Sep 16, 2008

On Anonymous Political Speech

Anonymous political speech has a long history. Here is an excerpt from an essay by New Jersey attorney Richard Ravin on the history of anonymous political speech in the United States:

"In his concurring opinion in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas discussed the role of anonymous political speech in American and New Jersey history. He noted that essays in the Federalist Papers were authored under the pseudonym “Publius”. Justice Thomas also noted that in 1779 the New Jersey State Assembly frustrated the New Jersey Legislative Counsel’s attempt to obtain the identity of an anonymous author (from the author’s editor and printer) going by the pseudonym “Cincinnatus”. Cincinnatus had authored a satirical attack on Governor William Livingston and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton)."

"Ironically, five years later, Governor Livingston himself authored anonymous articles under the pseudonym “Scipio”, attacking the Legislature’s failure to lower taxes and accusing a state officer of stealing or losing state money during the British invasions of New Jersey. In 1779 the New Jersey State Assembly frustrated the New Jersey Legislative Counsel’s attempt to obtain the identity of an anonymous author (from the author’s editor and printer) going by the pseudonym “Cincinnatus”.Cincinnatus had authored a satirical attack on Governor William Livingston and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton). Ironically, five years later, Governor Livingston himself authored anonymous articles under the pseudonym “Scipio”, attacking the Legislature’s failure to lower taxes and accusing a state officer of stealing or losing state money during the British invasions of New Jersey."

In the context of blogging and the internet, "outing" anonymous bloggers and/or commenters is a staple of a few internet users. Their "outing" of people they disagree with is standard operating procedure. They do it gleefully and gloatingly. Is it an obsession? I don't know. But they don't hesistate to do so if they get the opportunity. My opinion is that folks who make a habit of outing anonymous bloggers or commenters do so as a method of intimidation or to stifle debate.

Anyone with a little time on their hands can do some basic internet "digging" and determine I'm the author of another blog, Oregon Reality. That blog has a decidedly more partisan point of view compared to the "Troutdale City Councilor Canfield" blog you're reading now, which emphasizes local and regional politics and the happenings in Troutdale. I've operated Oregon Reality semi-anonymously. I say semi-anonymously because if you use the internet, you're findable.

No one who spends time with blogs can expect to remain anonymous. Via the use of Google or other search engines, data collection tools such as Sitemeter, and a little detective intuition, it's pretty easy to determine the identity of "anonymous" bloggers or commenters. Which makes "outing" the authors of semi-anonymous blogs such as Oregon Reality an easy task. I've tracked down the identity of many anonymous visitors to my blogs. Here's an example of one of those "anonymous" commenters. I tracked down. Even though I tracked this guy down I didn't "out" him. I've never done that to any of my blog visitors.

Which brings us to the subject of some blog posts on Oregon Reality- Jack Bogdanski. Mr. Bogdanski has a history of "outing" semi-anonymous bloggers and commenters. See examples of this here and here.

Mr. Bogdanski objected to the content of some blog posts on Oregon Reality, and proceeded to announce to his readers that he had discovered the author of Oregon Reality and was going to "out" him ("him", of course, being yours truly) to the public at a certain date and time.

My opinion is that Mr Bogdanski believes I will be shamed or humiliated when he "outs" me. I am also of the opinion that Mr. Bogdanski has another motive for his upcoming "outing": the attempted intimidation and censorship of those who disagree with him. As proof, I'll quote from an August 25, 2008 entry from Mr. Bogdanski's very own Twitter web site: where he brags about acts of censorship on his bojack.org blog.

"Deleting right-wing a**hat comments from my blog. The convention really has them stirred up. They deserve at least 8 years of same." "(from https://twitter.com/bojack54/statuses/899035709)


Mr. Bogdanski is entitled to publish whatever he wishes on his blogs. He's entitled to censor anyone he wishes on his blogs. I don't control what he publishes on his blog. He doesn't control what I publish on mine. I take full responsibility for what I've published on mine.And I believe there's plenty of room in the marketplace of political ideas for everyone, anonymous, semi-anonymous, or otherwise. Even Mr. Bogdanski.

It's too bad he doesn't give the same respect to those he disagrees with.

6 comments:

rickyragg said...

While I understand the motivation for your posts about Bogdanski and share your distaste for his obsessive, gratuitous nastiness towrd Palin, I think you could have handled the situation better on this blog.

A step back from the highly personal nature of your posts would have elevated the tone of your arguments above that of his. As it is, I'm afraid you have ceded the moral high ground.

The "outing" speaks more about Bogdanski and some his acolytes than it does about you. Methinks he protesteth too much.

Kevin said...

I've been pretty critical of Jack for outting bloggers in the past and I don't agree with it now.

But you've got a hell of a lot of nerve portraying outters like Jack as doing it "gleefully and gloatingly" given the self-evident glee and gloating you took in being gratuitously nasty and personal towards Jack on your other blog.

Thom said...

Hey, kev. Ever criticize your buddy Kari for outing bloggers?

I'm guessing the answer has much to do with situational karma.

I am Coyote said...

Bogdanski made himself look even more stupid and infantile.

As if that was even possible.

He built this up like it was going to be some great uncovering or something.

What a myopic loony toon.

The thing that I would be concerned with, if I knew Jack The Loon, is that he probably spent the last four days wandering around muttering over spittle covered chin:" heh...i'm gonna get HIM...heh heh..."

As that great philosopher Bugs Bunny used to say: "What a maroon."

yip yip

Zeb Quinn said...

Bogdanski banned me from commenting on his blog several times because I took opposing views to some of the things he posts about. I can understand and even agree with banning people who use foul language, but for simply stating opposing opinions?

It's been enough to make me give more thought to Bogdanski more than I normally would have. As in, what's with this guy? To me he outs himself as an intolerant control freak. You said nothing in your posts about Bogdanski that I hadn't myself thought and wondered about, so I'm guessing that there are many of us thinking this way about him and wondering these same things.

MAX Redline said...

BoyJack has simply demonstrated once again his intolerance and his immaturity. Kev is apparently an acolyte of the Great BoyJack, but he misses the point completely:

If BoyJack wants to act like a Ministry of Information commisar on his own blog, that's fine. It shows him to be infantile, but then, he is.

The problem comes down to the fact that he chose to attempt to control content on a blog other than his own, and he made a big deal out of it. This demonstrates not only immaturity; it also speaks to mental issues. Clearly, his ego is so large that he believes it to be his fundamental right and duty to "track down" those whom he considers "offenders", even though they are not posting on his blog.

The caricature of BoyJack glued to his computer, busily googling his name and tracking "offenders" is clearly not far off the mark. As Zeb put it, he outed himself as an intolerant control freak.

I'm thinking of dropping a package of Pampers training diapers off on his doorstep.