Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why I blog anonymously

or, Lee Siegel is so, so fetching.

Every Sunday I open The New York Times Magazine, I tell myself, "No, Crazy Little Thing, don't read "Questions for ________." You'll just get mad that they've chosen the idiot they've chosen this week for a shallow, boot-licking "interview." And it happened again this morning, when I turned to "Questions for Lee Siegel," which was right after a nice short piece by Michael Bérubé about "liberalism" in the university and why it's not a problem (though if you've ever been to MB's blog, you've read similar things before). By the way, all you need to know about Lee Siegel is that he's a self-indulgent cultural critic who got suspended from blogging for The New Republic because he anonymously attacked his critics in comments to his own posts.

So how bad was "Questions for Lee Siegel?" Bad. Bad bad. Me stripped of words and stuff to articumulate it. (More on this in a moment.) It all begins with the first clause of Deborah Solomon's first question: "As one of the country's most eloquent and acid-tongued cultural critics..." Ahem. I know it's spoken in an interview, but how about this eloquence from Siegel: "Seriously, the blogosphere strips argument of logic and rhetoric down to the naked emotion behind it."

Point #1: Nice generalization, sprezzatura. That generalization had the appearance of no effort. Point #2: While the rhetoric on blogs may be weak or poorly thought-out, it's still there. See, if it were just the "naked emotion behind it," it might look like this: kljma,.mkljw y;hqgjakl/nmfsad;ljasjdgahfsadaaaaaaaargh!

I will praise Deborah Solomon for the greatest question ever asked of Siegel: "What are you talking about?" But even asking that crucial question, she's still indulged him too much. Consider the following:

Did you feel that you were doing something ethically questionable when you posted, for instance, a comment by Sprezzatura that carried the headline “Siegel Is My Hero”?

Every man is a hero to his alias. No, it never occurred to me at the time that I was doing something wrong. There are other people who appear anonymously on Web sites; they do battle with their detractors. Anonymity is a universal convention of the blogosphere, and the wicked expedience is that you can speak without consequences. What was wrong about it is that I did it under the aegis of The New Republic, as a senior editor of the magazine.

But beyond the breach of your journalistic compact, don’t you think it’s intellectually lame to express one’s opinions anonymously?

I do indeed. Everyone seems to be fleeing from the responsibilities that come from being who you are. I think that is why the blogosphere is thriving. It allows people to develop a fantasy self.

This brings me to my point: I blog anonymously (seriously, Crazy Little Thing is not my real name). A few points on this. I'm not a hero to my alias in any sense; anonymity is far from being a "universal collection"--see Daily Kos, Crooks & Liars, Think Progress, any number of the bloggers at Science Blogs, the above-linked Michael Bérubé, even Instapundit and Michelle Malkin; the error was not blogging anonymously "under the aegis of The New Republic," it was "the dishonesty and sockpuppetry"; and finally, thanks again for the overgeneralization of "everyone seems to be fleeing from the responsibilities." Eloquent, indeed.

So why do I blog anonymously?
  1. I'm a grad student working toward a Ph.D., and I also teach undergraduates. What I write on the blog has little to do with my academic work, but given the discomfort many in academia seem to have with blogs, anonymity allows me a certain comfort to know irrelevant ramblings won't adversely affect me on the job market someday.
  2. I'm also a fiction writer, but that work is also distinct from what I do on the blog. I don't want to use the blog as a stepping stone for publication, but as a conversation with a few friends and, sometimes, for a wider audience.
  3. The blog can function as a kind of journal, which allows me to post more personal things with confidence and comfort.
But you know what? Sprezzagella has a point: if you choose to blog anonymously, you should acknowledge some responsibilities. Ultimately, if my blog cowl were removed and I could no longer growl, "I'm Blogman" without my real identity being known, I'd be okay with that. I've still maintained boundaries of decorum and respect. I don't libel or make personal attacks; and if I do veer into name-calling and immaturity, it's not under Siegel's incomprehensible saying, "I am too childlike to be immature," it's because I back it up with an argument invested with a pretty high level of logic and rhetoric, or at least as much as I can. (Unless I'm writing about sports. But that's different.) So I'll go on being "intellectually lame" for a while.


Anonymous said...

Might Siegal serve as the next protagonist of Hey Douchebag? He gets my vote.

Anonymous said...

We here at The Big Lead are right there with you. Well, not the grad school part.

Hopefully, the ads will pick up and we can quick our day job.

Anonymous said...

whoops. that's 'quit.'

- The Big lead