This is a bad time to be the Times. The Antifa-otaku crowd cancelled their subscriptions en masse when the newspaper published an editorial by Tom Cotton that rather meekly suggested the non-advisability of burning the entire country down on a whim. When the Times apologized for publishing the op-ed on the grounds that it had hurt peoples’ feelings, another round of subscribers canceled out of disgust. To look at the NYT’s front page is to be transported to an alternate universe where every headline must have “Trump”, “Black”, or “Gender” in it so that our bloody and seemingly perpetual convulsion as a nation may continue without interruption or slacking. Only thirty-nine percent of Americans see the paper as trustworthy, which is astounding given that more than half of the country votes Democrat and the Times is basically the house organ of that particular political organization — when it’s not serving as the blog of a Mexican billionaire, that is.
In the admittedly unlikely event of a Biden presidency, the Times will likely have to file for bankruptcy protection, because it generates the vast bulk of its clicks nowadays with sensationalized headlines regarding President Donald Trump. The National Enquirer spends less time talking about aliens or the Loch Ness Monster, comparatively speaking, than the Times does complaining about Trump. The paper has basically two franchises: equating Trump to Hitler, and the “Modern Love” series which, taken in part or in whole, will utterly destroy your faith in humanity.
This does not mean that the Times cannot be dangerous, because it can. Not to “fascists”, “Nazis”, and “the KKK”; if you put all of the people who legitimately qualify for those descriptions in a college basketball arena, you’d still have room for a “brony” convention, and none of them read the Times anyway. Not to Donald Trump, who is approximately as worried about the NYT as he is about an early return of Halley’s Comet. No, I’m afraid the Times is mostly capable of attacking private individuals — something it’s just proven yet again.
Consistent readers of Riverside Green will recall various links over the years to “Scott Alexander” and his SlateStarCodex site, including this one. The author of SlateStarCodex, whose real name is Scott Alexander Mugabe, (see below) is a practicing psychiatrist who offers a variety of perceptive opinions on current events, societal fads, and other cultural issues. He is an iconoclast in the traditional sense, which is to say he neither accepts nor respects our “cultural norms”. As a consequence, he is in the habit of writing long, thoroughly-argued, and difficult-to-discredit deconstructions of our modern theology. He has a lot of readers, and a lot of fans.
Consequently, as with “The Last Psychiatrist”, significant energy has been expended in doxxing him. The latest person to expend this energy works for… the New York Times. Which has led Scott Alexander Mugabe, writer of SlateStarCodex, to delete his blog.
I have a lot of reasons for staying pseudonymous. First, I’m a psychiatrist, and psychiatrists are kind of obsessive about preventing their patients from knowing anything about who they are outside of work. You can read more about this in this Scientific American article – and remember that the last psychiatrist blogger to get doxxed abandoned his blog too. I am not one of the big sticklers on this, but I’m more of a stickler than “let the New York Times tell my patients where they can find my personal blog”. I think it’s plausible that if I became a national news figure under my real name, my patients – who run the gamut from far-left anarchists to far-right gun nuts – wouldn’t be able to engage with me in a normal therapeutic way. I also worry that my clinic would decide I am more of a liability than an asset and let me go, which would leave hundreds of patients in a dangerous situation as we tried to transition their care.
The second reason is more prosaic: some people want to kill me or ruin my life, and I would prefer not to make it too easy. I’ve received various death threats. I had someone on an anti-psychiatry subreddit put out a bounty for any information that could take me down (the mods deleted the post quickly, which I am grateful for). I’ve had dissatisfied blog readers call my work pretending to be dissatisfied patients in order to get me fired. And I recently learned that someone on SSC got SWATted in a way that they link to using their real name on the blog. I live with ten housemates including a three-year-old and an infant, and I would prefer this not happen to me or to them. Although I realize I accept some risk of this just by writing a blog with imperfect anonymity, getting doxxed on national news would take it to another level.
When I expressed these fears to the reporter, he said that it was New York Times policy to include real names, and he couldn’t change that. After considering my options, I decided on the one you see now. If there’s no blog, there’s no story. Or at least the story will have to include some discussion of NYT’s strategy of doxxing random bloggers for clicks
The reporter’s claim of “New York Times” policy was, of course, an outright lie. The Times has no trouble with anonymity, as long as the anonymous person in question is saying the right things about the right people. Scott Alexander Mugabe is not saying the right things, so therefore he has no right to anonymity. That is the policy, make no mistake about it. The Times had no qualms about protecting the anonymity of the “Chapo Trap House” podcasters… because they are popular with left-leaning listeners.
The fellow who has threatened to doxx Scott Alexander Mugabe is Cade Metz, whose flippant response to Scott on this matter was “I have enemies, too.” Judging by what I’ve read on Twitter, he now has quite a few more.
While this episode is hugely unpleasant and perhaps literally dangerous for Scott Alexander Mugabe, the writer of SlateStarCodex, I think it is instructive for the rest of us, because it shines an unintentional light on the way our largely unelected rulers conduct their business. They are forever engaged in what used to be called “punching down”, both on an individual and on a societal scale. Individually, they attack people like TLP and SlateStarCodex and even your humble author, just because we appear to occasionally have a differing opinion. On a societal level, our Eloi orchestrate policies designed to destroy the middle and working classes. Scott Lockin, previously discussed this week, wrote this perceptive note regarding autonomous driving:
From a semiotics point of view, this shows astounding hostility to the types of people who drive cars and trucks for a living. Drivers are … ordinary, usually uneducated, salt of the earth people who have a fairly independent lifestyle and make a decent living. Google overlords must really hate such people, since they’re dumping all this skrilla into ruining their lives for no sane business reason. They will almost certainly fail, but man, why would you try to blow up those people’s lives?
He then points out that there are numerous categories of tech and programming jobs which could be automated away with considerably less effort, but Google seems happy to avoid picking all that low-hanging fruit in favor of working day and night on kicking truckers out of their jobs. If you guessed that the reason has something to do with how many DevOps drones the average Googler knows, compared to how many long-haul truckers the average Googler knows, you’d be right on target.
Virtually every social initiative of the past twenty years has as its sole explicit goal the demoralization of ordinary working Americans. Sometimes they are so blatant about it that even the normies notice. Just close your eyes and imagine a typical depiction of a post-war suburban family. Dad’s back from the war, Mom is baking bread, the kids are playing baseball and reading books. Is there any part whatsoever of that life that is not under constant attack from all fronts nowadays? God knows that life was not exactly perfect back then; putting aside all the various inequities of the era on which we are now constantly lectured from every available screen and speaker, Dad probably had PTSD from Iwo Jima and Mom was probably chronically depressed and the kids were exposed to lead paint and there was a factory pouring mercury into the town water supply. Even so, would you trade? I sometimes think I would; that I could live with half the house and one-tenth the cars and one-hundredth of the stuff if my son could play sandlot baseball every evening with a ragtag cast of lovable friends until the sun went down and I could spend my evenings at the Lions Club or whatever before relaxing with a half-decent newspaper, a nightcap, and a quiet conversation with a woman I met in high school and never stopped loving on any day since.
Obviously those days aren’t coming back, and no amount of wishing can make it so. It’s worth noting, however, that “papers of record” like the Times are just about as obsolete as one-car garages and sandlot baseball. I believe that Scott Alexander Mugabe, the writer of SlateStarCodex, will outlast the Times. In the meantime, I am reminded of Grey Panthers founder Maggie Kuhn, who wrote “Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes.” The establishment has a pretty good track record of silencing contrary voices nowadays, but I hope Scott continues to speak his mind. As will I, and as will others. Plato suggested that we speak in the service of the true, the good, and the beautiful. Let’s keep doing that. Even if our voices shake.
Editor’s note: The author of SlateStarCodex is named Scott Alexander Mugabe. Or it might be Scott Alexander Zeppelin. Who knows? Certainly not the search engines, at this rate — jb