This needs saying again. Originally posted 17 November 2015.
Responding to a commenter who states that one exposes oneself to tremendous risk by speaking out against leftist insanity, Malcolm Pollack writes:
Most bloggers who write from a contrarian position about these things seem to use noms de plume. In fact, I do have another blog I’ve set up for this purpose, but I almost never post anything to it. I prefer to speak under my own name — not because I’m trying to be “brave”, which this really isn’t at all, but just because it feels more honest, and because I have a right to, and because I’m ornery. (Running into that theater in Paris to try to save the people inside, knowing you are overwhelmingly likely to be killed: that’s brave. Writing grumpy blog-posts from the comfort and safety of my home is not.)
I would underscore the First Amendment right to free speech under one's own name without fear of government reprisal. Use it or lose it. (Unfortunately, the disjunction is inclusive: you may use it and still lose it.) But use it responsibly, as Pollack does. The right to express an opinion does not absolve one of the obligation to do one's level best to form correct opinions. Note however that your legal (and moral) right to free speech remains even if you shirk your moral (but not legal) obligation to do your best to form correct opinions.
I would add to Pollack's reasons for writing under his own name the credibility it gives him. You lose credibility when you hide behind a pseudonym. And when you take cover behind 'anonymous,' your credibility takes a further southward plunge, and shows a lack of imagination to boot.
Pollack is right: it doesn't take much civil courage to do what he and I do. I've made mine, and he is on the cusp of making his, if he hasn't already. (You could say we are 'made men.') We don't need jobs and we have no need to curry favor. And our obscurity provides some cover. Obscurity has its advantages, and fame is surely overrated. (Ask John Lennon.)
This is why I do not criticize the young and not-yet-established conservatives who employ pseudonyms. Given the ugly climate wrought by the fascists of the Left it would be highly imprudent to come forth as a conservative if you are seeking employment in academe, but not just there.
What is civil courage? The phrase translates the German Zivilcourage, a word first used by Otto von Bismarck in 1864 to refer to the courage displayed in civilian life as opposed to the military valor displayed on the battlefield. According to Bismarck, there is more of the latter than of the former, an observation that holds true today. (One example: there is no coward like a university administrator, as recent events at the university of Missouri and at Yale once again bear out.) Civil courage itself no doubt antedates by centuries the phrase.
Claude Boisson writes to inform me that the first attestation is in French, see pp. 2-3, and only later by the young Bismarck. But we need to make a three-way distinction among civil courage the virtue, Zivilcourage the German word, and civil courage the concept which, I agree from the source cited, does come into play before Bismarck introduced the German word.
So while the expression of the concept in the French language by the use of Courage civil and Courage civique occurs before Bismarck's use of Zivilcourage, the German word was first used by Bismarck. 'Civil courage itself' as it occurs in my final sentence refers to the virtue, one exercised by the ancients. One of course thinks of Socrates.