Will Blevins/’Publius’ Be Dooced?

My first reaction to Ed Whelan’s identification of “Publius” as University of South Texas law professor John F. Blevins: They’ve got a law school at the University of South Texas?

Amazing things you can learn on the Internet!

My second reaction: Is Blevins tenured? If so, why would he insist on anonymity? Professor Glenn Reynolds is not anonymous. Being a tenured professor is like being James Bond, licensed to kill. Firing a tenured professor is nearly impossible. The rare occurrence — the ousting of the fraudulent Ward Churchill at University of Colorado — practically requires an act of the state legislature and abuses so flagrant that the dismissal can withstand Supreme Court scrutiny.

So if Blevins is tenured, what are these “variety of private, family, and professional reasons” for his anonymity? If blogging cannot threaten his job security — and as a tenured professor, Blevins couldn’t be fired even if he were arrested for robbing a 7-Eleven — why would he hide his identity at Obsidian Wings? Dan Riehl sides with Blevins/”Publius”:

That a writer at a site like NRO would stoop to outing an anonymous liberal blogger is, hopefully, far more a discredit to Whelan and NRO, than it is trouble for said blogger.

In saying so, Riehl agrees with James Joyner:

Jeopardizing a man’s career and family relationships over something so petty is simply shameful.

Hmmm. Without getting into all that (I’m logging in on the free Wi-Fi at the Krystal in Acworth, Ga., and just about to head out on the 12-hour drive homeward) my question is the extent to which Blevins’ arguments for anonymity are plausible. Even if Blevins isn’t tenured, it’s not as if being a liberal is grounds for termination, even in Texas. And if Blevins were fired for blogging — “Dooced,” as they say — surely his application would be welcome at the many law schools dominated by liberal faculty.

How, then, can Whelan be accused of “jeopardizing” Blevins’ career? When I covered basketball as a sportswriter, and the ref would call a touch-foul, the coach of the penalized team would holler, “Hey, ref, no harm, no foul!”

The “no harm, no foul” principle might apply to this situation. Whelan blogs under his own name and felt that he was being abused by the anonymous “Publius.” The fact that “Publius” was relatively obscure — I’m not into legal blogging, and have seldom read Obsidian Wings — might make Whelan’s “outing” of him seem an overreaction. But I don’t presume to judge what is or is not abuse of another. If Blevins is harmed by his “outing,” he ought to be able to demonstrate (not merely assert) that harm.

Blogging under your own name in an environment where so many others are anonymous or pseudonymous is difficult. There is a reason comments are moderated here. I must consider the possibility that the vicious anonymous commenter is actually a sock-puppet for one of the many people I’ve criticized publicly.

An honest flame-war with Rod Dreher or any other of The Republicans Who Really Matter? I can handle that. What I won’t tolerate is an anonymous commenter of mysterious motives trying to use my bandwidth to attack me. (Effectively, that is. I have no trouble approving abusive comments so long as they are so self-evidently idiotic as to be unpersuasive.)

There are no comments at the NRO blogs, so the only means others have of arguing with the NRO bloggers is through their own blogs. So Ed Whelan was blogging under his own name and being attacked by the anonymous “Publius,” and decided to end his antagonist’s anonymity.

This is Whelan’s choice and he obviously believes it to be a defensible choice, but heaven forbid any liberal should ever go after Rusty Shackleford‘s anonymity. Or Smitty’s, for that matter.

And all this I say without reference to the specifics of the dispute between Blevins and Whelan. I’m just blogging from the Krystal in Acworth, Ga., and don’t have time to play blogosphere ethics cop.

UPDATE: Professor Reynolds weighs in.

UPDATE II: Professor William Jacobson weighs in. There is no truth to the rumor that Reynolds, Jacobson and Donald Douglas are ringleaders of a gang of academics who rob Seven-11s in their spare time.

UPDATE III: A commenter asks if I read Blevins’ post in which he said he is not tenured. No, I didn’t read Blevins’ post. I told you, I’m at a Krystal in Acworth, Ga., and don’t have time to read everything. But I’m sure Blevins will be all right. Just invest in a ski mask and practice saying, “Stick ’em up!”

UPDATE IV (Monday a.m.): Now that I’m home and have seen both Blevins’ post and Feddie’s post at Southern Appeal, I am inclined to believe that Whelan did the wrong thing. However, I also think Blevins is either unnecessarily concerned or disingenuous:

Professionally, I’ve heard that pre-tenure blogging (particularly on politics) can cause problems. . . . I don’t want conservative students to feel uncomfortable before they take a single class based on my posts. So I don’t tell them about this blog. Also, I write and research on telecom policy – and I consider blogging and academic research separate endeavors. . . .
Privately, I don’t write under my own name for family reasons. I’m from a conservative Southern family – and there are certain family members who I’d prefer not to know about this blog (thanks Ed). Also, I have family members who are well known in my home state who have had political jobs with Republicans, and I don’t want my posts to jeopardize anything for them. . . .

What Blevins is confessing here is that he would argue differently, or perhaps not argue at all, if he were arguing under his own name. Bingo. This is at least relevant to Whelan’s complaint about being sniped at from the ambuscade of anonymity.

Whelan risks his own reputation every time he pushes the “publish” button, while his anonymous critic risks nothing. I’ll have more to say, but will say it elsewhere.


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