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This event has provoked an interesting debate (unfortunately at the expense of Publius). It's worth pointing out that the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the right to anonymous speech, especially in its 1995 McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission decision. Of course that decision applies to government actions which attempt to strip away anonymity, not private actions. There can be no protection against a person who reveals a pseudonym, without at the same time violating the First Amendment rights of the individual who is doing the outing. All there can be are customs and social pressures and persuasion. We've seen that in action here. I think Ed Whelan was subjected to social pressure and criticism from across the political spectrum, and it ultimately caused him to reconsider and apologize for his hasty action. His apology appears sincere and uncoerced (meaning threats against his position and livelihood rather than mere disapprobation). Most importantly, it was not weasel-worded. I absolutely despise the "I regret you were offended" type of pseudo-apology. So good for Mr. Whelan, even if he can't unbreak the egg. He did the best that was possible after the fact. On the other side, every pseudonymous writer and blogger must understand that a risk of unmasking will always exist. If that risk is intolerable, then the only solution is to refrain from writing and blogging. If the risk is merely embarrassment, then take more care in what you write. My own rule of thumb is to never write anything that you'd have a big problem with if your worst enemy got a hold of it and tried to use it against you. That rule works out pretty well.
Toggle Commented Jun 9, 2009 on Moving On at Obsidian Wings
1 reply