Sam Harris, Patreon, and the Meaning of Words

I'm not meaning to get all holier than thou in this post. I just wanted to collect the relevant information in one place for the record. I was an early supporter of Harris both as a reader and later of the podcast. I loved that I could back two of my primary causes at the same time, as I was also an early adopter of Patreon.

Sam has always been a champion of truth-telling and clearly representing oneself unambiguously. His book, 'Lying' is an exploration of this. He takes words very seriously. (From the Kara Swisher interview 'Sam Harris on religion, politics, and making enemies online')

In December of 2018, Harris left Patreon for the second time. He assured Patreon supporters that their relationship to his online content and other supporter perks would not be affected. (Short version with pertinent info. From 'The Drive Interview with Peter Attia'.)

(Longer version with reasons behind leaving Patreon.)

In April of 2019, Harris announced a policy change which would affect prior Patreon supporters requiring them to have an active subscription on his website in order to access content behind his paywall. He blatantly went back on his word and reneged on his prior commitment. (From 'What Do Jihadists Really Want' 2019.)

This had a surprising effect on me. Not so much about money or inconvenience. Simply that Sam Harris, the champion of words, had gone back on his! With some vague bullshit excuse about it being impractical and what 'we' have to do at this point. I was upset. I seemed to be in the minority. It was mostly crickets on Reddit where I would have found like-minded reactions if there were any.

Some conjecture… Sam went from being an obscure author, barely getting published, to selling out large halls full of fans eager to spend an hour in his company! Along the way he's picked up some business people and no doubt some of them have made an impression on him. People change! (From 'Understanding Humans in the Wild')

I realize now I had become a fan. Sam had taken on the sheen of a heroic figure. So this was a wake up call for me. And moving forward I'll take what he says with a grain of salt.

Update 1/8/20. Just noticed that the Sam Harris podcast has gone full subscription only. Only half of each episode is available on iTunes. As I mentioned above I was an early supporter on Patreon (and would have continued doing so if he hadn't canceled his account). It's been an interesting ride. Watching Sam go from (to my eye) a Buddhist philosopher neuroscientist full of passion for sharing ideas, to a media company founder now resentful of the 90% of his listening audience not paying for his content. Almost as bad as watching Taleb morph into a dead-lifting Twitter math bully. From Making Sense Podcast #177 – Psychedelic Science

Update 3/16/21. Not sure what compels me to post this, or why I still find this so grating. The 'never liar'… is that fundamentally different than not honoring your word? From the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Podcast 2/8/21

Update 5/29/21   What about a 'white lie' Sam? From Sam Harris: "Spirituality Is a Loaded Term." (People I (Mostly) Admire Ep. 25)