For the last few days, Patrick Frey (Patterico) has been working on a post that pretty conclusively demonstrates that Michael Hiltzik has been using sock puppets – commenting on his own blog, Patrick’s, and several others under more than one pseudonym.
Go read his post, and take a look at the evidence he’s put forth – he is, after all, a prosecutor.
Patrick talked to me when he first starting thinking this through, and one thing we both discussed was “why does this matter?” Other than the obvious – and juvenile – glee in dinging someone who has dinged him, what’s the relevance of this?
Patrick will be making his own case in future posts, I believe, but I want to take a moment and make mine here.
Let me start by talking about pseudonymity.
If Hiltzik were – as a hypothetical – in a recovery program, and someone who posted on a recovery website or discussion board under a pseudonym, to protect his privacy in “the world”, to have connected the pseudonym and the person would be an act of gratuitous cruelty.
But there would be no intersection between his life in the world – as a reporter, columnist of blogger – and the personal world in which he was talking about issues related to his recovery (or sexuality or diet or whatever).
Patterico and I both started out blogging under pseudonyms that we defended – there were very few people who knew that Armed Liberal was Marc Danziger, and at my first blogger events, TG awkwardly introduced herself as “Mrs. Armed Liberal”. We both did it for what we felt were valid reasons, and have both since come out.
But no one has ever wonder what I wrote or where I stand.
Everything I’ve written as a blogger is out there, and there’s a very simple and transparent ability of any reader to look at my words and, if they so choose, form an impression about who I am and what I think.
When Hiltzik (or John Lott, who did the same thing) broke that rule, what he did was to poison the dialog by creating a situation where readers can’t trust writers.
On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog, as they say. But a pseudonym doesn’t have to be obvious. It could be that everything Trent Telenko has written was really written by me – how would that change your perception of his or my honesty and the seriousness with which you’d take my words?
What this enterprise is about, to me is a simple exercise in creating a public dialog about issues that matter.
We have to trust each other to do that.
Michael Hiltzik, like my Journalist In The Hat, doesn’t trust us or the dialog. He’s undermined it.
And, I’ll suggest he’s done so because it has no value to him.
Then I went to Brian’s party, and met a journalist (sadly didn’t get his name or affiliation).
I’ll skip over his arrogance and rudeness; he was in a hostile environment, and maybe he was nervous. But watching the discussion, I realized something that brought the Times issue into clearer perspective for me.
…that while I have (violently at times) disagreed with other bloggers in face to face discussions, I always had the feeling that there was a discussion going on, a dialog in which two people were engaged and trying to understand each other’s points, if for no other reason than to better argue against them. But in dealing with The Journalist In The Hat, no such dialog took place. He had his point to make, and very little that I said (or, to be honest, that others who participated, including Howard Owens, who pointed out that he had worked as a journalist) was heard or responded to. He had his points, and he was going to make them over, and over, until we listened.
UPDATE: Hiltzik replies to Patterico. I didn’t think I was easy to surpise, but I’m gobsmacked.