- A Petition

post by Ben Pace (Benito), jacobjacob, Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2020-06-25T05:44:50.050Z · LW · GW · 32 comments

This is a link post for



Here's the petition Scott asked us to make.

This is a request for a specific action by the New York Times editors: 

We, the undersigned, urge the New York Times to respect Scott Alexander's request to not reveal his real name in a planned piece discussing the Slate Star Codex blog and community.


That's all. It seems to me really important for public discourse on the internet for journalists to respect this norm in this situation.

Please share it in the places you share things, and email it to the prominent people who you know that the New York Times respects and care about.

Please sign.



Thanks to Jacob Lagerros and Rob Bensinger for making the petition with me.

Thanks to Paul Graham, Steven Pinker and many others for their early signatures.

Thanks to Sarah Haider and Tanner Greer for independently organising a petition and then joining forces with ours.

Thanks to so many other people who are still unsubscribing from the NYT, giving them respectful-but-firm feedback, and otherwise supporting Scott in this situation. It's been great to see so much love and support for SSC these past 48 hours.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by cousin_it · 2020-06-25T20:17:05.720Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That list of names is amazing! I realize now how many like-minded people are out there, I'm not as alone as it felt before. Let's not delete it quickly, it's great that we're all able to find each other.

comment by Sanjay · 2020-06-26T15:53:38.334Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I understand Scott Alexander's arguments for why he doesn't want to be doxxed.

I haven't heard NYT's arguments for why they think it's OK to doxx him.

I'm sure they must have some. (Nobody says "I do action X because I'm a moustache-twirling villain")

But I can't judge the difference between "that sounds like unconvincing post-hoc rationalisations" and "actually, that's a reasonably argument" if I haven't heard their side of the story at all.

Does anyone know where I can hear NYT's point of view? I tried emailing them and haven't had a reply yet.

comment by orthonormal · 2020-06-28T17:12:10.300Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What they say is that they don't respect pseudonyms in stories unless there's a compelling reason to do so in that particular case. There appears to be a political bias to the exceptions, but good luck getting an editor to admit that even to themself, let alone to others.

comment by Slider · 2020-06-26T16:37:27.312Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There can be a difference between having reasons and being able to present them. Humans are known to take cookies from a cookie jar when nobody is looking even if nobody says "I take the cookie althought I am not allowed to". Even young people know to try to spin it somehow. People will not call themselfs villains but there are villains in the world.

In a situation where your stance is indefencible staying silent might make you more credible than making a bad defence.

Thus it might matter more whether both sides have had opportunity and effective means to express themselfs rather what all sides stories are.

In the case of a an actual policy it could also be that multiple people compromise to uphold the standard and different parties have different rationales for defending the standard. Then it could be that there is no rationale because there is no unified decision making process behind it.

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-06-27T11:24:25.895Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

NYT hasn't made a public decision to actually publish the article, so there's not really a situation for them to make a public statement about the individual case. 

comment by lifelonglearner · 2020-06-25T06:13:20.405Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is anyone worried about Streisand effect type scenarios with this?

I get that the alternative is Scott being likely doxxed by the article being published, so this support against the NYT seems like a much better outcome.

At the same time, it seems like this might also lead to some malicious people being more motivated (now that they've heard of Scott through these channels) to figure out who he is and then share that to people who Scott would like to not know?

comment by ryan_b · 2020-06-25T15:38:48.128Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am not worried, because I prefer the world where internet mobs occasionally dox people to the world where internet mobs occasionally dox people and major news outlets systematically dox people.

comment by lifelonglearner · 2020-06-25T16:02:04.525Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, right, that's a fair point.

comment by romeostevensit · 2020-06-25T06:36:01.037Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

if by some malicious people you're including people at the NYT who view controversy as a good thing as a proxy for clicks, yes.

comment by gekaklam · 2020-06-25T07:11:11.714Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I mistakenly signed twice. Will there be a duplicate check, or could you simply remove my second entry?

[I forgot I had NoScript enabled, so after the first attempt nothing seemed to have happened. That's why I disabled it, which refreshed the site, and submitted again. Then I saw that first time worked already, so now my name appears twice.]

comment by jacobjacob · 2020-06-25T19:39:53.486Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We can remove duplicates. Thanks for highlighting. 

comment by Drew Dunne (drew-dunne) · 2020-06-25T20:51:31.087Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Signing my agreement. His wealth of content is far more important than a single line in this single article. Will substantially impact my view of NYT if they want to move forward.

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-06-25T14:56:00.790Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can respect the sentiment, but this less than pointless.

The NYT are bad actors that did this for attention. More attention isn't the answer. They are bullies. Begging bullies for mercy never works, it merely emboldens them.

You'd think that people would take five seconds to look around them and see this MO repeated a million times, and the weak responses to it failing again and again, but there's a *particular* kind of person that is either agnostic or pro inquisition until it happens to them. Everyone's heard the poem ( ), almost nobody takes it onboard. Being weak doesn't save you, and it damns you and everyone around you.

As far as I can see there are two options:

1. Go to ground until this blows over. Go on a 2 month holiday. The appetite of the inquisition will never be sated, but they can only really eat you once.

2. Counterattack by targeting the "journalist" directly to demonstrate that bullying has a tangible cost. That isn't difficult to do, and the "journalist" in question has already given the template for that: self, family, friends, profession. All that is required is to pursue them along the same lines. Even if they are a paragon of virtue (obviously not in this case) there will be someone they either care about or are afraid of that won't be, and crushing that person will make the "journalist's" life far more difficult. And before anyone objects, no war was ever won by turning the other cheek.

The NYT as an org isn't an easy target. You are only going to be able to fight an asymmetric battle with them. Right now, thanks to BLM psychopathy, round 2 of metoo hysteria, and baizuo self mortification, claims of sexism and racism could probably be weaponised against them. I'm willing to bet that the NYT is very white, straight, and male enough to be a juicy target for the SJW identity grifters. Get some blood in the water and let them do the rest for you.

comment by seed · 2020-06-25T15:07:58.684Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I signed the petition on the assumption that it was all just a misunderstanding, but I'm willing to fight dirty if they ignore the petition and publish the name anyway.

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-06-28T19:30:49.297Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You don't get to work at the NYT and use that excuse. This story has passed through multiple hands.

comment by ryan_b · 2020-06-25T17:45:25.848Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

NYT as an org has a simple metric: profit. If they lose more subscriptions than they gain ad revenue, there is a good chance they will stop.

It is really hard for companies to get unambiguous signals of don't do this thing; it's why there are marketing budgets. This is a simple and unambiguous way for the broader community to express its unhappiness.

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-06-28T19:31:40.040Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would argue that NYT as an org is not a pure capitalist venture in the same way that almost no political mouthpiece is. They exist to push a viewpoint, and financial viability is the means to ensure they're around to be able to do that.

Also, as a political mouthpiece they have direct funding from people with a view to push that is independent of ad and customer revenue. As long as there are enough eyeballs to justify it there will be outside money available to fund the messaging.

I believe that the NYT is untouchable for the ordinary person. Individuals within the NYT are touchable and if you can associate the choice of the individual to participate in gutter journalism with personal ruin then that will act as a disincentive outside of the control of the NYT.

comment by ryan_b · 2020-06-29T14:47:14.550Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I believe that the NYT is untouchable for the ordinary person.

For one ordinary person, I agree. But Scott isn't one, and neither are his high-profile fellows. However, leaving that aside...

Individuals within the NYT are touchable and if you can associate the choice of the individual to participate in gutter journalism with personal ruin then that will act as a disincentive outside of the control of the NYT.

Destroying NYT reporters is hard work for billionaires and presidents. My expectation for success is very low, because it is something that large newspapers are accustomed to dealing with and specific protections are provided by the law to prevent it.

Indeed I go as far as to say the press considers retaliation as a mark of success; based on Scott's version of his interaction with the reporter I am confident this specific reporter also holds that view. All stories are improved by retaliation against the reporter; this will generate many more eyeballs than one blurb on one corner of the internet would. In summary, it is a very hard task and anything less than total success actually serves the reporter in particular and the NYT in general. Further, if you are unable or unlikely to do it to the next reporter, it doesn't have any real deterrent value.

Consider: in order to ruin him, you'd have to convince the NYT to fire him. If you can do that, why not convince them to leave out one unimportant detail from an unimportant article instead?

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-07-01T19:27:24.604Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
in order to ruin him, you'd have to convince the NYT to fire him.

No, as stated before, all you have to do is make his actions costly. Ratcheting up the stress levels is the aim here. That could include going after income, but that lacks imagination and certainly wouldn't be my first attack vector. That is an expected attack, and it will be a defended attack accordingly.

If you want to fight and win, stop playing by the rules. The easiest way of getting your brain into the habit of thinking up novel solutions is to take the 'right' way off the table and then come up with methods of still achieving your goal. Then 10x that, so that you can either drag the hell out over a long period or dump it all on them at once for synergistic effect.

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-06-27T13:32:29.494Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The effects of weaponizing claims of sexism and racism against the NYT might have undesireable effects on the power conflicts inside of the organization.

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-06-28T19:33:22.843Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fomenting discord amongst your enemies is a feature, not a bug.

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-06-29T10:32:07.825Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not all of the NYTimes is the enemy.

comment by Bucky · 2020-06-29T15:55:58.608Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Daily Beast article has some information about how other NYTimes employees are against de-anonymising Scott.

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-07-01T19:32:55.549Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Unless some wish to defect from the NYT in a tactically useful manner then they are enemy infrastructure and a valid target.

All of the NYT materially benefits from this ambulance chasing behaviour, whether or not they admit it. You cannot willingly be part of an organisation that profits from wrongs and be shocked when you get painted with the same brush. You don't want to get caught in the crossfire? Quit, just like anyone with a backbone would.

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-07-01T23:09:30.546Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you confuse judging moral responsibility with judging effective action. 

Whenever you want to deal with a large political organization that you want to change it's actions you want that faction win internal political battles that push the organization towards the ends you want. 

If you don't take that into account you will often end up with an organization reacting towards being attacked by getting even worse. 

comment by Bucky · 2020-06-25T19:46:01.198Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm In Favor of Niceness, Community and Civilization [? · GW].

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-06-27T13:40:51.066Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The article sees the claim it defends as “It is not okay to use lies, insults, and harassment against people, even if it would help you enforce your preferred social norms.”

Responding to force with force is different then enforcing preferred social norms. 

Scott also doesn't seem to want to act according the the role models of Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela who all share the effect that they wouldn't let themselves be silenced. 

comment by Bucky · 2020-06-27T21:07:24.069Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The claim I was against was that there’s no point trying to petition as force is the only solution which is covered in some depth in that piece. Currently there is a clash of norms but no force has been used. My feelings will change somewhat if they do publish.

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-06-27T21:36:31.018Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I do agree that engaging in preemptive violence would be a stupid move.

comment by TurnTrout · 2020-06-28T13:13:34.065Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm supposing the "violence" and "force" here is figurative, as in "a forceful response to their deanonymization of Scott"?

comment by Bucky · 2020-06-28T14:57:06.981Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I’m meaning something along the lines of the actions suggested in the original comment but am doing a rubbish job at explaining this properly. Violence in particular was a poor choice of words and I have changed it to force in the grandparent comment.

All I was really wanting to say was that escalation isn’t the only solution and is usually a bad idea.

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-06-28T20:46:23.018Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am in favour of justice, the most foundational element of civilisation. Without enforced laws it will all fall apart. If evil goes unpunished it will flourish. It's that simple.

I have no interest in lies. I like the truth exactly because it is a far more deadly weapon. When you absolutely nail someone with a truth they don't want to hear it's like stabbing them right in the heart.

I can't hurt anyone who doesn't lie and acts honourably, nor would I have any desire to. Conversely, the evil and wicked almost seem to beg me to ruin them with the truth. Good people have nothing to fear from the likes of me.