everyday to get higher on obama’s hitlist …I wasn’t born to be scared of these people…

DCJeff on June 8, 2009 at 1:04 AM

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.

I’m at a loss as to how this lawyer expected that his classroom would not be political. Law is one aspect of politics (things having to do with governing people), and he was being duplicitous to his students by not revealing his basis for interpreting the law.

It’s exactly the thing we are attempting to ascertain about the latest supreme court nominee — how her stated world-view influences how she interprets the law.

If Redacted felt the need to blog on political topics, I doubt he leaves his rather strong feelings outside the classroom door. Now that his students know, they can read his blog and connect the dots with regard to how he interprets the law and his political leanings.

unclesmrgol on June 8, 2009 at 1:13 AM

It’s been a facinating read for me, all 7 pages (so far). For me, it’s a pretty easy call. Ed had a right to get upset. He had a right to give Publius the business for not using his real name, and then should have followed up with “and here’s why your statements against me are wrong…” with argument X, Y and Z to back it up. If Publius still kept nipping away, so be it. Ed could have either ignored him as a loser, or continued to dismantle him point by point.

Ed had no right to out him. Period.

For those who argue that you should always act as though you could lose your anon. at any time, you’re right, too. But that doesn’t make it right when someone else takes it upon themselves to out you.

For those that argue that it’s something “the left” does, and therefore we should too, I disagree…respectfully.

For those that say you should either own your posts/blogs by using your real name or not post at all…I again disagree. In my case my career could easily suffer if it was known that I post on a conservative site. Should I “shut up?” (not that my posts are read anyway, lol)

As it’s been said often in this thread, the arguements themselves should be taken into account, measured, analyzed and responded to, regardless of the person behind them. If the person behind them’s a nut, or an ass, it will come out soon enough.

Anyway, have a good night all, my wife’s giving me the “stinkeye” about still being up this late ;)

DrAllecon on June 8, 2009 at 1:23 AM

People on the ‘net are entitled to privacy and personal security. There are a lot of kooks out there, and you don’t where they are or how dangerous they may be.

Dr. ZhivBlago on June 8, 2009 at 1:32 AM

Ironic.

Someone agrees with you and you get confused. Better luck next time.

18-1 on June 8, 2009 at 12:58 AM

My Apologies! I just took a closer look at your comment, and its subtlety must have escaped me the first read. Maybe I was absent when reading and comprehension concepts were first introduced.

mrpeabody on June 8, 2009 at 2:07 AM

It occurs to me that revealing the identity of a blogger is still free speech. I realize we are not debating the legality of this but doesn’t such an action represent something fundamentally important about freedom of speech. After all even speech we find deplorable is still protected and attempting to set guidelines on who’s identity gets protected is a fool’s errand. If you want to really remain anonymous maybe discussion in the public square is not for you. I chose my nickname not for anonymity but as a shortcut for knowing me. I think it’s a good idea to stand behind what we write. Heck if Robert Spencer is willing to do it I think the rest of us can follow his lead.

Mormon Doc on June 8, 2009 at 2:31 AM

I think the current state of affairs is probably the best.

There are and always have been reasons why someone might want to post or write anonymously. I don’t think they should have to prove their reasons are sufficient to anyone else’s satisfaction.

So I favor not “outing” anybody who wishes to remain anonymous.

That said, accepting someone’s preference for anonymity is primarily a courtesy. Anyone who posts on the internet should bear in mind that a determined person can figure out who you are.

So I certainly don’t believe that requesting anonymity gives you any ground to stand on if someone outs you. That’s the risk you took.

Bottom line: You should respect the anonymous poster’s desire for anonymity as a rule, but there are limits. If they’re committing real crimes — not just regulatory infractions — or if they are making false claims in order to smear someone else, then they should be outed. I wouldn’t attempt to define all the possible reasons why it might be okay to out an anonymous person, but it should only be done for very good reasons.

ThereGoesTheNeighborhood on June 8, 2009 at 2:33 AM

BTW -Ace outed himself a while ago when he went on Fox News as himself. Personally, I think the anonymity if some of these guys is about persona. Sounding good and looking good are entirely two different things. In the world of American Idol watchers, sometimes the latter effects people’s opinion on the former.

If Mark Steyn can say and go through what he did there is no valid excuse for anonymity, IMHO. If you have something to say on a political point, hiding your biases and background are suspect to me. I’m glad the guy got outed. Coming from a conservative politically active family, being in academia, and being liberal is an oxymoron. There’s a malady in that family that my votes would stay far away. The light of day needed to be shines on it so it can heal!

Sultry Beauty on June 8, 2009 at 8:08 AM

Where did this myth of a right to anonymity originate? Anonymity is a tactic</em>, not a right. If you can’t afford for this tactic to fail, the perhaps you can’t afford to engage in online blogging.

4Bear on June 8, 2009 at 8:10 AM

I dislike iPhone autocorrect a lot!

Sultry Beauty on June 8, 2009 at 8:11 AM

If this “Publius” person was making arguments in good faith then I would have sympathy for the viewpoint that Ed Whelan crossed a line. However, from what I’ve read, “Publius” was hiding behind a handle so he could throw tomatoes at Whelan.

If “Publius” kept it sober and academic, then I’d say his Internet handle should have been respected. However, “Publius” crossed a line long before Whelan found out his identity. I can’t find fault with Whelan’s actions.

JohnTant on June 8, 2009 at 8:12 AM

I dislike iPhone autocorrect a lot!

Sultry Beauty on June 8, 2009 at 8:11 AM

It does make for some interesting emails…LOL

ladyingray on June 8, 2009 at 8:17 AM

If you engage in anonymity as a tactic, you create for your self a weakness. I have seen people ho post on another blog intimidated and harassed by a group of animal rights bloggers who made it there business to dig in and research their identity. Over a period of weeks, they disclosed their family member’s names, addresses and other personal life details to demonstrate that they knew who their opponent was and to create an environment of fear. This only worked because the person they attacked felt a need to cling to the tactic of anonymity.

4Bear on June 8, 2009 at 8:18 AM

lol. How unusual that a person would want the freedom to say anything they want to without any corresponding responsibilities.

jaime on June 8, 2009 at 8:56 AM

A comment I left at Donald Douglas’ post on pseudonymous bloggers works here as well…

I understood your intent before you published your clarification, DD. And your clarity here (It is my personal belief that someone, especially an academic, should stand up for what they have to say. It’s a matter of integrity and reputation.) illustrates another good reason I stay as a pseudonym (besides that huge, glaring reason I gave earlier: by not desiring to make any money through blogads, etc., I have a right to stay pseudonymous): I left the halls of academia after graduation and haven’t returned; now, I’ve spent 28 years being one of those evil ‘capitalists’ who actually keeps the wheels of this great nation greased and turning. In other words, an easy target. There’s no tenure in Capitalism. (An aside: how long a true Capitalist can continue to do well in this slip-sliding-away society? It’s strange how ‘Progressives’ want to attempt to ‘improve’ on a thing without having a clue as to how to actually achieve that so-called improving CHANGE without destroying the nation in the process, isn’t it?)

As for such as tbogg, well, he makes some $change$ at his blog; he should put his name on it, as finally did that “OPEN THREAD!” atroidiot Duncan Black. For me, that’s the criteria that’s most important: if you want to participate in capitalism with ads or PayPal revenues, put it in your name.

(Oh, the next great Internet Scandal: tbogg &c. chased by the IRS for not declaring his online revenues! I’ll get right on it! )

Oh, and Ace and AllahPundit make money blogging too, don’t they? Put you names on your blogs, guys!

Serr8d on June 8, 2009 at 9:05 AM

jaime on June 8, 2009 at 8:56 AM

Why not? The Left takes it as an absolute right.

OldEnglish on June 8, 2009 at 9:06 AM

Ed had no right to out him. Period.

DrAllecon on June 8, 2009 at 1:23 AM

People on the ‘net are entitled to privacy and personal security. There are a lot of kooks out there, and you don’t where they are or how dangerous they may be.

Dr. ZhivBlago on June 8, 2009 at 1:32 AM

Anonymity on the internet is neither a right or an entitlement. It is an community standard/behavior structure- not a guarantee. Outing bloggers may be rude behavior but that is all. Publius had no more “right” to anonymity than I have a “right” that the neighbor’s dog will not poop on my lawn.

highhopes on June 8, 2009 at 9:42 AM

To be frightened into silence is just plain wrong.

OldEnglish on June 7, 2009 at 11:49 PM

As is the assumption from a newer generation to coerce conformity from the old school, particularly hypocritical to claim moral grounds of superiority.

Note a copyright 2009 “named” blogger who denies a voice to those who’ve registered under their nicknames since the internet began.

This argument feels like discussing history with a person who reads the English Bible as the literal Word with no sense of anything outside of their own personal confines.

Dogma and purists with their scarlet letter habit of branding those they deem less righteous at bonfires, that’s reassuring. Damn Mark Twain for using another name! How dare Samuel Clemens have assumed another name; can’t trust anything he said or wrote. Burn books, burn people.

maverick muse on June 8, 2009 at 10:11 AM

Ryan Gandy on June 7, 2009 at 6:31 PM

Translations provided to old sayings, Ryan.

maverick muse on June 8, 2009 at 10:18 AM

Oh. boo-friggin-hoo.

mojo on June 8, 2009 at 10:18 AM

My handle is barely anonymous. But “outing” someone just seems entirely childish to me. What would be the mature adult reason for doing such a thing?

I think people have the “right” of when to share their name and when to keep it private. I don’t understand the motives of someone who would want to take that “right” away.

If you don’t like dealing with anonymous fools (and a few wise men/women), then find another hobby, or start your own blog requiring such a commitment for membership.

connertown on June 8, 2009 at 10:20 AM

maverick muse on June 8, 2009 at 10:11 AM

Well said! Even Shakespeare may, one day, be added to that list.

OldEnglish on June 8, 2009 at 10:22 AM

All of this outing and whatnot kinda reminds one of the Cultural Revolution in China back in the 60s. The bullyboy left on parade, but when the status quo engages in these types of social manipulations — watch out.

dingbat on June 8, 2009 at 10:36 AM

I don’t plan on posting anything people I know wouldn’t want to see.

I don’t post anything that I haven’t said face to face in personal and professional conversations with the people I know. When I entered the internet community, I gave my family my blog name and told them to which blogs I respond. I’ve already lived a public life and know too well the disproportionate punishment that Leftists assign to their opponents. I do not trust the public and certainly know better than to trust anyone outside of my immediate inner circle. For the likes of some stranger to tell me how I must identify myself online in order to prove my integrity really takes the authoritarian cake.

I have no problem defending the honesty of my comments. As per participating in further internet communications, the government already has everything it needs to prosecute anyone and everyone they choose to target whether grounds are legitimate or fabricated and the case is fixed. So the government does not NEED cooperation to “out” suspects of crime.

If a blogger wants to censor, that’s in the urtext.

Where’s the bravery from vindictive behavior, whether from the blogger or the commenter? Going too far in any extremity seems more cowardly or self righteous than not.

maverick muse on June 8, 2009 at 10:40 AM

OldEnglish on June 8, 2009 at 10:22 AM

This entire charade sucks authoritarian morality, class warfare of who counts and who to summarily dismiss based on a foolish bias that seems so clear through tunnel vision.

maverick muse on June 8, 2009 at 10:45 AM

But “outing” someone just seems entirely childish to me. What would be the mature adult reason for doing such a thing?

I think people have the “right” of when to share their name and when to keep it private. I don’t understand the motives of someone who would want to take that “right” away.

connertown on June 8, 2009 at 10:20 AM

As a percentage of the whole, how many mature adults do you find on blog sites?

Seriously though, I think your comments are somewhat simplistic. You approach this as a privacy issue where the blogger as all the so-called rights. You completely ignore the dark side to anonymous blogging- the motives and agenda of the bloggers. I’m not so much talking about this little food-fight though slander, I think, is one reason why a blogger might rightfully be outed.

The real problem is the number of individuals who go on blogs and willfully and anonymously spread mis-truths on behalf of an organization or cause. Some of these operatives are sophisticated enough they don’t come off sounding like trolls and they were all over the place at HA in the lead-up to the primaries and election last year. Do these propagandists have a right to anonymity? What about companies that go online to hype their products anonymously on affinity blog sites? Finally, what recourse does the victim of slander have when their slanderer is anonymous?

Blogging isn’t just a bunch of individuals venting on the internet anymore. It is an industry and a communication tool.

highhopes on June 8, 2009 at 10:50 AM

dingbat on June 8, 2009 at 10:36 AM

The scapegoat was the community’s offering simply to protect their own selfish interests, hardly a sacrifice but a target for torture.

I mentioned in an argument a week ago this change in the air, that progressives at heart are jumping onto Obama’s media bandwagon (better late than never) just as Newt jumped onto Gore’s Global Warming.

The original premise many at HotAir understood was to air grievances or support pro/con issues based upon the content of thought.

If people are so shallow as to presume that authoritarianism has stronger moral integrity than a commitment to mutual respect, there’s no sense arguing with the mule.

maverick muse on June 8, 2009 at 10:55 AM

If you post long often enough and long enough, you will eventually provided the keen observer or the malevolent sleuth with sufficient information to find you out. The assumption that you have privacy in this culture is a myth. Yet a myth we rather prefer.

4Bear on June 8, 2009 at 10:56 AM

highhopes on June 8, 2009 at 10:50 AM

Every blogger has the original right to censor and to ban at will.

maverick muse on June 8, 2009 at 10:58 AM

My last should have been “often enough and long enough”

4Bear on June 8, 2009 at 11:02 AM

The other question is, would you ever bother visiting a site run by a blogger that violated someone else’s anonymity? Of course people with generic names like Jack Jones, John Smith, and Tim Burton need not worry, but someone with a name like Rumplestilskin might be slightly more weary.

LevStrauss on June 8, 2009 at 11:21 AM

Every blogger has the original right to censor and to ban at will.

maverick muse on June 8, 2009 at 10:58 AM

Anonymity is not a right. At best it is a condition that also comes with the responsibility not to engage in slander or other malicious activities. I say the minute the blogger betrays the benefits of anonymity by knowingly posting false or misleading information he/she/it loses the expectation of remaining anonymous.

highhopes on June 8, 2009 at 11:27 AM

So when are all of you going to comment on Charles Johnson and his outing of his own pseudonymous critics?

Tacitus_SGL on June 8, 2009 at 11:54 AM

People on the ‘net are entitled to privacy and personal security. There are a lot of kooks out there, and you don’t where they are or how dangerous they may be.

Actually no, you don’t. No one has a “right” to privacy because all people in America have a right to be nosy.Digging up the history of people libeling you as part of an argument is just good business if you’re making a living on the net.

After writing a post about child exploitation I was literally libeled by two people and accused of libel myself (sort of being meta-libeled) and luckily an online “anti-pedo” group pointed me to the Perverted Justice hosted Wikisposure which outs sex offenders who are active online in the “sex offender rights” movement. I was able to use this to refute the claims I was a liar.

Was that wrong? I don’t think so. I think it’s more wrong for people like ‘Tbog” at FDL to make racist comments about me not being a “real Black person” while hiding under the cover of anonymity. I think it’s more unfair for anonymous web dregs to write hit pieces on me claiming that because I support Perverted Justice I’m secretly a child rapist then cry about there “privacy” being violated when I respond with facts.Sorry but I’ve been slandered too often by anonymous bloggers to care about poor Publius, who is not blogging with a gun to his head.

“So when are all of you going to comment on Charles Johnson and his outing of his own pseudonymous critics?

Tacitus_SGL on June 8, 2009 at 11:54 AM

That’s a good point. LGF douches came to Red Alerts after scouring the net for dirt on me when I dared be critical of the Lizard King. No gnashing of teeth when certain people do it I see.

Rob Taylor on June 8, 2009 at 12:41 PM

As a Anon blogger, I know one day someone is going to say something. I don’t have any “skeletons” but I do like my day job. That is the only reason I blog anon.

Rob Taylor on June 8, 2009 at 12:41 PM

Charles made his bed…. he ticked off quite a few conservatives in the blogosphere. He can either lay in it or he can go down in a ball of flames. He seems to be choosing the latter as of late.

upinak on June 8, 2009 at 1:01 PM

The vindictiveness of others is also a risk that one runs when blogging. If one can’t stand having one’s name publicized after calling someone a “know-nothing demagogue,” it seems one ought to consider making one’s insults milder.

Kralizec on June 8, 2009 at 1:40 PM

The other question is, would you ever bother visiting a site run by a blogger that violated someone else’s anonymity? Of course people with generic names like Jack Jones, John Smith, and Tim Burton need not worry, but someone with a name like Rumplestilskin might be slightly more weary.

Absolutely not. Moreover, bloggers who get into “blog wars” are so self-absorbed that I find that’s indicative of a lack of maturity.

AnninCA on June 8, 2009 at 1:44 PM

Interesting:

There was a 1995 Supreme Court case, McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission. It involved a plaintiff (McIntyre) that was fined $100 for distributing political fliers that were anonymously written. The court ruled 7-2 in favor of McIntyre. In that ruling, Stevens, writing for the majority said:

Under our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and of dissent. Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. … It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation–and their ideas from suppression–at the hand of an intolerant society. The right to remain anonymous may be abused when it shields fraudulent conduct. But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.

Two justices dissented, Rehnquist and Scalia.

In the late 1980′s Ed Whelan was a clerk for Scalia. This weekend he outed a pseudonymous blogger. How about that?

starfleet_dude on June 8, 2009 at 1:46 PM

Charles made his bed…. he ticked off quite a few conservatives in the blogosphere. He can either lay in it or he can go down in a ball of flames. He seems to be choosing the latter as of late.

Everyone ticks off everyone. I can post the same exact opinion on a liberal blog, be called a “rethug,” come here and be called a “loony left.”

Frankly, it’s up to my mood which slam I prefer with my morning joe. :)

Anyone who imagines that they are “liked” in political on-line blogosphere is living in la-la land.

AnninCA on June 8, 2009 at 1:46 PM

Dude
In McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, is there any basis for damages or punitive remedy for the anonymous party having been identified? As I see it, it only protects the anonymous party from proscription.

4Bear on June 8, 2009 at 2:05 PM

It is amazing how someone can make stuff up and somehow it becomes reality and is picked up by the regular media as fact. There is no real reporting at NBC and the rest, they are all copying someone elses imagination.

workingforpigs on June 8, 2009 at 2:07 PM

4Bear, I don’t know. I’d say not given previous outings of bloggers though.

starfleet_dude on June 8, 2009 at 2:12 PM

Funny, I don’t recall any right to anonymity…

You’re on your own, kids.

mojo on June 8, 2009 at 4:00 PM

doriangrey on June 7, 2009 at 8:59 PM
Well; Good for you! I’ll be watching to see how well you comply with the government and Obama run media when they dictate what can be said on the internet blogs. And you’re invited to see if I comply.

Cybergeezer on June 8, 2009 at 4:19 PM

AnninCA on June 8, 2009 at 1:46 PM

Ann are you a LGFer? Sorry… there are quite a few on this blog that have been banned over there, due to really petty things.

As I said, Charles made his bed. He can do what he wants. I don’t happen to care what he does as he shows nothing other then a weird need to be in control and ban off the cuff.

upinak on June 8, 2009 at 4:41 PM

“Seriously though, I think your comments are somewhat simplistic. You approach this as a privacy issue where the blogger as all the so-called rights. You completely ignore the dark side to anonymous blogging- the motives and agenda of the bloggers. I’m not so much talking about this little food-fight though slander, I think, is one reason why a blogger might rightfully be outed.”

highhopes

I agree that my viewpoint is simplistic, as I believe the issue is a simple one.

The expectation on this blog and most blogs is that we are anonymous. That expectation is what sets up the “right” to privacy.

I don’t know how to do it, but I believe there should be a way to require new members to waive their “right” to anonymity as they register. But I don’t recall that being required here. So I would expect anonymity for me, and for the filthiest troll as well.

Another simplistic observation – I don’t like it when someone changes the rules of the game ad hoc. I don’t like it when credit card companies keep changing their terms and conditions. I don’t like it when presidents and congress make ex post facto decisions about bonuses for executives. To me, these are all a similar type of sin.

But then agian, I’m a simple man.

connertown on June 8, 2009 at 5:09 PM

People here need to READ the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. And a little history for it’s purpose, BEFORE attacking any opinion; Anonymous or otherwise.

Cybergeezer on June 8, 2009 at 6:11 PM

I know I’m a little late getting into this discussion, but…

Either there is an objective standard, or there isn’t.

The only possible objective standard is this:

“This is my web site/blog. . . Here are my rules . . . And if you break my rules, I can/may/will “out” you.”

In Ed Whelen’s instance: If the outing is not under the above standard (i.e., it’s my ballfield, and you play by my arbitrary rules) then there is no standard.

One other thing: If a web site/blog permits requires user registration – and allows pseudonymous screen names – but requires disclosure of identifying information, like the users real name – You had better be very careful about outting the real identity of the user which you permitted to post anonymously. In other words: You had better have a crystal clear policy that a user’s real identity may be revealed at any time by the site/blog owner, for no reason whatsoever.

seanrobins on June 8, 2009 at 9:27 PM

You completely ignore the dark side to anonymous blogging- the motives and agenda of the bloggers. I’m not so much talking about this little food-fight though slander, I think, is one reason why a blogger might rightfully be outed.”

Well, unless the site/blog has a clear written policy as to outting, you had best leave “retaliation” against the nasty things said by the anonymous user to either responsive postings . . . or the courts.

seanrobins on June 8, 2009 at 9:29 PM

In the ’80s I regularly wrote letters to the editor of the (then) Olathe [not really] Daily News. (Kansas)

I engaged in discussions on a wide range of topics, and mostly as “debate” with a George Pyle who is now, last I knew, editor of a Salina, KS, newspaper.

There was no anonymity on either part.

The tone of many letters was strong and forceful. One of my pastors suggested I not be so harsh. Another of my pastors called it “prophetic confrontaion. I don’t know about that, however.

One day he called me a liar by name in one of his editorials. (I hadn’t lied.) I guess I could have sued. But I laughed instead.

My feeling is, if you can’t stand the heat … ; a quote from Harry S, another plain speaker.

I swear my real name is Potfry.

Potfry on June 7, 2009 at 10:42 PM

I don’t care what you call me–as long as you don’t call me late for supper. (Don Zimmer in response to how felt about being called “Popeye”. c.1960)

davidk on June 8, 2009 at 10:28 PM

So I would expect anonymity for me, and for the filthiest troll as well.
I don’t like it when someone changes the rules of the game ad hoc. I don’t like it when credit card companies keep changing their terms and conditions. I don’t like it when presidents and congress make ex post facto decisions about bonuses for executives. To me, these are all a similar type of sin.
connertown on June 8, 2009 at 5:09 PM

Yes. It’s easy enough to lock out trolls. Most disturbing is the fact that an NR blogger would do this to a comparative unknown, when the man was writing on his own blog. It’s like a state politician siccing bureaucrats on a nobody critic. The peevish outburst by Mr. Whelan reflects more on him than it does Publius.

Feedie on June 8, 2009 at 10:48 PM

The peevish outburst by Mr. Whelan reflects more on him than it does Publius.

Yeah, I think so.

seanrobins on June 8, 2009 at 11:02 PM

outing an anonymous blogger is rarely acceptable. If they cross the line first, and get personal, then there is reason to expose them, but it was not justified in this case. Many of us are anonymous for various reasons and I think it’s a benefit to everyone. People are more inclined to provide their unvarnished opinions without the danger of damage to their career or family. In the age of politics where gay activists publish the personal info of people who donate to certain political groups, anonymity is protection from malicious attacks as much as it is cover for the same.

Stickeehands on June 9, 2009 at 1:15 AM

Why is the question “when is it okay to?” That doesn’t matter. Facts are if you piss someone off and they’re clever enough to figure out who you are they’ll out you. Whelan’s now apologized, but I’m glad he did it for every conservative student that took Publius’s class. As a professor at a public university he had no real business engaging in highly partisan blogging, and he knew it, which is why he used a pseudonym and got so upset when he was outed. He didn’t want conservative students feeling uncomfortable? Maybe, but more likely he didn’t want them to know how truly biased he was.

Simona on June 9, 2009 at 10:50 AM

Ah, apparently the ego calmed down and regret set in, eh?

AnninCA on June 9, 2009 at 11:36 AM

As a professor at a public university he had no real business engaging in highly partisan blogging, and he knew it, which is why he used a pseudonym and got so upset when he was outed.
Simona on June 9, 2009 at 10:50 AM

Hi, Simona. Are there formal or informal rules about this? I’d rather not have these guys pretending to be neutral anyhow, but from what I’ve read, it’s pretty obvious in their classes.

Or maybe he was able to be professional in his classes and keep his personal politics out. (?)

Feedie on June 9, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Let’s see … ‘Moderate’ Colin Powell allowed an underling get away with outing a CIA operative then let Skooter Libby take the fall … Both actions tend to endanger people … Maybe outting someone is ok when laws are being broken, but it is never ok for a republican to do it according to our new lords and masters.

DannoJyd on June 9, 2009 at 2:57 PM

Sounds suspiciously like Blevin is the Publius who writes hateful (truly, they are hateful, though grammatically well composed) comments on Politico.

Lourdes on June 9, 2009 at 4:04 PM

Feedie – Whether or not there are specific rules, it would be very frowned on. Law Schools are small communities, more the size of a high school then a college. Right/Left politics are seen as somewhat pedestrian — the debates take place within legal schools of thought which sometimes tend to line up as right/left, but aren’t supposed to.
———————-
I guarantee you the #1 reason he was anonymous was the tenure issue. Having a serious alterego leftist blogging career would be proper grounds to deny him tenure, because while you can be as liberal as you want, you’re not supposed to openly acknowledge that.
——————–
I have no idea about this teacher and how he taught, but in general I would say its hard to separate one’s politics from the rest of life. He might think he left it at the door, but that tends to be a blind spot with teachers, much like the case the Supreme Court just ruled on about judicial bias.
——————————
My point is that when students are subject to a Professor, they have a right to know what his or her agenda is especially if there’s a disconnect between how they represent themselves and what they’re saying on their blog, and for that reason alone, I’m glad he got outed.

Simona on June 9, 2009 at 8:23 PM

Simona on June 9, 2009 at 8:23 PM

Thanks for taking the time to reply. The matter seems to be resolved at this point. Mr. Whelan apologized and that is far more than I’d expect today.

Feedie on June 10, 2009 at 12:19 AM

Has AllahPundit officially weighed in on this? I’m waiting for his addendum

PunditFight on June 10, 2009 at 11:35 AM

Comment pages: 1 5 6 7 8