177 Comments

Bleeding good writers like Luke in order to hang onto Graham Linehan and COVID misinformation is such a self-defeating choice. With time, this strategy leaves you with nothing but extremists. It's happened over and over to platforms with your naive "free speech above all else" approach throughout the history of the internet. You're doing well for now but one by one and then all at once, everyone will find something here they can't stomach sharing a platform with, except the worst of the worst. I'll be sorry to see it, you've built a good technical product and the model does work. I hope you manage to see your error before it's too late.

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See, the trouble is, Rusty, people like you tend to mostly be mad that you're own efforts aren't making as much money as people you disagree with politically. Are you sure you're mad because Substack is an open platform in precisely the same way as Wordpress or Medium or, yes, Ghost? (Ghost, which is literally incapable of doing centralized content moderation.) Or are you mad because the stuff you do just isn't that popular?

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Well said. I'd also add I find it hypocritical that Luke said, "You just want to get rich," especially since he switched to Ghost. Creating a following on Substack with all the community support Substack offers and then switching to Ghost because Ghost takes a set fee instead of a percentage reflects the same mindset as people leaving a country that provided them with free healthcare and cheap university to then later set up their business in a tax haven. They took advantage of the organization and system that supported them and then left them behind when they found a way to keep more money to themselves elsewhere. Doesn't seem to be too "left" of Luke to me.

I'll be writing more about this type of hypocrisy in the future.

https://bornwithoutborders.substack.com/p/yuval-noah-harari-hero-and-hypocrite

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A year and a half later and substack unveils a "nazis welcome" policy.

Guess he was right, huh?

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How's our antivaxx extremism holding up in 2023? Figures from everywhere showing that those dying in hospitals are overwhelming vaxxed, sometimes exclusively vaxxed.

Are you still there Rusty, hope you havn't carked it?

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Richard, do I have it correct that you are saying there is data showing the deaths in hospitals are overwhelmingly of people who had been vaccinated? I'd be interested in links that show that. Having worked in an urban hospital from 2015 through 2022 for the Director of Emergency and Intensive care, my experience was just the opposite. My daughter's experience during the same period as an ER nurse was also just the opposite.

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Can you link to some documentation please? Thanks

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No. It's too much work but easy enough for you to find. Plenty of substacks on it.

If you're after peer reviewed documents then they're impossible to find as that industry has been completely corrupted by Pharma (and others) to the point where it has become a joke.

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Hi Rusty, you're welcome to my 'stack any time. I work with government data and documents for your pleasure.

Here is what happened when covid vaccines were deployed in a population with zero commnity transmission of covid (data from the government of Western Australia): https://vicparkpetition.substack.com/p/the-worlds-eyes-are-on-western-australia

Here is Australia's gain-of-function research program: https://vicparkpetition.substack.com/p/australias-gain-of-function-research

Here is Australia's Novavax contract: https://vicparkpetition.substack.com/p/australias-novavax-contract

Here is the 2022 excess death count in Australia - 60% of the excess deaths were not due to covid: https://vicparkpetition.substack.com/p/why-did-so-many-australians-die-in

All the best,

ExcessDeathsAU

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I think it comes down to your perspective. Given the glass half-full or half-empty scenario, I've learned to get a smaller glass and pour the liquid in. That's not na·ive·té, that's a lot of life experience.

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Would you like to predict when Substack will start shrinking in terms of writers/subscribers?

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I couldn't possibly. I mean maybe it never will! But the bad always drives out the good, so at best you just end up with a lot of trash.

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Why has the bad not driven out the good at Wordpress, which hosts and has always hosted all manner of miscreants?

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If the bad truly drives out the good, then shouldn't their numbers drop?

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Uh, perhaps the bad outnumber the good? (Spoiler: they almost certainly do.)

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In that case, it wouldn't be self-defeating from a business perspective.

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Maybe the “business perspective” is the problem.

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Ridiculous. How much are people allowed to disagree with you before they should be banned? What’s it like to have ideas that weak?

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I love Graham Linehan.

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Anyone with such a strong opinion of his own correctness that he can't stand to listen to or be associated with a different opinion intelligently expressed is way too pleased with himself. Argue and at the very least, try to figure out where his ideas are leading him astray.

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First, to Rusty Foster. I come from a family of 13 kids raised by the same parents - all well educated, from the same region, grew up eating the same food and we don’t agree on anything! I like the phrase, and yeah it’s biblical, “as iron sharpens iron so one man (woman) sharpens another.” From the Midwest where we will still change your tire, shovel your driveway, pull you from a ditch — without asking for whom you voted. I WANT the opposition to be strong. I want to hear all voices at the table, especially the most articulate - at Substack. And I write about entrepreneurs so I want all the writer-entrepreneurs to flourish so that they can in time hire other writers, creatives, editors et al. Second, I’m late to read @Hamish McKenzie’s post herein & I am very new to Substack- I had the privilege of working my dream job, Nat Geo, on its genetic anthropology project & I was inspired by a very good editor there Glenn Oeland to write; he’s still there & I am writing. But after lunch one day - and I still remember this conversation- a former book editor there who was helping me fix errors by a publisher who’d published my textbook said, “Well, I take advantage of good writers just like they do…” It hurt to hear that, but it’s like the French phrase, “What have you gained when you’ve lost your illusions..” Hamish blew up the old model of exploiting-writers-market with his colleagues. Writers & creators have been like badly paid school teachers -who love their art & craft & kids - but are subject to whims of a market they didn’t create. The difference between Luke & Hamish is that Hamish took on an ugly market that exploited creators and writers and poets - and beat the house at Los Vegas. He’s an entrepreneur & a risk taker. As so many entrepreneurs are - assume 100% of the risk, take the risk, earn the rewards of the rich. Thus, Luke like any good business man or woman’s customer, flourished in that system. But without all the founder’s risk & rush of Hamish. It is what it is. Third, I do not begrudge ANY man or woman entrepreneur or writer or creator pursuing their art, their dream, their prose & poetry… and a desire for wealth. Wealth and money are tools — that’s it— and tools to be used for good or evil. Frankly I wish MORE people of faith and good will were very wealthy. So good on you Hamish! And to Luke & Rusty et al who do not like people or platforms with varying opinions at odd with one another I wish you all measure of success, including wealth. And to quote and close with the words of another Midwesterner Abraham Lincoln, I write “wit malice toward none.”

Now someone tell Hamish I need help making money— on Substack - and have 0% problems with creating my own wealth!:-) I finally the background of a an investigative story I gave to the Washington Post about a very badly behaving priest who, when I said I’d report him to church authorities - because he’d hurt a former colleague — maligned and threatened me… it was one of the biggest stories about the church but I couldn’t write it because I was “in the story..”

It was the Wall Street Journal who said, “Write an editorial for us..” which I did but never published - o didn’t want to be associated with the group, the priest, or that diocese.

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I’d much rather share a platform with people I disagree with than with folks who think just like me — what would be the point of that? Thanks for what you’re doing, Hamish

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Amen 🙏 ❤️❤️❤️❤️. Social media bubbles where everyone has the same views IS precisely the problem, and on both sides of the political spectrum.

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Jun 18, 2023·edited Jun 18, 2023

Crying about other people on the platform shows how much of a loser he actually is... he's one of these dummy cultists whose entire world view unravels the second someone doesn't agree with him.... and then he likely gets violent about it because he can't handle people not kissing his ass. We've all dealt with these people countless times.

Sure he left Substack, but check out his new site... I can't find a single article with more than 7 comments [EDIT: actually, half of those comments are from him].. lots of 1 and 0 comment articles: he's clearly oh, so popular! lolol What an idiot.

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And what the fuck is wrong with commas? The handful of excerpts annoyed the piss out of me.

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"i'd much rather share a platform teeming with paid nazis than join a platform that doesn't have any nazis"

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I could not agree more.

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Me too and I say that as a so-called anti vaxer/conspiracy theorist.

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Yes! Brilliant. Me, too. You GO Ileana Almog, you GO!

And you GO Substack, you GO! Keep up the good work!

Especially while I work, sweat, hustle to get my 100,000 subscribers!

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In fact, the dominant "Lamestream" voices serving Operation Mockingbird as mouthpieces for the globalist agenda and the people who have swallowed the propaganda and own it (and live in fear and their emotional turmoil) need another perspective to cause and to stimulate further reflective thought and to ensure their minds are actively engaged. Simply drinking poison repeatedly can only lead to one outcome. They may not recognize or acknowledge it, but we are the antidote they need in order to remain firmly aware that diversity and unity can and do exist and even thrive and we are products of that pluralistic, wonderful hodgepodge of humanity who think, feel, perceive and reason and who allow our faculties to go out for a stroll so we can exercise them to refine and sharpen them further. The fact is I live in a place where I'm surrounded by people of varying "far left" (hate that term but it fits for this) perspectives and views has been surprisingly delightful and informative for me (I'm grateful). Engaging with them (from a perspective of love not acceptance) has made me much more appreciative and thoughtful about anything I hear from the "right" since now I understand the need for independent thought and research and for the opportunity to be exposed to ideologies and views that challenge and force me to truly discern and to be willing to appraise what I believe and why and what that means to me and those I care about. There is nothing exciting about perpetuating a canned and programmed (predictably negative) status quo. As long as the "encounters" are respectful and the intent is to honor and share with integrity, there are few sweeter, more rewarding activities in this life in which to engage and become literate. I CONCUR WITH YOUR STATEMENT! Likewise, GRATEFUL for a platform that is full of amazing and thoughtful people who take the time to share with us.

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Keep up the good work, Hamish. All the way from Nigeria, I want to thank you and the Substack team for everything you do. I’d also like to encourage you by reminding you that the impact of your work extends beyond the US. Well done 👏🏾

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Jun 9, 2022Liked by Hamish McKenzie

I appreciate your principled stand.

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Jun 9, 2022Liked by Hamish McKenzie

This is a beautiful and well-written piece. Thank you for the transparency. I am beyond honored to be writing here!

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L take if there ever was one, keep suckling at the teat of the almighty substack you C-tier fiction writer turned "guru"

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This is really beautifully written, Hamish. Kind of reminded me why I fell in love with startup culture in my 20s. You’re a great founder (and writer, obvi.)

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Free speech is beautiful and it’s pathetic when people use that as an excuse to platform hateful & dangerous speech. Anti-vaxxers are a reason why covid variants are still floating around. Graham Linehan should be talking to a wall; his substack is disgusting and hateful. Some transparency about how much money substack brings in with this constituency could possibly begin to breach that trust, but when you have a utopian vision for writing that starts with the outcasts of mainstream media (so often … not white men) those same outcasts are going to be pissed, fairly, when you also become a home to people whose fringe views make them a liability for mainstream media.

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"Anti-vaxxers are a reason why covid variants are still floating around"

Covid variants are "floating around" because Covid is a highly-infection respiratory virus.

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"Pandemic of the unvaccinated," eh Liz? 🥴

Your comment is actually breathtaking here in 2023, knowing what anyone with two brain cells to rub together now knows about covid and its so called cure. Yikes.

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Where exactly are you (or Substack, if it were to follow your instructions) to draw the line? Several of you have cited Linehan, but if he were to be banned, who would be next? Is there a slippery slope? Are Jesse Singal, Katie Herzog, Cathy Young, or Scott Alexander also on your cancellation shortlist?

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Jun 14, 2022·edited Jun 14, 2022

Where’s the line in the other direction? Would you feel ok with a platform that accepts any publishing from King Leopold II? Adolf Hitler? The Taliban?

Some of the muddle feels like a confusion of *who* should be welcome/unwelcome vs. *what sort of speech* should be welcome/unwelcome. The way I see it, we’d be doing a great thing for journalism and our increasingly-thwarted and out-of-grasp “democracy of ideas” if we ensure we welcome *everyone* by not allowing just *anything* to fly. Set community guidelines, and pull pieces that violate them. Community standards for publishing respectful and responsible material do unavoidably have a certain level of arbitrariness, of course, but drawing no line at all leaves Substack actively bolstering (and gives them a financial interest in keeping) a whole host of hate speech. To ask that published pieces be fact-checked, or that they avoid calling for violence against people because of certain innate parts of their identity like their race, gender, sexuality or faith…that’s still being inclusive to everyone. Everyone that deserves to be amplified can manage to do those things.

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Addison wrote: "Would you feel ok with a platform that accepts any publishing from King Leopold II? Adolf Hitler? The Taliban?"

sure, why not? do you fantasise that folks cruising substack will compulsively read and act on the content that the referenced sources provided on this platform?

do you fantasise that readers are so fragile-minded that they will melt down instead of skipping such contents?

are you incapable of blowing off the referenced kind of content?

could you do better by cruising facebook or maybe myspace, or some other safe space where you can consume bland pablum-type content?

substack looks to me like a site for grown-ups, folks who don't need pablum.

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There’s always a need for some basic content moderation, of course. The problem is that we’re in a highly polarized moment right now. The far left has drastically expanded what they consider hate speech. It’s become basically just disagreement with woke ideas. You can easily see how this becomes dangerous very quickly.

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Exactly. Who gets to decide who gets a platform and who doesn’t? The woke lefties? Well then 85% of all writers would be gone. Maybe they think that’s free speech 🤣🤣

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Good writers combat the views they see as unfair with compelling writing, not by deplatforming others.

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Hamish- I love your passion for what you're doing and its part of what has always made me feel very good about being here. The culture war demands that all must be swallowed and sucked into its abyss. But I know before I went down the newslettering path, how limited the choices were becoming for writers. For me the road was more or less at an end. The tools youve built have liberated me and so many others and that is what matters. Writing is a cause, a religion. The world used to believe that, but between commerce and cultural battles, thats been lost. Thank you for standing by that and what youve done to not just keep that flame alive but to help it claw its way back will be remembered.

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Jun 10, 2022·edited Jun 10, 2022Liked by Hamish McKenzie

Nice one Hamish. Substack - and your attitude - are perfect case studies to illustrate the latest Not Boring article about the limitless scalability of optimism. From Luke's writing I get the sense of a restless, contrarian soul. The same qualities that made him the perfect early adopter of - and writer on - Substack may have also make it hard for him to stay.

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You can't please everyone. By deciding to please the far Right, you have made this platform more hostile to queer and trans people, people of color, disabled people, etc and the allies on their side. It's not a matter of "differing viewpoints" when one side is "we want to exist in peace" and the other side is "we want to eradicate you." A few bad apples spoil the bunch, so have fun with your rotten apples, I guess.

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It's people like you who frame things in hyperbolic ways where anybody expressing disagreement with your ideology wants to "eradicate you" that confirm my own belief that Substack is doing the right thing by refusing to cave in to such people. "You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself."

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Hey Dan,

Interesting viewpoint. Can you please read the letter attached below and tell me what effect you believe it will have on people who want to transition and other who support them?

https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/O-MastersJaime202202221358.pdf

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I'm gay and I feel very welcome and at home here on Substack. Why not? Have I read homophobic posts? Sure I have. But if I don't want to come into contact with intolerance I simply make a note not to read those writers in the future. Easy peasy.

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Well bye then I guess

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That’s not the other side. That’s the bullshit hyperbole you people insist upon to get your way at all times. Are you feeling “unsafe” too? What a dull series of idiotic social justice clichés.

What apple could be more rotten than promoting mutilating the genitals of healthy human beings?

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I don't want to "eradicate" anyone. Much as you claim these oppressed minorities want, I, too, would simply wish to exist in peace. Yours is an incredibly dishonest claim, however. While the evidence is everywhere an actually honest person looks, I learned this through good old fashioned experience when I said absolutely nothing to or about a young healthy coworker who, with much fanfare, performed the heroic act of having her breasts sliced off. Politely declining to participate in said fanfare did not go unnoticed and earned me the uneviable title of office pariah. Despite proclamations like yours, these people will accept nothing less than affirmation with a naked preference for outright worship.

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Hamish, The Des Moines Register, owned by Gannett/Gatehouse was just exposed for taking on a commercial printing job publishing right-wing propaganda 'newspapers.' They are now experiencing a flood of reader cancellations, which any newspaper can ill-afford. Striking a balance between offering opposing views, while not caving into profiting from disinformation, is an important boundary to maintain. Thanks for what you've created. I'm happy to report I'm a part of a group of professional Iowa columnists now on Substack. We are collaborating and cross promoting each other. It's proving to be a successful model. You have made this possible.

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Disinformation is something governments do. Misinformation is a nonsense term. No man or woman can assess objective reality. No one can presume to be the Ministry of Truth without becoming a foolish censor that inhibits society (which is to say, without constantly being wrong and hurting people).

It’s not an important boundary. It’s pure jibberish delivered to us by conniving billionaires, soulless bureaucrats, and embarrassed politicians & intelligence agencies. I struggle to see how anyone with a functioning mind can bring themselves to oppose free speech.

And before anyone tries to dispute that, I’d love to remind: Hitler and Stalin supported freedom of speech for everyone that agreed with or nearly agreed with them. It’s not free speech unless people you hate can talk too.

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Julie - please define “”right wing propaganda “newspapers”.””

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Hey Hamish,

An interesting article on the history of substack. I found it odd that you mentioned living off of scraps in a one bedroom apartment at the start of Substack, then talked about Luke making over a hundred thousand a year and buying a house. Would you mind updating us on your rough financial salary from Substack and your current living arrangements?

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Different points in the timeline, I think.

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Solving the tricky problem of "how can I make everyone welcome on my platform?" with "everything is welcome" seems like a straightforward solution, but when you lend your platform to a large, powerful swath of people who want to eradicate other, less powerful groups of people, it undermines your effort at neutrality. Suddenly, you are giving money and influence to people actively hostile to the other writers you wish to host, and now you even have a financial interest in keeping those writers spreading their hostility through your platform.

In the face of such a dilemma, instigating basic community guidelines would not be tantamount to censorship, it would be in keeping with your mission to give writers more freedom and voice. As a subscriber of several writers here, (and of Luke's), I truly appreciate so much everything you've done to that end. I do hope you choose not to give yet another bullhorn to people publishing violent and hateful rhetoric. I love a diversity of perspectives as much as the next guy, (more than the next guy, even! Fight me, next guy!), but without guidelines for how to engage and publish respectfully, it winds up reducing, not expanding the constellation of voices and perspectives that we get to hear.

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Basic content moderation is a good thing. Agreed. But the problem is: How do we define hate speech? That has shifted dramatically over the past five years, and it’s clearly politicized. So then we get into moral psychology. Who decides what’s right or wrong? Young fringe left woke activists? Why? Who said they get to choose what we can say or not?

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I love Substack because I can read those writers I respect and find interesting. You knew that the cancel culture would come your way. Keep things the way they are. Let all opinions be heard and keep up the good work.

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Well written. For me, the most important point you make is that this is a platform that doesn't use AI to push other like minded viewpoints. I subscribe to several blogs on Substack and was blissfully unaware of any anti-vax or transphobic blogs. For me, it is a medium, like a phone. Phones were used to coordinate the recent right wing attack on the Pride parade in Coeur d'Alene but I don't feel the need to disconnect my phone (well, not for that reason, anyway).

Of course it isn't that simple, but I'm still comfortable continuing to follow the people I do on Substack.

I continue to subscribe to those on Substack and Luke on Ghost. Does Ghost gatekeep its writers? I have no idea, and that's just fine.

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Exactly. Read what you want. Skip what you want. We’re all adults with free Will here, right? Am I wrong? Bueller?

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The earliest I could find but the update is I’m continuing Podcast section on Substack now

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Very nicely written. I appreciate having a platform where I can write and have a connection to my audience without multiple filter levels. I don’t actually make a penny from my substack. Instead, the subscriber fees have gone into building a nationally syndicated radio program and paying the costs and salaries associated with that. It’s allowed me to be less focused on radio advertisers and more focused on my audience. I don’t think people associate Substack with me. It’s just the platform I use now instead of Wordpress and it is so much better. I hate that some people have so internalized the nation’s political disagreements that they can’t bring themselves to be associated with the other side in any form. I just don’t think that’s healthy and think Substack is making our discourse healthier through allowing all voices a platform on which to thrive.

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