Some discussion here and there about some conservative blogger who outed some liberal blogger, then apologized for it later. People on the internet are anonymous, pseudonymous, and more-or-less real as they present themselves. Their choice–in theory I have no problem with any of these solutions. I choose to be upfront about who I am. Any enterprising sleuth could find my web site, my parish, my house, car, and family if they tried. (An amusing aside about someone in the Kansas City diocesan office several years ago who wanted to know who/what “Catholic Sensibility” was. All they had to do was scroll to “my parish” and look up one of many links to my parish’s web page. There I was, just as here I am now. But the person inquiring was clueless about all that.)
My wife gets nervous about internet connections. On a vacation a few years back, I talked about visiting another blogger. My wife was relieved no connections were made. She still views the world of the blogosphere with extreme doubt. It has led to some useful writing gigs, so that’s one good thing, in her thinking. Otherwise, I respect her wishes to keep family posts to a minimum. (She does thank all of you who posted in sympathy of Splinter.)
That said, my bigger problem is with bad behavior on the internet or off it. Cowardice is a problem. For decades I’ve seen and experienced it in parishes: people who prefer not to engage a person and want to make a big deal of bringing the pastor into it. This kind of anonymity is self-serving. People want to confront, but they demur going the direct route. They inflate their own sense of ego by drawing in the pastor, the bishop, or Rome. They want to hide behind others as they watch their dirty work being done for them. A cheerleading phenomenon.
Anonymity or pseudonymity works, traditionally, when a writer wants to poke at a powerful authority. A colonial American patriot, for example, might not want a legion of British soldiers tearing down a homestead. Understandable.
In today’s blogosphere, it’s not quite the same. You can get banned in Chinese cyberspace, okay. But largely, the government, the corporate masters, and the Church really don’t care nor do they take notice of critics. Some bloggers react by going after people they can touch or harm, or they attack with the intention of rendering punishment. Sometimes you know where the knife is coming from. And while I still part company with somebody like Deal Hudson on tactics (certainly ideology too!), the man is no coward because he’s not afraid to sign his name on the line.
It is a mystery to me why a few well-known Catholic bloggers have opted for pseudonymity given their penchant for attack. Oh, I can understand a spouse or family insisting on anonymity. My wife would definitely prefer I not use my real name and link to my real locations. The phenomenon strikes me as similar to the superhero alter ego. In a way, a man or woman becomes a different person wearing the mask, the costume, the pseudonym. If you’re fighting the minions of evil, fine. If the modus operandi is to disenfranchise one’s ideological adversaries, bad show indeed. It would be better for anonymous or pseudonymous folks to just refrain from attack unless they’re willing to sign their name on the line. Once I told an e-mail correspondent if they were unwilling to show their posts to their spouse and parish pastor, why would they expect me to take them seriously as a believer with a cause?
What does the commentariat here think? Do you read anonymous or pseudonymous blogs? Who are the best of them? What’s your take on not pushing your real name out there too much?