Philip Klein's quest to unmask his nemeses ends in defeat

The SE Texas Record Feb. 7, 2012, 5:57am

"Who was that masked man?"

Nearly every episode of a long-lived and beloved radio and TV western ended with that question -- and its answer, the name of the title character: "The Lone Ranger."

Of course, "The Lone Ranger" was merely a nom de guerre. No one but Tonto, his faithful Indian companion, knew his real name.

The Lone Ranger was the first of a long line of masked defenders of truth, justice and the American way. The Phantom followed, then Superman, Batman and countless others.

"Why do they conceal their true identities?" "What do they have to hide?" "Are they lawmen or outlaws?"

Those are the questions asked of all costumed crime fighters – the same questions asked of anonymous bloggers, as well.

Why would bloggers want to conceal their true identities? To protect themselves and their loved ones from intimidation, ambush and reprisal is one good reason.

The motives don't really matter because the American legal system has long recognized that our constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech includes anonymous publication.

Local political blogger Philip Klein is an erratic defender of free speech. He's in favor of it for himself, but not for others.

Klein invoked the First Amendment to defend himself against a defamation suit filed by a public official objecting to posts on Klein's Southeast Texas Political Review blog.

Then Klein went to court to try to get the names of bloggers posting anonymously about him, so he could sue them for defamation.

Fortunately for the bloggers, and for the rest of us, the Supreme Court of Texas affirmed a federal law prohibiting the unauthorized identification of internet service subscribers.

Last month, a local judge denied Klein's petition to take depositions in the case.

So, who were those masked men (or women) posting about him? Philip Klein may never know. And that's the way it should be.

Hi ho, Silver!

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