Saturday, March 24, 2007

And just who does this Publius guy think he is, anyway

I noticed a couple of new comments on the blog today, which is what drove me out of virtual hibernation in the first place. Normally, I don't delete comments - except for the hideous comment spam that infested the blog before I turned on verification. But if a real live human takes the time to write, I'll leave it up, even if they disagree with something I've said, and even if they use bad language to express their idea.

Today, though, for the first time, I deleted real comments - two of them. Both of them were in reference to militarytracy, and gave her real name and her husband's place of assignment. There are a couple of reasons I felt like I had to get rid of them.

In the first place, there's some risk, albeit small, that someone might use the information against her or her husband. (Not a large one, mind you, even though I was on Ft. Rucker once and got to listen in on an over the top, almost hysterical lecture on the seriousness of the Islamic terrorist threat in Lower Alabama.)

The biggest reason is that I believe strongly, as long as someone doesn't misrepresent their situation, the decision to interact on the web pseudonomously should be respected. I think that we need to respect the marketplace of ideas, and part of that is letting people who want to discuss their ideas without attribution do so. Sometimes, people are at risk of retribution or intimidation for their ideas, and other times they might feel that their ideas are better presented without association with a specific gender, race, class, or background, and I think that's appropriate. Ideas should stand or fall on their own merit, and there should be a mechanism that allows people to express their ideas without fear of reprisal. So, I'm strongly opposed to "outing" people who choose to post behind a pseudonym. And please spare me the post-modern deconstructionist take that you can't understand the idea without exploring the "ideological biases" of the person behind it. That's just an excuse for turning opposition to a particular idea or point of view into an ad hominem argument instead of thinking it through.

Now, that changes if someone publishes pseudonomously and claims to be something they're not in order to give themselves greater stature in a debate. If someone starts a post "as a wounded soldier, I believe . . .", and it turns out they've never been in the Army, then, yes, they should be exposed - and ridiculed. And, of course, I'd make an exception if someone announced that they were doing something illegal in a post somewhere. Other than that, if someone chooses not to identify themselves, I'm OK with that, which is why I felt in necessary to delete those comments.

You're right

I haven't been posting much lately.

I haven't been blogging while I've been out of town, largely because I have almost no time, and because I'm concerned that I won't be paying attention to what I say and something might go terribly wrong. For example:

10:38pm I've finally got my satellite modem working, and I thought I would try my hand at live-blogging while on patrol. We're setting up a recon site now. Bob and I got dropped off and then walked in from the checkpoint right where the southern canal crosses the station road. Man, it was a long walk - eight and a half klicks due south from the paved road by the checkpoint.

11:56pm We finally got the hidesite set up. We have a really good position. We're pulling surveillance on the Muhbas family complex, and we set up on the hill just to their north - right under this ring of ten date trees - one interesting tid-bit: the locals actually call the road next to us "Ten Trees Road" because of the trees right here where we are.

12:30am Wow, there sure are a lot of Iraqis out tonight. There seems to be a gathering at the farmhouse below us. A lot of Iraqis with RPGs and AK-47s down there.

12:40am Some old guy just came out of the farmhouse carrying a laptop computer. He seems upset about something. He's yelling at the other guys and pointing. Funny how you see modern technology even among the dirt farmers here.

12:42am All the Iraqis just left the farmhouse. They seem to be coming this way. Strange . . .

12:51am I have never in my life seen this many Iraqis this close.

and so on.

But I'm still around - so far - in case anyone's wondering.