Blogging and Anonymity

I often wonder why I blog. I also wonder why I blog anonymously. There’s not much point to either.

The kudos I may get for the former one is obscured by the fact of the latter. The fun I may have because of the latter is precluded by the fact that I want to be respected as a blogger.

My anonymity isn’t particularly precious to me. My employer is not particularly intrusive and a number of my close friends already know (and humour me). My mother remains oblivious but it might be better if she knew. She can only assume the vast amount of time I spend on the internet is spent masturbating.

I suppose I enjoy blogging and I need little reason other than that. I enjoy blogging because I care about people – and that means I have to care about politics so I blog about it. I apologise if the logic appears circular.

I like being able to have an effect on people for the better – no matter how small an impact this blog has. In large part I blog and enjoy blogging because I’m ambitious and a little arrogant too.

On the face of it then it seems I blog anonymously for the same reasons I blog.

I can’t help thinking that one day I’ll be in a more powerful position than I am know. Not a captain of Industry or a Think Tank bod but someone somewhat more influential than I am.

I doubt the ends I’ll want to achieve will change; greater control by workers not owners and greater redistribution until that is achieved, open borders and liberalised migration until that is achieved, drug legalisation, greater policy space for the developing world and free trade for the developed, a more responsible press, a world not just tolerant of difference but accepting of it too.

Though the things I’ll want to achieve will not change the methods to achieve them probably will. I recognise that things here might hurt my credibility and my ability achieve things later on, so I like the option of taking ownership of this blog later if it suits me or abandoning it to history’s mysteries if not.

But there have been a couple of stories this week that make me glad I am a blogger and glad that I do so anonymously which I’d like to highlight here.

Someone writes something on a blog under their real name and it is taken out of context and splashed across the Irish Mail on Sunday (hat tip Anton Vowl and Tim Ireland):

The Mail never told me they were writing a piece about my blog. The journalist who wrote it never sent me an email asking me questions about my blog. I won’t do to his professional reputation what he has done to mine, but let’s just say that I wonder whether he would have expected me to answer his questions the way he wanted.

As it is, in the middle of an incredibly trying time for my colleagues, an article has appeared in a Sunday Newspaper that says I feel abused by the people I work with. It gives me opinions that I do not have, and uses words I have never said. It does so to attack my profession, impugn my employers, and portray me as a victim of my friends.

I feel sick. Any future employer could fairly read what Luke Byrne has written about me and conclude that I am a disloyal, untrustworthy person. The people I work with today could, and probably have, read it and decided that I am not on their side, and that I think that they are sexist, nasty, bullies. None of this is true.

This makes me angry and sympathetic in equal measure. I have documented the malign behaviour of the press and I would not like it visited upon me. This makes me glad my employers don’t know who I am, and potential employers, pedagogues and acolytes don’t either.

On the other hand the story of Seismic Shock makes me proud to be a blogger (hat tip Shiraz Socialist) and makes me furious that bloggers are not awarded the protection they are due.

At 10am on Sunday 29th November 2009, I received a visit from two policemen regarding my activities in running the Seismic Shock blog. (Does exposing a vicar’s associations with extremists make me a criminal?, I wondered initially). A sergeant from the Horsforth Police related to me that he had received complaints via Surrey Police from Rev Sizer and from Dr Anthony McRoy – a lecturer at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology – who both objected to being associated with terrorists and Holocaust deniers.

[…]

The sergeant made clear that this was merely an informal chat, in which I agreed to delete my original blog (http://seismicshock.blogspot.com/) but maintain my current one (http://seismicshock.wordpress.com). The policeman related to me that his police force had been in contact with the ICT department my previous place of study, and had looked through my files, and that the head of ICT at my university would like to remind me that I should not be using university property in order to associate individuals with terrorists and Holocaust deniers (I am sure other people use university property to make political comments, but nevermind).

[…]

Sure, Stephen Sizer managed to somehow arrange a police visit to me from within the UK, but does Sizer genuinely think he can use police on the other side of the world to this effect?

Why is Reverend Sizer claiming that I received a police caution, when the police stressed I did not receive a caution? Is Sizer deliberately misrepresenting the same police force that he originally used to his advantage?

Who is Reverend Sizer reporting to, and why does Reverend Sizer genuinely feel he has the power to close down debate by threatening police action? Why call the cops rather than answer his critics?

Political and theological disagreements should never be accompanied with threats of litigation or police action, but instead with logic and open debate.

I am pleased to help affect the Streisandification of this story as the more who know about Reverend Sizer the better.

These are two stories that seem indelibly entwined. Blogging’s real world influence is obvious in the first in a personal but massive way. The threats to blogging are obvious in the second but on an insidious and more intimidating level.

I am proud to blog but I think I may guard my anonymity jealously. I wish Seismic Shock the best of luck and offer my sincere sympathy to Melanie Dawn.

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