Over at The Corner, there is a discussion between several of the NRO-niks (including Jonah Goldberg, Jonathan Adler, and Ed Whelan) about the propriety of “anonyblogging,” i.e., blogging under the cover of a pseudonym. The word “coward” is being bandied about, perhaps a little too cavalierly.
The issue came to light because Ed Whelan “outed” the liberal blogger “Publius” over at Obsidian Wings (the conclusion of the affair is here). In short, Publius criticized Whelan, who responded by revealing Publius’s identity. Whelan then apologized and Publius graciously accepted the apology. Still, words like “idiot” and “coward” were used and, frankly, I expect much better of Ed Whelan. His response was petulant, but his apology seems sincere and thoughtful.
The argument over the propriety of anonymous blogging does give me pause. I am one of the faceless bloggers out there, but don’t consider myself a coward. Am I wrong?
As Publius pointed out (and Rightwing Nuthouse agreed), there are real reasons why people choose to blog anonymously. For myself, writing this blog is little more than a release. Whether I’m writing down my thoughts about the Obama Administration, the new book about John Lennon, or the new album by the Dead Weather (coming soon to a CD store near you!), I’m doing it because I’m an opinionated cuss and I like to write. Nobody is paying me to do this (though gratuities are happily accepted). This is not my life, just a part of it.
It’s a part that could hold real world ramifications, however. I’m not worried about stalkers, or threats to my safety. What does concern me is that I work in a very liberal field, in a bad economy. The fear of having my pro-life, low-tax loving, small-government promoting, anti-global warming identity just a Google search away for current and/or future employers seems to me less a matter of cowardice than just plain ol’ intelligence.
It’s easy for Ed Whelan to refer to anonymous blogging as “self-serving” or Jonah Goldberg to call it “cowardly.” These men are paid to have opinions. They are professionals who receive money to tell the world that they are pro-life, low-tax loving, etc., etc. I am not. In their world, their opinions can get them noticed, get them raises, get them syndicated, get them on TV. In my world, my opinions can prevent employment or even get me fired. How would Jonah feel about anonymous blogging if he knew that his Corner posts might cause him to lose his job? Maybe he would choose not to write his opinions down, or stick to non-controversial topics, and that’s an honorable choice.
Unlike Publius at Obsidian Wings, I have no family considerations in this. My opinions are well-known to everyone in my family, and shared by most. Those who don’t share my opinions…well, they don’t, and we talk about other things. But professional considerations are all too real. People have lost jobs and livelihoods because they wrote something politically incorrect on a blog and attached their names to it. I don’t want to be one of them. Are these considerations self-serving, as Whelan claims? Damn right they are. I’ve got a mortgage, a wife, and two cats to look after.
Jonah Goldberg does take the professional risks into account. His post is, as always, thoughtful, though he limits the possibility of suffering professionally to non-tenured academics. He is dead on when he states that anonymous blogging requires more politeness and decency even though the blogger is liberated to use less discretion, and that anonymous bloggers need to be even more careful to be honest and fair-minded.
For myself, I am new to this. My intention is to be honest and fair-minded. That doesn’t mean I can’t have fun. My Obama Grovelpalooza ’09 Tour T-shirt may brush up against the boundaries of bad taste, but it’s also clearly a joke (and based loosely on real posters that conservatives in Israel were posting in Jerusalem). Similarly, I did call Nancy Pelosi a liar. It’s because she clearly is a liar. I also referred to her as “smelly.” That, too, was a joke. I’m sure she smells like lilacs or roses or some other wonderful-smelling flower.
I hope that I approach everything here with intellectual honesty and a sense of fun. I am fully outraged at much of the stuff our government is doing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a few laughs, does it?
I would also hope that if I do write something that is blatantly dishonest that I would be held to account by the blogosphere, with the understanding that there is a huge difference between being wrong and being dishonest. And if National Review wants to hire me I’ll be more than happy to shed my anonymity. I could use an editor.