Ed Whelan’s outing of the liberal legal blogger Publius has started some debate over anonymous and pseudonymous blogging. Personally, I woudn’t have outed him — a position Whelan himself now come around to — for his offenses. But not all reasons for anonymity strike me as equally valid.
One of Publius’ reasons for wanting to remain anonymous was that his political opinions differed from his family’s. It seems to me that the solution to that is to keep quiet about your political opinions. Even as a political commentator, I don’t like to shove my politics down people’s throats. I figure people who visit political websites, read newspaper op-ed pages and political magazines, and tune into political shows on TV or radio are fair game because they are actively seeking out political commentary. But I don’t forward my articles to friends and family who haven’t expressed an interest. I don’t go out of my way to share my opinions with people I meet in a non-political context. And I only recently and reluctantly began posting my articles on my Facebook page, at the request of my more political friends.
But I am not going to start writing under the name Rhinocerous 55 because I have friends and family members who will undoubtedly disagree with my political opinions. Having people disagree with you — even people you are close to — is the price of making political commentary. If you don’t want to pay it, then you should probably try stamp collecting or some other hobby. Concealing your identity so that people will not know your actual beliefs — while criticizing people who write under their own names — is quite a bit less honorable than concealing your identity to protect your family’s physical security.
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