from the nobody-to-defend dept
While we've talked in the past about whether or not a blog or publication should out a previously anonymous commenter if the outting would be newsworthy, it's worth noting that there was no real consensus reached amongst the venerated Techdirt community. Some of us think that there might be room for such a move. Others, such as myself, take more of a hard line approach to protecting anonymity (see the comments section in the link above for what I'd say is a really nice discussion on the question). Either way, with the widespread blogosphere and public participation in online communities only ratcheting ever-higher, it's useful to bring stories to the table to discuss how this all works when such events do occur.
This latest example is about John Huppenthal, Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction and apparent frequent anonymous commenter at Blog For Arizona. Bob Lord, of BFA, recently penned a post that outs Huppenthal for his previously anonymous and simultaneously insane comments on the site.
Okay, for the few of you who have not figured this out yet, by all indication our friend Thucky is John Huppenthal, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which is the fifth highest elected office in the state. This may be a first. I don't know of any other elected official who has led a double life as a serial blog troll besides John Huppenthal. Chalk that up to Arizona having the market cornered on political craziness, I guess.The post then outs Huppenthal for commenting anonymously there, on other conservative sites, and for creating duplicate handles all over the place in order to fake some kind of consensus around what he says. And what he was saying, analysis indicates, is batshit crazy. Such as:
-"bat shit crazy stuff"!!! Its in Obamas book, Obama said he was born in Kenya!!!! If this were a Republican, you would be going nuts demanding those college records.Now, it's worth noting that Huppenthal has since acknowledged that he did indeed make those comments under several different names, speaking of and to himself in the third person. That acknowledgement was followed up with something about believing in public discourse, regretting certain inflammatory words (Hitler! Kenya!), but hoping that we should all recognize that our great country has a long history of anonymous speech from politicians.
-Hitler worked to eliminate the Jews. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood was given the job of eliminating African Americans. Hitler fed 6 million Jews into the ovens. Sanger has fed 16 million African Americans into the abortion mills.
-No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish tv, no spanish newspapers. This is America, speak English.
And...I happen to think he's right on that last point. Look, Huppenthal is a blowhard, fact-ignoring caricature of a politician on one end of the political spectrum. He's not representative of anything other than his own idiocy, but the sites he went to offered anonymous commenting and then pulled the rug out from under him when they decided that his commenting was a story. They're not wrong; Huppenthal's online antics and self-sock-puppetry is indeed a story, but does that story outweigh the fallout from the removal of anonymity? I would say no. Others, including other writers here at Techdirt, might say yes. I'm more interested in what you all think, anonymous or otherwise.