Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In Defense of Anonymity . . . For Now

Well week one is in the books and all in all things seem to be off to a decent start. Inside the HoCo bloggerverse most of the feedback has revolved around my anonymity.  Mostly shall we say NOT in favor. 

Most of that feedback has been heartfelt and honest.  Here are the arguments (paraphrased) I have heard against my anonymity:

All the anonymity in this world (both virtual and real) has done way too much damage for it to be used for a good purpose.

This is just a gimmick to get people guessing and paying attention.

People will assume the worst of my intentions maybe even that I am an elected official using anonymity to take cheap shots without consequence. 

I’ve lost the higher ground with the inevitable deluge of anonymous and obnoxious commenters. 

I truly appreciate these comments/criticisms.  The first one was made even more clear when someone anonymously acted like an asshole to blogger JuliaMcCready.  While the anonymous letter would have been no less out of line had it been done with attribution I easily concede that without the protection of anonymity the sender would have not had the “courage” to send it in the first place.

As I said in my first post, the decision to go at it anonymously was done with a great deal of thought and I wasn’t 100% convinced it was the right move then (or now) although I still do feel it is with the complete understanding that I will not be anonymous forever[1].  Let me first take a quick moment to remember the good things that came under anonymity or by pseudonym.[2]

Richard Bachman

Let’s talk political writing, of course there is Publius arguably the best persuasive political writing of our nation.  None other than Ben Franklin did a great deal of writing under various pseudonyms.  For many of them he developed robust backstories.[4]

Finally of course there is Hayduke, dare I say the originator of quality HoCo blogging.  In fact, I reached out to Ian last week (maintaining my pseudonym) and talked to him about his experience writing anonymously and the “outing” process.   We emailed quite a bit and he was supportive of my decision because of my motivations.  I took a lot of what Ian said to heart, including the fact that when he wrote the norms were different and that he might not have written HoCoHayduke under todays norms.  Ultimately he said breaking those norms had to be my call of course but that he certainly saw and supported the concept of what and why I was doing this.

For the time being I am standing firm that my words should be judged without the context of who I am precisely.  I am not asking you to trust that I have appropriate motivations, I have done nothing to garner that trust.  Rather I am simply asking that you read critically, and contribute.   This post here actually shows what that might look like.

Finally, in HoCo Rising’s last post entitled “I Bet You Think This Bill is About You” I saw in the comment section a narrative that precisely described my motivations for staying anonymous.  They came from current CDC President Josh Friedman: “[L]ook at the debate last year over sugary drinks. The debate, which started out as a debate about the role of government, mutated into a debate about why supporters supported it so much, and why opponents were so staunchly opposed. Inevitably, such a discussion becomes what we are seeing today; a battle where ideas are belittled and conspiracy theories about hidden agendas take hold. Then we are no longer debating a problem and possible solutions, we are debating who feels stronger about their own position. The problem with those who oppose ideas by belittling the problem, or trying to morph the issue into some sort of personal attack is that, in so doing, you are no longer attempting to influence the management of the affairs of state. It is no longer about politics, nor governing.”

Well said, and though I don’t presume that being anonymous will entirely protect me or my ideas from that devolution it does legitimately set a buffer and it helps.  Judge me, attack me, debate me or embellish me, all based on my ideas.  It’s a big ask I know but we live in #HoCo FFS we should be able to pull it off.

[1] I also know that I likely can not completely control my own outing or I may not be able to control it at all.
[2] I decided not to list any classical musical compositions because it was impossible for me to discern which were intentionally anonymous and which we simply lost who actually wrote them
[3] I am definitely open to the definition of “good” for these guys.  But hey, avant garde music as done here really has positively (I think) effected modern music.  Even if it by itself it sounds kind of silly to me.
[4] Interesting side note that doesn’t particularly help my point, Franklin published the following in the New England Courant under the pseudonym Silence Dogood:  “The generality of people, now a days, are unwilling either to commend or dispraise what they read, until they are in some measure informed who or what the Author of it is.”   He then establishes the character of Silence Dogood.  I am not playing a character and think doing so would be a bad idea for my purposes.

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