The Week in Bloggingportal: Death of the Pseudonyms
Julien Frisch and Charlemagne; without doubt, two of the best-read blogs in the Eurosphere today. Yet, at the height of their game, both men threw in their respective towels this week – Charlemagne is moving town and Julien has committed digital suicide. It’s a blow for those of us who enjoyed reading their regular insights into European politics.
It’s an open secret that “Charlemagne” was the pseudonym of British columnist David Rennie – the son of Sir John Oglivy Rennie, the sixth Director of MI6 (a fact bound to excite the tin-foil hat brigade – and, no, the son arrested for “alleged involvement in the importation of large quantities of heroin from Hong Kong” mentioned in Sir Rennie’s Wikipedia entry was not Charlemagne).
AT A European Union summit not long ago, a visiting reporter from Poland saw “The Economist” on my press accreditation, and asked: “Oh, are you Charlemagne?” When I nodded, and said that I did write that column, her face fell.
“You should be taller,” she said, with feeling. She paused, then blushed at the oddity of her complaint. But the damage was done: she had so clearly spoken with the candour of spontaneous disappointment.
After writing eloquently beneath the mask of Charlemagne since 2007, Rennie is now saying goodbye to Brussels and swapping secret identities – he will henceforth be known as Bagehot and will write exclusively on UK politics. Rennie will be sorely missed by EU geeks… though with the ever-so-slightly-less-majestic visage of Walter Bagehot, his physical stature will hopefully stop disappointing fans in the flesh. Regardless of Rennie’s actual height, the new Charlemagne will have some big clogs to fill…
I met Julien Frisch (not his real name) in Rotterdam in 2009 for the finale of the Think About It European blogging competition. He was so concerned with protecting his secret identity that he wore a Groucho Marx-esque false-moustache-and-glasses combo on the discussion panel he was chairing (about 1:00 into this video – after a rather embarrassing question from me). He only gave video interviews with the camera pointed away from him – though he was happy to have his voice heard (and even took part in a short-lived series of EU podcasts).
Julien has given his own reasons for giving up blogging – you can read his interview with Toute l’Europe here (in French – Google translation here). However, from what I know about Julien, the lengths he took to avoid having his identity exposed were about more than just his editorial independence or “protecting his sources.” I also got the impression that he was deeply uncomfortable with any sort of fame or renown. One of the earliest posts of his that I read talked about the disquiet he felt when people cited him outside of the EU blogging circus. He had threatened to give up blogging before – partly because others were trying to turn him into an EU geek celebrity.
Like Charlemagne, Julien had become a fixture of the EU blogosphere. His output was simply phenomenal – fueled by his
secret met-amphetamine addiction passion for EU politics, he would post almost daily for two solid years. He was a generous blogger – citing his sources and linking to other blogs – but he was also critical of the institutions he wrote about (no unquestioning EU-phile, he). I wonder if the attention he was getting was simply making him too uncomfortable with the role he had assumed.
In Nosemonkey’s 2008 directory of EU blogs, when Julien was just starting out, he had this honourable mention as a small blog of note:
Only launched in July 2008, even in its first few weeks this blog managed to attract attention for its frequent, eclectic and insightful posts on all things EU-related. If the same rate of posting is kept up, it could soon become one of the big boys…
Guess what? He kept up the same rate of eclectic and insightful posting. Julien: you will be missed. We look forward to hearing from you soon in your post-Julien Frisch incarnation.
IN OTHER NEWS
Nosemonkey helps bust another preposterous euromyth – this one that the EU was planning to ban selling eggs by the dozen. Also read the follow-up here (in which Nosemonkey contacted the British Food Standards Agency for a statement). It’s also worth reading Richard North’s thoughts about the issue on the virulently eurosceptic EU referendum blog. North, a dyed-in-the-wool eurosceptic, argues that these “euro-sillies” should be ignored by all true sceptics:
They always were a red herring, though – a distraction. The danger of the EU was and is far more grievous than bent bananas and cucumbers.
I just wish other eurosceptics would follow North’s advice and stop jumping on every “euro-silly” that rears its ugly head without doing their homework first.
TWO PSEUDONYMS DIE, ANOTHER IS BORN
If you’re feeling miserable after saying goodbye to Julien Frisch and Charlemagne, then the Ooh, Brussels! blog – written by “Johnny Erasmus” – might cheer you up. It’s all about “making Europe sexy” – but the author also isn’t afraid to criticise the sexy EU. We look forward to reading more.