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May 14, 2007


Ok, taking a cue from your post this morning at FDL, all it takes is a little editing:

These days we want "transparency" in all institutions, even private ones. There's one massive exception -- the Wasington press corps. It is, we are told, an important institution. Indeed, it has very important people speaking out about earth-shattering events. But most of them are wearing the equivalent of paper bags over their heads. We know them only by their MSM "handles" -- Senior Administration Official, a source close to the Administration, a senior White House aide speaking on condition of anonymity, and myriad other inventive names.

People need a flesh-and-blood opponent to stab, to hit, and upon whom to inflict pain and indignity when their cold, logical arguments (or heated, shrill rants) fail to silence or move their opponents. In general, people arent interrested in debating, they are interested in winning. If an opponent is pseudonomous or worse, anonymous, after the argument fails, there is nothing left but the slinging of obscenities with nothing for them to stick to. In high school, with considerably more testosterone in my bloodstream, I judged myself victorious in argument if I could get my opponent to take a swing at me, verbally or physically. People who need to do more than debate a topic, but need to WIN in some more personal manner will never accept even the idea of pseudnymous or anonymous conversation. Unfortunately, that won't stop them from engaging in them.

If an opponent is pseudonomous or worse, anonymous, after the argument fails, there is nothing left but the slinging of obscenities with nothing for them to stick to.

Yeah, but if you're right, why worry about what happens when your argument fails? Oh, we're talking about the WaPo. Perhaps instead of naming their critics, what they really need is better arguments.

As Sean-Paul said to Mr. G.: When you stop citing anonymous sources, we'll stop using pseudonyms. Until then, STFU.

In an Authoritarian personality world all is sorted out by annointed leaders who transcribe the world into keyhole answers.
But here, there is celebration in the argument/s strength, never surrender to the celebrity's sermon. As James Carville might say, "It's the argument, stupid!"

Leave it to the MSM to view the wide-open spaces of the Internet in the only terms they understand: "elevated" and "podium."

You mean people just... talk? There's no system under which we all sit, hands folded, in polite silence while one person speaks from a rostrum, and when it ends we bash our palms together for some designated period of time?

And Wm Ockham hits another triple outta the ballpark...! Followed by a double-hitter from lizard, a double-hitter from tekel, and a homer from Phoenix Woman ;-)

Pseudonyms are often more revealing than legal names. It's great that people are engaged, focused, and learning about all the sh*t going on in government and bidness.

Anyone shocked (shocked!) by obscenities, insults, and inflammatory political comments has evidently never listened to Wingnut Radio. (Other than informing the US public that the 9/11 widows 'enjoyed' and 'benefitted' from the loss of their spouses, what have wingnuts like Ann Coulter really contributed to political analysis? Just askin'.)

There's more wicked wit, incisive humor, and sheer deadpan howlers in any given month on the lefty blogs than I'd probably catch in a year otherwise. When it comes to wit, cleverness, sly innuendo, and mocking commentary the Lefty Blogs win hands down: daily, weekly, monthly. (And that's only the snark that I catch; I'm oblivious to how much of it goes over my head that I miss entirely 8-\

Writing -- even crap writing -- forces people to t-h-i-n-k. Now THAT's a threatening idea. No wonder the wingnuts hate it. Tsk, tsk.

What? Like Veritas78 isn't my real name? Why, that makes me so mad I feel like going out and hate-mongering, vilely!!

a troll by any other name would smell as foul ...

Newspaper circulation is in sharp decline. Newspaper importance to the majority of Americans is minor; TeeVee has taken over. Go here for a look at declining readership and subscription numbers.

Now from the point of view of the print media, TeeVee can't really be blamed, as they provide dumbed-down entertainment cleverly disguised as "news". (One could say the same about most newspapers and most newspaper stories, but that's a three-beer conversation for another time.) Besides, there's a lot of advertising revenue to be had from the TeeVee industry.

TeeVee is passive viewing. Newspaper reading is sorta' active, you read and the little voice in your head pronounces the words while your brain is analysing the information and musing "hmm, now that's interesting, so Gonzales actually knew about Sampson's list..." and so on. Bottom line, a newspaper person really can't get angry at TeeVee since there's such an obvious intellectual disparity. (sniff)

Ah, but blogs. Imaginative expressive commentary providing intelligent analysis and interesting links for further study. And you READ it. "Damn", says the newspaper guy, "this is OUR territory! How DARE these anonymous writers tread upon our sacred ground! And without a journalism degree from Columbia! There oughta' be a law!"

And so on. Blame the bloggers: it's easy, it feels good, and while it doesn't actually do anything, the newspaper people think maybe they've changed the perception of their readers, who will turn away from these evil nasty bloggers.

Pretty funny, in a way.

Actually, I have a lot of sympathy for reporters and some of them are very good. But few are well enough paid, and the economics of digging into documents is not simple. More of what we're learning on the USAGs is now coming from regional papers.

Unfortunately, investigative reporting is expensive, and too few reporters are paid to ANALYZE the bloody documents. If they did so, 'transparency' in government would start to take hold in a matter of months. But too few Comm majors know how to dive into an archive, search public records, or analyze documents. Those who have the skills add value to a news organization; but who is paying them? They'll make more at a law firm.

Under 40s tend not to read papers -- there are a number of reasons for this. Nevertheless, there are still some heroic regional publishers trying to create community via news. Unfortunately, FauxNews and wingnut radio have tainted all news organizations; that's been tough to watch.

If the US press can save itself from Being Punked By Unnamed Sources, then it might get very, very interesting is to watch newspapers integrate online technologies and databases. For excellent examples, see:

NYTimes text analysis and comparisons of SOTUs by Bush43:

NYTimes technology editor, David Pogue, does great stuff - one sample at:

And the LA Times has done some very impressive reporting on Iraq Vets -- it takes a strong stomach to view, but important:

In my community, straight forward anti-war arguments, no matter how impersonal they might be, would be met by community reprisals, should I risk stating them on our local community blog using my real name. But even the most rabid and irrational pro-war advocate could use reading a few rational responses.

Well he is right about 15% of us. The other 85% are not vile hate mongers at all. But fuck it, who needs babies when there is bathwater to be tossed out?

Well, I for one think he has a point. I mean, look for example at political commentators on TV and radio: since they broadcast under their real names, not one of them does any vile name-calling or hate-mongering. QED, right?

oh... actually, never mind.

Actually, marksb, though we hear all the time about the decline of newspapers, network news viewership is declining too (more here), and I believe I've read that it's declining faster than newspapers, though I can't lay my hands on a source right now. Cable news is near-flat, and even when it was increasing percentagewise, it's still a much smaller audience than network news in absolute terms.

No disagreement with your other points, but there's actually no reason for newspapers to blame TeeVee; it's not just elitism.

I hear Mark Twain hated pseudonyms too, Poor Richard told me so.

Yeah, Marcie. My feelings about anonymous (or pseudonymous) posts are a tad mixed. (a) I don't like criticizing someone or something anonymously, from ambush, so to speak. (b) I don't want my employer, my family, etc. to be put at risk because of my personal opinions or acts. (c) But ultimately I believe anonymouus/pseudonymous posts encourage one to focus on the argument and discourage one from resorting to cheap-shot arguments "ad hominem."

I heard an article on NPR this morning about the Networks Programming Showcase; it's a dog-and-pony show for broadcasters where advertisers get sneak peaks at the next year's TeeVee line up and get pitched on advertising rates. The gist of the piece was that viewership is declining rather radically and it's a hard sell for the networks. Heh. Couldn't happen to a nicer group, eh?

This is the same WaPo that employed Susan Schmidt when she decided to try to get some of her critics fired by working out from their E-mail addresses who their employers were, then writing to the employers to say "Look what YOUR EMPLOYEE did!"

This is the same WaPo that still employs Susan Schmidt.

I don't write to them above my own name any more. Period, end of sentence.

With kind regards,
Dog, &c.
searching for home

Well, that LitCrit guy, Michael Foucault, had some interesting things to say about anonymity/ pseudonymy/ authorship. He distinguished between authors (or writers. . . . that is, persons), and something he called an "author-function" -- a way of ordering texts. Seems to me that pseudonyms do a fine job of linking texts on the web. I can gather all the posts by emptywheel, for instance, and read them for coherence, characteristic insight, wit -- I think I'd notice if somebody else started posting under that name (something that's pretty carefully regulated on the web, no?). So: the internet provides us better access to the text-sorting aspect of the author's name than print actually does; what it leaves murky is the connection between texts and authors. Seems like most of us don't have a problem with this! Which is interesting. . ..

a year or so ago you wrote a petite essay about pseudonyms, placing them in a historical text.

i enjoyed that piece and it has relevance now.

please reference it for others to read.

exquisite argument

As Flora Legium notes, this is one of those times where you can quote Foucault and not feel self-conscious. The author-function varies across modern journalism, with the curious juxtaposition of the unsigned editorial and the op-ed column, the former gaining authority by resisting association with an individual, the latter tied to the authority of the individual.

Pseudonymity ought to be consistent, particularly in comments or exchanges as opposed to standalone arguments. But the other issue, of disclosure, is one that the WaPo regularly flubs with its signed op-eds. Put your own damn house in order.

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