Jesurgislac’s Journal

March 4, 2009

Kathryn Cramer: fail, fail, and fail

Back in February, Kathryn Cramer announced (Stupid Things People Say On the Internet 4690) that all of us who use pseudonymous identities are “criminals and conmen”. I read, I mocked, I moved on.

(Warning: don’t click on the link from my post to her blog. Kathryn Cramer did something bizarre to it that ensured anyone trying to click through to there from here ends up at one of those spam-friendly sites that promise you FREE MONEY IN YOUR OWN HOME.)

Kathryn Cramer, regrettably, found herself unable to move on. She picked on one specific person active in a recent discussion of racism/cultural appropriation on livejournal, who blogs under the id CoffeeandInk, and decided to out her real name on www.kathryncramer.com. (I’m not linking directly to Kathryn Cramer‘s blog: I see no point, if she’s decided that people who try to check out her blog from mine will be redirected. Update, 3 – In fact Kathryn Cramer, using her pseudonym of Pleasantville, had already outed Coffeeandink on the feministsf wikipedia: when Coffeeandink complained about that first outing, Kathryn Cramer then outed Coffeeandink on www.kathryncramer.com.)

This wasn’t an accident: Kathryn Cramer knew that CoffeeandInk preferred to be identified online only by her chosen pseudonymous identity, and not by her real name.

Following an outpouring of sympathy for CoffeeandInk, and criticism of Kathryn Cramer, the entry in which CoffeeandInk was outed has now been password-protected so that only friends of Kathryn Cramer can read it.

(Warning: don’t click on the link from CoffeeandInk‘s post to Kathryn Cramer‘s blog; Kathryn Cramer did something bizarre to it that ensured anyone trying to click through to there from here ends up at one of those spam-friendly sites that promise you FREE MONEY IN YOUR OWN HOME.)

A couple of people took screenshots (with CoffeeandInk‘s name redacted) of Kathryn Cramer‘s post before she password-protected it.

Kathryn Cramer’s outing of CoffeeandInk – cache of the googlecache”

Kathryn Cramer's outing of CoffeeandInk - screenshot

So yeah. She did it. Kathryn Cramer decided to out someone’s RL identity, linking it with her online handle, knowing that this person did not want it to happen, because – Kathryn Cramer justifies this – she feels CoffeeandInk was insufficiently respectful and nice to two people with whom CoffeeandInk worked thirteen years earlier, at a company where Kathryn Cramer‘s husband now works. Kathryn Cramer used her privileged information about CoffeeandInk‘s legal name, because of some Kathryn Cramer Thing about how one ought always to be polite and respectful to people for whom/with whom one once worked, at all times and under all circumstances.

(Will Shetterly, who is in his own estimation a well-known writer, also outed CoffeeandInk, because she wrote a post quoting things he said and linking to the posts in which he said them and linking to his rebuttal of her post, which in Will Shetterly‘s world is called ‘misrepresentation’) but then changed his mind and deleted her legal name, though he’s been protesting ever since that he was jolly generous to do even that.)

Honestly: I think that even if I’d agreed with Kathryn Cramer in all respects up until the moment she did this, at the point she did this, I’d have to quit supporting her. Because… people have all sorts of reasons for wanting to maintain a pseudonymous identity online. And, no matter how much I disagree with them politically, no matter how rude or offensive they are to me or to people I care for, I know I have no idea what pressure they may be under to keep their online identity covert – whether being outed will lose them their job, lose their marriage, lose their children, lose their life, even. I just don’t know. I have no right to bust in and potentially do damage I can’t measure, to people whom I’ve never interacted with.

So, I consider that a minimal standard of decency in debate: if for any reason or none you happen across information that enables you to link someone’s legal identity to their online handle, you just don’t do it. Not just out of respect to that person’s right to privacy: but out of respect to all the other lives that person’s right to privacy may be protecting.

Kathryn Cramer fails that basic test. Further, I am unimpressed by her attempting to take some kind of high moral ground about this – and yet doing things such as redirecting links to her blog posts to spam sites to avoid people reading the post in which she outed CoffeeandInk‘s legal name. She hasn’t apologized for doing it; she hasn’t taken the post down; she’s just trying to stop people who disagree with what she did from linking to her blog.

We deal with each other on the Internet on a sometimes painful level of honesty, and often with poisonous vituperation. I’ve been awesomely rude to some of you reading my blog now, and frankly, I think I usually had good cause. (Feel free to disagree.) But, there is one thing I would not do, and that is the one thing Kathryn Cramer felt herself justified in doing: I would not link your legal identity to your online identity, unless you had made explicitly clear it was OK to do so. I would not link to a post in which I saw it done. I would protect the frame of our debate, our ability to exchange our views honestly and freely. I may loathe you, but I’ll loathe you on a level playing field.

Kathryn Cramer: fail, fail, and fail.


Update: Kathryn Cramer has posted a demand for an apology from the person she outed on her blog. I cannot link to her blog, because she has set up a redirect to a spam website. I e-mailed her to ask her if she would remove the redirect so that I could link to her demand for an apology: she responded instructing me to never contact her again and to remove the name Kathryn Cramer from my blog. I find this culmination of fail …strangely ironic, really.

–Update 2: Because I am a bad person who cannot resist a good story:

Teresa [Nielsen Hayden] recalls a Readercon Midnight Horror Panel showing that US pros know how to have fun. The title was ‘Is Violence Necessary?’, and ‘a dead-drunk and bizarrely dressed Kathryn Cramer first monopolized the discourse, pacing back and forth in front of the panel while ranting incoherently into her-friend-the-invisible-mike; then assaulted another panelist who’d been holding up signs (“HELP US PLEASE HELP US”) and intermittently suggesting she sit down and shut up (during the early phases of which struggle she inadvertently kicked David Hartwell in the face, whereat David went and sat in the audience); then capped it all when, upon the panelist’s extricating himself from her clutches, she toppled face-first from the dais, too drunk to even put out her hands to cushion her fall, and announced while lying there with her face in the carpet that said panelist was fired from The New York Review of SF. “I quit six months ago,” he reminded her. (That was John Ordover.) After that David collected her up for future use, and the panel ended.’ – Ansible 80, March 1994


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