Uncovered

Something about the web – maybe the solitary nature of posting to it – seems to suggest the idea of private communication. It isn’t. It’s more public and out there in the world than any newspaper or television station, no matter that you may not have intended it that way. That’s a lesson for myspace teenagers and facebook college students. Not to mention politicians.

Many commenters on political sites, this one included, regularly use pseudonyms. (This site, like many, prefers real names but allows pseudonyms.) Commenters probably think this means they’re anonymous; but not always. The lesson being, don’t post what you aren’t comfortable standing behind.

Story in point is recounted on David Postman’s blog. It stems from a discussion on Sound Politics, where blogger Stefan Sharkansky was writing about the rules concerning petition signature gathering for initiatives. (The details are another issue.) Comments to his post included at least three snarky takes from “PDC expert,” saying “Stefan – your ignorance is stunning,” “[Tim] Eyman is a liar and the sheep on this blog will believe any lie he tells them,” and so forth.

Which might have been that, except that Sharkansky decided to track down the commenter. Using the comment’s home IP address, and traced it to the city of Kent. An information request tracked it directly back to state Representative Geoffrey Simpson, D-Covington, who acknowledged the comments were his.

He replied to Sharkansky in a subsequent comment: “Interesting that when Stefan doesn’t like something someone says (even when they are correct as I was in each of my posts) he investigates them and violates the personal privacy afforded to all the posters on this blog by the ability to post anonymously. Poor baby. Make sure you don’t disagree with Stefan or he’ll open an investigation on you too.”

None of which happened at Simpson’s peak moment. He’s lead sponsor of the NASCAR legislation (House Bill 2062) which appears set for crash and burn. That led another Sound Politics commenter to add, “I was down in Olympia trying to fight the NASCAR track that he is trying to force on my damn town of Bremerton. Good old Geoff Simpson wrote HB 2062. It is a freaking horrible piece of corporate pork and is a waste of our taxes and undermines a communities local control.” This latest uproar isn’t going to help his efforts to pass the bill.

Well. Point being that if you’re a public official, best to assume anything you say will find its way out. However you may try to cover it.

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