Keep Slate Star Codex Anonymous
So this is the week when everything is happening at once: an armed breakin at Rideau Hall, a new set of accusations that some authors are serial creeps, a job interview at a university in Germany. One of those things is that a large newspaper south of the border is threatening to publish the true name of the blogger known as Scott Alexander of SlateStarCodex because of a bureaucratic policy against pseudonymous sources. He has reasons to believe that this would threaten his life and his offline career as a psychiatrist, so he has taken down his site.
In the last ten years, a disturbing new vision for the Internet has emerged: a vision where we pick up a machine which we ‘own’ but the manufacturer controls, install the software that one group of companies allow us to install, log in to sites and platforms that a similar group of companies own, and write and share the things which those companies allow us to share, until mobs petition them to change the rules and erase us or a new CEO decides its time to pivot. Right now, that vision is winning, even amongst people who I thought were much too smart to fall for those tired old swindles. Anonymous public writing has been a tool of self-government since the Romans were scratching graffiti on walls and tossing notes into Brutus’ windows, and it is a proud tradition south of the border too: the Federalist Papers are anonymous. I think that SlateStar is part of that tradition, and citizens of the Internet respect each other’s handles and keep online and offline separate.
There is a petition at https://www.dontdoxscottalexander.com/; if you subscribe to that paper, an email to them would help.
Edit 2020-01-22: Slatestar Codex has moved to an online newsletter, Astral Codex Ten https://astralcodexten.substack.com/ to take advantage of the flood of venture capital trying to invent Usenet but with rent-seeking and worse UI.
I had already signed the petition, but I agree vehemently with all of the other stuff you outline here.
On a related note, my husband and I were discussing recently whether to refinance our home, and if so, whether to pay off the mortgage early or for a lower monthly payment. He thought I might have an emotional attachment to a sense of ownership, but in a world where “ownership” still means we have to pay taxes on the land and file for permits to change anything about the house, “ownership” feels like a waste of money.
The whole situation is just depressing, and EULAs make it even worse.
It can be tricky in rural Canada sometimes, there are farmers and ranchers in Alberta who discover that an oil and gas company has rights to prospect under their land whether the cows or the crops like it or not.
I liked the Internet of human-sized communities deciding for themselves what could be said on their turf and who to link to.
Yeah 🙁 It’s not just the internet but life on the internet really rams it home sometimes.
I want to put deeds behinds my words and move off Automattic’s servers, but that takes time and money and publishing two journal articles and a 200,000 word book while job hunting in a second language does not leave me with much of either.