What's In A Name?
By now most of you have probably noticed that we shortened the URL of the blog a bit last Friday to make it more user friendly. Not that fraterslibertas.com exactly rolls off the tongue and wedges itself firmly in your memory but it is a slight improvement.
< navelgazing >
We're often asked why we elected to go with a name that isn't easily remembered, pronounced, or even understood. The truth is that we never really considered the possibility that we would have any kind of wider readership at all, to say nothing of being occasionally mentioned on a national talk radio show (credit to Mr. Hewitt for pronouncing it correctly the first time unlike a certain local talk radio host who butchered the name repeatedly). The idea for a web site sprang up one day while my brother JB Doubtless and I were on one our lengthy long distance phone conversations. JB was living in Boston at the time and once every couple of weeks we would spend two hours discussing the state of the world. In between phone conversations we would trade almost daily e-mails (often including other friends as well) offering our opinions on various matters and promoting worthwhile articles we had read elsewhere.
If I recall correctly the actual inspiration for the site might be credited to Lileks who had written in a Bleat on the need to leave something behind to let people know you were here. We had both been reading Lileks on a daily basis since 1998 and had a great deal of respect for his writing. While we knew that we could never hope to approach his level of skill we decided that a site where we could collect and share our own writing was the way to go.
So we needed a name. We talked about using our family name in a similar manner to Lileks.com. But we had concerns about possible repercussions at our workplaces. We wanted to be able to write anything we wanted about any subject we wanted without having to worry about offending anyone's sensibilities. Most of our material would be unobjectionable but at times we might be a bit offensive and we wanted to reserve the right to be. So we opted for the cloak of anonymity.
We tossed around a lot of names but nothing seemed to fit. We started to explore Latin names in order to provide a hint of mystery and intellectualism. It seemed like a good way to class the joint up a bit. Plus we were Catholic and enjoyed the history and tradition of the language. Finally one day I put the words fraters (brothers) and libertas (liberty) together and submitted it to JB. "It's a little pretentious but I think it will work", he replied. It is pretentious but it did work. After all we were brothers who were looking for a forum to freely express our views.
At that time (Spring 2001) we were not really aware of the world of blogs other than Lileks who was and still is not really a traditional blogger. We set up a basic web page at fraterslibertas.com with an index of our writing. I had a number of e-mails I had collected from previous correspondence that I published at the site. As new material emerged we would publish it as well. It was a rather slow and time consuming process and as a result we didn't have fresh material on a regular basis. We also did little or nothing to promote the site preferring rather to use it more a storing house for our writing for some unknown future use.
Gradually we did begin to discover some of the big name bloggers such as Andrew Sullivan and Instapundit. After September 11th our interest in blogs grew dramatically as I'm sure it did for many others. Our e-mail exchanges also became longer and in some case more heated. In fact the gentleman who would one day became known as Saint Paul and I engaged in a furious debate immediately after 9/11 on the course of action that should be pursued. This isn't the time or place to reexamine whose arguments have been proven correct by the course of history but let's just say that while Saint Paul was defending the positions of Hunter S. Thompson, I was backing the rhetoric of George W. Bush. 'Nuf said?
By the beginning of January 2002 I realized that blogging was indeed the wave of the future and that we needed to get our feet wet. In March we launched the Fraters blog. And it was indeed much easier to publish, update, and link than before. We decided to publicize the site to some of our friends to get their reaction. I thought that with the writing of JB Doubtless and myself we would have enough material to keep things interesting but unfortunately JB had some technical difficulties getting set up on Blogger and then had work commitments which restricted his ability to participate. For five months I slogged along solo (for the most part) at the Fraters controls and it wasn't easy. I have admire those unibloggers like Mitch Berg at Shot in the Dark who can consistently write enough to keep readers interested. For us the group blog model was the only way to go.
Even after our minor dust up I had continued to exchange e-mails with Saint Paul who was at this point a regular Fraters reader (one of six at the time I believe) and was impressed with his wit and creative writing style. Plus I was really frickin' desperate for some help. And so the Saint Paul era was born in August 2002 commencing with this post called The Best Hockey Player in Ecuador, a satirical look at Minnesota politics that gave us our first glimpse of his wise acred stylings that we would come to know and love.
Meanwhile JB's job situation in Boston took a turn for the worse when he was released on unconditional waivers. For a period of time he cooled his heels in Bean town and took advantage of the rather generous unemployment benefits offered by Massachusetts. Eventually he realized that it was only a matter of time before a mob of outraged taxpayers of the commonwealth, armed with torches and pitchforks, would descend on his apartment and drag him away to be sold into chattel slavery to recoup a small portion of the costs of keeping him on the dole and so he returned to Minnesota in December. He stepped in and stirred up some controversy almost at once with this post on the death of Joe Strummer (at that time his moniker was going to be The Younger).
The solid core of the Fraters line up was now set with our triumvirate of scribes. A few other contributors have come and gone in the meantime but haven't had the staying power or the stamina to last. In June the Atomizer was brought on board after an exhaustive interview process (although I think next time you can skip the full body cavity search Saint Paul) and background check. So far it appears as if he has the right stuff for a long and prosperous career here at Fraters Libertas. If not we'll dump his arse faster than KSTP cuts morning show hosts and he'll join the others on the ash heap of history. Remember Atomizer, your job security is as solid as your latest post.
The question of using our real names has come up from time to time from friends and readers. While using our proper names would certainly have its benefits we have decided to remain veiled, at least for the time being. We're not all that secretive about it anyway and if you really must know we'll be happy to divulge our identities. Again the desire for anonymity is based primarily on possible repercussions at work, a concern not wholly without merit based on the experiences of other bloggers. After all I don't think the Atomizer would be quite so cheeky writing about sabotaging the office stereo system or stiffing his coworkers on gifts if his actions could be easily traced back to him. And it's annoying enough to have drunk friends offer up unsolicited advice on how to run the site. We don't need coworkers doing the same.
< /navelgazing >
So what is in a name? Could we have possibly gotten more hits, links, and pub if we had an easier handle? Definitely. But who could have foreseen what things would come when we kicked off this little hobby two years ago? Besides they've already started work on the engraved marble entryway in the new Fraters World Headquarters and those stone masons get pretty surly with last minute work order changes. Fraterslibertas.com it is and fraterslibertas.com it shall be.