Slate Star Codex and the Crisis of Scott Alexander

Recently, Scott Alexander, the psychiatrist-intellectual behind Slate Star Codex has decided to delete the entirety of the blog in reaction to an NYT reporter refusing to maintain his pseudonymy in an article written about the blog.

I don’t really know how to articulate the magnitude of this loss. While it’s true that his work will remain publicly accessible through websites like The Wayback Machine– if he decides to step back from public discourse then we will have lost not just the best current writing on the internet, but maybe also the only current writing that aims to remain high quality, considered and non-partisan in an increasingly divisive and emotionally violent period of social history. Which would be a tragedy.

Sometimes I think politics is a plague. If it is, then it’s a plague in the same way that war is a plague. Not because there are no just wars, and not because there are no just political conflicts. But because the collateral damage can sometimes be more than I can stand.

That Scott decided to take his website down over the fear that his public work might alienate him from his psychiatric clients, whom he has stated run the political gamut from extreme right to extreme left, is just a sign of what a good-natured and morally practical person he is.

That he has made this decision has to be his to own, and I have to respect it. But I can still mourn the existence of a world where the smartest, brightest thing he could do is to remove all his frankly fantastic work from the public sphere to care for his clients. It seems problematic to me that we live in a world where that’s the best choice.

I don’t know who to blame. I want to blame somebody, but I think that would be contrary to the basic idea. Sometimes, things just happen. I won’t get into the whole drama of the who-saids here, because I hate recounting things like that. But maybe everyone really was out for the best here and the permanently raised stakes of cancel-world have just prompted a meltdown of the most game-theoretically unsatisfying kind.

For those of us who cared about his blog, it will be like so many other awful things that happened this year. I think we’ll just have to learn to live with it.

Luckily it’s still possible to find archives and backups of Slate Star Codex. While I heartily recommend it, I’ll leave that to you. Something feels dirty about linking to a blogger who chose to delete their blog. That being said I do want to promote it in some sense by mentioning it. Just because I value quality thinking and intellectual content.

Those are my thoughts on the matte I guess. I hope this somehow gets undone, but I have the somehow sinking dread that it won’t be.

Recommending “It’s Not All In Your Head.”

I recently came across a podcast that approaches similar issues to those that I’m concerned about like the profit motive in mental health care, the encroaching influence of the psychopharmaceutical companies, the atomization of the individual, etc.

I think it’s important to share it here, because I think it’s an important discussion to have. Note: They spend the first 8-10 minutes talking about their own backgrounds, including a bit of what I felt was signalling identity politics. I personally found that a bit much. That being said, the discussion that follows is well worth waiting for/skipping to, and I would encourage you to listen to it.

Link: “It’s Not All In Your Head.”

Why We Actually Done Away With Witch-Doctors At All.

The other day I was in an introductory training session for my new job. We were going over the procedures for administering psychiatric meds. One of the questions we were asked was: ‘What’s the difference between a medicine and a drug?’

I thought this was quite an interesting discussion. I’m sure plenty has been written on it. I’m going to neglect to read any of it and write down some ideas I had that sound fun. I’m currently sticking to this weird plan I germinated that I’m going to one day understand Heidegger without suffering an aneurysm of effort in the process, and it’s quite time intensive. So it might be a while until I glect to read some of that literature.

The problem was that all we could ultimately whittle it down to was the issue of approval. Even the manager running the training just admitted it came down to the approval of an expert. She claimed that experts like Psychiatrists or Psychiatric Nurses know exactly how meds work in certain doses relative to certain body-weights and conditions and so on and so forth.

Continue reading Why We Actually Done Away With Witch-Doctors At All.