August 27, 2009

The ethics of outing bloggers

By: Sonny Bunch

I was a little amused to see Conor Friedersdorf’s post on anonymous DC blogger Roissy today:

Do you know what should bother feminists (and everyone else too)? The Web site Roissy in DC, written by a member of the “pickup artist community” that I upset in my prior posts on “the neg.” Its author is begging to be the subject of  an undercover investigative piece written by the talented Angela Valdez. (I’d enjoy an Amanda Marcotte post too).

This is a not-so-oblique call for Roissy to be unmasked. And hey, if Conor believes in outing bloggers, then fine, have at it. Of course, Conor professes to be against outing (most) bloggers:

It is rash, uncharitable actions like the outing of Publius by Ed Whalen that prevents us all from enjoying the thoughts of countless folks who don’t blog because anonymity is prone to leak. This isn’t to say that anonymous blogging hasn’t any downsides, or that outing is wrong in all circumstances. In this case, however, the cost Mr. Whalen imposed on us all seems to come without any benefit to anyone save himself.

That “this isn’t to say that … outing is wrong in all circumstances” provides enough squishy wriggle room that Conor can claim to be acting without hypocrisy, I suppose, but this whole scuffle is pretty interesting. It seems to be that Conor’s general ethical principle is “Hey, don’t out bloggers I like reading, just the bloggers who I deem to be uncouth!” I wonder what a unified theory of outing would look like in this case. “Center-left and center-right bloggers are fine and need anonymity to protect their careers even though they never stray particularly far from the mainstream; the real fire-breathers don’t deserve anonymity even though their opinions are more likely to get them fired.” That sound about right?

I dunno. It seems pretty hypocritical to me for Conor to say that Ed Whelan was acting unconscionably when he outed Publius after Publius repeatedly attacked him and then suggest that someone should do the same thing to Roissy because Roissy attacked him personally.