My Distaste for Anonymous Bloggers

Talking about the Jaded-JD, I have developed a great dislike (distrust?) of bloggers who post anonymously or use pseudonyms to disguise their identities. I can understand that sometimes anonymous posting is unavoidable; but when posting political commentary, one should have the conviction to stand behind their statements. If one doesn’t have the confidence and passion to put their name beside their comments, I cannot take them very seriously.


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  1. Steven Avatar

    Phil, I’m in complete agreement with you on this issue.

    These anonymous bloggers blame, or insult anyone for wanting to better the political process, and they shouldn’t punished us for initiating the discussion.

    What fluff they spin — political cotton candy. They sure have a lot of material ready for letters-to-the-editor, family dinners and political speeches at barbecues and church socials, but what would they actually do if they could find their way to Richmond?

    My comment: You can’t please everybody … and don’t take them seriously.

    I, for one, thought it your recent blogs were better than your previous post this year. And you’ve done some pretty good stuff. Not sure these anonymous bloggers thought so. I heard the same thing from a couple of people which I call ‘Blue Dog’ blog-leaches, who latch on to every word I publish…

    I believe most of paid political junkies, gadflys and handlers for the candidates.

    But I must admit, the ‘Cobalt Canine’ employs subtlety that cuts like a knife and their reactions are a key indicators for readership of my column.

    “Nice doggy, nice doggy” are not what these people say to snarling mastiffs poised to dismember them. Their not carrying biscuits either.

    In the past, I’ve pointed out that Virginia Democrat doesn’t have to mean liberal baby-killing gay-rights tax-increasing advocate, unless they really want it to. And I’ve been accused of calling some local politicians … a democrat! Of all things, by statewide Dems who said … the blue dog was trying to make that a point to degrade the candidate. Oh duh!

    Even though my email is listed on the blog, I never heard back from these … anonymous bloggers within my mailbox. It’s cowardly and spineless. Political discussion should be about an individual’s passion for issues, not hiding behind an anonymous name or pseudonyms to disguise their identities.

    But honestly, the bigger problem in my view is that our tin-ear, invertebrate politicians in Richmond don’t seem to listen too closely to their constituents.

    ‘Nuff said.

    ~ the blue dog

  2. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    There are circumstances where I think anonymous blogging is acceptable. Some individuals are employed by organizations that do not look kindly on free speech for reasons that range from justifiable to those that are petty.

    I can tell you that an effort was made to fire me for writing “Virginia Pundit Watch.”

    As long as the anonymous blogger publishes an explanation of his or her anonymity, I do not have a problem with them. They must, however, live with their writings possibly not receiving as much credence. A great anonymous blogger story might not get picked up the mainstream media, for example. And, of course, Phil and the Blue Dog will discount their opinions.

    Commenters on blogs should at least choose an anonymous identity, such as “laszlo,” and stick with it. It gets tiresome trying to distinguish Anonymous from Anonymous.

  3. Sorrel Avatar

    There’s a middle ground here. It’s not particularly important what the actual real world identity of the person is. I generally think the vitality of the debate is enhanced by the fact that poeple can assume an identity that protects them against pressure from employers, family members, neighbors etc. It also gives people with inside knowledge of some of the issues that interest us a chance to share insights that would be deemed disloyal or heretical by persons they normally interact with. So I think we should encourage use of noms de e-plume. Indeed, there are people use a pseudonym just to spew invective, but the rest of us get to know who they are and quickly discount their contributions. I do think, however, there is merit in adhering to one pseudonym across the blogs so that the content and thought quality of the person gets to be recognized (for good or ill). One anon cannot be distinguished from another. There are several blogs I really enjoy and participate in. Bacon’s Rebellion is unique in the depth of exploration of policy issues that goes on. I think you would lose a lot of that if you discouraged pseudonymous comments.

  4. saywhat Avatar
    saywhat

    I think anonymous comments to blogs are OK (with consistent screennames, as others here have suggested) but actually running a blog without saying who you are is not, except for satirical ones like the late, great Pastor John. I enjoyed trying to figure out who he was and was sorry in the end to find out he’s from California.

    If your job won’t allow you to blog, then either get a new job or don’t blog.

    As much as the bloggers can rightfully fuss about the MSM, reporters and columnists (rarely editorial writers, but their name is listed elsewhere) don’t hide their identities.

    The cowardice of hiding does discredit, and I spend much more time reading blogs where I know who the blogger is.

  5. The Jaded JD Avatar
    The Jaded JD

    My approach to blogging is that described by Mr. Vehrs and Sorrel. I use the same pseudonym every time I post or comment, and on every blog. I haven’t had a problem (that I’m aware of to date) of people hijacking my pseudonym to comment on blogs (as seems to have happened to Addison at Sic Semper Tyrannis).

    There are a host of semi-anonymous bloggers who take that approach: The three musketeers at Sic Semper, those a Commonwealth Watch, Not Larry Sabato–whose doing an admirable job of covering the House races this year–and he who is regarded as the godfather of Virginia political blogs, John Behan. (Though I think we all know his real identity at this point, the point is that he still doesn’t associate it with his blog and I don’t blame him.)

    If you’re going to discount anonymous bloggers just because you can’t match a pseudonym to a real identity, that’s certainly your prerogative. I’ve never concealed the fact–rather, I’ve called attention to it recently–that my blog isn’t designed for public consumption. I don’t go out and seek a readership. I record my thoughts there, and if people outside my personal sphere happen to come along and read them, that’s fine. But I don’t have to expose my identity and have my personal thoughts attributed to me just because someone else comes along and finds my blog. I don’t owe anyone that level of openness just because I maintain my diary on a webpage rather than in a book.

    Having developed a readership, I do sometimes speak to it. But that doesn’t alter the fact that, on my site, they are my guests–if they don’t like it, they’re free to leave and never return.

    When I visit other blogs and leave comments, I drop my pseudonym precisely because I agree with Mr. Vehrs and Sorrel: there does need to be some accounting for consistency, and the ability to judge an online entity’s credibility from one place to another. My pseudonym provides such a mechanism. That’s far better, in my view, than being one of a countless multitude of self-identified “Anonymous.”

  6. saywhat Avatar
    saywhat

    Jaded JD:

    If your blog isn’t designed for public consumption, then why put it on a webpage? I’m not being snarky — I genuinely want to understand.

    Thanks.

  7. Jason Kenney Avatar
    Jason Kenney

    More to parrot others on this, I don’t mind anonymous blogging or comments as long as you give yourself a name and you stick with it. At least there’s a little accountability there. I personally don’t like when folks don’t even give themselves names to use over and over and make stupid comments.

  8. The Jaded JD Avatar
    The Jaded JD

    saywhat,

    I address that very question here.

  9. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Steve: Thanks for the positive feedback on some of my postings. I realize that some of them are controversial, but I strive to make them thought proviking.

  10. Steve: I know you take a lot of heat from “Pat” or whatever, but you’ve got to admit that the back and forth between you two is downright hilarious. It’s one of the reasons I look forward to your posts on here.

  11. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    I choose not to blog anonymously, but have worked hard to protect the rights of others to express themselves anonymously or pseudonymously. I see no reason to regard the opinions of pseudonymous individuals any different than people who use their real names. How would I know the difference? “John Behan” — that’s a real name. Why would I ever doubt it, if John hadn’t disclosed that his name is something else? What would it matter?

  12. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Waldo, of course it matters. Are you more likely to believe a story you’re told by someone you know—who puts his reputation on the line—or by a stranger who refuses to identify himself?

  13. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    How quickly freedom descends to fascism. This from the land of “Kilroy was Here” and the Federalist Papers. This harkens back to the good/bad old days of 18th and 19th century American journalism. The anonymous posts are most worth reading – after a couple of weeks or regularly stopping by I can predict the rest of you as easily as I can predict George Will. I can get stuffy, boring and predictable from the newspapers — this is supposed to be different.

  14. Laszlo Avatar

    Even with your name on it some of you cannot be taken seriously. Reputation on the line? Self importance is not an asset. Looks like you folks just want to publish your photo. Professional photos at that. I’ll take Jason Kenny’s over Phil’s.

  15. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    Waldo, of course it matters. Are you more likely to believe a story you’re told by someone you know—who puts his reputation on the line—or by a stranger who refuses to identify himself?

    But I don’t know any of you people (aside from Barnie Day and Steve Sisson). The name “Phil Rodokanakis” means nothing to me. I don’t know that to be your real name. If it is or it isn’t, though, either way you’re just some guy who lives elsewhere in the state who talks politics. I’m interested in your opinions, not your identity; we’re sharing ideas, not proposing marriage. I cannot determine in what way that having a meatspace identity that matches your on-line identity makes any difference to me.

    King George ignored the writings of Publius at his own peril.

  16. saywhat Avatar
    saywhat

    Waldo,

    You are getting to know these people through their ideas. Identity informs ideas, and ideas inform identity.

  17. Wow. I’m away from the computer for a couple of days, and I return to this. I suppose I should comment.

    Yes, I blog under a pseudonym. When I began Commonwealth Conservative, I decided to use a pseudonym because I wanted to fool around with the blog format. I enjoy writing, and I have enjoyed reading political blogs for some time, so I wanted to see how I liked the process of blogging. As you all probably know, I’m a constitutional officer, and I wanted to keep the blog separate from my duties as Commonwealth’s Attorney. Heck, I didn’t even know at that time if I’d get sick of blogging after a month and give up the whole thing.

    Soon, however, the blog gained some small measure of popularity, and as that happened, I began to get uncomfortable with the pseudonym. As campaigns began to contact me, I told each of them my real identity. They were each trying to get my endorsement as an elected official, and I couldn’t deal with them on that level without letting them know that I was writing about them during lunch or when I got home in the evenings.

    Similarly, I have corresponded with many folks not associated with the campaigns, including other Virginia bloggers, to whom I have revealed my identity.

    I guess what I am saying is that I took a pseudonym on a whim, but since I have gotten serious about blogging, I have been very loose about revealing my identity. Frankly, I think it’s the worst-kept secret in Virginia politics. I’ve met personally with at least five Virginia bloggers (from both sides of the aisle). Heck, I gave a speech at UVa in which I discussed both my job and my blog. I’ve told anyone who has asked (right, Blue Dog?). If you don’t know who I am, it’s your fault, though I still don’t know why you’d care.

    For what it’s worth, some time ago on Commonwealth Conservative, I noted that I plan to remove all the “John Behan” stuff from the blog soon, and put my real name up there. I may wait until after the election, but in the meantime, I’m not being very secretive about it.

    Anyway, to get back to the issue at hand, I was/am uncomfortable with the pseudonym only because of my position in “real life.” Frankly, I see nothing wrong with anyone blogging anonymously, and I agree with Waldo: I see no reason to regard the opinions of pseudonymous individuals any different than people who use their real names. It doesn’t matter to me. What matters is what they say. The guys at SST and Jaded JD (and others) appear to be honest, and consistent, in their opinions. Isn’t that what’s most important?

    If people don’t take my opinions seriously because I’m using a pseudonym…well, I really don’t care. I blog because I enjoy it, and I enjoy Virginia politics, and I decided early on that I’m not going to be able to please everyone. If you were able to read some of the hate e-mail I receive daily, you’d realize that some people already don’t take my opinions seriously, pseudonym or no pseudonym.

  18. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    John: You mean you’re real name isn’t John Behan? You had me fooled… 🙂

  19. Mitch Cumstein Avatar
    Mitch Cumstein

    While I can understand the distate that some feel for anonymous bloggers, I for don’t care nearly as much about what a person calls themself as I do what they say and how they say it. Obviously, I choose to use a pseudonym. In many ways, my use of the name Mitch Cumstein is similar to “John Behan.” I started viewing some of these sites and wanted to respond. Having initially used the pseudonym, I’ve decided to stick with it and let my history of posts remain available to all.

    I can certainly understand that some folks will not take anonymous responses seriously. But I, personally, couldn’t care less what someone calls themselves. If Mickey Mouse makes a vild argument, I’ll consider what he says at face value. The fact that Phil uses his own name doesn’t change the fact that I disagree with him frequently. The fact that, when I believe him to be wrong, at least I know he’s strong in his convictions, just doesn’t mean much very much to me.

    I do have a problem with anonymous bloggers who berate others or post irrational or unproductive comments. Anonymity has its place, but shouldn’t be an excuse to lower the level of discourse.

  20. Steven Avatar

    I’ll roger-roger that, Mr. JB…

    Matter of fact, 99-percent of the ‘home’ email I receive is favorable and it’s no surprise that most of the good mail is from Virginia Democrats who are fed-up with the state party. The ‘Pubs are a little more discreet, but still favorable.

    ~ the blue dog

  21. Perhaps some individuals post under a nom de plume in order to have their ideas and opinions judged on merit and without the bias that too often comes with knowing who the writer is.

    Others who don’t have name recognition seem to be using blogs in an attempt to establish it.

    Then there are those who use a pseudo identity, and like the true hypocrites they are then condemn anonymous contributors.

    The idea is the idea, for better or worse, and should be judged for its own merits or lack thereof.

    That being said…

    I would like to address something that I find much more of concern than anonymous writers, and that is the issue of wild and unverified claims.

    Pseudo facts are much more harmful than pseudo names.

    Pseudo journalism is potentially one of the most harmful and damaging to the truth practices that can be done. This is why I am so critical of the “blue dog.”

    He lives in a self invented world of “inside information” and blathers endlessly.

    If he were a hunting dog he would be neutered and sold for constantly barking up the wrong tree. When challenged to verify his baloney he whines and cries that he is being persecuted and receiving hate mail and phone calls. He then says he doesn’t have to verify anything because he’s not running for office.

    Does he occasionally write the truth? Yes, but even a blind dog finds a bone once in a while.

    The danger is that some actually believe his claim of knowing what he’s barking about and operate from the resultant misinformed perspective.

    I have spoken to some of the Valley Democrats who he claims to have in such distress.
    They are quite simply embarrassed to have people think he is a democrat.

    What a sad state of affairs indeed, the dems won’t claim him, and the pubs laugh at him while tries so desperately to claw his way into their house.
    Homeless dog?

    To Jim Bacon and other responsible and respected bloggers: This is not meant as a personal attack on the bluedog, it is meant as a criticism of inaccurate and reckless use of information. Bluedog is merely one of several, and one of the most verbose.

  22. Bob Griendling Avatar
    Bob Griendling

    Well, I assume then all of you who support the rights of anonymous bloggers would also support the use of anonymous sources in newspapers.

  23. Steven Avatar

    The Blue Dog doesn’t live in a self invented world of “inside information” — and I really don’t care if you believe it or not. I’m not going to stop printing my endless blather. I love blathering.

    Who did you speak with Pat? My doggie feelings are so… hurt and my tail is between my legs, err… not likely!

    Was it those angry, yet very small minority of flaming liberal Democrats in the valley? There are six to ten valley Democrats who belong to the 6th district committee, depending on the election year for the past 20-years — and most support Howard Dean and John Kerry along with a very liberal agenda. Now that’s embarrassing!

    These liberals don’t represent my values — or the values of the Shenandoah Valley.

    ~ the blue dog

    Btw, I’ve concluded that ‘Attack-Pat’ must only like cats.

    Next question?

  24. republitarian Avatar
    republitarian

    Yeah Pat,
    Maybe YOU’RE inside information is worse than Steve’s, maybe YOU should tell us which Dems and repubs told you your superior inside info about Steve. Your criticism of Steve would be worth something if you didn’t do the same thing yourself.

    Have these people go on record and stand behind their statements about Steve. Until then ……..zip it

  25. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    “Poor Richard” would probably point out to us in his almanac that anonymous writing has a long and vibrant history in the U.S.

  26. Steven Avatar

    O-tay, Republitarian!

    When is the next Mennonite beach party scheduled at Silver Lake?

    And can we burn ‘Dwayne the Mega-developer’ in effigy while roasting marshmallows?

    ~ the blue dog

  27. republitarian Avatar
    republitarian

    Let me guess Steve,…you’ll bring the beer. Coors????? That’s okay, I don’t drink and they’ll be no burning…. just a good spanking….on the radio

  28. Steven Avatar

    The Republitarian is a valley legend on WSVA’s ‘Caustic Comment’ … err, I meant to say ‘Candid Comment’ talk radio show, 9-10am.

    I’m a big fan.

    And for comic relief, there are several reality ‘Pastor John types’ who are anonymous callers and frequent the show every other day.

    ~ the blue dog

  29. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Some anonymous bloggers have “something to lose.” There is at least one BoS chairman who is vindictive, and if you cross him, he will work to ruin your reputation in the County or, worse, threaten to sue you. You can be sure that he will try to kill any issue you are working. Is revealing your identify worth the loss of all effectiveness as a citizen?
    This issue has nothing to do with anonymous sources in newspapers. Newspapers have an obligation that blogs do not. I agree with the writer who said the blog’s facts matter more than the source.

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