Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blogging and Public Personae

James wrote this.  I think that it is a well written meditation on what blogging is and what it is not.  While I cannot deny that I think that he is right on most, if not all, counts, I have to admit to a bit of sadness.  Probably owing to my own naivete--although perhaps idealism might be more accurate.

As an indirect result of what James wrote, a blogger who I have come to enjoy reading has decided to quit the blogging scene.  Obviously, that is his, and only his, choice, and he has to do what is best for himself and those who count on him.  (I'm not going to bother linking to his blog, because NOT ONLY is he going to stop blogging, but he is going delete the blog and all of its contents, so linking there now would only result in a dead link in a matter of days.  And I'm not going to name the individual for reasons stated below.  (If you know who I am referring to, that isn't an issue.  If you have no idea who I'm referring to, you might be frustrated by this post, but the blogger's identity is not pertinent to this post, and he desires privacy.)

The reason for his decision is that he is a "public figure" in the sense that he is the CEO of a non-profit organization.  His words will describe his views better than I can:
So the reality is that my job is a public job. I am not an elected official, but I actually need more from the public than the typical politician--I don't need the public's votes, I need their actual confidence. By taking a job like this, I give up a fair amount. I am not in a position where I can comment freely and publicly about politics or religion (I can still vote and practice/not practice religion as a choose). I cannot have my name connected to things that even a small, but vocal, minority might consider troubling, offensive, or even weird. I have, for example, quit playing in a rather loud bar band because we occasionally played at dive bars. I've been asked, "How can someone who works with children in the day play in a biker bar at night?" The real answer is that I liked my fellow musicians, I liked playing music, I didn't even drink while playing, and I'm not a biker. However, there was the implied guilt by association. Fortunately, it wasn't that big of a deal to the person and nothing came of it. Still, it was a warning of how others view me, my job, and my agency.

Playing music in a bar is a public act. Not much of one, but it is public. Same with blogging. Blogging is a public act--James is exactly correct in that. I have been very careful to keep my posting focused on gaming. I also have been very careful about which bloggers I publicly follow and who I link to on my blog roll. If I choose to not link to a blog, it is not a personal statement about content. It is me making sure that I don't have to answer questions about why I am publicly recommending blogger A or B or C, whose content might offend some of the 8,000 individuals that I (and, more importantly, my organization) are reliant on for the success of our mission.

Not many of you who blog or read this blog (whose numbers are doubled whenever one of my cats looks at my monitor) is in a similar position. Most of you have jobs where your can blog, rant, evangelize, politicize, agnosticize, or do whatever you want publicly and it has little to no impact on your job or the conditions of your employment. I am not in that position. And this is not a complaint. It is not unfair. This was my choice. I knew exactly what I signed up for when I took on the Executive Director job. I have my dream job but I also give up the ability to do certain things.

So what would be the result if (name) the Executive Director and (name, the blogger) were to meet in the minds of these 8,000 people? Well, I don't think my Board would have an issue with it--one of my Board members is (known rpg writer)' sister, Allison, and we have even auctioned off some of (writer)'s signed books at a fundraising events. I don't think our government or private funding agencies would have an issue with it--it is just not something they would care about. My staff--a few might think I was odd, but they are used to that (they have experienced me getting my head shaved a few years ago during a staff meeting and more recently, me leading a meeting while wearing Mickey Mouse ears). However, among those other 8,000 people (those donors and clients), not everyone would have the same benign reaction. All it would it would take is some motivated nut job to write a letter to the editor or do something similar. If that were to happen, then my Board might look upon me, my work, and my blogging differently. They would be forced to do so.

Is it likely to happen? No. Could it happen? Yes. I've seen some of my peers lose their jobs for less. Among my set of principles are these:

Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

The best way to deal with the crisis is to prevent it in the first place.

Cliches, yes, but no less true because of it. Based on them, I have decided to duck out of the game blogging business. I have been doing this for my own entertainment and it is not worth the potential consequences to me or my organization, remote as these consequences might be.
The fact of the matter is that this individual is a public figure, and there are risks associated with this pleasant hobby that we participate in.  Some people out there might say, "Screw the risks!"  My question to those people would be, "Is it worth it?"  Frankly, no game is worth it.

So why do I write about all of this?

Well, fact of the matter is that I am a mid-level officer in the US Navy.  "Woop-de-doo," you might be thinking.  (Probably for good reason.)  But while I am not a 'public official', I feel very strongly that my job is a public job.  I take very seriously the fact that I am representing the US Navy, and, by extension, the US of A.  I can promise you that I feel an obligation to behave in a certain way because of that.  I can also promise you that were I not an officer, I would probably behave differently in some facets of my life.  And just as our blogger said above, I am not complaining about my profession.  It was my choice--but it does affect the choices that I make.

I guess my point in all of this is that I understand where this blogger is coming from, I can sympathize with him, and I probably would have made the same decision.

In my case, I'm not going to stop blogging because of Raggi's post.  I'm not going to stop blogging because I am in the Navy.  But the fact that I am in the Navy does affect how I blog.  It affects the tone that I take; it affects how I comment at other people's blogs.  Heck, it probably even affects the type of gaming material that I produce.  But I plan to continue--in the grand scheme of bloggers out there, I've only just begun.


  1. Yep, frontline (low level) supervisor in this nation's largest police force. Won't stop me from posting or blogging. MIGHT keep me from being an obnoxious f' on occasions, but that's a good thing ;)

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