So why the pseudonym? Well, I like my privacy, for one thing. I'm not particularly concerned about stalkers, lunatics, and trolls, but someone close to me is, and I respect her concern. I'm not an abused woman or in Witness Protection with a pressing need for privacy, but on principle I feel that in the Marketplace of Ideas the ideas should be judged by their content, not by what anyone feels about the person expressing them. I do believe in accountability and in standing behind what you say. Like I said, I've used the same identity online for years, over a decade, and I stand ready to explain, defend, argue, and be argued with about anything I've said. I've said some dumb and/or inflammatory things in my time, and I've been right and I've been wrong on any number of matters of fact. Where I've been wrong, I am willing to stand corrected and take my lumps with the same identity, the same reputation, with which I made my claims. Call me cdog or call me Chris (my 'real' first name, by the way, short for Christopher) it's still me, and whichever name you call me, I answer to.
As an atheist and a progressive, I'm also keenly aware that I am a widely and virulently (in fringe cases) despised minority. (Now, I'm also a straight, anglo, able-bodied, male, so I'm not facing the same struggles or discrimination as an African-American lesbian might.) I work for a living. Me and my family rely on my income to eat, have shelter, and for the clothes our backs. I'd like to think I could go look for a new job some day if I wanted or needed to without having to worry that I would be discriminated against without my knowledge (and that's key) by potential future employers using the broadly accepted and nearly universal practice of scanning google, facebook, twitter, etc. for background on potential new hires.
If I were asked on a job application or in an interview about my irreligious views or my politics, I would want to understand before answering why I was being asked those questions and how the answers would impact my consideration; however, I would ultimately answer them honestly. So why don't I put my full legal name on all my posts about politics and atheism? Because I can't afford to risk being weeded out of a pool applicants by a bigot, a risk I consider high, without the opportunity to be considered on skills and accomplishments and to speak for my beliefs and character directly. (Update 7/24/11: A little tangential, but here's a recent example that highlights one subtle way being "out" as an atheist can draw unwanted attention in the workplace.)
While having no delusions of influence or importance, I have a voice and, in this blog as well as on g+, ff, and twitter, a soapbox to stand on. I like that. I like the discussions and even the conflicts to which expressing my opinions sometimes lead. I'd like think there's something democratic and valuable about that whole arrangement, something that's bigger than me and about free expression. But if google shuts me out of g+, then I'll say "screw'em" and just leave my (boring, safe, minimally engaged) real name account out there so I don't look like a total hermit but I will not share anything except entirely non-controversial opinions. I might remark on books, if I undertake reading Proust in the original French, I'll share my findings on comparing translations, or I might revisit some papers I wrote as a student and update them as essays, heck, I might even find a better niche doing that... I can imagine some reading this might rather I did that then get worked up over Republican mendacity and religious bigotry. But it would be much more limited, safe, and self-serving content that I'd expose publicly.
Heck, I've barely even gotten going on g+, but I like the service and I can see it supplanting my use of twitter in time. I like a handful of tweeters, but am not crazy about the service. I like Friendfeed more, but it doesn't look like it's got much of a future, sadly, despite being superior to g+ in terms of features and community. That community has, as far as I can tell, almost no exclusive users though, and as more and more ffers chase the power users to g+ and find it an acceptable, if mildly inferior product, the fact that it's growing and has a future will almost certainly result in Friendfeed dying off. My larger concern is about google's ownership of blogger and any conflict over my online identity spilling over to here.
The world at large, and google itself, won't miss me on g+ if I'm banned. But wouldn't it be nice if Tom Tomorrow could have an account? Megan, a victim already, has more along this line of thought.