Sunday, June 7, 2009

Blogging Anonymity and Blogging Ethics

I should probably weigh in on the Ed Whelan/John Blevins imbroglio. Everyone else is, and I'm getting some links out of it as well!

Some quick background:
Ed Whelan outed "Publius" at Obsidian Wings. The latter's real name is John F. Blevins, and he's an Assistant Professor of Law at the South Texas College of Law. Check the links above, and Memeorandum. At issue are the attacks on Whelan as the right's go-to "legal hitman." The term is from the "Anonymous Liberal," so the irony there is rich. Readers can assess who comes out on top in the substantive debate. No matter, though. Whelan comes off as putz, either way. Both James Joyner and Dan Riehl eloquently make the case against Whelan.

Now, I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't out someone who writes anonymously (or "pseudonymously,"
as the case may be). Repsac3 got mad at me once for using his real name in a comment thread. But he had posted his real name at his Twitter link, at he linked to it at the sidebar. So, it's kind of hard to get mad at being "outed" if you "outed" yourself.

Frankly, if a blogger writes under complete anonymity (or pseudonymity), that's his prerogative. And it's not up to me or anyone else,
in pure spite, to reveal their identity. It's kind of cowardly, in my opinion, to use a pseudonym, but I can understand it. After the Repsac3 exchange, PrivatePigg, a conservative blogger and friend of mine, said he blogs anonymously simply to protect his privacy from the radical leftists he knows will stalk him and his family.

It happens. As reader know, I routinely wade into the comment threads at leftist blogs to debate and ridicule. I don't claim to be nice about it. I've even
used profanity in a comment thread at "Dr. Hussein Biobrain's" blog. But I don't threaten people; I skewer. And some folks can't handle being revealed as nihilist America-bashers. After commenting a few times at The Swash Zone, I received this e-mail from "(O)CT(O)PUS," the blog's publisher:
I don't harrass. If folks can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Or go to comment moderation at least!

But if there was ever good reason to blog anonymously, real harrassment such as this is it. "(O)CT(O)PUS" made the rounds at leftist blogs to brag about how he'd "kicked my ass." And he PUBLISHED MY WORK CONTACT INFORMATION so that his co-bloggers could call my college president. I wrote about it here, "(O)CT(O)PUS = CYBER-BULLY."

What's funny about this, in the present debate, is that while Whelan's coming off like an adolescent jerk, the truth is that radical leftists have made a career out of "outing" those with whom they disagree. TBogg, whose real name is Tom Boggioni, has made a pastime of it, as Willliam Jacobson reveals:

So yeah, screw Ed Whelan. The guy's coming off like a thin-skinned prick. But just know that all the faux-outrage on the left is totally hypocritical. These folks get off on outing, snarking, shaming, and demonizing conservatives. That's their livelihood. This secular demonology has no counterpart on the right. Sure, some conservatives are peurile, but leftists are masters at the game.

P.S.: I have a lot of respect for conservatives who get along amicably with leftists. I don't do it well, online at least. Some of my best friends are Democrats (scroll down, here, for my colleague Dr. Greg Joseph, who's a Truman Democrat). But these friends would never put up with the kind of filth that is the stock and trade of today's netroots hordes.

Also, Ed Morrissey's got a poll up, "When is it okay to out liberal bloggers?" See also, Rick Moran, "The Outing of Publius and the Comfort of Anonymity."


The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

It's kind of cowardly, in my opinion, to use a pseudonym, but I can understand it.

I don't seek notoriety and an expanded readership, so it's no big deal for me. Blogging is mostly as outlet for me to vent my own thought.

Besides, "wordsmith" is my real name...and I really am from Nantucket [/lie]

Before blogging, my online familiarity was with message board, where you makeup usernames. So, I think that's how I ended up posting under my pseudonym. Anyone who wanted to only needs to do a little legwork to figure out who I am. But legwork they must do.

It's no big deal.

Mark Harvey said...

I left this comment at Hot Air and I stick by it. I understand the conservative use of "anonymous" due to the stalking from the alleged "tolerant". However, as a whole, this is what I think:

It has been my experience that cowards hide behind anonymity.

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

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

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

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

Just my take.

AmPowerBlog said...

You're like PrivatePigg, Wordsmith, and I know your real name! But I won't out you! Ha!

AmPowerBlog said...


Frankly, Publius isn't as bad as half of the people blogging and commenting anonymously.

Thanks for sharing.

JBW said...

I agree with you on the dickishness of outing those who obviously want to remain anonymous online Don, although I've previously stated that I think that anonymous commenters are mostly cowards but I do understand why some do it.

Of course your "almost everyone on the left does it while it's just a few jerks on the right following suit" argument is disingenuous, just as it is when I hear it from people on the left. Dickishness knows no bounds nor party affiliation and to think that your side of a political argument is somehow more moral than the other because your teammates are better people is bullshit, no matter which side says it.

I do however disagree with your equivocating outing anonymous people online to photographing delegates and talking heads traipsing around NYC. As far as I'm concerned, if you get a hotel room with a woman who is clearly not your wife or walk into a gay nightclub you've chosen to do these things in public and I have no problem with someone photographing you in the act. Obviously the paparazzi takes this to extremes of harassment for celebrities but if you want privacy for your dirty deeds, do them behind closed doors. That's what expectation of privacy rights are for.

AmPowerBlog said...

JBW: Your dickishness knows no bounds!

Serr8d said...

What WordSmith said, and this: I, personally, won't and don't ever intend to put up PayPal links or g00gle ads, or even t-shirt sales ads (even though I've been asked to market my pshops) for that very reason: I'll stay pseudonymous, thank you, until I get damned good and ready to 'come out'. If I tried to make money at this hobby of mine (which is just that) then I could see allowing others to know who I am.

Otherwise, there's no good reason for them to know jack shit about me.

I'm sure you all remember the case of Jeff Goldstein vs. She Who Will Not Be Named; there's the best reason I know to try to keep your head down. Jeff's style of blogging has marked him for life, for better or worse, and it's a damn shame I think.

Look at AllahPundit, though; he's living large and making a fortune staying pseudonymous. And, mostly, so is Ace.

No shame in pseudonymity.

--Mark Twain

JBW said...

Thank you for proving my point, Don.

Mark Harvey said...

TBogg is a classic ditz and IT reveals ITS ignorance of the United States Constitution. I would like for ANY moonbat to reveal in their vast database where the term "democracy" is used ONE TIME in the very document they hate, the USC.

I have challenged MANY moonbats and not one has taken up the cause. I wrote about this very subject today, Democracy.

Anyway, I didn't say that or mean to say that folks that use the aliases are all cowards. It is the libtard moonbat that uses so many aliases it is hard to track them all. That as the point I was trying to make.

Let me, at this time, rephrase: ALL moonbat trolls that use multiple "names" are the cowards.

I use my real name in the HOPES that "they" come and see me. I welcome the "exchange", anytime, anywhere, any day. It's an open invitation to one and all.

The next time I will be in DC is on 9.12.09 and then soon following the Victory In Iraq Day in the same location. Come one moonbat, come all. I will be wearing my Snooper hat.

Rusty Walker said...

I think it is okay to be anonymous when you are contributing intelligent debates. It is when the scatological slurs and profanities start revealing personal loathing that I start to think “who the hell is this and just how far is this guy willing to go?” At that point, I think they are cowards to throw rocks from behind a safe anonymous wall. My natural sensibilities keep me fairly civil – but, I am learning that some people like to get into a good cyber-scrap - Donald can take it. I have noticed that.

D. Aristophanes said...

Can we be 'hordes' and not just 'today's' next time?

Mark30339 said...

What "Having Sawlike Teeth" said.
I wonder which is the pseudonym: Lt. John Dunbar or "Dances With Wolves"; Donald Douglas or "Pokes Stick in Eye of Wolves."
This blog is nothing if it's not bold and I compliment the author's fortitude.

repsac3 said...

Donald... You neglect to mention that your work information is as available on the web as my name... I agree that I outed myself... But it's disingenuous to claim that Oct() did anything you didn't, as your work info is just as readily available to anyone with the ability to google Donald Kent Douglas (with or without) "long beach city college," both of which display the same info Oct() offered.

I think Oct() was wrong for pointing it out. But then, I think you were, as well.

But the fact remains, the same rules apply to friend & foe alike.

If you believe Oct() committed some kinda personal or blogger faux pas by pointing out that your work info is posted online, than you did the same by pointing out that my name is, too.

If, on the other hand, you believe that anything already posted online is fair game, than you should have no complaint with Oct() offering up your publicly posted info.

As I said, I think Oct() did a bad thing, and it isn't something I would ever do... (And having read the rest of the posts on the subject, even Whelan is sorry for what he did...) It's wrong not to respect the privacy choices people make for themselves and their families... ...even if you disagree with them politically.

AmPowerBlog said...

Repsac3: I simply mentioned your real name in a comment thread. Octopus published my information to start a campaign of harrassment against me. Octupus threatend me with retaliation, to shut me up.

That's the point. I think you're missing that small detail. Your hanging out with mean, vindictive people.

I'm not claiming he outed me. I'm saying his a freaking hypocritical asshat. There's no argument here. I didn't "out" you, so you can't complain.

repsac3 said...

You didn't really say anything new... You only changed the terms of the offense.

Yes, Oct() was trying to hurt you by pointing out that your work info is freely available online. He wanted people to go after your job, and he was wrong for doing so...

But that wasn't the discussion we were having, or the point you were trying to make in your original post. The subject was whether it is acceptable to divulge the offline info about another person when they don't wish to have it divulged...

The reason(s) for divulging the information, or whether you become any less morally culpable of divulging the information because you did so for a somewhat less malicious reason isn't all that relevant to the initial question...

If it's wrong to do, it's wrong to do... period.
If it's sometimes justified--which is what you now seem to be claiming---then who gets to make that decision, and why should others accept your (or my) definition of when such a disclosure is or isn't justified?

While your motives were less vindictive--you only wanted to give me a taste of Oct()'s medicine, to see how *I* liked it (which still makes no sense to me, because I had no part in doing anything with your work info), even after I explicitly said I did not wish to have that info disclosed--the specific act was the same. You took personal info you found posted elsewhere on the net, which had nothing to do with the conversation at hand, and reposted it on your blog. Oct() was trying to get a rise out of you, and you were trying to get a rise out of me. That you choose to justify one while decrying the other speaks volumes about you, Donald...

AmPowerBlog said...

Repsac3: First, you're not an anonymous blogger. You can't be outed. You posted your Twitter link at your own blog. I had long ago known your real name but never used it.

I'm not changing the debate. I shifted the focus of discussion at the blog to WHY people use a pseudonym:

"After the Repsac3 exchange, PrivatePigg, a conservative blogger and friend of mine, said he blogs anonymously simply to protect his privacy from the radical leftists he knows will stalk him and his family.

It happens. As reader know, I routinely wade into the comment threads at leftist blogs to debate and ridicule. I don't claim to be nice about it. I've even used profanity in a comment thread at "Dr. Hussein Biobrain's" blog. But I don't threaten people; I skewer."

You associate with bad people Repsac3. In fact, I think you're a bad man. If you don't want the reputation, you should hang out with good people and act, well, good.

repsac3 said...

Donald, I don't even know what you're arguing anymore, but it doesn't seem to be responsive to much of anything I ever said.

I never claimed to be anonymous.

It wasn't me, but you, who first spoke about my being outed, in your initial post. I agreed with what you wrote, repeating that I had "outed" myself. If that terminology no longer suits your ever-changing purposes, I invite you to stop using it.

I also already agreed that my twitter link was, and still is, posted on my blog. Like everything else up to now, this is not in dispute, so I fail to understand why you keep repeating these things as though any of it is.

Likewise, your work information was and continues to be posted at the LBCC site. It also cannot be outed, as it too is in the public domain.

You're welcome to try to sell the notion that Oct() is more guilty than you are, because his purpose for disclosing your info was more malicious than your reason for disclosing mine... Personally, I think it's moral relativistic tripe, but feel free to keep spouting it... But the fact remains that the disclosure of your info broke no more or fewer boundries than your disclosure of my info. The info about your workplace is posted for anyone willing to look, just like my non-pseudononymous identity.

Yes, Oct()'s reason was more malicious than yours, but his disclosure was no more or less moral than yours.

As for who I "hang out with," Oct() & I co-blog at some of the same sites, including one I started. Nothing more, and nothing less. This endless "guilt by association" meme you so like to engage in only seems to go one way, though... Seems none of you right-wingers are talking about your birther/Freeper pal, Jimmy von Brunn... I wonder why that is?

(No, of course his freeper/birther ways don't make you all domestic terrorists... One would have to buy into your guilt by association meme, to believe that... But it does explain why so many of you are so desperate to disown the guy, before idiots on the left start accusing y'all, the same way you & yours accuse them.)

AmPowerBlog said...


WTF is wrong with you?

You started this new debate by questioning me "outing" you.

But this will be the last word:

You say, "But it's disingenuous to claim that Oct() did anything you didn't ..."


Octopus wrote an entire post to initiate a campaign of retaliation against me:

"If the Coward or any of his followers harass you online you, contact President Eloy Oakley at (562) 938-4122 or Executive VP of Academic Affairs Donald Berz at (562) 938-4127 and describe the harassment. For serious online abuse or defamation, there is always this option (case file in progress)."

That is harrassment.

"Yes, Oct()'s reason was more malicious than yours" ....

You think?!!!!

Stop YOUR freaking relative B.S.

Octopus is an evil man, and so are you.

This thread is done. Write a fresh post. I'm tired of your bullshit. If you think that the mention of your name in a comment thread is the same as a full-on blog post initiatng a campaign of work harrassment are identical, you're even worse that I thought.

You are a hate sponsor, Reppy. I don't like you, you sick f**k.

God man, you run an entire blog that designed to harrass and slander me as a moosef**ker ...

You're psycho!

Again, this thread is done, you freaking asshat.