Virtual Identity

A few weeks ago, Martin was musing on what these blogs are, really, and why we maintain them. He, like the blogger who prompted his article, used a number of real-world analogies to make his points.

I’m not so sure how far analogies can take me in describing why I do what I do on the web. (Come to that, I’m not sure I know why I do all that I do on the web.)

First things first, though.

Who are you on the Web, Abi?

My main Net identities are:

Naturally, I have several “spoof” and temporary identities about as well, which I would rather were not linked to my “core” identity. Nor am I alone in this. I suspect that the vast majority of E2 users, for instance, have secondary accounts for various reasons. But these are the ones that I identify as “myself”.

These identities are not all linked up (or weren’t, until I posted this!), but together, they present a multi-faceted image that I am willing to make available to absolute strangers, friends, and family.

Why do you spend all this time on these identities?

For a long time, I didn’t have a web presence. I didn’t feel that I had anything that important to say. Further reading convinced me, however, that most of the other people on the web don’t either. One of my teachers at Napier advised me make a site of all the things I would want to find on the web (and I have, both in my factual work on E2 and in the Bookweb).

This blog came about partly by imitation (because Martin had one), and partly to communicate with my family in California. But its usage has evolved. It’s now part of my “shop window” on the world, an expression of who I am right now and what I’m thinking.

But (to ask a basic writer’s question), who is my audience? Martin and I have received a number of comments and emails lately that have clarified this for me.

  • One of Martin’s high school friends Googled her name and found a reference to herself in Martin’s blog. This led her to get in touch, as part of the re-consolidation of that set of friends from his youth.
  • I got a comment on my blog from someone whom I have never met, who Googled his way onto the Bookweb and followed the trail here. Reading my blog convinced him that I might be worth chatting to, and we exchange the occasional email now as a result.
  • Another email was from someone I knew at St Andrews, who found the site (don’t know how) and sent me a “remember me?” email. Again, contact is being re-established.

Enough verbage. Who is your audience?

My audience is those people on the web who were, are, or might become, friends. As friendship extends into the virtual realm, so will the art of meeting people. My web presence is a shop window, an entry in a Personals column, an extended hand.


So if you think you might want to know me further, click on the rooster at the top of the page and send me an email. Alternatively, add a comment here.

Because it’s a big, scary world out there, I’m not going to fall all over myself to be friends with everyone who drops me a line. I’ve made my pitch, described myself. But friendship is a two-way street. Tell me about yourself, make me care.

And in the spirit of Martin’s friend getting back in touch, I’m going to list a few people I would love to hear from again, even just a brief note. This page is indexed by Google, so if they search on their names they’ll find themselves here. If this is you, click on the rooster at the top of the page and get in touch. Tell me what you’ve been doing!

From Piedmont High School:

  • Liza Groen
  • Lisa Wright
  • Alta Swinford
  • Paul Casey

From Skyline High School:

  • Jason Camara

From Richmond High School:

  • Jetsun Eddy (Or are you spelling it Jetsün Eddy?)

From UC Berkeley:

  • David Corcoran
  • David Beckerman
  • Eleanor (El) Casella
  • Charlton Horne
  • Keith Gordon

From St Andrews:

  • Andrea Kagan
  • William Grant

Bad Man

So the finger-pointing about weapons of mass destruction rages on. Did Iraq have any? If so, where are they? If not, why did Saddam Hussein not co-operate with the inspectors? Did the British and American governments mislead their voters about the evidence? Did the intelligence services mislead the governments? We await further information with bated breath.

In the meantime, though, the pro-war lobby has fallen back on Plan B to justify the whole exercise: Saddam Hussein was a Bad Man. He did Bad Things to the people of Iraq. So we were justified in removing him. For short, I’ll call this the Bad Man doctrine.

The Bad Man doctrine is very appealing. It purports to make the world a better place by removing tyrannical regimes and replacing them with kinder, gentler ones. It is illegal, of course, under international law, but so are so many things that go on in politics.

But there are two very fundamental objections that I can see to the Bad Man doctrine.

  1. The first problem is that one country’s Bad Man is another country’s strong leader, doing the difficult thing in difficult times. Who’s the Bad Man in the Israel-Palestine conflict, for instance? We saw this a lot in the Cold War, when the definition of a Bad Man was mostly based on the political and economic ties between his opposition and the country doing the judging. This led to democratically elected but communist leaders like Allende being deposed for capitalist tyrants like Pinochet. Nor were the Soviet policies any more defensible: think Prague Spring, for instance.
  2. The second difficulty is that, even if we can agree a definition of a Bad Man that is more based in the interests of his victims than his politics or personal fortune, what do we do about it? There is no country in the world with the desire or the resources to sort out every murderous regime in the world. The Coalition of the Willing, for disparate reasons, supported the invasion of Iraq. How big a Coalition are we going to get to displace Mugabi from Zimbabwe, or the military junta in Burma? Unless the Bad Man doctrine is enforced consistently, it’s like the loitering and vagrancy laws in some American states – an excuse for pursuing private agendas, or for arresting people on insufficient evidence. We’d have to invent a Really Bad Man doctrine, and then we’d be back at problem one again.

Count me out.

I’d rather we faced the situation and told the truth. If there were no weapons of mass destruction, then the coalition has egg on its face. If there were, then we can debate the legalities of the war as it was presented to us. And if the politicians lied to the people, or the spooks lied to the politicians, then it’s time for some heads to roll.

(Don’t get me started on the Doctrine of Preemption…)