What would you do if you Googled your own name and, right under the link to your company Web site, found an anonymous blog alleging you smoke pot?

Welcome to Mark Cenci’s world.

“I’ve been in business for six years and I just don’t want to see my reputation damaged,” Cenci, who owns and operates Mark Cenci Geologic in Portland.

“But I can’t sue him if I don’t know who he is,” he said last week.

The “he” to whom Cenci refers is a young man who, in a telephone interview that he initiated Friday, would only refer to himself as “Sam.” A young man who, depending on how far Cenci wants to push this thing, could soon find himself in a heap of trouble.

It all started back in February when Cenci, the former chairman of the Maine Libertarian Party and a frequent contributor to the conservative Web site As Maine Goes (www.asmainegoes.com), responded to a favorite-movies poll on the site by saying he liked the flick “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.”

Watching out there in cyberspace was Sam, who back in December launched www.asmainegoeslolz.com as a forum to poke fun at “the silly things Maine conservatives say.”

Well aware that “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” is, as he put it, a “stoner” film, Sam pounced.

“I always thought Mark was a buzzkill,” Sam wrote on his blog. “But now I know he’s just buzzed.”

He continued, “Also explains the whole libertarian thing – that is the most convenient philosophy for those angry at the government getting between them and their ganja.”

It might well have been a tree-falling-in-an-empty-forest kind of thing – Sam says his blog only has a couple of dozen regular readers – had a friend of Cenci’s not searched for his name on Google recently. He quickly alerted Cenci that right under the link to Mark Cenci Geologic was this strange reference to Cenci being “buzzed” on marijuana.

Cenci and Sam e-mailed back and forth a few times last week. But things only got worse.

“I have a professional reputation as a State Certified geologist and State Licensed Site Evaluator, and make my living as such,” wrote Cenci. “Libelous statements are damaging.”

“Look at it from my point of view,” countered Sam. “The leader of the ‘hey man let’s legalize all drugs’ party admits he likes watching stoner movies? It would be humor malpractice if I didn’t make a joke about it.”

Set the record straight or else, Cenci warned.

“I’m not going to take down my joke without a court order,” responded Sam.

That’s when Cenci – who for the record liked the way Harold and Kumar “make fun of aspects of society,” not the way they smoke copious amounts of marijuana – decided to play hardball.

In addition to contacting a lawyer, he logged on to As Maine Goes and lamented, “My law firm advises me I have a right to sue and I am trying to serve notice to the person writing these nasty things. The problem is, the perpetrator adamantly refuses to identify him/herself.”

Hence, he wrote, “Any help in finding out who is behind this suspicious endeavor is appreciated. I offer a reward of $200 to the first person to rat out the perpetrator.”

The bounty offer didn’t last long. Scott Fish, who owns As Maine Goes, deleted Cenci’s posting as soon as he saw it late Thursday evening.

“I just didn’t think it was an appropriate thing to do on AMG,” Fish later explained.

Still, the battle goes on.

Cenci said he’s waiting to hear back from his law firm on just how far he can go in stripping away Sam’s cloak of anonymity and, while he’s at it, suing the pants off him for libel.

(The answer is pretty far: Five years ago, a dispute that centered on an anonymous e-mail went all the way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The court ultimately ordered that the e-mail author’s identity, obtained through his Internet server, be revealed.)

“Using illicit drugs is a crime,” noted Cenci. “And you don’t want to hire geologic professionals – who have to gather information and assess things and think problems through and deal with regulators – who might be addle-brained from drug use.”

Sam, meanwhile, said he can’t quite believe that someone will see the Google entry about Cenci being “buzzed” and decide, “Oh my goodness, I’m not going to hire Mark Cenci to be my geologist.”

As for his anonymity, Sam said he’s not budging – especially after noticing Thursday that someone on a computer at a prominent Portland law firm was noodling around his Web site searching for references to “Mark Cenci.”

“If he knew who I was, I’d probably be in a lawyer’s office right now drawing up an answer to his complaint,” Sam noted. “So there are benefits to being anonymous.”

In fact, Sam said, all of this could have been avoided if Cenci logged on to As Maine Goes with a pseudonym of his own.

“Then when I refer to his user name, it wouldn’t show up on Google results with his actual name,” Sam said. “So again, there are some real benefits to not having your name attached to everything you do online.”

Translation: Cenci, simply by attaching his real name to his Internet musings, now has nobody but himself to blame for being publicly labeled a pothead.

Kind of makes you wonder what Sam’s been smoking.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

[email protected]

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