The New York Times’s Inconsistent Standards Drove Slate Star Codex To Self-Cancel
Scott Alexander is the pseudonymous proprietor of Slate Star Codex, a science and history blog well-liked by many libertarians and neoliberals. On Monday, he took the drastic step of deleting the blog after a New York Times reporter threatened to reveal his name in a forthcoming article.
“I’m not sure what happens next,” wrote Alexander in his last and currently only blog post. “In my ideal world, the New York Times realizes they screwed up, promises not to use my real name in the article, and promises to rethink their strategy of doxxing random bloggers for clicks.”
In an interview with Reason, Alexander explained he had recently learned that a New York Times tech reporter was working on a story about Slate Star Codex. The reporter had contacted several of Alexander’s friends, as well as a former girlfriend. Eventually, the Times reached out to Alexander, who agreed to speak about his blog off the record. He also asked the reporter not to divulge his real name in the article, but this request was rejected.
“We had a discussion about why I wanted my real name out of the story, where I said most of the same things I said in the public post,” Alexander tells Reason. “He seemed understanding but said his editor absolutely prohibited him from writing it without my name, and he thought the story was important enough that he didn’t want to drop it.”
The Times declined to comment to Reason, though a spokesperson stressed that “when we report on newsworthy or influential figures, our goal is always to give readers all the accurate and relevant information we can.”
This is an unfortunate series of events. Alexander has penned a lot of really great pieces on a wide range of subjects: on Marxism’s failings as a science, on the English settlement of the Americas, and on bureaucratic barriers to scientific research, to name just a few. (I would link to them here, but they’ve all disappeared for the moment.) Indeed, according to several of the people the Times had interviewed, the story was probably going to be a fairly positive one that celebrated Alexander’s prescience on some COVID-19 related topics. We don’t know for sure since the article isn’t available yet. Alexander is hoping that his deletion of the blog will cause the Times reporter to decline to publish, or to pub
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