Monday, November 28, 2005

To be or not to be

I blog anonymously per say. My last name does not openly appear on my blog but if you really wanted to discover it I doubt it would take more than a little effort and the right search engine to discover my full legal name. I expect anyone with enough determination could do so easily enough.

When I first started to blog in May 2004 it was a dialogue between my daughter, the Last Amazon, and me. In time that dialogue expanded to include not just my daughter but other people’s daughters and sons, their parents and often grandparents as well. I keep two email addresses for my blog. One that it published on the sidebar and the other I use when I correspond with other bloggers. In either email address I do not hesitate to use my own name.

In the beginning I didn’t really spend any time contemplating whether I should remain anonymous or not. Generally, in conversations with my daughter the occasion never arises for me to use my first and last name, though in fairness, I should say that once in a while I have used her full name in conversation – usually to express some form of displeasure.

After I received my first hate email in my first full month of blogging I realized that some souls would take great offense at not just my opinions but by my very existence as well. I have kept all my hate email. Some of it most definitely violates not only Canada’s hate speech laws but the criminal code. I have never acted upon the death threats rather than to keep them on file in case some deluded individual decides to go the extra mile from spewing threats and crosses the line into action. It was those early emails that made me glad that I had not run the blog openly under my full name.

I have been stalked in the real world and it was certainly is not a life lesson in security that I would wish on any young woman and it has made me cautious in my dealings. My stalker crossed the line from voyeurism to action. One particularly warm night I woke to find him cutting the screen on my first floor bedroom window and in the act of coming through the window with a knife. I had just enough presence of mind and time to jump up and slam the window down on him before I fled to a neighbor’s apartment.

After that night, the Last Amazon’s father came to sleep in the kitchen of my two-room flat. He appeared every night for the next three months and when he couldn’t come he had another come in his place. He spent most of the night rooting about in my fridge eating anything he could find. Eventually, I had to make a choice between feeding a professional offensive lineman full-time or taking my chances. I was poor and felt sufficiently safe to tell him that his services were no longer needed as the police believed they had caught the man who came through my window when he was apprehended doing the same thing at my next door neighbors – a single woman and her teenage daughter.

That being said, I only cloak my full identity for security’s sake rather than a desire to keep myself hidden for any nefarious purpose. I no longer have just myself to protect but three young people as well. This time there is no offensive lineman eating in the kitchen. Any opinion I express on this blog I am well able to do so in a public forum but if you are going to get in my face I want to know what yours looks like so I can see who’s coming.

I have some rules that I use about my blogging. I do not use my children’s full names, or the name of their schools or activities that would identify their whereabouts at any given time. I do not blog about my work or my employer. I do not knowingly use false information and comment on it as truth. Once during the last US election I used a story reported on an online magazine that turned out to be false. As soon as I discovered the essential untruth of the matter I took the original post down and blogged the reasons why in its’ place.

Those are my reasons for blogging anonymously, I recognize that others who blog anonymously do so for a variety of other reasons but it does not necessarily mean their privacy is worth less than mine or that to blog anonymously for other than security’s sake is somehow nefarious. Around the World in 80 Days has an online post that should be a cautionary tale for all anonymous bloggers concerning a Minnesota blogger who another Minnesota blogger is attempting to out publicly under the guise of what I would consider frivolous lawsuit. I remain divided on this issue so I am not coming out and endorsing any side. I comprehend MDE’s wish to keep his privacy intact. I personally would take great offense at any attempts to bully or browbeat me into submission but I am not sure this is the way I would fight the battle. I am enough of a street scrapper that I would probably supply the information myself with words – bring it on, but that's just me.


Ray said...

I blogged anonymously (first name only) because my last name is distinctive enough that all google searches for it lead directly to me and mine. When I lived in Toronto I was the only person with my last name listed. If you know my full name, you can find me (and my family) VERY easily.

I reject the argument that you have to put your real name to any internet-based discussion for it to have "real" significance...There are far too many people who can use this to backtrack and cause you harm. I remember a case where someone didn't like something a blogger posted, then started agitating that the blogger shouldn't have the job he did because his blog content was sexist...Nothing a future employer wants to take a risk on, even if the allegation is baseless slander.

A public handle is not an impenetrable screen that will keep all the internet crazies away from you, but why make it easier for unbalanced people to find their way to your front door?

DirtCrashr said...

I agree with Ray. You need at least a napkin to keep the droolers off.

Chris Taylor said...

I say let the unbalanced nutbars come. First guy to bleed out loses.

In all seriousness, I think it's perfectly acceptable for those with dependents to want to shield said dependents from possible adverse effects of one's blog.

I'm okay with a certain level of nutbar-ism and I am willing to soak up a certain amount of risk (be it career-related, health-related, and so on) -- but then I don't have kids looking to me for food, shelter and advice.

INP said...

Hey there, I didn't know you existed until you posted a comment on my blog. It's a pleasure to encounter another articulate female conservative blogger. The few sites I visit regularly are so. (Canadianna, Kate, Malkin, Candace, Right Girl, etc.) I like your stuff. As for the anonymity issue, no one is more vindictive or hateful than a PC liberal faced with the truth. Truth puts their faulty perceptions at risk and they don't like that! Peace to you and, in the words of a well intentioned but reasonably ineffective conservative Governor, I'll be back.

Ray said...

"I'm okay with a certain level of nutbar-ism and I am willing to soak up a certain amount of risk (be it career-related, health-related, and so on) -- but then I don't have kids looking to me for food, shelter and advice."

And also, Mr. Taylor, your last name, emminently distinguished though it is, is very plentiful in supply - you can just say, no, I'm not THAT Chris Taylor and probably get away with it. No such luxury for some of us with distinctive names who don't want the spotlight in our real meatspace lives (and socialist relatives questioning my online politics at family get-togethers!)

The Tiger said...

It was actually stuff like that that was behind my site shift in June -- I've blogged extensively enough that almost all of my regular readers could identify me easily, but I don't like the idea of being Googleable using my real name. And my old site used to be the first thing to pop up when I Googled myself.

Especially if I enter academia -- my views don't exactly fit there. I don't hide them around my school, but I at least get to know people first, and win their respect based on other things. It's in loose ties -- people you don't know very well -- that things like out of the ordinary politics can hurt. Not among close friends and longstanding colleagues.

Blair said...

I once signed onto a group as a twenty something African peasant woman and was hit on twice within the hour, and in very vulgar terms. For me it was a joke, but it would be very upsetting for real woman.

You're doing the right thing. There are too many losers out there to be open to the public.

Have you read the Tammy Bruce interview
over at right Wing News?

Keep up the great work.