Graduation Day

The change is coming. Do not resist. This is the way.

December fourteenth is a big day! It’s the fifteenth anniversary of the George W. Bush Shoeing Incident (“Part of the Iraq War”), and the one hundred seventh birthday of Shirley Jackson, who existed (more or less) sanely under conditions of (more or less) absolute reality for only forty eight of those years. And if all goes well, it’s the day of the last email I’ll ever send you on Substack.

Today is the day the Marisa Kabas-organized “Substackers Against Nazis” published an open letter which asks Our Soon To Be Former Regrettable Platform:

We know you moderate some content, including spam sites and newsletters written by sex workers. Why do you choose to promote and allow the monetization of sites that traffic in white nationalism? 

The letter, prompted by Jonathan Katz’s recent discovery that “Substack Has a Nazi Problem,” has more than one hundred twenty co-signers, most of whom are posting it as their newsletter today.

There is of course a counter-letter, written by Elle Griffin and signed by your Bari Weiss/Slavoj Žižek/Matt Taibbi types who are happy to hang out in the Nazi bar. Griffin’s letter pretends to confuse the simple request that Substack enforce its own written policy against hate speech with a more general call for “the platform to decide who can say what, and who can be here.” As always, it’s easy to write bland platitudes about “free speech” that we all agree with, and Nazis are happy for the cover to spread hate, collect money, and recruit followers. Parker Molloy was more charitable to Griffin’s letter than me, but still observed:

Yes, there’s the point that hey, maybe actual Nazis who are members of actual neo-Nazi groups shouldn’t be able to “live comfortably doing something [they] find enjoyable and fulfilling” when what they find “enjoyable and fulfilling” is fomenting hatred against various identity groups. Fair point!

But this is not simply a call for mass censorship, which I think reasonable people can disagree about.

The nubbin of Griffin’s rhetorical gist is Substack’s favorite fig leaf, the claim that:

Most Substack readers subscribe to a newsletter via email and never see anything except the emails from the writers they subscribe to. Ninety-six percent of my own subscribers read via email—not the app—they might not even know that I publish my newsletter using a platform called Substack.

…Substack is not one platform, it is thousands of platforms, and you get to pick which ones to be part of.

Would that it ‘twere so simple! Unfortunately Substack has done everything it can to act like a social media network, including launching a literal social media network. The company has worked tirelessly to make sure that the Substack brand infects all of the would-be independent publishers who are simply out here trying to use it as an email newsletter CMS. Believe me, Elle, they know you’re using Substack. Every time the Substack leadership says something dumb, I find out via “unsubscribe” emails from people who were happy to pay me for Tabs but regretfully explain they’ll meet me anywhere else because they can’t stand to pay Substack anymore. And I don’t blame them, because I can’t stand to pay Substack anymore either. So here’s to a 2024 where none of us do that! Substack had the chance to handle this issue when it was about transphobes doxxing and targeting transgender people, and they didn’t care then. I don’t expect them to care now.

Dave Karpf wrote a much more elegant version of this rant today, with a metaphor about mouse poop in cereal.

Because what is absolutely untenable is for the number of internet Nazis using the platform to get so large that Jonathan Katz can notice it, and write a whole Atlantic piece about it. Once the Atlantic is reaching out to your comms team about the internet-Nazi-mouse-shit, that’s a sign that you are well above the practically acceptable amount of internet Nazis using your site…

Substack’s answer thus far to its Nazi problem is to pretend it doesn’t have one, while offering tired tech libertarian pablum about providing everyone with the tools for reaching their audience. That’s a bad answer.

The correct amount of white nationalist newsletters on this platform is not exactly zero. That’s practically unworkable. But it’s approximately zero. There should never be more than trace amounts of internet Nazis on a big publishing platform with ambitions for becoming bigger. Once you have enough internet Nazis that readers and writers can notice, it’s time to put resources into cleaning the place up some more.

Plaidpervert posted: “cw sa ok tl so be fr is sa rp ok if im an xx nb ?? my bf or so or we is an nb yt tw so ik it is up to me to do it if we do do my nc rp bc he is xy so if we do an xy on xx nc rp it mb nc nc ie fr sa. oh ya to me he is my he bc we do bf on gf rp, my 2c is it is ok bc tl dr im nd XD” This is literally comprehensible english and should be the basis for someone’s linguistics Doctoral dissertation.

Also Today in Controversy: In The Nation Moira Donegan dug into the misogyny and eugenics embedded in the natural childbirth movement via a review of Allison Yarrow’s “Birth Control: The Insidious Power of Men Over Motherhood.” Please take on the breastfeeding fundamentalists next. Sam Bankman-Fried’s lawyer was only doing it as a favor to Sam Bankman-Fried’s parents, his (possibly now-former) friends. “He may be at the very top of the list as the worst person I’ve ever seen do a cross examination.” Lol. The bad news is “The New York Times has hired an editorial director of artificial-intelligence initiatives.” The good news is it’s Quartz co-founder Zach Seward so it’s not likely to accomplish much. Masha Gessen’s Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought will be awarded to them by no one in no place due to their recent essay opposing the ongoing genocide in Gaza. “The irony of calling for the suspension of a prize named after an anti-Totalitarian political theorist in order to appease the authoritarian government of a rogue state currently committing genocide against an already-subjugated people seems to be lost on the Bremen DIG,” writes Dan Sheehan. And how much should at least three steak and lobster dinners delivered to your house cost? someone who is good at the economy please help me budget this. my teenage boys are dying.

Sean Trende posted “I have two teenage boys! Two bloomin' onions, a steak salad, lobster tails, a filet, a chicken sandwich and a sirloin + tip + tax=$125 on Doordash right now. It's crazy.” By “it’s crazy” he means that’s expensive for… four steak and lobster dinners. Fellas… what are we doing here????

God help Michael Luo trying to come up with some kind of content strategy from the absolute grab bag that is The New Yorker’s top twenty five stories of 2023 (by unregretted user-minutes). Agnes Callard is there twice, both in profile and full-frontal, Ted Chiang’s ChatGPT story, Jia on Ozempic and Jia on Matty Healy, the imploded millionaire sub, Prince Harry’s ghostwriter, and Hasan Minhaj’s tall tales. But, as Luo observes, “No war in Gaza. No Trump. No politics.” “Amen” if you agree.

oldfriend99 skeeted: “(daft punk One More Time voice) Auld Lang Syne”

Today in Crabs: Paleontologist discovers rare soft tissue in fossil of crab.” “Most animals and plants never fossilize,” is an unexpectedly poignant opening for an article about a fossilized crab. Anyway peep these hot Cretaceous gills:

A white rock with gold-ish speckles on it. Surrounded by a red box calling attention to them is a delicate fern-like pattern which turns out to be fossilized crab gills.

Finally: Valve To Steam Deck Owners: Stop Huffing Its Vent Fumes.” This is Fine (Chopped & Screwed 2023 Remix). Cat & Girl, “The Great Boredom Arbitrage.”

Jim Mello posted: “Publisher: please don’t make it the hardest book title of all time please you can only rock so hard. Werner Herzog:” [picture of Herzog’s memoir cover, titled “EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF AND GOD AGAINST ALL”]

Today’s Song: Mijita Ft Rico Nasty, “TONKATRUCK Remix.” The summertime vibes we need now more than ever.

That’s a wrap for 2023, Today in Tabs is on hiatus until at least January 2nd 2024, and will come to you in the new year from a sparkling fresh new email service provider, Glob willing (Beehiiv if you even care, and you should not have to). You don’t need to do anything, all will be managed for you. Relax. Do not resist. This is the way.

Thanks to Discord Moderation Intern Jane Davis for another incredible year gently guiding the best damn community on the `net. Thanks to Music Intern Sam Gavin for broadening all of our horizons (Sam’s NO CHILL returns tonight on KCHUNG at 9p PT/midnight ET Chinatown stream). Thanks to Senior Contributing Editor for Graphics Alison Headley and Senior Junior Graphics Intern Garrett Miller for the pixels. Thanks to this year’s incredible Words Interns Kira Deshler, Meggie Gates, Mariam Sharia and Camille Butera. Thanks to everyone who sent me stuff to put in here, on every platform. And thanks to you, who read all the way to the last line of the annual credits. ❤️

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