Friday, August 28, 2009

To Lift The Veil? Looking for Advice...

As many of you who read my blog regularly know, I sometimes flirt with the idea of giving up the whole cloak-and-dagger business of anonymity. Truth be told, I was never one for hiding behind the cover of anonymity. I've been at this now for over four years and in all that time, I have never been entirely comfortable hiding behind a pseudonym. On the contrary -- I am actually far more comfortable putting my real name out there with my opinions. For years I have posted with my real name on an online message board where almost everyone else used a pseudonym -- and I never had a moment's regret from it. And, in truth, since the opinions I have on this blog are the same ones that I have in real life, there shoudn't be any reason to hide behind a pseudonym, should there? And besides, there are plenty of bloggers who have views and attitudes that are fairly similar to mine who have public identities -- and it doesn't interfere with their lives -- so why should it interfere with mine?

As it is, I have been slowly lifting the veil. Over the last few months I've informed a number of friends and relatives about my blog. Several J-bloggers and some of my regular readers also know who I am in real life. So, why not go whole hog and just give up the pseudonym?

Well, truth to be told, there is still one hurdle that I have to face in the coming months, and it might be easier to face that hurdle without the distraction of this blog.

I have two kids going into eighth grade this year -- a boy and a girl. As a result, Eeees and I have the distinct "pleasure" of going through the process of finding high schools for our kids this coming year. And while I probably would not chose any school that would have a major problem with my blog, I still can't help but feel that the whole process would probably be a lot easier without having eight to ten school administrators poring over every word I wrote in the last four years and wondering if it's worth it to have a blogger in the parent body. So for that reason, I would probably wait until after the high school situation is settled.

But that presents another question -- is this honest and fair*? If the only reason that I'm withholding my identity is because I think it might affect the high school application process, does that mean that it's unfair and dishonest to keep the information private? Or, more subtly put -- if I was going to keep my identity private regardless, then I probably would not have this question -- after all, we all have secrets that we keep from everyone else. But, if the only reason (or the major reason) that I'm hiding my identity at this point is because of the high school application process, then perhaps withholding that information from them could be viewed as fraudulent.

Truth to tell, I'm probably blowing the entire matter up in my mind. In truth my blog is not important enough, nor well read enough to probably affect matters one way or the other. I'm willing to bet that if I pulled a ten thousand random Jews off the street and asked them if they read Wolfish Musings on the net, about 9,999 would probably say "Huh? What's that?" So perhaps I'm obsessing over nothing.

What do you think? I'd especially like to hear from those of you whose names are out there -- but, as always, everyone is welcome to comment.

The Wolf


* I don't want to make myself sound like someone who has never told a lie or acted deceitfully in the past -- sadly that is not true. I've had my share of failures (some of them big time) in the honest department during my life. But even if I sometimes fail, I at least make an effort to uphold the values that I want passed on to my kids.

48 comments:

Garnel Ironheart said...

There is a long and honourable tradition of pen names in literature. Just as Samuel Clemens and Anne Rice.

Think of your blog as your cyberpersonality. In real life you're Fishel Goldstein but on-line you're the Wolf! Why not enjoy the change of identity?

As for the school issue, you're 100% right. Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who can't teach, administrate. You're better off without the tzurus.

Ezzie said...

Be realistic. Noble is nice, and I'm a fan of not being anonymous in general, but if it will have real-life repercussions (fair or not) that affect your children, don't be silly. There's something to "if they don't want me because of that, that's their issue", but there's also the issue of educating your children. Of course, you can argue that being open is also educating.

I wrote a pair of posts about 3 years back on why anonymity is important, though I think people should not be. I've yet to see anyone pay for not being anonymous, but we're all at different stages in life with different factors. You may just want to go through your blog and see if anything could be misinterpreted or taken the wrong way.

All seriousness, though, I doubt anyone is combing your blog to reject your kids from school. If they say it's that, it's not that - they were just looking for an excuse.

Ezzie said...

I also don't think withholding that info is fraudulent. It's not their business.

G6 said...

I'm not going to give my opinion on whether or not to drop the veil, but know this:
There will always be something to hold you back. High school applications concerns? That's nothing compared to shidduch concerns, which are not far behind.
Though my feeling on these subjects is that I don't want anybody who doesn't want me as I am.

Off the Derech said...

My opinion: Never give out your name.

Besides, that's how the Internet works. Everyone gets to make up a crazy online identity, and it's a fantasy world, more or less. So it's a level playing field.

tesyaa said...

Your opinions are still your opinions, whether you ever express them in print or verbally, or not.

So regardless of whether you reveal your identity, you may be hiding "secrets" you'd rather the schools not know. And if you are, everyone is. So I don't think you're being deceitful by remaining anonymous.

I broached the same issue with my husband earlier this week. Here's a link to my post (actually, a third of a post) about anonymity:

http://myweirdkids.blogspot.com/2009/08/coming-home.html

TheAnswer said...

To withhold this info the eyes of HS admins is not dishonest at all. They should be judging the children on how well they will succeed in their school, not what are the parent's opinion about evolution. Thus you are doing them a favor by removing the distraction.

Re anonymity in general: Last time you asked about this, maybe 2 years ago, I said it would be a horrible idea. I think things have changed much since then as the kanoim / askanim are being more recognized for who they are and moderate voices are becoming more prevalent. But I don't think we have turned the corner yet. Just read some of the crazy comments on Yeshiva World, VIN etc. and you see there are plenty of people with the heads in the sand. Do you really want to start dealing with them up-close and personal?

Give it time....

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...
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הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Just because you're blog is "out there" doesn't mean school administrators'll know about it. Networking isn't as easy as you think, it's not like they "google" all the parents. Anyway, it's not like you're advocating homosexual atheism or something...

SuperRaizy said...

I've never met your son, but I do know your daughter. Any high school that would consider rejecting such a bright, sweet, well behaved girl because her father blogs is not worthy of having your daughter join their school.

Anonymous said...

tocho kboro

or

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man

KT
Joel Rich

Michael Koplow said...

Wolfish, I have long thought you should remain anonymous. Not because school administrators might read your blog, but because you've written about your children, and at this point it would be an invasion of their privacy to go public. You haven't said anything mean or unkind about them--just things they may not want to be public knowledge.

There are a lot of anonymous bloggers out there who use their anonymity to abuse people. I've griped about this both in my own blog and in comments on others' blogs. You, on the other hand, are an excellent mensh. I wish I knew who you were. But I can live without it. Your children's privacy is more important.

Jewish Atheist said...

If you think schools *should* exclude your kids because you're a blogger, then by all means, disclose. If not, then it's none of their business and you're under no obligation.

I haven't seen anyone blogging under their real name who is as critical of parts of the Orthodox world as you sometimes are. Ezzie is ridiculously uncontroversial (nobody gets in trouble for being right-wing unless they're overtly racist) and Rabbi Student is a Rabbi that carefully walks a line.

Off the Derech said...

>I haven't seen anyone blogging under their real name who is as critical of parts of the Orthodox world as you sometimes are.

Although Garnel is a son of a *****.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing dishonest if you choose not to make your name known. I don't blog, but I do post anonymously because I've been a therapist for many members of religious communities and I would not welcome contact once our work was done. I think the question you should ask yourself is whether or not your children should go to a school if you think that raising the veil of anonymity would mark them for retaliation by the school. I find your views very reasonable and well thought out, which puts me in opposition to those who interpret Judaism more strictly. That's strictly, not necessarily correctly.

Long Time Reader said...

My take is that you should stay anonymous. You have little to gain and much to lose.

Baal Habos said...

Don't do it. Once done, you can not undo it.

Anonymous said...

Don't do it! Wait until you get your kids into school. I have grown up children and went through the high school entry process. There should have been little problems with my kids (boys) getting into any school at all. When I was growing up there would have been competition for them. At least one school and reputedly two turned my oldest down because of me. The whole process is as corrupt as you have heard. Come open after you have passed that hurdle. What your friends know will not disqualify you in some schools ridiculous selection criteria. What you say publicly (in print) will cost your children grief time and again in our "careful" "frum" community.

Believe all those stories you tend to doubt on the net.

Been burnt dad.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the posters. Since you have young children, it's probably not worth outing yourself. At a minimum, I wouldn't come out unless your wife (who sounds like a wonderful person) is entirely comfortable with it.

ProfK said...

We all carry multiple names as multi-faceted people. The names aren't about deception but simply about an identity in one of many roles, some public, some private, some a mix of the two. Even in face to face social interaction to some people I'm ProfK, to some Mrs.K,to some Ms. K, to some my first name (and variations on that as well with long standing nicknames being used), I'm Mr. S's daughter, Mrs. S's daughter, G & H's sister, and an alphabet soup of Aunt and Tante to various nieces and nephews. Being ProfK online is just another identifier in a specific communication situation.

Being Wolf online isn't about hiding or being deceptive--it's what you want to be called in this "social" interaction. In the "real" world we don't always mix our social groups and the names we are known by in those groups. Why should online be any different?

Gil Student said...

I know you, your family and your community. Going public will only have a positive impact on your life. It will definitely not impact your children's school options.

However, as I think someone mentioned above, think carefully about whether any embarrassing private information is on here that your kids wouldn't want publicized.

Lion of Zion said...

stay anon

yitz said...

I think one of the points of blogging anonymously, or under a "pen" name, is that we can say things that otherwise we wouldn't if our real names were attached to them. This obviously has its advantages & disadvantages. Since I haven't been an avid follower of your blog, I don't know, but from what I read above, you're best off remaining anonymous. Or better still, as ProfK says, as the Wolf, as we all know you...

Neil Harris said...

FWIW, I've read you blog for a while (hardly comment, though) and if you truly think going public will make it difficult for your kids, then stay anonymous.

Lvnsm27 said...

I'm annonymous because I'm shy about letting people know it's me. Plus, there's the issue of internet security.

Anonymous said...

I agree with those who hold that you shouldn't do it. No one you haven't told needs to know. The risks outweigh the benefits. One of the risks is that you'll be accused of having said things you never said. Also if you give out your real name, you might find that it will deter you from expressing opinions that others might not agree with.

Ichabod Chrain

Menachem Lipkin said...

As someone who writes and comments on blogs occasionally and usually uses my full name I think, with some rare exceptions, the whole idea of both anonymous blogging and commenting is detrimental to our online discourse.

Anonymity does two things. It allows the anonymous writer to say things he wouldn't and usually shouldn't say in "public". And conversely it allows, or encourages people to respond to him (or her) in a manner that is much harsher and nastier than were the person not anonymous.

In sum, it degrades the discourse.

That said, now that you've written for four years under a pseudonym and have probably said things you shouldn't have or wouldn't have. Revealing yourself could be very difficult and could adversely affect your family. Of course that mere fact basically proves my point.

I think, that if you seriously want to go legit, you should start a new blog under your real name.

Anonymous said...

Anonymity automatically devalues opinions expressed: If you believe in the position, why be ashamed of it?
Look at the comments on most religious sites- The more inane the comment, the more likely it is to be anonymous. Why should the Orthodox world allow itself to live in terror of "what will they say?", why allow the fearmongers to dominate and cow everyone into submission to their standards? This is the same thinking that allows people to stay quiet when they see kids abused, bad shidduchim made, and people going into business with crooks. Stand up for the freedom to think and still be frum!

Yossi Ginzberg

BrooklynWolf said...

Thank you all very much for your thoughts and opinions. I truly appreciate that you all took the time and trouble to help me decide this issue. You've all given me much to think about.

The Wolf

Heshy Fried said...

The most important question to ask is - what would you gain by coming out of the blogging closet. Do you want people coming up to you in shul or the street? I do, but that's because I want people to come to my shows. Seriously, going non-anonymous will change your entire perspective - I personally don't give a crap what people think of me - as long as they visit my blog.

But if you have kids and a wife its another story, what benefit would you gain, do you think you will get more traffic? Probably not...

Shira Salamone said...

If you have to ask the question, then you've already answered it--you obviously have concerns about "going public," so you shouldn't do it.

I, too, have published posts about my son, and I wouldn't want him to be identifiable, even if I, myself, had no reason to blog under a pseudonym.

Michael Koplow said...

I second what Menachem Lipkin said.

Anonymous said...

Can't agree with Menachem or Michael.

Whenever I hear this argument I keep thinking of the guy who wondered whether Shakespeae's plays were really written by Shakespeare or by someone else with the same name.

Don't you guys know what goes on in women's magazines. They're always writing about someone's most intimate confession. They identify her, but then they say "not her real name." Doesn't make the story any less instructive.

The fact that some people hide behind the cloak of anonymity to make inane comments doesn't mean that all anonymous comments are inane.

Somehow I suspect that R' Mississippi Fred's real name isn't Mississippi Fred MacDowell. If pseudonyminous blogging degrades the discourse then how do you explain that Wolfish Musings is, at it's best, a pretty good blog? How do you explain that the best of the skeptic blogs are pseudonyminous?

Pseudonymous blogging doesn't degrade the discourse, any more than Mark Twain's books are degraded by the fact that his real name wasn't Mark Twain.

Brooklyn Wolf is an identifiable pseudonym in the J blogosphere. That ought to be enough.

Ichabod Chrain (not my real name)

Michael Koplow said...

I was going to reply to Wolfish, but first to Ichabod Chrain.

First, I've commented many times that you have the world's best pseudonym, and I still believe that.

Second, you're right. I agree with Menachem that anonymity usually lowers the level of discourse, but it doesn't necessarily. I've commented many times that Brooklyn and Mississippi have utterly menshlich online personas (I don't know them, so it's probably chutzpadik of me to call them by their first names) (but since those probably aren't their real first names anyway, maybe it's OK). This seems to apply to Ichabod (if I may) as well.

And now, Brooklyn (or should that be "The"?), I'm going to be chutzpadik again by using imperative verbs with you. Don't go public. You do have private info about your children on here. Don't bother asking them if they'll be embarrassed--admitting embarrassment is often more embarrassing than the primary embarrassment (at least for me, and I'm probably not the only one).

Michael Koplow said...

And Brooklyn, I have a theory about your true identity (which of course you'll deny). You're really Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank. How do I know this? His predecessor was Paul Wolfowitz, and Wolfowitz's predecessor was James Wolfensohn. Does there appear to be an unwritten job requirement here? The reason they allowed you, Mr. Zoellick, to have the job is because of the blog.

Yeahyeah, you deny it. That's OK.

BrooklynWolf said...

Yep, Michael. You've guessed it. Time to close up shop! :)

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

I think that if you have allowed yourself to make certain comments, express yourself in certain ways and relate certain facts about yourself, children, wife, specifically because you knew that you were anonymous, then revealing your name would be a mistake.

Even if a school administration would not comb through your archives, a zealot might, and create a damning portrait.

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Well he could also be Farley Mowat.

Ichabod Chrain

Just asking said...

>>I was going to reply to Wolfish, but first to Ichabod Chrain.
>First, I've commented many times that you have the world's best pseudonym, and I still believe that.

It's not a bad moniker,but the world's best? Am I missing some sort of deep insight here?

Anonymous said...

Just asking:

You're replying to Michael, not to me.
Sometimes names just ring a chord with people. Michael might have a deeper insight than I do, but he's probably just being polite.

Personally I think Boruch Lochshenbrains is the best one out there on the J blogs, but I haven't seen him for a while.

Ichabod Chrain

Michael Koplow said...

Reb Ichabod, you're the first person ever to think I might be either insightful or polite. Thank you. But you're mistaken about both (in spite of having the world's best pseudonym).

Anonymous said...

Michael,

What do you mean you're not insightful? You figured out who Brooklyn Wolf really was.

Ichabod Chrain

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...
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הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

You know, I was just thinking about it again, and I really don't understand people like you Mr. Wolf, or Ze'ev, or whatever the hell your name is; you're sitting and complaining all day about the Ultra Orthodox community, but when it comes right down to it you're probably going to shul on Friday night with a black hat like them to fit in with them, and you want your sons to go to Chaim Berlin and your daughters to...Shulamith. If they're your enemies then why the hell o you sleep with them? And it's not just you, there's a whole undercurrent of people like you in the Ultra Orthodox community who don't believe in it, yet follow it (among them Atheists too in black hats who send their sons to Chaim Berlin).

I've observed this American community in comparison with the (more religious) Modern Orthodox one closely, and I've found few, if any, redeeming qualities of the former. It seems to be a bastion for "Eastern Europe worshipers" and people who have schizophrenic internal conflicts...

BrooklynWolf said...

Shlomo,

While I have problems with some aspects of the Orthodox Jewish world, I hardly consider them "enemies." I've made it clear on this blog (or at least I thought I did) that I believe in the Torah and observing the mitzvos.

It's kind of like a family... sure we have cousins, aunts and uncles who may be a bit extreme (to us) in their views and actions -- but that doesn't mean that I want to divorce myself from the family as a whole.

The Wolf

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

"I believe in the Torah and observing the mitzvos"- And the Modern Orthodox don't? I'll tell you one thing though, a Modern Orthodox yeshiva wouldn't refuse to accept your kids because they knew you espoused a logical approach to Orthodoxy on a blog..


"but that doesn't mean that I want to divorce myself from the family as a whole"- So it is sort of a communal attachment that keeps you in Flatbush (or wherever) and a conviction of the truths of "the system".

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

"and [not] a conviction"

Y. N. said...

"I'm willing to bet that if I pulled a ten thousand random Jews off the street and asked them if they read Wolfish Musings on the net, about 9,999 would probably say "Huh? What's that?" So perhaps I'm obsessing over nothing."

Wow, are you kidding? You really believe that one in 10,000 random Jews off the street does know about this blog?!