Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Internet can be a creepy place

The blogger known as AKMuckraker (the proprietor of The Mudflats) was apparently outed by a legislator who couldn't take being criticized. In the process, the perp, Democrat Mike Doogan, exposes himself as a rather creepy, predatory individual. In AK Muckraker's own words:

But here’s where it gets interesting. After the initial opinion piece in Mudflats, I started hearing from fellow bloggers that Mike Doogan was trying to figure out who I was. It seemed strange to me, because really, all I’d done was take his own words and actions and comment on them. Anyone was perfectly free to disagree, or comment on the piece. “He’s rabid,” one blogger told me. Wow. Rabid? I guess I struck a nerve. Over the past few months, I’ve had other messages through the grapevine that he was trying to figure out who I am.

I have to confess, that while I understand the curiosity factor, the fact that an elected representative was this preoccupied with the identity of an anonymous blogger had me puzzled. He wrote a piece for the Alaska Dispatch talking about “accountability”. The thought was that if I was anonymous, I was not accountable. In what way, I wondered. I’m not a journalist. I’m just, as we established before, me. This is my opinion. If he were around, we could ask the “anonymous blogger” of his day, Benjamin Franklin what he thought about this. Using the “screen name” Mrs. Silence Dogood, Franklin was able to put out thoughts and ideas that were weighted on their own merits, not attached to a particular person. Sometimes it’s easier, if you don’t want to think, to attack the person, rather than the idea. I think Franklin would heartily approve of anonymous bloggers.

So, it seemed odd to me that Mr. Doogan was seemingly more focused on the messenger, than on defending his position, or even better, apologizing to people whom he had insulted. I didn’t think much more about it until yesterday, when I got this email:

From: “doogans@gci.net”
To: akmuckraker@yahoo.com
Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2009 2:55:14 PM
Subject: your identity

[Note: name deleted]:

I am reliably told that you are the anonymous blogger who writes Mudflats. I am planning to reveal this in the enews I send to my constituents tomorrow, and am writing to let you know this and offer the opportunity to comment.

Mike Doogan

I was a bit surprised to see my real name, as you can imagine. But after the initial surprise wore off, it really hit me. This is an elected State Representative, of my own political party, who has decided that it’s not OK for me to control the information about my identity; that it’s not OK to express my opinion on my own blog without shouting from the rooftops who I am.

If I were to appear, as many of you have, at a political rally and I were to hold up a sign that expressed my opinion, I don’t have to sign my name on the bottom. And if someone wants to come online and read my diary, they are free to do so. And if they want to disagree, that’s OK too.

It said in my “About” page that I choose to remain anonymous. I didn’t tell anyone why. I might be a state employee. I might not want my children to get grief at school. I might be fleeing from an ex-partner who was abusive and would rather he not know where I am. My family might not want to talk to me anymore. I might alienate my best friend. Maybe I don’t feel like having a brick thrown through my window. My spouse might work for the Palin administration. Maybe I’d just rather people not know where I live or where I work. Or none of those things may be true. None of my readers, nor Mike Doogan had any idea what my personal circumstances might be. But that didn’t seem to matter.

What appears to matter to Rep. Doogan is that either 1) he feels that if he “outs” me, he’ll change what I have to say, or keep me from saying anything. 2) he gets to play mystery detective (like in his books) and believes people will think he’s really cool for figuring it out, or 3) he feels like getting revenge. He knows I want to remain anonymous, so he’s going to take it away. In any of those three scenarios, he didn’t think it was important to get the bigger picture.

And in any of those three scenarios we should probably find it disturbing that an elected official is using his time and mental energy in this way, against an ordinary citizen. I don’t need to remind Mudflats readers that Alaska is in a time of turmoil. We are facing unknown consequences with an erupting volcano that threatens to wipe out a tank farm on Cook Inlet holding 6 million gallons of oil. We have critical issues in the legislature, including Alaska’s acceptance or rejection of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money for education and other critical purposes. We have a governor who has just chosen an incredibly divisive and extreme right wing idealogue as our new Attorney General. And there are only three weeks left in the legislative session. It bothers me quite a bit that instead of focusing all his energy on doing his job, one of our elected representatives would rather spend his time stalking and harrassing a political blogger.

And Rep. Doogan is not the only one who has fallen prey to this preoccupation. Our governor, too, seems to be more interested in bloggers than seems healthy. Just a thought, but perhaps if our politicians were doing their jobs better, there would be no need for political bloggers, and we could all write diaries about our dogs, or our kids, or knitting.

It turns out, that Rep. Doogan did make good on his threat to expose me in his legislative newsletter. It actually suprised me, because I thought that maybe he realized that blowing up a progressive political blogger wouldn’t earn him many brownie points with other Democrats. But nevertheless, here you go.

Anonymous Blogger Anonymous No More

The identity of the person who writes the liberal Democratic Mudflats blog has been secret since the blog began, protected by the Anchorage Daily News, among others. 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. So I was interested to learn that the woman who writes the blog is [deleted to protect identity] _____.*

Best wishes,

[signed]

So, now, if you look on the About page, you’ll get to see my real name* (which Rep. Doogan almost got right). And you also get to learn that Apparently for Rep. Doogan, the rules of the game are whatever his “theory of public process” say they should be. How does everyone feel about that? And as a former journalist, why is Rep. Doogan criticizing the Anchorage Daily News for protecting my identity?

And here’s another irony. Rep. Doogan thinks he has exposed me, but in reality he has done nothing but expose himself.

And with that, Mudflatters, I need to take a little time off to assess things, and take stock of how life will be changing for me and my family.

My hope is that AKMuckraker continues onward - certainly that individual has plenty of goodwill and support on which to count, and that Doogan's apparent attempt to silence or intimidate a blogger (which is what this looks like to me) backfires. If nothing else, perhaps karma will bite him on the ass, and his short undistinguished political career will end with a resignation or defeat at the next election cycle. If nothing else, Doogan seems to be coming a bit unhinged, and if I were one of his constituents, I'd be wondering if he is capable of doing the job for which he was elected. In fact I'll go a little further and suggest that there is something eerily psychopathic about his actions. At least cyberstalking strikes me as something psychopathic.

Quick update: The email exchange between Philip Munger (of Progressive Alaska) and Mike Doogan merely confirms the impression that the dude was cyberstalking - and is a bit of an ass. Also, here's the link to Doogan's gloating about outing AKM in his newsletter. Apparently he really doesn't seem all that interested in showing up for legislative work.

Coincidence of the weekend - I started reading a book on psychopaths in the business world called Snakes in Suits. The authors of that book might want to consider a sequel on politicians. Just sayin'.

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