NT Wright on anonymous blogging

Consider NT Wright’s rant on anonymous, nasty blogging:

It really is high time we developed a Christian ethic of blogging. Bad temper is bad temper even in the apparent privacy of your own hard drive, and harsh and unjust words, when released into the wild, rampage around and do real damage. And as for the practice of saying mean and untrue things while hiding behind a pseudonym – well if I get a letter like that it goes straight in the bin … I have a pastoral concern for such people. (And, for that matter, a pastoral concern for anyone who spends more than a few minutes a day taking part in blogsite discussions, especially when they all use code names: was it for this that the creator of God made human beings?) (Justification [2009], 27)

You could take his final remarks two ways: either we are not created to blog more than a few minutes per day, or we are not created to blog with a “code name” or pseudonym. I take it that he means the later, and I entirely agree.

To live as embodied human creatures is to “face” one another, to stand before another in all our limitation and potential. And I see no reason why blogging is any different.  Blog with your real name and put a picture with it. It reminds you that what you say in the blogosphere reflects on who you are; not the virtual you fashioned for the internet, but the embodied you with a face and a name.

16 thoughts on “NT Wright on anonymous blogging

  1. Sorry but there’s too many crazies out there on the Internet for me to wanna put even my full name and where I’m from. Besides if you’re gonna argue that we need to face each other or become less anonymous why not just argue that people need to put their addresses and phone numbers too?

  2. I am glad that N.T. Wright wrote that little piece. Anonymous blogging drives me nuts. It gives a person the ability to say anything they want without any credibility or accountability. I think it’s important that we openly stand behind what we say, especially if we are off base. If you can’t make a statement publicly you shouldn’t make it anonymously. Anonymous usernames are for high school chat rooms, not theology blogs. And I seriously doubt putting your full name, or at least your first name is going to harm you in any way.

  3. I can understand why folks blog anonymously. There are certainly some concerns that might be deemed legitimate, so I wouldn’t want to make a blanket statement about how it’s unacceptable. But I agree that it presents a lot of opportunities for uncharitable or sloppy discourse, and for this reason I think that operating within the confines of one’s real name is probably the most helpful way of blogging. I prefer to sign on other blogs with just my first name, however, as a full name is easily traceable and might bring unwanted publicity via google search to what are, in the end, casual and passing thoughts. But I tend to provide a link to my own blog, so that it’s not as if I’m trying to hide or anything.

    Occasionally I will speak my mind anonymously or pseudonymously, if the situation is a very controversial one or I don’t feel safe or comfortable attaching my name to a certain matter. But I think that this should be the exception and not the rule, and that people should only blog regularly under such a guise in extreme cases… a political blogger within a repressive political situation, or something like that. I don’t think that untenured pseudonymous professors who want to protect their freedom to comment are all that justified in what they do.

    All that said, I also don’t usually like it when blog hosts reveal confidential information, like email addresses or IP addresses of commenters. It seem that this information is understood to be held in trust, and if someone is really abusing the system and you’d like to prevent this, then you can always send them a private email or simply block them from the site. In most cases, though, I don’t think that outing them without warning is appropriate.

  4. I don’t think anything beyond a name and email ought be required. Certainly not wanting your picture online should not count towards someone’s being labeled a ‘coward’.

  5. I’ve been mulling over this the last couple of days trying to understand what Wright might have been suggesting with the “couple of minutes” idea and I think I certainly agree with Kent that Wright’s attack is not against blogging, but anonymous blogging. In some ways, like it or not, blogging has become the normative medium of discourse in our tech savvy society and I think Wright is certainly aware of this. As a result I think Wrights concern (as I think everyone else has pretty much brought up) is with the anonymity in which we can escape into what has become the (dare I say it again) the normative medium of interaction nowadays. I think the anonymity is a luxury that hasn’t been afforded to theologians until now and perhaps Wright is concerned at what might become of that.

    But to be clear, I’d much rather be willing to meet ya’ll in a pub and talk about Wright’s ideas over a pint of stout. It’s certainly the ideal social environment eh? No pseudonyms in that arena.

    • Well said Andy. Graham Ward has an interesting perspective on this in The Postmodern God that I may bring up for some further discussion because I believe it relates. He suggests that cyberspace represents the postmodern medium in which

      “Time and space as perceived by empiricists collapse into omnipresence and multilocality … Cyberspace is an undefined spatiality, like the contours of a perfume, and you are an adventurer, a navigator in uncharted waters, discovering the hero inside yourself. You act anonymously, simply as the unnamed, unidentifiable viewpoint of so many interactive network games, and where an identity is needed, you construct one” (xv).

      If he’s right, then we would be wise to offer our critique of just such a displacement of located-ness, the locality intrinsic to finite creation. Don’t you think?

      • I think the question to ask to that then would be, how in the world do we begin to critique “undefined spatiality”? What about embodying some spatial realm and identity is intrinsic to Christian thought? Certainly the incarnation offers some insight, but how do we begin to generate some Christian ethic of blogging and what normative sources or ideas do we use to justify our claims?

  6. Pingback: Once more on anonymous blogging « Theology Forum

  7. Pingback: Is Cyberspace Evil? Thoughts Toward A Christian Ethic of Blogging | When I Survey . . .

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