Conservative Blogger Publishes Alleged Anonymous Identity of Law Professor John F. Blevins

blevinsThere is an interesting fight brewing over a column written by conservative blogger Ed Whelan who has published the allegedly true identity of one of his critics. Whelan says that a critic calling himself “Publius” is really South Texas law professor John Blevins (shown left).

Whelan was upset with Publius for criticizing him as a “legal hitman” in his review of the record of Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor. In Bench Memos (on National Review Online), Whelan says that he was “reliably informed” that Publius was Whelan. Whelan was the general counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary for the Republican majority and the Senior Vice President and Counselor to the General Counsel for Verizon Corporation. He later served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Whelan says that he used another earlier pseudonym “Edward Winkleman” to write to Blevins to ask if he was Publius. Blevins responded that he is “not commenting on [his] identity” and that he uses a pseudonym “[f]or a variety of private, family, and professional reasons.”

Whelan decision to deny anonymity to Blevins was in response to pretty mild criticism. He insists in his post that Publius “has been biting at my ankles in recent months.” Yet, he quotes his unreasonable unreasonable “essentially a legal hitman” who “pores over [a nominee’s] record, finds some trivial fact that, when distorted and taken totally out of context, makes that person look like some sort of extremist.” I must say that in comparison to what has come my way from anonymous bloggers that seems pretty mild. He writes:

Well, I’m amused to learn that I was wrong about publius’s lack of legal education. I’ve been reliably informed that publius is in fact the pseudonym of law professor John F. Blevins of the South Texas College of Law. I e-mailed Blevins to ask him to confirm or deny that he is publius, and I copied the e-mail to the separate e-mail address, under the pseudonym “Edward Winkleman,” that publius used to respond to my initial private complaints about his reckless blogging. In response, I received from “Edward Winkleman” an e-mail stating that he is “not commenting on [his] identity” and that he writes under a pseudonym “[f]or a variety of private, family, and professional reasons.” I’m guessing that those reasons include that friends, family members, and his professional colleagues would be surprised by the poor quality and substance of his blogging.

There is a value of anonymity on these sites and bloggers can always bar abusive posters and trolls. I do not see why this extreme action was necessary. While I do not use anonymous identities, the use of such pseudonyms is part of the freedom that characterizes the Internet and encourages many to share their thoughts. Professor Blevins criticisms do not warrant such a response in my view. I also do not see why it is warranted to question Professor Blevins understanding of things like common law. He was making a perfectly good-faith argument in these comments as far as I can tell.

UPDATE: Whelan has now apologized and Blevins has accepted.
For the post, click here.

8 thoughts on “Conservative Blogger Publishes Alleged Anonymous Identity of Law Professor John F. Blevins”

  1. Professor Turley,

    Did you see the case where a mental person out of Paris, Texas was given 100 years for molesting a 6 year old child. Today’s headlines Dallas Morning News.

  2. OK – I’ve said enough. We just can’t have honest dialogue in this manner.

    Keep talking, please. You’ve struck a nerve with me!

  3. One time, I was completely trashed and called out on Penelope Trunk’s blog for making comments debunking theories about Generation Jones. Trunk responded in the comments portion to a comment I’d left – that she liked my comment and passion for Gen X or something like that.

    Someone who claimed to have been following my blog went completely off discounting my knowledge about Generation X and telling everyone on Trunk’s blog I didn’t know what I was talking about. The entire branding of my blog is Generation X, so it was just really crummy. I argued it out on her blog for a few days. What really annoyed me was this person could make such wild accusations about a public blogger and yet, bear no personal responsibility whatsoever.

    Furthermore, the commenter decided to take issue with me only after a hugely successful blogger recognized me. The commenter claimed to have read my blog, derided me for voting for Obama (which, I didn’t; I cast a blank ballot in that election) AND said I left misleading comments about Generation Jones on other blogs. None of this was true. If I could have found out who it was, I might have outed this person in a heart beat. I’m not certain of this, but I sure would hav thought long and hard about it. It was sooooo CHEAP for that person to take shots at me like that while bearing no responsibility to further understanding or dialogue.

    I suspect that this person was somewhat responsible for an Op Ed about Gen Jones that appeared in some major newspaper. If this person was acting in tandem with public relations at some university, not disclosing their identity is an afront to PRSA’s Code of Ethics that calls for full disclosure.

    OK – I’ve said enough. We just can’t have honest dialogue in this manner.

  4. Well as my grandfather used to say to my grandmother, “It’s always easier to apologize than to ask for permission,” at which time she would smack him with an iron skillet.

    It was extremely gracious of Publius to accept Whelan’s apology -he should be very happy that Publius wasn’t holding an iron skillet.

  5. Publius? Why not pick a real Roman legal hero like Cicero? 😀 Hopefully he’s not involved in that trite use of “Publius” to mimic the supporters of the Federalist Papers. Been done already.

  6. Publius,

    Are you now not denying that you are denying that the Publius referred to in the above, is not this Publius but rather that Publius. I think some would have an issue you with being either Publius, but that is not for me to say, therefore I go, ergo.

    Are you assuming the “Publius,” in honor of Roman consul Publius Valerius Publicola. Or are you a Truthful Publius in the Strict Federalist Society sense or more so to a Jeffersonian Federalist society (almost a contradiction, but not if you are an imagined reader). What other non de plume shall you assume, Hamilton, Madison or John Jay?

    Publius of this world is more closely associated with Hamilton, the rat. who wanted the Central Bank.

    Anonymity has its advantages.

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