Monday, February 28, 2005

On Anonymity

As you've probably noticed, I blog anonymously. Well, that's not completely true. My name really is Chris, but my last name remains one of those great mysteries, like how they get the filling into twinkies, or how many licks it really takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop. Not all bloggers think anonymous blogging is a good thing. Some even think it's cowardly. Well, here's what I say to those of you who think anonymous blogging is wrong: Go [Twinkie] yourself with a [Tootsie Pop].

I suspect that there are all sorts of reasons for blogging anonymously. For one, the internet is full of crazies (ask PZ Myers, who has received angry phone calls from Powerline fanatics), and I have a child. The last thing I want is one of those insane pro-Evolutionary Psychology freaks to know my name and where I live! But the main reason that I chose to be anonymous has to do with my career. I personally find my career more important than a stupid blog, but I also see no reason to not blog simply because I don't want to step on the toes of individuals who might be responsible for determining whether a particular institution hires or fires me. So, I blog, but do so anonymously. Perhaps someday I'll put my last name at the end of each post, but I can't promise that I will. I certainly don't see any reason why I should have to.

One more thing. In the above-linked post, the always slow-witted Keith Burgess-Jackson writes:
Imagine a world in which there were no anonymous utterances. It would force people to be civil, fair, and charitable; to be responsive to the facts; and to be logically consistent—for the absence of any of these things would constitute a black mark on one’s record.
Clearly, he's never actually observed a political debate between onymous pundits. Hell, he's apparently unaware of the bulk of the political discourse in this country, period. Only a fool would fail to notice that the absense of anonymity does not force people to be civil, fair, and charitable, responsive to the facts, or logically consistent. But since KBJ blogs onymously, and exhibits none of these features, it's not surprising that he's failed to notice this.

UPDATE: The Anal"Philosopher" has more to say on the topic, here. Once again, he demonstrates the civility, fairness, and charity that makes him so representitive of the onymous bloggers of whom he speaks.


PZ Myers said...

I think he fails to understand the difference between a drive-by anonymous commenter and someone who is maintaining a blog anonymously. The former is a kind of obnoxious coward, but the You, for instance, have your credibility on the line as "Chris at Mixing Memory." You do have an incentive to be responsible, and anyone who takes offense knows who to address on the net -- that darn Chris at Mixing Memory guy.

There's also an obvious counter-example to his delusion that a lack of anonymity will lead to a perfect world. Keith Burgess-Jackson has just called an awful lot of people cowards who exercise "incivility, unfairness, uncharitableness, factual recklessness, and logical inconsistency". That's awfully uncivil of him.

shulamite said...

Well, if it ever got too intolerable, you could always just blog under a fake name- pick the first one out of the phone book- or the first one that forms in a boggle shake. For all I know, that's what you did, Chris. IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME!!!!!


I'm an anonymous blogger too. I have no incentive to change. If I thought I could gain a bunch of traffic by using my name, I'd start in a heartbeat- but I'm pretty sure that I get ignored simply because most people aren't interested in what I say.

coturnix said...

I was blogging under my name on the primary campaign blog, but used "LiberalZoo" and "Coturnix" when commenting on other blogs and forums. I retained "Coturnix" once I started Science And Politics, and only posted my real name several months later, once I started Circadiana, as I felt that a host of an "expert" blog should blog openly, thus be open to "checking" of credentials. Unfortunately, Blogger does not allow anonymity on one blog and onymity on another, so I swallowed hard, and let it be know who I am. I am still not sure if I made the right decision. For a while I kept a low profile, but now I am back at Winger-bashing full steam.

I fully understand why some people want to remain anonymous, while others do not, and respect that decision. It has nothing to do with courage or civility.

Dave Munger said...

I certainly can understand why someone would want to remain anonymous. There was that woman who worked in the adult bookstore, or the guy in Iraq. However, I think academic bloggers have less reason to be anonymous. If you're not saying what you believe, then you shouldn't be blogging anyway. If you are, then your blog becomes part of your identity, and probably actually enhances your career.

Likewise if you want to badmouth someone behind their back. Doing it anonymously is pretty low and dirty. If you're not willing to say it onymously (now there's a word I never imagined using), you probably shouldn't be saying it.

I haven't read all of your posts, Chris, but I haven't seen anything so far that would suggest you *need* to be anonymous.

One of the first posts on my personal blog addressed my concerns about "exposing" my children on the Internet. In the end, I think it's basically paranoia, though. Stalkers have plenty of access to our kids, whether or not our identity is "public" on the Internet.

coturnix said...

Onymous sounds too much like ominous!

the idle machine said...

One uncivil student ruined it for 79 others.It's also pretty easy to argue that one over-reacting individual ruined it for everyone else. First, he validates the original 'abusive' (no context given) post by replying, then when he doesn't like the reply he gets back he decides to kick over the gameboard and go home.

And this from a self-identified philosopher? If he honestly can't see that a valid answer to his initial question is "someone not in a position of strength", then, well, I'm at a complete loss...

It all becomes more obvious a little later in his post, though:

If you’re an untenured professor who fears retaliation, then you should wait until you’re tenured before putting your ideas into circulation.See, it's just another argument from authority...

'AnalPhilosopher'...well, at least he got the first half right.

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