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June 07, 2009

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You might want to link to Lean Left's specific post, entitled "Ed Whelan:Bully," rather than generically to the blog.

I don't know if I got a chance to comment last time, but I hope you stick around; and I would really resent Ed if this meant you couldn't keep doing top notch posts.

Publius,
Keep up the great work. Whelan's childish and spiteful footstamping is really pretty pathetic. More and more the whole sorry act of this belligerent public crank reminds us not of his high social status, or his connections, or his vaunted legal intelligence but rather of a comic scene from a bad movie. Whelan makes me think of a sloppy, angry, naked drunk who locks himself out of his house, turns around to find the neighbors staring, and, assuaging his embarrassment as best he can, thinks it clever to shout "who do you think *you* are? Huh?"

aimai

To BigYap/Ed Whelan/Mr. Moto:

Why is it that the only bloggers on Obsidian Wings that haven't been outed are the conservative ones?

Ed Whelan says this over at NRO:

Law professor John Blevins (aka publius) and others seem to assume that I owed some sort of obligation to Blevins not to expose his pseudonymous blogging. I find this assumption baffling. A blogger may choose to blog under a pseudonym for any of various self-serving reasons, from the compelling (e.g., genuine concerns about personal safety) to the respectable to the base. But setting aside the extraordinary circumstances in which the reason to use a pseudonym would be compelling, I don’t see why anyone else has any obligation to respect the blogger’s self-serving decision. And I certainly don’t see why someone who has been smeared by the blogger and frequently had his positions and arguments misrepresented should be expected to do so.

thanks gary - fixed and fixed

That Ed Whelan is so intellectually dishonest using his own name and Publius so honest in his pseudonymity tells us all that we really need to know about the inherent value of putting your name to an argument.

Rather than rebut the charges of intellectual dishonesty (or ignore them), Whelan tries to silence the critic.

Glad to know you aren't going anywhere, Publius. Hopefully, you won't feel the need to alter the truth of your arguments for the sake of considerations unrelated to the points you make, but this is the world you now live in. (Unless you want to create another pseudonym and start from scratch.)

Ed Whelan says this over at NRO:

Law professor John Blevins (aka publius) and others seem to assume that I owed some sort of obligation to Blevins not to expose his pseudonymous blogging. I find this assumption baffling. A blogger may choose to blog under a pseudonym for any of various self-serving reasons, from the compelling (e.g., genuine concerns about personal safety) to the respectable to the base. But setting aside the extraordinary circumstances in which the reason to use a pseudonym would be compelling, I don’t see why anyone else has any obligation to respect the blogger’s self-serving decision. And I certainly don’t see why someone who has been smeared by the blogger and frequently had his positions and arguments misrepresented should be expected to do so.

Generally, proves what a hack and dishonest person Whelan is, not to mention lacking in common courtesy.

Instead of showing how he was misrepresented, Whelan went straight to the nuclear option. Tells me that he has no case and no defense to counter what are essentially mild criticisms.

Totally disproportionate and inappropriate.

I just got back from being away (at my grade school reunion -- fascinating to see so many people I haven't seen since I was 10) -- to find this. What a jerk.

I will probably have more to say about this. But for now: the argument mr. moto quotes Ed Whelan making is, imho, transparently silly. "I don’t see why anyone else has any obligation to respect the blogger’s self-serving decision". You have, I think, an obligation to respect other people's decisions about what stays private absent a compelling reason not to. Thus, if I worked at Ed Whelan's favorite bookstore and I learned that he has some taste in books that really doesn't square with his public persona, I should not disclose that absent really compelling circumstances. (He asks me to special-order child pornography and he is the Attorney General, for instance.) If I work at his laundry and he regularly takes in fetish gear to be dry-cleaned, ditto. This is part of the general obligation to respect people's wishes about their business, something I would have thought conservatives would recognize.

Is there any compelling interest here? No. He's just being a thug.

(Something like this comment, slightly expanded, might turn up as a post. Prepare to be bored.)

Ah, mr. moto's quote reveals that the very concept of "common courtesy" is foreign to Mr. Whelan. Why, yes, Mr. Moto, its common courtesy to call people by the name they have selected to use on a given occasion. We call the doctor "doctor" in his office, and "ted" when we are at dinner at his house. And we call a well known blogger by his blog name, when we are engaging in a public discussion, and by his private name (if we know it) when we are engaging in a private discussion in the real world or off line.

aimai

Hilzoy's examples are good, but they presuppose a community that is fundamentally non-paranoid. Conservatives have indicated for a long time that they find this idea 'baffling'.


"Something like this comment, slightly expanded, might turn up as a post. Prepare to be bored"

Your apparent lack of confidence in your writing abilities does not correspond to reality, I'm pleased to say.

How incredibly, indescribably childish. Whelan's self-defense only makes it worse.

I would be terribly disappointed to see you go, Publius. Pseudonym or no, your writing is an invaluable asset in the blogosphere. Please don't let the actions of an incredible douche drive you from something you do so well.

Ah, mr. moto's quote reveals that the very concept of "common courtesy" is foreign to Mr. Whelan

Hence the conservative's perversion of political correctness.

Bookesllers and drycleaners are hardly analogous to blogosphere opponents. In this context, they would be more analogous to an internet service provider who does arguably owe a duty to not divulge information learned from the business relationship.

The professional relationship doesn't exist here. If you happen to see Mr. Whelan in a bookstore purchasing something embarrassing or dropping off some s&m gear at the dry cleaners, you would be under no duty to keep it to yourself.

gwangung,
you are absolutely right. For a more intemperate discussion of the entire matter hop over to Washington Monthly (where we don't have to observe the Obsidian Wings rules of politeness) and where you will find a winsome three or foursome defending Whelan by running through pretty much every authoritarian trope that has ever existed.

The most interesting ones are the insistence that other people's "convenience" and "self-interest" and desires are inherently not to be respected; that modern day liberal *language* is thuggish, slanderous, illegal, anti first amendment, noisy, uneducated, indefensible, and scary but, conversely, modern day right wing *actions* are merely playful, or reasonable, justified, rational and therefore respectable and even necessary.

This recapitulates an old internet discussion in which the left's "incivility" and undisciplined or demotic use of language becomes the moral equivalent of rightist, paramilitary violence. Publius's public critique of Whelan justifies Whelan's outing of Publius because "we don't live in revolutionary times" (as one defender has put it) so no harm no foul. But, at the same time, they wish him both harm and foul.

We are actually seeing the same discussion going on in almost the same register over at Bill O'Reilly's when Bill exclaims that his inciting of his viewers to real violence, ending in the death of an actual human being, can't be "attributed to anyone other than the criminal" but that the "real victim" in any case is Bill O'Reilly himself because bloggers and liberal figures are saying that Bill is not a nice person. When liberals condemn someone verbally its as bad as a death threat and when rightists urge others to kill, and they do, its just a free speech issue.

got it?

aimai

mr. moto, are you suggesting that publius was associating his pseudonym and his private identity in public, but expected everyone not to mention it? Analogy FAIL.

Just want to point out Whelan's self contradiction:

"A blogger may choose to blog under a pseudonym for any of various self-serving reasons, from the compelling...I don’t see why anyone else has any obligation to respect the blogger’s self-serving decision."

Umm, if you find a compelling reason for one's pseudonym (which would, in a liberal society, include "they chose to have a pseudonym") then of course you've just created such an obligation.

Isn't ethics the discovery and application of obligatory behavior?

Please, MaryL. If one were buying something embarrassing or dropping of the s&m gear and didn't want anyone to know about it, then presumably one would be doing so as furtively as possible and not acting openly while expecting everyone not to mention it. Duh. Fail.

Publius,

I don't know you, and I read this blog only occasionally, but I sent an email to Whelan saying that his actions were that of a child. Just wanted to let you know that even people who aren't ardent followers think this was ridiculous, destructive and wrong.

If you happen to see Mr. Whelan in a bookstore purchasing something embarrassing or dropping off some s&m gear at the dry cleaners, you would be under no duty to keep it to yourself.

we have names for people who talk about things which are none of their business: gossip, blabbermouth, rat, rumormonger, tattletale. note that none of those names have positive connotations.

Oh, give us a break, cleek. If you - or any of the other hypocrites on this thread - saw Rush Limbaugh buying oxiconten in an alleyway (and you had your digital camera with you) all this phony moral propriety would be right out the window.

If you - or any of the other hypocrites on this thread - saw Rush Limbaugh buying oxiconten in an alleyway (and you had your digital camera with you) all this phony moral propriety would be right out the window.

there's a difference between being silent about a crime you have witnessed and blabbing about things which are legal but are none of your business.

If you - or any of the other hypocrites on this thread - saw Rush Limbaugh buying oxiconten in an alleyway (and you had your digital camera with you) all this phony moral propriety would be right out the window.

The metaphor making ability around here is getting bent out of shape, given that's illegal. We can aim to do better, right?

mr. moto:

You mean: if we read publius denouncing with vitriol the use of a pseudonym and saying that using your actual name was a matter of principle...

then he/we'd be hypocritical.

glad you are staying with publius. I like the consistency in pseudonyms.

there's a difference between being silent about a crime you have witnessed and blabbing about things which are legal but are none of your business.

Fine, then. If you saw Rush Limbaugh doing anything legal but outrageously embarrassing to himself, then all this phony moral propriety would be out the window.

If I had to sneak into Limbaugh's home to see him doing something legal but outrageously embarrassing, then I chose to tell the world about it, I would be a bad person twice over.

If Rush displays himself in public doing legal but outrageously embarrassing things, he has chosen to make it easy for me to discuss his behaviour.

Now just where has publius done or said something in public that made the association between his pseudonym and his real name obvious? I think your strained analogies still fail.

Still a bad analogy, Mr. Moto, Whelan didn't see Publius "doing anything legal but embarrassing" but if he had he would have been well within his rights, and his tradition as a jerk, to publicize that fact *this way*--"well known leftist blogger Publius was seen yesterday buying an autographed picture of George Bush and a blow up Cheney Doll--inquiring minds want to know!" and no one would have complained at all.

Similarly, perhaps if I were vouschafed a view of Rush Limbaugh in a pratfall I might photograph it and post it on the internet, or allude to it in a blog post--but I would never follow Rush Limbaugh to his home, publish his real name, or attempt (as Whelan so transparantly has) to get him punished by his employers for his speech, much of which has been a direct criticism of people like me much more vicious and egregious than Publius linking to *another blogger* who critized Whelan.

Really, the analogy is almost as bad as the syllogisms, analogies, and bizarre first amendment assertions of the anonymous obi/wi blogger/pseudonymous American Monthly blogger John Hancock.

aimai

maybe, maybe not. i like to think Not. but if i did, anyone would be completely justified in calling me a tattletale (or any of its synonyms).

"I don’t see why anyone else has any obligation to respect the blogger’s self-serving decision."

Hey mr. moto -- a bit of simple advice.

When you're in a hole, it's usually best to stop digging.

It's all the same to me either way, but every comment you post here just brands you as more of a jerk.

But it's your nickel, have fun.

Mr. Moto seems fuzzy about the whole good/bad thing.

As usual, the Onion got there first:
http://www.theonion.com/content/news/right_to_privacy_not_guaranteed_by

Actually, "my" analogy was just a slight correction of hilzoy's erroneous comparison of Whelan to a bookseller or dry cleaner disclosing embarrassing information about a patron. I'm not actually asking the analogy to carry water. It's pointless to use analogies anyway in the context of arguing with a mob such as a comment thread, because one will simply be peppered to death by distinctions, both meaningful and meaningless.

If you happen to see Mr. Whelan in a bookstore purchasing something embarrassing or dropping off some s&m gear at the dry cleaners, you would be under no duty to keep it to yourself.

Only a moral duty, which apparently is no duty at all.

mr. moto,

When all else fails, invoke the most literal objection. E.g., X, composed of two lines, can never be like Y, which is composed of three.

Hey mr. moto -- a bit of simple advice.

When you're in a hole, it's usually best to stop digging.

The shovel franchise is still open.

Actually, "my" analogy was just a slight correction of hilzoy's erroneous comparison of Whelan to a bookseller or dry cleaner disclosing embarrassing information about a patron. I'm not actually asking the analogy to carry water.

Another shovel, sir?

I too passed along an email to Mr. Whelen -- Something to the effect that in our legal profession, we know the importance of the right of privacy. Or maybe that's just me.

Publius, I join the others who are happy to see that you'll continue posting as publius and not let Whelan's bullying affect your blogging.

I hope your countertops are in order. Likely more thuggery awaits.

Wow. gwangung has been making the same shovel joke for two days. Does he talk about shovels a lot here?

I certainly don’t see why someone who has been smeared by the blogger....

Funny that a professional liar would pretend to not know the difference between a smear and an argument (a smear being a lie).

It's terribly obvious to just about everybody that, in fact, Publius simply offended Ed's brittle vanity, and so he must 'pay' somehow.

I would bet that, in the long run, this is not going to hurt publius in any substantial way. He has indeed been doing this for a long time, is really *quite* moderate and open minded in his posts, and is respected by lots of - both - conservatives and liberals. In fact, what made his original blog, 'Legal Fiction' so good, was the fact that opposing views and arguments were encouraged there; conservatives and liberals had to use real argument against each other. ObWi is like that too, of course, although it's less law-centered, obviously.

This doesn't make Ed look very good, though. My my.

I'm still waiting for mr moto to give us some more details on those Chinese academics he feels provide a real example of dangerous blogging. Yan er dao ling.

Fine, then. If you saw Rush Limbaugh doing anything legal but outrageously embarrassing to himself, then all this phony moral propriety would be out the window.

Mea culpa. I've shown other people this on many occasions.

(Note: full real name below.)

Wow. gwangung has been making the same shovel joke for two days. Does he talk about shovels a lot here?

When it's demonstrated there's such a crying need....

And people around here KNOW I'm quite happy to drive a joke into the ground...

"gwangung has been making the same shovel joke for two days. Does he talk about shovels a lot here?"

Only when the turd pile gets deep enough.

Let me be one more pseudo-pseudonymous persona jumping in on this latest thread to voice my fondness for publius' body of work and my enthusiastic support of his continued posting here under his preferred nom de plume.

And, yes, Mr. Whelan seems to have a very strange notion of what "ethics" means.

Weenie!

And people around here KNOW I'm quite happy to drive a joke into the ground...

And call a spade a spade?

And call a spade a spade?

When one must get to the root of things...

While Whelen's petty behavior negates whatever point he was trying to make, in outing Publius (who turns out to have some fine creds in the subject), Whelen unintentionally gave added weight to Publius's criticisms. Whoa, talk about shooting yourself in the foot. What we have in Welen is a man who doesn't know when to settle out of court.

Go publius. You have been wronged and I am outraged. Et cetera. I guess I am at the end of the queue or something.

I can't expect you to keep us informed on what damage, destruction, inconvenience this outing has done to you in your . There are so many excellent reasons for you to keep that private. Tenure is a big deal for those who want it. Life-shaping.

And so I can't ask or encourage you to keep blogging, since I don't know the costs, and any benefit or pleasure I might receive from your work is trivial conpared to the personal and RL factors you would take into consideration.

I am ever so sorry there are people like Whelan out there.

When one must get to the root of things...

Well, I've heard it said that a trowel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.

When one must get to the root of things..

I can dig it.

I just don't dig all these jokes about garden implements, and have to think you are all troweling for attention.

(ducks the rotten tomatoes so he can make his real point.)

It's a glass 1/10th full argument, but in some cases, i think the coward did you a favor, publius. Were I suddenly to be transformed into a college student -- after some weeks exercising skills that have gone rusty over time -- I would look at my catalog and see the course i was skipping was being taught by Professor blevins. So what, no big deal, who's this prof?

But if i realized i was going to be taught by Publius, hell, i wouldn't have skipped the classes in the first place. And i wouldn't be surprised if quite a few real students felt just this way.

Isn't it nice when someone does a truly despicable thing against you and winds up doing you a favor by doing so?

Blevins you coward. Typical liberal. See you in class!!!

Publius,
I started reading you back in your legal fiction days, but I have never posted a comment until now. I am relieved to see that you have better things to write about, because that means you will still be writing. Also, I hope that the loss of your anonymity will not negatively impact your personal and professional life.

Can I just say that the weirdest part of this weird day is seeing my real name all over the place.

It's fine -- i mean, it's out there now. I'm not criticizing people for using it in the comments. Just weird.

Spent a good chunk of the weekend away from the internet, so I missed Whelan's egregiousness. What a sad, petty little man. Perhaps he's got some shame repressed from his relentless hackery.

Hope you don't suffer any negative consequences, Publius.

cough cough.

but i just pretty much linked to everyone else's posts, so no thanks necessary.

i actually did it for the memeorandum traffic.

ps. my real name is duncan black.

It surprises me to see people literally making the following argument.

My real name is Gary Farber, but I thought that might cause a little confusion.

Bob (Mcmanus), I get where you're coming from, but that's still a pretty ungenerous statement. Sometimes making the world a better place doesn't involve grand gestures or supreme sacrifices, it just means making the effort to treat our fellow humans with some degree of fairness.

Whelan didn't do that. He deserves no respect. That doesn't mean he deserves the response that someone who advocates genocide deserves. Yes, other people deserve to be hauled up to the dock of justice, and his crimes are small in comparison.

That doesn't mean he gets a free pass for being a dickweed. So how about we agree to plow this dickweed under and move on to address more serious issues.

"It surprises me to see people literally making the following argument."

I lurvs me some xkcd, bago.

Unfortunately, my wife completely fails to get this kind of humor. And she hasn't granted me sudo privilege.

Can I just say that the weirdest part of this weird day is seeing my real name all over the place.

It's fine -- i mean, it's out there now. I'm not criticizing people for using it in the comments. Just weird.

It's weird for me, too. It's sort of odd to find out that someone I've been reading for years shares my name.

I don't have anything to add to this discussion (the issues around anonymity in journalism and public opinion seem really complex, and predate blogs by centuries), but I do want to say this. As a Houstonian, I like knowing that a fellow Houstonian is a fairly well-known liberal blogger. The blog scene here is pretty much dominated by conservatives, so if you are looking for an upside to being outed, know that for at least one reader, you have boosted his morale.

The blog scene here is pretty much dominated by conservatives

Errr...whut?

"Here" at OW is mostly liberal. "Here" as in out in the blogosphere is...well, look for yourself. I'd be hard pressed to point at that and say that it's dominated by conservatives.

If you meant some third thing, please share.

Slarti, I read RWBoyd as saying that the blogging scene IN HOUSTON is dominated by conservative bloggers.

Having been down all weekend I'm late to the scene here, but just echoing what others have said above, sorry about all this. Echoing what Prup (aka Jim Benton) said, at least you have the consolation of being outed in association with a body of work which you can rightly be proud of.

Whelan comes out of it looking like a sad little bully. With any luck he will be immortalized in All Internet Traditions in the form of "Whelan's Law: if you try to win an online argument by outing your critic, you automatically lose."

Best of luck!

"I read RWBoyd as saying that the blogging scene IN HOUSTON is dominated by conservative bloggers."

Oh. Ok, then. I haven't been in Houston in a decade and a half.

As some may suspect, "von" is not my real name. (I'll wait a moment for you to regain your chairs and mop up the bourbon that you spilled all over your keypads.) By happy coincidence of my self interest and Whalen being completely wrong on the relatives merit of pseudonymous blogging, I'll second all the nice things being said about Publius and a good portion of the not-so-nice things being said about Whelan.

I'm new to the argument - but have tried to catch up quickly!

I hope you'll keep writing, pseudonymously or not.

Slartibartfast wrote "If you meant some third thing, please share."

Yeah it's already been said, but I was talking about Houston bloggers.

My statement about most Houston bloggers being conservative is purely my subjective impression--I haven't tried to quantify this (nor do I plan to). And there are some great liberal bloggers here, so I can't really complain.

Publius, however, is a blogger from Houston, not a blogger about Houston or Texas politics. Still, it's nice to know he's here.

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