Why I Stopped Using Substack.
Short version: Substack promotes antisemitism by design.
I’ve had a Substack newsletter for about a year now, and used their Notes social media feature off and on.
In the last few days the scales fell from my eyes. Late last week on September 7th, Substack cofounder Hamish McKenzie sent to my inbox (and maybe yours?) a post announcing that Substack is, in his own words, “leaning into politics.”
After a groan of frustration, I did my due diligence and opened the post. Since I use his platform, I better know what he’s doing.
Not unsurprisingly, as far as rich tech bros go, he touted a slew of bigots as legitimate political thinkers, as well as using inverse-speak to assert Substack is a clear-headed balm in the otherwise toxic social media space. Something the comment section of that self-same post immediately refuted.
As I read his silly unveiled corporate propaganda, I searched for more of McKenzie’s writing— and discovered just a few months ago he used his platform— Substack— to promote a known racist and white supremacist— whom he touts with the phrase, “enlightened centrism.”
It’s a key strategy of the political right to push their many prejudices as centrist positions— part of their insidious normalization efforts.
But I grant hate no such legitimacy, no such neutrality, and no such centrality to political discussion.
Finding that post led me to an interview with another Substack cofounder, Chris Best. He was asked point blank if he would allow racism on Substack. Not only did he refuse to answer this question, he even characterized it as a “gotcha.” What a feckless response. What a coward. What an absolute coward. As Chris hems and haws and stares blankly in the video, the interviewer says, “I’m wondering what’s keeping you from just saying ‘no.’”
Yeah Chris, me too. Well, in the absence of a “no,” I hear a “yes.”
Hamish’s post announcing Substack’s political intentions quickly filled up with an avalanche of antisemitic conspiracy theories vomiting the most cliche and vile bullshit. Though I and others reported said accounts, as you may guess from the official Substack indifference to bigotry, Hamish’s response— as of this writing, five days later— on his very own post— was— and is— that’s right— silence.
Complete. Complete and total. Silence.
Which tells me what? What do I hear in that emptiness? After all, what sort of message can rebound in such a moral vacuum?
Since antisemitism and other bigotries on their platform do not bother them, as their utter lack of action— or even simple acknowledgement— routinely affirms, then both the platform and its creators are telling us they implicitly approve.
The post announcing their political intentions is not an embarrassment. It’s a declaration. This is what they want. This is the future of Substack— indeed its present— which I did not previously see. Step right up for your daily serving of hate.
When I scroll Substack, or any other site, I’m generally in my kitchen. In my home. You think I want to invite antisemitism into my home, literally read it in the palm of my hand over breakfast? Again— an attempt at normalization. “That’s just the way the world is.”
I will not participate. Not with my presence. Not with my talent.
Substack does not deserve my words.
If I was reading a short story at an open mic, and a writer there began spewing bigotry and the cafe owner refused to act, I could conclude nothing less than the owner’s approval of their hatred.
And so I would leave. And that’s what I’m doing now.
I would also like to apologize to my readers for bringing them to Substack. When I joined, I did my best to vet the platform, partially using the presence of certain writers I respected as a yardstick, but I see my efforts were inadequate.
Zuckerberg doesn’t get a dime of my time— I won’t do free labor for Musk— and now I can add these two Substack cofounders to that list of entrepreneurs from whom I withhold both my attention and my creativity.
As far as starting another newsletter someplace else, I doubt it. But if I do, you'll see it posted here.
I sincerely thank you for your interest in my writing, and I am sorry my newsletter has led to this. I encourage everyone to scroll to the bottom of the most recent email and click on “Unsubscribe.”
peace to you all,