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July 20, 2009

Houston-based Defending People adopts "no-name, no-publish" policy .

Effective immediately, absent compelling reasons, this blog will join [another blog] in not publishing any comments of anonymous commenters. All comments must be accompanied by commenters’ names (first and last) and real and verifiable email addresses.

-- Mark Bennett, Trial Lawyer, Houston, Texas, July 14.

Texans are quirky Americans. Internet handles like Law Gringo, Smokestack Lightning and Young Cardozo Speaks won't cut it with them. They like real names. Despite the Texas fondness for outsize egos, there are rules. Not many rules, mind you--but some. Texans are arguably the most secure humans on earth. They know who they are. Most Texans we know speak up, hate wasting time, and carry themselves with natural elan.

And they will always ask: "Who the hell are you?". Then you respond by giving a name. However, as mentioned, it's a real oddball tribe--so just humor them. The name you give must be your name, and it must be a real one, and very similar to the one your mother gave you, or that you give to the DMV. Got that? E-mail us if you are not clear on this.

Texans know that there are winners and losers in life. Not everyone gets to be a star--even in Texas. Asking who you are is the way to begin to keep track. And if in response you don't even give your name--well, you know, Bubba, it sounds like you have made the decision for us.

At work here is a powerful instinct, folks. And we think it's a bit stronger in Texas than it is in other regions of the U.S. It's forged elegantly, and complexly, of several elements: human curiosity, friendliness, warrior spirit, playfulness.

Respect, too.

The story of Texas in earlier times is the story of America Writ Even Larger. When your stomping grounds are limitless and often uncontrollable spaces, and you live in a transient society, you learn to expect all manner of creatures--human and not human--to come up and down your path. You need to size them up quickly. You may not see them again for a while.

In much of America over the last 400 years, whenever there was a new animal in the woods, you needed to confront it, and get a sense of it. After all, you might have to kill it later on--for safety, for food or for fun. So the least you can do is get its proper name. Do some quick but accurate homework, study the critter a bit, and file it all away for the next meeting.


With humans, it's not much different. In or out of the state of Texas, a typical Texan--trust us, there clearly is such a person--will effortlessly overwhelm, charm or take as hostage any room of people on the planet for as long as he or she wants. But there is a time-honored prerequisite to engaging, and eventually declaring victory over, any of us mere mortals, in business, battle, love or a parlor game.

They will first ask: "Who are you?". Ask the question. Get an answer. Then he or she will proceed. A good Texan's savoring of the joy and brutality of victory comes, it all, much later.

Besides, it's not that rewarding to engage cartoon characters and phantoms. The Nameless are more likely to lie to us, and hustle us. Life's short, and the people in it move fast. We need an your ID, mate. Take off the mask for a spell. Then we can talk. WAC? sees no reason for any other rules of engagement to apply on the Internet and in the Blogopshere--both of which in our view have quickly evolved into a sea of trash. These days, we seek a better neighborhood.

Getting back Texas, we were not surprised last week when, at the forthright and increasingly well-regarded site called Defending People, Mark Bennett, a Houston-based criminal defense lawyer, announced that his site would also ban, subject to compelling exceptions, comments by anonymous commenters. Do see his article "No, You Are Not Publius".

WAC? of course was proud to be mentioned. But we were very happy that it was Bennett who did this. Our main writer, a decade older than me, has quite a work travelogue in the U.S. and Europe, and has met a few lawyers. For two decades, he has worked on both litigation and transactions (especially on energy related issues) all over the Midwest and South. He gives Bennett the ultimate compliment: a "stand-up guy", and someone we should meet, get to know and learn from.

It helps that the handful of other lawyer-writers we respect--like Scott Greenfield, the white collar defense lawyer in NYC who writes Simple Justice--have such a high regard for Bennett.

The blogosphere, though, is still a mess. And one problem is that there are too many nameless commenters--some of them apparently talented--who disrespect themselves and us. We are thrilled that Mark Bennett, the proponent here, is not only a fine lawyer, but also deeply cares about (1) the legal profession, and (2) the Internet which showcases far more productive (and for that matter far more shoddy and unproductive) discourse about the law, courts, policy, and regulation than anyone would have predicted 5 years ago.

In short, a wonderful development: A "no anonymity" policy as a default position instituted by one of the Net's few stand-up guys.

Next, please? Who else will step up? Who will help improve The Conversation?

Posted by Rob Bodine at July 20, 2009 09:15 PM

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