Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another pseudonymous blogger outed

I already had a low opinion of those who "out" those who blog or write under a pseudonym long before someone outed me this past May (something I've discussed at length in relation to yet another blogger's outing a couple months ago). The latest blogger to be outed was Gryphen of The Immoral Minority. As was the case with AKMuckraker of Mudflats, Gryphen was outed by a prominent Alaska state politician. Yes, I concur with Gryphen that the experience can be a bit "unsettling." If there is any comfort to be found, it is in that those who "out" someone else usually end up looking much the worse for it than the one who is outed. The image of pettiness and vindictiveness on the part of the perps is pretty difficult to completely shake. Hopefully, aside from being left feeling a bit creeped out, Gryphen will be able to proceed with minimal disruption to his personal and professional life.

Why the perceived "need" to out someone who writes under an assumed name? I can chalk it up to any of a number of motives - all of which are bad. One is simple revenge - someone's feelings get hurt (they're asked inconvenient questions, or are the target of scuttlebutt, or whatever) by someone writing under an assumed name, and then choose - either directly, or through proxies - to attempt to destroy the person behind the pseudonym. By "outing" the person behind the pseudonym, it is the hope of the perp or perps to disrupt their victim's career or other facets of that person's life. That was the situation with AKMuckraker and Gryphen. Sometimes, the motive comes from an on-going argument between bloggers or between a blogger and some other figure in the world of punditry. The perp is on what appears to be the losing end of a debate, gets frustrated, and in a moment of rage outs his/her opponent. That's what I believe happened to publius in June. Sometimes, one is simply targeted by some random weirdo sans provocation of any sort. That was my situation. Usually, what ends up happening is one of two things - after a bit of a dust-up, the perp realizes the error of his/her ways and apologizes (the person who outed publius had the decency to do that with a matter of days). Often, the perps refuse to acknowledge any wrong-doing, electing instead to blame the victim (word to the wise - if your defense of your actions is of the same caliber of that used by rapists and wife-beaters, don't expect to persuade outside parties, save for those most rabid members of your particular tribe).

My rule of thumb when it comes to "outing" is very simple: don't. The only circumstance I could ever think of where outing person using a pseudonym would be warranted would be if the person in question were making threats of violence or inciting others to commit violence, and the person doing the outing was one of the targets of those threats. If that isn't your particular situation, then you are highly unlikely to have any reason to out that person. If you still find yourself tempted to out the other person simply because the other person pissed you off, then please, just step away from the fucking computer and cool off before you go off and do something stupid, and quite frankly just plain unforgivable. That goes double for public figures, who not only are going to come out looking petty and vindictive, but who then are open to accusations of abusing their positions of power or authority.

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