Dust all settled, some thoughts on the TC affair

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In the discussion of last night's headline news about TC getting caught with his hand in the comments jar, James Young and Charles, among others, raise the basic questions of whether the Velvet Elvis accusation is true and, if so, whether it's all that bad anyway.

Here's my take on it.

Unless Velvet Elvis has put an amazing amount of time into fabricating the access log, and also is extremely confident there is no cached copy of the logs or the original pages available somewhere, I think the smart money says the charges against TC are true.

Conversely, TC could produce logs contradicting Elvis' claim that all the comments came from the same IP address - but then TC would need to be extraordinarily confident no cached copy of any data contradicting him existed somewhere.

For instance, here is the google cache of one of the pages from March 2006, for which Velvet Elvis reveals the IP access details. There are all kinds of caching mechanisms out there, I believe.

[Tech note: If you go to google and type "cache:" and then the exact address of a Web page from within the past year or so, you can see the original post. For the link above, I used "cache:http://tooconservative.com/?p=228".]

Because of the sheer amount of work and risk which would be involved in either of the scenarios above, I strongly believe the story is just as it appears: TC wrote a bunch of comments to his own posts under different names, probably to help drive the discussion and keep people coming back. When this Elvis fellow posted the IP access details, TC realized someone with admin privileges was doing things TC did not want done, and began to lock everything down. (Thus the impression that he'd been hacked...well, actually he HAD been hacked but in a different way.)

As noted in the previous post, this should be a character-building experience for someone. Attempting to mount a defense against the charges if the charges are true would be sad. Character is developed from lessons of experience, especially the experiences when you do something wrong and can't take it back. Maturity in large part consists of scar tissue.

As to the ethics: I don't know enough about local politics to really opine on the content of TC's various alter egos' comments. That would be one aspect of the question. On the basic question of creating pseudonymous comments to one's posts, I'd just say it's goofy - especially the way he seems to have done it. The personalities of the commenters seem similar although they do present different opinions to drive the discussion. To me it does not seem a very interesting use of the incognito. I'll let others analyze the content of the remarks.

Now if he had created drastically different personas, not only representing different shades of the political spectrum, but also having crazy people argue with sane people, THAT would be worth the effort although much harder to pull off.

It would still be goofy and evoke the "too much free time" observation. If you're going to build a blog community just be yourself and see what happens, is my personal approach. But in principle I think the pseudonymous commenter scheme could be interesting and ethically defensible if done with imagination, because it could create interest for visitors. And for many bloggers, visitors (real ones), are what it's all about.

UPDATE: As a result of Charles' hysterical little exercise in the comments, I am inspired to implement a new policy here on the NVTH Blog: We welcome your pseudonymous, schizophrenic comments. Assume any persona, and it will be up to the NVTH admin to suss you out. (Bear in mind, however, that if I can't find an automated way to do this in MT, your secret may remain hidden forever. So if you truly need to be recognized for saying something clever, use your own name or alert me to the masquerade.) I may have some fun with this myself.

UPDATE II: Whoa! I missed this: Emma, commenting at BVBL, just reminded us that our own Sophrosyne made this observation back in March:

...the suddenly homeless former contributors used the original blogger website to demonstrate their displeasure at their authoritarian removal and hinted that if Vince continued to pressure them (to get them to vanish from the blogger site as well) they would (according to our limited understanding of the situation) reveal IP address information demonstrating that Vince has also been posting anonymously under various pseudonyms to further his own agenda.

I guess Soph, wherever he/she is, is enjoying a quiet "I told you so" moment right now.

UPDATE III: From reading all the comments here and on other blogs, I am aware of the niggling question: What about all the people Too Conservative has been slamming? Should there be a schadenfreude side to this story?

Well, obviously we have a stake in this, as TC has provided one of our premier identifiers. We're the "Group B" people. Also, I get pretty ticked off at how TC derogates individuals like Eugene Delgaudio, Heidi Stirrup and Mike McHugh, among many others: the Republican wing of the Republican Party. People like these folks are the reason I am active in the local party. Sometimes I think Vince having a site called "Too Conservative" where he slams conservatives, would be like me starting a blog called "Too Gay." It's something I could only imagine doing if I had a serious animus toward gay people.

I'm pretty new to local politics so the jabs don't sting all that much, and I have two kids who are both older than Vince so I have a lot of tolerance for kids calling me an idiot. I've watched mine grow out of it, and I assume I'll get to see Vince do the same.

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charles said:

I think the act of multiple postings under different names would be just fine, IF the blog said it would do so in its header. Disclosure allows participants to make up their own minds about how they feel about it.

In this case the use of alternate egos seems to have been in some cases to say personally "mean" things about people without dirtying the hands of the owner of the site. Since TC's site was thriving at the time because of the back-and-forth personal insults, any successful provocation helped drive the site numbers.

As I've said before, there was a writer for the LA Times that got slapped down hard for doing this on his blog, mostly to add "new" voices defending his positions against other commenters.

But it is clear Vincent isn't the first person to do this, it even has a name "sock-puppeting", I believe.

Of course, when you do it on your own site you are the only one that knows. If a commenter tries it, they have to hope the owner will keep it secret -- and Vincent did from time to time suggest he might reveal information against people who were arguing against his favorites.

george said:

Do we know that charles has never posted anonymously? he seems pretty self-righteous about this whole thing. And it's not like he doesn't attack people on his blog, or call people names.

I call pot-kettle on little miss goodie-two-shoes charles.

charles-fan said:

there's a example why anonimous comments are bad. I believe Charles when he says he doesnt post under other names, but I bet goerge is just jealous of Charles.

charles said:

Joe, having tried there for a bit, I agree that trying to post under multiple names to stoke up a discussion seems like a lot of work.

Feel free to delete george, charles-fan, and this post. I was hoping I could make something of an "example", but I'm too distracted watching the older version of Willy Wonka (which has much better songs than the remake with Johny Depp).

Oh my, I am crying here. Charles, buddy, I love it.

I was savoring the discovery that, having checked the IP log, the last three posts were all from Charles, when he goes and outs himself. I like the direction this is going...

charles said:

BTW, on the topic of "who is Elvis", my daughter pointed out to me that both "Velvet Elvis", and the "King of Suede" (his title on his blog) were names of Wierd Al Yankovic songs.

I now have those songs running through my head. Ouch.

I will not release others ips...as "velvet elvis" did.

Charles, you're killing me.

TC, it's a tough spot. A mea culpa will likely put the issue to bed.

Hon. Eugene Delgaudio, Supervisor said:

Thanks be to God and Novatownhall blog. You are the deserving recipient of the "worst blog" by "too conservative". It actually means you are the BEST blog.

Supervisor, welcome and thank you for visiting our humble blog! We are not worthy!

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