Thursday, November 17, 2005

On Anonymity

Josh notes that "A lot of blogs contain a whole heap of self-indulgent crap." This is, of course, true. Considering that blogs are, for many people, a 'public journal', this is also hardly surprising. But in search of this catharsis, how personal can you get? In part it would seem to depend on how well one guards one's 'real' identity. Josh's candor in his own "Purification Plan" might be stifled by the fact that many of his readers know where he sleeps. Deeply personal bloggers such as Ex-Boyfriend and Frankie cover a lot more ground because they can be complete honest once the pseudonyms (both for themselves and their, erm, victims) have been established.

In the past week, two incidents have come to light which deal directly with the issues of anonymity and outspokenness. First, there was a truly ugly kerfluffle involving uber-feminist Bitch, PhD, and a slightly pompous, intentionally provacative, commenter, who, following some pretty heated vitriol threatened to 'out' her, (sadly, it did not stop there. Investigate at your own peril). The resulting bruhaha has some interesting "discussion", not relevant here, (but see Cathy Young and especially Tim Burke for reasonable takes). Second, and closer to my heart, was Monday's Article III Groupie dénouement.

Now, much the B. PhD thing strikes me as, well, lame. As I commented on Cathy's post you can't let the people you agree with be jackasses and ban those who act similarly, but in support of an opposing viewpoint. That said, the threat to 'out' B. PhD just might be a firing offense. She's anonymous for a reason: she says stuff like this which though amusing, is probably not a story the protagonists would like to see in print. As a counterpoint, we see that UTR got zotzed within hours of the revelation that A3G was in fact a 30-year old, male, AUSA, the most likely theory being that his employers were not exactly wild about a blog dishing on the very judges they try cases in front of.

Herein lies my problem, I wanted to use this blog as a way to discuss my thoughts and experiences. However, the lack of real anonymity prevents me from being truly outspoken about anything, (except fricking A-Rod.) Many (most?) who read this are my close friends and family, so that takes away from the truth I can tell about life events. Plus, I haven't been as dilligent as I might have been about hiding my 'true identity', so anyone who wanted to find out who I am, could do so pretty easily.* Then there is the problem that the tone of my posts varies wildly from the serious to the facetious (to the inane, you might rightly ask...), and as Professor Althouse said with regards to A3G, "[c]ounting on other people to have a sense of humor is a very dangerous business." So how much of the ridiculousness I see on a daily basis at work can I talk about, leaving aside the bare minimums imposed by ethics rules? A3G almost certainly did not violate any of those, but the prudential concerns of not pissing judges off is an entirely seperate issue. It's not neccesarily a question of what I can and cannot talk about, but what I should or shouldn't.

* Update: Howard at How Appealing, the source of all things good and gossipy A3G related beat me to the punch. He also provides a link to a nice guide to blogging anonymously.

As my final thought on the A3G matter read this. The paradox of needing to be recognized as outstanding is a double-edged sword. The more anonymous you are, perhaps the better your
content can be, but the less people who know it is you who is responsible. No easy solution in sight.


Fletch said...

I hate to sound preachy and trite, but it's all about balance. Sure, a blog is a great place to vent about life and consider issues that impact our lives. At the end of the day, however, writing things I don't want my blog to have a major impact on my life. Some people go into blogging hoping to make a name for themselves writing, and those are probably the people who are willing to take serious risks by writing about the issues that are closest to their lives, like their jobs, sex lives, too honest commentary on their friends, etc. I think that its all about knowing what you hope to get from blogging.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of old 6'2", just read his instructive post on the Sportspickles top 200. While J's fave was really funny, I found a better one, though, because J is a youthful curmudgeon, it is too difficult to post on his site, so, and I quote:

some of us would prefer

but they left out the "h" to make in "Pooh holes"

(Pooh oles sound too much like a European soccer chant!)

Papa Pooh

Kaiser said...

Come on Papa Pooh! No Blogger identity? Score one for youthful curmudgeon-liness, I guess, but you have figured out how to at least turn the computer on, which I can't say for my old school mom...

mortnut said...

You call me out, I respond!!!

Now, about that long overdue dinner, . . . . .

Papa Pooh