There’s been a little kerfuffle in the “left-right” blogosphere this weekend over the “outing” of a pseudonymous blogger.
While I sympathize (or is the right word these days “empathize“?) with Ed Whelan’s frustration at being publicly attacked by someone who wants to lead a dual on-line/off-line life (and ignoring the incivil nature of many of the comments over at Obsidian Wings), I think that (former pseudonymous) blogger Jonathan Adler has the better part of the argument.
I would also say that I agree that there is an important distinction between pseudonymous and anonymous blogging. The former establishes an identity and a reputation that must be both established, and upheld. After a while, people will respect, or not, posts or comments from such a person, regardless of whether or not they know the real name/profession/location, etc. An anonymous commenter/blogger, on the other hand, has the potential to be a drive-by arsonist, and many are. In the space Internet world, Tommy Lee Elifritz is perhaps the best example of this, who changes his nom de plume more often than he probably changes his underwear, at places like Space Politics, NASA Watch and Rockets’n’Such. Of course, in his case, the vile style is quite distinctive.
Anyway, from a personal perspective, I’ve always blogged under my real name, for better or worse. In some cases, it’s been for the worse. I won’t name names, but I know for a fact that I have lost consulting work and been blackballed by parts of the industry because of my writing on the net under my own name (the proximate cause was the LA Times debate that I had with Homer Hickam), prominently noted to industry insiders, who might otherwise not have noticed it, by NASA Watch. Thanks, Keith…
Note that this wasn’t over my “right wing” (a phrase that never fails to amuse) politics, but specifically about my space policy blogging. This undoubtedly cost me many thousands of dollars in income since then, and ultimately resulted in a blogging plea for work last summer (one that ultimately resulted in consulting employment that undid at least some of the personal economic damage, so blogging has some value). This isn’t a complaint, but simply a statement of how the world works.
Perhaps, had I been blogging pseudonymously, this wouldn’t have happened. But as others in the most recent discussion have pointed out, one can only maintain pseudonymity for so long, until one is “outed,” because the more one reveals on the blog (and if one is a serious blogger, much is eventually revealed), diligent people can figure it out, and if they think it in their interest, reveal it to others. And of course, had I been a pseudonymous blogger, I wouldn’t have gotten the LA Times gig to begin with. Who wants to read Homer Hickam debating someone who won’t use their own name?
Anyway, when I started this endeavor, my motto was “to thine own self be true.” I’ve always tried to do that on this blog, consequences (apparently) be damned, and I’d like to assure what few readers I have that I’ll continue to do so.
[Monday morning update]
Heh. “I’ve looked at a bunch of the sites that have posted on the Blevins affair, and their anonymous commenters are running heavily against Ed for some reason.”