Blogging Ethics Debate, Ver 2.301

You know it's a slow news week when the "A" list blogs on the left are engaged in intense navel gazing over the issue of using pseudonyms in either running a blog or commenting on someone else's blog. The entire blogospheric discussion was initiated by a column in Sunday's WaPo by Tom Grubisich, who opined (in part):


In any community in America, if Mr. anticrat424 refused to identify himself, he would be ignored and frozen out of the civic problem-solving process. But on the Internet, Mr. anticrat424 is continually elevated to the podium, where he can have his angriest thoughts amplified through cyberspace as often as he wishes. He can call people the vilest names and that hate-mongering, too, will be amplified for all the world to see...
Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the earliest "pamphleteers" of the web responded to Grubisich's concerns. Atrios sums up the anonymity issue nicely when he says:
Pseudonymity allows people to participate in the public discourse who for a variety of reasons wouldn't be able to otherwise. It offers little protection for criminal speech (threats of violence) or for those who engage in libel.
Ezra Klein believes that Grubisich's column is little more than a bushel of sour grapes for someone who is financially (and socially) anchored to the foundation of the legacy media, and who has yet to come to terms with the rapidly shifting nature of information delivery (and, yes, the "power" of participation by rabble such as myself):
Grubisich thinks the public square has become too open, and he wants to erect some new barriers to entry. That's what the pseudonymity discussions are always about: Privileged members of the media feeling great anxiety that they're no longer set apart simply by access to microphones and looking for ways to keep the barbarians off the stage...
Indeed. And Digby takes Ezra even one step further, in a stunning piece of personal navel gazing at Hullabaloo:
In the early days of usenet and internet communities people adopted noms de plume, sometimes as an affectation, but most often as a function of insecurity about the new medium. Unlike their revolutionary predecessors, they weren't afraid of the crown but they were afraid of losing their jobs if their political views became known...
This, I think, is the essence of any argument re: anonymity in political blogging (or even, in commenting on blogs). Back in the day of usenet, fidonet, RIME, and dialup bulletin boards, anonymity was not so much of an issue. In fact, on a dialup BBS that I ran out of my home office in the late 80's and early 90's, I required "real" names (or, at least, a verifiable personal entity that I could contact) for members of my online bulletin board. At the time, though, online communications were the domain of the most geeky among us.

But as a few high-profile employment cases relative to online communications began to wind through state labor boards and courts, a new dynamic emerged: employers (or potential employers) started googling names of employees (or potential employees). No longer could a General Motors employee run a website, under their own name, that in any way criticized their employer or their employer's products. There are quite a few high profile cases of such people losing their jobs and landing in legal hot water...

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