Throughout recent elections, bloggers have become an increasingly important part of our political landscape, taking politicians and the media to task, demanding accountability, raising money for candidates, and organizing in force. Many, if not most, bloggers and blog readers remain anonymous for a variety of reasons. For a long time, I was also anonymous, fearful I would receive retribution at my now former job. But I spoke out using my anonymous handle "Scout Finch" because the injustices in this country were mounting and I could bear no more. I took inspiration from the legions of other pseudonymous
anonymous bloggers, including many with funny names like Kos, Meteor Blades, Devilstower, and KagroX. They were influencing the debate and inspiring me to join the conversation.
I was also reminded of another group of anonymous writers who wrote under the pseudonym "Publius." They once published a series of anonymous articles, better known as The Federalist Papers, which would become catalyst to ratify the constitution. One of those radical, anonymous writers would later go on to become President of the United States.
This country has long prided itself on the principle of freedom of speech. Writing anonymously about the affairs of our government is as old a tradition--or arguably even older--as our government itself. And the ability to speak freely without fear of retribution is as entrenched in our society as deeply as apple pie and fireworks on the Fourth of July.
So, imagine my surprise to discover this morning that you have taken it upon yourself to "out" the increasingly well-known Alaskan blogger known simply as AKMuckraker at the blog mudflats. From your newsletter:
Anonymous Blogger Anonymous No More
The identity of the person who writes the liberal Democratic Mudflats blog has been secret since the blog began, protected by the Anchorage Daily News, among others. My own theory about the public process is you can say what you want, as long as you are willing to stand behind it using your real name. So I was interested to learn that the woman who writes the blog is Anchorage resident _______.*
(real name redacted by me)
So, based on your own "theory," you took it upon yourself to joyfully expose someone who you knew was going to great lengths to protect their personal privacy. Someone whose only "offense" was writing about Alaskan political issues. You seemed to even derive joy from warning AKMuckraker AKMuckraker via email only hours before your grand unveiling.
Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2009 2:55:14 PM
Subject: your identity
I am reliably told that you are the anonymous blogger who writes Mudflats. I am planning to reveal this in the enews I send to my constituents tomorrow, and am writing to let you know this and offer the opportunity to comment.
Most astonishing is your own career as a journalist. From your profile:
Mike has worked as a Teamster, teacher, janitor and legislative aide, but for most of his adult life was a journalist, including nearly 14 years as a columnist for the Anchorage Daily News where he shared in a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism in 1989. He has published a number of books of nonsense about Alaska and currently writes mystery novels.
Surely, having a serious background in journalism, you of all people would understand and respect anonymous sources and privacy issues. As it turns out, you have little or no respect for open government, whistleblowers, anonymous citizens working to cover the issues of the day, or the First Amendment. In fact, judging by your now public emails with Alaskan blogger Phil Munger, it seems you've been on a one-man mission to out AKMuckraker. It is even more amusing when you consider the title of the next edition of your
newsletter blog: "Special War and Toxic Politics Edition." Oh, the irony of you lecturing about "toxic politics."
I'm sure Alaskans can appreciate your focus on outing a blogger who is most known for exposing the hypocrisy, questionable ethics, and corruption of Alaskan officials. I'm sure they appreciate your focus on warring with bloggers instead of taking on the difficult economic and social issues Alaskans find themselves faced with this winter, including those who can't afford to heat their homes. But, instead, here you are -- gloating about your efforts to ruin somebody's life.
Why are you so threatened, Mr. Doogan? As a member of the Alaskan Democratic Party, why are you so anxious to out a blogger working for progressive causes? What sort of perverse joy are you getting by outing this person? Did you think they would back off and shy away -- leaving you to run Alaska as only you see fit? Did you think those pesky bloggers would wither like shrinking violets? Did you ever stop to think that you might be violating his/her rights? From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A much-cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:
Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.
(h/t Maggie AKA Knife Pile Palin at mudflats)
Whatever your reasoning, you've certainly caught our attention. And if you think we are going to scuttle back into the shadows and let this pass, you've got another thing coming. Your petty, vindictive, unprofessional, unethical, and perhaps even illegal actions are certain to come back to haunt you. The drumbeat for a 2010 primary opponent has already begun. You can bet your last frozen dollar your next opponent will have support far and wide -- from across Alaska and well beyond. Of course, given the possible legal ramifications of your actions, getting re-elected next year may well be the least of your concerns.
a/k/a the formerly anonymous "Scout Finch"
Alaskans, if you want to reach out to Representative Mike Doogan and let him know how you feel about his disregard of the First Amendment and his endangering AKMuckraker's personal well-being and/or livelihood, I'm sure he'd love to hear from you at:
PHONE: (907) 465-4998
FAX: (907) 465-4419
ADDRESS: AK State Capitol
Room # 112
Juneau, AK 99801
Further discussion can be found in the diary on the rec list by greenomanic.
Update - From AKMuckraker him/herself:
It said in my “About” page that I choose to remain anonymous. I didn’t tell anyone why. I might be a state employee. I might not want my children to get grief at school. I might be fleeing from an ex-partner who was abusive and would rather he not know where I am. My family might not want to talk to me anymore. I might alienate my best friend. Maybe I don’t feel like having a brick thrown through my window. My spouse might work for the Palin administration. Maybe I’d just rather people not know where I live or where I work. Or none of those things may be true. None of my readers, nor Mike Doogan had any idea what my personal circumstances might be. But that didn’t seem to matter.
What appears to matter to Rep. Doogan is that either 1) he feels that if he “outs” me, he’ll change what I have to say, or keep me from saying anything. 2) he gets to play mystery detective (like in his books) and believes people will think he’s really cool for figuring it out, or 3) he feels like getting revenge. He knows I want to remain anonymous, so he’s going to take it away. In any of those three scenarios, he didn’t think it was important to get the bigger picture.
And in any of those three scenarios we should probably find it disturbing that an elected official is using his time and mental energy in this way, against an ordinary citizen. I don’t need to remind Mudflats readers that Alaska is in a time of turmoil. We are facing unknown consequences with an erupting volcano that threatens to wipe out a tank farm on Cook Inlet holding 6 million gallons of oil. We have critical issues in the legislature, including Alaska’s acceptance or rejection of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money for education and other critical purposes. We have a governor who has just chosen an incredibly divisive and extreme right wing idealogue as our new Attorney General. And there are only three weeks left in the legislative session. It bothers me quite a bit that instead of focusing all his energy on doing his job, one of our elected representatives would rather spend his time stalking and harrassing a political blogger.
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