Honestly without Anonymity
Can there be truth when there are consequences?
This began as part of the previous post but got long enough that I thought it worth breaking out. There was some suggestion in the comments threads yesterday that Steven and I shade our opinions here out of fear of pushback from our employers. A look through our archives, which go back more than seventeen years, would demonstrate otherwise.
Steven has been at Troy since we both arrived there in the summer of 1998. He’s been tenured for nearly the entire time he’s been blogging, made full professor a decade ago, and was selected as Dean three years ago. I haven’t noted any changes in tone from him, although, as we’ve both acknowledged, our views on various issues have steadily evolved.
I’ve been at Marine Corps University for almost seven years now. I’ve been taking a turn as department head since July and was just promoted to full professor. But, aside from writing a lot less for a variety of reasons, I don’t think readers will detect any changes in style or tone at any of those milestones.
Indeed, I’ve written countless tweets, blog posts, and externally-published articles criticizing President Obama, President Trump, various Secretaries of Defense, Secretaries of the Navy, and Commandants of the Marine Corps since starting at MCU. I’ve mostly done so respectfully—although less so on Twitter than in the more formal platforms—but that’s long been my style.
Does the fact that I’m writing under my own name and have been from the beginning make me more reticent? Sure. But that’s not so much a concern over my employability as with my reputation. And also because I understand that I’m writing in a public forum.
Blogging, especially in its early days, was a communal medium and I expected that, if I was criticizing another’s commentary, they might well read it. That was soon amplified after I met many of my fellow bloggers and even some media personalities and politicians, reminding me that they’re actual human beings. The combination of these factors led me to be especially charitable in interpreting other’s words—Am I honestly representing what they’re trying to communicate, rather than taking the worst possible interpretation in order to score cheap debating points?— which I believe serves me and the readers well.
OTB has always been something of an oddity in that regard.
It began as a solo blog by yours truly, a conservative Republican who had moved to the DC exurbs of Northern Virginia from Alabama a few months earlier. While I quickly built an audience, OTB was rare among Republican-leaning, Iraq War-supporting blogs of its day in that, literally from Day 1, I was excoriating the likes of Ann Coulter and other conservative bloggers who were demonizing war opponents as anti-American yahoos who were “objectively on the other side.”
While there are doubtless exceptions, partly because of temperament, partly because of training, my writing style here has almost always been analytical rather than polemical. And, while I’ve long since realized that I’m probably not actually changing many minds, my intent and style have always been aimed at explaining and persuading.
As I expanded OTB into a group blog, I tried to preserve that voice. While Steven, Doug, and others who have had front-page privileges here have disagreed on various issues, I’ve tried to replicate that style and tone. As the brand solidified, I became even more adamant in that regard. Given Doug’s long absence and time constraints on the part of Steven and myself, we’d love to expand the stable. But we really want to keep the tone the same, which means we’re looking for people with similar credentials, training, and temperament.
For a variety of reasons, mostly a combination of Steven and I growing increasingly alienated from the GOP and an increasingly dogmatic left-of-center commentariat, we became the only site I know of where the readers are mostly of a different political persuasion than the writers.
Presumably, the reason so many Democratic partisans started reading OTB in the first place was for the same reason I was reading Kevin Drum, Josh Marshall, and others in the old days: to get well-reasoned, non-vitriolic commentary “from the other side.”
We’re less “on the other side” these days but it’s likely rather frustrating that we haven’t gone full Balloon Juice and come to agree that Republicans are all evil racist cult worshipers.