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.