Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hiltzik's sock puppet train wreck

I've had the chance to look over both Patterico's piece on Hiltzik's use of sock puppets and Hiltzik's reply. Hugh Hewitt has accurately characterized the reply as a "non-denial."

One thing stood out in Hiltzik's reply: Not once did Hiltzik so much as mention the term "sock puppet", although Patterico mentioned it in his lead:

"Is an L.A. Times columnist leaving comments on the Internet under assumed “sock puppet” identities — identities which he pretends is someone other than himself?"

Here is Wikipedia's definition of "sock puppet"
'An Internet sock puppet (sometimes known also as a mule) is an additional account created by an existing member of an Internet community. This account allows them to pose as a completely different user, sometimes to manufacture the illusion of support in a vote or argument."

In his piece, Patterico says Hiltzik did precisely that with sock puppet "Mikekoshi":

"But the weirdest thing about Mikekoshi is the way that he and Hiltzik praise each other, and back each other up — all the while pretending that they are different people. I have already mentioned how Mikekoshi defended one of Hiltzik’s first posts on his L.A. Times blog, and how Mikekoshi argued with a critic of Hiltzik’s on L.A. Observed.

"But the admiration doesn’t just flow one way. Hiltzik has also praised Mikekoshi — when Mikekoshi was (in Hiltzik’s estimation) showing up an enemy of Hiltzik’s in an argument."

So how does Hiltzik reply to the sock puppetry charge? He changes the subject. The misdirection starts with the title of his post, "On Anonymity in Blogland"

"Some years ago, the New Yorker ran an amusing cartoon about one of the supposed virtues of the Internet, its anonymity. It showed two dogs in front a computer. One was saying to the other (I am working from memory), "On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog."

The right-wing blogger Patterico has apparently worked himself into a four-star ragegasm (Tbogg’s inimitable coinage) at the notion of anonymous or pseudonymous postings on his website by me. This is amusing, because most of the comments posted on his website are anonymous or pseudonymous. "Patterico" is itself a pseudonym for an Assistant Los Angeles District Attorney named Patrick Frey. Anonymity for commenters is a feature of his blog, as it is of mine. It’s a feature that he can withdraw from his public any time he wishes. He has chosen to do that in one case only, and we might properly ask why. The answer is that he’s ticked off that someone would disagree with him."

. . .

"But Frey doesn’t really have an issue with pseudonymous posting. If he did, he could eliminate it from his blog with the click of a mouse button. By offering anonymity, does he implicitly commit himself to honoring it? I’d say so. Otherwise, he’s telling all his site visitors and commenters that they visit and post at their peril; if he doesn’t like what they say, he’ll invade their privacy (and concoct a "principled" pretext for doing so)."

I wonder what "principled pretext" Hiltzik will offer for not answering the substance of what Patterico wrote?

Commentators on Hiltzik's blog aren't buying his failed attempt at obsfucation. As one wrote:
"Best thing to do right now is fess up completely: you are nicked, my son.

The longer you try to spin this, the better Patterico will look. Curl up into a fetal position and keep your kidneys covered..."

LA Observed's Kevin Roderick also thinks Hiltzik's reply is inadequate:

"Since he didn't address it, I wonder if we'll hear from any Times editors about whether they condone a staff columnist padding the "pro" comments on a Times blog by switching between identities. Isn't that something like a Times reporter penning a fictitious letter to the editor praising his own story? It certainly misled the readers of Hiltzik's blog."

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