This country has a long, and revered history of anonymous political commentary, beginning with Thomas Paine, the author of the widely read pamphlet, Common Sense (1776), which advocated for America’s independence from Great Britain, and The American Crisis (1776–1783), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series.
Our founding fathers also utilized the ability to anonymously make political commentary in the creation of our country. The greatest example of this is The Federalist Papers.
The Federalist Papers are comprised of 85 articles advocating the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and were originally published between October 1787 and August 1788. They were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, using the pseudonym "Publius," in order to preserve anonymity and to ensure that the ideas were considered on their own merit, separate from the authors of the ideas. These papers are still today a primary source for interpretation of the Constitution, being that they outline both the philosophy and the motivation for the system of government being proposed.
Another excellent, and more recent example of anonymity in political commentary, is a book written by a Bush administration official/whistleblower, Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. The author is now known as Michael Scheuer, a CIA veteran with 22 years service, who ran the Counterterrorist Center's bin Laden station from 1996 to 1999.
There are many possible reasons for wishing to remain anonymous when publishing political commentary. One may wish to be anonymous in order to avoid family problems, or to avoid issues with their employer, or to avoid retribution by political figures, or even to avoid being found by an abusive ex-spouse. All are legitimate reasons, and it is a choice that is available to each of us who writes or speaks out.
Mike Doogan, is a Democrat (it truly pains me to claim him as a Democrat, especially as his smarmy style and behavior is far more suitable for members of that “other” party ) who represents district 25 in the Alaska state legislature, and is now under fire for outing a liberal blogger whose post re his own behavior, apparently set him on fire. He sought revenge by revealing her name and location publicly, in an e-newsletter sent out to his constituents, To be very specific, Doogan used his constituent email list and a state paid-for “newsletter” from his state paid-for email address to out the identity of progressive Alaskan blogger, AKMuckraker.
AKMuckraker, is the author of the blog, Mudflats, which rose to internet fame during the 2008 presidential campaign after Sarah Palin was nominated. AKM was a source of credible, relevant info for many bloggers and newspapers at a time when we didn’t know much about Palin. She provided a progressive, Alaskan viewpoint on Palin’s performance in Alaska, and was extremely helpful in bringing information to light. AKM chooses to write her political commentary anonymously, like many other bloggers.
Recently, AKM wrote a post about a rude email that Doogan sent his constituents who had dared to contact him with their legitimate concerns re the Troopergate issue.
DOOGAN to email senders: “Are you people nuts? You send me -- and everybody else in the legislature, from the looks of things -- Spam and then lecture me on email etiquette -- as if there were such a thing? Here's an etiquette suggestion: Abandon your phony names, do your own thinking and don't expect everybody to share your obsessions.”
She used his own words from the email he sent to his constituents, and included some netiquette suggestions in the post.
Doogan’s reaction including obsessing over AKM’s identity. When he finally learned of it, he published the following in his e-newsletter to his constituents::
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 [redacted].
The reaction from liberal bloggers on the outing of AKM has come fast and furious, and on the conservative side, very nasty, including attacks on her business, and publication of her full address, and phone numbers.
What happens next is of the utmost importance to all of us, in all political parties.
Image 1 from Wikimedia Commons, and the graphic is courtesy of Mudflats.