Posted by: Witch Doctor | August 29, 2008

Should medical bloggers use a nom-de-plume?

In January of this year, Dr Grumble decided to stop blogging. His identity had been rumbled.

Fortunately for The Blogosphere, this very astute, thoughtful and well mannered blogger changed his mind again.

However at the time Dr Grumble and The Witch Doctor had some discussion over the use of a nom de plume.

Dr Grumble was a bit troubled.

“Another problem is that to generate a bit of interest and to make the blog a good read you do need to ask questions about key powerful individuals. For entirely selfish career reasons it’s easier to do that if you are anonymous. But in a way I don’t feel that is quite proper.

But many great people have guarded their anonymity http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2239162,00.html
so maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

You can see that I am trying to work out just what to do. Forgive me for airing my thoughts here but I think this blogging thing is potentially quite risky and perhaps sharing my thinking is useful for others.”

The Witch Doctor had no such qualms. Indeed she even uses Witch Speak to scramble her writing style. This is because, hidden away in many managerial filing cabinets in her corner of the world, are many letters written in her hand that might give the game away.

So, for The Witch Doctor, a Nom-de-Plume and Witch Speak it is.

And so it will remain.

This is what she said during her conversation with Dr Grumble:

“Good to see you back Dr Grumble.

On the subject of anonymity: “But in a way I don’t feel that is quite proper.”

While acknowledging the concept of “if you have something to say, then stand up and be counted” The Witch Doctor has no problem with anonymity for the following reasons:

1. When The Witch Doctor graduated many millenniums ago, “advertising” ones wares in medicine was extremely frowned upon and this is deeply rooted in The Witch Doctor’s psyche. Intentionally using one’s professional name in a blog might lead to patient interest and could be construed as a form of advertising. This is quite a different situation from one where readers guess the identity.

2. If something controversial has to be said, and there is a chance that an employer/government/individual will not like it, then they only have wait for the writer to make a “faux pas” the legality of which could then be challenged in order to silence the doctor. Since the occasional slip of the pen is likely from time to time anonymity offers some protection. Lie low. It is better not to be silenced than to be silenced.

3. It is all good fun – anonymity is a mischievous game. And what’s wrong with that.

The Witch Doctor “scrambles” some things a bit so that his/her/their identity is not easily revealed. Even My Black Cat does this. It’s a game. However, The Witch Doctor would not want his/her/their colleagues to know about the blog, because the interest/advice/criticism that it might generate might turn into another of life’s hassles. There is no time for more hassles.

Having said this, before starting to blog, The Witch Doctor considered the consequences of writing a post that offended the establishment.

What would The Witch Doctor do if someone from the General Witching Council knocked on his/her/their door (lets just say “her” since most witches are female)? Nowadays it would be relatively easy to identify a blogger. The Witch Doctor is not a wealthy witch but she is not poor either. She did some sums. She decided she could still afford to buy the mince if her job ended tomorrow. She also decided that she had no ambition but to do the job she was trained to do – she has no need to seek extra reward for anything. Threats do not rattle The Witch Doctor in any way, indeed they make her chuckle – she regards them as a battle of wits.

Once a senior colleague who is now dead, gave The Witch Doctor good advice – “To thyself be true. It is good to care about what people think, but not too much.”

So all in all, The Witch Doctor decided she was in a good position to start blogging. There was probably nothing to lose. And there was much needed to be said. But it would be anonymous. She would use a ‘Nom de Plume”

And now it seems Northern Doctor, one of the newest medical bloggers is thinking his/her way through the concept of anonymity.


Responses

  1. I am sitting here tapping my fingers on the table and waiting for some heroes to stay online and blog.

    Grumble is up and down like a brides nightie. Eh, he could always take up the pseudonym Rita Pal and be hated unanimously :)

    There is of course one other way – doctors write the post and email it to me – I post the material on their blog :). My IP tracked all the way and no one elses. The offer stands but of course no one will take it cause they trust me less than the stasi.

    Try using a proxy to post :)

    Rita

  2. Yes Rita, you’re right about posting by proxy.

    Until the medical hierarchy changes for the better, it may well be safer for junior doctors in particular to blog using a proxy. Also, lone bloggers know little about the law or how identity can be traced on the internet.

    Over the course of the week, I’ll point readers in the direction of your offer. I suspect many junior doctors are now wondering if they can trust anyone at all now, and the tendency may be to be silent for a while.

    But sooner or later “La Resistance” will appear looking for new ways to be heard.

    I expect DNUK forums will not be trusted for this in the future.

    PS I don’t think “they trust you less than the stasi” They probably find the fact you had the “audacity” to take on the GMC and win a bit scary!

  3. [...] SHOULD MEDICAL BLOGGERS USE A NOM-DE PLUME? [...]

  4. [...] The General Medical Council wise as ever, on 25 March 2013 produced a document that will come into effect on 22 April 2013. It has important and intrusive implications for freedom of speech among the medical profession and so My Black Cat insists that we regurgitate what we once said in this blog regarding the anonymity of medical bloggers. It was part of a conversation with Dr Grumble way back in 2008 [...]


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