Outing Anonymous Bloggers is Wrong


Update: I was totally right.

June 8 2009 – You might ask, “Where’s the nuance in that?” I’d reply, “What’s nuance, some kind of fruit-scented shampoo?”  Then, I’d pause for laughter.

Ed Whelan at NRO just ripped the mask off of one of the many internet Batmen who gad about town in daylight, and ply their internet wares under cover of darkness: (h/t Jake Tapper)

One bane of the Internet is the anonymous blogger who abuses his anonymity to engage in irresponsible attacks. One such blogger who has been biting at my ankles in recent months is the fellow who calls himself “publius” at the Obsidian Wings blog.

He goes on to out “publius,” and all that that implies.  You can check out Ed Morrissey’s typically measured response to this over at Hot Air, where the point is debated and polled.  I actually stopped reading it quickly, so it wouldn’t cloud my writing on the central topic, but I’m sure he ended up on the right side of the question.

The term “anonymous blogger” brings to mind some weaselly know-it-all, hunched over his laptop in his underwear, banging away at his blogspot site about how someone smarter and more important than him is “teh suck.”  However, there are a lot of very influential, high quality bloggers who operate under the aforementioned cloak.  Ed’s colleague, Allahpundit, springs immediately to mind.  Ace of Spades is another.

The fact that these two blog pseudonymously doesn’t affect the quality of their work, and since each has a large following, even their cloaked identities have reputations to protect.  If they write “irresponsibly,” there are consequences.  Other bloggers can point it out, humiliate them, damage their respective brands.  You can argue about journalism standards on blogs, but that applies to the named and the faux-named alike.

The best way to handle this is in the marketplace of ideas.  If your attacker is worth responding to, you fight back using your own platform.

Now, if someone writes something that is actionable, the remedy is a legal one, and the outing is a by-product.  Simply outing a blogger on your own blog is what I’m talking about here.

The problem with blogging is that the internet give you all of the detriments of celebrity, and none of the advantages.  An IRL celebrity gets paid a lot, and can afford unlisted numbers, gated mansions patrolled by hounds, and bodyguards.  Their celebrity, also, is not a threat to their livelihood, but rather the object of it.

The blogger is often unpaid, and relies on a real-world job for subsistence.  He or she is ill-equipped to deal with the type of harassment, or worse, that an outing can bring.

Finally, outing is cheating.  Blogging is about verbal combat, and ripping off your opponent’s mask is substantively empty, the quivalent of bringing a knife to a chess game.


  1. Now this is information I can use. Thanks, Tommy. Hope you’re doing good, in spite of everything.

    Oh by the way, damn I wish I could remember where I saw it–but I did see a blog that had some ads on it. I’m assuming that those ads generate revenue–I wouldn’t give up space for free.

  2. I agree. Its wrong. But most ‘bad guys,’ don’t fight fair either- which makes them the ‘bad’ guys…
    I blog anonymously, and I thank the lord no one has exposed me, as some most certainly could have. I had a false alarm that prompted me to scrub my blog pretty well, which was really a shame- but I didn’t want to lose my job.

  3. Ugh 😦

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