Last week, a day after mentioning in our post commenting on Dean Carrington's statement that "we have little more to say on the subject" of our anonymity (see end of post here, under number 3), we sent an e-mail to Dean Velvel with some further comments on the subject.
Our e-mail was prompted in part by an e-mail from a prominent law professor and blogger, and former Supreme Court clerk, who has corresponded with us on occasion since last September. Commenting on Dean Carrington's comments and our response, this professor expressed what we judged to be genuine confusion on the topic: "Without knowing you you are, it's hard to understand why you care; and without understanding why you care, it's hard to make much sense of your perspective."
Because we regard this professor as probably much more able than any of us and viewed this e-mail as quite sincere, it occurred to us that perhaps we had been insufficiently clear in sketching last September something of what motivated our decision to be anonymous. We similarly detected in Dean Velvel's comments on our post that possibly even he, despite following our blog fairly closely, lacked a full appreciation of what we were getting at in our post last September about our anonymity, consisting of our e-mail exchange with Professor Bruce Jackson.
We therefore sent Dean Velvel the below e-mail further addressing our anonymity, which we are now posting for whatever interest it may have for others, although we hold to our view that it is the content of our blog that matters, not who we are or why we are blogging. Those who remain concerned about our anonymity are always free to discount, even ignore, the content of our blog on that account if they deem it appropriate.
Date: Fri, 6 May 2005 6:21 PM
From : "AuthorSkeptics"
To : Velvel@MSLaw.edu
Subject: AuthorSkeptics -- anonymity
On rereading your latest blog post, and after receiving an e-mail from a law professor we respect who expressed puzzlement as to what could have prompted our decision to blog anonymously, it occurs to us that even you may not have picked up on something we thought was fairly apparent from our post last September regarding our anonymity.
You talk about reasons we might want to be anonymous as far as making criticisms of Professor Tribe, who of course is the main Harvard figure now in the news (along with the Harvard administrators who handled the matter involving him). However, our decision to be anonymous predated by weeks any involvement of Professor Tribe as a subject of debate over plagiarism at Harvard. Our e-mails on plagiarism at Harvard (before we set up the blog) first went out in early September 2004. See here.
Although in our e-mails and later in our blog we discussed two prior plagiarism matters which in our view suggested a lack of concern by the Harvard administration about plagiarism by Harvard scholars, the overwhelming concern of our e-mail and our blog was the Ogletree matter and what we saw as the whitewashing of it through Washington-style spin techniques which we believe have no place in an academic setting where truth and candor should be the watchwords.
We thought we’d keep tabs on and publicize the Ogletree matter for a few weeks, hopefully have some impact, but then naturally interest in the subject would die away, and there wouldn’t be much more for us to do on the issue. Only the emergence of the matter involving Professor Tribe, and the handling of that matter by the Harvard administration (to delay for months, and then say little about it except for ambiguous mention of “inadvertence”), led to the mushrooming of interest in the Harvard plagiarism stories, both on our part and on the part of others. Your November e-mail exchange with Professor Ogletree, and his response to your e-mails, was quite important in keeping these issues alive, in our view, as of course was your lengthy post on Summers, Kagan, and Tribe.
If you keep in mind the context of our decision to be anonymous, and carefully look back at what we said last September in response to Professor Bruce Jackson in hinting at logical reasons why people in our position might choose anonymity, we think you and others will see what we were getting at, although only indirectly, without being unnecessarily explicit. If readers take care to actually read the stories we linked to, we think they will get the gist of it, although we will continue to refrain from spelling out more explicitly the precise concerns we had in this context about blogging under our own names. We think Professor Jackson read the links and understood what we were getting at, and on that basis concluded what we were doing was ethically acceptable. We hardly see why it would necessary, or how it would be socially responsible, to be more explicit about what we were referencing. Perhaps we were a bit too cryptic about the concerns we sketched, but we think it’s best to err on the side of saying less rather than more.
Ultimately we think what matters is the substance of what we are saying, and not who we are, but we hope this reminder that our anonymity dates back to early last September when the Ogletree matter was first unfolding may be instructive in helping orient some readers including, quite possibly, you.
We will likely post this e-mail at some point, as early as Monday. Since it concerns your post, we will give you an opportunity to respond via an e-mail to be placed on our blog if you wish, if you find this e-mail worthy of comment but do not want to address it on your blog.
[Note: as of May 13, we have received no comments on this e-mail from Dean Velvel, although we do not see it necessitates any comment from him.]