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The Internet’s Thin Veil

Setting aside the net neutrality policy debate, the internet’s level publishing platform does not seem to have allowed for a multitude of dislocated voices so much as a partial reorganization of collective publishing entities in a way that is not so different from the newspapers and magazines that controlled periodical publication during the wholly print era. For those writers coming of age today, the internet’s vastness actually may make it even more difficult to catch the eye of those in control of the most well-attended publishing outlets.

What may be different today, though, is the relative ease with which readers may examine an individual’s writings, musings, exercises, and even drafts posted online before the individual accepted an invitation to join a popular publishing platform. Sometimes, as in the case of Clay Travis, who posted multiple unfavorable comments of Fox Sports not long before accepting an offer to join the network, it is quite easy to find this content. Other times, a small mistake can unlock a trove of old material.   

Earlier this month, FiveThirtyEight posted an article about partisan polling on foreign policy. Initially, the byline indicated the name of the article’s author was “Poughies.” I read FiveThirtyEight enough to know that the site did not have an author using that one-word moniker. A minute’s worth of clicking revealed, and a subsequent correction confirmed, that “Poughies” was a screen name of some kind previously used by Harry Enten, a “senior political writer and analyst” for FiveThirtyEight.

538The first result for a Google search for “poughies” is an eponymous YouTube channel. The second video on that channel is a critique by Enten of Nate Silver, the editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight. Enten highlights Silver’s erroneous use of Wikipedia (“weekeypedia“), commenting that, “of all the things I like about Nate Silver, the idea of citing Wikipedia quite frequently is one of the things I dislike.”

Enten’s critique is not off-base, and no one, like Silver, with a media presence should expect to avoid such criticism. Today, Silver does not seem to cite Wikipedia too often, and Enten works for Silver. If it has any significance, Enten’s miscue serves as a reminder that, however we may like to parcel ourselves up online, the barriers between those parcels can be even thinner than mere parchment.


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