Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 

An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Gutless Anonymous Blogger.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 15, 2012 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious. |

It’s not the same as having a pen-name, or being a whistle-blower for whom invisibility is a necessity. There are people who post under a pseudonym for various reasons, and whose identities are clearly known. They make no effort to hide their identity, and openly acknowledge their identity when asked.

Then there’s the anonymous blogger. Opinions? He’s got plenty of them, and they are all staunch. Whether it is calling for Ireland to immediately rejoin the UK, or expressing delight in the deaths of British soldiers, there is no holding him back. No fence sitter he. He’s the king of the finger jab, and is quick to dimiss thousands as easily labelled “West Brits” or “Thatcherite Scumbags” or “Immigrant scroungers”. He’s a hard man.

Safely behind his keyboard, waiting for his mam to make him his tea, that is. But when he’s in work, he’s the guy that woman ignore and that other men make jokes about. Forthright? In work, he wouldn’t say boo to a goose. And God forbid he ever met an actual British squaddie. He’d destroy his trousers before he’d evern publicly vent the vitriol he posts nightly on the political boards.

Yet, it’s hard to hate him. Those anonymous tracts are all he is. He has nothing else, his youthful hopes and dreams dissipated as his peers achieved around him and he grew into the grey, middle-aged forgettable entity that he is. One day he’ll die, and five months later, someone on a board will ask “Whatever happened to TruePatriot147? He normally has something to say on this kind of thing” then they’ll move onto something else, not even aware that they have actually written a man’s epitaph.    

8 Comments

John McGuirk
Dec 22, 2010 at 10:56 pm

That last paragraph is a thing of beauty.


 
Thirsty Gargoyle
Sep 23, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I’m not quite sure about this, Jason. I’m certain this phenomenon exists, but I think it’s more nuanced even than you say here.

I blogged under my own name for years, and did so on all sorts of topics: history, politics, warfare, art, cinema, theatre, books, comics, religion, sport, academia, and my life. The old blog was quoted once in the Irish Independent, with me referred to as an author, as though I was a credible cultural commentator. Which I’m not.

And I got work out of it. I wound up being a talking head on three shows, being flown abroad by the BBC for one of them, and acted as a consultant on another.

And then, in May 2006, while I was in the middle of a dispute at work, my boss discovered my blog. I’d never talked about her on it, or indeed said anything that breached any kind of confidentiality rules, but unfortunately she obviously wasn’t well, and so a fresh hell began. She’d scour it for up to seven hours a day, running searches several times a day, constantly checking to see whether I’d ever said anything about her, or whether I’d ever said anything that could be used against me.

During this period I started to get abusive and anonymous comments; years later other data fell into place that made it pretty clear that it’d almost certainly been my boss’s partner who’d posted them.

All this was the beginning of a four-year struggle to clear my name of some horrible things she’d said about me. Along the way, following various Data Protection Act requests, I found out the extent to which she’d lied about me, and the extent to which she misrepresented my blog. In the end and following several complaints about her by other people, she was dismissed — as far as I can tell — and following an investigation by a national watchdog for these things my name was indeed cleared. And I got an apology.

The joy went out of blogging pretty early in this saga. There’s no fun in blogging when every day your blog is being read by somebody who is actively trying to ruin your life. I tried blogging with an invited audience, but it felt like I was in a very small echo chamber, so I stopped altogether. I missed it, though, and eventually started again, but with a pseudonym.

I do hide my name, but it’s basically because I don’t want that happening again. To be fair, if anyone wanted to make a serious effort, it’d not take long to find out who I am, and I’ve told a few people, but I essentially don’t want a situation to arise where somebody could google my real name and find my site, or google my name in tandem with my handle and confirm that it’s me.

I don’t like blogging pseudonymously, but after what happened, and how it dragged out, I’m wary about blogging any other way. I was contacted recently about appearing on a radio show, and though I’ve been on radio and television in my own right in the past, I felt obliged to explain my concerns in connection with the blog and my pseudonym. I’ve not heard back since.

I know it all sounds very paranoid, but it’s born out of bitter and very real experience.


 
Jason O
Sep 24, 2011 at 10:12 am

TG: That’s a nightmare story, and as someone who has HR reponsibilities in my day job I can see your point. But it does sound like your former boss was a nut who, even if you didn’t blog, would have come after you some other way. I’m not dismissing the anonymous blogger’s legitimacy, I’m just irritated by anonymous bloggers who use that position to say things they’d never have the guts to say in public, for the very reason that they know they don’t want those extreme or offensive opinions associated with their own name. I’ve had absolute nonsense written anonymously about me, in particular declaring that I’m paid by the European Commission to blog (money I’d happily accept if it was offered!) and I’ve seen similar nonsense written about friends too, including viciously personal stuff that people would not say face to face. But I can totally understand your reasons, given your own experience.


 
Scribbler
Sep 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm

That would have been a better piece had it been balanced.


 
Garvan Gallagher
Sep 24, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Boards.ie is full of people like this. I only ever stumble onto it via a google search. The last time was when I was googling Thresa Treacy (the lady who was jailed – and still is IN jail – for not allowing ESB to cut down thousands of her trees). Some of the comments by these anonymous people were hard to believe and lacking in any moral decency. This is their pulpit, and they are free to speak. Thankfully, we are also free to ignore them.


 
Jason O
Sep 26, 2011 at 6:48 am

What’s your reason for anonymity?


 
Susan
Jun 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Hello Jason and Thirsty Gargoyle

That experience TG described above sounds horrific. I do blog under my own name; it is not difficult to find if people wish to view it. I have a second repository which is professional and is just codey stuff. I would generally mention that one in my workplace.

I would say that if “not well” means “mentally ill”, it would be better to say that outright as the expression “not well” has become a Very Irish Euphemism and therefore has begun to accumulate stigma. Saying it like it is, is usually better. And also, most people dealing with mental health issues are not, thank God, like TG’s awful boss :)


 
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