Conflating Outing

by Brien Jackson

A lot of people have made the point that, in the Whelan/Publius conflict, a lot of people are conflating anonymous writing with pseudononymous writing, and I think Friedersdorf figured out why that’s happening (aside from the reflexive disdain we all feel at times for the “anonymous internet commentor.” But the more interesting thing to me, is the way conservative commentators are trying to compare it to outing conservative gay politicians and so on. Jonah is, as always, the least subtle, so we’ll use this for a nice illustration:

Indeed, the left’s outrage against Whelan stinks of such double-standards. These people express far less outrage over the outing of political donors, gay conservatives et al than of this Blevins guy and the same crowd would cheer the exposure of a conservative anonymous blogger.

First of all, there’s the completely unfalsifiable claim that the same people pissed about publius being outed would “cheer” a conservative blogger being outed. First of all, the reasons would have to be the same; if an anonymous/psedononymous conservative blogger were outed for, say, a conflict of interest or because their identity was somehoe relevant to the context of the argument, that would be completely different than revealing their identity simply because they criticized you in acerbic terms. But more obviously, this would have to happen first. And in the event this doesn’t happen, Goldberg’s contention is completely unfalsifiable, even though the lack of liberals outing conservative writers using pseudonyms would seem to do so to most observers. And as for “political donors,” I’m not really sure how one could “out” them, since donations to political campaigns/parties/committees, with the exception of 527’s, are public record.

But the real thrust here is the remark to outing “gay conservatives.” Frankly I’m conflicted about the practice, but it ought to be rather obvious that there’s a clear difference between conduct, even outing, relating to elected officials or other individuals who have a direct role in making public policy and conduct relating to writers, professors, or others who want to make their opinion known, but are not directly tied to policy making. That’s not hypocrisy, it’s just common sense. If we’re talking about outing a gay blogger who opposes gay marriage or same sex civil marriage rights, that might be a point worth making, but to the best of my knowledge, that hasn’t happened. Outing politicians who oppose gay rights measures might be morally problematic, but given the influence such a person wields, it’s clearly different than outing a random internet writer. And in this particular case, there’s no conceivable reason whatsoever for revealing publius’s identity. It doesn’t reveal any conflict of interest, or call his credibility into question. Indeed, by confirming that publius is, in fact, a law professor, Whelan has actually cemented his qualifications to opine on the matter. The only logical reasoning one could find for outing publius is an attempt to adversely affect his life. Period.

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