The Corner

The Anonymity Debate — A Day Later

Well,  one thing is clear, the subject is more interesting to a lot of folks than the Sotomayor nomination. Since the email keeps coming in  (though largely prompted by  bloggers elsewhere) I thought I’d just clarify my own position on all this. 

First, I don’t second guess Ed Whelan’s apology and had he asked me in advance what he was going to do I would have told him not to bother outing Blevins, regardless of what Blevins said about him. Not so much because I think Ed owes “Publius” such deference, but because it’s problably not worth the headache or the precedent.

As for my own position on all of this, I don’t see any reason whatsoever to change my basic argument from my initial post, which was this:

…In short, I think the answer to this question depends entirely on the conduct of the anonyblogger. It seems counter-intuitive to bullies and cowards who like the idea of sticking pins in voodoo dolls from a safe distance, but anonyblogging requires more politeness and decency even though it liberates you to use less. If you are honest, fair-minded, and polite I think people should probably respect your anonymity. If you play fast and loose with the truth and are altogether a shabby person, I am at a loss as to why everyone should respect your desire to hurl insults and brickbats from the safety of anonymity. The expectation of anonymity strikes me as a classic example of a privilege, not a right.

Jon Adler, who has strong feelings about the sanctity of anonyblogging, found no objection to this, nor have I seen any convincing argument why any of this is wrong. As I said in the same post, I was a little torn about the issue, and I remain so. I suggested (and probably could have been more declarative) that there are areas where anonymous blogging makes a real contribution, and I still think that’s the case.

I should add since so much of the email in response (seemingly prompted from Sullivan [yawn] and others) is so nasty and personal, that I have received tens of thousands of nasty emails from people, some whom it would have been great fun (and even newsworthy) to “out.” To date, I have never intentionally revealed a single person’s identity or email address. If had as little integrity as so many of these people insist, that would not be the case.

Now where I seem to have tripped myself up is in this discussion about the Federalist Papers and anonymity. I think there’s a lot of tendentiousness and bad faith in some peoples’ reading of what I wrote. And, I think I probably made it easier for some to distort my intent by being sloppy. For instance, when I referred to “amateur pundits” some people took me as denigrating bloggers over some caste of professional pundits. But as any fair reading of what I’ve written about this sort of thing over the years would show, I don’t see things that way. My point was that I thought comparing some anonymous insult-hurler who blogs under a pseudonym to Hamilton, Madison or Jay struck me as kind of silly. I still think it’s kind of silly. But it seems that the rest of the discussion on the web hinged on the Federalist analogy and Blevins/Publius and people understandably confused my point.

Anyway, it’s been an interesting discussion and I think it’s revealing how deeply invested people are in the issue.


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