Slate Star Codex is more valuable than the New York Times

Update: If this tweet is accurate, the NYT thought it was more important to out Scott Alexander than to get an interview with him—which would have made the story ten times more interesting.

As you may know, Slate Star Codex was recently deleted because the NYT has threatened to print a story with the real name of Scott Alexander.

When I suggest that Slate Star Codex is more valuable than the NYT, I mean in an intellectual sense. Obviously the NYT has a greater market value.

If the NYT disappeared tomorrow, we could still learn about the world by reading the WaPo, the WSJ, the FT, etc. That mix of news outlets would not be a perfect substitute, but it would be a close substitute.

There is no close substitute for SSC, and its loss will further degrade an internet that was already hurt by the movement of people from blogging to twitter.

Even if you reject my utilitarian view that welfare maximization is the only valid moral principle, there is no “right to know” principle at stake here as the NYT often withholds names for many different reasons.



15 Responses to “Slate Star Codex is more valuable than the New York Times”

  1. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    23. June 2020 at 12:17

    I’ve been trying to think about why the Times would need to out a blogger in this case.

  2. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    23. June 2020 at 12:49

    Scott’s writing and thoughtfulness are of course huge talents, but his real accomplishment was in striking a balance in his comments section that kept it the most thoughtful exchange of views on serious subjects on the planet, a standing reproach to the rest of the idiotic Internet. Only a really decent person could have pulled that off.

  3. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    23. June 2020 at 13:04

    Ah come one, SSC was the best blog on the internet for nearly everything, except monetary policy of course, Scott wins here.

    If a blogger wants to remain anonymous, and Scott Alexander has given good reasons for this, then you must respect this as NYT. His own wish should be more than enough by the way.

    With their own sources the NYT constantly insist on anonymity, but when the person is from a neutral camp? Then they just don’t care. The NYT made a lot of new “friends” today. What a lousy lousy paper. They sell their non-existent souls for a stupid story.

    Now I have to archive all the old SSC pages, if that’s even possible. And there will never be any new articles by Scott Alexander. This is a nightmare.

    Wasn’t there a pretty similar incident years ago? I think it was also about Scott Alexander. I can only remember it vaguely. My hope and my guess is that Scott Alexander will eventually come back. You can’t let the NYT win.

    Anyhow, he deleted the blog to prevent the NYT article from being published. Let’s assume the NYT still publishes the article and exposes him, even then the reason for the deletion of the blog no longer applies. It might be a bit cynical but true.

    What a drama for him, I think I understand him quite well, he must have a relatively introverted character. In reality, it doesn’t matter what his real name is. In reality, most people don’t give a hoot. Plus, he could just deny it. But in his head, in his imagination, it’s a nightmare.

  4. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    23. June 2020 at 13:24

    It’s incredible how far the NYT has fallen in my estimation since 2016. I can disagree with them about the probable results of the Muller report or about economic issues, etc., but this is an issue of simple morality. They’re actively making the world worse both for Scott’s actual patients and for others with mental health issues, when they could easily keep him pseudonymous. Absolutely abhorrent.

  5. Gravatar of MJ MJ
    23. June 2020 at 14:57

    Finding out a person’s name is a good starting point in researching a subject and publishing names is good practice. Publishing names is a utilitarian principle in that it adds credibility to the institution and increases accuracy of reporting. Since it is utilitarian it can be outweighed by conflicting reasons. My guess is the reporter was just repeating the default policy on publishing names and when it gets kicked up to an editor they’ll make an exception and this will blow over.

  6. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    23. June 2020 at 16:26

    Only a couple of decades ago the New Yorker and the New York Times were head and shoulders above the rest of the commercial publishing profession. The WSJ, too.

    In the interim, the New Yorker and the New York Times have built up a national and even global base of digital subscribers who are on the far left, PC-end of the spectrum. As a commercial strategy they are pandering to that crowd, as Fox does to its crowd.

    You knew how the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Fox would play the George Floyd story. Before he was even dead. it is like waiting for the old Tass radio broadcasts.

    It is a shame what the New York Times is doing to Scott Alexander.

  7. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    23. June 2020 at 16:53

    Well, that was one upsetting way of starting the day. I do remember vaguely that Scott A. took SST down some time back for some other reason. Not sure if it was an overreaction this time, it would be really creepy if the NYT genuinely pretended that in this case they couldn’t do a story anonymously.

    Either way: of course SST is intellectually more valuable than the NYT. The man doesn’t just report news, he generates ideas and unusual connections from corners I haven’t heard, and he does it in a balanced way. I’ve gotten a little less impressed lately with him, I had my own Gell-Mann amnesia moment when he wrote about something I believe I know fairly well and was disappointed with his thoughts about it. But still, I’ve discovered so many subjects through SST over the years, and I can’t remember discovering anything novel through the NYT. Ever.

  8. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    23. June 2020 at 20:17

    mbka, Yes, he’s not quite as creative as before, but no human could have kept that up forever. SSC and MR are the best two blogs, and I don’t think anyone else is even close.

  9. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    23. June 2020 at 23:26

    The ‘misuse’ of the power of the state?

    “The Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal speaks out on his arrest months after reporting on Venezuelan opposition violence at the DC embassy.

    Blumenthal was seized from his home by a group of officers and held for two days in cells and cages. His arrest warrant labels him as “armed and dangerous.” Blumenthal says the charges are false and a retaliation against The Grayzone’s journalism on the US-backed coup in Venezuela and corrupt members of the right-wing Venezuelan opposition carrying it out.”

  10. Gravatar of sty.silver sty.silver
    24. June 2020 at 02:39

    Thanks for this post.

    I’d immediately sign below the statements that the NYT is obviously in the wrong and that SSC is more intellectually valuable.

    Figuring out the optimal reaction strikes me as a much harder problem. I’ve seen people point out that creating attention around this also creates attention around the fact that Scott doesn’t want his name out, and it makes it more likely that it somehow will get out. On the other hand, the NYT hasn’t yet written the article, so it’s in principle still possible to influence their decision.

    I think most people, even those on the side of SSC here, underestimate how much impact the blog actually has. It’s not just that almost everyone in the rationalist community knows him (that’s reflected in the number of views), but it’s how much influence he has among those people. It’s totally disproportionate to what you would think if you just heard that it’s “a blog.” I say this based on hearing such people talk about him.

    He’s certainly played a major role in changing my political views. And views on other things, too.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. June 2020 at 08:31

    sty,silver, In my view, people like Scott, Tyler, Eliezer, Robin, etc. are among the most important philosophers of the 21st century. It’s a new type of philosophy, but that’s basically what it is. They think about things in new ways.

    Add Deirdre McCloskey as well.

  12. Gravatar of Tom M Tom M
    24. June 2020 at 09:14

    Scott- Did you happen to ready: Trump Takes Us to the Brink
    Will weaponized racism destroy America? By Krugman

    I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

    In re-reading a lot of Orwell lately, it is abundantly clear to me we are on the brink of repeated the same mistakes of the 20th century.

  13. Gravatar of Jamie Jamie
    24. June 2020 at 09:14

    It’s saddening, and quite frightening, when reporters at the NYT (sarah jeong) are saying things like ““Oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men,” and “White people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants”. This, by the way, was written under the hashtag #cancelwhitepeople. Or how about articles titled: “Economics, dominated by white men is roiled by Black Lives Matter.

    Glenn Loury and Walter Williams have already called BLM a new Marxist “religion”. If it was just about black lives all of us could agree, but it clearly is NOT. Three days ago, the founder of BLM stated on live television that the groups leadership consisted of “trained Marxists”.

    NYT has clearly adopted the progressive wing of the democratic party. I assume this shift is in line with their readers political identity, but whatever the motive they no longer qualify as “real journalism”.

    Blackmarket websites like are now supporting BLM by sending monero payments – a few of which are connected to the CCP.

    People need to wake up soon!

  14. Gravatar of sty.silver sty.silver
    25. June 2020 at 00:09

    There’s a petition now — putting this here in the case you (or anyone else) is interested in signing but haven’t heard about it from elsewhere.

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    26. June 2020 at 11:30

    Silver, Thanks, I signed it.

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