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Unmasking Publius

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, June 9 2009

There's been interesting flare-up in the perennial online argument over maintaining anonymity in the political blogosphere. National Review Online's Ed Whelan recently revealed the identity of a writer by the handle of Publius who blogs on the popular political site Obsidian Wings. The two, notes the New York Times' Eric Etheridge, had been rather heatedly going back and forth over the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. Publius' bio on the site revealed only that s/he was a former Washington DC lawyer and now law professor in Texas who "likes to eat things with hot sauce on them." But Whelan caught wind of who Publius might truly be. He emailed the suspect, asking him to confirm his identity. Whelan was right, but Publius asked for discretion. Whelan refused. In response to the pulling back of the curtain on his identity, South Texas College of Law professor John Blevins, blogged, "I would never have done that to my harshest critic in a million years, but oh well."

In an interesting twist, Whelan seems to have come to regret the unmasking. He penned a mea culpa on NRO in which he said understatedly, "I have been uncharitable in my conduct towards the blogger who has used the pseudonym Publius." Of course, this being the Internet and all, once outed, Blevin's identity can't exactly be un-revealed.