The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

N.Y. Times Doxxes Scott Alexander Because They Hate Free Speech

Posted on | February 14, 2021 | No Comments

Once upon a time — young people may imagine that I’m speaking of an antique, mythical era — liberals believed in the First Amendment.

Or at least, that’s what liberals said at the time.

Liberals once insisted that the First Amendment protected everything from the right of Communists to teach in public schools to the right of pornographers to produce films of women getting gang-raped. If you wanted to burn the flag? Cool — the First Amendment protected that “free speech,” too, according to liberals.

Liberals are still in favor of Communism, flag-burning and pornography (some things never change), but the kind of First Amendment absolutism that once characterized liberalism (e.g., the ACLU insisting Nazis had a right to march through Jewish neighborhoods) is long gone.

Destroying anonymity on the Internet for bloggers who stray outside the prescribed lines of acceptable opinion was a project undertaken last year by Cade Metz of the New York Times when he decided to dox the proprietor of Slate Star Codex (SSC). When Metz contacted the (inarguably brilliant) blogger known as Scott Alexander, the SSC proprietor immediately shuttered the blog and put up a post explaining what the New York Times was doing, i.e., trying to destroy his private life in order to punish him for allowing free discussion on his site.

Why? Because Slate Star Codex had become influential among certain computer geeks and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.

See, that’s the thing about Internet anonymity — you can create a blog or a Twitter account using a pseudonym to say whatever you want, and this probably won’t get you in trouble unless you are so good at it that you attract a following and having real influence on public opinion, in a way disapproved by the liberal Thought Police. People like Oliver Darcy of CNN work more or less full-time to dox conservatives, and this is to say nothing of the SPLC’s massive research staff, which specializes in what Laird Wilcox called the “links-and-ties” smear method.

After briefly summarizing some of the distortions in the New York Times attack on him, Scott Alexander says:

They further presented a more general case that I am six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon-style linked to right-wing / pro-Trump figures in Silicon Valley like Peter Thiel. This is true — I can think of a friend of mine who also knows Peter Thiel. In fact, I met Peter Thiel once, kind of unexpectedly, at a party, long before Trump was in the news, and exchanged about two sentences of conversation with him (I don’t think he had the slightest idea who I was, nor was there any reason he should have). I have never personally met the other right-wing figures named in the article. I wrote a 30,000 word condemnation of one of them on my blog a few years ago, and we have since had some email exchanges about to what degree this was unfair. I received a sympathetic email from another of them about the Times article. Others I have had literally no contact with. Again, it would not surprise me if I was a few degrees of social separation from some of these people. I don’t feel like this means I have done anything wrong, and I assume most people are a few degrees of social separation away from a Republican or Trump supporter. I myself am a Democrat, voted Warren (IIRC) in the primary, and Biden in the general.

This “six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon” game of trying to portray someone as connected to people with whom they have no actual connection is, really, the essence of what the Left calls “McCarthyism.” The thing is, Joe McCarthy was fundamentally correct about Communist infiltration of the U.S. government, as M. Stanton Evans demonstrated. So it has never been my habit to accuse liberals of “McCarthyism,” which would wrongly imply my disapproval of Senator McCarthy. But I digress . . .

What is so wrongheaded about the “links-and-ties” smear is the way it attempts to blame people for things they didn’t say or do, because of their “association” (however casual) with others. For example, I first met Kevin DeAnna back around 2007 when he was a Leadership Institute staffer, and often showed up at libertarian events in D.C. At the time, there was a general disgust among right-wingers with the failures of the Bush administration, failures that were blamed on “neoconservatives,” and the organizational focus for many of those activists was the GOP presidential campaign of Ron Paul. I knew Kevin and, because the Thought Police had identified me as a dangerous Wrongthinker, there was a certain natural friendship. We’d see each other at events and chat briefly, but I honestly had no idea what Kevin was up to behind the scenes.

Then a couple of years ago, Kevin’s ex-girlfriend, Katie McHugh (someone I met a few times at CPAC) decided she was a liberal and started dumping emails and everything else into the lap of the SPLC, and I was like, “Whoa!” Kevin had gone off into some really crazy neo-Odinist pagan thing called “Wolves of Vinland,” among much else. The point of this long digression is that if Kevin Deanna had sought my advice, certainly I would have counseled against what he did, and yet my “association” with him could be used by dishonest smear artists to imply that I was somehow complicit in all Kevin’s ill-advised adventures.

This is what the New York Times is doing to Scott Alexander. Slate Star Codex became a hub for the so-called “Rationalist” community, some members of which are skeptical about the mindless “diversity is our strength” nonsense spewed by Social Justice Warriors (SJWs). Despite the fact that Scott had specifically condemned the self-declared “reactionary” faction of Rationalist community (e.g., Mencius Moldbug and Michael Anissimov), the Times nonetheless tries to depict Scott as sympathetic to (or at least, tolerant of) reactionary Rationalism.

This is not merely false, but completely dishonest.

It’s even more dishonest than if the SPLC tried to claim I was down for Kevin DeAnna’s “Wolves of Vinland” agenda, because while at least DeAnna I are both generally right-wing, Scott Alexander is a liberal who voted for Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 primaries. The main difference between Scott Alexander and the New York Times is that Scott believes “Reactionary” ideas are best countered by free discussion, whereas the New York Times is pursuing a Stalinist agenda of silencing dissent.

Here’s the thing: If your political beliefs cannot withstand criticism — if open discussion is an existential threat to your ideology — you cannot solve this problem by attempting to silence your critics. You can send a Solzhenitsyn to the gulag, but truth always ultimately wins.

Liberals seem determined to learn this lesson the hard way. “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”

More at Instapundit.

UPDATE: I’m waiting for Ed Driscoll to declare that WE’VE DESCENDED INTO SOME SORT OF BIZARRE HELL-WORLD IN WHICH MATTHEW YGLESIAS IS A VOICE OF SANITY, but in the meantime, I’ll quote Yglesias observing that the New York Times article “is structured as a kind of syllogism”:

  • Scott Alexander’s blog is popular with some influential Silicon Valley people.
  • Scott Alexander has done posts that espouse views on race or gender that progressives disapprove of.
  • THEREFORE, Silicon Valley is a hotbed of racism and sexism.

This is “specious,” as Yglesias says. What is really going on here? Perhaps it’s that Cade Metz, an old white guy who works for an organization where old white guys are now routinely getting purged by newsroom mobs of “woke” young staffers, feels that it is unfair for someone like Scott Alexander to be able to write without fear of SJW reprisal.

UPDATE II: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

In the comments over there, a troll is calling me — me! — a “cuckservative”! It’s not just the ignorance of this insult that disturbs me, but the ingratitude. There are people who actually know what harms I’ve suffered for daring to hold the right flank, as it were, for 20 years, and I would expect them to defend my honor, so that it would never be necessary for me to speak in my own defense. Who was it, after all, who finally flushed LGF’s Charles Johnson out into the open, huh? For that feat alone, you might suppose people would be eternally grateful to me, but I suppose one ought not expect gratitude in politics.