Update On My Situation

It’s been two and a half months since I deleted the blog, so I owe all of you an update on recent events.

I haven’t heard anything from the New York Times one way or the other. Since nothing has been published, I’d assume they dropped the article, except that they approached an acquaintance for another interview last month. Overall I’m confused.

But they definitely haven’t given me any explicit reassurance that they won’t reveal my private information. And now that I’ve publicly admitted privacy is important to me – something I tried to avoid coming on too strong about before, for exactly this reason – some people have taken it upon themselves to post my real name all over Twitter in order to harass me. I probably inadvertently Streisand-Effect-ed myself with all this; I still think it was the right thing to do.

At this point I think maintaining anonymity is a losing battle. So I am gradually reworking my life to be compatible with the sort of publicity that circumstances seem to be forcing on me. I had a talk with my employer and we came to a mutual agreement that I would gradually transition away from working there. At some point, I may start my own private practice, where I’m my own boss and where I can focus on medication management – and not the kinds of psychotherapy that I’m most worried are ethically incompatible with being a public figure. I’m trying to do all of this maximally slowly and carefully and in a way that won’t cause undue burden to any of my patients, and it’s taking a long time to figure out.

I’m also talking to Substack about moving to their blogging platform. While part of me wants to jump right back into blogging here and pretend nothing ever happened, the Substack option has grown on me. I think I’d feel safer as part of a big group that specifically promises to defend their bloggers when needed. And also, I’d feel safer with a lot of diverse income streams, and Substack has made me an extremely generous offer. Many people gave me good advice about how I could monetize my blog without Substack – I took these suggestions very seriously, and without violating a confidentiality agreement all I can answer is that Substack’s offer was extremely generous.

When I originally asked readers about this possibility, they raised a lot of valid concerns: some of them were confused by Substack’s commenting system, others annoyed by its pop-up reminders to subscribe, others were concerned about being stuck outside a paywall. I’ve talked to Substack about this, and they’ve made some really impressive promises to address these things – they’re going to code a maximally-SSC-like commenting experience, they’re going to let me opt out of the subscription reminders, I won’t have to “paywall” anything besides some Hidden Open Threads. This isn’t the time for me to go over the dozens of examples of concerns I had that Substack went above and beyond to address, but assume I had most of the same ones you did and put a lot of work into addressing them.

(and if you’re worried about the Hidden Open Threads, check out Data Secrets Lox, a forum that has done a great job keeping the SSC Open Thread tradition going over the past few months.)

So that’s where I am right now – trying to wind things down at my day job, very preliminarily planning a private practice, and negotiating writing details with Substack. I’m also looking into some other things to protect my physical safety. When all of that is done, I’ll start blogging again. Right now I’m expecting that to be some time between October and January – and obviously when it happens I’ll let you know. I would appreciate if people continued to respect my preferences about anonymity until then. After that I’ll stop caring as much – though I’ll still go by “Scott Alexander” to keep the brand the same, and I’ll still do what I can to avoid publicity.

I might have hinted at this already, but I should say it explicitly – I’m really grateful for all the support I got throughout this whole incident. You people are all great. I’ll say so at more length later, and talk more about some specific examples, but for now just accept on faith that you’re all great.

I still plan to do the book review contest! I’ll do it sometime after I start the new blog! Those of you who sent me reviews didn’t waste your time! It’s going to happen! Pestilence may afflict every corner of the world, the skies may turn red as blood and the sun go dark at noon, the earth may shake and plagues of locusts cover the land, but never doubt that there will be a book review contest someday, in the golden future, when all of this is over.

As all the kids are saying these days, “thank you for your continuing support during these difficult times”.

76 thoughts on “Update On My Situation

  1. eelcohoogendoorn

    Thanks for the update, and sympathies for all the trouble. I suppose it was inevitable this would happen eventually in some form or another. And once you are over this hump being able to live publically in accordance with your values will probably be something you will really appreciate.

    Never paid for writing before, but it makes sense and I have no doubt it will work for you. And if your core content is still free I dont think anyone can really complain about this.

  2. aethelred

    I know that I am dreadfully late with this comment, but I am overall pleased that you are migrating to Substack (over a TBD timeframe, understood). I have no problem whatsoever with paying, and if Substack’s percentage off the top results in your spending less time administering your platform and more time thinking/writing/generally being Scott, I think that will be a tradeoff that fully passes the veil of ignorance test.

    I note as well that the other Substack-hosted streams to which I subscribe seem to have a surprisingly high thoughtfulness to performativity ratio in their comments (obviously, only those which allow comments), so perhaps you will also need to spend less time and psychic energy policing the comments section and wielding the banhammer.

    Vis a vis your Substack agreement, I trust that you do retain the right to ban individual commenters at will – I can see the potential for a bit of moral hazard on Substack’s part in that regard.

    Also, retroactively, Shanah Tovah Umetukah.

  3. ADifferentAnonymous

    I have no qualms with you accepting Substack’s “extremely generous” offer.

    But as a long-time reader, I’ve noticed you consistently underestimating your own importance, so I really hope you haven’t accepted their *first* “extremely generous” offer.

  4. Thomas

    Those who outed you? Good enough to identify who the …holes are. I’d say turnabout is fair play, but I doubt you work that way.
    Best of luck!

  5. HippieStomper

    SA: Your writing is well worth paying for. If you’re liking the look of Substack, go for it. And don’t be afraid to charge for your great writing. I’m certainly willing to pay for it, and I’m sure many others are too. (My only fear would be the Wait But Why path. But I’m pretty sure you’re a different animal altogether than Tim. Love you both.)

  6. skylabfield

    Thank you very much for the update. One silver lining from this is that Slate Star Codex finally has a Wikipedia page; the entire affair made Slate Star Codex famous enough to make the Wikipedia.

    I know people are complaining about Substack, but I am willing to deal with paywalls and other corporate stuff if I know it results in you getting enough money that you can share what you think without having to worry about Illiberal cancel culture mob coming after you for having politically incorrect thoughts.

    I think, as just one example, that we really need to have an honest discussion about transgender athletes using transgenderism to cheat the system — is this something they are doing, or is this just a right wing bogeyman? My solution here would to to have transgender women who are biologically male given permission to compete in female sports, but only if they have had full gender reassignment surgery with their genetelia, and have at least one year of testosterone reducing hormonal therapy. I consider transgender people and bathrooms a non-issue; I survived unisex bathrooms at the college dorms I lived at.

  7. Wouter

    Will you face some extra ‘pressures’ with the fact that there’s money involved with Substack? Will you feel tempted to push out more content even if it’s not long-form just to please your paying subscribers? Will Substack force you to do at least X posts per month/week?

  8. flauschi

    Dear Scott, I hope you are well and wish you all the best.

    I am a bit weary about substack, and would second the multiply voiced recommendation that you should keep legal control and electronic copies of everything (including comments? is that legally possible?) so that you could move on should the need arise.

  9. benwave

    Aroha nui Scott, you’re perhaps the most admirable person I know. You continue to show maturity and dedication in everything you do, and it does me good to see it.

  10. labor_rights

    Maybe it is just me, but I am so tired of confidentiality agreements. If for some reason you don’t want to reveal your income that is totally fine, but if Substack is gagging you that is pretty awful and should be resisted. Forced silence on compensation is a major factor in the perpetuation of inequity.

  11. Vitor

    I’m glad to hear that you’re doing ok. You’re handling this mess with poise and thoughfulness, I don’t know if I could have managed that in your place. I’ve missed SSC, and I’m excited for it to come back!

  12. 2irons

    Glad things have worked out ok for you. Or rather – you worked hard to make things ok.

    Really miss the blogs so great to hear they are coming back.

    Never going to forget what the NY Times cheated us out of during lockdown.

  13. Rinrin

    I think taking a look at this concept might help you better evaluate the substack option:

    https://stratechery.com/aggregation-theory/

    You’re basically (at a minimum) giving up your direct relationship to your “consumers,” which is a big deal. It might still be worth it though, as you weren’t utilizing the blog to its fullest before.

  14. PatrickWolff

    Hi, Scott. I would like to send you a book review for your consideration when you do have the book review contest. How should I do so?

  15. AppetSci

    Thanks Scott, I’ve been checking for updates religiously and am glad to hear you’re on the track for a solution. I would definitely pay a monthly fee to support you.
    I don’t have any advice other than that you might be interested in this discussion between Joe Rogan and comedian Bill Burr on YouTube where they discuss the podcasting/blogging business and how not to get shafted by the corporate world. Basically, it’s way better to 100% own your stuff than to sign things away to a company who then control your income (because they get paid then pay you – Hollywood accounting) and will find a way to control/influence your output.

    Discussion starts 11 mins in – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GO_rW0Bvy1I

    Also, 4chan is based on free, open source software.

  16. Hoopdawg

    While obviously it’s awful that you are forced to do this against your will, I must admit I am looking forward to you embracing your role as a public figure. The world needs public figures like you.

  17. clipmaker

    Wow, I hope this works out for you but it’s sad that the decision was, in effect, made for you against your immediate wishes.

    I hate Substack so if it’s an option that you’re weighing, I’d oppose it. If the offer is good enough that you have to do it out of business necessity then I can understand. But, whatever they’re going to do to make the blog profitable for themselves, you can presumably do just as well without them.

    I don’t remember if this has come up before but if you still want to review therapy-related books, I wonder if you can pick any of the ones by Allan N. Schore. You probably know who he is, but for those who don’t, there are plenty of search hits. He is a well known author on the neuroscience of psychology, and I think he still has a therapy practice, so maybe those are compatible.

  18. Andy Colrock

    The return of the site is great news, and I am sorry that you had to go through this. As a long-time lurker who has never commented (though I did go to a meetup last year) I will definitely be subscribing.

    I didn’t subscribe on Patreon because I didn’t think there was any reason to pay for content that you were giving away free or donate to someone who already had a good income. But even if both of these remain true (as I hope they do), I will subscribe on the new site. Rather than a purchase or donation, I have come to see a subscription as a vote for you to continue blogging and building this community.

  19. dotctor

    Congratulations Scott.
    Thank you for this update and I am very glad to hear that you are in such a constructive mood.

    For my very selfish reasons, that’s great news!

    And for you, with some luck, it looks like you might in the end be making lemonade out of these lemons…

    Keep the energy and courage up. A lot of silent people here are regularly checking in and waiting for the blog to resume. 🙂

    Please also keep the updates coming so that people know how and when to help.

  20. Peter Gerdes

    It’s great to hear you can do that. Not to denigrate the importance of your day job but it’s hard to imagine that being one of (tens of?) thousands of psychiatrists you can do as much good as you can as the leader of a social movement (which is what you’ve become here). Indeed, just by virtue of personality and approach I think you’ve shifted the rationalism community away from the entertaining but pointless fuming about the irrationalities of others (eg the old internet atheist model) and towards much more of an effort to understand the world and make it better. If you do nothing else that’s far more impact (for good) than most of us ever have a chance to make.

    I’m glad you got those reasurances but I’d advise you to make sure you keep personal control over and copies of the content and comments. Even with the best intentions business models change and even after the Volokh conspiracy recieved lots of assurances from wapo they eventually had to leave so keep that option open.

    Also are there really psychs who just specialize in med management. Should be since it’s not always the best fit to have to go into a normal practice just to get the same meds I’ve taken for 15 years.

  21. Luke85

    Thanks so much for the update. I can’t explain how much I’ve enjoyed this blog and how much it has helped me grow as a person. Will subscribe to whatever project you end up with.

  22. Mark Paskowitz

    I don’t really have anything to add to what others have said, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m a regular reader but infrequent commenter. I’m very happy that you’re finding a way to return, and it sounds from the tone of your post that you don’t expect the way forward to be too bad. I’m still sorry you’ve been pushed into this.

    I’ll be happy to provide some subscription support when you move. Not only do I get a lot out of your writing, I also want to support the existence of this blog as “part of the discussion”.

  23. Trofim_Lysenko

    It’s good to hear that you seem to be doing better, Scott. I look forward to backing you on Substack to the extent my finances allow, and to seeing your articles again.

    As far as your career goes, I’m with John, the idea that this sequence of events is forcing you to alter your career path seems deeply unjust. Since I think you’ll still be doing good work in a different style of practice, I hope that you will find the new practice as satisfying as the old, maybe even more so.

    Something something living well is the best something….

  24. John Schilling

    We’ll be glad to have you back in whatever way you manage to return. A few month’s interruption is an annoyance. That this has interfered with your chosen career is an injustice, and I’m glad that you have found at least a partial workaround. And while I share some of the concerns others have raised, I’ll give Substack the benefit of the doubt. Also some of my cash while you’re there. The Ferengi 13th rule of acquisition may not be a universal truth, but I think applies here – anything worth doing, is worth doing for money. Your writing, and your comment-section gardening, are worth doing, therefore…

  25. teageegeepea

    I’m sure you know more than me about this, but a part of me is still concerned that by having some other party host your blog, you will be vulnerable to deplatforming. Admittedly, I use wordpress, but nobody is even aware of my blog. I’m sad to hear that you’re being forced to leave your job and be less anonymous/pseudonmymous than you’d like, but I’m glad that you’ve got a plan for the future that seems to work for you.

    1. pie_flavor

      These are the guys that are knowingly hosting Mencius Moldbug’s new stuff. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be fine.

  26. VoiceOfTheVoid

    Glad to hear you’ve got a plan, Scott! Look forward to reading your posts on Substack. If it’s good enough for you, it’ll have to be good enough for me 😛

    1. VoiceOfTheVoid

      And I love how despite how many features have been stripped away, we maintain the two “Report” buttons 🙂

  27. Telomerase

    Glad you’re back, even if it was through a convoluted evil scheme to get me into another paid subscription. You’re like Bruce Campbell in the Evil Dead series, except for the whole Simulation.

  28. Blackbeard

    I’ll certainly subscribe and so, I believe, will thousands of others. And so the NY Times will have failed in their shameful attempt to silence you.

  29. DinoNerd

    Good luck. I miss your posts, and also the effect the structure of this blog had on the open threads. Data Secrets Lox lets me keep contact with much of the community, and discuss some of the same topics, but it’s not the same.

    I don’t know whether I’ll follow you to Substack or not. But I wish you well regardless.

  30. chrisare

    Great. I hope you do return to political and “culture war” topics now. Those were some of your most insightful threads, IMO.

  31. hyperborealis

    Good deal. Take some satisfaction on how well you’ve worked things out. Please include a subscription option: I would like to support SSC. A veritable oasis in an all-too-veritable desert.

  32. AliceToBob

    Scott,

    I’m sorry to hear about the difficulties you’ve been facing as a result of the NYT article.* I’m glad that you seem to be adapting well and taking care of yourself. Thanks for the update, it’s greatly appreciated.

    Also, a big “greetings!” to the fellow posters whose handles I recognize. I’ve sorely missed not only Scott’s writings, but also the community of people who contributed to the comments section. I wish I knew where some of you drifted off to (John Schilling, Plumber, Conrad Honcho, GoneAnon, Deiseach, cassander, DavidFriedman, albatross11, and many others), so that I still had access to your perspectives.

    Best wishes to Scott and the SSC commentariat.
    A2B

    * It is difficult for me to interpret the NYT’s behavior as anything short of malicious. The writer(s) and editors involved should be ashamed of themselves.

    1. toastengineer

      Most of the commenters you mention are still active on datasecretslox.

      I’m there too though, so it *is* kind of a mixed bag.

  33. Chouchani

    Thank you so much Scott, It’s hard to put into words how much discovering this blog did for me.
    It sucks that you have to go through this.
    All the best.

  34. kotrfa

    Thanks for the update Scott, I was wondering how have you been doing.

    Even though the current situation seems sligthly worse than your previous situation, it also looks like an interesting life opportunity and experiment.

    For what it’s worth, I would happily subscribe to substack-hosted SSC.

    I also second a comment above about the navigability of this WP version of the site… It’s terrible and I hope the knowledge won’t be lost just because it’s hard to navigate. Also: comments – they were sometimes as valuable as the content (or even more).

  35. mdv1959

    This is great news, although I rarely contribute, I really miss your posts and the equally interesting discussions in the comment sections. SSC truly was an island of thoughtfulness in a sea of insanity. I’m a big fan of the Substack model and subscribe to a number of news letters as a way to support independent voices. I’d be first in line to subscribe to yours.

  36. magic9mushroom

    Hello. I am new here.

    I have a request. Would you mind making the site navigable again?

    I ask because since the site was taken down and put back it appears to have a very stripped-down view with no useful browsing (articles display in full when browsing outright or by tag, and only one per page, rather than the old “lots of articles per page, first couple of paragraphs only, go to an article’s page to read the whole thing”) or sidebars.

    (I had been using the Wayback Machine to get at the old, navigable view, but today when I tried that it just redirected to the current version of the pages.)

    Until now I’d been thinking “well, he’s trying to make it harder for people to dig for his name” (particularly given I found your name by accident :V), but if you’re making peace with that I’d ask that you allow people to enjoy your blog in full again. Would certainly make it much more feasible for me to read all the interesting articles (I’ve only read about 20 or 30); at the moment it is even more tedious than your insight is worth.

  37. Undredd

    It’s good to hear from you, Scott. And it’s good to hear that this will likely end … at least OK. And hey, good on Substack. I’m solidly OK with monetizing the blog as long as we’re not giving up substantial public access to Scott’s Thoughts.

  38. aristides

    I’m glad to hear you are landing on your feet. I’m truly sorry you had to go through such hardship, but I hope that you will be in a good place after all these changes. I’ll switch to substack, and support you when I can. You have been sorely missed, and I wouldn’t have blamed you if you quit blogging all together. Selfishly, I’m glad you’re coming back!

  39. TheWanderer

    First time poster, long time reader. Wishing you all the best, and so thankful you’ll continue to curate this place in whatever form. Hope you stay safe in these trying times.

  40. User_Riottt

    god, please let me know if you go through with the private practice and if you will write scripts for controlled substances out of state. I moved to WA from MN a year ago and have gone through 2 GP’s and 1 (currently on my 2nd) shrink, complete with 1 suicide attempt, just trying to stay on my meds that have been working fine for the last 10+ years. And I have Benzo withdrawal to look forward to next week. Kafka has nothing on our healthcare system.

  41. Edward Scizorhands

    The number one issue is Scott taking care of Scott. If you are taken care of, lots of other things you want to do become possible.

    And it sounds like that is happening. Keep it up. I’ve really missed the blog, but I’d go another year without it rather than push Scott into returning before he’s ready.

    Stay safe.

  42. georgeherold

    Awesome, you sound OK. I wanted to say I think it’s important to keep something outside the paywall… you get more diversity of opinion.

  43. J.R.

    Scott,

    Not having fresh writing from you the past few months has been terrible – truly a void in my life. I am heartened to hear that you will resume posting soon. Whether here or at Substack, I will follow you.

    To plug another Substack writer I’ve discovered in my wanderings in the intellectual desert after Scott got almost-doxxed, I think The Convivial Society by LM Sacasas would be of interest to readers of this blog. He is actively critical of the transhumanist ethos, but I appreciate the alternate perspective. If nothing else, he is relentlessly thoughtful, just like our host.

  44. Brett

    That’s good news that SSC is going to survive in some fashion, and that SubStack was so eager to get you that they made a pretty good offer (“extremely” makes me think a pretty good five figure amount per month).

  45. Anaxagoras

    “I still plan to do the book review contest! I’ll do it sometime after I start the new blog! ”

    Can I still submit a book review, or will this just be the ones that you’ve already received?

    1. paulbali

      yeah, the book reviews are gonna be great! i bet a lot of us will wanna get in on that. i’m myself putting together a review of Ted Chiang’s “Understand”.

  46. OverExamined Life

    I’m on substack for my own platform and to pay another writer I like. I think it’s all fine as is, so if you are improving it even more then it will undoubtedly be great. And your audience needs to recognize how much of your life you are already donating and chill out…not everything is about making their lives perfect and they can adapt to a bit of change as their own tiny contribution of giving back to you.

  47. Plumber

    Thank you @Scott Alexander, and FWIW I’m already subscribing to another authors “Substack” and it seems fine, I look forward to it.

  48. Nick

    Glad to hear that you’re working toward a permanent solution to this madness, Scott; it sucks that it was forced upon you, but at least you’ve found a way forward. As for the future of the blog, I’m definitely willing to give Substack a chance.

  49. pyentropy

    This is probably the best news in 2020 🙂 I really hope you do succeed in opening your own practice and creating a new blog with a good revenue stream. People like you deserve it.

  50. Neike Taika-Tessaro

    Thanks a lot for the update! Regardless what you go for and what you settle on, I wish you all the best going forward and if that includes more blogging, I am doubly delighted. 🙂 You’re a treasure.

  51. metacelsus

    Good to know the book review contest is still on! I’m really looking forward to it.

    And Scott, best wishes for your transition! You are an amazing person 🙂

  52. Jeltz

    If you want to keep your professional name separate from your blogger name, have you considered doing something like using your middle name in your private practice? If you go by “Dr. Alex Lastname”, potential patients googling that would be much less likely to find your blog.

  53. TimG

    Quite honestly: I’m excited for you. This might be an interesting new phase in your life.

    Either way, I’ll be looking forward to reading you on Substack. The sooner the better, IMHO.

  54. Evan Þ

    Are comments reenabled as well? In case this goes through – thank you for this update. I’m sorry you have to make all these changes, but I hope you’ll end up in an even better place than before.

    I shared a number of the concerns about Substack raised in your link. I’m now cautiously optimistic, though there’s one more concern I’d appreciate if you could explicitly address – in case you end up leaving Substack in the future, would you be able to take your posts and the comment threads to repost elsewhere like on this domain?

    (Also, speaking of comment threads, would you mind reenabling the option where non-open-threads were sorted oldest-first instead of newest-first? It really makes a difference reading over old conversations.)

  55. jpaddison

    You’ve given me more than my phone calls and emails have cost. I know this wasn’t what you wanted, but I’m hopeful for the future of a substack-hosted SSC.

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