Sunday, June 07, 2009

An Outing in the Blogosphere

See Ed Morrissey's post here and Feddie's post here.


I understand that sometimes it is preferable for professional, political, and/or familial reasons for one to remain anonymous. But, in my honest opinion, outing is a risk you assume when you decide to blog anonymously/pseudonymously.

I also understand the impulse of the blogger who puts his real name out there from day one to want to unmask certain ankle-biting pseudonymous interlocutors who, for whatever reason, don't have the fortitude (even if quite understandable) to stand by what they've written. Having blogged by my own real name from the very beginning (and having commented at other people's blogs under my real name even before that), I know that I am cautious about what I write, and having to stand by my writing with my real name has led me to temper many of my comments. I think that is a good thing. In response, however, I've often been subjected to the vilest of comments from anonymous/pseudonymous hit-and-run commenters.

I know for a fact that there are many times when people write things anonymously or pseudonymously that they NEVER would have written under their own names. I don't believe that to be a particularly healthy state of affairs. Quite honestly, my own personal opinion is that blogging anonymously/pseudonymously removes much of the incentive for engaging in responsible, charitable, and good-faith commentary, and, therefore, should be discouraged except for the most extreme of circumstances.

So, while I commend Ed Morrissey and Feddie for their gracious and genteel defense of the blogging etiquette against outing anonymous/pseudonymous bloggers and commenters, I think that many who have expressed outrage toward Ed Whelan over his actions have overreacted a bit.

Let me clarify that I don't defend Ed Whelan for what was almost certainly a spiteful reaction. I suppose it was poor form. But I do think the condemnation of his actions from many quarters smacks of overreaction. "Outing" of this sort happens every day in the blogosphere, especially by those bloggers whose blog hosts have the ability to trace the owners of IP addresses (alas, I have not that capability).

My point is that anonymous/pseudonymous bloggers and commenters should live with the knowledge every day that it is a mere matter of time before their true identity becomes known to the blogosphere. And when it happens they shouldn't play "poor wounded me" and the rest of the blogosphere shouldn't suddenly get its collective panties in a wad over the outing.

I've seen far worse things happen in the blogosphere, and I'm fairly sure that some of those most exercised over this particular event couldn't bother to muster the least bit of outrage over some of those items.

Here is Paul Zu.... errrr ... I mean ... uh ... Cranky Con's take.


UPDATE #3 (8 June)
See also Don McClarey's quite reasonable views on the matter at The American Catholic.

I especially agree with Don on this:
All of us in our “real” life are constantly held accountable for our words and our actions. Someone blogging under a pseudonym is asking for an exemption from this general rule of life. As a matter of manners and good sportsmanship, I am personally willing to grant this exemption, but I do not see it as a question of morality when the general rule of life as to acccountability is applied to a blogger or a commenter.

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At 6/07/2009 8:49 PM, Anonymous Cranky Zummo said...

Well played


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