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[flagged] I Am Leaving Substack (nathantankus.substack.com)
25 points by pcaversaccio 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 26 comments

The whole point of a free speech oriented platform is that you don’t make exceptions for controversial issues. If you do it for one thing, then you do it for another, and pretty soon you’ve turned into a user-hostile echo-chamber like Medium.

I think Substack’s policy of just following the law is completely reasonable. If one disagrees with a particular writer, don’t read them. Expecting the entire world to agree with your individual viewpoint is frankly immature and shows a real lack of self awareness.

I don't think the author's bone is with Substack having controversial people on their platform, but that Substack is actively seeking and rewarding a certain type of content. So Substack isn't being a neutral player.

Are they actively seeking and rewarding only those types of content? That isn't being answered anywhere as far as I can tell. "Actively seeking and rewarding" could be anything. Is offering a platform actively seeking and rewarding? I don't know much about Substack or the people on there so genuinely curious.

Yah, good question. Some example in this bit would have been good:

> While annoying, I wasn’t particularly concerned about these developments because I thought that this was an open platform with plenty of writers I disagreed with. However, it’s become clear that Substack is specifically seeking out these big named writers. In some cases they’ve paid them large six figure advances to move to Substack. It doesn’t take much effort or intellect to spend your time denouncing movements for justice, and now there is big money to be made doing it.

I thought the Andrew Sullivan example was pretty enlightening. He is a person who has interesting views on many, many issues.

Yes, I definitely find some of his views on trans and race issues repugnant or downright disgusting.

But he raises them with an open mind, airs dissenting views, and often (especially on his podcast) provides a platform for alternatives. For example, he recently hosted a respectful discussion with Mara Keisling, a trans rights activist, about trans issues. She definitely came out on top on most of the points, and hearing the back-and-forth really helped to improve my understanding of the issues.

Is Sullivan the kind of person who deserves to be de-platformed? Was it wrong for Substack to invite him to its platform? No, in my opinion. He's not pushing an ideology or trying to silence others. He's just a persuasive writer with some very wrong-headed and gross views on some things.

We're never going to advance as a society if everyone who holds a diverse opinion is silenced.

Their policy is not only to simply follow the law: they are also actively paying (with advances) writers with a specific agenda denying trans people rights. This is not about what you think this is.

The story doesn’t offer any evidence that these individuals are being funded directly.

Even if they were, it’s my impression that the majority of the popular Substack contributors are on the opposite side of the issue. So the current outrage seems more like people being mad that those with different viewpoints are allowed to speak.

This is the most current and up-to-date list of Substack Pros that I'm aware of:


"writers with a specific agenda denying trans people rights"

Interesting phrasing. They would probably define their 'agenda' as:

"kids can't decide to get sex changes"


"people who are in the midst of, or recovering from, gender reassignment are perhaps not the best choice for soldiers"


"hey whatever but I'm not paying for it"

And aren't the haters you and Tankus portray them to be. Substack may disagree and ban them, as is the trend in big tech, but their positions are way more in line with US (and world) opinion than Tankus and company.

Any source on this. I mean, not hiring writers who happen to write about denying trans people rights, but actively seeking out those views for their platform

I applaud Nathan's decision to leave Substack because he disagrees with content hosted there. More so, I applaud Substack for refusing to cave to those who insist on censorship based around their own personal political views. Sounds like a win-win to me.

This imo is the most sane position to have.

There are plenty of people who have left Twitter for the same reasons (ideological persecution) and never looked back. But the author is committing the exact crime he's accusing the platform of: the platform is creating an echo-chamber while simultaneously leaving the platform to have his own echo chamber.

I don't think anyone cares what platform he's on as long as he has something interesting or compelling to say. Maybe the real story is that his newfound popularity has dried up and needs a scapegoat?

I have no particular love for Substack (although at least it's not Medium). But I'm sad to see someone leave it because of the views of other authors.

It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the presence authors with controversial views on transgender issues causes other authors to leave the site, then yes, over time the site will become ideologically uniform on that point.

Likewise, if Substack were to kick out everyone with controversial views on transgender issues, over time the site would become ideolocially uniform in the opposite direction.

Really, the only way we can have a diversity of viewpoints is if people are willing to tolerate the views of others, rather than insisting that they be silenced or de-platformed.

> That even this behavior doesn’t lead to censure from Substack is a sign of how little the service cares to protect people from abuse. It indicated the complete failure of the moderation policy they’ve put to paper, but never into practice.

I would disagree with the meaning of "abuse" the author is intending here. I think it's more harmful to prevent opposing (even potentially incorrect) point of views from reaching either side. That's the point here. It's just speech. Why can't people who find it reprehensible just skip it?

Every space in the physical and digital world limits speech. Hacker News limits speech, no? Can I go an insane racist tirade here? Otherwise we would all devolve into 4chan. People set up rails in the communities that they participate in, I don't think that's a bad thing. It's just to which degree you want those rails to be.

> Every space in the physical and digital world limits speech

Just because some spaces limit speech, doesn't necessarily mean that "every" space limits speech. As you go further down the stack, the fewer limits there are. In the US, in the public commons, there are effectively 0 limits to speech (calls to imminent lawless action are an extremely narrow exception).

The pub vs public park analogy is a good one. A pub is typically allowed to exercise stronger control and moderation over its patrons. The same is untrue for public parks (see: the Westboro Baptist Church). You're correct that HN limits speech, but that's because HN is more analogous to a club/pub; it doesn't purport to be an open platform.

Substack's stance appears to be that they simply follow the law, as they seek not to be a pub, but a public commons by acting as an open platform. And no, investing in certain writers does not automatically turn an entity from a proverbial "public park" to a proverbial "pub".

> It's just to which degree you want those rails to be.

In my experience as a queer person, lots of vocal pro-trans types take issue with anything and everything.

It's not as though this is an issue of rails, because frankly, in my opinion, that whole activist group has derailed themselves.

Nah I'm not knocking down his decision. Like what another comment here said; I think this is a win-win. Good for him for sticking to his principles, and good for substack for not budging to pressure about their business-strategy because some content produced by some members doesn't sit right with some other members.

I just find it weird personally.

So strange, all this noise over opt-in media. It isn't like substack pushes you to a front page with "offensive" people above the fold or tries to direct your traffic to people or only shows you what they want you to see.

(some assumptions since I run adblocker)

> Here’s Why

Reason: Because Substack is 'encouraging a culture of anti-trans 'bigotry' with little to no 'content moderation'.

Solution: Going to Ghost.

End of story.

Thankfully, as both Substack and Ghost are on Open Subscription Platforms (https://opensubscriptionplatforms.com/), it seems very trivial to move between these two sites.

Does Ghost moderate? My understanding was both Ghost and Substack are essentially "newsletter-as-a-service" companies.

That's what I ended up doing. I'm pretty happy with the decision.

Is cisphobia a thing these days ?

There is, in many circles. But the official doctrine says that there is no reverse racism or sexism.

This doctrine is for example defended by the Python Software Foundation and its corporate activists.

I don't think it's even accurate to phrase something as "reverse racism" anymore.

Nowadays "whiteness" is openly discussed as evil, and it's obvious to reasonable people that such sweeping and metaphysical discussion is nothing other than racism.

The boot's on the other foot.

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