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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Drawing in the Face of the Enemy

"A pipe that refuses to draw just after breakfast is guilty of desertion in the face of the enemy." Monsignor Ronald Knox

Perhaps this should be the motto of Fumare. Indeed, I believe that it is the sentiment of our contributors and it may also be analogized to the very act of "blogging." Truly the blog is a most potent weapon "in the face of the enemy"--whether that enemy be beltway insiders, elitist snobs, liberal theologians or egg head Deans. The blog is also a force for putting forth good ideas and spurring discussion about the highest things. Of course, there will be controversy and the occasional hurling of invective, but that goes with the territory of this medium of communication.

Recently, in various sectors, we have been taken to task for using pseudonyms instead of our real names. We have been told that "real men" put their own names to the opinions they espouse. Yes, the charge has been leveled: we lack courage. Knowing my colleagues as I do, I can assure you that we do not lack courage in the least, but we balance that courage with prudence. A virtue that some of our detractors would do well to practice. But instead of an explicatio on prudence, I would rather like to discuss the practice of using pseudonyms.

The use of pseudonyms in commenting and editorializing has been a practice in the English-speaking world for many years. Several examples will illustrate the point. In the late 18th century, when our nation was but a sprout, many commentators used pseudonyms in articulating their political, legal and philosophical positions. One need only think of "Publius" the author of the Federalist Papers to see how effective was the use of the pseudonym. Likewise, the anti-federalist position was represented by the likes of "Brutus," "Cato," "The Federal Farmer," and "Centinel." Closer to our own day, we see similarities in the activities of "The White Rose"--a group of German university students who protested the oppressive regime of the Nazis through publication of their pamphlets until their eventual arrest. Even our dear friend Diogenes employs this same way of proceeding in his analysis and commentary on all things Catholic.

Now that we have seen that this way of commenting has been a time-honored tradition, we must ask ourselves: why? In light of some of the examples cited above, we know that some probably faced political reprisals and even death for putting forth views contrary to the authorities of their day. Others had different reasons. I suspect that the contributors to Fumare use pseudonyms for a variety of reasons: (1) Perhaps they occupy sensitive positions where they are guarding against attribution of their views to their superiors; (2) Some may use a pseudonym because they want their ideas to be given a chance. These contributors possibly conjecture that the use of their real name might color the argument in the eyes of the reader, thus they choose to write under a pseudonym so as to keep personality out of the argument; (3) Still others may genuinely be fearful of reprisals for the unpopular views they hold and the criticism they level at others. Whatever the reason may be for employing a pseudonym, it is indisputable that it is not unusual and it is quite effective.

With our pipes and our pens (...er...keyboards) we continue to take the field of battle!

(pictured at top left: Advocatus Militaris)