I’ve been anonymously blogging for about three and a half years now. I was anonymous on boards and listservs before that. Oh, not anonymous anonymous–anyone who really wants to figure out who I am and where I live can probably do it. Part of it has been a general sense of “there are some Real Whackos out there, so it’s a good idea to keep the whackdom at arm’s length”, and since I started blogging the main reason for the anonymity is so that the dotter won’t find her name spread far and wide on the ‘net when she starts googling it. (Also so her friends and enemies in high school won’t find same and start the taunting circuitry a-jangling.)
There are plenty of good reasons for people to be anonymous on the internet. I have encountered at least three situations that made it plain why:
- Case A - blogger who was adopting from China realizes she has a problem with drinking, announces her joining AA and doing outpatient therapy on her blog, someone forwards that info to her agency (this was prior to China having a stated policy against same), and her agency dumps her and her husband like a hot potato.
- Case B - blogger who was adopting from China riles up a reader by posting pictures of equipment used in the adolescent sex education classes she taught years prior; said reader tracks down her info, contacts her agency saying she’s “unfit to be an adoptive mother”, and, as a result, the blogger’s adoption is put on hold while she undergoes extensive additional interviews by a hostile social worker.
- Case C - This is an amalgam of at least four cases I know of where someone with an ax to grind called CPS on someone who was posting on boards, and it took forever for those situations to be sorted out.
There’s always Dooce as another reason; to be “dooced” is to be fired from your job due to something you’ve written on your blog.
Then there are angry or crazy ex-spouses, or ex-in-laws, or former lovers, or just plain sick stalker types who, when finding clues about their former spouse/in-law/lover/victim, are quite avid to return to their prior ways.
On the whole, my approach when reading a blog is to first check the quality of writing, then to check the quality of the thinking behind the writing, and then to see how well that first impression is maintained as time goes on. In other words, I judge a blogger by his or her output, not by whether the blogger posts using a pseudonym or a “real” name. I gained great respect for CalculatedRisk long before his name was revealed, and the same for his (alas, now deceased) co-blogger Tanta, because of their excellent writing and news summaries on the real estate bubble, its inevitable bust, and the inner workings of the mortgage industry. The Rumor Queen got my respect with similar clarity and detail about what was going on as the wait in Chinese adoptions grew longer and longer. I never knew who Miss Snark was, but I learned a helluva lot about the business of being a book agent from her blog while it was extant (do yourself a favor–go read her blog in its entirety…I was devastated when she closed up shop). I have no idea what Johnny’s real name is, but I always find him an interesting read and know that he says what he means and means what he says when he posts.
I discovered AKMuckraker’s blog, The Mudflats, back when Sarah Palin was first announced as John McCain’s running mate. I wanted to know what reactions were to the nomination in my own state–Sarah Palin’s state. I figured I knew, but I’d check anyway. And lo and behold, there was a well-written, well-thought-out series of posts by this anonymous blogger. I subscribed, and kept reading, and nothing ever tarnished my impression of that blogger as interesting, funny, pretty even-handed. AKM helped spearhead a coordinated relief effort for the villagers of western Alaska when nothing was being done by Alaska’s elected officials. I respected AKM, and respected his/her decision to remain anonymous. Not only respected it, but understood it completely.
All of this is in preface to the sad news that Democratic State Representative Mike Doogan of Alaska has taken it upon himself to first discover, and then publish in his legislative newsletter, the identity of the person behind The Mudflats.
In correspondence with a constituent, Rep. Doogan further compared AKMuckraker to a member of the KKK because of her anonymity. Rep. Doogan’s rationale for the outing was: “My own theory about the public process is you can say what you want, as long as you are willing to stand behind it using your real name.”
I’m sure the people who decided to make the ballot secret can see the wisdom in that…
I’m sure that Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, an anonymous tract against the political rulers of the day, was in agreement…
I’m sure that Publius, anonymous author of the Federalist Papers (revealed afterwards to be Hamilton, Madison, and John Jay), thought the same…
I’m sure that the medical researchers being harassed and targeted at universities across the country are in total sympathy with the outing and publicizing of their names to PETA forums and other such places, the same sort of thing that Rep. Doogan has done here…
Politics is an emotional topic. Things can get very heated when it comes to Palinistas versus Obamanauts. When you’re a member of a minority political group in a sea of the others (a Democrat in a sea of Republicans, in this area of Alaska), it’s very easy to be a target, and intimidated. Perhaps Rep. Doogan, safe as he is in more-progressive Juneau, doesn’t realize what kind of atmosphere it is when one is the lone Democratic voter in, say, a set of gymnastics bleachers, surrounded by hordes of women wearing “Prayer Warrior for Sarah!” buttons. Having stood out in the rain and cold waving an Obama placard on a very busy road in Suburban Alaska, I’m quite aware of some of the frothing anger against Democrats from a small subset of people. I’m hoping that that frothing anger doesn’t get turned against AKMuckraker as a result of Rep. Doogan’s actions.