Friday, June 25, 2010

Misuse of pseudonyms

In the past few days, I have been engaging on Temasek Review over an article that I have written, which they have published. It was a portion from my post on Mark Ng's case. There was a slight engagement at first, or so I thought. Yet when the conversation was carried further, I found it rather disappointing. Here is my last comment:
If sloo, Wisdom, and simple man represent the rational voice from the disagreeing side, I am rather utterly disappointed. I used to think that the education they were exposed to would avail more intelligibility in their public discourse. But what I have observed so far are ad hominems upon ad hominems. Well, democracy rears its ugly head yet once again. Anyway, I’ll take leave from further engagement as there is nothing of that sort is happening here except mere assertions, unjustifiable prejudices, and anything but rational conversation.

Now that I have tasted first hand the level of intelligibility, not to mention the inability to hold a well reasoned discourse, among some Singaporeans who hid behind pseudonyms, I can reasonably come to a perception over the nation’s society better. Thank you for all who have participated. It was enlightening and surprising for me to witness how Singapore’s public discourse, particularly on good platform such as the Temasek Review, was handled by some of these pseudonymous and dubious personas.

On the other hand, I have to extend my respect and deeper sense of gratitude to locals who have participated without hiding behind pseudonyms. The country is fortunate to have these cultivated individuals who are contributing to the public affair responsibly in their own namesake.

Singapore can still strive into its glorious future with the presence of individuals like Andrew Chuah, Jenny Wong, Jason Leong, and Lim Bock Bock (if this is not a pseudonym though I suspect that it is).
You may read the exchange there.

What I have come to observed, among other things, is the misuse of pseudonyms. Pseudonyms in a public discourse is allowed to protect the whistle blower. This is especially so if it is on political issues.

Should a whistler blower has a piece of information which the public needs to know, then a pseudonym's function is to protect the safety of the whistler blower.

One other case where pseudonym is responsibly used is when the author used it to make a point. That was what Soren Kierkagaard did with his pseudonymous works.

But in the case of the pseudonymous commentors on Temasek Review that I have engaged with, pseudonyms are being used irresponsibly. It is not about protecting individuals from public prosecution due to their leaking of vital confidential information. To these commentors, pseudonyms has different function. It is their license to engage in dialog irresponsibly.

Perhaps precisely because they don't want to embarrass themselves that they chose to use pseudonym. Or worse, precisely because they knew that they will embarrass themselves inevitably, hence they need to engage pseudonymously.

In any case, pseudonym used in such manner has been much exploited to the defeats of its very own purpose. Hence the role of the moderator in this discursive setting is pivotal. In peer-reviewed journal, part of such a role is played by the editor(s). Unfortunately such a critical moderatorship in a public discourse website does not easily come by.

1 comment:

Trebuchet said...

Out of curiosity, can you imagine any other valid circumstances under which a pseudonym might be used besides protecting one's identity while whistleblowing? :)