« Individualism and the left-right split | Main | Ideological state apparatuses »

April 22, 2007



Dillowbert one, Appleretard nil.


I think what you say makes sense for facts; what Appleyard says holds more for opinions.

And where the facts are contentious - or when people (ie me!) can't be bothered to go back to the original sources, the trust placed in the facts has a lot to do with the identity.

But one doesn't need to know the identity to have built up a relationship of trust: there are several wholly anonymous blogs I would trust above the identifiable journalists in the print media.

Bryan Appleyard

The question you have to ask yourself is: how do you establish that all swans are white? It is the process.

tom s.

Well, I read the article and reread this post and then I rereread the article and then I rereread this post, and my strong belief is that the two of you are talking at entirely cross purposes.

chris strange

I'm in complete agreement with this, the real identity simply does not matter. A regularly used Psuedonym allows just as good baysian priors to be formed about reliablity if you don't feel like investigating the facts, but this is not a substitute to investigating the facts.

For Example General Relavity was once (still is in parts of the world) opposed based on their inventers identities, but because the theory is good nobody sensible cares. Einstien could have signed his papers R. Mutt it would have made no difference to wether they where correct or not, but might have lead to less opposition.

Likewise the statement "all swans are white" can be refuted by the existence of a black swan. Even if it where bill oddie saying it on the BBC he would still be wrong, and could be proved wrong because a nesting pair live in Dawlish in Devon.

Marcin Tustin



I'm sure Appleyard appreciates that you play to his ego, but the first reality that should be noted is that in fact his writing over the years has been *very* hit and miss. Brilliant isn't a word any serious regular reader of his articles would use.

This one is actually much more pathetic in the detail because it's a cry for retaining the position of the expert, most notably that least-expert-expert Appleyard himself (and his ilk.)

It's just another old media cry about their loss of prestige when confronted by oiks like you. What they don't realise is that for most audiences they've never been any more accountable than you are.

To take Appleyard as an example, he writes regularly in the Sunday Times, often misquoting (to take one past example) scientists involved in various forms of genetic engineering. Of course, he never responds to this when called on it. So what is his "identity" worth, more than knowing that "Chris" writes here on this blog and occasionally answers queries posted in the comments?


I'm reluctant to weigh in on Appleyard's side, as I disagree very strongly with the core argument of his piece - about blogs and Tim O'Reilly's "code of conduct". But on the minor point he's spot on. You're confusing identity with identifiability. Knowledge grows from (or resides in) debate, which depends on identity - but identity isn't in any way challenged by the use of a consistent pseudonym.

The stone-kicking empiricism of your counter-example is actually rather weakly grounded. If there is a scholarly consensus that all swans are white - bolstered by a scholarly consensus about the acceptable range of meanings, in this context, for the word 'white' - what value can an isolated counter-observation have? For you it may be true to experience, but so may any number of things. It's only true to me if I can be persuaded to believe it - in other words, if it's upheld as true within a conversation I trust. Which brings us back to identity.


Aargh, the dread phrase: "true to me"! I feel like I've wandered into a first year philosophy tutorial (for anyone in doubt, that's *not* good).


Well, I always wanted to do philosophy. Never did, though - I'm making this stuff up as I go along. (Which, by my own argument, is sufficient reason for you to ignore it. Damn.)

Dave Cole

George Eliot?


George Eliot made 'his' name as an author, after which Maryann Evans had much better prospects of getting published than she would have had under her own name but with rather more constraints on what and how she wrote. Or was that your point?

Surreptitious Evil

Extremely thinly anon, given the properties of the email link top right - even the most brain-dead spam bot scanning the HTML source will have your address ergo your name. Or am I missing something?


The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad