Pride goeth before a fall
Posted by aogSunday, 03 September 2006 at 10:14 TrackBack Ping URL

Via Instapundit comes the news that The New Republic has suspended one of its writers for sock-puppetry. As Instapundit notes, there seems to be a lot of that going around.

The interesting part is that such activity is going around members of the print media. One can argue about the impact of the blogosphere on the real world, but nothing says impact like people destroying their careers to hit back.

It also demonstrates the insulated and arrogant nature of much of Old Media that such people can’t be bothered (or even have the thought occur to them) that there are different rules online that should be learned before venturing forth.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Andrea Harris Sunday, 03 September 2006 at 10:34

And it’s not really a new rule. It’s always been a social crime (in fact, in many cases it’s a legal crime) to pass yourself off as someone else in order to slander/libel someone, or divert attention to something else, or garner more praise for yourself, and so on. The usage of pseudonyms, while a common practice for ages, and of course generally a benign and useful one, has always skirted the edge of impropriety. That’s why people are automatically suspicious of pseudonyms or “nics,” and why people who use them are assumed to be following the unwritten rule to use just one fake name per situation (or web forum), and why there is such outrage when sockpuppets are discovered.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 03 September 2006 at 12:08

So it’s probably more of a “rules don’t apply to me” attitude?

David Cohen Sunday, 03 September 2006 at 13:55

I continue not to be horrified at this and, indeed, I don’t quite get why others are horrified. Pretending to be something you’re not, to someone else’s detriment, is bad. But I don’t see why sock puppetry is to the readers’ detriment. As I have said, the sock puppet is giving up whatever prestige or authority comes from being the author. Like any other commenter, they’re argument will rise or fall on its own.

This is different from one of Ward Churchill’s sins, which was to write articles under other people’s names citing his own work. This gave the impression that Churchill’s ideas were generally accepted in his discipline, rather than the ravings of a lone kook. That’s different (though, of course, to anyone outside of the discipline and the academic left, his ideas were still the ravings of kook, whether or not generally accepted by other kooks).

Formatting tweaked by proprietor

David Cohen Sunday, 03 September 2006 at 13:56

Whoops. AOG, can you close that link for me?

Edit your comment? That would be wrong! But since it’s formatting, OK, just this once.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 03 September 2006 at 14:31

No, it’s exactly the same as what Ward Churchill did. The point of the sock puppetry is exactly Churchill’s purpose, which is to bolster the credibility of the real identity. It is writing comments nder other people’s names citing his own work to create the impression of general acceptance rather than a lone kook. That is precisely what distinguishes it from psuedonymns.

In Siegel’s case, it was to project an image of a more active weblog than was actually the case. Again, fraud specifically to bolster the image / credibility of the real identity.

I personally don’t get horrified by this kind of thing, after all it’s just weblogs. Still, it’s fraud and like that little episode on the Monkey Business sock puppetry is indicative of much more serious issues.

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