Scott Alexander's fantastic Slate Star Codex blog has been shut down. The NYT is reporting on him, and when they contacted him for an interview, they wouldn't agree to maintain his years-long project of pseudonymity. They said they must reveal his name, connect it to his (sometimes political) writing, no matter what negative impact it has on his psychiatric patients. He's received death threats, harassment trying to destroy his career, and more, before – but his patients come first. His blog is down, until either their threat ends, or his life is so destroyed it no longer matters.
This has impacted me more than I thought it would. I've been reading for years and years, I've met him in person (although he certainly doesn't remember me – I was one of dozens excited fans at the HPMOR wrap party in Michigan). He tries hard to be kind, and, aside from the dramatically shorter form factor, is the primary model for this blog. If you've ever wondered why I entitle things "Contra X on Y", or spend so much time thinking about how to be kind in a complex world, or why I blog at all, the answer is Scott Alexander. If my only model was Gwern Branwen, it wouldn't be a blog, and trust me when I say that would have been my only influence, I would have been far too shy to publish anything, as nothing would ever reach my own standards.
I know what it sounds like, saying you have only two main influences. There are other bloggers that inspire me, but their work has, largely, stopped. It's a spookier world for reasonable people, and not worth the hassle, in many ways.
Many people have.
My feelings about this are strong, negative, and turbulent. Slate Star Codex was one of the best places on the internet, and there aren't all that many left.
I hope this can be the jumping off point, for one of them, in the future. We are all cobblers here – no one can step into anyone's shoes, because we have to make our own. But the world needs more special, thoughtful, caring places. My heart is breaking over this.
I described this in person as the internet getting 15% worse overnight. And for no reason at all. Literally none. The Current Year is not a good one for culture.