Last night, after I discvered that Ed Whelan had “outed” the blogger Publius by revealing his true identity, I figured it could provide an interesting blog topic. After a night’s sleep, going to Church, running 8 miles, playing with the baby, and cooking dinner, it seems that every single person in the blogosphere has now blogged about the incident. Seriously. I read a lot of blogs, and they’re all talking about this. I’m pretty sure Metsblog will be right on top of this before long. I don’t like being late for parties (just ask my wife), but what the hell, I might as well add my thoughts to the mix.
It’s actually kind of useful blogging about something after everyone else has, because you get to read a lot of the arguments and, who knows, you might actually change your mind. I went to bed largely agreeing with Feddie, but I can’t help but start thinking that Jay Anderson has the best argument. Not that the two are poles apart, but for what it’s worth, Jay’s sentiments are closer to mine at this point. I have a somewhat different perspective than some in that I blog here and at Southern Appeal using a pseudonym, but my identity is no secret, and I generally comment using my full real name (at Southern Appeal I use both blog handles in the comments, that being more of a function of whether I am logged in or out at the moment, and I’m usually too lazy to change whatever my status happens to be). My one point of departure from Jay is that I personally don’t really approach blogging differently using my pseudonym or my real name. I’m just as blustery either way. Then again, I do blog knowing that the reader generally knows who I am anyway, so perhaps my perspective is somewhat different than the person who really does not want his identity known.
We should distinguish here bewteen blogging with a pseudonym and blogging anonymously. If blogging has taught me anything it is that there are thousands of people named Anonymous in this country, and roughly 98% percent of them are total jerks. When there is absolutely no accountability, one certainly is more prone to be completely rude. But for pseudonymous bloggers like Publius or myself, whether or not our identities are known, we are identified by our blog handles. Therefore you are much more accountable for your words than someone who is completely anonymous, because you are recognized as “that” person by the readers of your blog or of the blogs that you regularly comment on. So I don’t think pseudonymous bloggers are nearly as bad as anonymous bloggers in that regard.
I also agree with the general sentiment that Ed Whelan is looking like a complete idiot in this exchange. I have been tempted to “out” certain pseudonymous bloggers, but stopped myself when I realized I’d be doing it completely out of spite. I have no beef with anyone who chooses not to completely let their identity float around the internet. But this where I ultimately side with Jay:
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.
The fact of the matter is anytime you put yourself out there on the internet you should do so knowing that you really can’t completely protect your identity from being revealed. There are just too many points at which your identity can be discovered. This is truer the more you blog, and the more contentious you are in your blog posts and comments. Look, I’ve dealt with Publius, and they guy ain’t exactly no band leader. That doesn’t excuse what Ed did, but I’m not going to shed any tears.
That being said, where does it stop? It’s one thing to say that pseudonymous blogger Shawn Michaels is in fact Shawn Hickenbottom. But at what point can bloggers go to far? Is revealing said blogger’s place of employment fair game? The names of his family members? Long story short, while expectations of being able to remain safely anonymous are pretty naive, it’s still a real dick move to be the guy doing the blabbing. And before you decide to go all whistleblower, think twice because people can do a lot nastier things than just reveal your real name.
And let me emphasize here very strongly that I don’t even remotely suggest someone should now feel entitled to dig up dirt on Ed Whelan. Said person would be an even worse miscreant. But just be careful what sort of behavior you engage in, because there’s always someone with lower ethics than you lurking out there.