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There I was, out enjoying some well deserved sunshine on a lovely South Florida Memorial Day weekend, when, against my better judgment, I happened to peek at my Twitter timeline appearing on my ever-present Android mobile phone. Prominently littering my stream were many tweets from one David M. House (aka @axiarch), the semi-famous Boston attention hound from Alabama who masks his accent with a Charles Emerson Winchester affectation.

House was busy thinking he was “outing” my identity on Twitter.  As I will get to in a moment, this happens fairly often on Twitter, but before we go there, let me give you some pertinent background on House, and myself (sort of).

Background on David Maurice House

This is the same opportunistic operator, and self-styled “hacker” who knew Pfc. Bradley Manning for about 15 minutes during  a party in Boston, and upon hearing he was arrested in the Wikileaks saga, cleverly recognized a gravy train when he saw one.

With travel funds from an unspecified source, he made the long journey to visit Manning about 8 or so different times at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia. Returning from one such visit, he told any blogger or media outlet that would listen that his dear friend “Brod-lee” (apply  Brahmin accent from Beacon Hill here liberally), who was once such a charming, alert, and intelligent “fellohhh,” was now nearly “catatonic” as the result of relentless and inhuman torture he was receiving at the hands of his Quantico guards, according to his accounts, and those told by Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald, and House’s co-bloggers at Fire Dog Lake.  This was a very interesting professional diagnosis coming from a computer programmer with—according to renowned hacker and co-wikileaks celebrity, Adrian Lamo—only limited computer talents, and of course, no medical degree.

It was House’s (clearly coached) diagnosis that was widely blogged by Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher’s Firedoglake, that was mostly used to catapult the “torture” meme into and around the global Internet and media blatherspaces. And it happened with barely a single serious effort to confirm or validate much of anything that was claimed. Virtually all of the “Manning torture” hysteria was based on the specious, totally undocumented stories of two bloggers, and this unverified, anecdotal medical “evidence” from Dr. David House. It was ludicrous, and remains an indictment of a global media that is content to just take dictation from bloggers, because it’s much cheaper than covering a hot story themselves.

House’s trips to see Manning unceremoniously ended when Manning’s father, Brian Manning, and evidently Manning himself, were sickened by the relentless ways that House was using Manning’s incarceration to promote himself, and I suppose  whatever book and movie deals he felt were waiting for him at the end of his 15 minutes of lame.

You can see this in a PBS Frontline Chat, down around the 2-minute mark:

2:02 Comment From David House
This is David House. You say I was using Bradley for 15 minutes of fame… this is very hurtful and surprising to hear. In earnest, on what basis do you make the remark?

2:03 Brian Manning:
Please clean your own house. Bradley told us. If you do not believe me ask him!

Oh snap! “Ask him.” Well, he may not be able to do that for awhile, but you can be sure we’ll hear more about that soon from Manning himself in some future letter or statement.

As I once predicted after only the most modest investigations of Manning’s reported “torture,” the layers of hyperbole and bullshit surrounding Manning would eventually unravel, and it would embarrass a lot of people.  That’s just now starting with David House. I remain confident that before this is over, he will be exposed as the pretentious operator who jumped on Manning and rode that pony for all the mileage he could get out of it.

Since that bit of opportunistic wanderlust is coming to an end, House has now moved on, probably again with Greenwald’s help (but I can’t say for sure), to file a lawsuit against the government with the assistance of the ACLU. They are protesting the “seizure” of his laptop at an airport last year, when the Government was clearly interested in finding out who helped Manning. I think House forgot to check the security rules at the airport, because they can do almost anything they wish with what you choose to bring through security.

Ok, so much for the background on House. Now a bit about me.

Background on Shoq and his damned “anonymity.”

It should come as no surprise to my Twitter stream that I prefer to tweet anonymously. I have several reasons for choosing to do that. The two most important of them are these:

  1. First and foremost is the security of my aging mother who, thanks to my political nature, has been relentlessly harassed in the past. But it’s also for the sake of my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, partners, friends, and acquaintances who have a constitutional right to privacy, or at least a moral right to not be annoyed or harassed because some guy with a cat avatar likes to piss on Republicans, conservatives, pretentious phonies, or plain old crappy bloggers in cyberspace.
  2. Secondly, way back in the AOL days, CEO Steve Case took a lot of grief of allowing “screen names” and allowing identities to be anonymous. He defended his decision because he believed that without anonymity, people would not be free to speak their mind politically for fear of reprisals from employers, churches, friends, etc. And as digital information sharing in the medical and insurance community was only recently becoming common, he also felt that any such medical issues should be openly discussable without fear of insurance companies, familes, or employers learning of it.

In my view, Steve Case was exactly right on both counts.To this day, I have many close friends who say they wish that they had kept at least one online persona anonymous so they were free to speak politically, or personally, without fear of their words showing up at the office the next morning—or in the NY Times.

I could spend 10,000 words on this topic, or you could Google for literally millions of discussions on it. You can even read what I’ve written about my choice to be anonymous right here on this very blog. To make it easy for you, I’ll even give you this link to that discussion.  Regardless of your own views on the subject of anonymity on the Internet, in the end, we all choose our paths, and mine was to remain anonymous. I don’t really owe anyone an explanation for that. So long as I am not breaking any laws, misleading, nor harming anyone, my identity online should be my business.

I am not alone. Whether we consider the noted bloggers, @Digby56, @Atrios and @mudflats (legends in the progressive space who were once anonymous), Mark Twain, Publius, or the more typical twitter personalities, such as the anonymous Gottalaff, I am hardly the first person to choose anonymity in the entire running history of on or offline social spaces.

If you don’t like my choice to be anonymous, the simple solution is to just not follow me, block me, and ignore me whenever you see me. It’s just that simple. And some do choose that path, and I would never contest their right to do so. But for thousands of others who choose otherwise, they see my “identity” as that which I have tweeted or blogged under quite consistently for many years, and am quite protective of my virtual reputation.

Now, if you don’t think there’s a reputation worth protecting in that history, you either haven’t been online very long, or have virtually no need or desire for people to trust you.  I have both that need and that desire, so I am quite conscientious about how my “Shoq” persona behaves publicly and privately. At times he can be just as thoughtful, kind, helpful, rambunctious, annoying, condescending, insightful, defensive, inspiring, sexy, tiring, insipid, hilarious, tedious, or as just plain dull as almost anyone else on the Internet.  That is who he actually “is” on the Internet. Who he actually is in real life  (IRL) is not really relevant. What he looks like, what he wears, his place of residence, who he works for, whom he falls in love with or sleeps with at night¸ are all absolutely immaterial to that defined persona which so many have come to know in that far reaching identity-space called the Interwebs. It may not always be so, but it is now.

For almost two decades now, I have concealed my actual identity, using a variety of planted names, pseudonyms, account IDs, avatars, etc. Every few months, some new rocket scientist discovers one—-or is directed to one—and they scream “Eureka! I’ve got that damn cat by the tail at last.” When they finally recover from their orgasmic frenzy, they rush off to tell all their friends, pat themselves on the back, and then tweet a frenzy of self-congratulatory reverie, as David House (aka @locklean) can be seen doing here, just today:!/lockean/status/74909129482838016!/lockean/status/73849578465665024

Now, as I have blogged and tweeted, House is not the brightest LED on the panel. So, given a bit of bad information from any one of hundreds of conservatives that had it, he might have spent even a few minutes asking around. He would have discovered that this same bogus account (which, amusingly enough is not even one of the many decoy accounts I’ve created, but just the handiwork of some random conservative dolt who  planted the account himself based on a tip he received from someone else that was wrong earlier) is just one of many names that have been traveling around the #TCOT and #P2 communities on Twitter since mid-2009.

Had Dr. House been a wee bit sharper, and done just the teensiest bit of research, he would have found this tweet way, way back in January of 2011, which was proffered by me when his quasi-boss, Jane Hamsher came up with the exact some bad information, as I had chronicled in this lengthy screed, which continues to haunt her and her staff to this very day.

So Dr. House, like many before him, thinks he has “outed me,” and in so doing, only outed himself as a petty, venal, churlish little man who seeks to  win arguments not with facts or merits, but with intimidation, disparagement, or or whatever other bullying tactics he feels might work.

Unfortunately for the good doctor, he’s about the 50th person to use the same bad information, and as such, must go to sleep tonight with the sad realization that he’s not pulled the mask off the Dread Pirate Roberts after all. But even if he had, the blackguard would never admit it. But as important, none of his many friends would tell you either. In fact, most of his enemies wouldn’t tell you either.

Why wouldn’t people reveal Shoq if they knew?

The short answer is because it looks really bad for them to do that. What would be their motive, their own friends and associates might ask?  Are they trying to intimidate Shoq? To embarrass him? To ruin his career? To drive him from cyberspace? To do the very thing he remains anonymous to prevent?

Are they trying to keep him from speaking his own brand of truth to power?  Are they trying to deflect from whatever questions he asks about them or their activities or positions?  What exactly has this Shoq done but offer his opinions online, as millions of others do every day? Why would they be stupid enough to risk violating someone’s trust by exposing his personal information, just because someone else was mad at him for an opinion?  Would it be a random act of pettiness, a professional character assassination, or just a blatant act of nastiness that made them feel good?

Whatever their motive, they would need to explain it, and explain it well. They would have to explain to their friends, family, co-workers,and Twitter streams, and do it in such a way that those people would understand the motive, and later be comfortable knowing that the same fate might await their own private and personal information.

No, as Jane Hamsher learned, even threatening to “out” people’s identities is almost always seen as the worst kind of unethical dirty trick, most often performed by Right wing operatives for whom ethics always takes a back seat to strategic objective. But the Right wing lives in a cultural cesspool of such nastiness, and many actually take pride in the unctuous skullduggery

On the left, however, such depraved character demonstrations are not only frowned upon, but often seen as a stake through the heart of one’s own credibility. The people with character, protective of their own reputations, just don’t do it.




In Taking Stock of WikiLeaks, by George Friedman (Stratfor Consulting), a well known geopolicy analyst, provides the best snapshot yet of the overall panorama of the big Wikileaks facts and issues. It frames them from the perspective of someone who deals with geopolitical people and realities every day, as opposed to the legions of journalists, pundits, bloggers and entertainers who have saturated the Internet with every conceivable position, posture, and permutation on this interesting—but which might not ultimately prove all that significant of a—moment in our global digital history.

While it never really takes a strong position about the rightness or wrongness, it does appear to find that question irrelevant, as it marks down many extravagant claims by Assange, and others, that the entire affair matters much at all—except perhaps to the people blogging it for hit traffic, and those career government spooks who will be tasked with keeping our future secrets.

I don’t like to give anyone else the final word, but in this case Robert Gates’ view is definitive. One can pretend that WikiLeaks has redefined geopolitics, but it hasn’t come close.

Is this just an insider wonk's pragmatic take on this hyperbolic issue, or another attempt to minimize the entire issue for the benefit of the administration, and those defense industry CEOs in desperate need of pithy poolside remarks that debunk all those shrill civil libertarians? You can decide for yourself.

As for me, while I know it's not stylish to withhold judgment on breaking issues, I've remained relatively agnostic on the whole Wikileaks show.  I think it contains many thorny issues that should not be discussed too cavalierly by the uninformed public, who are quick to make bad decisions about complex things, nor too openly vetted by the really informed professionals for fear that someone can wind up with a lot of scratches—or dead.  It's certainly one of the trickier issues to responsibly parse as we've seen in a very long time.

My working, but still tentative position is that releasing this stuff is a crime, and must be one, but publishing it is perfectly legal, and must remain so. The government's jihad against Assange and Wikileaks is probably far more about looking tough before our allies, and intimidating future leakers, than any  concerns about national security. Michael Moore's passion for drama, notwithstanding, this may not actually be all that big a deal, when you strip away all the hyperbole and what if scenarios. But then again, it might be in ways we can't see yet. I am not Glenn Greenwald, so I don't have to be sure of my position on anything.

It would be absurd to suggest that espionage or treason be legal, just as it would be ridiculous to block the truth once it is released. That's why I've encouraged people to download a copy of the Wikileaks data and keep it safe for history.  The problem I have with it all is "whose truth is it, anyway?"  It's very easy to see future leaks being gamed for their disinformation value, just as it's easy to see even our casual confidences now being hidden more deeply, and our really big secrets getting burrowed so deeply that almost no one will ever know what or where they are.

But as I said, I am still grokking all this, so while I try to figure all this out in my own head, I look for good explainers that help me grasp those nasty nagging nuances. This article, while clearly taking a policy wonk's dismissive tone toward any claims of revolutionary importance, is nonetheless the best overall summary of this fascinating story that I have read.

Pass it on. It's useful.

Read: Taking Stock of WikiLeaks


Clay Shirky: Wikileaks and the Long Haul

Video: NYU's Jay Rosen on Wikileaks


Hat tip to my long time friend @fantomaster for alerting me to this item