"Like an octopus, the New York Times has many arms. If you attack one, the others will get you."
After the New York Time’s despicable hit piece on Scott Alexander, Scott has issued a defense.
I believe they misrepresented me as retaliation for my publicly objecting to their policy of doxxing bloggers in a way that threatens their livelihood and safety. Because they are much more powerful than I am and have a much wider reach, far more people will read their article than will read my response, so probably their plan will work.
Of course, Scott gives several odious examples of NYT willfully deceiving people.
You might think this is bad faith. If the New York Times made any mistakes they simply need to issue a retraction. But they’ve been writing this article for several months now, and the deception is transparent in the content. Nobody can read Scott’s defense of himself and come away thinking this was just an oopsie. In Scott’s own words,
I don’t want to accuse the New York Times of lying about me, exactly, but if they were truthful, it was in the same way as that famous movie review which describes the Wizard of Oz as: “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.”
"Never attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance" is a good rule. I tested this situation for ignorance. It didn't make any sense. Malice is the next best explanation.
An essay from Robert Rhinehart resonates right now. Scott Linked to it at the end of his post. Here’s the most important part,
The next step of ridding ourselves of the octopus is to stop feeding it. Stop feeding the octopus. Just stop. Stop reading the New York Times. Right now. Never again visit that awful web site or look at that awful paper or that tweet or that awful article. Do not have that conversation. Do not click or press on the link your friend sent you who is trapped in its clutches. It is a boogeyman and if you fear it it will only get stronger and if you ignore it it will go away.
It reminds of a classic Simpsons episode that depicts the same important point.
While people are charged up and in war-mode, it’s important to remember that although these sorts of hit pieces are all-too-frequent for publications like this, they are a drop in the bucket. Robert Wiblin comments on the issue,
The NYT has about 4,500 staff and publishes 150-200 stories a day! As with any vast org—like a university or government agency—its output ranges from fantastic to terrible, and generalisations about the whole are less useful than evaluations of specific teams or individuals.
A few of my thoughts on about how Scott handled the situation,
As with any of these symbiotic relationships between the media and the organism they latch themselves onto, this will no-doubt increase Scott’s subscriber count and income. Don’t forget the most important thing Jordan Peterson has ever said, “I’ve figured out how to monetize the Social Justice Warriors.” This is the same tactic Trump used to get people tribalized. While Jordan Peterson and Donald Trump are different in about a thousand different very important ways, they are similar in this, they both played their part in the symbiotic relationship to accrue money and fame.
Scott isn’t like that.
I’m sure he likes the money and he has said that he wants to use it for altruistic purposes, I don’t think he likes the fame. The attention isn’t particularly pleasurable to a introverted rationalist like Scott, and it comes packaged with being the subject of a lot of hostility, anger, and even death threats. We think it’s okay to mercilessly dehumanize famous people, and just like the Asch experiment would suggest, we think it’s okay because other people think it’s okay. Scott is smart enough to see the risk in being the subject of hate by ideologically possessed online communities - those indoctrinated by the NYTs into thinking Scott is some kind of racist, and so the awful things they say and do against Scott if “fighting racism in all it’s forms”
I also think Scott is unusually concerned with being a good person, and he recognizes how the (social) media outrage machine debases society. Between that and the downside of fame, Scott has reasoned himself into not playing along. Everything he has written has maintained a tone of diffusion. Scott deserves an A+.
Unfortunately, to a large extent, it doesn’t matter. The NYTs has leeched itself onto him and no matter what he does he cannot pry it off. Scott has become richer, more famous, and society has become a little worse. It will never stop until we, “just don’t look” and let the leeches die of starvation.
And yes, I see the irony.