Sock Puppet Soliloquy: LAT’s Michael Hiltzik, Praised and Buried

Ok, ok. Finally, as promised, some Michael Hiltzik blog scandal-related stuff I’ve been meaning to get to.

One, we get it, already: Michael Hiltzik used pseudonyms – and not just to post blog comments anonymously. He also used pseudonyms to buttress his own positions on blogs, including his own, and to disparage those who disagreed with his. Like we said, we get it.

This latter point was largely ignored by both The New York Times and the Washington Post, both of which in their coverage left out Hiltzik’s cheering-from-the-sidelines at his own moves, as did we. Why? Chiefly because the question of misconduct here relates to his violations of LAT policy. As the paper stated, the Times’ policy, both in print and online, is for “editors and reporters to identify themselves when dealing with the public.”

What’s fascinating is that the man who broke the story, L.A. Deputy District Attorney Patrick Frey, will not let the issue of Hiltzik’s cheerleading his own posts drop. Frey, we must first acknowledge, created a much-needed discussion on the ethics and responsibilities of bloggers and journalists who blog (can they be called bloggers too?).

But for having broken the story on his politically conservative media blog Patterico’s Pontifications, Frey is using it to insist all sorts of nefarious things about Big Media and journalism in general – viz, that we are all somehow in on a vast liberal conspiracy to cover up Hiltzik’s embarrassing tactics in the interest of our jointly-held, bedwetting, pinko-commie political agenda. As only a prosecutor can, Frey insists on framing Hiltzik’s pseudonymously posting barbs at detractors and plaudits at his own columns as something revaltory of… a certain kind of character! And as you probably don’t need me to tell you, conservatives are way into character.

Like a sort of bureaucratic Johnnie Cochran, Frey has been tub-thumping on his blog: It’s not the pseudonyms. It’s the sock-puppetry!

Well, what Hiltzik did: Is it a tad creepy? Immature? Surely both. Does it violate L.A. Times policy? Pretty clearly. But does it mean he’s Jayson Blair? Give us a break already.

Honestly, more than anything else, we here at Fishbowl feel astonishment. Not astonishment that Hiltzik found the moral gumption to anonymously attack his foes online; we feel astonishment that he found the time and energy to do so. We’re so tired by the end of the day, we’re only too happy to collapse into bed no matter how many folks have emailed to call us gap-toothed nitwits online. Not Hiltzik. We imagine him feverishly deconstructing arguments on blog threads way into the night.

The real question the media should be asking is: Who is Michael Hiltzik’s physician, and, How can we get our hands on whatever super-high quality speed he’s been prescribing him?