The time has come to bid James Frederick Dwight a fond adieu – from this point forward I will blog under my given name, Dean Barnett. See ya, James; it’s been a great ride.
Before leaving James in our rearview mirror, I’ll answer some of the questions regarding his existence. A lot of people wondered about the origin of the name. If I do say so myself, it was kind of clever. The Red Sox outfield of my youth, going from leftfield to rightfield was Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans. Put them together and you have James Frederick Dwight. This formula also left me with a distinguished sounding pseudonym in case I ever signed up a co-blogger – Carl Richard Bernard. If you’re a pretty serious Red Sox fan, the origin of that name will be obvious. If there ever is a second blogger on Soxblog and that’s his name, you’ll now know it’s a pseudonym.
Many asked why I took a pseudonym. There were lots of reasons, each of varying levels of stupidity:
1) I was worried that having my real name attached to my writings could adversely affect my business interests. In retrospect, this was pretty silly. Who’s kidding who? Everyone knows that my principal “business interest” is winning my next $10 Nassau on the golf course in enough ways to pay for dinner. It’s hard to imagine how my writings could have negatively impacted such activities.
2) I was also a little concerned about fully emerging from the closet as the right-wing smart-ass that you’ve all come to know and love. Since my failed run for office in 1992, I’ve limited my political views to family, friends, acquaintances, people riding on a bus with me, and strangers walking by my house. But coming out and owning these views in front of a vast internet audience was a little intimidating.
3) I had high hopes for James Dwight, that he could be sort of Batman to my Bruce Wayne. I had visions of me and Mrs. Soxblog attending fashionable soirees where the guests would begin speaking about their favorite writers. One woman would say how James Dwight had changed her life; the other guests would nod and offer similar encomiums. Meanwhile, I would smugly shake my head, perhaps even offer a word of criticism like he uses way too many commas or tends to have a surfeit of rambling pointless entries like this one. I would then be shouted down by “James’” many fans.
The odd thing about this vision is that I’m one of the few bloggers I’m aware of who has never had any interest in comic books. My hand to god, I’ve never owned one in my life and never really “got” them.
(If you think this Batman/Bruce Wayne thing gives you a disturbing glimpse into the inner lives of bloggers, you should see our outer lives. That’s what’s truly disquieting.)
4) Lastly, and most significantly, Mrs. Soxblog and I were both concerned about some sort of negative backlash from my ideological foes. I am happy to report that this concern was completely unwarranted – other than some hostile email, these fears have been completely unrealized.
So anyway, I brought James into existence with the hopes that he would be a permanent creation. I had visions that I would be like George Orwell or Tina Turner or Huey Lewis, known by my adoring public by one name but still happily anonymous in my private life. Alas, my plans were ruined shortly after my entry into the blogging game by one man.
It was back in June 2004 that I began to gain a little prominence. I had gotten my first links from Mickey Kaus and Glenn Reynolds, and suddenly I had an audience other than family and friends. It was at that time that I offered my review of a book I truly loved and thought would be hugely influential, “The Pentagon’s New Map.”
The author, Thomas P.M. Barnett (no relation), and I had previously exchanged emails after I had read the book. It turned out that we were in the same dorm at Harvard at the same time, me as a Government major, him as a Government tutor working towards his Ph.D. It was actually a little strange that we had never met.
When I wrote my review, I let Barnett (no relation) know that I had posted it. He wanted to link to it since he loved the review because it was so favorable. In linking to the review, he used my real name and mentioned that I used a pseudonym.
Big deal, right? He’s got a website that’s probably visited by 17 people a day. But the problem was a little bigger than that. If you did a Google search for “soxblog”,
the fourth hit would show you that James Dwight was a pseudonym.
While Barnett (no relation) wasn’t really guilty of any outright wrongdoing, he was demonstrating an attitude that a lot of professional writers have to their pseudonymous pajama clad colleagues. They think one should take ownership of one’s ideas and not hide behind a pseudonym. In an ideal world, that would be the case but real people with ordinary jobs often can’t afford to broadcast their politics. It amazes me and still does that professional writers can’t grasp that for some people, making political commentary in the open simply isn’t feasible.
I was pretty pissed off at Barnett (no relation), admittedly without cause. But to show you what a big guy I am, when I reviewed his book again for Tech Central Station, I gave it another glowing write-up.
“James” still proved resilient. In fact, virtually all of my readers came to know me as “James.” This is where things were getting a little sticky. There are a bunch of readers that I exchange frequent emails with; a handful of these became friends over the course of my first year of blogging. And I truly mean that – I felt like (and feel like) I knew these people well. It didn’t seem quite “cricket” to be pulling this sort of deception.
An amusing aside: One of my favorite correspondents asked me in his first letter if he should call me James or Jim. Well, as you all know, I’m no stuffed shirt. In my real life, about 70% of the people I know call me “Deano” more often than Dean, including my wife. And I had always considered people who resist the common nicknames for their given names as being a little stuck up (not you, JVL). There was one Rotisserie League draft where a “Robert” began yelling at me because I had mistakenly called him “Bob.” I thought he spoke for all the Roberts, Williams, Edwards, and Jameses out there. So I told my correspondent to call me Jim.
Here’s the irony: Every time this correspondent called me Jim, it bugged me. I mean, it really grated (Personal note: Obviously it’s not your fault, Bob.). So I have a newfound respect for the struggles of being a Steven who wants nothing more in life than to just be called Steven and not the more familiar Steve-arino.
When I began talking about writing for the Weekly Standard, they had two conditions: The first was that pseudonyms were strictly verboten. The only previous time they had allowed a pseudonym was when the writer was an undercover CIA agent in Saudi Arabia or something like that, and apparently my Batman fantasies didn’t rise to the same level in their book. I don’t remember what the second condition was.
This put me at a crossroads. After careful consultation with Mrs. Soxblog, “we” decided to move forward. I had two big concerns about coming out (as it were): First, my initial piece was going to be on the Daily Kos and since many of that site’s more rabid contributors apparently self medicate with disturbing regularity, I was concerned about writing about them under my real name; second, I was worried that my correspondents and regular readers would feel deceived.
I’m happy to report that both concerns were unfounded. No Kossacks rang my doorbell and left a flaming paper back of tofu in their wake, and you readers were very understanding. For the latter, I am truly grateful.
So the time has come to clean up the name mess. Indeed it’s past due – when I got a letter yesterday asking if I should be called James, Jim, Fred or Dean, I knew the time had come to say farewell to James Frederick Dwight. So James Dwight is gone, replaced by Dean Barnett.
I think the best part of this is that now I can be a total hypocrite and urge other anonymous bloggers to come out. I especially look forward to making fun of the Kos contributors’ ridiculous pseudonyms like Meteor Blades and Plutonium Page. That promises to be amusing.
Once again, to my readers, thank you for understanding on this matter. I really do appreciate it.
And feel free to call me Dean or Deano.
Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org