On the matter of pseudonymity and anonymity: A brief update with Slate Star Codex's Scott Alexander

A follow up to an earlier edition.

Varieties of argument, as seen on the Slate Star Codex blog.

I wrote about the New York Times’ misguided and wrong decision to suggest that it would publish the rationalist author’s full name in a profile of him.

You can read it here.

I was able to have a brief chat with Scott via email. It is short. I present it unedited here because there’s no need to edit it:

Hi Scott, 

I'd love to talk. I've written about your situation in my newsletter today. 




Thanks for supporting me. Let me know if there's anything I can answer for you.

Hi Scott,

Thank you for coming back to me. What I’m really interested in is how the NYT journalist fist approached you and what they said was their reason for writing the profile to begin with. I’m also interested in the idea of you exploring — with your community — difficult ideas and how those ideas are then seen by people outside the community. I’m a member of the subreddit and I found the discussions about how some posts would not be seen as the philosophical exercises they are when put into the glare of the general discourse. 

Thanks again,


The journalist started by asking some of my friends for their impressions of me. When this had happened enough that people started publicly discussing what was going on and I mentioned nobody had talked to me directly, he eventually got in touch with me by email. He said the reason for the profile was that many interesting Silicon Valley influencers read my blog and he wanted to look into that phenomenon. He told some other people that there was also a coronavirus angle because we were ahead of the curve on that. Let me know if I can be more specific about any of this.

Thank you. That’s really helpful. I enjoy your work but don’t always agree with your positions. Was part of your fear that the blog posts coming to a wider audience would lead to misinterpretation? 

I wasn't thrilled about that, but I don't feel like I have much of a right to protest about that. My grievance against the NYT is still that they think it's okay to disregard my wish for anonymity.

I wholly agree. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me. Are you happy to use these answers in my newsletter? 

Yes, and thanks for asking.

That’s the barest minimum we should expect from our media — actually asking and actually respecting the boundaries of interactions. I hope the New York Times rethinks its approach to anonymity and pseudonymity… and fast.