So, hot on the heels of “senior” Labour MPs telling everyone who had a microphone and would listen that blogs are meaningless shrill hives of scum and villainy, a “senior” Labour MP may now be trying to impose sanctions on party members who comment on blogs. In the way said senior MP doesn’t like.
Did someone mention there was meant to be an invigorated, principled, forward-thinking Labour Party somewhere around here?
At least one commenter on The Standard has had to bid farewell (at least to that pseudonym) to the discussion on the grounds of a real, concrete threat to their privacy and identity. lprent, whom I trust on such issues, strongly advises against commenting at all on Red Alert unless you have “cast-iron anonymity”.
Hey, Brian Edwards. Paying attention? Probably not, none of us are using our real names.
See also: NRT – Gagging the membership
So, I’ve ventured forth once more into the comments at Brian Edwards’ post, where much amusement may be had at Pete George wanking on about his perma-ban at The Standard.
Brian, in response to many comments along the same lines as my own, has this to say:
I said in the blog that if someone commenting on a post had reason to fear that giving their real name could lead to them, their families or associates suffering distress or harm, then it was entirely resonable for them to use an alias. I’ve now repeated that half a dozen times in reply to comments citing examples of discrimination by employers, various authorities or the state.
Fair enough, I suppose. But this only begs one question for me: um, what the fuck were you complaining about then, Brian?
It seems that, post posto, Brian and various commenters want to now act like “the problem” is the abusiveness, the trolling, the unconstructive shit that I know we’ve all seen derailing comment threads since the dawn of net-time.
But that’s not what Brian Edwards blogged about.
Brian Edwards said:
But, whatever my faults, I have at least always put my name to my opinions.
the commonest reason for not putting one’s name to one’s opinions is … cowardice.
But [anonymous commenting on blogs] is, in my submission, a democracy of the gutless whose commonest weapon is abuse hurled from behind the ramparts of their anonymity.
More contemptible by far than the anonymous correspondent is the anonymous blogger, particularly in a democracy like New Zealand
A few brave souls write under their real names.
If that post – and by all means go read the whole thing to establish I’m not quoting out of context, that’s the joy of links – is about anything other than “anonymous* bloggers are gutless cowards” I implore some helpful commenter – anonymous or otherwise – to explain exactly how.
So here’s the upshot: Brian Edwards totally doesn’t think all anonymity is bad, he totally understands that some people have good reasons for remaining anonymous (or, you know, PSEUDONYMOUS).
He just thinks he gets to be the person who decides whether or not your reasons are good enough, because obviously, as an anonymous coward, you can’t be trusted to have made that decision for yourself or anything.
So, everyone, please line up by Mr Edwards’ desk to out yourself and justify your previous use of a cowardly, contemptible pseudonym. He’ll let you know if your own reasons for your own choices are valid. He’s a respectable old white heterosexual middle-class dude who writes under his real name, you know.
There’s another theme emerging, which Farrar helpfully parrots: that pseudonymous bloggers are less polite, less restrained, less rational. I merely refer that entire argument to Wh*l* O*l.
Brian Edwards is the latest to wade into the “anonymous bloggers” debate. I’ve previously posted about the reasons people use pseudonyms, and my personal “justifications” for arguing that a pseudonym does not automatically render a person’s statements worthless.
But there’s the other side to it, the side I glossed over in that post: the privilege of real-name blogging.
To Brian’s credit, he includes talkback radio under the heading of “anonymous commentary”, and when prompted in comments, the truly anonymous editorials of the Herald and Listener, but it’s pretty clear that it’s bloggers Brian has in mind when he talks about “cowardice”, when he states
More contemptible by far than the anonymous correspondent is the anonymous blogger, particularly in a democracy like New Zealand where freedom of speech is limited only by the laws of defamation. Such lack of spine contrasts starkly with the courage of those anonymous bloggers and pamphleteers who are the advocates of freedom and democracy in totalitarian societies.
Brian also notes that of course, we “anonymous” bloggers (and seriously, the only thing that truly offends me about this eternal argument is people’s insistence on pretending there’s not a clear difference between anonymity and pseudonymity) will object to being labelled cowards. So well done, Brian, you’ve got me.
You’ve also got privilege.
You’ve got the privilege of being a person in a career, in a social position, in a financial situation, which mean that stating your personal political biases for the world to see doesn’t pose you any risk.
You get to get up in the morning and sit at your computer and type whatever you darn well please into the text field.
You don’t have to worry that your manager will see it, and if not fire you, just mildly bully you on an ongoing basis at levels HR refuse to acknowledge until your work situation becomes unbearable.
You don’t have to consider that future employers might labour under the impression that a person’s opinions about completely unrelated policy makes them unsuitable for employment. Or that having political opinions at all rules you out of all public service, NGO, or media roles – or the entirety of customer service.
You do have the same concerns about scum like C*m*r*n Sl*t*r using your personal opinions to attack you – but again, you’re in a position and a career where you’re fairly well protected from such attacks. You’ve got clients and contacts who are already well-aware of your political leanings. Anyone who might have had a problem with them probably doesn’t work with you.
You don’t, therefore, have to worry about people saying “Look, I know he’s a turd in the NZ media punchbowl, but some people do take him seriously, so we can’t employ you.”
And you know, none of that is really your fault. You shouldn’t feel bad for being in the kind of position where you can say whatever you like with no fear of damaging reprisals.
What is your fault is not realising that that is a type of privilege.
And lacking that privilege is not cowardly.
People protecting themselves by using pseudonyms, and thus giving themselves more freedom to express their opinions – and knowing that those opinions don’t come with the “established columnist” and “expert media advisor to H1” bonuses – are not “cowards”. They’re people with a much clearer picture of how the world works for people who aren’t Brian Edwards.
And seriously, Brian. “Anonymity Pandemic”?
PS. Just for Brian, who thinks
My position is that there often is and that anonymity permits or encourages people to be less considered, less reasonable, less restrained and more aggressive, more intolerant and more abusive than when they put their names to what they have written or said.
I haven’t even used the word “fuck” once! … Oops.
A lot of people who have the privilege of writing under their real/legal/given names perennially attack bloggers for posting under pseudonyms. It’s happened to me, but the biggest target in the NZ blogosphere is probably the various pseudonymous posters at The Standard.
The charges are that pseudoynmous blogging (though let’s face it, they always call it “anonymous” blogging either because they don’t know the difference, they don’t like using big scary words, or they know it sounds scarier and more random) is unreliable and not worth reading, because:
- you don’t know who’s writing it, and you can’t judge the words on their own merit without knowing if the author has red hair
- you don’t know if it’s always the same person writing it, because anyone could have the password to that account (in fact I’ve recently seen specific allegations of this directed at a Standard poster: “oh, I know X used to have the password, but then Y had it and now I don’t know.”)
- the writer never has to “back up” their opinions the way Real Writers Using Their Names do
And there are doubtless plenty of other reasons why you should just stop reading this right now because I’m incapable of having anything worth your attention if I haven’t shown you my birth certificate.
And all these arguments could have some validity to them. Certainly when a troll with a rapidly-shifting pseudonym pops up in blog comments we often just say “Ignore them, they’re a troll.” When a person’s writing has a lot of obvious bias in it, you may well find yourself saying “I wonder if there’s an ulterior motive to this.”
But there’s a big problem for me around all this, and that’s the long and honourable history of pseudonyms being used right there in the mainstream media which so often calls pseudoynmous bloggers mean names.
Take the editorial of the NZ Herald. Do you know who writes it? What their allegiances are? Which political party, union or business lobby group they’ve inevitably worked for as a press secretary? Certainly a lot of the more politically-active bloggers and personalities do, and that’s why you’ll see comments saying “Obviously they let [person] write the editorial today.”
But does your average Herald reader (they’ve still got a few, I’m sure) have a sodding clue whose work they’re reading? Are they given any better reason to accept that opinion piece beyond “it’s published under the mighty banner of the Herald so they must be on to something”?
As for ulterior motives, changing identities? Well, I look around at all the known attempts to make products go viral, to spam review pages or to astroturf comments on blogs … and let’s be honest, they’ve all been pretty arse.
If I, for example, am simply the sockpuppet of [pick a political party] designed purely to sway political conversation about [pick an issue] in [pick a direction], fuck me but I’m doing a fantastic job. Four years’ blogging, 500 posts on a wide variety of topics, random periods of activity and down-time which to the untrained eye might look exactly like the work of a person who sometimes has time to blog and sometimes doesn’t?
Whoever’s running Ideologically Impure deserves some kind of political-spin-doctor Pulitzer.
Let’s look at other examples of pseudonyms. In media: were Ann Landers’ words of wisdom less valid, less accepted, because she wrote as Miss Manners? How did anyone know that she had any basis for offering other people advice on etiquette? Because they read her columns and thought “that sounds like good advice” and accepted the pseudonym as a reliable guide.
They could also probably tell she wasn’t multiple people in a dark and smokey room by the way her writing style was consistent and she didn’t go from saying “Wearing white at another person’s wedding is rude because it distracts attention from the bride” one week to “HOOTERS IS A TOTES KEWL VENYOO, YO” another.
So pseudonyms: OK when they’re printed by a respectable source. When they’re just some member of the rabble who’s got a login and a pretty premade theme? Unreliable, useless, shut up shut up shut up, how dare you have opinions not sanctioned by Proper Editorial Authorities.
The final charge I want to deal to is the idea that we pseudonymous types are cowards for sticking behind pseudonyms. In a country the size of NZ, where everyone knows everyone, where our media and our political press departments overlap hugely, where a Cabinet Minister is more than happy to release the private financial details of people who cross her and literally doesn’t care when the Human Rights Commission says she did anything wrong …
You people who have the honour of being paid for your opinions really want to question why I’m sitting here behind a pseudonym?
Well fuck you, that’s why.
None of this even addresses the “side” issue, for me specifically, of blogging as a ranty feminist. Kate Harding covered it very well many years ago.
[Trigger warnings: transphobia, misgendering, tone argument, general shittiness and major Nice White Cis Feminist fail]
[On teh criticisms of pseudonymous posting and the big fucking issues with “real names” I recommend this post by Scarlet Sorceress.]
Queer the Night was held this week in Wellington, and by all accounts was considered a success.
And I’m kinda glad that this means that my little rant right here is after the event and thus I can’t be accused of harshing nice baby activists’ squees with my meanie pseudonymous criticism.
Because … wow. Gather round with some stiff damn drinks, kiddies, this is going to be rough, and in case you skipped the top, potentially very triggering.
The Hand Mirror hosted a guest post from the organisers.
Will you please give the organisers a break! Jesus…they are the least transphobic/homophobic/bigoted people on the planet,
Why am I reminded of Donald Trump? Oh right, because “I’m the least” tops even “some of my best friends are” for massive incoming fail warning signs.
So they missed out an academic term for people’s views about binary gender, so frickin what??
I mean come on, they’re only organising a Queer the Night march! They can’t be expected to have even the vaguest fucking understanding of pretty fucking basic terminology!!! What do you mean, this is about people’s fucking identities, nah, it’s just about “views on binary gender”! Not something people live every fucking day!
I’m pretty sure we all agree that gender binary is fake & stupid and hurts trans and non trans people alike.
Fake and stupid. Fake. And. Stupid. Yeah, when I think of the gender binary I definitely reach for “fake and stupid”, not “manufactured” or “coercive” or “harmful”.
heteronormativity implicitly includes a prejudice to 2 binary genders.
Um, if that sentence ended with “to 2 binary genders fucking” you might have a point. But it doesn’t, so you don’t, George, and maybe the fact that you’re arguing with a heterosexual trans woman who just kinda stated that she felt excluded by your language might have provided a clue on that one.
So why make a fuss over a bunch of ordinary people with the best of intentions missing out a specialised academic term…and worse, accuse them of being transphobic.
You see, George et al are just normal people. Unlike the trans woman George is arguing with, one presumes? And their intent is magical. And accusing a person of being transphobic is like nearly as terribly as calling a white person a racist, don’t you know?
But if you though George was already investigating genetic modification for the purposes of finding yet another foot to fit in her mouth …
You want a safe space? Then stop bullying people and being an “internet tough guy” online
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND ALL OTHERS IN ATTENDANCE, GEORGE HAS FOUND ANOTHER FOOT.
But it’s all totally okay because hey, George is a woman who just always uses “guy” as a gender neutral term and “tough guy” is just a phrase, dude and tee hee see she can play the “don’t misgender me man, lol” game too, bless, and anyway stop alienating your allies by being such Nazis.
I seriously wish I was making this shit up.
You might think this kind of shit is something that The Hand Mirror team would want to put a lid on,feminist blog and all, multiple trans women pitching in in the comments … but LudditeJourno reckons that actually none of the criticism counts as long as other trans folk turn up at the march and here’s what Julie had to say in closing at time of writing:
Acid Queen, you have been asked to stop commenting on this thread, looks to me like you are deliberately trying to inflame things, as you have done here before. ANY further comments from you on this thread will be deleted. You’ve said you have nothing further to say anyway so that shouldn’t be hard.
George & Kassie, it’s really useful to have the perspective of the main organizers in this discussion. It can’t have been easy to contribute here and I appreciate the effort. I will now be closing comments on this thread.
Yeah, thanks George, for being plainly fucking abusive towards trans women on The Hand Mirror, and thanks, Kassie, for not actually engaging with George’s shit but instead basically implying that you can’t be bothered identifying and educating yourself about transphobia unless the trans women hold your hand. It’s been a nice insight into everyone involved.
ETA: Octavia has a badass post up calling on The Hand Mirror to actually become a safe space for trans* people.
Lesson for the day, kiddies:
Saying you’d consider docking a tax credit to [in-work] families to pay for earthquake recovery is just a completely political-context-free statement.
Criticising that statement for unnecessarily politicizing the earthquake aftermath is policitizing the earthquake aftermath.
Thus spake Cactus Kate. Also: as a Standard guest poster, am I also a Labour MP in disguise, or maybe a Green?*
Tim Watkin has a nice take on this … up till the point where he demonstrates a lack of understanding as to the difference between anonymous and pseudonymous blogging.
But then I feel somewhat safe assuming Tim has never seen his blogging result in losing a high-profile job, victim blaming, rape threats,** death threats, or having people call your local police station demanding a copy of your rape report.
Gee, why would an angry feminist like me, writing in the 4-million-people-2-degrees-of-separation land of NZ “hide” behind a pseudonym given all that?***
*Internet cookies to whoever creates an OKCupid poll to determine this.
**Oh, what do you know, a link about a Kiwi bloggerdouche targeting a Kiwi feminist blogger. Quelle surprise.
***Because I’m actually Trevor Mallard, duh. Our styles are so similar.