Monday, November 27, 2006

Outing bloggers.

One of the bloggers I read fairly regularly was recently outed (not on her blog, but in a different forum). I did a little detective work (because I'm nosy) and while I didn't look hard enough (because I may be nosy, but I'm not a stalker) to find the thread in which the outing occurred, I did find this thread discussing what happened.

And, while at first it didn't appear as though Restaurant Gal had been dooced, she later wrote a couple of farewell posts to her job, and I'm assuming that the two incidents are connected.

When I read the comments on her pages and then the comments on the other board, I noticed two people who were desperately trying to defend their position against Restaurant Gal. Neither of them claimed responsibility for outing her - and one said more than once that he didn't do it - but they both continued to accuse her (and/or her husband) of posting (on a foodie board) positive things about the restaurant where she worked without disclosing that she actually worked there.

What's interesting about this is that she said she has never posted at the site in question. And the "evidence" that she or her husband posted? The person who posted the comment(s) in question used the name "MRG," which one reader of both her blog and the other forum assumed meant "Mr. Restaurant Gal," a pseudonym by which she has frequently referred to her husband.

Um. A username of "MRG" is not evidence of anything. I just wanted to point that out. It makes sense that "MRG" could possibly refer to "Mr. Restaurant Gal," though as the accuser himself has said, he really has no clue (on the foodie board, he wrote, "However, having her (or her husband, still haven't figured out if MRG stands for Mr. Restaurant Gal, or what) posting in the thread playing up the restaurant just isn't kosher"; on Restaurant Gal's blog, he wrote, "You (or someone associated with you, still not certain if MRG is you or your husband) posted in the thread in question related to your place of employment.") You can find these comments in the links above.). It also makes sense that "MRG" refers to something else entirely, perhaps "Mr. General" or "Management Research Guy" or any one of the nearly 3 million hits that come up when I google "MRG."

So here's what I see. I see some person or persons who thought it would be fun to publically identify someone whose blog had until then been anonymous. He/she/they did this knowing that it would very likely cost her her job. Seriously - there are only two reasons I can think of to out an anonymous blogger: power and revenge. And neither speak well of the outer.

Following the outing came all kinds of indignation that Restaurant Gal should expect to be anonymous. I mean, doesn't she know there is no anonymity on the internet, for heaven's sake? There was actually a discussion (again, check the link in my first paragraph) about whether or not bloggers have the right to blog anonymously, which, I must say, nicely evades the issue of whether or not someone who outs an anonymous blogger is a buttwipe.

The question here isn't whether or not Restaurant Gal or anyone else has the right to be anonymous online. The question is, what sort of jerk thinks it's fun to out someone just because s/he can? And what sort of people - people who first admit that they like Restaurant Gal's blog (which, folks, is really well-written and thoughtful) - will then comment in this same discussion that while they, of course, would never out a blogger, she deserved it because she crossed a line; she mocked her customers; she made herself identifiable anyway, smirk smirk, so of course we all had it figured out ages ago?

Who are all these scary people sitting out there with pens and notebooks jotting down all sorts of slights, real and imagined?

Frankly, I find it frightening to know that there are people like this out there who just want to be mean for the sake of being mean, or maybe because they suspect that someone else out there broke a rule somewhere and they must be held accountable, by God. More frightening than it is to know that I might turn up as the subject of someone's blog sometime when I've had a bad day and behaved poorly at, say, the post office, or the coffee shop, or the lunch spot.

Rock on, Restaurant Gal.

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