Via Glenn, we meet Brian Leiter, a University of Texas professor of law and philosophy who has made up his mind to identify and out the so-far anonymous Juan Non-Volokh. Let's reprise the professor's rationale:
There are occasions, to be sure, where anonymity is warranted, but, in general, I am of the view that people should own their words--among other things, they tend to behave better when they must own their words (and when they don't behave well, they also get to own the consequences, which is only just). The idea that Juan Non-Volokh should get a free pass to be a venal misreader of what others write, as well as a serial spewer of insults, strikes me as deeply unjust. He can insult and misread all he wants, but he ought to own his words, so that he can enjoy their consequences as well.
So who is Juan Non-Volokh? I intend to find out and to post that information here in due course. I welcome your help...and I promise to keep my sources secret!
Apparently Juan Non Volokh misread this post. Venally. Following Prof. Leiter's exhortation, I too read his original post for what seemed like an hour, but was probably only five minutes; after learning about yet another professor with such limited reasoning skills that he was unfit to carry Leiter's briefcase, I felt I had caught the flavor, invoked the Eighth Amendment, and skipped to the controversial UPDATES.
However, folks interested in opining on the merits (or fans of the Bloviated Condescending Paranoid style) are encouraged to wade in. Just don't come whining to me when your brain gets damaged... [Although he survived!]
My issue - has Leiter presented a legitimate reason to out a fellow blogger? I had thought the blogosphere operated on a (sometimes disturbingly small) level of trust and mutual respect. For example, it is very easy to leave spoof comments under someone else's name, or to send faux e-mails, but very few people do it.
Similarly, I suspect that the computer jockeys out there could probably crack most "anonymous" bloggers, if they made doing so an important part of their day. And, although it is easy to speculate about possible conflicts of interest (Was 'Atrios' a press spokesman by day and a blogger by night?), it hardly seems that Leiter has identified a problematic conflict meriting follow-up in the present case.
Now, Leiter is clearly not susceptible to reason from anyone on the right, but my impression us that there are many anonymous lefties who would prefer not to see the blogosphere adopt the standard Leiter suggests. Leiter, it is worth noting, is a tenured professor with none of the employment-related concerns anony-bloggers often invoke. However, we applaud his courage in his one-man crusade to make the blogosphere safe for those with tenure.
I am proud to say that Leiter is a lefty, and I hope some of the voices of reason from his side of the aisle will contact him and encourage him to re-direct his energies.
His e-mail is presented on his site. I am discouraging righties from wasting their bits or bytes - you may enjoy venting, but he will enjoy pretending he is a hero standing up to the Right Wing Machine. Of course, Leiter has not enabled either trackbacks or comments at his blog, and I am pretty sure it is not because he gets too much traffic, so I think we can guess that he is not interested in feedback in any case.
UPDATE: Events precede me - Ogged gets results! Sort of - although he modifies his stance in Ogged's comments, Leiter has yet to post a definitive statement of non-pursuit on his own blog. Tricky - doing so would amount to an admission of error. But maybe he can depict himself as a calm, sensible team player! Uh huh.
Eugene Volokh has some thoughts.
MORE: My favorite bit from the first Leiter post:
There was no evidence of Bush's "dissembling" at the time of the last election as clear as the recent London memos, and what evidence of dissembling there was was hardly front-and-center in the campaign. (One might have thought historians would have somewhat better historical memory when it comes to events of such recent vintage!)
Hmm, so "Bush lied" was not a part of the campaign? Neither was Fahrenheit 911, I guess. Michael Moore sat in the premiere box at something other than the Democratic Convention - a baseball game, maybe. Joe Wilson, Richard Clarke - figments, as were their best-selling books. And John Kerry was as cryptic as a fortune cookie with these remarks in his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention:
As president, that is my first pledge to you tonight: As president, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House.
... I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war.
Never happened. Not on the Leiter-side, anyway.
LAST GASP: I meant to mention my creative, non-proprietary defense strategy for Juan, which I call "Let A Thousand Non Volokhs Bloom" - find a few (or a lot) of folks with the appropriate law school tenure track resume, and let them all claim to be Juan Non Volokh.
Since Leiter is a genius, this won't fool him forever, but given his writing style (never use a sentence when three paragraphs will suffice, and don't spare the sneers), no one will endure to the last chapter of his final expose.
Now, I *know* that back in the day, there were periodic discussion in the blogosphere about the merits and ethics of anony-blogging (these were not quite as frequent as the "where are the female bloggers?" discussions, but they were pretty frequent). This Insta-Roundup from 2002 is a great start - back then, it was lefties that were the bigger boosters of anonyblogging, as I am sure Leiter knows. We also have some 2004 action by William Valicella, but if anyone wants to remind me of a timeless classic, that would be great.
UPDATE: Prof. Leiter has yet another update, which he manages to limit to six paragraphs. His ignorance of blogospheric custom and history is on display here:
In view of the extraordinary conservative pity fest going on for Mr. Non-Volokh at the various right-wing blogs (you would think there is actually a right to blog anonymously enforceable against private parties), conjoined with the predictable smears and (guess what?) misreadings, it's worth re-emphasizing a few points...
Which he does, with the pith, wit and charm to which we are becoming accustomed. Apparently (we learn), Leiter is right and Non Volokh is wrong as to whether Non Volokh is better off blogging anonymously. I told you Leiter was pretty smart (actually, I think Leiter told you that), but this level of omniscience is extraordinary.
Now, does he really think there is an "extraordinary outpouring" of support for Juan Non Volokh? Then how would he characterize the support for Atrios back when Atrios and his secret identity nearly become collateral damage in the Luskin/Krugman feud?
So far, Technorati shows a bit less than that in response to Leiter's silly attention-seeking behavior - that looks like nine responses.
But stay with it, Prof! I, at least, am still reading.
STILL MORE: I stand corrected - one might well argue that it is "extraordinary" that we are reading this chap at all. Not for much longer!