Respectful Insolence

A reader of this blog was outed by a moron posting as “Mark” on the Age of Autism blog. I will not link to the outing, nor will I link to Age of Autism. I have, however, kept a nice screen shot of the page, just in case someone over there has an attack of conscience, and I will also comment on the observation that “outing” its enemies is a favorite technique of cranks in general. However, it seems to be a particular favorite of antivaccine cranks. So is hypocrisy, it would appear. After all, “Mark” did not post under his full name but only under his first name, while he thinks nothing of outing commenters who don’t use their full name. Worse, Kim Stagliano also says he’s one of the editors of AoA, which makes me wonder if he’s Mark Blaxill. She also disingenuously says that each editor has “full autonomy” to moderate how he or she sees fit. In other words, it’s not AoA policy to out critics they don’t like, but it is AoA policy if one of its editors feels inclined to do so, if you know what I mean. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Plausible deniability and all that, you know.

Indeed, “outing” its enemies is such a staple of antivaccinationist behavior, that I consider it standard operating procedure for them. They do it gleefully and gloatingly. They’re obsessed with “outing” anonymous bloggers and commenters and won’t hesitate to do it if they get the opportunity. I’ve been on the receiving end before, beginning nearly three years ago (the first time an antivaccinationist “outed” me). I will admit that the first time I was “outed” it was not by an antivaccinationist but rather a full-fledged cancer quack named William O’Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group, but the antivaccinationists followed a mere four months later. Heck, this year I was even “honored” by having J.B. Handley himself out me in a long, spittle-flecked tirade. He seems to think it would somehow intimidate me or shut me up. If anything, it made me angry. Indeed, you may notice that of late I’ve adopted a much more take-no-prisoners approach with antivaccinationists, although all these stories about the resurgence of vaccine-preventable disease have played a much bigger role in the hardening of my attitude recently than Handley’s childish rant a few months ago did.

In wondering why the mercury militia is so obsessed with anonymous bloggers, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the paranoid conspiracy-mongering at the heart of their beliefs that leads to their obsession. They honestly believe that anyone they can’t identify must be a pharma plant sent to wreak havoc upon the Brave And Bold Antivaccine Autism Warriors Who Know The Real Truth About Vaccines. It simply doesn’t occur to them and they can’t imagine that there might be a perfectly legitimate reason that has nothing to do with being an astroturf agent for someone to decide to comment or blog under a pseudonym.

The first reason cranks believe this, I suspect, is because they frequently argue from (misplaced) authority, not science. Indeed, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about antivaccinationists in the three years antivaccine pseudoscience and autism have been major themes of this blog is that antivaccinationists are way too impressed by fancy-sounding credentials, which is why they fawn over Mark Geier, Boyd Haley, etc. At least, they’re impressed when the people with those fancy credentials say what they want to hear. Regardless, however, they’re definitely far more concerned with who is making an argument rather than whether the argument being made is sound, based on science, evidence, and reason. Second, their obsession with the “who” above the argument means that, if they know who someone is, they can just automatically and reflexively dismiss that person’s argument because, being anonymous, the blogger or commenter doesn’t have adequate “authority” in their eyes, that “authority” seemingly consisting mainly of either having an autistic child herself or being a doctor or a scientist who says what they want to hear. (In my specific case, antivaccinationists couldn’t believe I was who I said I was, a surgeon with an MD/PhD and an active researcher. I was quite amused when they were forced to accept that I am indeed exactly what I’ve claimed all along.)

Finally–and most importantly–if antivaccine cranks know who a blogger or commenter is, they can try to attack, smear, and harass that blogger or commenter. This reason, I suspect, is probably the most important reason of all for antivaccinationists’ love of “outing” their perceived enemies. It’s worked before. A couple of years ago, there was a blogger who wrote a provaccine blog that they outed and intimidated into shutting his blog down. Indeed, for some pseudonymous bloggers trumpeting their real name on AoA or antivaccinationist websites is nothing more than naked retribution for having displeased the antivaccination loons.

There’s no reason to suspect or expect that they will change their behavior, either. Anyone who wants to do battle with antivaccine activists should be forewarned. They can’t win on facts, scientific evidence, or reason. Consequently smears and intimidation are all that’s left for them to use against those who refute their nonsense. Unfortunately, those on the “other side” (i.e., certain antivaccinationists and their enablers) who claim to value civility all too often remain silent in the face of this behavior.

Comments

  1. #1 D. C. Sessions
    August 28, 2008

    Interestingly, I’ve been the target of many attempts to discover my identity over the years. This is particularly amusing since I post under my one-and-only name [1]. They don’t seem to be able to deal with that concept.

    I will point out that although I’m not secretive about my personal activities, I don’t identify my employers online [2]. Not because they would disapprove (I have confirmed the opposite) but because I don’t speak for them and it would be inappropriate to give even the most remote suggestion that I do.

    Apparently the whole concept of ethics is also foreign.

    [1] I’m so secretive that if you do a Google search for my name and my home State, you get a satellite view of my house.
    [2] Not that it’s hard to find out who they have been, mind. I have represented them publicly.

  2. #2 Dan
    August 28, 2008

    I did not quite understand the point of this post. My identity is easy, follow the link. Of coarse, I am not really trying to hide. In addition you have my Email address and like you anyone who hits my link, while not completely given away their identity gives their service provider, web browser, IP address, etc. the normal things collected. That said, it was easy to discover who you really are. Pictures and all. Like PalMD, PZ Meyers, and others I do not believe you should find the need to hide behind a pseudonym. Though the name Orac is much cooler (and legendary) then your real name (no offense intended). That said, I am thinking about changing to a pseudonym to reflect the one I use on Skepchick. Again, not to hide my identity, but the name Danimal sounds cooler then Dan (my real name). But to many people use Dan on various blogs and it makes it easy to confuse me with someone not me.

  3. #3 PalMD
    August 28, 2008

    I made my name much more accessible for a variety of reasons, but when people start harassing me by real name, i get kind of pissed (and weirded out).

    It seems to me that only cultists/fanatics would bother to “out” bloggers. It’s almost an internet law—outing a blogger or commenter pretty much defines you as a crank with no valid argument.

  4. #4 Baltimore Bert
    August 28, 2008

    It’s hard to believe that most of the commenters here aren’t just a few nitwits using different pseudonyms. Could there really be this many morons who support poisoning babies via vaccines? Any jackass who supports poisoning babies should be willing to stand behind his sadistic position with an actual name so parents with poisoned kids can beat the hell out of him.

    [A note from Orac: This is John Best, who has been banned. The only reason I let this particular comment through is to show the mindset of some of the mercury militia.]

  5. #5 PhysioProf
    August 28, 2008

    It seems to me that only cultists/fanatics would bother to “out” bloggers. It’s almost an internet law—outing a blogger or commenter pretty much defines you as a crank with no valid argument.

    Really? Interesting.

    What about threatening to out pseudonymous bloggers? Is it only “cultists/fanatics” who threaten to out?

  6. #6 PalMD
    August 28, 2008

    er..

  7. #7 Tsu Dho Nimh
    August 28, 2008

    I’m the one using a pseudonym!

  8. #8 ERV
    August 28, 2008

    There are good reasons for being anon, there are bad reasons for being anon. I helped out someone who was being anon for the sole purpose of behaving in a very disturbing manner. I dont feel bad about it.

  9. #9 TheProbe
    August 28, 2008

    Orac, using John best as a bad example is demonstrating his only valid use.

  10. #10 Bronze Dog
    August 28, 2008

    Well, I know this one. :P

    In addition to all the stuff you list, Orac, I’ve grown to think a lot of these woos are convinced that reality actually magically transforms via The Secret or whatever, depending on who says what.

  11. #11 Joseph
    August 28, 2008

    John Best said:

    Any jackass who supports poisoning babies should be willing to stand behind his sadistic position with an actual name so parents with poisoned kids can beat the hell out of him.

    And people wonder why some bloggers might wish to protect their privacy. See also this post.

    There are other reasons, surely, such as not wanting to have every aspect of one’s activities and interests online remain visible for anyone to see (such as prospective employers) for the forseeable future. In my case, I don’t think it would be in my best interest to out myself publicly as an autistic man. While I doubt my employer would fire me because of it, there’s no question things would change, and not in a good way. (I’m thinking of Michelle Dawson, who was fired shortly after she disclosed to Canada Post that she’s autistic).

  12. #12 Danimal
    August 28, 2008

    PalMD wrote:

    I made my name much more accessible for a variety of reasons, but when people start harassing me by real name, i get kind of pissed (and weirded out).

    I would add that by making who you are more accessible, you made your words on Denialism that much more powerful. First post using not Dan, but a pseudonym which I now plan to continue using. But like Joseph, I can understand why one might want to be anonymous. For me, I am careful of what I say online. After all I am a government employee, who works in a DoD research lab. That means way up the chain of command President Bush is my boss and I cannot wait this he is gone. My job is to work for the soldier and I know we needlessly went into Iraq for what? Some personal vendetta?

  13. #13 Anonymous
    August 28, 2008

    Joseph,

    LBRB is guilty of allowing commenters to do the same, so this kind of activity is not limited to those who disagree with your or Orac’s position.

  14. #14 Arren
    August 28, 2008

    It simply doesn’t occur to them and they can’t imagine that there might be a perfectly legitimate reason that has nothing to do with being an astroturf agent for someone to decide to comment or blog under a pseudonym.

    Orac, although regular readers of your blog may already know some of the rationales for online anonymity, this would’ve been an ideal jumping-off point to summarize a few of the eminently legitimate concerns that medical professionals have regarding using their actual name for their online presence.

    As ERV points out above, there are myriad plausible scenarios where unmasking an anonymous person would be ethically justified. It would make this post a more comprehensively self-contained statement on your anonymity if you were to encapsulate the easily defensible ethics of your pseudonymous blogging.

    They honestly believe that anyone they can’t identify must be a pharma plant sent to wreak havoc upon the Brave And Bold Antivaccine Autism Warriors Who Know The Real Truth About Vaccines.

    Although I think you’re partly correct that this paranoid aspect dictates the ‘out’-ing behavior, I’d argue that there’s also a more fundamental (atavistic) psychological reason, as the antithetically named John Best so aptly demonstrated above: namely, that it’s a factional behavior of the group that self-identifies as “parents with poisoned kids” against what they perceive to be the Other (the “poison”-ers who they plan to “beat the hell up.”)

    As a goddamned artist and longtime resident of Los Angeles, the festering glitter-pit epicenter of this antimodernist lunacy, I’m ashamed and appalled at the willful ignorance of these de facto militant subjectivists. I fear for the immediate future insofar as the safety of people in science who do (humanistically justifiable non-cosmetic) animal testing, those who are outspoken antagonists of the religious racket (go PZ!), and for those whose work has been tainted by Andrew Wakefield’s Rosemary’s Baby-brainchild Autism movement.

    “God” help us – but “He” won’t…..
    “Damn” you, Epicurus!

  15. #15 DLC
    August 28, 2008

    Well, I thought Orac was a good name for a blogger.
    I might have used it myself had it not been for the already extant and quite good blog here.
    Although, I could try M-5 . . . but I doubt anyone besides a few Trekkers would get it. So, I use some initials.

  16. #16 Joseph
    August 28, 2008

    LBRB is guilty of allowing commenters to do the same, so this kind of activity is not limited to those who disagree with your or Orac’s position.

    Do the same what? Death threats? Kindly provide references.

  17. #17 PalMD
    August 28, 2008

    DLC, things didn’t end up so well for M5, IIRC

  18. #18 RJ
    August 28, 2008

    ” M-5 ”

    Nice! But would you go berzerk, take control of the ship, and attack our friends?

    I don’t care, really, if they know who I am. Clowns, like Best, and others issuing death threats are a joke. If they were in a situation where we actually met in person, he’d sit his ass right down and keep his mouth shut. I found that I had to use a pseudonym on the sight because 1) it identified me as one who would pose questions contrary to theirs, thus stimulate conversation and 2) go with the flow, since most on the site do the same. But someone, Mark, had to have done some serious homework…along with Kim, of course. All for the purpose of “discrediting” someone because..well, I’m not one of them, so how can I be trusted. In the end, I think some posters realized that I am qualified to speak on these issues and not pulling stuff out of my butt. AND…here is the capper, that I really care about these kids and their families, and that sites, such as AoA are not truly representing themselves (and clearly have an ulterior motive). They don’t like having their bluff called, and they definitely do not care about freedom of speech (ironic for “journalists”) or ethical internet practices.

    Well, they can continue to dilute themselves and try to deceive others while they convince themselves. But it really is a sad state for those people. And their children.

    Thank you Orac and the others for your valuable input and advice. You are all an example science at its best: those who seek understanding and the truth, and share it with the world for the good of humanity.

  19. #19 Orac
    August 28, 2008

    Indeed they didn’t.

    As for ‘nyms, I like Orac too much. I plan on keeping the ‘nym until the BBC pries it from my cold, dead hands. :-)

  20. #20 There's a reason it's called the Clown Blog
    August 28, 2008

    So Mark Blaxill, the guy his fellow antivax fiends call “Merck Glaxo” because he got fat off of his working for pharma, cyber-stalks RJ and then outs him using just “Mark” instead of his full name as Mark demands of commenters? Then JB Handley’s best friend, John Best Jr, who says that parents of children with autism need to kill their children and themselves comes along and rants lunatic-style about people using pseudonyms while using a pseudonym? Best says that kids should beat up the anonymous pro-science bloggers? How are they going to beat up anyone if their parents murder them as children on John Best’s advice?

    And why does John allow so many anonymous slimebags to post on his blog and make death threats and calls for murder if he so values openness?

  21. #21 Bronze Dog
    August 28, 2008

    I really need to watch that show, sometime. Heck, I should probably watch more sci-fi from across the pond, if Doctor Who and its sheer awesome is any indication.

  22. #22 Heraclides
    August 28, 2008

    “Anyone who wants to do battle with anti-vaccine activists should be forewarned.” I agree.

    I had the experience of a long, ahem, “dialogue” with an anti-vaccine twit. One of this person’s very strident followers tried to “out” me on the forum–against that particular forum’s rules. I was never especially worried about the publicly-known anti-vaccinist: they’d have too much to lose by attacking me because it’d shoot their particular public face to hell, but some of the “fans” have little to lose and some of them are the kind of people you’d worry about. With that, I have sympathies for Offit et al who get this sort of thing laid on them.

    A point I hope I’m making, is that the “followers” may be more trouble that the “head honchos”. (And the latter can disown any actions by them, too.)

    I agree that reasons for pseudonyms vary and aren’t always (just) about hiding identity. In my case, I rather like how my namesake questioned if the sun orbited the earth. I took it up for that, and as a bit of an experiment, and now that I’ve used it for a while I might just as well continue.

    (Orac: I’ve always wondered if your moniker has anything to do with Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity–?)

  23. #23 Anonymous
    August 28, 2008

    Joseph,

    Allowing commenters to publish names of other aliased commenters. I’d provide you with a link, but then, that would defeat the purpose wouldn’t it?

  24. #24 kristina
    August 28, 2008

    Joseph,

    Allowing commenters to publish names of other aliased commenters. I’d provide you with a link, but then, that would defeat the purpose wouldn’t it?
    Posted by: Anonymous | August 28, 2008 10:40 PM

    Anonymous, I think your views would seem more plausible if you weren’t anonymous, but that is a choice.

    Orac wrote, “It’s not AoA policy to out critics they don’t like, but it is AoA policy if one of its editors feels inclined to do so, if you know what I mean”—-more goal-post shifting going on, a pretty common behavior among the anti-vaccine/pro-vaccine-safety crowd. Perhaps we should be grateful for their all-too predictable behavior.

  25. #25 Skriker
    August 28, 2008

    kristina – “Perhaps we should be grateful for their all-too predictable behavior.”

    I presume you mean their behaviour as children who have yet to leave the schoolyard and join the rest of society as mature adults?

  26. #26 RJ
    August 28, 2008

    Wow! Holy krap!!!

    AoA pulled the entire segment all together. Not just my personal info, but the entire “article”. It’s gone.

    Whoa.

  27. #27 Ray C.
    August 29, 2008

    It’s hard to believe that most of the commenters [sic] here aren’t just a few nitwits using different pseudonyms. Could there really be this many morons who support [poisoning babies via vaccines]exposing the neighbors’ kids to nasty diseases? Any jackass who supports [poisoning babies]spreading disease should be willing to stand behind his sadistic position with an actual name so parents with [poisoned]crippled kids can beat the hell out of him.

    Begone, foul troll. And it’s too bad Scienceblogs doesn’t allow the strike tag.

  28. #28 AoA = Extremist, Antivax, Antigovernment Loons
    August 29, 2008

    Handley, Blaxill and the whole crew at AgeofA are simple variations on the Dawn theme that has infected the comments on this blog for some time now. John Best Jr. has enjoyed the explicit support and encouragement of Handley for years. Even when Best’s actions started bordering on criminal he never got removed as an officer of Generation Rescue. He was still supported. It was Best himself who very recently stepped down as a Rescue Angel. That speaks volumes about the people at that organization.

    So why the hell would anyone post at that disease of a site thinking that they wouldn’t get harassed and stalked?

    The militia crew have proven themselves to be angry, scientifically ignorant, web-savvy, well-funded, narcissistic, and tenacious. There is serious amounts of ego and money involved with their motivations and quite simply they cannot be trusted.

  29. #29 Marilyn Mann
    August 29, 2008

    My teenage daughter has heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (heFH) and a family history of early heart attacks (grandmother (58), great-uncle (40), great-grandfather (35)). Heterozygous FH is a genetic disease that causes very high LDL levels (usually in the range of 250-350). I sometimes post on topics related to cholesterol, cholesterol drugs and heart disease.

    As you know, many people seem to be convinced that there is no connection between high LDL-C and heart disease. Sometimes these people try to “out” me by claiming that Marilyn Mann is not my real name and/or that I am a drug company plant. They also sometimes claim that my statements relating to my family members are a hoax. Usually, the poster is anonymous. How annoying!

  30. #30 Nikki Edmonds (two names, real ones, and I'm giving you both of them)
    August 29, 2008

    Personal stress management requirements dictate that I cannot go on at great length about any aspect of what I think of this post, but I did want to say something.

    One, I found this page through a link on the New York Times website and I am mightily ticked off that such a venerable publication gives a tacit nod to your opinions by allowing your ads to appear there.

    Two, I fully understand from my experiences LOTS of places on the web, “anti-vaccine cranks” by no means in that company alone, how some people can be and why a person would want to keep their identity secret. I did so myself for the longest time. I now find that I am increasingly identifying myself truthfully as the person I am. Why have I changed that inclination? Because human nature has suddenly and dramatically changed? No. Because I’ve learned to go along to get along and never ruffle a feather? No, and I think that’s actually impossible given the wide range of personalities and quirks available on the Internet, which is really a virtual Home Depot that stocks human beings and the ideas they espouse. Simply because I have NEVER been a person who sought to offend, it is merely in my nature to see things clearly and speak the truth once I do, and I figured that if I can’t do THAT without having to hide, I have no actual freedom to speak and I wanted that right back. I suggest that the fact that you possess an innate confirmation bias that leads you to refer to people with whom you disagree as “anti-vaccine quacks” might have more to do with why you find yourself having to hide in the shadows than a desire to not reflect upon your employers whom you state agree with you.

    I don’t agree with you on the vaccine issue and I find you to be not only completely incorrect and lacking up-to-date information (confirmation bias again, clearly you dismiss anything that does not support your views), but offensive in your discussion of the people who do not share your opinion. Your whole world seems to be mentally-unstable conspiracy theorists and idiots on the one hand and people who agree with YOU on the other…whomever the heck you are. You can’t possibly have an autistic person in your life, but I do. She’s an innocent 8-year-old child and I guarantee I’ve spent more hours researching possible causes and cures than you have, and I can say this confidently even if your real-world face is that of a physician.

    In any event, when I find myself dealing with people who seem to want to engage in unfair Internet harassment, whether it’s outing, ganging up, unfair use of personal information, whatever, I tend to simply go someplace else because, both fortunately and unfortunately, there are no Internet police or courts of law. Just do the same and don’t post on whatever topic got people after you until you calm down and get some perspective, and if you still have the same comments to make after a time, then say what you will and stand by it.

  31. #31 Man Called True
    August 29, 2008

    Wading through Nikki Edmond’s post, we have… lessee… the “Truth Shall Set Ye Free” argument, the “You See the World in Binary” argument, and the “Authority From Having an Autistic Child” argument. Trifecta!

    (And on a side note, I use a pseudonym because nobody gives a dang about who I really am anyway.)

  32. #32 Orac
    August 29, 2008

    I don’t agree with you on the vaccine issue and I find you to be not only
    completely incorrect and lacking up-to-date information (confirmation bias
    again, clearly you dismiss anything that does not support your views), but
    offensive in your discussion of the people who do not share your opinion…She’s an innocent 8-year-old child and I guarantee I’ve spent more hours researching possible causes and cures than you have, and I can say this confidently even if your real-world face is that of a physician.

    I’m sorry, but I hear this claim all the time from antivaccine advocates, that they’ve spent “more hours” researching than I have. It does not impress me. Time spent doing research is useless if you don’t understand what you’re researching and if you do your research using pseudoscientific sources, such as antivaccine websites. Indeed, if all that time is spent doing “research” in such places, it’s actually worse than doing no research at all, because those places reinforce misinformation and pseudoscience, and the person doing all that research comes to believe that their pseudoscience is backed up by a lot of “research” when it is not.

    I know this because I actually read a lot of what I’m guessing to be some of your sources, and I invariably find them totally lacking as far as the quality of science. Moreover, my “offensiveness” comes from my dislike of what antivaccine cranks are doing to the public health system in this country and others: Resurgence of measles (it’s endemic again in the U.K. and looks like it’s in the early stages of a major resurgence here); the mumps; etc. All of this derives from a demonstrably mistaken belief that vaccines somehow cause autism or that they are far more dangerous than the diseases against which they protect, neither of which are true and both of which are supported by pseudoscience. Antivaccine advocates have been getting a free pass for far too long, as “reasonable” people try to be reasonable with them. All that does is encourage them and give them the false sense that what they are saying is somewhere on the same order of magnitude in terms of scientific validity as the consensus viewpoint that vaccines do not cause autism. It is not.

    This is not a scientific controversy. Scientists studied the question and have moved on. The vaccine/autism thing is a manufactroversy, kept alive by antivaccine ideologues. Worse, it drains money, resources, and energy to keep studying a question that has been studied so many times before just because ideologues don’t accept the overwhelming evidence.

    I’ve tried being “nice.” All it gets me is slimed.

  33. #33 Orac
    August 29, 2008

    And on a side note, I use a pseudonym because nobody gives a dang about
    who I really am anyway

    Actually, one advantage of a pseudonym is that you can’t rest on your authority. Your arguments have to stand on their own. In fact, they have to do more than that, because there are people out there who automatically dismiss or downgrade anything said by someone blogging under a pseudonym.

  34. #34 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 29, 2008

    I don’t agree with you on the vaccine issue and I find you to be not only completely incorrect and lacking up-to-date information

    Well you clearly don’t have a clue what you are talking about. I suggest you use the search function and see what has been written here over the past three years. You speak of confirmation bias and then say this

    You can’t possibly have an autistic person in your life, but I do. She’s an innocent 8-year-old child and I guarantee I’ve spent more hours researching possible causes and cures than you have,

    Seems you want to find someone to blame for your extremely unfortunate situation. The cranks in the anti-vaccination crowd are giving you your target. Doing the research surely would have better informed you yet your confirmation bias towards blame is hindering that search.

    Since you feel so strongly, what evidence would you put forth to support your claim?

  35. #35 Richard Eis
    August 29, 2008

    I’m pretty anonymous for two reasons. I don’t like mixing work/home and internet. I have an internet persona that is actually quite different because everything is written to how i am in person and it’s just easier to separate the two at the moment.

    And because obviously signing everything Dan, or Richard, is gonna get confusing once another Dan or Richard shows up. So you want a pretty unique name.

  36. #36 Danimal
    August 29, 2008

    Orac wrote:

    Actually, one advantage of a pseudonym is that you can’t rest on your authority. Your arguments have to stand on their own.

    Very true.

  37. #37 NJ
    August 29, 2008

    it is merely in my nature to see things clearly

    I find you to be not only completely incorrect and lacking up-to-date information

    One of these things is not like the other one…

  38. #38 Danimal
    August 29, 2008

    Regarding my previous post. Like a mentioned about PalMD, his letting people know who he is, does add more weight to his messages. While the name Orac is infamous, people really do not know whether you are an authority or not. I’ll take that back. Based on your writing you obviously are. But cranks can claim that you are not. For the most part, you and I would agree, except when it comes to the issue of second hand smoke (SHS) which I still see as a load of BS. Denialist? Perhaps, but it brought me to your blog, MarkH and PalMD’s blog, science blogs in general and while we may disagree, I enjoy reading your voluminous posts almost every day. As a researcher, who writes papers/reports for a living, I still can not understand how you can put out what seemingly is well researched writing in such volume almost every day. I am lucky if I can get out one well crafted paragraph a day.

  39. #39 jayh
    August 29, 2008

    Outing is not limited to antivaccinists, it occurs in all types of activist scenarios (including environmentalists).

    I don’t think a blogger can expect to remain completely anonymous unless he/she/it takes extreme steps and also never says anything that gives clues about themselves. Essentially making themselves very much less effective. Expect to be outed. And outing works both ways.

    Anyone who knows me can probably identify my posts, and I do get controversial in my criticisms of religion and government, but I don’t use enough real name (anymore) so that a stranger (such as a potential employer) can find much on a simple google search. Once people know me, I don’t care what they find.

    I saw one outing occur in real time, during a live interview on the net, someone ID’d the author of a book on the anti-abortion movement. The moderator shut the discussion down, but actually the author had enough clues in the book so that someone who had encountered him could put 2+2 together (apparently fundies can do that much). But he shouldn’t have been surprised… hell even government sponsored spies and agents get outed, often by amateurs.

  40. #40 Calli Arcale
    August 29, 2008

    The important thing on the Internet is honesty, if one is ethical, anyway. It is not necessary to post under your given name; it is only necessary to not make any pretense that you are someone other than who you are. (Consider “AntiVax” over on sciencebasedmedicine, who quite obviously is John Scudamore, but doesn’t want people to realize that, frequently referring to whale.to as if it wasn’t his own website. That’s dishonest.)

    I go by “Calli Arcale” consistently. It is not my given name, but one that I picked up from the first message board I ever visited, which had a role playing game going. Calli Arcale was an NPC (non-player character) that I’d sometimes used in the Dr Who RPG as basically the mistress of exposition, and so I started actually playing the character. Eventually I started participating in other parts of the forum, and the name stuck. It’s now my Internet identity. As a bonus, I didn’t have to change it when I married and took my husband’s name, and since I now have an extremely common surname, it’s helpful to avoid confusing me with others. (I find I can reliably register “calliarcale” or variations thereupon, but my given name is often already taken.) So I like the distinctness and also consistency of persona that I can have with this name. But if anyone outs me, I won’t be bothered. I don’t actually conceal my identity. I just don’t make a big deal out of it.

  41. #41 Sharpie
    August 29, 2008

    In certain communities, anonymity is simple common sense. SomethingAwful.com has a small but ready band of “internet detectives” who pounce on any personal information and use it to “out” forum-users. The results are usually fairly benign and, to outsiders, hilarious (such as when a kid fraudulently used his mum’s credit card – one goon managed to get his home phone number and call the mother), though net detectivery that uncovers private information is now punishable by permaban (for very good reasons).

  42. #42 it's baaaaack...
    August 29, 2008

    RJ whoa’d:
    “AoA pulled the entire segment all together. Not just my personal info, but the entire “article”. It’s gone.”

    It was gone for a while, but it’s back up there now — comments, outing and all.

  43. #43 Joseph
    August 29, 2008

    Allowing commenters to publish names of other aliased commenters. I’d provide you with a link, but then, that would defeat the purpose wouldn’t it?

    I’ve been reading LBRB for a long time, and I recall something like that happening just once. The comment was quickly edited by Kev to remove the personal information. It was a comment by a mercury militia member, as I recall.

  44. #44 eddie
    August 29, 2008

    Has it ever been tried to have blogging (or usenet) with complete, enforced anonymity?
    No bragging or stalking possible.

  45. #45 G Barnett
    August 29, 2008

    Oddly enough, I’ve always posted my responses here & at other SciBlogs under my real name so as to protect my online identity from any “retribution” the whackjobs might cook up.

    It’s an odd reversal of the usual practice, for sure, but I value my online persona & its privacy far more than that of my day-to-day self. Heck, in real life, I’m pretty much an anonymous nobody anyway — aside from being one of those high-functioning Aspberger-type autistic adults that the AoA people desperately try to deny the existence of. At the very least they say, “you’re not a REAL autistic individual.”

    I’m vaccinated, my son’s vaccinated and my niece & nephew are vaccinated, btw — and no, I don’t assign the way I am to any idiotic vaccine damage theory. Genetic causes are far, far more likely.

    Get a clue folks — we are the way we are; you didn’t do anything to make us this way and there’s nothing to “undo.” Adapt to it; hell, I have.

  46. #46 jayh
    August 29, 2008

    “Has it ever been tried to have blogging (or usenet) with complete, enforced anonymity?
    No bragging or stalking possible.”

    It’s usually NOT tracing or exotic tech stuff that gives people away. It’s things they say, details that they inadvertently give out over a period of time, styles of speech, etc. that give it away. And the more involved a person is in the subject/field the more likely there will be something for someone to pick up.

  47. #47 SteveM
    August 29, 2008

    And it’s too bad Scienceblogs doesn’t allow the strike tag.

    Strange, I’ve used it over on Pharyngula without a problem. Must be Orac doesn’t allow the strikethru tag?

  48. #48 SteveM
    August 29, 2008

    Has it ever been tried to have blogging (or usenet) with complete, enforced anonymity?
    No bragging or stalking possible.

    Yes, its called “4chan”. Venture there if you dare…

    (and BTW, I just tried strikethru tags on Pharyngula again, and they still work just fine, so it isn’t a “ScienceBlogs” policy.)

  49. #49 trrll
    August 29, 2008

    I used to blog under my real name, but gave it up because I was annoyed by cranks trying to shut me up by complaining about me to my dept. chairman, or sending out anti-Semitic spam with my return address. None of this caused me any actual problems, of course, but why should my colleagues have to be bothered with this sort of idiocy? Occasionally cranks still try to ferret out my real name, usually in the hopes of using it as a basis for ad hominem attacks and personal insults, but like Orac, it is not a deep dark secret. It’s like putting a chain on the door–a minor deterrent, not high security. Some of the cranks seem to think that finding out somebody’s street name is like crying “Rumplestiltskin,” expecting us to scream and vanish in a puff of smoke–which I suppose goes along with the kind of magical thinking that is typical of cranks. If somebody tries to address me by a name other than my internet handle, I simply ignore it, regardless of whether they’ve guessed right or wrong. Such intentional invasion of privacy is rude, and I will not dignify such behavior with a reply.

    I tend to like the pseudo-anonymity of internet handles (pseudo because, of course, one is still responsible for one’s past words, unless, like Best, you want to be constantly having to generate sock-puppets) because it does shift the emphasis away from your credentials toward your arguments–and I’ll take a valid argument over a list of qualifications any day.

    And of course, being an actual authority doesn’t help with cranks, anyway. After all, if the antivax cranks listened to real authorities, they would be listening to the CDC and the long list of medical and scientific organizations that endorse vaccination. If you don’t agree with them and you are an authority, that just makes you part of the conspiracy. And if somebody is willing to play 7-degrees-of-separation, pretty much anybody can be linked, McCarthy-style to something that can be made to sound like a conflict of interest. “So-and-so gave a talk at a conference, and Merck donated $2000 to the conference organizers to support the conference, so clearly Dr. So-and-so is a pharma shill.” And so forth.

  50. #50 PhysioProf
    August 29, 2008

    It seems to me that only cultists/fanatics would bother to “out” bloggers. It’s almost an internet law—outing a blogger or commenter pretty much defines you as a crank with no valid argument.

    How about posting part of a pseudonymous blogger’s real name in a blog comment, with the purpose of leading to that blogger’s outing? Is that kind of sleazy cowardly behavior something that only “cultists/fanatics” would do?

    And how about really answering the question this time, instead of typing “er..”?

  51. #51 Kev
    August 29, 2008

    @ Ms Edmonds – being the parent of an autistic child confers neither more knowledge nor less attitude. As ever, its simple science – do vaccines cause autism. The answer, based on all available evidence, is ‘no’. If you disagree, maybe you could share the evidence that leads you to be so sure of yourself.

  52. #52 PalMD
    August 29, 2008

    Testing strike out tags..

  53. #53 Metro
    August 29, 2008

    Interesting remarks as to why people chose pseudonyms.

    I chose mine for two main reasons, I suppose. One is that, as my father told me: “We are all small.” I’m just another bean on the hill, or possibly fool on the hill.

    I also hold political opinions that have historically been in sharp opposition to, for example, my last boss’. While he can’t fire me for holding opinions he dislikes, why would I stress either of us out by a) telling him I run a blog or b) making it openly available.

    However, I stopped worrying about anonymity for reason a) as well, shortly after a conversation with Raincoaster. As she pointed out–once you’re on the net, you’re findable. Someone determined enough, any road, can seek you out. But since I’m just one in a vast crowd of better-placed, better-linked, more-clout-on-technorati bloggers, who’d care?

  54. #54 Danimal
    August 29, 2008

    Interesting Metro. But one reason I think we choose pseudonyms is that we (at least most of us) cannot choose our own name. Usually those are assigned by parents. Online, however, we do have a choice and can choose whatever fits one (us) best.

  55. #55 eddie
    August 29, 2008

    Tsu Dho Nimh

    It’s been several hours now and I still ROFLMAO.
    Then I kick myself for not getting it sooner.

  56. #56 Rogue Epidemiologist
    August 29, 2008

    Steve M, funny you should mention that. I’m a /b/tard. As for using a pseudonym, I do it because I want to be an asshole. I’m totally trolling. Besides, we tend to identify ourselves in the way we want to be identified, projecting the perceptions we have of ourselves. Every online identity I have ever crafted has been born out of a maladjusted attitude problem and a high dose of snark. In other words, I prefer to think of myself as a sociopath.

  57. #57 Anonymous
    August 29, 2008

    Joseph,

    “I’ve been reading LBRB for a long time, and I recall something like that happening just once. The comment was quickly edited by Kev to remove the personal information. It was a comment by a mercury militia member, as I recall.”

    Nope, it wasn’t a mercury militia member and no quick edits were done.

  58. #58 HCN
    August 29, 2008

    anon said “Nope, it wasn’t a mercury militia member and no quick edits were done.”

    So give us a hint when it was done! I am trying to remember, and I am having trouble doing so. Is it an outing of John Best or Common Sue? Because, I have just linked to comments made by Sue to explain what she is about. Is that it?

  59. #59 Orac
    August 29, 2008

    Nope, it wasn’t a mercury militia member and no quick edits were done.

    Prove it.

  60. #60 Anonymous
    August 29, 2008

    Orac,

    I would email you the proof, but thanks, I’ve seen the results of your non-confidential email policy here when you aren’t feeling generous.

    Somehow I doubt you would publish a correction. Anyways, you (owner of blog) should already have enough information to figure it out.

    HCN,

    Are you saying you did the same yourself?

  61. #61 HCN
    August 29, 2008

    Anon said “HCN,

    Are you saying you did the same yourself?”

    Your are showing your level of reading comprehension, which makes us wonder if your allegations are actually true. I said what I did was link to comments made by Common Sue where she herself has posted comments that explained her position. That is all I have done.

    How is that “outing” with a mailing address?

  62. #62 Anonymous
    August 29, 2008

    HCN,

    “I said what I did was link to comments made by Common Sue where she herself has posted comments that explained her position. That is all I have done.”

    Thanks for clarifying, it wasn’t obvious from the first comment, which is why I asked. No insults required.

    As for the rest, it was addressed to Orac, not you.

  63. #63 Ray C.
    August 30, 2008

    This uses the [s] tag.
    This uses the [strike] tag.
    This uses the [strikethru] tag.

    Preview is my friend….

    Nope, at least in preview, none of them work.

  64. #64 Joseph
    August 30, 2008

    I do recall that one time Sue was outed here at Respectful Insolence by a commenter. Orac quickly took care of it and scolded the commenter.

    It’s different when you out a sockpuppet, though. Take Baltimore Bert as an example. That’s not a handle that John Best created in order to protect his privacy. That’s simply a troll handle he uses to circumvent a ban. Everyone knows he goes by “Fore Sam” or “John Best” normally in these forums.

  65. #65 anonimouse
    August 30, 2008

    Anti-vaccinationists are so deluded in their belief that they’re right, so sure of their cause that they think the rules of normal society don’t apply to them. Look at what Kathleen Seidel has gone through, for pete’s sake, getting sued and all that. And for sure, don’t ever divulge your real name to an anti-vaccine loon – even in good faith or with the expectation of remaining anonymous. It doesn’t happen.

    For the anti-vaxers, outing people is a scare tactic, and attempt to silence people by threatening to expose them. It has nothing to do with debate, and everything to do with intimidation. When Paul Offit has to worry about death threats for supporting life-saving vaccines, that’s really, really messed up.

  66. #66 HCN
    August 30, 2008

    anon said “Thanks for clarifying, it wasn’t obvious from the first comment, which is why I asked. No insults required.”

    Except I said “I have just linked to comments made by Sue to explain what she is about. Is that it?”

    There it is… I said I linked to comments made by Sue. How does that need clarifying? Yet you replied by saying “Are you saying you did the same yourself?”

    My “clarification” was “I said what I did was link to comments made by Common Sue where she herself has posted comments that explained her position. That is all I have done.”

    How was the first statement unclear? I said I linked to comments made by Sue, when you told me I was guilty of something… I repeated I linked to comments made by Sue. Why is it an insult to point out that fact as a representation of your reading comprehension?

    Just give us a span of time of where the offending “outing” comments were made, then we can look for the offending comments. Can you do that?

  67. #67 Anonymous
    August 30, 2008

    HCN,

    You first stated: “Because, I have just linked to comments made by Sue to explain what she is about.”

    The details aren’t overly clear whether she was posting under the same name in both places. That just sounds like a reference to a quote, not an outing, hence the question. If the person is posting under different names, and the other post had personal information, that is a different story.

    Like I said, no need to insult anyone.

  68. #68 HCN
    August 30, 2008

    Oh, get off your silly high horse. The wording of my statements were almost identical. It is common around here to identify the sock puppet of someone, especially if they are abusive (like John Best, and the woman who claims that vaccines were the cause of diabetes and celiac). This is not the same as posting their full name with an employer address.

    Now as far as “insults” go, you made an accusation, and that is an insult. Now back up your accusation with something minimal like the period of time that someone posted something on LBRB that was equivalent to what happened to RJ.

  69. #69 Anonymous
    August 30, 2008

    HCN,

    Take it as you will. It was a question, not intended as an insult. Insult back all you want.

    Since you don’t seem to be getting the message, I’ll spell it out: I don’t care what you think. Only the question was addressed to you. Others already have the proof.

  70. #70 Gray Falcon
    August 30, 2008

    I don’t have the proof, Anonymous. All I see is a guy making accusations he won’t back up.

  71. #71 Anonymous
    August 30, 2008

    Sorry Gray Falcon, I guess you figured out others didn’t include you either. But if you want, you can post your email address, and we might be able to connect privately.

  72. #72 Gray Falcon
    August 30, 2008

    If you can tell me in private, you can tell me here. Prove your accusations to everyone.

  73. #73 Anonymous
    August 30, 2008

    Gray Falcon, that would obviously defeat the purpose of remaining anonymous like you. I am assuming that’s why Orac didn’t link the offending post, or the name of the person out of courtesy.

    I continue to extend the offer. If you’re really interested in knowing, then you’ll respond.

  74. #74 Gray Falcon
    August 30, 2008

    Did my last post sound like it was up for negotiations? If you’re really interested in letting everyone know the truth, you’ll tell us here.

  75. #75 Kev
    August 30, 2008

    Damn, I thought my cheeks were burning.

    I honestly cannot recall any occasion when I have posted the name and contact details of any commenter on my site. If I’m wrong, I’m sure Anonymous will either post the details here or contact me privately if they prefer that method.

  76. #76 Gray Falcon
    August 30, 2008

    My apologies for the angry tone of the last post, but I could use at least some idea of where to look. You’ve made a bold accusation, but if you won’t back it up, it’s worthless. Understand?

  77. #77 Antivax Morons = teh sux
    August 30, 2008

    Anonymous = liar

    Give me your SSN and I’ll send you the damning details.

  78. #78 Kev
    August 30, 2008

    Oh wait, reading back I see anon has pretty much redefined the ‘crime’. The ‘crime’ on AoA was a commenter called Mark posting the name and contact details of a commenter. My ‘crime’ – according to anon on here – is allowing commenter’s on my blog to post the real names of people.

    Lets make one thing perfectly clear. There is *no way* any commenter to my site could be 100% sure who any other commenter is. The only person who knows for sure is me.

    Methinks you have trolled this conversation very, very well Anon.

  79. #79 Gray Falcon
    August 30, 2008

    That explains it. I was just upset because Anonymous, like so many others before him, boasted about having “the proof” that wrongdoing had occurred, but refused to show it. That makes one either a coward or a liar.

  80. #80 Anonymous
    August 30, 2008

    Kev,

    When a name leads directly to the details, there isn’t much difference is there? I’m glad you effectively acknowledge the policy of allowing it to happen.

  81. #81 Anonymous
    August 30, 2008

    Gray Falcon,

    “That makes one either a coward or a liar.”
    That’s pretty ironic coming from someone who remains anonymous and declines an offer to discuss.

  82. #82 Kev
    August 30, 2008

    Seems like you didn’t get it the first time anon so I’ll say it again:

    “Lets make one thing perfectly clear. There is *no way* any commenter to my site could be 100% sure who any other commenter is. The only person who knows for sure is me.”

    Clear enough amigo?

  83. #83 Anonymous
    August 30, 2008

    Kev,

    That applies to any posting on any site, any time. You’ve made it quite clear you’ll allow commenters to publish personal information about others because no one can be sure it’s valid.

    It’s crystal clear. Thanks.

  84. #84 Gray Falcon
    August 30, 2008

    I wanted to bring these out into the open. You are aware that if you e-mailed me the information, there’s nothing keeping me from posting it, and I probably would have. And in case you hadn’t figured it out, the only things that got posted were pure speculation!

  85. #85 Gray Falcon
    August 30, 2008

    I mean, the only things posted on Kevin’s site, if what you’re saying is true.

  86. #86 Anonymous
    August 30, 2008

    Gray Falcon,

    “You are aware that if you e-mailed me the information, there’s nothing keeping me from posting it”

    There are several ways of transferring private information as I have already done so with at least one poster here.

    “and I probably would have”

    Then I’ll retract the offer. You obviously feel similar to those being accused in this article.

    “And in case you hadn’t figured it out, the only things that got posted were pure speculation!”

    It’s really funny from one who is speculating isn’t it?

  87. #87 Gray Falcon
    August 30, 2008

    Anonymous, do you want the truth to be known, or don’t you? That’s all there is to it. I don’t need an exact location, just some idea of what happened. And my last statement was basic logic. Since only Kev knew the real names, the people posting what they thought the names were, were only speculating. Basic logic, really.

  88. #88 Gray Falcon
    August 30, 2008

    Also, since you were willing to e-mail the information to a complete stranger, I can only assume that privacy wasn’t the reason you refused to post the information. Think about it.

  89. #89 Kev
    August 30, 2008

    “You’ve made it quite clear you’ll allow commenters to publish personal information about others because no one can be sure it’s valid. It’s crystal clear. Thanks.”

    LOL….that’s quite some paranoia you got there amigo.

    This is going absolutely nowhere.

  90. #90 Anonymous
    August 30, 2008

    Gray Falcon,

    “Also, since you were willing to e-mail the information to a complete stranger, I can only assume that privacy wasn’t the reason you refused to post the information. Think about it.”

    More poor assumptions and speculation Gray Falcon. I never stated they were a complete stranger. I correspond quite civilly with some of the skeptics here under my own name, even providing information I think they may be interested in from time to time.

    This article touches on the topic of common courtesy in being reasonable when trying to protect private information of commenters (or bloggers) who wish to remain anonymous — an idea that Orac appears to support, Kudos to him. I find it surprising you would assume that I remained anonymous for other than the obvious reason.

    As for Kev, you’ll note he didn’t deny the policy at all. He has allowed commenters to post private information about those posting under other names (people like you and me).

  91. #91 Gray Falcon
    August 30, 2008

    More poor assumptions and speculation Gray Falcon. I never stated they were a complete stranger. I correspond quite civilly with some of the skeptics here under my own name, even providing information I think they may be interested in from time to time.

    In case you hadn’t figured it out, I was talking about my own anonymity. I’m the total stranger you offered to e-mail the information to. Don’t you even bother to read my posts?

    As for Kev, you’ll note he didn’t deny the policy at all. He has allowed commenters to post private information about those posting under other names (people like you and me).

    He said that people only speculated on other’s identities. Do you even know what “policy” means? And you still haven’t proved that it occurs.

    Orac didn’t link to the post in AoA, but he didn’t need to. He provided enough information so that if we needed to find it, we could. Of course, said post was taken down recently.

  92. #92 Anonymous
    August 30, 2008

    Kev has fixed the problem. I accept his word that he didn’t notice the entry. I apologize to him for assuming it was left there intentionally and for my suspicions of LBRB in this matter. I fully endorse his honorability.

    That’s the last you’ll hear of it from me.

  93. #93 Gray Falcon
    August 30, 2008

    I apologize for my earlier comments as well. I was somewhat upset over several other comments, written by others, that were incredibly evasive, for example, claiming to have once worked for “Big Pharma”, but refusing to name any names. I made several incorrect assumptions about you and your comments.

  94. #94 Mary Katherine Day-Petrano
    August 31, 2008

    It always amazes me in the autism debate how the two opposed sides almost always consist of parents of autistic children vs. autism specialists/teachers/social workers etc. With the exception of a few posters here, it seems no one ever wants to ask or acknowledge what people who actually DO have autism think or have to say. This is ahy everyone on BOTH sides always *gets it wrong.*

    I can understand why doctors would want to blog under anonymity, and last I recall, the federal Constitution protects such a right. Anonymity is the general rule, and of all people who sometimes blog anonymously, it includes people who actually have autism. This is because of the malicious attacks a person with autism will come under should the actual name become known.

    There is an exception to this anonymity rule, however, when true threats, imminent incitement to violence, harassment, and hate crimes are being directed toward someone, and especially someone with autism. It is a federal crime in this Country to engage in such unprotected speech, and I have frequently invoked my legal rights under 47 U.S.C. Sec. 223 to request the real true name of anonymous bloggers who while concealing themselves behind their anonynity proceed to make such true threats, imminently incite violence, harass, and commit hate crimes on me because I am not afraid to say I have autism in the same post as my real true name.

    I just wanted to correct this misperception people have that everyone at all times can blog anonymously. It does not hold true when the autistic victim of violence has a legal right to subpoena the identity of an anonymoous threatener from a blog host for purposes of obtaining a court restraining order.

    As far as the anti-vaccinationists/pro-vaccinationists, while I cannot say whether vaccines caused my autism, I would not have gone without vaccinations against polio and many other deadly diseases that are much worse than autism. Autism has many advantages, so I count my life as a blessing. Not as an epidemic or catastrophe.

  95. #95 Mary Katherine Day-Petrano
    August 31, 2008

    corr: “ahy” = why
    “anonynity” = anonymity

    My apologies, I also have vision impairments

  96. #96 HCN
    August 31, 2008

    Yeah, I could in put my real name, I used to use it on Usenet. But it turns out that there was another Usenet poster one could find through a Google Groups search that had the same name, and who posted fairly offensive stuff.

    My name is so common that a google search brings up tens of thousands of hits. It is real fun trying to come up with a username for my ISP, I had to go through several variations before just spelling out my middle name. I figured I just use this as my identity (they are my real initials, only slightly rearranged). It is the same as Usenet and similar to what I use on certain forums (BadScience and JREF).

    Still, the value is in what I say, not who I am.