Some readers may remember “Scientific American may be owned by Nature but it is now run by Twitter,” about how Ash Jogalekar (Curious Wave Function) got dumped from Scientific American on clearly trumped up charges. But in reality probably due to his favourable comment on Nicholas Wade’s Troublesome Inheritance (For Wade’s revival of Darwinian racism, go here.)
Our best guess is that Scientific American can’t denounce the book directly because its conclusions are reasonably derived from a Darwinian approach to evolution, whatever leading denunciators with jobs in science might say. That is not a can of worms the mag wants to open. So Jogalekar, who never saw it coming and maybe didn’t understand what was up, took the chop instead. Nice.
And now, in the meantime, the mag seems to have moved to make sure that blogs sound like the usual Science Correctness column. As Jogalekar tells it,
So I hear that SciAmBlogs is undergoing a radical overhaul and shedding no less than half of its bloggers, many of whom have been with the network since its inception. This includes many whose thought-provoking writings I respect – even though I don’t always agree with them – like Janet Stemwedel and Eric Michael Johnson. It’s a shame really, because I think the network had really distinguished itself as one of the few blogging networks in the world whose bloggers had vibrant, independent voices and who were not afraid to write provocative posts. That being said, I don’t have a problem seeing the logic of this move at all: after what happened during the last one year, it is clear that the network wants to repair what it sees as a broken image, wants to avoid dealing with even ten clamorous voices on Twitter, wants to stay away even from interesting controversy and – the importance of this aspect of any issue can never be underestimated – wants to please the lawyers. The rigors of maintaining a hundred and fifty year old organization’s image are apparently much harder than the rigors of sustaining a diverse set of opinions and the accompanying freedom of speech.
Cue funeral dirge for The New Republic …
However it is equally clear that by embarking on this new identity the site has picked safe over interesting and independent and has lost its reputation as a vibrant and diverse community of independent voices which you may not always agree with but whose views always provided food for thought. This is abundantly obvious from the new “guidelines” issued by the network – a veritable school headmaster’s list of dos and donts combined with a palpable dash of Orwellian doublespeak – which prohibit its bloggers from hosting guest posts or writing “outside” their areas of expertise without consulting with the editors. In doing this SciAmBlogs has reduced its bloggers to – in physicist Sean Carroll’s words – underpaid journalists and effectively dissuaded them from exploring new horizons. A blogger who gets paid a paltry sum of money every month for writing “safe” posts that won’t get even a handful of people on Twitter riled up and are considered kosher by the editors is indeed no longer a real blogger, and I can definitely see why many of the network’s previous writers quit instead of relinquishing their independence. More.
So … just like at The New Republic, lots of writers just quit, despite today’s economic hardships?
You can listen to the new sanitized bloggers (some may be good but all will sense the circling thought police). Or you can listen to a variety of independent media, like us.
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