Friday, July 24, 2009

Opening the Kimono

I've read a lot of great blog posts and comments in the past few days about the relative merits of anonymity versus what I'll call "open kimono" blogging.

For the record, I would like to say that both have their merits. An example I gave in a LiL comment was the Federalist papers, but as commenters from Jack Mitchell to bloggers like Kad Barma have noted, anonymous political speech in this country is even older than that, and dates back to Benjamin Franklin's many pseudonyms and the anonymously-penned tracts that helped spark our Revolution.

I saw the Rita Mercier video clip on both Richard Howe and Left in Lowell and could sympathize to the degree that she felt some anonymous attacks were unfair. However, at the end of the day, the side I come down on says that being a public figure is a choice -- it comes with many great upsides in addition to the downside that is exposure to personal attack. I do believe that it can be noble and good, but I veer away when people get too sanctimonious about the 'personal sacrifice' stuff -- if it were really some great personal sacrifice where costs far outweighed benefits, you wouldn't have more than twice as many people competing for the number of spots available.

Another thing I would add, to echo multiple commenters, is that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Yes, bloggers and commenters may make up the city's chattering class. I've gotten to know many of them within the past year, and even count a few as personal friends. By and large, they're open-minded, intellectually-curious people who take kindly to real debate. It might make sense, then, for public officials or candidates to comment on blogs...or, as in the case of Jackie Doherty from the School Committee, they could take to writing one themselves. I don't know why anyone either holding or running for these offices isn't using Facebook, or Twitter, or the blogs, or whatever. That's all *free speech* in a pure, First Amendment sort of way, but more important perhaps for them, it doesn't come at a cost. It helps to enable entire candidacies that don't rely on money (i.e. Patrick Murphy).

For the record, I will respect anyone's right to blog and comment anonymously provided it doesn't involve unsubstantiated personal attack. In response, I'd ask that you respect that there are certain things those of us who don't blog anonymously might naturally be a little more hesitant to say -- I'll cite the Law of Conservation of Enemies referenced by Kilcullen in 'Accidental Guerrilla' here. I won't call you a coward, and if you don't call me a kiss-ass, we're good.

Also for the record:

I am the sole author of this blog. My name is Greg Page and I own a condo at 200 Market St.

I've known since 2006 (when I lived in Virginia Beach when not deployed) that I was going to fill a Civil Affairs position in the Massachusetts Army National Guard. I also knew that I wanted to move back to the Boston area as soon as possible -- I'd lived there for two college summers and the year after, loved it, and knew it was the only place I'd ever want to call home. I scoped out all the small cities in the area, found Lowell to be the absolute best in terms of layout, location, affordability, amenities, and future prospects (you can sense this place is on the up-and-up in a way that many other small cities of its kind aren't).

I took orders to get as close to the area as possible (Groton, CT was the best I could do...BRAC killed any chance of Devens) and for the past fifteen months have done a "mixed commute." That is, I'm back-and-forth quite a bit, though not daily, and have put an obscene number of miles on my odometer. Weekends, leave, holidays, and more weekdays than I'd want to count -- just ask anyone who works at the Starbucks off Exit 16 in Worcester or New Great Taste at Gorham/Central. Or just ask anyone who lives at my girlfriend's house who knows where the down-the-stairs lumbering on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 4 a.m. is coming from. The good news for me is the end of all this is nigh. I'm taking all of AUG as personal leave, have to go back to work again in SEP, but then detach from active Navy into Army Guard as of the first of OCT. Getting there steadily, one day at a time. Yes, there's been personal and financial cost, but much like Rita Mercier's cold dinners, its self-inflicted nature limits my right to complain.

Ratriey (in the picture next to me) and I were introduced by her aunt more than a year ago and will hopefully be engaged at some point next month. Will post when it happens.

I definitely get a rise out of being challenged over the name of this blog. I say that because I wasn't actually born in New England nor did I have the good sense to have parents who could've moved me here at a younger age. What's funny to me, however, is that people who would never do something as gauche as to question an immigrant's right to be 'American' -- those who would even get misty-eyed during a citizenship oath at Faneuil Hall -- sometimes have a hard time with the blog title. On top of that, I'd add two things...first, as someone who has gone (and will do so again, and soon) overseas wearing this country's uniform, I'll call myself whatever I like, thank you very much. I could get orders to Wright-Patterson tomorrow, step off the plane, call myself an Ohioan...and if you disagree, we need to talk in private! And lastly, it's the name of a blog and a place I love -- I don't think the New Yorker or the Atlantic pretend to represent entire cities or oceans, if you catch my drift.

I love blogging just as I'm sure all bloggers do. It's provided a great albeit unintended way of staying in touch with friends. Besides giving me a public forum to post my thoughts to whoever might care to read them, it's making for a great personal way to *capture* the experience I'm having in the way that a journal would. Also, as Paul Marion wrote earlier this week, blogging gives writers and readers a virtual way to stay in touch with home city, whether that means you're out in Alaska (Tom Sexton), or Huachuca, Fayette-Nam, Afghanistan...or even old Rotten Groton.

I would love to support myself through writing, but the death of print media is going to make that harder and harder for people to do. Blogging may not pay the bills, but it's the next best thing. In the meantime, thanks to any and all who read this, those who link to it, and especially to those who comment.

Also, I am a tea-swilling Anglophile prone to calling people 'mate.'

6 comments:

C R Krieger said...

Since the anonymous bloggers are getting all the attention right now, I am thinking of going anonymous.  But, what would I use as my tactical call sign?

Regards  —  TBD

kad barma said...

We'll need to assume Ratriey is fine with being included via association in this. (Congrats again, btw).

Such concerns, more than any other, compel me to maintain personal discretion. It's fair to say my kids aren't interested to be known as the scions of THAT guy, and i'm not interested to burden them with it.

As you so rightly observe, running for public office changes a lot of things. There is great respect deserved by all those who put themselves forward--Rita et al. included. But that respect cannot extend to remaining beyond criticims both public and anonymous, and those who would use their bully pulpit to bully must be prepared for the brickbats that will follow.

Jon and Kate said...

Great post -- and great point about the pseudo-sacrifice of prominent politicians.

I watched the Rita Mercier clip. It really is amazing how politicians will always find some way to criticize media coverage. From Spiro Agnew and his invention of the "liberal media" to Hillary Clinton and her "vast right wing conspiracy" it's almost a guarantee that our leaders will always criticize the coverage as opposed to its content. Good for all the Lowell bloggers and commentators for making her have such an amazing public meltdown.

Muriel said...

Greg:

I wish I could write as well as you. I think you have a future in the literary world.

John and Kate raise a good point: "politicians will always find some way to criticize media coverage."

Public officials have the right to complaint about anymous sources but not when they use the words of "anonymous" sources to justify their action: i.e. dimissing Andy Sheehan.

Mimi P. of LiL

The New Englander said...

Guys,

Thanks for writing in with those comments. I'm thinking some kind of F-4 thing has gotta be it for the retired Colonel..put that together with the Beverly Hills of Lowell OR Baghdad (Mansour, or Mansur), and there's some kind of Phantom handle waiting to take hold with double or triple meaning..

All points are well-taken and will be borne in mind the next time a pol complains about their line of work (which might happen before I'm done writing this sentence).

Kad, thanks for the good wishes and there is one thing I would say though about the risk of anonymity (just commented on RH but will lay the basic idea out here, too). I see and respect your point about not bringing those who never chose it into the mix, but there are some scenarios that would take that away from you..what if, for instance, we did a bloggers' luncheon and someone from the Sun took a picture with all names and blogs in the caption? I'm not saying that exact thing would happen, but there could be an exposure risk from even well-meaning or neutral sources.

best,
gp

Shannon said...

Greg, Hi there!

I haven't been on in a very long time and am glad to read your blog once again. It is always interesting, funny and I usually learn something, so great job! Even though I am in Tucson its really nice hearing about how your community comes together.

Congratulations on the engagement!! That is exciting! Awesome that you shared that info and the picture!(wow she's beautiful!) Best Wishes!!

I'm attending a wedding in Chicago on October 24 and have never been there before so I am psyched for that.

So, great blog, keep it going( I know you will) and I will post, time permitting lol.

Oh and Hoorah for the name!

Shannon