Saturday, June 18, 2005

The importance of being [name redacted]

Some other bloggers I respect and why it is important that some of us can choose to be named or unnamed.
First, Echidne of the Snakes on why some choose anonymity.
Pseudonyms have been used in writing for a very long time, much before blogging was invented. Think of the Federalist Papers, think of Currer Bell and George Eliot. The reasons for writing anonymously are many and some are better than others. The Bronte sisters chose to write under male names because the literary markets of the era discriminated against women. The anonymous writers of the Federalist Papers didn't want their identities contaminate the message, perhaps. More recently, Carolyn Heilbrun chose Amanda Cross as the name to use when she wrote detective fiction, because she was an academic and the academic circles looked down on the detective novel genre.

The reasons for choosing anonymity vary, clearly, from protection of ones career or reputation to defenses against unfair markets to concerns with the purity of the message. In countries with authoritarian regimes anonymity may be the shield which stops a writer from being killed or his or her family from being hunted down.

Then Atrios on how a blogger lost his anonymity because someone couldn't deal with his lack of a name.
Apparently the owner of Knoxville's Metro Pulse alt-weekly is the thinnest skinned man in the universe, responding to mild criticism on South Knox Bubba's blog by writing this rather intimidating (and illuminating) email to him, leading SKB to out himself.

Anonymity allows people the freedom to speak without fear of reprisals in other elements of your life. On the internet, where every little comment can potentially hang around forever, it allows people to communicate views without worrying about what current/future employers or customers may think of them. People do get fired/not hired for this kind of stuff. Without anonymity many people would not be able to talk politics on the internets. It allows people to separate their personal political/religious/whatever views from their personal/professional lives otherwise. It's truly a gift.
The accusation here is that SKB "abused" his anonymity. Anonymity can be abused if it's being used as a cover for illegal activities or actionable speech (libel). In both cases anonymity provides little cover - one subpoena to your ISP or web hosting company and it's all over. Anonymity could also be abused by posing as an "outsider" of some sort when you're actually an insider, or if you use it to mask some sort of hidden personal agenda or financial interest. To the extent that anonymity prevents knowing if those apply it can be criticized.
But, this situation isn't about the right or expectations of anonymity, it's about a power imbalance between the owner of a local newspaper and some guy with a blog, and that newspaper owner using anonymity as means of intimidation. What a fucking wanker.

I couldn't agree more. What a wanker.

My blog has a handful of return readers, for which I am thankful. Some agree with me, others don't. For me, protecting my ID is important to my career. Blogging is a hobby, and I don't see myself making enough money to let Wonkabout replace my scientific pursuits. For that reason, I remain Robster. If you think my commentary is good, my real name shouldn't matter to you.

by Robster @ 6/18/2005 06:15:00 PM PERMALink