Internet Anthropologist Think Tank: Outting an Anonymous Blogger

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    Monday, June 08, 2009

    Outting an Anonymous Blogger

    Public photo

    More on Exposing an Irresponsible Anonymous Blogger [Ed Whelan]

    Ed Whelan has written some genius posts, but it seems an anonymous blogger got under his skin and Ed exposed

    the bloggers true identity., Which has tripped a firestorm in the blog sphere.

    I quote from his most recent post "

    Just a couple of additional comments on the matter I’ve discussed here and here (and that seems to have the blogosphere abuzz):

    1. When I first ran across publius’s Friday post, I decided just to ignore his latest act in a pattern of irresponsible conduct. But I changed my mind when I discovered that John Blevins is a law professor. I think that law professors especially ought to be held to minimal standards. As regular Bench Memos readers know, I have developed a particular antipathy towards law professors who behave badly—or, rather, who argue poorly: who don’t present opposing arguments fairly, who don’t get the facts right, who don’t reason logically, and who don’t acknowledge and correct their errors.

    2. There are a number of folks, like Jonathan, whose judgment I generally respect who believe that I shouldn’t have identified Blevins as publius. But if the supposed ethics of the Internet treat a blogger’s smears and misrepresentations as par for the course yet condemn someone who accurately identifies a blogger who is using the cover of a pseudonym to engage in those smears and misrepresentations, then I don’t accept those rules. ( emphasis mine, G )



    From Mr. Whelan's Public Bio:

    M. Edward Whelan III is the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He directs EPPC’s program on The Constitution, the Courts, and the Culture. His areas of expertise include constitutional law and the judicial confirmation process.

    Mr. Whelan, a lawyer and a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has served in positions of responsibility in all three branches of the federal government. From just before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, until joining EPPC in 2004, Mr. Whelan was the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice. In that capacity, he advised the White House Counsel’s Office, the Attorney General and other senior DOJ officials, and Departments and agencies throughout the executive branch on difficult and sensitive legal questions. Mr. Whelan previously served on Capitol Hill as General Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. In addition to clerking for Justice Scalia, he was a law clerk to Judge J. Clifford Wallace of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

    Mr. Whelan also previously worked as Senior Vice President and Counselor to the General Counsel for Verizon Corp. and as a lawyer in private practice.


    "I have developed a particular antipathy towards law professors who behave badly—or, rather, who argue poorly: who don’t present opposing arguments fairly, who don’t get the facts right, who don’t reason logically, and who don’t acknowledge and correct their errors."

    I understand the frustration Mr. Whelan feels, but taking the challenge to a personal level and exposing even badly behaved, poorly argued , unfair presentations, faulty facts, lack of reasoning and don't correct their errors doesn't justify outing the Professor.

    Your choice was a Public persona, his was a private persona.

    And this points to the risks inherent in the WWW, every thing is forever, and nothing is really private.

    I have outted Terrorist, Taliban and al Qaeda webmasters and hackers ( see skulls top of the page ) even posted their IPs, and gotten death threats for doing so.

    But your motive feels, appears vengeful, like an attempt to silence someone. Was that your motive?

    Its a Question not an accusation.

    " then I don’t accept those rules." of course you don't have to accept those rules.

    The Blog sphere makes up its own community rules, I don't know if this will have

    any consequences in the blog sphere, this may just blow over, or track you forever.

    Blog Sphere is acting now.

    Summary blog: Hot Air:



    Sunday, June 07, 2009

    Re: Exposing an Irresponsible Anonymous Blogger [Ed Whelan]

    Before returning to more important matters, let me offer a few thoughts on the mini-firestorm that my exposing of the blogger “publius” seems to have generated:

    1. 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-servingreasons, 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.

    Blevins desired to be unaccountable — irresponsible — for the views he set forth in the blogosphere. He wanted to present one face to his family, friends, and colleagues and another to the blogosphere. That’s understandable but hardly deserving of respect. If he wanted to avoid the risk of being associated publicly with his views, he shouldn’t have blogged. It’s very strange that angry lefties are calling me childish (and much worse) when it’s Blevins who was trying to avoid responsibility for his blogging. (Law professor Michael Krauss has a good post on the matter.)

    2. Blevins persists in propagating his fantasy that I exposed Blevins out of my supposed embarrassment over a post by Eugene Volokh. The fact that Volokh’s post did not embarrass me is amply attested by my promptly linking to, and praising, Volokh’s “characteristically thoughtful critique.” The fact that I saw no reason to be embarrassed by his post is amply explained by the closing paragraphs of my post exposing publius.

    One simple reason that I hadn’t exposed Blevins before yesterday is that I learned only yesterday that he was publius.

    3. When Blevins sent me an e-mail refusing my request that he confirm or deny that he was publius, I responded with a private e-mail, which Blevins himself has made public, that bluntly called him a “coward and idiot.” I do believe that Blevins’s conduct was cowardly. I regret, however, that I was intemperate and hyperbolic in my disparagement of Blevins’s intellect, and I hereby apologize to him for that portion of my comment.



    The traditional method for handling 'ankle biters'

    is to publicly thrash them, with overwhelming evidence,
    ripping them apart with logic and sound arguments,
    exposing them for all the world to see.
    As we have done before.


    My Apologies to Publius [Ed Whelan]

    On reflection, I now realize that, completely apart from any debate over our respective rights and completely apart from our competing views on the merits of pseudonymous blogging, I have been uncharitable in my conduct towards the blogger who has used the pseudonym Publius. Earlier this evening, I sent him an e-mail setting forth my apology for my uncharitable conduct. As I stated in that e-mail, I realize that, unfortunately, it is impossible for me to undo my ill-considered disclosure of his identity. For that reason, I recognize that Publius may understandably regard my apology as inadequate.


    Re: My Apologies to Publius [Ed Whelan]

    Publius has generously and graciously accepted my apology. I thank him for his kindness in doing so.

    I see that some of the earlier commenters on his post have raised concerns about my good faith. One stated concern is that my apology is too vague. Let me be clear: In apologizing for having “been uncharitable in my conduct” towards Publius, I am apologizing both for disclosing his identity and for making harsh statements about Publius in the course of doing so. In stating that my apology is “completely apart from any debate over our respective rights,” I am apologizing for my conduct whether or not, in some abstract sense, I had a “right” to do what I did. In other words, I am acknowledging that I had a duty to be charitable to Publius (because a human being is beneath the pseudonym) and that I violated that duty.

    A second stated concern is that my apology is insincere and coerced. On that score, I will simply say that no one at (or on behalf of) National Review or NRO (or in any other position of authority over me) ever raised with me a single concern about my posts or ever remotely suggested that I should make an apology. Further, as those who know me will readily attest, for better or worse my response to mob pressure is to entrench, not to cave. I made the decision to apologize on my own, without consulting with anyone before doing so, and I fully mean what I have said.

    I will add that just as my apology cannot undo my disclosure of Publius’s identity, I fully acknowledge that folks may legitimately continue to criticize my conduct.



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