About Being cactus

A while back, shortly after his identity was made public, Atrios wrote about the difference, or rather, the lack of difference, between writing as Atrios and writing as Duncan Black. (I wish I could find that post. Unfortunately, I have to work from my memory, which isn’t always that great.) He noted that if he wrote a lot of nonsense and signed it Duncan Black, Duncan Black would lose all credibility. If he wrote a lot of nonsense and signed it Atrios, Atrios would lose all credibility. As a result, writing anonymously though with a recognizable handle didn’t somehow give him license to write a lot of nonsense.

I was thinking about this yesterday… when someone spoofed my handle on one of the comment threads. Now, I’m not Atrios. Angry Bear is a not a high traffic site, its somewhat specialized, and I am only one of its writers. Eschaton, Atrios’ site, on the other hand, is one of the big boys (we’re talking orders of magnitude difference in hits), Atrios looks at all sorts of news, and he’s the only poster (except when he’s out of the office). But one thing we have in common – just as Duncan Black took care of the name Atrios, I try to ensure that what goes out signed by cactus is accurate.

Now, cactus is not entirely anonymous. I’ve provided enough information about myself to allow a regular reader with a good memory of that information to track down my “secret identity” within five minutes or so, provided they had access to Google or Yahoo. I do think (and I don’t think Atrios mentioned this, but again, I don’t remember that post) cactus is slightly different from, well, me. The two are very similar, of course. Former students have written to cactus inquiring whether cactus was the guy who used to teach econ. But there are some differences in personality… If I’m going to be honest, cactus is probably a little more confrontational, a bit more judgmental, and takes himself a bit more seriously than my real life persona. But the resemblance is remarkable.

So why care about the cactus persona? Well, I’m still anonymous, but even some bloggers who are not – much bigger names like Atrios and TBogg identities are known – still use their pseudonyms. Perhaps its because they’re used to it. In my case… well, I still haven’t figured out what I want to do with my life. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be come a Republican. (Heh heh heh.) Regardless, I am not wealthy, independently or otherwise, and for the short run, I don’t want to limit my options.

Anyway, I doubt any of that matters to the person who spoofed my handle. I have no idea if it will happen again. But I wouldn’t be surprised. I guess I hit a nerve. The spoofer doesn’t like what I write. But they can’t find a way to argue and prove me wrong. That’s not to say I am not sometimes wrong, as regular readers can attest. But clearly, on the things that matter to the spoofer, the spoofer is unable to do it, unwilling to change his or her mind when presented with facts contrary to his/her perspective, and unwilling to walk away. Unable, or more likely, unwilling to recognize its because of his or her own feeble arguments and inferior reasoning skills, he or she strikes in the only way he can – like a child. So to the spoofer – I can’t stop you, so do whatever makes you feel big. Knock yourself out. And feel very proud.

In comments, Nicholas Weaver makes a good point: “Its not ANONYMITY anyway, its stable PSEUDONYMs. Theres a huge difference.” Put another, for those who follow this blog, cactus has been imbued with an identity and a character. Only a handful of people would recognize my “real name” if they saw it, so for all practical purpses, the identity I have in matters related to economics is cactus.