The Scary Spectre of Professional Identity Theft

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From Inside Higher Ed:

One deleted e-mail marked the beginning of my ordeal. It was finals week, just before Christmas break, when I received a strange message asking me to comment on some kind of online political essay that I had supposedly written. Since I’m not a blogger and make it a point to avoid the many rancorous political forums on the Internet, I immediately dismissed it as spam and hit delete.

But the notes kept coming, increasing in their fervor and frequency, until I could no longer deny it: I was receiving”fan mail.”Some writers called me courageous. Others hailed me as a visionary. A few suggested that I was predestined to play a pivotal role in the apocalyptic events foretold in the Book of Revelation. (Seriously.) Now, over the past 12 years I have published a scholarly book and eight journal articles on various historical topics, but I have to admit that through it all I never even attracted one groupie. So with my curiosity very much piqued, I began an online quest in search of the mysterious article.

I suppose it was inevitable that I was not going to like what I found. There, prominently displayed on a rather extreme Web site, was an essay (information about it can be found here) that likened President Obama to … Adolf Hitler. Underneath the title was the inscription”by Tim Wood.” ….

Read the entire article. Even though it is seriously disturbing.

Via Historiann, who astutely writes:

It’s like we say out here on the open range: you’re either doing the branding or you’re getting the brand on your backside. The web has made us more knowable and more reachable–in many ways this is for the good, but on the other hand, it also makes us vulnerable to incidents like the one Wood experienced. I’ve got a blog, and I’m not afraid to use it–but who’s to say that people with blogs and their own websites won’t be spoofed too? It gives us a greater platform from which to respond to attempts at professional identity theft, and many of us have audiences that would be able to distinguish the counterfeit from our authentic voices as writers. The beauty of the world-wide non peer-reviewed internets is also teh suck, isn’t it: it’s so easy to self-publish, I just might want to publish”you,”too! Try to stop me!

–Ann Bartow

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