A Question of Anonymity

Some interesting points have been raised in the fallout of the discovery that a Canadian Taxpayers Federation blogger has been using multiple anonymous personalities to comment on his own posts and troll other websites. Peter Rempel, in a halfhearted defence of David Maclean (Quote: “David Maclean is an ass”) points to what he sees as an example of the Giant Political Mouse’s hypocrisy, saying:

So far, we have the bloggers known as “Giant Political Mouse” and “Canadian Cynic” earnestly criticizing Maclean for blogging under an assumed identity

Rempel argues: here you have two bloggers (among many) who enjoy casting stones of punditry against their political opponents, who have decided for whatever reason to not blog under their own name. It is a little rich to be criticizing Maclean for doing the same thing.

Which would be a fair point, if these bloggers and Maclean were actually doing the same thing.

Other than making the decision to blog anonymously, bloggers like the Giant Political Mouse or POGGE are being perfectly honest in representing themselves to their blogosphere. They put their opinions on display, with an easy-to-remember monicker attached to them. Their arguments are on record; their responses to criticism are public, and when they go commenting on other people’s blogs, they do so under their own assumed name, which leads interested parties back to their blogs where the discussion can continue. There is nothing dishonest about their activity.

By appearing to use sock puppets — multiple anonymous identities — Maclean appears to misrepresent himself to other bloggers. He appears as though he is trying to create the appearance of a vibrant comment community on his blog where none exist. He appears as though he is trying to selectively duck responsibility for the more incendiary of his statements. It appears he is trying to have his cake and eat it too. Apparently he was called on this and initially denied it, which brings down his credibility far, far more than a single individual’s decision to blog under a single anonymous identity ever could do.

Anonymous identities are common on the Internet, and the ability to post anonymously is used for a variety of good and honest reasons, from the children’s book editor who doesn’t wish to be innundated with queries to the political pundit who doesn’t want his personal life intruded upon by political crazies.

I’ve chosen not to post anonymously on this blog, because writing is a big part of who I am, and I hope to use this blog to promote myself and my work. But my writing isn’t any more “real” or reliable than those of say, POGGE because of their decision to remain anonymous. This is because in these cases, these posters remain true to their expertise, and continue to represent themselves with decency and openness and honesty to the reading public, even though they don’t share their own name.

The question of David Maclean is not that he chose to post anonymously, but that he decided to abuse this ability. It appears that the Giant Political Mouse has caught him on this, and that’s why he is being criticized for it.

Further Reading

Master of Understatement

Greg Mercer of the Record staff writes a fascinating story about a drunk driver from hell, and the good samaritans that stopped him.

William Daley, 59, was observed driving extremely erratically and at high speed through Victoria Park and the back streets of Waterloo, almost running over a group of children at one point. This motivated Kris Brown and the driver of another vehicle to follow Daley, call the police, and box his vehicle in when he dropped off his wife at a local nursing home.

It’s at this point that Daley went berzerk, drawing a knife and stabbing the passenger of the third vehicle in the shoulder.

What I most appreciate about this story is Greg Mercer’s line about what Brown did next:

Brown, a stocky plant worker, intervened and got the attacker to drop the knife.

That’s a brilliant sentence, isn’t it? No description of how Brown got the attacker to drop the knife, but the description “stocky plant worker” certainly draws all sorts of images out of our imagination.

blog comments powered by Disqus