On Pseudonymity

A passably interesting, tolerably-written, relatively articulate but widly meandering attack on online anonymity that completely fails to get it.

She (?) completely fails to understand the point of online pseudonymity, nor how it differs from anonymity:

No publication considers a truly anonymous source — one whose identity is unknown to both reporter and readers — a usable one for any purpose other than further inquiry. And yet reporters, including myself, have routinely cited the writings of pseudonymous commentors, in grave violation of that standard.

There’s a huge difference between “anonymous” and “pseudonymous” sources. Just because a person’s name, address, birthdate, and social-security number aren’t known doesn’t automatically discredit them. There are any number of people who write under pseudonyms and whom have a great deal of respectability and creditability.

Indeed, in the sphere of politics, pseudonymity may actually do more to advance discourse than full and open disclosure. With the near-religious attachment many seem to get to various politicians, and the way they hang on their every utterance, treating them as sacred Truths, coupled with equal, if not greater, degree of animosity and disdain towards other politicial figures and their ideas, and varying degrees of bigotry and discrimination prevalent on both sides of the aisle, pseudonymity – or even anonymity – encourages, and to an extent requires, one to objectively approach the writer’s ideas without bias or preconceived notions.

Critical thinking isn’t a bad thing. The identity of a person presenting an idea – the knowledge of their identity – shouldn’t affect our reaction to the idea itself. Donald Rumsfeld’s insane blatherings aren’t insane blatherings just because they come out of Rummy’s mouth, they’re insane because, well, they’re objectively at odds with reality, i.e. really insane. Ben Domenech occasionally (very occasionally) has an idea that’s almost worth listening to, but because he’s Ben Domenech, many will accept everything he says as gospel truth, and many will immediately dismiss it as the drivel of a juvenile plagiarist.

Indeed, I’m strongly inclined to dismiss all of Garance Franke-Ruta’s ideas… just because they were written by “Garance Franke-Ruta”.

Nemo de Monet

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General, Meta | on March 27th, 2006| Comments Off on On Pseudonymity

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