4 minute read

Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not "Mr. Lebowski". You're Mr. Lebowski. I'm the Dude. So that's what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.
Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski

I've been mulling something over recently; why do I blog under a pseudonym?

I suppose the reasons are largely historical. When I first got involved in the blogosphere ('04/'05), it was primarily to do with a sports website that some friends had started. At the time, no-one seemed to be using their proper names; it was all pretty lame, sport-related chutzpah... E.g. "Bulls4eva" and your other garden variety classics. I wasn't even involved until a friend referred to me in one of his editorial columns, roping me into the whole shebang. Only he left my real identity intact, preferring to use "Stickman" as a play on a rugby nickname that I had earned during university first-year, because of my noticeably short and squat physique (naaaat).

Now, "Stickman"... that's a name no-one would self-apply where I come from.

So, stickman was borne and it's stuck (ha ha) with me ever since... Even as I've seemingly graduated through the blogging ranks, from sports banter to (attempting) serious conversations on important economic, social and environmental issues. However, I can't help but feel a little sheepish every now again about not using my real name. Particularly when I'm involved in-depth discussions with people less prone to pseudonyms. It's almost like I'm not engaging the conversation in fair and honest terms.

Still - and blame it on endowment effect if you must - its hard to let the "stickman" moniker go. (Even if I am flippant when it comes to using capital letters.) I mean, we've been though a lot together. Let's also not forget that any rebranding can be a costly exercise. I like to think that I've build up some online intellectual capital over the last few years via my cunning nom de plume. Changing identities midstream might see me lose quite a lot of this, say nothing of confusing the issue. Would Stickman's Corral be even more aimless without some direct reference to its only leading author? Um, ya... probably not worth dwelling on that one.

Relax people. It's just an avatar.

Of course, pseudonyms and alter egos still abound in the blogosphere... Even in the realm of more serious economic and financial discussion. The Zero Hedge collective among the most prominent examples of this, although I was recently surprised to discover that Yves Smith (of Naked Capitalism) is also a pseudonym. I don't want to speak too loudly for anyone else, but there is certainly something innately reassuring about no-one being able to tie your online ramblings to your physical self. Particularly when you've got friends, family and co-workers (employers?) to answer to.[*]

So, that's part of it; the safety net. However, I'm also put off by the idea of people being able to trace almost all my thoughts on past matters back to my future self. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but interviews like this one with Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, don't offer much reassurance. On the academic and professional front, while I'm reasonably confident of the views that I hold on - what I perceive to be - important topics, I like the idea of being able to sound out ideas without being beholden to them.

Still, maybe I'm just being chicken. And, on that note, I suppose it's time to put things right. From now on feel free to call me by my first name.


Just kidding... Grant will do fine.

[*] On that note, here is an interesting article on ZH's anonymity obsession written by non other than Yves Smith. The pseudonym code is clearly more important for ZH, insofar as the authors can talk serious smack about the financial system without fear of reprisal. I'd imagine that they also never want their more bizarre conspiracy talk to be traced back to the original source... even if there were no direct ramifications. No-one wants to be called crazy to their face.

I should say that Fight Club happens to be one of my favourite books (and movies). Part of its brilliance lies with the deliberate ambiguity, which makes it prone to ironic misunderstanding. Following the release of the film especially, loads of people took to aping the story's themes and sub-plots of, as if to give themselves power and purpose, or even answers. However, the real conclusion was that Tyler Durden was just as adrift as anyone else. For one thing, the character comes to embody much of what he proclaims to despise. (E.g. Sticking a six-packed Brad Pitt into Gucci and Diesel did more to bolster male image consciousness than any other film of the decade, despite the narrator's declaration that they "felt sorry for guys packed into gyms, trying to look like how Calvin Kline or Tommy Hilfiger said they should".) It's easy enough to smirk at the college meat-heads smacking each other around in replica "fight clubs" but, you know, I'm not entirely sure that ZH have escaped the irony either...