Wednesday, February 21, 2007

What's on your "permanent record"

Katha Pollitt visits TPMcafe to offer her thoughts on the recent Edwards blogger scandal, which boil down basically to the thought that "mainstream America" isn't really ready for the rough-and-tumble norms of the blogging world:
The man is running for president, not king of the blogosphere, and he's running now, not in some putative future when words like "christofascist" and "fuck" have lost their punch.
It's all very well to dismiss as outmoded people who respond poorly to obscenities and dirty jokes about religion. Fact is, there are a lot of them. A candidate would be out of his mind to alienate them over a staffing matter.
It's hard to disagree. I've had similar discussions with my mother and others (see, e.g., here), who are sufficiently jolted by certain types of phrasing that they become unable to hear the larger arguments getting made. Further, the heat of even shared frustration can dissipate with time, making excerpts appear even more damaging in hindsight. I myself am pretty comfortable with a wide range of snark, parody, swearing, and other forms of mixing personality with intellectual arguments, but it will be a long time before there majority of the country shares that familiarity.
I was also interested in Rafe's response to this same series of events, which looks at the Marcotte experience and Dooce's long-ago blog-related firing (see, e.g., here) and sees a lesson for the ages: be careful about what you share with the public, for it may come back to haunt you.
I think this is really the bottom line, and it's true regardless of your field of endeavor. Political bloggers are in the spotlight now, but unless you are anonymous, what you blog about will affect your career. If you write ugly things about Microsoft, you probably shouldn't expect to later be hired by Microsoft, or people who like Microsoft, or people who dislike people who write ugly things. Yes, your blog can raise your level of visibility and present you with new opportunities, but it can also foreclose opportunities that might otherwise have been available.
Among other things, he notes that many employers now Google job applicants. (Heck, I once was Googled by a blind date, to disconcerting effect.) You may not mind those linkages right now, but will you feel as cavallier about your bloviation when you're applying for executive positions or running for political office? Eventually people's attitudes about such things may change -- either tolerance for tough language might increase, or people might learn to be more forgiving of adolescent websites abandoned long ago -- but that could take a mighty long time. It might be best to keep in mind that even if you're writing for your friends, the record you leave behind could be revisited by anybody...


Cassandra Says said...

This is the best reason I can think of for blogging anonymously.
PS Word verification - oinkv? That's not very nice...

ACM said...

Having to hand-delete dozens of spam comments per day isn't that nice either... (sigh)