A prominent tech and political blogger says he was contacted recently by The New York Times as part of a story they planned to write about his blog. The reporter, however, told the blogger the outlet would use his real full name in an article that seemed to be fairly positive about the blog. Because the Times planned to out the blogger, he says he was forced to delete his blog to protect his job and his family.
Scott Alexander (whose real last name has been kept a secret) ran the blog Slate Star Codex until this week. In a lengthy final post, he explained why he was shutting down the 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.
Scott said he discussed these fears with the Times reporter, who said it was policy to use real names. In contrast, the Times has written numerous articles about street artist Banksy that included details suggesting the outlet probably knows his real name, yet has never revealed it.
Scott added that he doesn’t “believe I’m above news coverage, or that people shouldn’t be allowed to express their opinion of my blog.”
“By all indications, this was just going to be a nice piece saying I got some things about coronavirus right early on. Getting punished for my crimes would at least be predictable, but I am not willing to be punished for my virtues,” he wrote.
He wrote that he backed up his blog and if the Times “promises not to use my real name in the article and promises to rethink their strategy of doxxing random bloggers for clicks,” he’ll restore it.
“Otherwise, I’m going to lie low for a while and see what happens. Maybe all my fears are totally overblown and nothing happens and I feel dumb. Maybe I get fired and keeping my job stops mattering. I’m not sure. I’d feel stupid if I caused the amount of ruckus this will probably cause and then caved and reopened immediately. But I would also be surprised if I never came back. We’ll see,” Scott wrote.
The Times’ technology editor did not respond to a Daily Wire inquiry prior to press time.
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