I'm proud to add Obsidian Wings to the list of blogs on the left-hand side of the page. I've read the site for years, and find it a source of informed, often funny commentary on politics and law, though from a perspective with which I often disagree.
And I regret that what prompted me to add the site was the "outing" of one of its formerly pseudonymous authors by Ed Whelan of National Review's Bench Memos blog, the story of which is told more fully here. Out of respect for the Obsidian Wings author in question, I'll not mention his name or link directly to the post where he addresses the problem, nor will I link to anything Whelan has written. It does appear, however, that Whelan's action was motivated by pique at "Publius's" strongly worded but non-libelous criticism of Whelan's writing on the Sotomayor nomination.
There are many good reasons not to blog anonymously, perhaps principally that the author suffers diminished credibility when he doesn't sign his name to his product. We are fully aware of that when we blog in anonymity here, and are comfortable with it. Some of us are practicing attorneys, and in at least one case (my own), might find it uncomfortable if certain institutional clients were to discover legal or political views that have nothing to do with the quality of representation afforded those clients. It's also true that this opens me to a charge of cowardice, but it's my choice to be a coward. I've been a coward on the internet since the 1990s after I had to change my telephone number thanks to a crank who disagreed with something I wrote under my own name. That I am a coward, however, does not affect the validity of my opinions or arguments so long as I avoid argument from authority. Since I'd be the first to admit I'm not an authority on anything, I can live with that.
But from what I see, "Publius," an untenured law professor, had more compelling reasons to wish to remain anonymous. So long as Publius did not cross the line into libel or other misdeeds, that's a choice I believe Whelan and others should have respected.
One of the early founders of National Review was Whittaker Chambers, the reformed Soviet spy who came into public view when he "outed" Alger Hiss as another Soviet agent. In the case of Hiss, a high public official, Chambers' actions were laudable whatever their motives. The public had a need to know that obviously trumped Hiss's desire for secrecy. In that sense, National Review, like many journalistic enterprises, was founded on an ethos of overturning secrets.
That is not the case here. No one and nothing is served by Whelan's grandstanding, unless it's Whelan's ego and rage. National Review today is a shadow of what it once was. Ed Whelan, you're no Whittaker Chambers.
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