F* the New York Times
(That's Forgive the New York Times. And maybe forget. But not what you thought.)
The Universe works in mysterious ways.
I wrote a long post. Scott Alexander’s reply to a New York Times article about him inspired me. The Universe lost it before I published it. It disappeared. Without a trace.
No, it wasn’t magic. I know how it happened. I have two Substack accounts. I had switched between them. I was logged into the wrong account, and Substack saved my draft—nowhere.
I learned several things.
Don’t switch between accounts on Substack while writing a post. Duh.
Don’t waste time saying things that other people have said better.
Thank the New York Times.
Forgive the New York Times.
Things other people have said better
Scott is a national treasure.
One of the greatest public intellects
From Scott Alexander, Philosopher King of the Weird People:
Alexander remains humble and self-critical. He is charitable toward the views of those with whom he disagrees, to the point of explaining some beliefs even more persuasively than the people who espouse them. He aims at elucidating the truth, no matter whose politics it offends or how it makes people feel—while remaining as scrupulously considerate of other people’s feelings (and privacy) as the truth will allow. When I read the Times and similar websites, I read with suspicion, constantly alert for narrative spin and rhetorical trickery; when I read Astral Codex Ten, I read with gratitude the words of someone with whom I do not always agree, but from whom I can expect a fair shake and an honest effort.
The true significance of Scott Alexander is less in what he writes, than in his whole approach to writing—and not (or at least not only) because Alexander has a particular gift, but because he has chosen to wield that gift in furtherance of Truth.
Bad thinking will be corrected, if possible, not with ridicule or other rhetorical pressure to conform, but with good thinking.
So it is fitting that the Times’s threat to “dox” Scott Alexander has turned out to be such a gift to his readers.
But by making a pointless and inconsiderate threat to publicize his identity, the Times persuaded Alexander to focus more of his time and energy on writing. It may not be the Prytaneum, but a life of research and writing seems a fitting sentence for one of the greatest public intellects of our age. [My emphasis]
This is a petition signed by more than 7,000 people; many are well-known thinkers and leaders. I don’t think I signed it. If I didn’t I wish I had. I would sign it now, but it would be a meaningless gesture. Instead, I’m writing this.
Thank you, New York Times
I wrote a post, “Thank you, Donald Trump.” I didn’t like him and didn’t want him to be President, but I thanked him for getting me to return to paying attention to politics.
If I can thank Donald Trump, I can thank The New York Times.
I am grateful to the New York Times in the same way. It has motivated me to think more carefully about how to decide how I want to spend my reading and listening time.
There are people whose ideas are worth considering. Not media companies. People. Scott is one. I might read David Brooks or Ross Douthat. But not something written by a random at any outlet.
Scott has a Blogroll on his site. I’ve read about half the people he’s cited. They are all good. Some are outstanding.
I am sure that every one of them is better than the NY Times, or The NY Post, or Vox, or Fox—except maybe LessWrong where you have to choose your writers.
Note to self: A poem called “Vox and Fox.”
So, no more news. As little media as possible.
It’s a matter of trust.
And a matter of time.
I forgive you, New York Times.
Bless you. You know not what you do.
(Nor do I. So bless me, too)
Before you go away:
I aspire to write things that will be worth your time reading. I hope to create a community—like Scott’s—that will help me clarify my thinking and correct my errors—and help members of the community correct each others.
If you are interested in seeing what happens, then click the button, and stuff will be delivered to your inbox as I post it.