Pseudonyms
June 12, 2008, 08:40 PM
A+
|
a-
Print Friendly and PDF

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.