Sunday, July 08, 2007

Hiding and the ad hominem

Originally uploaded by chezrump.
There's been much discussion over the last several years about anonymous, pseudonymous, and open posting on the Internet. Web 2.0 has brought ease to posting content on the Internet; it's also made it very easy to hide in plain site. I know the upcoming conference will have a roundtable on anonymous blogging on Saturday. I suspect the discussion could last well much longer than the alloted 45 minutes.

Anyway, I've been thinking about anonymous and pseudonymous blogging (and in other venues, too), and I've come to think that when one doesn't write under their own name, they are likely to fall back to an ad hominem fallacy.

You'll likely remember from your college logic class that ad hominem fallacy is one of the easiest to fall into. It takes no strength to trip into an ad hominem fallacy when one doesn't have to admit to the reader who is writing. And, I find it the most unreasonable, hurtful, and community-upsetting fallacy.

A question, gentle reader: What do you think about the differences amongst anonymous, pseudonymous, and open posting?


  1. One thing I think needs to be made clear: a pseudonym for a known blogger, like "NLS" for Ben Tribbett, is nothing more then a trademark or brand name.

    Conversely, a blogger that uses a pseudonym but never reveals their name is in fact anonymous.

    A lot of what passes for "anonymous blogging" is really harassment and/or cyberstalking.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I think you're on the money.

    One question: How would a casual reader to NLS know that Mr. Tribbett is the author. I went over to and didn't find a profile or anything that would lead me to the real person. But your overall point is correct. Samuel Clements was Mark Twain, I'm the Tidewater Muse, and Ben Tribbett is Not Larry Sabato... all brands.

    I like your differentiation between pseudonymous blogging and anonymity. You are correct: writing under a pseudonym can be anonymous, as you describe.

    Of course, and I didn't get into this, it is possible to be "known" and to still use the ad hominem and harass and stalk. Our blogging buddy from out in the western portion of our Commonwealth who is an avid neo-Nazi blogs under his own name. That hasn't stopped Mr. White from ad hominem attacks, harassment, and stalking a number of people, including yours truly. I have to applaud him for writing under his own name, even if I vehemently disagree with nearly every word he writes. He's not hiding.

    The use, then, of open blogging, will not shut down all harassment and stalking, but I suspect it would go a long way.

  3. And, let me stress, for anyone who's sarcasm meter isn't working at the moment, my use of the term blogging buddy in the above comment is sarcasm. Mr. White blogs, but he's no buddy of mine. That we share an interest in anything, even something as broad as using the Internet for discourse, brings a foul taste to my mouth.