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Brooke

Somewhat tangentially: In my earliest internet days, I was suspicious of the custom of online pseudonymity, but I've come to think it‘s one of the best things to have happened on the internet short of the Numa Numa craze.

PZ Myers calls attention to a couple of recent instances of the spiteful “outing” of pseudonymous bloggers. As usual, the excuse given after the fact is that the pseudonymous blogger is using her anonymity as a hiding place from which to lob attacks. Myers acknowledges that this can be a problem (comment trolls, for example), but rightly points out that most pseudonymous bloggers cultivate a consistent online persona that takes responsibility for its speech.

Bloggers in higher education typically post pseudonymously. I don’t think anyone could suggest that Dean Dad, for example, is less trustworthy for writing pseudonymously. (Or 2 Baruch. Or Daniel! Or…)

JohnFH

It is hard to know what to do in the case of pseudonymous bloggers whose evident purpose in life is to launch attacks on ideological enemies. I'm not surprised that such bloggers are eventually outed by those they attack.

But you are absolutely right that pseudonymous blogging can be an act of self-discipline, just as it was for 2 Baruch and Daniel.

In the latter cases, the use of a pseudonym would have been a transparent trope at the time, when a work from Daniel and Baruch appeared out of nowhere that spoke directly to the issues of the day. But the trope might no longer be transparent a mere two or three generations later.

Doug Chaplin

Curiously and coincidentally I've just posted on this, and fairly inconclusively, based on a recent High Court decision not to protect a blogger's anonymity.

I'm nowadays taking a slightly more relaxed view of pseudonymous and anonymous commenters. I certainly allow pseudonyms for people who have constant blogging personae and a blog to match. OTOH however good I think their blog is, I won't put it in my public blogroll, even though I will link to it in posts.

I dislike anonymous commenters, but If they're polite I might still let them through!

JohnFH

Like you, Doug, I'm inclined to a muddled approach.

I badly need to revise my blogroll and will stick to your principles.

Kentucky Packrat

I decided early on to stay pseudonymous because I work where public money was involved, and I was afraid of the Political Correctness police coming after me. I have also been outspoken about owning firearms, homeschooling, and on Islamic relations, and had no desire to see people show up at my doorstep.

OTOH, I accidentally used my blogger Email to ask a co-worker (and friend) to make a change at work one day. When I asked him why he trusted Email from a random stranger, he said "It's your nickname from college. I knew it was you instantly." Oops.

The Anchoress inspired me to blog, and she didn't unmask for a long time. There were several pseudonymous bloggers from the 2005, 2006 era who didn't unmask until mass media started throwing around talking heads money.

I think the key to successful pseudonymity is consistency of personality and a lack of astroturfing. I try not to say anything as Kentucky Packrat I wouldn't say as, well, myself. It keeps the schizophrenia at bay...

Looney

Anyone using pseudonymity could set up a bogus "real life" identity. I do lob a few grenades now and then, but it is usually to provoke a response with the idea of getting some insights into someone's mental processes. All for a good scientific end! My family members and pastor know where I blog, so the layer of pseudonymity is quite thin.

Now consider a Christian missionary blogging from Iran. Are we going to insist that they must use their real name, location and occupation? Few of us are in that category. For me, it is more a fear of putting my entire life - and the life of my family members - online so that others can research us for whatever purpose. Probably if I am worried about privacy, I shouldn't blog, but that is really how it works: I want to blog publicly, but I still want a layer of privacy for me and my family.

JohnFH

It's been years since I commented on political threads full of trolls and wolves. I enjoyed it for a time. It prepared me a bit for blogging. It became obvious very quickly that a thick skin is necessary if one plans to maintain an online presence.

I wasn't blogging under a pseudonym, but the initials of my name, and I remember well people working hard to "out" me, from their point of view, and to threaten me in various ways. Or to slander me from their point of view, based on some fact from my personal life they were able to dig up.

Blogging with a pseudonym is a necessity for a missionary blogging in Iran (though I'm not sure that is adequate protection). Blogging with a pseudonym is an option in a "free" country. One just has to be aware that there is no legal and sometimes no moral obligation to maintain the secrecy of a person's identity if certain red lines are crossed.

At the very least, one needs to be ready to be outed should sufficient offense be given, intentionally or unintentionally.

Paul the apostle

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ to the master of this blog, grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead. In attacking the pseudononimous you attack every book of the Bible, seeing not one of them could possibly have been written by the declared authors. Beware brother lest while thou judge others thou find thyself judged. Greet Kentucky Packrat, my true yoke-fellow. The Lord reward Doug Chaplin according to his works, for he hath done me much wrong. To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.

Nathan Stitt

I don't take issue with pseudonymous or anonymous bloggers and commenters. My only problem is with blogs that do not allow comments, as it is integral to the way I participate in blogging.

This particular post makes my point, as the comments are just as interesting as the original post. The truth aspect that you bring up is irrelevant to me as I have a general habit of reading everything on the internet with a grain of salt.

JohnFH

Paul the apostle shows up. Cool. Can I get your autograph?

I think I already have it in Paul's letter to the Galatians.

I admit I'm a little slow to catch on to frauds at times, but I dare think that you, Mr. "Paul the apostle," are a fake.

A great deal of the Bible was written anonymously. Or, the attribution has to be understood in terms of how attribution worked in antiquity in analogous situations. So, mr. fake, you need to read your Bible more carefully.

A plausible case can be made for a morally disciplined use of pseudonymity in a few examples. The book of Daniel comes to mind.

With respect to the practice of later tradition of ascribing the whole Pentateuch to Moses, not to mention everything spoken from the seat of Moses by his successors, there is great truth to that assertion at a deep level.

But that assertion should not be confused with an assertion of authorship in the narrow sense narrow-minded people like to stick to.

Nathan,

I agree that blogs without comments make about as much sense as a hot dog without a bun and everything on it. Really, it's only when a pseudonym is used for nefarious ends that I'm bothered. Now, and in ancient literature.

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