Now here is an interesting and maybe worrying question.
Mr Jonathan Bonkers of Liberal England writes that he won't be replying to Decline of the Logos because "…I am not going to get into an argument with an anonymous blogger".
He puts this down to two things: first, he cannot take someone who does not reveal their name seriously and, second, he thinks that it is rude.
Now surely a point is TRUE or FALSE whether you know the person who made it or not.
But the thing is, Decline of the Logos is NOT anonymous; they are PSEUDONYMOUS.
The point of anonymity is that you are not bound to your opinions, you can "hit and run" and not be challenged for consistency or face much of a right of reply.
But a blog or diary written under a pseudonym is still entirely identifiable AS that person, it's just that they have chosen their own Nom de Plume.
There are several Liberal Democrat bloggers, really rather good and occasionally even award-winning bloggers, who choose to be identified by their own choice of name, rather than their Hard Labour I.D.iot Card Number: Don Liberali, Costigan Quist, The Voice on Lib Dem Voice, and, er, Millennium Elephant (holds up fluffy feet – I AM Spartacus!).
You cannot entirely get away from the idea that Mr Jonathan thinks we are ALL being rude and ridiculous.
Mr Simon Titter-ye-not goes even further in the comment to Mr Jonathan's post:
"One does sense that most anonymous bloggers are in fact rather sad young men sitting in their bedrooms playing fantasy politics."
Well, I'm glad that you can SENSE that, rather than having anything old-fashioned like evidence.
One anecdote – an "anonymous" lady blogger now suing Google for revealing her identity because she defamed and insulted people – one anecdote does not make for a rule.
To say that "some people use pseudonyms to attack other people, therefore ALL people who use pseudonyms should be dismissed as irrelevant" is a stupid generalisation.
There are LOTS of reasons why someone might choose to write under a name that they choose for themselves rather than the name they were given.
Nightjack, for example, was only able to talk about the inner workings of the police force so long as he remained anonymous.
Women writers – and you can look back to, say, George Elliot although more recently Dorothy Fontana found the ambiguity of being "DC" helped her in the male-dominated world of Hollywood television – might find a male pseudonym prevents people making backwards prejudgements about their writing or politics.
Choosing your own name is a POWERFUL action, and you shouldn't go around dismissing people for doing it.
Do Mr Cassius Clay's Heavyweight World Titles not count for anything after he chose to be Mr Muhammad Ali?
Does Mr Cat (formerly Steven Georgiou) Stevens' music cease to count after he chose to be Mr Yusuf Islam?
Did Mr David McDonald never star as Hamlet or Dr Woo because Equity rules meant he had to be Mr Dr David Tennant?
Should we not take Mr Prince Charles seriously as King if (as he has hinted) he chooses to reign as Mr King George VII? (Actually, that last one is a trick question.)
To say "I cannot find this person's real name on their blog so I will not take them seriously as I cannot take someone in a Donald Duck mask seriously," is a straw man – I cannot find anyone in a Donald Duck mask on Decline of the Logos site either, so you are deliberately making them seem MORE ridiculous to justify your dismissal.
Do you think that Muhammad Ali is ridiculous because he "wears a Donald Duck mask"? Does George Elliot "wear a Donald Duck mask"? Or what about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – those are pseudonyms too remember.
The QUALITY of an argument depends upon the ARGUMENT, not on the quality of the person making it. In the Doctor Who story "City of Death", it turns out that the GENUINE Mona Lisa has "this is a fake" written across the canvass in felt tip. Or, as Dr Woo puts it:
"If you need to x-ray a painting to know if it's any good, you are rather missing the point."
On the Web we are identified by who we say we are; that identity extends to the collected body of our opinions and if people are kind enough to read us a lot then they should become aware of our personalities through their experience of our opinions. The name that we choose to represent ourselves under is less important than the associated collection of "what we know about this blogger's opinion".
We all have a kind of "sphere of knowledge" around our name, which is what people think of when they hear our name. It's like what I said the other day about Mr Daniel Hangman and Mr Enoch Powell and everything having CONTEXT. And it links in to what I said political Parties EMPOWERING voters.
If the madness takes you and you stand for Parliament, standing as "Mr Enoch Powell" (to pick a name out of the hat of randomness) or for that matter someone like "Ms Anne Widdy-one" or "Mr Red Ken Livingstone" then you are famous enough in your own right for your name to stand for the things about you and for people to know what that means. Enough people are aware of the "sphere of knowledge" around your name.
But if you are merely Mr Oliver Bufton, then standing as "Mr Oliver Bufton" says infinitely less about you than standing as "Mr Oliver Bufton, Conservatory".
That Conservatory label – or Hard Labour or Liberal Democrat label – gives people a handle on who you are, gives them a "sphere of knowledge" to make your name MEAN something to them.
And, like choosing a pseudonym for the Internet, choosing a Party label tells us something about them because it is a CHOICE.
In a world where most people are NOT famous celebrities like me, knowing people's CHOICES is what we NEED in order to decide if we agree or disagree, like them or not like them, subscribe to their RSS feed or mute them on the Blogregator. Knowing where their Daddy's umpteen-greats granddaddy lived or what his job was in the twelfth century does NOT seem particularly useful in this regard.
Knowing someone's "real" name is NOT what is important; what is important is what that name MEANS in terms of ideas and opinions; in the information age it is what that name makes you THINK about.
It doesn't MATTER whether that is the name we were given by someone else or one that we made up for ourselves.
Or to put it another way, as far as posting opinions on the Wibbly Wobbly Web goes, how are we able to tell that, say, "Jonathan Calder" is NOT a pseudonym used by Lord Bonkers?