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June 09, 2009

Comments

The question in this situation would be whether publius's pseudonymous attacks on Whelan were "**sholish." If they were **sholish enough, then the outing was entirely justified. If not, then not. I think it's a very close call here. I imagine Whelan, reviewing the post, decided that publius hadn't in fact quite crossed that line after all, and Whelan regretted outing him.

Funny, he doesn't look Sholish.

He's half Sholish on his mother's side.

Exactly. He was half **sholish. Whether outing him was justified or not is a tossup.

The whole Trevino thing is really quite a gem, especially the part where he decides that ObWi commenters are presumptively unethical and undeserving of being treated according to the rules of proper behavior that he himself formulated and purports to adhere to, apparently because ObWi is part of a community (the liberal blogosphere, I presume?) that he doesn't like.
It's nice to see Trevino getting so thoroughly skewered by his own commenters, especially as registration is required to comment at his site.

In related news, Yglesias has a good post on the subject of internet pseudonymity.

This event has provoked an interesting debate (unfortunately at the expense of Publius). It's worth pointing out that the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the right to anonymous speech, especially in its 1995 McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission decision. Of course that decision applies to government actions which attempt to strip away anonymity, not private actions.

There can be no protection against a person who reveals a pseudonym, without at the same time violating the First Amendment rights of the individual who is doing the outing. All there can be are customs and social pressures and persuasion. We've seen that in action here.

I think Ed Whelan was subjected to social pressure and criticism from across the political spectrum, and it ultimately caused him to reconsider and apologize for his hasty action. His apology appears sincere and uncoerced (meaning threats against his position and livelihood rather than mere disapprobation). Most importantly, it was not weasel-worded. I absolutely despise the "I regret you were offended" type of pseudo-apology. So good for Mr. Whelan, even if he can't unbreak the egg. He did the best that was possible after the fact.

On the other side, every pseudonymous writer and blogger must understand that a risk of unmasking will always exist. If that risk is intolerable, then the only solution is to refrain from writing and blogging. If the risk is merely embarrassment, then take more care in what you write. My own rule of thumb is to never write anything that you'd have a big problem with if your worst enemy got a hold of it and tried to use it against you. That rule works out pretty well.

Exactly. He was half **sholish. Whether outing him was justified or not is a tossup.

There's no "tossup." If Publius was being an a**hole, Whelan could have said so and given his reasoning. There was no need whatsoever to out him. Can you come up with one? What did it achieve? Why the apology? Ah ... whatever. It's over.

"The whole Trevino thing is really quite a gem...."

I like the part where the blogger formerly known as "Tacitus" says that "The idea that grown men have a moral right to GI Joe code names on the Internet is doubtless appealing, for reasons appropriate to the practice."

When he was Roman GI Joe, it was kewl.

Back then, "[p]ersons seeking anonymity or pseudonymity online should have their wishes in this regard respected as much as is reasonable."

But now, if someone is outed, they'll "profit in the long run, having been rescued from obscurity."

Say, von, and Sebastian, how do you feel about the assertion that "[t]he exposure of the Obsidian Wings community as a gaggle of partisan hypocrites is an end in itself"?

It's also nice to know that Trevino's notion of the Golden Rule is "When Blevins suffers more than emotional harm from this episode, let me know."

Wot a moral exemplar of online integrity.

A form of online integrity that looks into people's identities, by the way.

Jex! Long time, no read.

Well, Whelan has crawled up from beneath his rock. Will Slarts do the same?

Speaking of moving on, Treviño sure hasn't.

My response to Trevino, cross posted here:

I think you have parsed hilzoy’s comment about publius’ reasons for pseudonymity to support a less than honest conclusion.

First, let’s consider the full quote from hilzoy’s post:

By outing someone, you are deciding, on that person’s behalf, to incur whatever consequences outing that person might have. If you don’t know whether or not the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ Whelan mentions obtain, you ought to err on the side of caution, absent a strong reason for outing the person in question.

Whelan did not know that no such circumstances obtained. On the contrary: publius wrote him an email saying that he blogged under a pseudonym “for a variety of private, family, and professional reasons“. Those could easily include reasons that, by any reasonable standard, would justify the use of a pseudonym. But Whelan did not write back asking for further clarification. He just arrogated to himself the right to decide whether or not publius’ name would be public, without having any idea at all what the consequences might be, and, apparently, without caring. [Emphasis mine]

To recap, hilzoy pointed out that publius had told Whelan he had private, family, and professional reasons for pseudonymity. And that Whelan, without bothering to find out what those reasons were, promptly outed him, regardless of the consequences.

You write about what publius’ professional reasons might be, and take it upon yourself to pronounce them inadequate. Whelan was correct in surmising - you guess - that the professional consequences would be minimal, you inform us. Tut tut.

Of course you ignore the fact that Whelan had no way of knowing what the personal or family reasons behind publius’ pseudonymity might be - a stalker? a high profile clientele (or former clientele)? a family member’s job? - but went ahead and outed him anyway. (We know now that at least one of those scenarios is true, but oh well.)

So it seems rather disingenuous of you to argue that Whelan was justified in doing what he did because, hey, an uninformed assumption about the consequences is good enough.

http://joshuatrevino.com/2009/06/08/unmaskings/comment-page-1/#comment-28942


Trevino's response:

Lots of hand-wringing over consequences, but no actual consequences. “Good enough”? Events tell the tale, Zuzu.

http://joshuatrevino.com/2009/06/08/unmaskings/comment-page-1/#comment-28945

well you are all giving whelan way more credit than i would. of course it's up to publius to accept or not accept his apology, and publius has accepted it, so be it.

i, however, am not so quick to give whelan credit for acting in a civil manner, which, after all, is what we expect from everybody in the world. he wants props for acting well? get in line behind the 5 billion other people who are expected to behave.

it's a little too late for mea cuplas, imo. on john cole's blog, commentor forked tongue correctly points out the four parts of a real apology. the step that whelan has left out is reparations of even a symbolic kind (forked tongue recommends a donation to a charity, i assume of publius's choice). saying i'm sorry w/o any actions behind it is hollow.

"yeah, he ran over the four year old, but he was man enough to apologize for it."

as i said elsewhere, in other news, open barn door apologizes to runaway horses.

And now he responds with a little dig at hilzoy:

"Please. You can’t simultaneously warn that Y is forbidden because of the possibility of X, and claim you’re not raising the possibility of X. Not even an academic philosopher would attempt such a thing."


http://joshuatrevino.com/2009/06/08/unmaskings/comment-page-1/#comment-28949

mr. moto wrote "The question in this situation would be whether publius's pseudonymous attacks on Whelan were "**sholish." If they were **sholish enough, then the outing was entirely justified. "

I think that the only justification would be a) threats or b) false claims by the pseudonymous person that hinge on claimed personal knowledge, which would be shown false by identifying the person. ie, "I worked for so-and-so and he used to pleasure himself in the office", when in fact the pseudonymous person never worked for so-and-so.

If the pseudonymous person's case doesn't hinge on their purported secret identity, I don't see any point outing them.

One of these days, JadeGold will actually make its point, instead of coloring in around it.

Ok, maybe not. It's not a given.

If the pseudonymous person's case doesn't hinge on their purported secret identity, I don't see any point outing them.

That's one ethic. Speaking generally (not commenting one way or another on the specific present controversy), another might be that if a pseudonymous blogger hides behind anonymity to be an uncivil jerk and to make personal attacks on others then they are more or less asking for an unmasking.

Can someone tell me what was so uncivil about publius' post?

But Hilzoy, Mr. Moto wasn't commenting one way or another on the specific present controversy. He says so, and so perforce I believe him.

One explanation I've seen has something to do with pointing and laughing at Ed. Another has to do with approvingly linking to someone who was being not-nice to Ed.

props to mr moto. All the other pseuds melted away after the Whalen apology, but he is still in there taking his swings. I am sure that someone could be so nasty and so toxic, that unmasking them would be the ethical thing to do. Of course, at that level of toxicity, it is really hard not to imagine some larger rules being broken (such as making false statements, or taking things so far out of context as to be lies, or publishing private correspondence). Indeed, there are some people who try to always stay right up against that line and when something happens to them, they scream that they are a victim. (not referring to anyone specifically, mind you)

However, I would like to think that some of the folks who leapt to the defense of the outing did not actually look at the exchange and then ended up making these strong arguments for Whalen, and when confronted with absence of real nastiness, doubled down, quite possible a lot like Whalen did when called on this. While I do not think they will return and make their own mea culpae, I do hope that they might reconsider their own positions in future exchanges.

Scott Zimmerle said:

Whelan is still lying.

http://goethean.blogspot.com/2009/06/on-7-june-2009-someone-with-ip-address.html

Other than the confident assertions of the blogger at the link, do you have any evidence that it's Whelan?

Mr. Moto wasn't commenting one way or another on the specific present controversy.

I've already said, I think whether Publius's post was a**holish enough that we can be justified in shrugging off his outing as deserved is a close call - a toss up. He does pretty much accuse Whelan of insincerity, which is a pretty strong insult in the context of public debate. I think Whelan was justified in taking it as an extremely uncivil and personal attack on his character. But I'm not surprised he had second thoughts and felt that maybe he overreacted.

My two cents (and perhaps worth less than that): I don't see how comments regarding Trevino's post are appropriate on this thread: either leave a comment at Trevino's place or post your own blog entry. Whalen apologized and Publius accepted .... it seems time to move on.

I just finished reading the comment thread over at Trevino's blog, and I have to say it was rather gratifying to see the pile-on of people shooting holes in his incoherent arguments and situational ethics.

I'd forgotten that it was RedDan who outed Domenech. This is something important to keep in mind when parsing Trevino's mendacious assertions that the nebulous left bears Domenech's "outing" as some kind of original sin, especially since he seems to be trying to levy it most heavily on ObWi. RedDan has something of a reputation for incivility, and as I recall has been banned from ObWi for precisely that reason multiple times--eventually permanently.

Can someone tell me what was so uncivil about publius' post?

He accused Whelan of making arguments in bad faith, i.e., making arguments that Whelan knew to be untrue. I don't agree with Whelan's response, but I think it's fair to say that Publius was less than civil. (I don't suggest that Whelan was a model of civility before the outing, by the bye, nor do I necessarily prize civility as a high virtue.)

Patterico,
This Zimmerle character has apparently never commented here before today. The link they pasted in to their comment, which you repeat, goes to a blog post that appears to be really quite willfully obtuse. I'll address the blog post in a moment, but it may be worth pointing out that the blog post does not state that Whelan is lying. Even if the assumption you question were to be true, nothing in the post would support the allegation Zimmerle makes in their comment.

Apparently Zimmerle decided that an anonymous Wikipedia editor is in fact Whelan. Maybe the blogger, one Goethean, meant to imply this, I really don't know. Frankly, the blog post is absurd, almost a Kerners Ho! parody: the blogger discovers that one person has added and later removed content from Whelan's Wikipedia page, and from there invents an entire dramatic narrative in which someone casually reading the edit page (as they do) is meant to perceive a contentious dispute about the inclusion of mildly personal information about Whelan. Of course, the vastly simpler explanation is that someone added this information to the Wikipedia page, and upon further reflection removed it, explaining their decision as they did so. Really, the linked post is more than a bit silly - even if the Wikipedia editor were Whelan there would be no controversy except for whatever Wikipedia's attitude might be towards people who edit their own profiles.

Fascinating, Patterico. That exact IP shows up as belonging to a commenter on this very thread.

If someone is demonstrably lying in a public debate -- e.g., "I turned down the money for the Bridge to Nowhere" -- it may be insulting to say so but it is absolutely the right thing to say. Otherwise you are complicit in misleading the public.

So the real question is, was publius demonstrably right? I don't know Mr. Whelan and I deplore pretenses to mind-reading. But publius's inference was pretty sound, as it rested entirely on the premise that no intelligent, sophisticated lawyer could truly believe that the Supreme Court's deliberations are not distinctively policy-based.

Volokh's post that publius linked to explains in detail why that is a sound premise, but I'll add this: Speaking as an alumnus of a conservative law school, I have never -- ever -- seen any lawyer seriously question that the Supreme Court considers policy. Any appellate lawyer will tell you that you MUST discuss policy implications in your certiorari petition. I have to agree that it is simply not possible for a high-level OLC lawyer to not know this, any more than he would not know what the federal rules of civil procedure are.

I'm not going to say who that IP belongs to, other than it definitely is not Ed Whelan.

I'm not going to say who that IP belongs to, other than it definitely is not Ed Whelan.
Tease.

Interesting conundrum, no? We have an IP that has altered Whelan's Wikipedia entry, and that IP belongs to someone who has commented here. Possibly under a pseudonym; on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

Actually, Scott Zimmerle/Patterico/Warren Terra, Whelan is not lying on this score. Whelan didn't expand his Wikipedia page. I know, because I'm actually the one who expanded Whelan's Wikipedia page. (You don't have to believe me, but you also can privately or publicly ask an OW administrator to verify that the IP address that I'm posting this comment from is the same IP address that expanded Whelan's Wikipedia page.) I did so because I thought it was silly that we all were talking about Whelan and he had just a tiny Wikipedia stub with little information in it about him -- and in fact, someone had nominated Whelan's Wikipedia page for deletion just a few weeks ago. As I wrote earlier, I've actually met Ed once before, but I would not at all say that I personally know the guy. And I find his views completely and totally abhorrent, but it was becoming clear that his profile had been elevated (rightly or wrongly) by this ridiculous episode (see today's Huffington Post for proof), and that he warranted a longer biography, using a general template that I've seen all over Wikipedia.

Apart from using Whelan's EPPC biography, I pulled various facts about his life from a few other places online as well. And yes, I did initially include some additional personal (but public) information about Whelan in the first iteration of my expanded version (hey, if he's going to "out" Publius, then how much privacy should Ed really expect?), but in reviewing and sharpening the page, I later edited out a few facts that probably were neither appropriate nor relevant; they were borderline calls at best (if someone disagrees, they're always welcome to restore them to the Wikipedia page). I think the biography as it is now would (and will) stand on its own just fine. If anyone feels differently, I'd be interested in your comments either here or in the comments section of Whelan's Wikipedia page.

Actually, I now see that Slartibart has beaten me to the punch, but not identified me by name (thanks, Slartibart, for not "outing" me! hahaha!). But I'm happy to "out" myself now, just to set the record straight.

I wasn't going there, Bob, but props for going there yourself.

Yeah, Slartibart, I was far along in my comment owning up to it when I saw that you'd weighed in. From my earlier comments, you all should know that I have little sympathy toward Whelan, but that shouldn't (and didn't) affect my ability to add constructive and necessary edits to a Wikipedia biography on him (he's clearly become a prominent blogger in the legal world, like it or not). It's wrong for him to be accused of lying about editing a Wikipedia page when he clearly did no such thing.

He does pretty much accuse Whelan of insincerity, which is a pretty strong insult in the context of public debate.

hahahaha! On the *Internet*?!? Welcome to the 21st Century, please make sure your tray tables and seat backs are in their full upright and locked positions.

*wipes eyes* No, that is *not* a pretty strong insult. What Jesus' General posts, *those* are strong insults. The Rude Pundit also lives up to his name. Publius is a master of restrained civility, in the context of public debate on the 'net.

Well, Doctor Science, if accusing a public intellectual of bad faith and insincerity is so insignificant in the wild west of the internet, outing a pseudonymous blogger should hardly rate the drama fest that it routinely causes.

Aloha to all. I'm a long time fan of this place. I love that you all genuinely welcome opposing opinions and can disagree vehemently with each other without getting spiteful. Makes my world a little brighter.

von, Trevino is relevant to this issue because he exemplifies (in exaggerated form, which makes it a lot easier to learn from) an error of judgment that may have been what motivated Whelan to out publius in the first place: projection. Underestimating the otherness of the other.

Trevino is like a surgeon in cancer remission who frantically cuts open a malaria patient looking for tumors, unintentionally hastens the death of the patient, unknowingly contracts malaria himself and starts an epidemic, and calls Larry King from his death bed to promote his freshly penned article: "The Sum of All Fears: Communicable Cancer and The Fall of Civilized Man."

His projection is a force of nature.

To him, we are all (like him) fighting internal battles between a bilious, obsessive, identity-exposing Master and a worried, hypervigilant, idealistic Smeagol trumpeting online integrity. We are all (like him) over-selling our openmindedness and moreso just capitalizing on the degree to which hunger for novelty resembles a serious commitment to checks and balances. We all (like him) assess bludgeonability in others as a normal practice and think of debates as a series of ripostes. Therefore, unless we show him that we're also forcefully committed to great and noble ideals which counter this tendency, he can only assume that our Master is winning. And we must be stopped--or who knows who we will bludgeon.

He has difficulty seeing or believing that people can have entirely different internal dynamics and social interactions that work nothing like that.

Whelan, lacking an understanding of publius's reasons, took a guess based on his own experiences. What might make *him* keep using a pseudonym despite the tradeoffs? Cowardice, he guessed. Incorrectly.

When he read and understood publius's list of much more complex reasons, he apologized.

Trevino is relevant as an ongoing example of incorrect projection without guilt or apology. It's a useful contrast.

Also...

publius and hilzoy,

I second the opinion that knowing your real identities is relevant to me only so much as it makes it easier to buy books you may write and offer to buy you a beer if I'm in the neighborhood. For all intents and purposes online, you will always be publius and hilzoy to me.

WTF is a public intellectual, and is there some canon somewhere that states that a public intellectual must not be corrected?

Holy crap. Twilight Zone, of late.

Janie, I think you're paying a lot more attention to Trevino than he really (IMO, as always) deserves.

"My two cents (and perhaps worth less than that): I don't see how comments regarding Trevino's post are appropriate on this thread: either leave a comment at Trevino's place or post your own blog entry."

This is a thread about Whalen's actions and the results. Said results include Trevino's attacks on ObWi. If you'd reather we discuss Trevino on another thread, I suggest either making one about him, or making a new open thread. I assume you're not trying to shut down conversation on topics that don't happen to interest you.

Try to relax, Slartibartfast. "Public intellectual" is a common term. Look it up on Wikipedia for God's sake. And if you really think the issue is whether one of them may or may not be "corrected" or not then you've missed the entire conversation.

"Well, Doctor Science, if accusing a public intellectual of bad faith and insincerity is so insignificant in the wild west of the internet, outing a pseudonymous blogger should hardly rate the drama fest that it routinely causes."

What source do you derive "should" from?

I'd suggest this is clearly a case of disparate world views stemming from meeting at a crossroads of disparate worlds, although I'm unclear where it is, exactly, that accusing someone of "insincerity" is of gross significance. It must be a rarified place, indeed.

On the other hand, we are meeting in the online world, a virtual "place" where, yes, indeed, invading someone's privacy is a Big Deal. Doubtless somewhere else it isn't, but we're here, not there.

Slart.

"'Public intellectual' is a common term."

This is true; I hope Slart will forgive me if I observe that he sometimes doesn't get out much.

Hilzoy is certainly an example of a public intellectual. Short version: someone known to some number of the public as an intellectual thinker and writer.

Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley were once, for instance, highly prominent examples of the species.

And, yes, it is pretty much synonymous with "intellectual," since, tautologically, intellectuals not known as such don't tend to be known as intellectuals.

Oh, I am most thoroughly relaxed, mr. moto. "public intellectual" isn't quite the sacred ground you hold it to be, though.

I'm glad to hear it.

Well, Doctor Science, if accusing a public intellectual of bad faith and insincerity is so insignificant in the wild west of the internet, outing a pseudonymous blogger should hardly rate the drama fest that it routinely causes.

This sound like a tit-for-tat justification for outing. I'll ask again, what does the outing achieve that can't be achieved by argument? Whelan could have defended himself without outing Publius. Even if Whelan thought Publius' pseudonymity was somehow helping Publius's argument, he could have criticized Publius for remaining pseudonymous. I don't see how the pseudonymity was relevant to anything. Do you, Mr. Moto? Or was it just a convenient soft spot to do personal harm when straight argumentation wasn't feasible?

Why, two days ago when this conversation started Mr. Moto had to be told to look up the difference between "anonymous" and "pseudonymous" and here he is, telling Slarti to go look something up. [Sniff], it's like he's all grown up.

That being said, I think it's a pretty fair guess that Slarti is in fact not ignorant of the concept of a "public intellectual" but was perhaps mocking it, and the important question raised by Slarti is the second one: even if Whelan is a public intellectual, surely it remains permissible to criticize his statement, and to use strong but not unjustified language in doing so?

There's certainly nothing sacred about public intellectuals or what they do. My only point is that when one accuses another one of bad faith - as in, "you don't really believe what you write" - it's a strong insult.

Waitaminnit. I thought the point of Tacitus unmasking himself was that I wouldn't have to pay attention to him any more. So why am I still reading about him?

ccuses another one of bad faith - as in, "you don't really believe what you write" - it's a strong insult.
It's definitely a strong accusation. But whether it's an insult depends on the manner in which it is made and on whether it's an accusation that can be defended. A very unfriendly accusation, made in a measured tone, accompanied by sufficient proof of its accuracy, isn't really a strong insult of the sort that would cast disrepute on the person issuing it.

Beyond that, even if it were an insult, would that justify shredding the pseudonymity of the person who issued it? Even if you are owed recompense, does that justify arrogating to yourself vindictive revenge? Or are you arguing that an accusation of disingenuousness would have been such a severe insult that people knowing Publius in real life deserve to be warned of his proclivity for committing such shameful acts under the shield of his pseudonym? And wouldn't this last theory require proving the alleged insult was a knowingly unjustified accusation?

My only point is that when one accuses another one of bad faith - as in, "you don't really believe what you write" - it's a strong insult.

If that's your only point, then tell us why one cannot defend one's self against such an insult if it isn't true. Or tell us how outing a pseudonymous blogger is an effective means of defending one's self from such an insult. Asserting that someone argues in bad faith does nothing to violate that person's choice. That person is still free to argue in bad faith. Or that person is free to explain how it is that he isn't arguing in bad faith. Where does the outing come in?

It goes back to what I said earlier:

I think there is no such duty per se, but that any duty to refrain comes from some other consideration - comity, or civility, or respect for reasonable concerns for anonymity. But such considerations are not always present, and the duty is "situational."

The question in this situation would be whether publius's pseudonymous attacks on Whelan were "a**holish." If they were a**holish enough, then the outing was entirely justified. If not, then not. I think it's a very close call here. I imagine Whelan, reviewing the post, decided that publius hadn't in fact quite crossed that line after all, and Whelan regretted outing him.

Anyway, what occurred here is a good demonstration of what will always happen in these occurrences: A small group of partisans who generally oppose the blogger's views but who sincerely believe a duty not to disclose always exists in all cases will speak up in opposition to the outing, while a large group of the blogger's supporters will feign outrage at the outing even though they would greet the outing of one of their opponents with either silence or cat calls and whistles.

If they were a**holish enough, then the outing was entirely justified.

mr. moto, your basic premise is in error, for which you should be grateful.

if **holishness led to outing, you would be out in deep space by now.

(I wasn't going to post this - honest - until you insisted upon repeating your earlier nonsense verbatim.)

"I like the part where the blogger formerly known as "Tacitus" says that "The idea that grown men have a moral right to GI Joe code names on the Internet is doubtless appealing, for reasons appropriate to the practice."

When he was Roman GI Joe, it was kewl."

Actually, I think he gave it up when he figured out the HTML tag for tilde.

"The question in this situation would be whether publius's pseudonymous attacks on Whelan were "a**holish." If they were a**holish enough, then the outing was entirely justified"

Actually, the question of whether publius was being an @sshole or not is irrelevant.

The reasonable response when someone is being an @sshole is to say "You're being an @sshole, knock it off".

Disclosing someone's real life identity against their clear and explicitly stated wishes is not a response to their being an @sshole. It is, in fact, being an @sshole yourself.

It's almost as if you haven't read a single response to the assertions you just repeated.

If they were a**holish enough, then the outing was entirely justified.

Outing Publius, which was an a**holish act, may be understandable, and perhaps even justifiable under certain eye for an eye sort of 'value' system, but personally I would say that nothing justifies intentionally being an a**hole. From my perspective its an odd difference in value systems to say that because you did something wrong that I should be able to do something wrong to you and that somehow achieves 'justice'.

As sappy and sincere as I can be...you have my undying admiration and devotion...

mr. moto, your basic premise is in error, for which you should be grateful.

if **holishness led to outing, you would be out in deep space by now.

You're confusing your disagreeing with someone's opinion with them being an ***hole.

That's the center of the controversy here. Taking as a categorical imperative that outing a pseudonymous blogger is always wrong is absurd. So the argument will always be over whether the outed blogger did something ***holish enough to deserve it.

Why are people still responding to mr moto?

Why are people still responding to mr moto?

Oh, jeez, like I'm that bad. C'mon.

Actually, you *are that* bad, mr. moto. But I am responding to you not for your benefit, but because a lot of new people are visiting, and it's clear you are not alone in your ignorance and confusion.

This whole blowup arose because Ed Whelan, a pro blogger, was just as ignorant of the rules of online communication as mr. moto is. Not just the rules, the *axioms* -- the principles that were worked out back in the Usenet days, before the WWW even existed.

1. No plagiarism

2. No outing

3. No sockpuppets

4. No obtaining material benefits (money, computers, lip gloss*) by fraud

5. No stalking

6. No deliberate spread of malicious software or links

I think that's it.

These aren't really rules of netiquette, these are the *premises*, the axioms which online communication has been found to require. These axioms aren't about politeness, they're about making communication *possible*.

This is why blogger both left & right joined in condemning Whelan's behavior -- it wasn't that he was "too mean", it was that he broke an axiom. It was and is shocking that someone could be a paid blogger without keeping to these axioms reflexively.

And this is why mr. moto is wrong. publius' remarks might possibly have risen to the level of "flaming", though I personally would call it at most a slight scorching. But outing is not proportional retaliation, it is *breaking the whole system*, it's taking the conflict to a radically different level.

I'm not going to go into the rationale behind each of the axioms, because that would take too long -- can anyone recommend a good link? But as with any educational process, you obey the rules first, then study why we have them.

*Based on an actual event, I'm not kidding

I hope Slart will forgive me if I observe that he sometimes doesn't get out much.

[Miyagi]
Nothing to forgive, Gary-san.
[/Miyagi]

"Actually, I think he gave it up when he figured out the HTML tag for tilde."

I've changed my mind about possibly switching my online handle from the mundane "Gary Farber" to "Publius Hussein Spartacus," and am now thinking of going with "Lord God Emperor-King Captain Superman Awesomely Manly Macho Super-Duper Iron Big Balls Publius Hussein Spartacus Multiverse Caesar Matter Energy Plasma Huge Penis Lad."

It'll help my inferiority complex. Also, I hope to meet more women this way.

"Oh, jeez, like I'm that bad. C'mon."

I imagine all your posts as spoken by Peter Lorre. Is that the effect you were going for?

"Taking as a categorical imperative that outing a pseudonymous blogger is always wrong is absurd."

Argument by assertion isn't convincing. You're entitled to your opinion, but that's all you're offering.

"Not just the rules, the *axioms* -- the principles that were worked out back in the Usenet days, before the WWW even existed."

Also: no obtaining of Kibo numbers except by genuine bestowing, no writing like BIFF, no excessive .sigs, no selling green cards, no MAKE.MONEY.FAST schemes, no writing in all caps, and no emulation of Serdar Argic or Archimedes Plutonium, but always respect the Time Cube and the hamster dance.

"I imagine all your posts as spoken by Peter Lorre."

Mr. Moto was a small man, delicate, almost fragile. He was dressed formally in a morning coat and striped trousers. His black hair was carefully brushed in the Prussian style. He was smiling, showing a row of shiny gold-filled teeth, and as he smiled he drew in his breath with a polite, soft sibilant sound.

But let's let him tell his own story:

"Yes, I can do many, many things. I can mix drinks and wait on table, and I am a very good valet. I can navigate and manage small boats. I have studied at two foreign universities. I also know carpentry and surveying and five Chinese dialects. So very many things come in useful."

Yes, Mr. Moto is a true online polymath.

"*Based on an actual event, I'm not kidding"

I'd be willing to send mr. moto some free lip gloss if he'd just go away.

Moto: "Well, Doctor Science, if accusing a public intellectual of bad faith and insincerity is so insignificant in the wild west of the internet ..."

Hm. "One who accuses others of bad faith and insincerity" is a pretty good working definition of a "public intellectual," actually.

(I mean, what's the PI to say? "Take everyone at face value, assume they mean what they say ... heck, you don't need me, you can figure it all out yourself"?)

It's funny to see people assert on the issue of any duty of civility among bloggers that there essentially is none (and that Whelan should therefore just suck it up and be a man), but then turn around and assert an absolute duty to preserve the identity of pseudonymous bloggers.

In fact, the "duty" to preserve a pseudonymous blogger's identity is itself nothing more than a rule of civility.

If a blogger values the anonymity provided by his pseudonym, then he should avoid hiding behind the anonymity of his pseudonym to make uncivil, personal attacks on named bloggers (which he would probably not do if his identity were known). Otherwise, by ratcheting up the incivility of the exchange, he essentially invites those he attacks to respond uncivilly. And this is exactly what "Publius" did.

I actually think "Publius" owes Whelan an apology and an acknowledgment that he, publius, crossed the line - or else a damn good proof that Whelan writes in bad faith.

I imagine all your posts as spoken by Peter Lorre. Is that the effect you were going for?

Yes, it is.

"It's funny to see people assert on the issue of any duty of civility among bloggers that there essentially is none (and that Whelan should therefore just suck it up and be a man), but then turn around and assert an absolute duty to preserve the identity of pseudonymous bloggers."

Please link to the comments where people have referred to a "duty."

Thanks.

"Otherwise, by ratcheting up the incivility of the exchange, he essentially invites those he attacks to respond uncivilly."

So, your arguments are "he made me do it, he started first, two wrongs make a right, my sense of civility is objective and should rule teh internets, and whatever I assert goes."

And you're attacking the use of a pseudonym while using one.

That's nice. All very convincing.

I'm certainly not attacking the use of a pseudonym. That's a silly statement. I am saying if someone hides behind a pseudonym and lobs personal insults, I'm not going to cry over them if they piss someone off and get themselves outed.

And I disagree with your "two wrongs make a right" characterization. I don't think it is wrong to out someone who is hiding behind a pseudonym for cover to act like a d*ckhead.

Oh, BTW, Sotomayor looks like a long-term, heavy drinker.

Posted by: mr. moto | June 10, 2009 at 02:46 PM

Hey, look. Someone is posting inflammatory comments under my pseudonym. Presumably they believe it teaches me some deeper message about the ethics of the internet. Or something.

Oh, I see. It was Gary.

"if i do, 'long-term, heavy drinker' will be my first target."

Too easily gone around. "Sotomayor" with "drinker" would be better.

Posted by: Gary Farber | June 10, 2009 at 02:59 PM

Gary, you card.

Never mind. Sorry Gary.

I'll say it one last time, mr m., for the benefit of the lurkers if nothing else.

The axioms I listed are not part of a "duty of civil discourse", they are the principles that have been discovered (by logic and error-and-trial) to be necessary for *any* online discussion, civil or otherwise.

There are sub-sets of the Internet where some of these axioms can be done without -- non-Euclidean spaces, as it were -- such as Facebook (where everyone uses a RL name).

But the generality of the Internet is Euclidean, and any conservative (if indeed you are one) should acknowledge the need for traditional axioms to structure human interaction. Even a libertarian should recognize that you need to know what the rules are before you decide whether you're gong to abide by them or not.

I'd be willing to send mr. moto some free lip gloss if he'd just go away.

It is always lickety cut to a stupid but vicious wingnut
To troll upon a neighbor and to say: --
"We attacked you today--we are quite prepared to stay,
Unless you give us stuff to go away."

And that is called asking for lip-gloss,
And the people who ask it cajole
That you've only to give them the lip-gloss
And then you'll get rid of the troll!

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