Also, Danielle Allen on the link between privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights–why one can be free unless one can have privacy– here. I diaried this on Daily Kos. The civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s would have been smashed if the government had had the powers it has now.
Archive for the ‘civil rights’ Category
Posted by Charles II on August 30, 2013
Posted by Charles II on December 19, 2012
This was crossposted at DK.
Robert Bork died today at the age of 85. We wish him the best in the afterlife. In this life, I regret to say, he was consistently on the side of doing wrong when it came into contention with doing what was right.
Bork first came to prominence for his participation in the coverup of Watergate. When Nixon ordered the Justice Department, then under Elliott Richardson, to fire the special prosecutor who was investigating Nixon’s misdeeds, Richardson refused, as did his deputy William Ruckelshaus. Both resigned rather than be part of Nixon’s attempt to save himself. Bork had no such scruples (he claims he did so in consultation with Richardson and Ruckelshaus and for the good of the nation, but this is doubtful [Correction: Eliot Richardson confirmed that he approved what Bork did.).
To conservatives, Bork is a hero. After Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan was defeated, Ted Kennedy in a moment of hubris, boasted that he had “Borked” the nominee. So conservatives, choosing to avoid the totality of the record, have seen Bork as a martyr to liberalism. What conservatives forget is that Bork was rejected 58-42, a bipartisan majority, and the largest majority recorded against any nominee to the Court.
Bork seems primarily to have been an opportunist. In an interview with the DC Bar, he says that as a young man, when socialism was ascendent, he was a socialist. During World War II, he was a college student. He partied until the last days of the war, when he enlisted. He was going to be a labor lawyer until the political climate changed, and then he joined Kirkland & Ellis, a macher corporate law firm.
He got on the faculty of Yale law, where he says he was treated well by the liberal faculty (not that Yale Law has ever been particularly liberal). And then, he says, the “uprising” (the protests of the 1960s) brought an end to all that good feeling. Bork, of course, went with the side that supported repression, and so ended up as Solicitor General for the Nixon Administration. After all, what are the ideals of conservatism if not massive concentration of power under the Executive, illegally making war, spying on the citizens, and criminal acts up to and including murder? Bork left that Administration fundamentally unrepentant:
BR: When you look back on the Nixon presidency, what do you feel?
RHB: I feel sad. Nixon had the intellectual equipment to be a great president. But he destroyed himself. And for what? I never would have believed that the president had something like the “Plumber’s Unit” in the White House, breaking into Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office and all of that nonsense. It was not only wrong, it was so foolish. So unnecessary.
Unnecessary? How about alarming? or dangerous? or criminal? There is no hint of indignation in Bork’s comments on Nixon.
But beyond the opportunism, there was something darker, and this was what was behind his rejection by a bipartisan majority of the Senate. The Washington Post:
At Yale, Judge Bork quickly became the conservative movement’s Ivy League voice. He wrote a critique of the constitutionality of the 1964 Civil Rights Act for Sen. Barry Goldwater, and he became a member of Scholars for Goldwater when the Arizona Republican became his party’s presidential nominee in 1964.
Judge Bork wrote an influential law journal article in 1971 outlining a school of legal thought later known as “intentionalism.” He argued that judges should confine themselves to the “original intent” of the framers of the Constitution in determining what kinds of actions should be protected by the law. He also maintained that only “political speech” could be protected by the First Amendment.
Throughout his career as a legal scholar, Judge Bork repeatedly criticized a 1965 Supreme Court decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, in which a state law prohibiting married couples from using contraceptives was struck down. The court ruled that the state law was unconstitutional because it violated a constitutional right to privacy.
Judge Bork maintained that the constitution held no such provision.
The idea of “intentionalism” is a bit scary. It holds that what the Founders thought overrules any subsequent developments. Under what theory could one oppose the 1964 Civil Rights Act…
To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes.
…if not the belief that the Founders’ endorsement of slavery trumped the Civil War, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, and the bitter struggle of the 1950s and 1960s to end Jim Crow? According to Nancy MacLean, this is what he wrote:
Robert Bork argued that it was sophistry to distinguish property rights and
human rights; property rights were human rights of the highest order and “individual liberty”
depended on their sanctity. The issue, he said, “is not whether racial prejudice is a good thing but
whether individual men ought to be free to deal and associate with whom they please for whatever
reasons appeal to them.” For anyone to tell these white citizens “that even as individuals they may
not act on their racial preferences” was “unsurpassed ugliness.”
Similarly, opposition to Griswold was, even by the time of Bork’s nomination, bizarre. Contraception had been legally available for twenty years, having been declared constitutional by the very Court Bork was nominated to be on! Bork’s defenders have excused his writings as academic legerdemain, unrepresentative of what he would actually have done. But the reason the Senate rejected him was because they could not get him to state honestly what he believed. He sounded as if he was concealing a belief that his own views, masked as “intentionalism” could surmount every boundary imposed by the law. Robert Bork was not voted onto the Court because he sounded like a madman.
If one followed his subsequent career, that conclusion is confirmed. His book, Slouching Toward Gomorrah (a title of the greatest irony) is not a deeply intellectual work, but a bizarre pastiche of ignorance and demonization. Example:
On science: Bork claims that “the fossil record is proving a major embarrassment to evolution”,
My favorite passage is his claim that there was no real domestic opposition to Vietnam, that it was all the result of a communist conspiracy. Quoting an unnamed visiting professor, he says:
“the first eruptions could be traced to a radical ‘who had come down the Ho Chi Minh Trail from Berkeley.’”
After all, if opposition to the Vietman War was simply a communist conspiracy, the deaths of protestors are simply enemy casualties. And Slouching Toward Gomorrah was not written in the heat of the Vietnam War, but decades after it had been recognized as a terrible mistake.
It should also be noted that he accepted the idea of criminalizing homosexuality:
In a letter to the faculty, he wrote that “homosexuality is obviously not an unchangeable condition like race or gender” and that such “behavior, it is relevant to observe, is criminal in many states.” Judge Bork’s arguments did not persuade the majority of the faculty.
At the time (1977), that was not a remarkable position in much of the country, but it does mark him as a man whose idea of liberty extended only to straight white males– like the Founders.
In many ways, the life of Robert Bork illustrates what is wrong with modern conservatism. Driven by opportunism and inflated with ignorance and hubris, it has ceased to represent a reasoned defense of traditional values and, like the Confederacy, has come to represent a desperate attempt to prevent necessary reform even at the cost of destroying the nation.
Thank God Robert Bork never made it onto the Court. The “intentionalists” there now, men like Scalia, are frightening enough.
Added: A line from his Washington Post obituary struck me:
Late in life, after he had married his second wife, a former Catholic nun, Judge Bork converted to Catholicism.
“There is an advantage in waiting until you’re 76 to be baptized, because you’re forgiven all of your prior sins,” he said in a 2003 interview with the National Catholic Register. “Plus, at that age you’re not likely to commit any really interesting or serious sins.”
It sounds to me as if he had no intention to repent of the angry divisions which he sowed in life. In his mind, I suppose, he had done the minimum of what Christian “law” requires with the expectation of getting the full reward. I suppose this makes him an opportunist even in death. That is truly, truly tragic.
Rachel Maddow, in her show of 12/19, pointed out that Judge Robert Bork ruled that it was legal for an employer to order a woman to be sterilized and that if she did not do so, she could be fired.
Posted by Charles II on April 9, 2012
Via Avedon, we learn from Glenn Greenwald the astonishing depths to which our government will go to suppress any consideration of the damage the so-called War on Terror is inflicting to our own freedoms.
Laura Poitras is an award winning film maker. At present, she is making a film about
…the way in which The War on Terror has been imported onto U.S. soil, with a focus on the U.S. Government’s increasing powers of domestic surveillance, its expanding covert domestic NSA activities (including construction of a massive new NSA facility in Bluffdale, Utah), its attacks on whistleblowers, and the movement to foster government transparency and to safeguard Internet anonymity.
She has been the target of an organized campaign of harassment:
Since the 2006 release of “My Country, My Country,” Poitras has left and re-entered the U.S. roughly 40 times. Virtually every time during that six-year-period that she has returned to the U.S., her plane has been met by DHS agents who stand at the airplane door or tarmac and inspect the passports of every de-planing passenger until they find her (on the handful of occasions where they did not meet her at the plane, agents were called when she arrived at immigration). Each time, they detain her, and then interrogate her at length
She has had her laptop, camera and cellphone seized, and not returned for weeks, with the contents presumably copied. On several occasions, her reporter’s notebooks were seized and their contents copied, even as she objected that doing so would invade her journalist-source relationship. Her credit cards and receipts have been copied on numerous occasions. In many instances, DHS agents also detain and interrogate her in the foreign airport before her return, on one trip telling her that she would be barred from boarding her flight back home, only to let her board at the last minute.
Recently, the attack has been escalated:
This time, however, she was told by multiple CBP agents that she was prohibited from taking notes on the ground that her pen could be used as a weapon. After she advised them that she was a journalist and that her lawyer had advised her to keep notes of her interrogations, one of them, CBP agent Wassum, threatened to handcuff her if she did not immediately stop taking notes. A CBP Deputy Chief (Lopez) also told her she was barred from taking notes, and then accused her of “refusing to cooperate with an investigation” if she continued to refuse to answer their questions (he later clarified that there was no “investigation” per se, but only a “questioning”).
Think about it. Agents seriously imply they will arrest a journalist for assault for writing and that they will arrest her for obstruction of justice for declining to answer questions. They spit on the Fourth Amendment by searching laptops, cell phones, and so on. They potentially expose a journalist to identity theft by photocopying credit cards.
It seems to me that Poitras almost doesn’t need to make a film about how the so-called War on Terror is destroying liberty. Just telling us what she has gone through is lesson enough…if Americans will listen.
Posted by Charles II on February 28, 2012
Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, truthout:
As Part II of this discussion will show, infiltration is the norm in political movements in the United States. Occupy has many opponents likely to infiltrate to divide and destroy it beyond the usual law enforcement apparatus. Others include the corporations whose rule Occupy seeks to end, conservative right wing groups allied with corporate interests and other members of the power structure including non-profit organizations allied with either corporate-funded political party, especially the Democratic Party which would like Occupy to be their Tea Party rather than an independent movement critical of both parties.
On the very first day of the Occupation of Wall Street, we saw infiltration by the police. We were leaving Zuccotti Park and were stopped in traffic by the rear of the park. We saw an unmarked van open, in the front seat were two uniformed police and out of the back came two men dressed as occupiers wearing backpacks, sweatshirts, and jeans. They walked into Zuccotti Park and became part of the crowd.
If it were a matter of police undercover agents simply coming to observe public events, that might be tolerable. But they are engaged in provoking criminality, in photographing or creating files on protesters engaged in lawful activity, and misdirecting the movement. The first is itself a crime. The second and third are the tactics of totalitarian regimes. The consequence is that the US is much less free than most industrialized nations in terms of tolerating dissent and protest. The majority of citizens are afraid of engaging in street demonstrations.
This is not healthy. The end result is likely to be an explosion, when things go so wrong that people overcome their fear, as happened in Egypt. The alternative is even worse: decline, with no bottom.
Update: Another Wikileak, not from the Stratfor file, shows that the Department of Homeland Security has opened a file on Occupy. While it’s based on open source reporting, it’s unsettling to have the Feds’ attention on a largely peaceful domestic protest movement. Kevin Gosztola has a summary here.
Posted by MEC on February 7, 2012
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
The people may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry.
Posted by Charles II on December 27, 2011
I had an interesting back-and-forth with Echidne on the case of Tanya Rosenblit, who was hassled on an Israeli bus because she refused a demand by an ultra-Orthodox Jew that she sit in the back. Revital Blumenfeld, Haaretz:
A woman passenger on a public bus from Ashdod to Jerusalem Friday was told by an ultra-Orthodox male passenger to move to the back of the bus. The man held the door of the bus open and would not allow it to move for approximately 30 minutes.
When other passengers began to complain about the delay, the driver called the police. The policeman who arrived on the scene spoke with the man and then also asked the woman, Tanya Rosenblit, to move to the back of the bus. When she refused, the man who had been holding the door alighted and the bus continued on its way.
This has caused an explosion of comparisons to Rosa Parks, which I said I thought was an overblown comparison. Parks’ action occurred in 1955, before the Civil Rights movement had gained substantial white support. Parks was arrested and booked. She lost her job and was forced to move. But in that era and that place, she could just as easily have been lynched. And, perhaps central to understanding the issue, Parks placed herself in resistance against an established system; Jim Crow was the law. Rosenblit was behaving lawfully, and the man who harassed her was acting as a radical disruptor of the established order.
Echidne pointed to a passage in what I think was an excerpt from DemocracyNow:
The act of defiance has sparked a national discussion in Israel on the issue of gender segregation. On Monday, the disagreement turned violent when ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh clashed with police. Hundreds of men in the ultra-Orthodox community took part in the unrest. Members of local news crews were reportedly hurt in the clashes, and at least six Beit Shemesh residents were arrested. An estimated 10,000 people are expected to turn out in the community today to protest the exclusion of women, as well as violence against girls and women by Haredi extremists.
and Echidne asked whether violence against women might not be a factor in Rosenblit’s resistance. I was not sure, so I said that if it were, it might make the comparison to Parks a little bit closer, but still: Parks couldn’t choose to become white, while ultra-Orthodox women can leave their communities, and it’s highly unlikely that an ultra-Orthodox woman could be assassinated for defiance. Echidne countered by asking whether it’s not true that women in ultra-Orthodox families are deliberately not educated in skills that would make it possible for them to leave. Good point. It’s obviously something to read up on.
And I found some fascinating things. Here’s the description by Oz Rosenberg, Nir Hasson, Revital Blumenfeld, Barak Ravid and Talila Nesher of Haaretz of the Beit Shemesh clashes:
About 10,000 people came to Beit Shemesh last night to protest against religious extremism in Israel in general and this Jerusalem-area city in particular. The issue came to a head publicly after television coverage last week showing ultra-Orthodox extremists harassing Na’ama Margolese, 8, the daughter of immigrants from North America. The rally took place next to her school, Orot Banot.
Margolese became a focus of attention after Channel 2 news broadcast a story Friday night showing her facing a gauntlet of abuse from Haredi men and boys as she walked to school.
This has forced Netanyahu to at least take verbal action. Herb Keinon, JPost:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu directed Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch Saturday to get the police to aggressively take action to combat violence by extremist haredim (ultra-Orthodox) against women.
Netanyahu phoned Aharonovitch following a Friday night Channel 2 report showing an eight-year old modern orthodox girl afraid to walk 300 meters to school because of harassment from some haredim because of her attire. The report interviewed a haredi man saying it was permissible to spit at even a school age girl if she was not dressed “properly.”
However, violence against women by the haredim is apparently a relatively recent phenomenon, one that I had been unaware of. Writing in YNET in 2009, Elana Sztokman says:
[T]his year, something has changed. There is something about trends in violence against women in Israel that make me feel truly unsafe. Violence against women has become part of the public display in parts of Israel. It has become acceptable in some areas, and legitimized. Women who are beaten, spat upon, thrown acid upon – all in public – are cast aside. The perpetrating men are heroes and the women are left to lick their wounds, in private, alone.
The reason why this is so frightening is precisely because it is so public. There is no fear – no fear of the law, no fear of retribution, and clearly no fear of women fighting back.
And it’s not clear how widespread Sztokman’s experience is. A Google News search shows only 38 results from 2008-10 for haredi violence women. There are 108 more in 2011 through December 15th. Switching to UltraOrthodox violence women increases the hits to 549 in 2011 through December 15th, but many or most have nothing to do with violence against women. This story from October, 2011, for example, talks about vandalism directed against stores, not against women (though one of the alleged motivations for the violence is “insufficiently modest” dress for women).
Finally, this blog says that the response to Rosenblit’s defiance is that the ultra-Orthodox are going to create their own, separate bus system. Like the formation of white-only private schools in the post-1964 era, this sort of solution delights me, amounting to a self-imposed fine on hatred.
In summary, I don’t think Tanya Rosenblit should be compared to Rosa Parks. Rosenblit is clearly courageous and violence is clearly a growing issue. But there the comparison ends. Israel is clearly facing a backlash against what had been progressive treatment of (Israeli) women, and the law is on Rosenblit’s side.
Still, Echidne raised important points to understanding the issue,challenging me to read up on things. That’s the value of online community: we’re able to query one another and inspire one another to actually learn a thing or two.
Posted by Charles II on December 2, 2011
Lieberman (Lieberman doesn’t believe in the Constitution either, but not a Dem)
Republicans who believe that it does:
You can read Greenwald on how bad this bill is–and how completely out of control the situation was before this bill ratified the suspension of the Constitution–here.
Once again, the rights defined in the US Constitution are not just rules on a piece of paper. They are some of the basic human rights. These include the right to face one’s accusers, to due process and to a speedy trial. Passing laws that fly directly in the face of the Constitution is, in effect, to deny the existence of God and the inherent dignity of Humankind.
This will not end well.
Posted by Charles II on November 29, 2011
I long ago accepted that most of the people in Washington had lost their minds and the rest were a bit wobbly on reality. I did not think that Carl Levin would be one of them. But read this and see if you don’t think that he has lost all sense of proportion. Also note that one Senator is standing up for sanity. From DemocracyNow:
AMY GOODMAN: The Senate could vote as early as Wednesday on a Pentagon spending bill that could usher in a radical expansion of indefinite detention under the U.S. government. A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act would authorize the military to jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world without charge or trial. The measure would effectively extend the definition of what’s considered the U.S. military’s battlefield to anywhere in the world, even the United States. The measure’s authors, Democratic Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, have been campaigning for its passage in a bipartisan effort. But, the White House has issued a veto threat with backing from top officials including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James clapper, an FBI Director Robert Mueller. The measure was inserted into the full military spending bill after the Armed Services Committee quietly approved it without a single public hearing. Now Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has set Wednesday as a procedural vote day to advance the legislation. For more we’re joined by Daphne Eviatar, Senior Associate with the Law and Security Program at Human Rights First. On Monday, Human Rights First released a letter from 26 retired military leaders urging the Senate to vote against the measure as well as against a separate provision that would repeal the executive order banning torture. Daphne Eviatar joins us in the studio today. Welcome to Democracy Now!. Explain exactly what this legislation is about.
DAPHNE EVIATAR: OK, first of all, the legislation is 680 pages long, and so one reason this has been able to get through so quietly is that the controversial provisions [Amendment 1107] are just three or four provisions within this huge package. The ones that we’re particularly concerned about, are for—-specifically the one you mentioned about creating a system of indefinite military detention within the United States by statute…
DAPHNE EVIATAR: … another very controversial provision in the bill and what the administration has particularly objected to, is the mandatory military custody provision which would say anyone suspected of terrorism in any way connected to Al Qaeda would have to be put into military custody. So, the government wouldn’t even have the option. So, all these FBI investigations that are thwarting terrorist attacks and local police investigations, immediately that would have to be turned over to the U.S. military, and that would become a military action here in the United States, on U.S. soil.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the [Mark, not Tom] Udall Amendment?
DAPHNE EVIATAR: The Udall Amendment would basically table this.
AMY GOODMAN: Who are the military leaders who have signed on to the letter that you released this week?
DAPHNE EVIATAR: Those are retired generals and admirals, very senior people. Many of the same people who stood behind President Obama when he signed an executive order on his second day in office banning the use of torture and closing the CIA’s secret prisons. So many of those same people are saying, you know what, this is not a good idea.
DAPHNE EVIATAR: … the third provision, which I didn’t have a chance to talk about is just that it extends the transfer restrictions. It means you can’t transfer anyone out of Guantanamo. And the worst thing, and this is also something very few people have realized, but, Secretary Panetta mentioned this recently, is it would prevent the transfer of detainees out of Bagram and Afghanistan. So, we have about 3000 detainees being detained indefinitely in Afghanistan at the Bagram Air Base. Now, the U.S. wants to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. This would make it almost impossible to do that, because you wouldn’t be able to transfer these detainees to Afghanistan because Afghanistan could never meet the conditions that are set out in the bill to accept detainees from the United States.
[In addition, legislation proposed by Senator Kelly Ayotte of NH would authorize torture]
OK, so in summary: Carl Levin has proposed suspending our obligations under international treaties and the US Constitution to permit indefinite detention by the military of anyone, even a US citizen inside the United States, on the mere suspicion of being involved in terror. If your neighbor doesn’t like you and anonymously calls in saying, “She talks to people who look foreign to me,” even if those people happen to be your British exchange student, that’s enough to send you to Guantanamo. And, he wants to keep us in Afghanistan forever so that we can hang onto 3000 people at Bagram. Either that or, in effect, transfer them abroad into a gulag. And, just as a bonus, Kelly Ayotte wants to authorize torture for anyone who lands up in the Gulag Archipelago the Levin-McCain legislation would create. This despite the fact that numerous senior military commanders think it’s a bad idea.
Our military leaders do not want torture, since that would make them war criminals under existing treaties:
Our military and intelligence agencies have made clear they do not want this issue revisited. In 2009 they unanimously reported they had all the authority they needed to effectively interrogate. Responding to calls to bring back “enhanced interrogation techniques,” when he was commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan last year, General Petraeus unequivocally stated “we should not go there.”
Fortunately, the ACLU has made it easy for you to write to your state’s senators here.
Posted by Charles II on October 30, 2011
Ed Vulliamy, The Guardian:
The former chief prosecutor for the US government at Guantánamo Bay has accused the administration he served of operating a “law-free zone” there, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the order to establish the detention camp on Cuba.
Retired air force colonel Morris Davis resigned in October 2007 in protest against interrogation methods at Guantánamo….
Davis said that the methods of interrogation used on Guantánamo detainees – which he described as “torture” – were in breach of the US’s own statutes on torture, and added: “If torture is a crime, it should be prosecuted.”
Davis, an expert on the law of war, and former judge advocate for the US Air Force, said that prisoners at Guantánamo have “fallen between” the conventions and rules governing prisoners of war. He questioned the notion of a “war on terror”, saying: “Prisoners of war are supposed to have been captured on the battlefield. Abducting people off the streets of Indonesia and other places far from Afghanistan is pushing the envelope on what is a battlefield. The whole world is in essence the battlefield.”
Professor Thomas Keenan, the head of the Bard College human rights programme, which staged the conference, said: “The president campaigned on a pledge to close down the jail at Guantánamo Bay, and to end the use of military commissions to try its inmates. How is it possible that, two years after he was elected, there are still more than 150 prisoners there, and this November, one of them will go on trial before one of those very commissions?”
I don’t think this is boring, old news, or that Col. Davis is a left-wing ideologue. I think it’s an indictment of both the Bush and the Obama Administrations that should be forwarded to the International Criminal Court.
Posted by Charles II on October 30, 2011
Tara Smith of Aetiology produced what I would call a very, very important post. Some excerpts:
For those who haven’t run across that yet, National Geographic has decided to eliminate pseudonyms and force everyone with a blog remaining here (which is already dwindling) to blog under their real names. Meanwhile, out here in the real world, there’s a new unfortunate case study (short version: “EpiGate”) showing how blogging under one’s real name can lead to serious threats and potential loss of employment, among other things.
I blog under my own name (obviously), but if I were starting out now, I probably wouldn’t make that choice again. … I don’t enjoy being harassed. Long-time readers will note that it’s rare that I write about HIV denial, even though that was such a main topic of this blog once-upon-a-time that it even culminated in a journal article. It’s just tiring to be harassed personally by deniers–and even moreso to have my colleagues and administration bullied.
And this is just what’s happened to my colleague, EpiRen. He managed to tick off an online bully; said bully then called EpiRen’s superiors, who gave him a choice between his blogging and his employment. Not surprisingly, EpiRen eventually ended up pulling his public blog and Twitter feed, to the detriment of anyone who wanted a good source of public health information on the internets.
These things aren’t just theoretical. HIV denier Andrew Maniotis showed up, unannounced, at my work office one day a few years ago. The recently-arrested “David Mabus” showed up at an atheist convention. While using a pseudonym doesn’t always protect you–certainly many pseuds have been outed by those willing to do the detective work–it at least offers you some measure of protection from threats, both online and off.
Privacy is a fundamental human right. The ability to write under pen names was essential to the American Revolution. And, as figures from Samuel Clemens to Pauline Phillips, from Charles L. Dodgson to George Kennan demonstrate, people who write under pen names are neither cowards nor freaks. They just believe that privacy is healthy. It’s the thugs and bullies and authoritarians who want to deny that basic human right.