Sunday, March 12, 2006

Anonymity: let me count the wherefores

1. Who am I? Why should it matter? Shouldn't the ideas, the facts, and the interpretation of them be important? What does it matter to you whether I am male or female, black, white or other, tall or short, skinny or fat, smoker or drinker or sex addict? Aren't these all just ad hominem arguments? Who cares? As the Diamond Sutra teaches us, material characteristics are not, in fact, characteristics. Don't ask me what that means. I don't claim to have had a satori, in Paris or elsewhere. I would just rather my ideas were judged on their own merits than on the basis of who they were espoused by. I've had good and bad experiences with academic "blind peer review" of my writings, and some bad ones. The bad ones were always caused by people trying (and sometimes failing) to figure out who I was, what my ethnic and/or national identity was, and judging the value of my ideas by who they thought I was (sometimes mistakenly), instead of judging the ideas on their own.

2. Maybe I'm just paranoid. I probably say much more dangerous things under my own name than I do here. Maybe the idea that I might lose out on some future job, or be dismissed from one of the ones I hold now, for what I say here is just crazy. But I think it was Nixon's Attorney General John Mitchell who said that even paranoids have real enemies. He saw the enemies list, and he should know. I'm not under any illusion that I'm important enough to have a spot on Bush II's enemies list. However, I do feel a little more secure not putting my name out there for what's on this blog, and the crossposts at DailyKos and Wesley Clark's blog. I started my blog after Bush was re-inaugurated. John Dean (who should know) said that the Bush II administration was "worse than Watergate" and I remember Watergate. In fact I remember handing out flyers for McGovern in '72, when someone took me aside and said that I shouldn't be doing this because Nixon was going to be much harder on the opposition after he was re-elected with a landslide. I said I was too deep in it anyway. I probably am again. I can only hope Bush is impeached. After that, when I feel safer, maybe I'll tell everyone who I am. If anyone's actually reading this stuff enough to be interested.

3. OK, I admit, it just feels kind of neat to let off some steam anonymously. Think of it like cybergraffiti, only I'm not defacing anything except my own site. There's an old Latin satire that claims "The names of fools are inscribed on the walls of public buildings." (Yes, Rome had a graffiti problem, too.) I can write something wittier than my own name in Roman letters. In fact I could write my name in a few other scripts, too. I guess I don't have an ego that insists I must get credit (if not get paid) for everything I do. It's the deed that matters more than the doer. And the deed here is just a long, anguished scream.

4. I figure if I keep this up long enough I'll probably get outed sooner or later. I'd just as soon let it be later rather than sooner. I've been slowly dropping a lot of hints about who I might be. A good detective could probably figure it out now. How many people know Francis Fukuyama's SAT scores, what "fitnah" means in Arabic, and regularly submit articles for blind peer review? Maybe Alberto Gonzales, or his underlings, already know who I am and are preparing to render me to Gitmo. Maybe they could care less. Myself, I've become curious to see who figures out my identity first. Should I give them something my state is famous for producing?

5. When people ask me questions privately I can answer them here. For example, someone from the Clark blog asked me about my Arabic. I studied classical Arabic, a dead language, for a few years. I even studied Islamic studies, and Middle Eastern Studies (they're not the same), at one of the best universities in the US. I try to contribute whatever I can to the desperate need of the American public, if not the current American administration, for more and better information, as I'm trying to continue educating myself. After 9/11 half the US wanted to learn more about what was happening in the Islamic world, the other half were going "NUKE THE CAMEL JOCKEYS!" I'd rather address the first group. I don't think they need to know who I am, especially if what I say can be independently confirmed.

6. That really brings up another point. I don't really have anything to say that depends on my identity. Unlike RiverBend, whose veracity depends on her identity as an Iraqi woman living in Baghdad (but who nevertheless, or perhaps therefore, remains anonymous), nothing I say here depends on who I am. It's all verifiable independently of me. You have no need to know who I am. All I know is what I read on the Internet (to update Will Rogers). Or at least all I post here is what I read on the Internet.

7. I suppose Google could find out who I am if they wanted to. I have to take the risk that they would turn me in to the Chinese government, or the US government as soon as the Bush administration gets around to bumping off its domestic opponents, but I just think that risk is small enough that I'll take a chance on it for the opportunity to mouth off like this. I guess Kos could find out who I am, too, but I'll take my chances on him. If he's going to turn me in I might as well give up.

8. General Clark can find out who I am anytime he wants just for asking, although he could probably ask the guys who run the blog for him, if he cares. I still have a lot of faith in General Clark, but not idealistic faith. (I still remember the guy working on the Carter campaign who said he would resign if we saw a Cy Vance as Secretary of State or Zbigniew Brzezinski as National Security Advisor. He didn't when we did.) I expect General Clark to administer from the center if he ever becomes president, like the Democratic Eisenhower many see him as. I'd even support him if he appointed a Republican (John McCain?) as Secretary of Defense. Lincoln, FDR and JFK had Secretaries of War or Defense from the other party and got a lot of support for their policies for it. Wilson and Nixon didn't. Wilson couldn't get the Republicans to support his League of Nations idea, with disastrous consequences for the US, not to mention the world. We all know what happened to Nixon. Not that I'm blaming the Democrats for going after him. In retrospect we can all be happy he didn't have a Democrat Secretary of Defense.

9. Well, that's about it. It's about all the reasons I can think of offhand. Maybe I'm crazy, maybe I'm a fox, maybe it doesn't matter at all. You can ask me questions privately if you want. I'll just answer them here. Or you can ask them as comments on my blog, and I can answer them as other comments there. When I get around to it. I really don't have time to get online everyday.

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