Every time a Pipe Dream article is published online, Pipe Nightmare lurks around the corner. A self-described “Paleoconservative, atheist, pessimist, existentialist, skeptic” on Disqus, the software Pipe Dream uses for commenting, he’s known as, basically, the conservative response to every article.
His dedication is impressive, and his criticism is rude. (It’s possible that Pipe Nightmare isn’t male, but let’s go ahead and assume). Naturally, I wanted to interview him. Why does he do what he does? Why does he care so much? How did he develop his ideologies? And, most importantly, who the hell is he?
So I commented on one of his web comments and asked him to get in touch; he did, and we arranged an interview. His dedication to anonymity was thorough — he emailed me from email@example.com. No traces. We arranged to Skype at midnight.
I had some issues with Skype, so we ended up using Google Hangouts. I waited for Pipe Nightmare to install some plugins, and then we started.
I was video chatting, but his image was blank. When he spoke, it was clear he was using a voice disguiser.
Pipe Dream seldom grants anonymity to sources — in his case, I was willing to work with him and allow him to keep his identity private so he could maintain his persona of representing ideas, instead of a person who could be attacked. But in any case, I’d need to know who he was — so that I could find out if he’s a student, his year and major, if Pipe Nightmare is in fact one person or many. All the basics. He refused.
“After oompa-loompa-gate, I know all about what happens at Pipe Dream when unpopular opinions are expressed by people,” Nightmare said. “So, uh, yeah.”
I told him that, at minimum, I’d need to know who he was — as would our Editor-in-Chief, Rachel Bluth — but I’d keep it private from everyone else.
“I’m not sure if I can trust the professionalism of Pipe Dream’s staff,” Nightmare said. Okay.
No one on our staff, I insisted, has a vendetta against him. Obviously, not everyone agrees with what Pipe Nightmare writes, but his posts have been received with more mild exasperation than actual anger. No one really cares about him that much. Not even Molly McGrath, the opinion editor, whose section Pipe Nightmare seems to reserve a special venom for.
Without his identity, I wouldn’t proceed, and I told him so. I require basic trust between myself and the subjects I interview.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Nightmare said. “It’s not that I’m afraid, or anything like that — afraid for my safety and whatnot. It’s just that I want to make sure people are approaching my ideas, and considering the concepts that I’m bringing. I don’t really want people to answer these political identity games where people are questioning who I am and my background. I just want to offer ideas to people. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do through my comments, and I think this would completely counteract what I’m trying to do.”
Fair, but I still needed to know who he was — and, again, the information wouldn’t be published. I told him to sleep on it.
The next day, he emailed me. He’d do it — as long as I consented in an email not to share his information. We would Hangout at midnight, again.
He never got in touch. I waited a few minutes after 12, and then emailed him. It never arrived. “Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently: firstname.lastname@example.org.” And just like that, he was gone.