June 12, 2008

Pseudonyms

Elsewhere, I got into an argument with a blogger who wants to publish the real name of a moderately well known pseudonymous Internet pundit. A couple of years ago, I publicly pointed out that this self-assured opinion writer had once been a close associate of a famous crackpot. That information provided readers some useful perspective in how seriously to take his complicated views on foreign policy. But I didn't publish his name because that kind of thing has a "chilling effect" on free speech.

In general, in this era of Watsoning, I am against revealing the identities of pseudonymous writers, especially ones with day jobs. My blogroll has a lot of pseudonyms on it, and I don't make much of an effort to figure out who is La Griffe du Lion or Audacious Epigone. Five years ago I put some effort into figuring out who the War Nerd really was, but then I stopped. I knew who clander of Stuff White People Like was, but didn't tell anybody until he started giving interviews as Christian Lander.

We're in an era when there's not much you can reveal about your behavior that can get you into trouble, but there's plenty of danger in speaking your mind honestly.

Indeed, I advise anyone thinking of becoming a regular opinionator to strongly consider picking a pseudonym and sticking with it. If I had to do it again, I would have picked a pen name, although that raises its own problems, such as depositing checks from editors made out to your pseudonym. And there is the fear that somebody else would horn in on your work -- that's why, when Vladimir Nabokov was considering publishing Lolita anonymously, he created the anagrammatic character "Vivian Darkbloom" to prove his authorship.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wish had I choose a wikipedia handle which could not be linked back to me, especially since my wikipedia edits had a political basis.

simon newman said...

I had someone insist to me recently that the (evil racist neo-Nazi) "Steve Sailer" was a pseudonym.

TH said...

Steve, I think your writing under your real name is one of your fortes. It's easy shoot your mouth off about taboo subjects under the guise of anonymity, but it takes some cojones to put one's name and reputation on the line in order to "speak truth to power".

I know who La Griffe is, and Spengler's identity is pretty easy to figure out as it's been discussed in several places. A couple of weeks ago I discovered, by pure chance, who Mencius Moldbug is. It's pretty clear who War Nerd is, too. However, I don't feel like naming names, because, as you say, some of these people could get in trouble.

dearieme said...

Since some of my students occasionally comment under my pseudonym, and even recount some of my favourite yarns that I must have told them too many times, it's hard to know whether one of "my" comments really is by me. Once a few weeks have passed, even I am not sure.

Hillary Clinton said...

Do you mean to tell me that I should not use my real name when venting my rage against black people here because of who beat me in the primary? sorry, but that would confict with the honesty and openness with which I have lived my entire public life.

Robert said...

The only reason a person would really need to know the identity of an opinionated blogger is to go after him or her in a malicious way. I mean I know Steve Sailer writes this blog but who cares I would still read it if he called himself Joe B. Shmoe or Wiley Coyote. It is a shame that a person cannot speak their mind without reprisal.

mnuez said...

"We're in an era when there's not much you can reveal about your behavior that can get you into trouble, but there's plenty of danger in speaking your mind honestly."


Brilliantly phrased and frighteningly true.

It would appear to me though that the reason why every sort of shameful sexual revelation is no longer a big deal (not to mention life-ruiner) is because people can no longer engage in these acts pseudonymously (thanks to the easy and quick spread of information) and thus we've come to see that we're really all the same and we've come to accept (and expect) such behavior from philosophers and presidents alike. Were we therefore to all have our "free speech" identities revealed at the same moment, we would likewise be free from the negative repercussions of said free speech and free thought and we'd no longer need to hide them. "Outing" any specific blogger while everyone else stays hidden however would have negative repercussions for that person and would do nothing for the sake of universal freedom of thought.

That said, I should note that the pseudonym that I personally utilize is more than just a pseudonym. Mnuez actually is not the same person as the face-to-face fellow who created him. In face-to-face life I speak my mind regularly (and suffer the consequences thereof) but I'm also infinitely measured and spend most of my time qualifying everything that I say with "if"s "and"s "but"s and "on the other hand"s. Mnuez however rarely bothers with such things. He engages in pontificating as sport.

I think we ought to realize that those of us who have not taken the brave Sailerian approach of blogging under our own names may be engaging in some sort of exploration of another part of our identity that is distinct from who we (so to speak) "really are" (in the "brick and mortar" world :-).

In fact, it's only by blogging as someone else (Mr. Hyde perchance? :-) that I can get anything published at all. The "face-to-face" me rethinks and edits himself so endlessly that he'd never manage to produce a single post that he was sufficiently satisfied with to post.

(He's also a much nicer guy than I am and he'd never be willing to employ biting sarcasm in his online philippics lest such merciless cant hurt someone's feelings, I however just hope that people realize that the online world aint made for such niceties and that it's precisely the place for full-fronted intellectual battle where jabs can be offered and received without fear of inflicting psychic harm.)

mnuez said...

I further think that my shape-shifting identity wherein my previous comment appears to be confused as to whether "him" refers to mnuez or his creator is totally awesome and really makes my previous point more clearly than my sentences do.

mnuez

fish said...

I know it goes against the theme of the post...but I would dearly love to know the true identity of "Spengler"

Josh said...

"Self-assured writer had once been a close associate of a famous crackpot..." Hmm,is that Joe Sobran and Bill Buckley? :)

rast said...

Whatever you say, Eve Lassiter.

Teresa Velis would be good also.

Peter said...

I wouldn't consider The War Nerd a true pseudonym. "He" is more likely an invented character, the name under which the editors of the Exile write their military columns.

Robbie said...

I'd like to know La Griffe's real name simply because he's enormously talented and I'd like to read his other writings.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Hillary Clinton Do you mean to tell me that I should not use my real name when venting my rage against black people here because of who beat me in the primary? sorry, but that would confict with the honesty and openness with which I have lived my entire public life.

Hillary, cheer up: Mark Penn is out there telling just that very story today.

Skip G. said...

Even young Ben Franklin had to use the pen name: "Silence Dogood" for his letters to his own brother's newspaper.

Sleep said...

It would be pretty easy for anyone who knows me in person, or even online, and happens to stumble across this blog to realize that "Sleep" is me. But it doesn't really work the other way around; nobody could stand a chance of tracking me down just based on the information in my Blogger profile.

I've also got a genuine pseudonym, but I haven't used it in a long time.

rast said...

Josh, I wasn't a huge fan of Buckley, but I wouldn't call him a crackpot.

Scott said...

Does it really matter that much whether or not you have a pseudonym, especially if you are an activist who goes to public meetings, etc.

Reg C├Žsar said...

No one would ever suspect that TRAVIS SEELE, LISA EVEREST, or E A SILVESTER are Steve in disguise.

A little more suspect might be TERESE SILVA (I bet Ruy Teixeira knew somebody with that name), ARVIS STEELE, and VITAL S REESE.

My favorite would be ELVIS EASTER.

Some notes:
a) I did all of those by hand, so there, Mr Wordsmith Anagram
b) According to PlacesNamed.com, all of these surnames except SEELE (German for "soul") are more common than SAILER. (The Norman EVEREST is the rarest of those, but there's a large family of talented musicians in Minneapolis with that name, the best-known of which can be checked out at www.rkeverest.net and www.myspace.com/jgeverestmusic. )
c)the "word verification" for this post is begawlr. Didn't Paul Begawlr once work with James Carville?
d) Going for words rather than names, you can get EVIL EASTERS. Interpret that as you will...

testing99 said...

Steve, the argument should either stand or fall on it's own. If the argument/opinion is convincing, even someone you might consider a "crackpot" can convince you, though you might disagree completely on the arguers other views.

Speaking one's mind as you point out is the only taboo left.

Anonymous said...

Ben franklin sent anonymous letters to the editor, as well as essays, to local publications, including his own, throughout his life.

I know that it is hard to believe this activity from such a most highly esteemed historical figure, but nevertheless, I am afraid it is true.

For me, I find such endeavors to be nothing but wanton acts of cowardice, intended to create social disruption for the perverse, singular pleasure of the anonymous cad, at the expense of the good people who consider their name as many of us would consider viable currency.

Indeed, why should some anonymous snapturtle be allowed to make sport of the writings of such dear, treasured and qualified media figures as Arianna Huffington, whose words many might say are literally as valuable as a house payment?

Verily, I dare speculate that Ms. Huffington has made more than one house payment, brought about by nothing else but her well chosen words!

Why should some anonymous pea gobblin, speaking a lot of high-minded gobbledy gook, that, not only do none of her regular reader's care about, but also literally confronts their sensibilities of pleasurable reasoning, not to mention good taste, be allowed to have his way in public discourse, going on and on and on, with no qualifications whatsoever besides his "premise," or "sound logic," that they go on and on about?

I trust my pointed, and well considered questions presented here will do the job of exposing these internet salamanders for what they are, and I liberally trust their conscience will provide the proper reaction of shame and remorse, which will force them to change their scurrilous ways, for the betterment of our internet community in general, and the Steve Sailer blog in particular.

Sincerely,
Silence Dogood

Behind the H8-ball said...

A fascinating piece of prescience here from 1959:

"Should Hate Be Outlawed?"

http://www.fatherfeeney.org/point/59-jan.html

Anonymous said...

Soren Kierkegaard made his early career writing letters to the editor. Most of Plato's texts are written with literary characters include a fictionalized Socrates. So what?

Most thoughtful people are pretty plain and boring on the outside.

People who can't distinguish truth from nonsense or fiction on its own merits are people who don't deserve the truth. Of course, most people would believe the sky was green and the grass blue if the president of Harvard or the talking head on the television tells them so. And if a hobo on the street says the grass is green and the sky is blue, then the same people would never believe it. Such is human nature.

The only argument most people accept is the argument from authority. Problem is, positions of authority attract people who care everything about power and little about truth.

tommy said...

A tip for pseudonymous bloggers:

Change your email settings to always display incoming email as plain text. Your IP can be tracked by merely opening a "dynamic" email. You don't even have to open an attachment or reply. If people want to send you pictures and the like, then have them send it as an attachment and don't open it unless you know and trust the individual. I should know, I've assisted in tracking down the identities of bloggers this way in the past (in association with other ruses -- you can't identify someone by an IP alone in most cases). ;-)

Better yet, follow the examples of Udolpho and LGF and have people email you through a text box on the blog itself.

By the way, one of my own favorite tricks for obtaining the IP of someone who doesn't reply to emails and who doesn't accept dynamic email is to send two emails using different email addresses, each containing a link to blogs I've just created on Blogger/Blogspot. I'll claim in the email that the associated links are posts criticizing the blogger. The blogger will then almost always proceed to the links. I will have set up an IP tracker on each blog and since the blogs are new and will have hardly any traffic, any duplicate IP address must be from the person in question. Be careful.

billswift said...

I simply don't say anything I don't believe. If someone wants to take offence that's their problem.

See http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/dreams.png

If someone wants to track you down through the Web, it can be done without too much trouble, no matter what name you use.

master_of_americans said...

The point of "who is the War Nerd?" isn't "give me his real name and home address" but "is this a character invented someone already known to me" (e.g. Ames, Dolan, etc.). If the truth is that he is someone otherwise completely obscure who has a life roughly as described, the exact details of his identity are of no importance. Who cares if his name is Chuck or Steve or whatever?

ben tillman said...

My favorite would be ELVIS EASTER.

That *is* good, but does it beat the real name of that 1970's Oklahoma running back, Elvis Peacock? I see it as almost a dead heat.

Danindc said...

Just to let you guys know- I am Dan Rather.

Steve Sailer said...

Elvis Peacock's fellow running back on that team was named Horace Ivory.

Steve Sailer said...

Peacock and Ivory in the same backfield always reminded me of John Masefield's famous poem "Cargoes," which begins:

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Danindc said...

Oh great topic Big 8 running back names- so good. How about Jarvis Redwine and IM Hipp- it does not get any better than that.

Anonymous said...

GMail blocks images in HTML email unless you click on a button to show images. But it's still good advice not to accept HTML email. One trick I've used is to put up provocative statements about that blogger in multiple blogs I know the person reads, with a commenter "homepage" that goes to a URL I own. Usually after a bit of http log cross-referencing, I've got an IP address and a good idea of where they're physically located, and that whittles down the list of people considerably, if you have a hunch who it might be. Best way to prevent this: HTTP proxies, or AOL. Or just don't be overly curious about what online douchebags think of you.

I had an extreme hard-right blogger threaten physical harm to me if he ever found me (a ridiculous overreaction to my comment on his blog,) so I decided to find out who he was first. I was able to find his name, address, phone number and place of employment in just a few days. He would have been in serious trouble if I was as big of a badass as he was pretending to be.

travis said...

Josh, I wasn't a huge fan of Buckley, but I wouldn't call him a crackpot.

I'm willing to bet Steve is referring to Lyndon LaRouche. Spengler worships at the alter of (dis)"Honest" Abe, which is a dead giveaway.

Tony said...

Off hand, my guess would be that War Nerd is Greg, based on an interview Greg gave where he was talking about military stuff in detail.

Anonymous said...

Tony, thats great. But who is Greg?

American Goy said...

"Indeed, I advise anyone thinking of becoming a regular opinionator to strongly consider picking a pseudonym and sticking with it."

Way ahead of yah, pardner!

roarin1 said...

....'the guilty flee when no man pursueth.' (the Christian Bible.)

Obviously, one must first be a 'man' to pursue.