In Defense Of Substack

Matt Taibbi argues that Substack detractors are mourning the good old days of gatekeeping and credential-worship

UCLA professor Sarah Roberts, co-leader of something called the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry — media critics whose stated goal is “strengthening democracy through culture-making” — went on a lengthy Twitter tirade against Substack last night, one that gained a lot of attention. I should probably respond since, as one prominent reporter put it to Glenn Greenwald and me this morning, “Shit, it’s like she wrote this for the two of you.”

A few thoughts in response to what one Tweeter humorously described as “the Tipper Gore of 2021,” who incidentally went on to make sure everyone understood she wasn’t talking “about Substack for basket weaving or 30 Rock fandom or whatever.” No, Dr. Roberts was “talking about stuff purporting to be serious. Opinion can be serious but I believe lines are being intentionally blurred BY SUBSTACK.”

Roberts is making a “stolen valor” argument. As it’s abundantly clear she’s talking about people like myself and Greenwald in particular, she’s arguing that we made our names as reporters in the structure of traditional newsrooms, taking advantage of “norms and practices” like fact-checking and editing that, in her mind, is what first induced readers to trust us. Then we took that trust, that precious thing nurtured in the cradle of mainstream media oversight, absconded with it, and fled to Substack, to hoard unearned profits.

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