It’s My Bog and I’ll Bitch If I Want To

Recently a reader emailed me regarding his personal thoughts on a few topics. One of them was very interesting and I wanted to share it with all of you.

Being the kind of person I am, I asked if I could quote him when I presented my thoughts here at the blog. I stated he could be identified in whatever way made him most comfortable, including the title of “a reader,” and offered a link to his blog or website should he so desire in crediting him. Those of you who have been in such email conversations with me know this to be true.

First he asked which parts I wanted to quote, so I copied & pasted and sent them back, along with my intentions to present his thoughts as the context for and start of my own thoughts. (So this would in fact be read by you all as it really occurred.) I did think this was rather unexpected from a man who on his second or perhaps third email to me both presented his phone number and asked that we speak on the phone, but as stated, I simply replied with the requested information.

In response this fellow panics. He is distressed beyond anything I have seen before in such correspondence. He is sick at the thought that I would share such personal conversations with the world — and how dare I suggest such a thing when he was so understanding about my declining the phone invited based on my own privacy concerns!

He didn’t merely decline or refuse; he went on for paragraphs telling me of his pain, his shock & horror, and even tried to guilt me with my own insistence upon privacy.

He was so livid, he insisted that I reply promising that I’d not use any of the words he used. Ever.

Readers, as much as it pains me to see another reader ‘go’ — and so upset at that — I could not comply with his wishes. I dislike the thought of even sharing this with you, but I feel you need to know where I stand and why.

I can make no promises that I will not ever discuss subjects brought up in emails. I can guarantee your privacy & not divulge your identity; but I cannot, will not, self-impose a gag order on my life & thoughts.

As a blogger I am a person in the media. While I do not personally feel entitled to say all the rights of a journalist, I am in The Media. As such, I am allowed to quote from and share information sent my way. As a human being I can understand that information and experiences brought to me (confessions, as I call them) may be sensitive and so, as described, I offer complete anonymity in the sharing of these confessions. (Off the record, if you will.) But I still maintain the right to discuss my own experiences — which includes topics brought up in conversations, emailed or otherwise.

I repeat, and those of you who have conversed with me know this to be absolutely true, I do not ‘out’ anyone or share information which could let your identity be known.

But back to the story…

After another email of considerable politeness indicating he would not be identified other than “a reader” and only in the context of “I received an email regarding X,” I only received additional lengthy paragraphs of his dismay. This is how I responded to the distressed reader:

I can’t tell you what you wish to hear — “no words from your message”? I’ve likely used them in just writing this.

I won’t quote you, but by the same token I have a right to my experiences and to state I received an email from a reader (past reader if that’s your intent) who mentioned said author and her works. In that light you will be mentioned (even if no one can attribute them to you or even that ‘you’ exist).

If this distresses you, I am sorry for that. But at any point in life when you communicate to another your ideas are carried away with them, be it memories or the complicated set of thoughts they have in reaction to the ideas you communicated. I can’t simply scrub my brain and act as if this experience didn’t happen.

Again, I won’t quote or name you; but I am going to mention that I had an exchange where in a person mentioned this work and these are my thoughts.

He responded with another 7 paragraphs of privacy claims, assertions, accusations and guilt.

Here’s what I sent in reply:

I can only say what I have said:

I will not quote you
but obviously the author’s name will be used and other words ‘you said’
you will not be identifiable
your privacy is secure

Sorry you don’t understand.

The bottom line is that I will not “Plagiarise you”, you will not be named or otherwise attributed in any way which dissolves your privacy; but I will speak of the conversation.

It can’t be said any plainer.

I may have been short in reply, and perhaps you think I am snippy; but really, at this point I have taken over a dozen character assassination paragraphs designed to guilt me into compliance (silence).

In the matter of copyrights and other ethical matters, I’m covered by the “idea/expression dichotomy” in copyright law which doesn’t affect the ability to use or share facts and ideas — but rather regulates their use of someone else’s “expression” of facts and ideas. Since I’m not going to be quoting from him (nor did I do so here), I am safe. And ethically, since I am not providing any other information by which he may be identified, I cannot be accused of Invasion of Privacy. “A reader” at “this blog” and “male” isn’t very much information for anyone to know him or anyone else by. (Should he choose to post here with identifiable information, he exposes himself.)

But you know he still wasn’t satisfied.

Another email, 6 paragraphs in length, of the same as before.

It seems he is more incensed by refusal to acknowledge my privacy concerns as he feels they are one in the same. They are not.

My polite refusal to give him my real name (and have him address me as you all do, as “Slip”) and my kind decline of a phone chat, are about my privacy, yes. (They are also about being appropriate. In my view, asking for a phone conversation after a few emails is about as appropriate and safe as inviting into my home a sales clerk who has checked out my items at the grocery store thrice.) But his comparison between my refusal to share personal identifying information with him and my publishing his thoughts in anon fashion are not valid. They are not the same thing.

To this (former?) reader, I say, I am sorry to have you leave and that you are distressed.

To the rest of you, I do respect your right to privacy and do all I can to protect that and your feelings.

But I cannot take a wire brush and scrub my brain to removed the thoughts you inspired. And if I ignored such thoughts, whatever would you read at this blog?

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