Friday, March 27, 2009

Anonymity, the Press Club, and real stupidity

One of the subjects that came up last night on the blogging panel was whether bloggers (read: the subset of bloggers that tend to be political commentators with a journalistic/observational bent) should remain/be allowed to remain anonymous. Shannyn Moore and I both agreed (us on the left of the podium) that yes, of course, anonymity is the perogative of the individual blogger. Andrew Halcro also agreed, with the observation on a standard true-name byline, "How could you enforce it, anyway?"

Well, as Mike Doogan has, as of this morning, demonstrated, one way to enforce it is by the method of forced outing. Doogan revealed the actual name of a popular blogger, Mudflats. (He used, rumor has it, an e-list of constituents to spread this word, which may constitute a conflict of interest. More on this later.)

This immediately brings to mind the outings of closeted gay public figures; the ethics of this has always been troubling to me. On the one hand, outing someone who can't yet deal with this innermost conflict in their identity is, to me, a form of violence perpetrated on the outee. On the other hand, the outee may in fact be a perpetrator of, say, legislative violence upon fellow gays who are honestly out, taking that risk that the closeted can't bear to face.

However, Mudflats is simply an individual commenting on politics. The refuge of the pseudonym in literature and journalism has a time-honored history. I think it is Doogan here who is in the wrong. He has overstepped his bounds.

I'll have to get off line here for the moment. The hotel needs to do some maintenance.


Erick Cordero Giorgana said...

Well said, but some of us have also pointed out that he misused legislative resources by outing a blogger. He had no business doing that from his legislative email and official newsletter.

Ishmael said...

That's one hell of a deal.... Was Doogan at the blogging panel?

Erick Cordero Giorgana said...

Watch out Ish, he might out you next!

Deirdre Helfferich said...

Erick: I agree. I wasn't privy to the original source (I heard about it from Phil Munger at the desk of the AK Press Club and later at the Anchorage Press party from Shannyn Moore) so I didn't realize that the outing came via legislative newsletter. It seems, um, nasty. I've not yet read Doogan's reasons for it, though, but my first (and now second thoughts on the matter are that it's not right.

Ish: nope, he wasn't. Haven't seen him at the conference. Very few people attending, but it's been an excellent conference this year.