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Douglas Andrews / June 26, 2020

Doxxing for Dollars

The nation’s two most powerful papers have decided to attack the little guy.

Time was when the press played it pretty straight — when it reported the facts, called balls and strikes, and any movement away from its perch of objectivity was to allow its editorialists to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” The ardent leftists were confined to the op-ed pages, and the thoughtful ones occasionally confessed their liberal intolerance.

These days, however, our nation’s most influential newspapers have it exactly backward. They’re out to get the little guy.

Take The New York Times, for example, which decided to publish the name of a single pseudonymous tech blogger without any good reason for doing so. As National Review reports, “The popular pseudonymous blogger behind Slate Star Codex claims that he’s been forced to delete the blog after a New York Times reporter threatened to reveal his identity. It is the latest example of the paper’s willingness to grant anonymity according to inconsistent, ideologically self-serving criteria.”

What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, put yourself in this blogger’s shoes: “I’m a psychiatrist, and psychiatrists are kind of obsessive about preventing their patients from knowing anything about who they are outside of work. … I think it’s plausible that … my patients … wouldn’t be able to engage with me in a normal therapeutic way. I also worry that my clinic would decide I am more of a liability than an asset and let me go, which would leave hundreds of patients in a dangerous situation as we tried to transition their care. The second reason is more prosaic: some people want to kill me or ruin my life, and I would prefer not to make it too easy.”

Speaking of ruining people’s lives, did you hear the one about the woman who wore blackface to a Halloween party thrown two years ago by a Washington Post cartoonist? Apparently, it wasn’t enough for her to have been chased from the party in tears. No, an offended partygoer — again, from a party two years ago — badgered a pair of Post reporters into outing this otherwise-anonymous woman in an article last week titled “Blackface incident at Post cartoonist’s 2018 Halloween party resurfaces amid protests.” Her name is now public, and she’s been fired from her job.

These people — these party-going snowflakes and these two Post reporters — are sick.

Anyway, back to our pseudonymous blogger: Tough luck, said the Times, whose reporter claimed it’s the paper’s policy to use real names. It’s the policy, that is, unless you’re an anonymous source with dirt on the Trump administration, or, say, a “street artist” named Banksy — in which case the Times will bend over backward to protect your anonymity.

“I’m not sure what happens next,” said Dr. Slate Star Codex. “In my ideal world, the New York Times realizes they screwed up, promises not to use my real name in the article, and promises to rethink their strategy of doxxing random bloggers for clicks. Then I put the blog back up … and we forget this ever happened.”

If only it were that simple. If only the Times were that decent. Perhaps our blogger could claim protected status by grabbing a can of red spray paint, taking a stroll down Eighth Avenue, and hitting the Times building with a bit of his own Banksy-style graffiti. Perhaps a ginormous “WILL DOX FOR CLICKS” sprayed directly atop the building’s iconic Fraktur font façade would do the trick. Okay, probably not.

Still, there might be a happy ending here yet. “I’ve gotten an amazing amount of support the past few days as this situation played out,” says our blogger. “You don’t need to send me more — message very much received.”

And, as National Review notes, even those in the tech community have rallied to his defense — one of them calling out the culprits in the process: “Journalism as the non-consensual invasion of privacy for profit,” tweeted Silicon Valley entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan. “Shame on you, @CadeMetz @puiwingtam!” Cade Metz and Pui-Wing Tam, eh? Let’s see how they like it.

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