Scribbler’s Saga #88 – Anonymous Just Left the Building With Joe Klein

Posted: July 5, 2019 in Uncategorized

© 2019 G.N. Jacobs

Well, I guess I find ways to repeat myself without directly repeating myself about every two years. Either that’s brilliant blogging in terms of constantly feeding the maw, or…it just takes awhile for my not so good ideas to flush out. Two years ago, I thought I’d make up a completely false persona with a name similar to an old enemy to do some political blogging. Watch Brazil, yes, the black part of me hoped for the fly in the teletype that misspells a name causing the wrong arrest. Pity.

I blogged about it then (see post) mostly to tell you that pseudonyms of this nature, truly hiding from “imperial entanglements,” are tougher than they look. I also reported truthfully that a combination of my personal taste of “I don’t really do political” and “I don’t really want to rehash other people’s journalism” mixed with a bit of absolutely stupid served to kill the project. And then over the last few weeks, I found myself wanting to do more or less the same thing…write as Anonymous.

Certain things scared and annoyed me during the time of the first go round, they still do. I’ve learned to live with them and I have a vote I intend to use. This time around my concerns include not so much the Empire as the angry mobs with pitchforks that make up the various neighborhoods in that Empire. As viciously expressed on social media.

Ducky, I’m going to assume you’re fully aware of social media (Facebook, in this specific case) and the cesspit therein. Yelling in All Caps. Bullying in even more All Cappier All Caps (aware of Webster spinning in his grave over that last one). The unrestrained id of people saying things to each other from behind the computer that face-to-face generally results in the Three Stooges Eye Poke and then a resort to the otherwise highly limited Fighting Words Defense. And my general inability to tell the sheep from the goats in this case. Yes, you’re aware…neither one of us lives under a rock.

There were other reasons to frown on the state of my Facebook feed. I got tired of other writers in our shared groups. The fun and goofy questions to which I would reply decreased in number. Repetition of threads from people that didn’t read the previous three days posting in the group. A certain subset of those same writers trying to either find excuses not to write or to farm out their own prep work to the herd. A good way to spend too much time screaming and yelling from the comfort of my own couch.

But, the reason most relevant to the 2019 version of wanting to write as Anonymous or that…other name: Cancel Culture. Certain folks typically but not always progressive in outlook will use up much of their overall online douchebag time and energy trying to force de facto corporate and, in some cases, public censorship of everything they don’t like.

Slavery? The author better be black or at the very least be willing to submit to the opinions of sensitivity readers whose skill sets range from “why am I listening to this” to “maybe this one has something real to say.” Slavery, but not as experienced by anyone in the United States living or dead? Trick question, replay the answer above. I tend to go for the – “I have this story that’s been screaming in my head for years. Knowing there might be some yelling, I agreed to do my research before starting. I don’t need another pair of eyes I don’t trust gumming up the works.” – reply.

At some later date, there might be more to say about Cancel Culture (like maybe if it ends in some distant future) as a whole. This post is about I feel caught between the trends mentioned two years ago and the ongoing ones here. That writing under a pseudonym or the novel, X by Anonymous was moronic then and equally moronic now.

I get to bust out the title: Anonymous Left the Building with Joe Klein. Mr. Klein, a Time Magazine columnist, wrote Primary Colors a thinly disguised fiction about Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign in 1996. He put Anonymous into the author slot on the title page. Perhaps Mr. Klein didn’t want to pull a Truman Capote burning every source and friend he ever had. Perhaps he used Anonymous as a ploy to sell more books by making the book look like a reporter telling truth to power with fewer personal repercussions.

Whatever the reason, Wikipedia’s page on the book says it took “several months” for the people who thought this particular Anonymous wrote a lot like Joe Klein to conduct badgering until Mr. Klein owned the book. My imperfect memory of that time says the whole affair lasted about six weeks.

Think about it, 1996 we think of as a less connected time. I assert a month and a half, but Wikipedia says more than one. So even without social media, Mr. Klein was eventually forced to own the book before the year ended.

A primary tool cited in this outing was a variation of textual analysis. People then and people now make whole careers reading text and comparing them to known authors. Uses include preventing academic and the much rarer literary plagiarism. And…forgery.

In 1996, technology hadn’t fully become so ever present that true privacy might only exist if we sleep and turn off the phone or at the very least keep the phone in the living room while the lights are out. The business of textual analysis had more human guesswork and error to it. The year was only about ten years since the Hitler Diaries Scandal of the 1980s. The forgery fooled the first round of experts leading to a million dollar sale. On the second round, other experts checked the first batch’s homework leading to an arrest and conviction.

The 2019 version of this process, I have already posted about it (see post). At the time, I goofed around looking for the next funny writer thing to feed this particular mouth. A nobody will read results from the I Write Like site that say I have a stylistic affinity to Cory Doctorow. Will I always be a nobody?

If my couple-three not all that many ideas likely to pick such unwelcome screaming under the aegis of Cancel Culture pick up steam, suddenly my words won’t be plugged into these sites for comparison to established writers. The comparison suddenly lands on X by Anonymous versus all of my other published words.

Factoring in my normal blogging rhythm by the time I post this article, I will have just over 90 Scribbler posts, approximately 20 Dungeoneer posts, a similar number of Flamethrower posts, the 12 or so story installments in the Assortment column and the lonely Counterpoint post (I really should do something about that). Add the approximately 30K words on Wattpad. I’ve written and self-published three books for a total of about 270K words.

Then I have to account for the three self-help books written as the And author for a total of, maybe, another 270 K words. I published a book and then yanked it for reasons, including wanting to rewrite the whole thing from scratch. Between ten and twenty copies exist in the hands of people not too likely to burn me, but at least two I don’t know where they are. This book came in at 130K words with a 20K bonus story. Hopefully, Amazon didn’t keep these files. Lastly, there are extant copies of my presently rare journalism held by others if they decided to preserve their servers.

Adding this work up, I have published anywhere from 800K to 1,000,000 words. If the yellers care, there is a lot of work for the textual analysis experts and AI to compare to the works going out under my flavor of Anonymous who writes similarly to Cory Doctorow and even more closely to G.N. Jacobs. About like robbing a bank without a mask.

That’s just the textual analysis part of the story. We also exist in a time when physical privacy might only exist because other people aren’t all that interested in the rest of us. I spoke about these concerns with a friend, whom I ask about computers and linguistics. He agreed.

This friend I once had analyze a stack of posts related to the Nigerian Prince Scam. More recently, he started supplementing his meager salary acting as a process server. Using just the resources at his desk, he would find the people he needed to serve. He claimed to have found one person under the care of the Marshals Service to about a circle of several city blocks. Between the textual analysis resources and the general ability for the practiced to find almost anyone, I came away from the chat saying this – “really, the only Anonymous that survives in this day and age is the one that wrote The Epic of Gilgamesh and he’s 4,000 years dead.”

I sort of already knew these things but the need to write the small handful of stories that might need to go out as Anonymous defines strong and inescapable. This had me resurrecting the dark fantasies of two years ago with a lot of double down. Before I just thought I wanted to buy time, see if I could screw over an enemy and accept no money doing it. Now, there’s money on the table.

Money means infrastructure. What do you mean, infrastructure? Let’s just say, I need another ticket to the Cayman Islands or somewhere similar. Someone in my family has the photos that they take of tourists snorkeling at Stingray City. Hopefully, they stopped that sort of thing when the Crocodile Hunter got whacked, but I digress.

Anonymous the Writer needs this infrastructure in order to get paid without having a real name on the title page. No author actually wants to write without getting paid. So the structures that can evade taxes also might serve to obfuscate the hordes if the writer makes full use of offshore in the doing.

The offshore entity collects royalties and payments for ancillary rights. The financial institution doing the holding takes a fee to collect this income and politely defer all questions that aren’t backed by an international subpoena (banking haven secrecy isn’t what it used to be when a government law enforcement request is on the table). Of course, I would be on my word of honor about whether I wanted to lie to the IRS about this activity.

Best guess, all of these hoops would be good in most cases to deflect any members of the cancel horde (the point of the exercise in this case). Tax returns can’t go public without my permission. In theory I could file an onshore entity to do the same job, but my feel of the laws in various states says that privacy is a lot less than going straight to the foreign bank chartered in a haven.

Many writers make up pseudonyms but put their real names on the title page next to the copyright symbol. They aren’t trying to evade taxes or a cancel horde. Maybe they thought the pseudonym sounded cool for the genre. Maybe they know that the only people from whom to obscure the authorship don’t actually check the copyright symbol on the title page. A real name on the title page simplifies the process of getting paid over the life of the book. Or the author trusts their publisher to create these firewalls and I don’t know how Joe Klein’s publisher handled these things.

So like two years ago, I spent a lot of time considering things that are largely impossible. And it takes time to work it out for myself and step in off this particular ledge. I also spoke to another friend that reminded me that Cancel Culture might not be as effective as it sometimes seems. Canceling someone’s book can create notoriety that helps the author make money in other ways. How many canceled authors then turned around to sell a self published version at speaking engagements having used the cancel as free advertising to sell to the people most likely to buy the book in the first place?

So to recap, Anonymous gets mugged by the text analysis AI. Anonymous gets mugged in the physical world because he can’t give up G.N. Jacobs’ cell phone or stay away from security cameras. The financial infrastructure is time consuming and expensive. And maybe doing the best I can on the writing and research while trusting that there is a market for every book, despite the yelling, is my only recourse now. But, wanting to buy time to get these books into print I wasted quite a bit of thought energy, until I hit on another simpler idea to do the same thing…cancel Facebook.

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