Media Criticism

What The New York Times' Hit Piece on Slate Star Codex Says About Media Gatekeeping

"Silicon Valley's Safe Space" has misinformed readers.

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Back in June, pseudonymous blogger Scott Alexander deleted his blog—Slate Star Codex—after The New York Times threatened to reveal his identity in what was supposed to be a largely positive article about Alexander's early perceptiveness regarding the threat of COVID-19. The incident prompted Alexander to migrate to Substack and out himself as the clinical psychiatrist Scott Siskind (though his true name was already discoverable via Google).

I criticized The New York Times for its unwillingness to grant Siskind anonymity, especially given the paper's recent history of honoring such requests in roughly analogous situations. While that decision struck me as unfair—or at the very least inconsistent—and it was deeply unfortunate that it had created so much bad blood between the Times and Siskind (whose loyal readers bombarded Times reporter Cade Metz with complaints), I nevertheless expected that the story itself would be balanced and informative if it ever saw the light of day.

It turns out that this was a naive assumption.

On Saturday, the Times finally published Metz's profile of Slate Star Codex. It's a lazy hit piece that actively misleads readers, giving them the false impression that Siskind is at the center of a stealth plot to infiltrate Silicon Valley and pollute it with noxious far-right ideas. Unfortunately, this theme—that new tech ventures are sources of right-wing disinformation—is becoming endemic to the paper's increasingly panicky tech coverage, which cynically treats all new electronic conversation spaces as potential disinformation incubators.

According to Metz, Slate Star Codex was first and foremost "Silicon Valley's Safe Space," which is the absurd title of the piece. This gives the impression that Siskind primarily spends his time flattering venture capitalists, tech startups, and coders, which could not possibly be further from the truth.

Here are the first five paragraphs of the article:

The website had a homely, almost slapdash design with a light blue banner and a strange name: Slate Star Codex.

It was nominally a blog, written by a Bay Area psychiatrist who called himself Scott Alexander (a near anagram of Slate Star Codex). It was also the epicenter of a community called the Rationalists, a group that aimed to re-examine the world through cold and careful thought.

In a style that was erudite, funny, strange and astoundingly verbose, the blog explored everything from science and medicine to philosophy and politics to the rise of artificial intelligence. It challenged popular ideas and upheld the right to discuss contentious issues. This might involve a new take on the genetics of depression or criticism of the #MeToo movement. As a result, the conversation that thrived at the end of each blog post — and in related forums on the discussion site Reddit — attracted an unusually wide range of voices.

"It is the one place I know of online where you can have civil conversations among people with a wide range of views," said David Friedman, an economist and legal scholar who was a regular part of the discussion. Fellow commenters on the site, he noted, represented a wide cross-section of viewpoints. "They range politically from communist to anarcho-capitalist, religiously from Catholic to atheist, and professionally from a literal rocket scientist to a literal plumber — both of whom are interesting people."

The voices also included white supremacists and neo-fascists. The only people who struggled to be heard, Dr. Friedman said, were "social justice warriors." They were considered a threat to one of the core beliefs driving the discussion: free speech.

We're not even a quarter of the way through the article, and we're already being warned that SSC was some sort of freewheeling haven for white supremacists, as if that is one of the most significant things about the blog. It's an accusation that Metz does not even begin to prove—the best he can do is point out that SSC linked to the blog of Nick Land, a British philosopher "whose writings on race, genetics and intelligence have been embraced by white nationalists." But before his neo-reactionary turn, Land was primarily known for writing about A.I., so this is rather thin evidence.

If this was the only weird slip up in the article, it might have been forgiven. But Metz works very deliberately to tie Siskind to other thinkers who have espoused controversial views—and does so in a manner suggesting Siskind shares them. Consider this reference to Charles Murray, the former American Enterprise Institute scholar whose writings on race and intelligence have often garnered protests on college campuses:

In one post, [Siskind] aligned himself with Charles Murray, who proposed a link between race and I.Q. in "The Bell Curve." In another, he pointed out that Mr. Murray believes Black people "are genetically less intelligent than white people."

This juxtaposition leaves readers with the impression that Siskind agrees with Murray on this point, but in fact, Siskind was merely agreeing with Murray that there ought to be some sort of universal basic income guarantee. It's extremely misleading to suggest that Siskind is aligned with Murray on the subject of race and IQ.

"The Times points out that I agreed with Murray that poverty was bad, and that also at some other point in my life noted that Murray had offensive views on race, and heavily implies this means I agree with Murray's offensive views on race," writes Siskind in his own response to the Times. "This seems like a weirdly brazen type of falsehood for a major newspaper."

Similarly, Metz draws a link between a Siskind post, "Gender Imbalances Are Mostly Not Due To Offensive Attitudes," and the internal memo penned by former Google employee James Damore which resulted in the latter's termination.

"That week, a Google employee named James Damore wrote a memo arguing that the low number of women in technical positions at the company was a result of biological differences, not anything else — a memo he was later fired over," writes Metz. "One Slate Star Codex reader on Reddit noted the similarities to the writing on the blog."

"Biological differences, not anything else," is a remarkable mischaracterization of Damore's memo. As Reason contributor Jesse Singal points out, Damore qualified his claims throughout the infamous memo with language like "may in part explain" and "differ in part." To the extent that the Damore memo and the Siskind post are similar, it is that they manifestly do not make the strong claims that Metz suggests they do.

Ah, but as Siskind "explored science, philosophy and A.I., he also argued that the media ignored that men were often harassed by women" and "said that affirmative action was difficult to distinguish from "discriminating against white men." These are the sorts of things that are apparently supposed to shock Times readers, though the former is certainly true and the latter is not a particularly uncommon opinion.

Even trying to defend these past writings is sort of playing Metz's game, because the whole point of his article is to tar Siskind as a right-wing contrarian. While he occasionally expresses ideas that are agreeable to right-wing people and/or libertarians and/or those who don't fit neatly into the Times' ideological boxes, overwhelmingly SSC was a liberal blogger associated with the rationalist community, holding liberal views on most important social issues. (For an overview of what rationalism is, you should probably just read Matt Yglesias' explanation of all the things Metz's article got wrong about SSC.)

Indeed, something that Siskind has written about—and that the rationalist community would tend to agree with—is the idea that donating even a small amount of money to impoverished people in third-world countries is a much more efficient way to combat racism than participating in Black Lives Matter activism. This may be controversial because it clashes with a pro-signaling mindset that is so stylish among modern progressive activism and elite media members, but it is hardly a conservative or right-wing opinion.

One starts to get the feeling that the Times simply wants to tarnish every view that exists outside its own narrow purview, perhaps because the Times has appointed itself the gatekeeper of the unsayable and resents having to relinquish this role to newer media ventures.

"Slate Star Codex was a window into the Silicon Valley psyche," writes Metz. "There are good reasons to try and understand that psyche, because the decisions made by tech companies and the people who run them eventually affect millions. And Silicon Valley, a community of iconoclasts, is struggling to decide what's off limits for all of us."

The idea that a clinical psychiatrist's blog is the embodiment of Silicon Valley's psyche is very odd, probably wrong, and at the very least unproven throughout the article. But notice the grander concern: A community of iconoclasts is struggling to decide what's off-limits for all of us. What the Times actually means is that not enough speech is being rendered off-limits: The new gatekeepers are not nearly as interested in policing strict boundaries.

Many members of the media, including and especially those who report on tech, fret constantly about the potential for inaccurate speech to appear on social media. Their complaints frequently expose their own biases: Times tech reporter Kevin Roose once tweeted that "Facebook is absolutely teeming with right-wing disinformation right now," and linked to four news stories that had attracted significant web traffic on the platform. But the headlines of all four were accurate, as Roose later conceded—a particularly powerful example of an emerging phenomenon in which journalists label something as disinformation or misinformation, not because it is false, but because they don't want the American public to hear or read it.

The problem is not remotely confined to the Times: See the recent freakout over Clubhouse, a new invitation-only social media app that allows users to participate in group voice calls. "Live audio and no recording might complicate the work of fact-checkers on this new platform," worried the Poynter Institute.

Vice echoed these concerns, noting that, "Unlike Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, where users leave a digital footprint in the form of text, images or videos, the conversation is wiped once a room closes, making it almost impossible to hold people accountable for their words." This exact feature probably makes Clubhouse less susceptible to viral misinformation than the other mentioned platforms, but never mind: Someone, somewhere is possibly saying something that's wrong, and journalists are extremely worried you might hear it before they can protect you.

It's difficult to tell how much of this impulse is guided by genuine moral panic and how much is cynical industry rivalry, since social media is in some sense a competitor to traditional media. But whatever the cause, journalists do their readers a disservice when they treat everything that's new, different, slightly heretical, or out-of-step with rigid media expectations as dangerous. To the extent that the Times left readers with the impression that Siskind is primarily a right-wing contrarian—and Silicon Valley's intellectual man-behind-the-curtain to boot—it is actually the paper of record that has spread misinformation.

(For more on this subject, you can preorder my forthcoming book, Tech Panic: Why We Shouldn't Fear Facebook and the Future.)

NEXT: New York City's Outdoor Dining Doom

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132 responses to “What The New York Times' Hit Piece on Slate Star Codex Says About Media Gatekeeping

  1. “Tech Panic: Why We Shouldn’t Fear Facebook and the Future”

    We Koch / Reason libertarians shouldn’t fear Facebook (or other tech companies) because their leaders have the same agenda we do — open the borders, and elect Wall-Street-friendly Democrats like Joe Biden.

    #BillionairesKnowBest

    1. The right people in charge….

  2. “It’s a lazy hit piece that actively misleads readers, giving them the false impression . . . ”

    Well, you did say New York Times, right?
    It would be helpful if reason stopped writing about NYT and NYT writers. Just ignore them, it is no longer a news organization, but is a propaganda organ for fascists.

    1. I nevertheless expected that the story itself would be balanced and informative if it ever saw the light of day.
      It turns out that this was a naive assumption.

      Which is why Robbie is now chiding the NYT, he trusts that this is a one-off event that won’t be repeated now that it’s been called out. He doesn’t understand that this is what the NYT is, this is what they do.

      1. Calling them out for what they truly are is not a sound career move.

        Expecting that sort of honesty and integrity from a journalist is quaint and rather naive to be sure.

        1. I see what you did there

      2. The New York Times has always been utterly evil.
        Even before Walter Duranty and the pro-NASDP articles of the 30’s, they were pushing scientific racism and advocating keeping Mbuti and San people in zoos.

        When in 1906 a group of Christian ministers protested keeping a pygmy man in the Monkey House of the Bronx Zoo, the Times went to war, writing:

        “We do not quite understand all the emotion which others are expressing in the matter … It is absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation Benga is suffering.

        The pygmies … are very low in the human scale, and the suggestion that Benga should be in a school instead of a cage ignores the high probability that school would be a place … from which he could draw no advantage whatever.

        The idea that men are all much alike except as they have had or lacked opportunities for getting an education out of books is now far out of date.”

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/03/the-man-who-was-caged-in-a-zoo

        1. Wow.

          That’s a powerful legacy. No wonder these lefties think everyone is racist to the core.

    2. Start on the Washington Post for a while. They are as bad as the Times, but somehow don’t get the same criticism as the Times from Reason contributors.

      1. The Washington Post is perplexed.

        THIS MONTH we learned that Tesla, a $400 billion public company run by one of the richest people in the world, has done away with its media relations department—effectively formalizing an informal policy of ignoring reporters. Though we should all be grateful for the chance to hear less about Tesla, we should also recognize this for what it is: one more glaring data point showing that powerful people no longer think they need the mainstream press, especially critical and ethical outlets like the Washington Post.

        As journalists, we all view this as a horrifying assault on the public’s right to know, and on our own status as brave defenders of the public good. And that is all true, for what it’s worth. But this is about power. We need to take some back, lest the rich and powerful run away from one of the last forces restraining them.

        They actually believe this horseshit.

        1. “critical and ethical outlets like the WP”

          Knee slapper, to be sure. About the only correct word (other than WP) is “outlet”, but it’s not carrying critical and ethical content.

          1. Particularly since The Washington Post has long been noted for running hit pieces on Musk and his companies.

            1. Almost like Bezos sees competition.

              1. It’s because Musk’s rockets actually go to space.

        2. It also shows their economic ignorance. The primary force which both built and restrains the rich is customers, who like and buy their products, or don’t.

          1. Unpossible! Mere people have no ability to make independent decisions that support their own interests. That’s what government (and enlightened media) are for.

        3. If the WaPoo was interested in doing actual journalism, they would welcome removing a layer of bullshitters between them and the people and processes they cover at Tesla. It says an awful lot about them, and how media relations departments work, that they instead see this as a bad thing.

          1. ” It says an awful lot about them, and how media relations departments work, that they instead see this as a bad thing.”

            They see a loss of news junkets paid for by the company to host the press in the manner they think they should receive.

        4. How do they find hats to fit those big heads?

        5. The “public right to know” about what? A private company’s product plans? Yeah, right!

          Trump had these guys right. Enemies of the people.

        6. “… a horrifying assault on the public’s right to know (only those things we think they ought to know)…”

        7. Well, it was written by urbanite malbushim Hamilton Nolan, so the entitled, unself-aware narrative is a given.

        8. “and on our own status as brave defenders of the public good.”

          Puke.

          1. Seriously.

          2. Puke^2

          3. “brave defenders of the public good”

            Each one of those words is a separate falsehood, except (maybe) for “of” and “the”.

        9. For me, this is the money quote “we should also recognize this for what it is: one more glaring data point showing that powerful people no longer think they need the mainstream press”.

          Why does Tesla “need” the Washington Post or New York Times?

          If Tesla wants to get a message out, they can buy ads or contact car focused outlets (Car & Driver or websites like Jalopnik).

          1. They’re courtiers who serve at the pleasure of the wealthy elite, but they don’t realize that’s what they are.

            1. They’re feted courtiers and they don’t like the idea of losing their status. And free booze and nice hotels on their press junkets.

        10. “…that powerful people no longer think they need the mainstream press, especially critical and ethical outlets like the Washington Post.”

          That’s the reason Trump got such horrible press; he’s a threat to their supposedly ‘honorable’ jobs.

        11. The Washington post, owned by the worlds
          Richest man and a tech baron, is the last protection against the powerful? And to boot they think media relations department are sources of news? I do media relations — it’s spin —Jesus, “journalism” just really isn’t a thing anymore I guess.

      2. I would add to your list: The Associated Press. Very much an enemy of the people.

    3. “Silicon Valley, a community of iconoclasts, is struggling to decide what’s off limits for all of us.”

      “And that’s *our* job,” Metz continued.

      1. [Their] job to be “a community of iconoclasts, is struggling to decide what’s off limits for all of us.”

        They gave up any sense of objectivity years ago; now they just want to be our gate keepers, and will viciously attack anyone who deigns to threaten that role.

        I believe they see their mission as being of a limited number of outlets that communicates what they want us to know, think, and believe. That makes it propaganda, thinly veiled as journalism.

    4. The New York Times has always been utterly evil.
      Even before Walter Duranty and the pro-NASDP articles of the 30’s, they were pushing scientific racism and advocating keeping Mbuti and San people in zoos.

      When in 1906 a group of Christian ministers protested keeping a pygmy man in the Monkey House of the Bronx Zoo, the Times went to war, writing:

      “We do not quite understand all the emotion which others are expressing in the matter … It is absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation Benga is suffering.

      The pygmies … are very low in the human scale, and the suggestion that Benga should be in a school instead of a cage ignores the high probability that school would be a place … from which he could draw no advantage whatever.

      The idea that men are all much alike except as they have had or lacked opportunities for getting an education out of books is now far out of date.”

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/03/the-man-who-was-caged-in-a-zoo

      1. Statues are torn down and pancake mixes and rice brands are renamed over the most ephemeral connections to racism, but America’s Der Stürmer soldiers on like it’s the wellspring of virtue.

        1. To understand why, one must only ask… who does number two work for?

      2. The NYT has also, just in the searchable content, printed the word “nigger” over 6,000 times. Though they just cancelled their 40-year veteran science reporter for using it a couple of years ago.

        Making that latter event worse (not even kidding), his “crime” had already been investigated and found not to have been an instance of hurtful racism at all. But the wokies who now actually run the NYT complained, and the editor was forced to find differently to placate them. (that’s some strongly held convictions eh?)

        What a shit hole.

  3. “I nevertheless expected that the story itself would be balanced and informative if it ever saw the light of day.

    It turns out that this was a naïve assumption.”

    Hahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahhaha. Snort. Hahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahaha.

    1. “Balanced and informative” stopped being a priority at the New York Times sometime before Walter Duranty wrote for them.

      1. True enough. But the ratio of BS to information has dramatically risen since 2016.

    2. Those are the words that should be inscribed on Robbie’s tombstone.

  4. Robbie brings the noxious alt-right disinformation to reason.

    1. Did you forget to change your socks Rabbi?

  5. Nipping at the ankles of the betters they resent — and complaining about all of this damned progress, reason, inclusiveness, modernity, science, and education — is about all right-wing clingers have left.

    I am content.

    1. Thank you for missing the entire point of this article, and providing us with an outstanding example of cognitive dissonance.

      I just knew you would come through for us!

    2. Good. Now go put on your kente shawl and kneel down in front of your Black Heroes shrine.

    3. Self parody is not a good look.

      1. Disaffected, anti-social clingers are among my favorite culture war casualties.

        Enjoy the continued stomping imposed by your betters in the culture war.

        1. like the beta boy antifa brigade? You’re right; they are a pathetic lot.

        2. The antifa beta boys are indeed a pathetic lot.

  6. Took a long time to get to it, but this article finally hits on the meat and potatoes of the current speech banning situation by our “betters”: “an emerging phenomenon in which journalists label something as disinformation or misinformation, not because it is false, but because they don’t want the American public to hear or read it.”

    1. Sounds a lot like “morality is more important than facts.” Yes, there are important messages to be conveyed to the consuming public, and those messages are the priority.

      Messages like all non persons of color are guilty of white supremacy.
      All non reconstructed males are guilty of misogyny.
      Guns are inherently evil and should be treated as a pathogen.
      There is no inherent difference between men and women.
      Capitalism, namely the aspect of a person earning a profit so as to be wealthier than others, is inherently evil.
      Everyone should have equity [and no more or less than the next guy].
      The world is literally going to end in a few years, and we must eliminate all forms of fossil fuel ASAP.
      Initiatives such as the “Green New Deal” should be used as a platform to address al of the above.
      If anyone questions any of these, call them a fascist, racist, misogynist, or bitter clinger.

      1. Everything is so terrible and unfair. We absolutely must not dilute this simple grievance with facts.

        1. Oh, you have “facts?” Really? By all means, let us see your “facts.”

          1. PS: If I missed any sarcasm on your point, it is because it is gotten to the point that I can seldom tell the difference any more. That Poe thing.

            1. Huh, I have to admit that I read EISTAU’s post sarcastically.

            2. You can always tell the fake ones because they are less crazy and more grounded in reality.

      2. “all non persons of color are guilty of white supremacy”

        Don’t let nonwhite white-supremacists off the hook – look at the POC who voted for Trump, voted against affirmative action in California, whine about assaults on Asians which aren’t committed by whites, etc.

  7. “Unfortunately, this theme—that new tech ventures are sources of right-wing disinformation—is becoming endemic to the paper’s increasingly panicky tech coverage”

    Poor Times editors, searching for the next big right-wing villain to keep their subscribers angry and fees coming in.

    1. That’s exactly what is going on. Now that Trump is fully gone, watching the media flail to find a villain that they can righteously rail against 24/7 is going to be really entertaining, actually.

      1. Unless you’re one of the “villains”.

        1. 90% of the country now fits some NYT villain profile, so why worry?

          1. Exactly. That’s why it will be entertaining because they are starting to jump the shark.

            I have to admit, I was initially worried watching so much push for censorship. But now I’m seeing that this isn’t the devolution into some type of authoritarian dystopia. But rather just another farcical societal movement that is quickly starting to go off the rails. It has all the hallmarks of what Evangelicals and things like Focus on the Family tried in the late 80’s and early 90’s only to be laughed out of existence.

            1. The woke thing has been ridiculous for some time, but what’s missing is a critical mass of people willing to ridicule it in public. When that happens, this is over.

              1. I think we are going to see it soon. Woke nonsense has always been predicated on fighting the man and the system. Now that wokes are completely in charge of being the man and running the system, the overall inherent fallacy that is their cause will start becoming overly comical. This will begin the disintegration and the allowance of critical mass people willing to ridicule it.

                1. So, perpetual Trump impeachments?

                2. They were completely in charge of the system 12 years ago. And there was no appreciable racial tension. They had the levers of power for 8 years, mostly unopposed.

                  How’d that work out?

                  1. I tried, but I couldn’t make sense of your comment. Sorry.

                3. Lol

                  The wokes have been the system and the man for at least 2 decades.
                  It’s just nazism/communism with new wrapping – and greater reach.

                  1. Yet it wasn’t so apparent until now. Thus, the point Ignore me made of reaching critical mass. We are at the point of critical mass where wokeism is jumping the shark. This is a completely new phenomenon.

    2. “Poor Times editors, searching for the next big right-wing villain to keep their subscribers angry and fees coming in.”

      After their circulation faded for years, it got a great boost during the Trump years. I suspect it will begin falling again.

  8. Remember when all major press outlets coordinated with Big Tech to censor the Hunter Biden story right before the election?
    Seems like we should be making a bigger deal about that.

    1. It’s only collusion when the wrong people do it.

    2. Never heard of it.

      1. I’d be (slightly) impressed if they would just revisit the fact that the Governor of New York killed thousands of nursing home residents rather than using the resources available, such as the UNS Comfort, in order to avoid the optics of a Trump win.

        But Orange Man Bad is going to Trump any such displays of honesty or integrity.

        Because that’s how Reason rolls.

        1. …also lied about killing those old folks.

        2. Reason has been conspicuously mute, even supportive to an extent, in face of the most massive crime against humanity yet committed.
          It is utterly amazing to me that more people aren’t talking about the fact that The Establishment, those global socialists and their mandarins who control the levers of power, have destroyed millions of lives with lockdowns.
          Worse, they let people die with their campaign against hydroxychloroquine.
          But that’s not enough. No, Cuomo, followed by allied governors such as Whitmer, actively increases the number of people who would die.
          None of it misguided or mistaken, but all to gain more power.

        3. WSJ called out Cumo on the nursing homes. He made the wrong decision, I’ll give him a pass based on the info he had at that time. The cover up should take him down
          https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-cuomo-covid-coverup-11613173749&ved=2ahUKEwjP5fzjzO7uAhVaAZ0JHYU4B_kQFjABegQIAhAB&usg=AOvVaw1WF_kTuDcSD48gCuWAPz4K

          1. ” I’ll give him a pass based on the info he had at that time.”

            Same info that every other Governor had. Yet it was really only him and Murphy in New Jersey who killed seniors at such excessive rates. Both of whom had easy access to tremendous Federal resources but chose to reject them.

            It was a conscious decision on their part, and even more telling, it has also been the decision of the media to ignore it or downplay it.

            They gave him a fucking Emmy…

            1. Sullum doesn’t get a pass. He was called out numerous times in the comments to numerous articles while it was all happening in real time.

              They are all lying liars who lie a lot.

          2. Nope. ITALY gets the pass for going first.

  9. I nevertheless expected that the story itself would be balanced and informative if it ever saw the light of day.

    It turns out that this was a naive assumption.

    Robby, Robby, Robby. No one needed a crystal ball to know how this was going to turn out.

  10. I’m beginning to think the Times‘ plan to crowdsource its public editor duties to the echo chamber might not be working out.

    1. Read the analyses by Mir and others. Post-print legacy media outlets now rely on subscription fees, and boosting (and maintaining) subscriber rolls can only be done through agitation and anger. Times subscriber count went from under 2 million to over 6 million as they declared their resistance advocacy in 2016. As long as they keep enough paying customers sending in monthly payments (and inflating their public profiles and egos), their strategy works for them.

      1. It makes you wonder what kind of small, mean mind pays the NYT their exorbitant fees (more than an Amazon Prime subscription at the nominal price, just below at the current discount!) just to be outraged that people live their own lives and have their own thoughts.

        1. The last five years have really reinforced the power of hatred and rage.

    2. Not to mention the massive chore of editing everything else that everyone says or writes.

    3. Heh…. I like this punchy take.

      When they caved to staff who wanted editors fired for allowing disfavored opinions – I couldn’t believe it.

      In my alternate history, a real executive would have called an all-hands meeting and read the demand letter signed by 500 staff members…. and then summarily fired every one of them, explaining that they are not welcome at this beacon of free speech. He would have railed that the NYT and all good members of the 4th estate fight hard to protect the rights of every American to speak freely and that the NYT would always tackle controversial issues. I would have my hypothetical executive make it perfectly clear that the NYT will never tolerate censorship of ideas, nor will it allow intolerance of opposing ideas to take root among its staff.

      Maybe such a manager is coming soon. But apparently not today.

      Today we fire people for using words in inoffensive ways, just because. We fire people for saying that political violence is a bad thing – but only if the person saying it is talking about left-wing political violence.

      We are at a crossroads. It seems that this can go one of two ways, and neither is good. Either we descend into a dystopian nightmare that would make Huxley and Orwell blush, or we are headed for a populist backlash that could fly off in any unpredictable direction.

      1. I think we’ll be making both stop–Orwellian dystopia followed by populist backlash. We’re in a middle phase in which many people who think they’re the rebellion don’t realize they’re the empire and the massive number of people who’ve checked out of politics entirely haven’t realized yet that politicians won’t allow them to be apathetic anymore. What has enabled the dystopia to rise is people having the luxury to not pay attention (and that includes all the progressives who go into purity spirals every other minute). The powers that control our society aren’t content with people ignoring them anymore, they want everyone to know that they live and eat only if the oligarchs allow it, which means finally that we’re starting to get overt tyranny. The more this gets pushed in people’s faces, the closer we get to the backlash–which, yeah, will be unpredictable and ugly.

  11. “It’s difficult to tell how much of this impulse is guided by genuine moral panic and how much is cynical industry rivalry, since social media is in some sense a competitor to traditional media.”

    Frankly, I go with the second option. Feel

    1. Social media is not a competitor, it is the collective Id of traditional media.

  12. I personally know two of the people disparaged in that hit piece. The NYTimes is shithole of doublespeak and misinformation.

      1. the hit piece is also the antithesis of journalism, foreswearing accuracy for things have nothing to do with the purpose of news.

      2. I was once interviewed for a story years ago. The story hit the newspaper and it was written to be the opposite of the facts.

        The reporter called me and apologized, explaining that wasn’t the story she turned in. The editor rewrote it.

        One reason I don’t trust the media, either big or small, mainstream or fringe.

  13. https://off-guardian.org/2021/02/14/opening-the-cias-can-of-worms/

    This is one example of the censorship underway with much, much more to follow. What was once done under the cover of omission is now done openly and brazenly, cheered on by those who, in an act of bad faith, claim to be upholders of the First Amendment and the importance of free debate in a democracy. We are quickly slipping into an unreal totalitarian social order.

  14. While that decision struck me as unfair—or at the very least inconsistent—and it was deeply unfortunate that it had created so much bad blood between the Times and Siskind

    Funny, this weekend I was thinking about how journalists use the word “unfortunate”.

  15. On Saturday, the Times finally published Metz’s profile of Slate Star Codex. It’s a lazy hit piece that actively misleads readers, giving them the false impression that Siskind is at the center of a stealth plot to infiltrate Silicon Valley and pollute it with noxious far-right ideas. Unfortunately, this theme—that new tech ventures are sources of right-wing disinformation—is becoming endemic to the paper’s increasingly panicky tech coverage, which cynically treats all new electronic conversation spaces as potential disinformation incubators.

    By the way, this goes back to what I was saying before. NYT reporters (many) have built followings on existing social media platforms. Therefore, any new platform doesn’t just compete with said existing platforms, it competes with the NYT reporter.

    I wish Greenwald DID have the power to get people fired from the NYT. I really wish he did.

    1. In his last article (?) he commented that if he did have that power, the place would be a ghost town.

  16. it is actually the paper of record that has spread misinformation.

    Wow, didn’t see that twist coming. /sarc

    1. New York Times is very much not the paper of record any more, and there are hundreds of recent examples of the NYT spreading misinformation.

      1. Real question….

        Is there a paper of record any more?

        No major outlets aligned themselves with the NY Post in reporting the story of Biden being on the take (known as the laptop story). They all sided with the “suppress this story” gang.

        Anyone who went with that is off the list for “paper of record”, even if they are an electronic publication, TV, podcast, whatever.

        That doesn’t leave much room for a trustworthy news source among the names you’ve heard of.

  17. ENB hardest hit.

    1. This piece oit literally on the heels of The B Team and Fonzie all doing their stories about the “deadly capitol hill riots that killed 5”

    2. No, you’ve seen her husband. Her days of getting it hit hard are over.

  18. Even trying to defend these past writings is sort of playing Metz’s game, because the whole point of his article is to tar Siskind as a right-wing contrarian.

    It’s interesting Robbie recognizes this since Reason contributors and commenters use the same tactics to tar everyone to their right as a racist. The corollary to “no enemies to the left” is “everyone to my right is racist”. The only reason many are criticizing this inning of the game is because SSC isn’t to their right.

    1. Exactly what a white nationalist Nazi would say…..

  19. This reminds me of the time the media reported that the Capitol Hill police officer who died after the riots was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher. Thanks for lying to us so you could build your narrative.
    https://bigleaguepolitics.com/new-york-times-retracts-story-claiming-capitol-officer-brian-sicknick-was-killed-in-riot/

  20. …I nevertheless expected that the story itself would be balanced and informative if it ever saw the light of day.

    It turns out that this was a naive assumption.

    Rico, reread the fable the scorpion and the frog. If someone consistently acts like a scorpion, then they’re probably a scorpion, and should be treated as such.

  21. So I went to look at Siskind’s substack, Astral Codex Ten. It is somewhat interesting. However it is SO FAR from radical. If SSC and this new one are “off limits,” then the boundaries of the discourse the NYT seeks are very, very restricted.
    The little I read goes like slightly stoned, slightly tripping college student nerds trying to “understand everything.” Nothing wrong with that, and he has 1000% more footnotes than the other tripping nerds. But he pokes medicine quite a bit – understandably, that’s his field – and he never goes near “radical” psychiatry from what I can tell. Calling this dangerous is disingenuous.
    They don’t even think it’s dangerous. Siskind just had his neck stuck out a little tiny bit further than others, by running a blog. Is this the prelude to the FBI trying to put him on their payroll? Gaah..

    1. Anyone, especially an MD, who is not from the AMA, APA, AAP, CDC, WHO media relations department and who offers or critiques medical advice must be an anti-Vaxxer quack according to the prog media establishment

    2. Well, yeah, whem they banned Tom Cotton and fired the editor who allowed him to express an idea over 2/3 of Americans agree with, that should have been the first clue that the Overton Window was exceedingly tiny and radically misaligned

      1. Oh, and then turn around and adopt a position MUCH more stringent, aithoritarian, and radical than Cotton as soon as it was someone else’s ox being gored.

        We cant have Nazi Stormtroopers clearing out an Actual Seige in front of the White House, cant allow them to use pepper balls, but it is OK to shoot unarmed people in the face with live ammo and station 30,000 troops in DC for months at a time absent any threat after a 4 hour “seige” and some heart/stroke victims

  22. The good thing is that readers of the WaPo and NYT are going extinct. Most are probably over 65, and the younger millennial and GenZ dupes who read it don’t want to have kids or can’t because they don’t know their gender.

    1. It is a weirdly self-correcting problem, isn’t it? Sometimes I think of all the genderspecials reaching 40. Do they wake up then and realize how much they’ve lost by playing make believe to chase social media likes? Or do they just keep going down the “72 genders and counting” rabbit hole? Young progressives seem like a sad lot to me. Few of them seem to take pleasure in anything other than scorning people, and they appear to regard their own bodies as adversaries to conquer while ignoring the actual requirements of those bodies.

  23. I didn’t read the NYT article, but the excerpt quoted here was pretty flattering of SSC.

    Siskind was merely agreeing with Murray that there ought to be some sort of universal basic income guarantee.

    That’s a stupid position and offensive to libertarians. Sorry I don’t have much sympathy for him. It’s ironic they are (allegedly) smearing him as right wing when he’s actually a socialist and they will soon be allying with him. UBI is a far greater threat than ‘white nationalism’ (which isn’t a threat at all). You will soon have to choose a side.

  24. All the Fits That Print

  25. The only thing you really miss is that you think it is the Times appointing themselves the arbiter of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

    This is not a self declaration. The DNC and their army of think-tanks have a strategy. They spent 20 years trying to revive the Fairness Doctrine in order to kill off talk radio, preventing voices like Rush Limbaugh from speaking to an audience of working class folks about the evils of the liberal agenda.

    Then they hit upon a new strategy. Overt propaganda at the national news level. Only one outlet to worry about there, and with daddy dead, they are only counting the days until that voice is stifled and joins the hive. The bought out Drudge. Now all that was left is wacky right wing voices on the internet.

    Hence the push to silence all dissent by squashing it at the publishing layer. Facebook, Google, Twitter, even the hosting companies and banks…. all working together to do what the DNC could not accomplish legally. Silence any voice that contradicts their narrative.

    No, this was not a NYT thing.

    The NYT did not move from “Russian Collusion” to “Racism” as a means of “getting Trump” (their words) on their own. This was a top-down, focus group tested plan from the DNC and their associated think-tank groups.

    The NYT is taking marching orders, not devising them.

  26. X: “I’m a painter. You know what’s weird? Hitler was a painter, Churchill too.”

    NYT: “X aligned himself with Adolf Hitler, who killed six million Jews.”

    1. Hey, you’re good at this. Maybe you could get a job at the NYT. Actually, that was pretty quick. So maybe CNN is in the offing. It takes the NYT quite a long time to cook up their hit pieces. CNN needs these things in near real time.

      1. How about:
        Cop who was on duty 1/6 dies a day later, therefore the protesters killed him!

  27. Per your recommendation, I read Yglesias’ article. It is a good read.

    But he is far too charitable toward the left and their motives. For example, he mentions Alexander’s take on BLM, which is that a far more effective way to protect black lives is to donate to one of the Rationalist charities at work in Africa.

    In this discussion, Yglesias describes the divide over BLM and police reform thusly:

    he country has been torn apart over the past five to six years by a running argument between people on the left, who believe that remedying systemic racism as manifested in the law enforcement system is an incredibly important issue, and people on the right, who believe that the left’s failure to support our law enforcement heroes is a crisis that threatens to unleash anarchy across the country.

    This is the leftist take. And it could not be farther from the truth.

    BLM is not about reforming the law enforcement system … although addressing “systemic racism” is high on the agenda.

    Criminal Justice Reform (TM) is a huge issue for many of us here – has been for decades. Back when there were 150 unarmed people killed by police in a typical year, this was our issue. And thanks to the work of people like Radley Balko in the pages of Reason magazine, progress was being made. There was a moment. People were agreeing. His “Rise of the Warrior Cop” was gaining traction. Reform was in the air.

    And then……

    Ferguson happened. The lie of “Hands up, don’t shoot!” was invoked. “Because racism” was the new mantra. BLM was born. And criminal justice reform died. Because if the problem is “because racism”, there is no solution. If police are just systemically racist, no matter what you do, even if they happen to be black themselves? Well…. you can’t fix that.

    So the moment passed.

    Then Trump started moving the ball because a hot chick asked him too. Noted racist and race-baiter Van Jones was apparently in the room as he made the snap decision to push reforms. He marveled that there was no “let’s form a committee to study it” dithering… just “this is wrong, let’s fix it”. He made the call to issue the pardon immediately and started legislation moving. And Van Jones had a moment. He could have gotten real reforms pushed through… much farther reforms. But then, like Gorbachev and Reagan returning from Reykjavik, he learned that you just can’t do that. So he returned to race baiting and Trump bashing.

    And and opportunity passed.

    Then Minneapolis. A nation was horrified as a seemingly indifferent police officer appeared to nonchalantly strangle a black man to death with his knee.

    Again, there was unity. There were no disagreements. Nobody was on the other side. Reform was a real possibility. Accountability for police was on the table. Changing the way qualified immunity works was easily achievable. Changing training, mandating full-time body cameras, transparency, reporting requirements, new rules of engagement… all were on the table and easily achievable.

    Then Black Lives Matter (TM) took over. “Now is not the time for you to talk, now is the time for you to listen” became the mantra. Criminal justice reforms that had been proposed for decades were off the table again. On the table? Addressing systemic racism. In fact, that is not enough. We need to become anti-racist. Now it will be racist to simply fail to attack perceived racism. Reforming police? Off the table. Now we must defund the police!

    This was not designed to address police abuses, criminal justice inequities, or even systemic racism. This was clearly crafted in order to do one thing… divide and inflame passions. Reforms do not help win elections. Solving the problem doesn’t fire up the base. Blaming the other side for the problem fires up the base.

    So that characterization is personal to me. This is “my issue”. And they deliberately block progress on this issue at every turn. And by falling for their narrative and pretending that this “divide” is somehow naturally occurring and a “both sides” thing, they offer a de facto endorsement of the con. And in so doing, they ensure that they’ll be able to derail criminal justice reforms again the next time this thing swings by.

    1. So much all of this. People who really care about meaningful police reform realize that with this summer, BLM set the movement back decades. And it’s not the first time……..

    2. That’s really good, Cyto. Without even any ranting, name-calling or whipping out a high-powered blamethrower. (your assignment of counterproductive actions is calm and correct)

      Well done.

  28. Is that the same New York Times that lied about the Captiol riot and had to retract their story? Why would I believe anything they print now?

  29. This article could have been written at any time in the last two years. That it was written at all is stunning.

    Most Reason writers secretly want to be employed by the NYT/Wapo/Atlantic/etc. They view their Reason gig as a stepping stone to more elite media jobs. But as the woke cancer metastasizes throughout formerly liberal media this is becoming increasing untenable. Libertarianism is viewed by the woke as just another form of rightism, and is thus disqualifying. If not already then certainly in the near future just having had something published in Reason will prevent you from getting a job at the NYT. However, the writers here haven’t yet quite internalized that fact, so they tread very carefully when writing about these media institutions they hope to work for someday. Here, though, Mr. Soave has called a spade a spade, and I applaud him for it. I look forward to other Reason contributors doing the same.

    1. You hit it out of the park….look at Bailey, Welch, ENB, “Cuties” JS.

  30. I think Mike Malice hit it out when he said progressivism is just domestic imperialism..when you really think about it..he is right

  31. These last posts…I used to feel like this reading Reason every month, A little bit of, well…’reason’ in the world, a reminder there are people who are honest and can think things out.

    It was a nice 10 minutes.

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