Dust all settled, some thoughts on the TC affair
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.
...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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