...or pseudonymity, or, to be completely pedantic in my case, allonymity?
According to those fearless investigative journalists at The Times, who have got to work cracking the big story of the summer, an anonymous copper who's written an award-winning blog shouldn't be allowed to remain anonymous - and may potentially face disciplinary action - because...
Well, there's the problem, isn't it? What exactly is the 'because'? Because what? Why shouldn't this chap be allowed to blog away under a pseudonym for the rest of his natural life? As Justin has pointed out, it's not as if The Times themselves don't use anonymous 'sources', 'friends' and 'insiders', when they need a story.
Can The Times, in the public interest, tell us who helped them out NightJack? Or will they snivel behind the 'cloak of anonymity' they think should be given to their sources, but not to people they want to expose? Strange how it should be one rule for one, and one rule for another. Why is there no byline on the Times leader column? Why not put the author's identity there? Why not out pseudonymous diary columnists, horse racing tipsters and everyone else in the press if it's open season? Oh but I forgot, it only works one way, doesn't it? Especially if you're the Times, who outed the blogger Girl With A One Track Mind because... well, again, it's the 'because' that I'm finding difficulty with.
And all those people who have ever commented under pseudonymous identities on the Times's website...? Should they now have their IP addresses revealed and their identities exposed? Why not? If it's good for someone, why not for someone else? It's not as if there aren't worrying precedents for this kind of thing happening anyway.
I wouldn't mind if the Times had been using its power to expose hypocrisy, or fraudulent behaviour, or reveal that NightJack wasn't a serving copper, for example, but this is none of those things. It's just a cheap shot, and it's pisspoor journalism.
As for me - I'll hide behind that ever-diminishing cloak for the time being, if you don't mind. It's not that I have anything in particular to hide, you understand; it's just that I do have another life outside of this internet world, and never the twain shall meet, as far as I'm concerned. It's everyone's right to have free expression, and mine wouldn't be particularly curtailed by having my real name on here - but interesting blogs like NightJack are under threat because the Times won't show the same courtesy to people who aren't on its payroll as it does to the whistleblowers and sources and 'friends' who help it make its stories. That tears away the figleaf of morality and 'public interest' they're holding up over their mouldy little meat and two veg. They don't really care, so long as it gets them the scoop. Well now you've got it, and well done, you did it for a pointless, meaningless story that no-one gives a flying one about, rather than real investigative journalism. Wow, I bet you're proud of yourselves.