Tuesday, September 28, 2010

No-one should be forcibly reduced to a single identity

Yes, this is a post about #groggate, #massolagate

I have several identities. I have one identity picking up my children at school, another at church, another when I buy a bus ticket, another at work, and so on.

Most of us do.

I wouldn't matter if I used a different name for each. All the bus company needs to know is that I am the person who paid for the ride. The prepaid ticket suffices, no need for a name there. (Bizarrely NSW tollways go further, wanting to know my credit card details and address in a classic example of overreach - the fact that I had bought a prepaid beeper ought to be enough).

Married women often use different names for different purposes, as is their right.

Human beings have two needs when it comes to identity. One is the need to interact with other people, names help here. The other is the need to keep our wholeness to ourselves, not letting everyone know everything about us helps here.

The energy company AGL doesn't get this. It not only demands date of birth info but also a drivers licence number (in defiance of NSW law) in order to get the gas on, not figuring that I would prefer to keep that between myself and the Roads and Traffic Authority.

Many people don't mind being reduced to only one identity, they have no problem with AGL. But many people do mind. No-one should be forcibly reduced to a single identity. It infringes what I and others believe to be a fundamental right - to only share with others what is needed in order to achieve what we want to achieve.

"Outing" homosexuals to their employers breaches this right. "Outing" a blogger using a pseudonym such as Grogs Gammut to his employer breaches this right.

George Orwell warned of a world in which this routinely happened. News Corporation believes in it. Phone taps, anyone?

James Massola's defence of his action in stripping bare Grogs Gammut is here. He asks "So why did I out Grog if I thought he should keep blogging?", fails to provide a compelling reason and then adds wistfully "I don't want him to lose his job."

Stephen Spencer of Channel 10 (who has other identities in other contexts like us all) writes:

It serves the interests of the gallery and various news outlets. He's silenced and anyone else who speaks out is now on notice.

I agree. For the record, I will never give away the other identities and occupations of the pseudonymous bloggers who routinely interact with me. I am deeply saddened.

Related Posts

. They do things differently at NewsCorp

. The Access Card is a complete mess, buried but still belching up toxic smoke

. How on earth did the Medicare card nearly morph into a universal national ID card?


muirdeach said...

as are we all deeply saddened that the main-stream media should (a) feel so threatened or (b) individuals within said MSM feel so ideologically slighted, that they should feel the necessity to prohibit another's right to anonymity. Will it end here? Not on your nelly, indeed, Massola has merely opened a Pandora's Box he, and his employer, will never see closed.

Roger Lamb said...

Thanks, Peter. This business of identifying someone by their proper name is pretty weird stuff. Am I identified in any deep way if people learn I am Roger Lamb? I mean, "Roger Lamb" is a nominal avatar bestowed upon me by my parents 71 years ago. It means no more than does "Grog's Gamut" - except, of course, in one commonly understood signifcant respect.

It can be used to find out where I live, and who I work for, and even where my kids live. That is what Massola has provided - and what he intended to provide. For doing this, he should be ashamed. I am confident he will not be.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your article Peter. I'm sure there are many and varied reasons why people use anonymity on the internet. Coverage of this story reports the blogger criticised the dearth of policy detail provided by the media during the election. In particular, funding information beneficial to him as the father of a Down Syndrome child. I think The Australian needs to reassure its readers that the editorial department ascertained before publishing the blogger’s name whether there were personal or Family Court matters compelling the blogger to use a pen name. If not, why not? Nothing justifies a nation’s leading news outlet mounting a personal attack simply because the person’s views prickled a particular member of the news organisation. The editorial department of The Australian should conduct an inquiry into why this story ever made it into print and release it to its readership.

Perry White said...

James Massola must be feeling incredibly niaive about now as he awakens to the frightening prospect of being held accountable to a spurious standard that even his employers eshew and worse from now having everything he writes being minutely scrutinised in the twitterverse for the slightest perceived straying.
The first rule of stand up comedy is to be very very careful before you insult one of your audience. In media as in comedy insulting one consumer is to insult them all and to invite ridicule and scorn.
In a beat up "all hands to the defence of James" (Oz 28/9) piece Lara Sinclair mentioned Grog's Gamut by his real name six times in an 11 par piece, six times! My imagination pictures a Perry White type glaring across a half full ashtray growling at Lara "do a bloody defence of Jim willya, oh and "out" that bastard who started it all in every blody paragraph..."
Journalists and quality journalism should feed the commentariat, not feel the need to join it.
The emperor has no clothes, Grog's Gamut said so and instead of donning some respectability the Oz ran a shameful smearing article and have followed up with allegations of breach of APS code (not true) skiving off from work (not true) abusing his position (not true) and influencing the reporting on the election away from the tabloid fanzine to be more focussed on the issues (true thank god). With no basis whatsoever spurious allegations were made and then fed by such luminaries as Anrew Bolt.
The supreme irony was when the Oz quoted a tweet as coming from News Ltd's own Andrew Bolt when it came from a clearly identified fake Andrew Bolt the real Andrew then tweeted bitching that his identity had been stolen.
Greg was not the only one making fanzine comparisons but he was the only one mentioned (with psuedonimity) by Mark Scott and reported on the ABC. Clearly the view of the Oz is that the friend of my enemy is my enemy too. Massola did a silly thing that was not thought through and he should regain some integrity by saying so.

consciencevote said...

Well said.

The Australian has struggled to defend its actions in this matter - the justification of 'the public's right to know' looks pretty shaky coming from an organisation that regularly publishes editorials (read: blogs with a masthead) from 'Jack the Insider', or without any byline at all.

Funny you should mention Perry White - I was picturing J. Jonah Jameson.

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