Outing Anonymous Bloggers
National Review‘s Ed Whelan has outed The Blogger Formerly Known as Publius, revealing his name and employer despite being informed by TBFKAP that he had a “variety of private, family, and professional reasons” for wishing to keep his identity private.
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. Anonymous Liberal (which, I’m given to understand, is not his given name) hits the nail on the head:
It’s really difficult to put into words just how despicable and childish this behavior is. This is a man who was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General. He’s currently the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. And he’s acting like a six-year-old.
The reality is that if you don’t think your work product can withstand the scrutiny of a few anonymous bloggers, than you have no business publishing it. And if your ego can’t withstand being criticized by people who write under pseudonyms, then you’re far too insecure to be blogging for a living.
I’ve blogged here under my real name for over six years and prefer to read and link bloggers who do likewise. Signing my name to what I write makes me think twice and the active realization that others whose arguments I’m engaging are real people also tends to make me more reflective. (Frankly, the blog might be more interesting if my writing were less tempered but I’m ultimately more interested in dialogue than drama.)
That said, I understand why some people can’t blog under the real name and can envision future circumstances where I’d be forced to adopt a pseudonym; not writing really isn’t an option at this point. As Glenn Reynolds likes to point out, blogging is a low-trust environment. Every post stands on its own merits based on the strength of the argument made and the quality of the linked sources.
He also observes, “if you appoint yourself someone’s anonymous blogging nemesis, you can probably expect to be outed.” Agreed, as Dave Schuler notes in the comments below, “Posting your writing on the Internet isn’t a private correspondence it’s like posting a notice in the town square and writers would be prudent to post nothing on the Internet that they wouldn’t care to sign their names to.” Both Dave and Glenn nonetheless agree that the outing in question was bad form.
Dan Riehl would fire Whelan if he were in charge of such things.