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    You had something to hide / Should’ve hidden it, shouldn’t you?

    Camille’s latest Salon column discusses President Obama’s Cairo speech. (She likes the attempt at outreach to moderate Muslims but thinks his grasp of religious faith seemed deficient and undercut it.) Worth reading as always.

    What really got my attention, though, is that she sings the praises of Depeche Mode. Really? I mean, I know they were a big Catholic-schoolgirl thing, but really? And her favorite song—go figure!—is “Never Let Me Down Again.” An image flashed into my mind of her standing at the kitchen sink in the ’80s, scrubbing the dishes with a plastic scrubby while tunelessly chanting, in that bark of hers, “He promises me I’m as safe as houses / as long as I remember who’s wearing the trou-sahs.”

    *******

    Because web design is not my metier (no comments from the peanut gallery), I spent most of my blog-related time over the last week getting the site up and running here at WordPress rather than actually looking at the news. I did, however, catch at least some of the imbroglio over Ed Whelan’s snippy-vengeful disclosure at The Corner of the real name of the guy who blogs as Publius. Janis Gore, who I can’t imagine would ever be snippy, has posted about it several times recently. She links to a bunch of good posts and herself says:

    I’d hope my niece never shows up with this guy for dinner. Mr. Whelan didn’t do anything illegal, immoral or even unethical — just what in the South we’d call “tacky,” or my mother would call “ugly.”

    There was nothing illegal, immoral or unethical about Al barfing on that bridesmaid’s dress at Zee’s wedding, but he still won’t be invited to any more of Zee’s parties. Poor guy didn’t have the charm to carry that off. Few do.

    And I’m surprised. The National Review is an institution, and the bloggers there have never before confronted adversaries that way. I’d say Kathryn Jean Lopez has endured some of the most brutal, hateful and hurtful commentary I’ve ever read. I’m sure it’s on her radar, but she goes her merry way, as the other bloggers have.

    In the interest of fostering mutual understanding between cultures, let me point out that we’d call it “tacky” here north of the Mason-Dixon Line, too. (What my mother would say, for the record, is “You just don’t do that sort of thing!”) Janis approvingly links Bruce McQuain’s post at Q and O, and she’s right. That he’s right. McQ says:

    The fact that Whelan’s outing of Publius added nothing of weight to his arguments nor took away from those of Publius smacks of petty vindictiveness. He knew he could hurt Publius by doing something to him that Publius had carefully avoided over the years. In a word it was petty.

    Some commenters at Q and O maintain that Whelan doesn’t owe Publius any courtesy, but in these cases, it’s always useful to do a little thought experiment. If the roles were reversed, and a blogger on the left had revealed the name of an anonymous right-leaning blogger who was throwing rough-and-tumble criticism at him, would these same people be saying that no ethical lines were crossed? Sorry, I know it’s impossible to prove a such a hypothetical, but I don’t believe that for a second. Especially if the right-leaning blogger in question had invoked livelihood and family as reasons for staying anonymous, or even just the problems of being a conservative surrounded by liberals. I think Janis and McQ have found exactly the right pitch: the guy acted like a jerk and should be shunned. That people who blog under pseudonyms should not be naive about the possibilities that their real identities will be ferreted out doesn’t change the fact that publicizing who they are is violating their wishes. If their arguments suck, then post counter-arguments. If you think they’re writing at a level of nastiness that they would never sink to if they were using their real names, then point that out. Challenge them to put their own names to what they write if they want to be disagreeable—there’s nothing unreasonable about doing that. One of the reasons I’ve always commented and blogged under my own name is…well, so that I’d have a sense of ultimate responsibility every time I clicked on the “Submit” button. It was important to me to do that. But other people make different calculations, and I wouldn’t dream of interfering with them.

    3 Responses to “You had something to hide / Should’ve hidden it, shouldn’t you?”

    1. Mark Alger says:

      I keep wondering why bloggers who wish to be anonymous don’t just make up a real-sounding name. Who’s going to know any better? If I were blogging under the name George Jackson Saunders, how would you know that wasn’t my real name? For that matter, how do you know Mark Alger is? Using a twee pseudonym strikes me as risky behavior — nanometers from asking for it.

      M

    2. Janis Gore says:

      I saw that point made elsewhere, Mark. But then you run the risk of saddling some innocent citizen with your opinions.

    3. Sean says:

      I think, Mark, that people use obvious pseudonyms because using a real-sounding fake name is more like telling a flat-out lie. It seems as if you were trying to fool people into thinking you were actually a different person, whereas any reader can figure out that, say, Mistress Venus Conservakitty is not the name by which the SSA knows you. (There’s also the potential problem Janis mentions.) To me, this sort of thing parallels the usual woman-leaves-her-purse-on-a-park-bench example: she’s dumb to do so, and if it gets stolen she has only herself to blame, but the person who stole it is still a jerk and deserves punishment. In the case of blogging, we’re not talking about theft or anything criminal, but we are talking about something that shows you up as taking the cheap way out of responding to someone’s actual argument.

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