Bokhari: Establishment Media Is Terrified of Substack, for Good Reason

Glenn Greenwald
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The establishment media continues to publish a slow but unrelenting stream of negative stories about Substack, the subscription newsletter-blogging service that has drawn a number of prominent writers and journalists, including Glenn Greenwald, Matthew Yglesias, and Andrew Sullivan, away from traditional publications.

Substack is “the site that Trump could run to next,” according to the title of a podcast from the New York Times’ Kara Swisher. “Substack is a dangerous direct threat to traditional news media,” wrote UCLA professor and “content moderation” (internet censorship) expert Sarah Roberts, in a viral Twitter thread. And, in a piece titled “The Tenuous Promise of the Substack Dream,” far-left tech magazine Wired extracted a promise from Substack’s CEO that he is “not out to kill what’s left of big media.”

The establishment media faces an existential threat from a genuinely free and open internet, which is why they spent four years creating the “disinformation” panic so that Big Tech companies would install them as “fact checkers” and suppress their competition. It’s also why they’re demanding that Congress allow them to form cartels to pressure the tech companies, as part of the “Journalism Competition and Preservation Act,” a bill with an exceptionally dishonest title.

The media is currently celebrating the departure of a Substack writer over the revelation of the “Substack Pro” system, in which the company paid some of its more prominent writers to leave traditional publications and join the platform. The fact that Substack is paying some writers isn’t the heart of the controversy, it’s who they’re paying.

As far-left Vox explains:

First the why: Doyle says they left Substack because they were upset that Substack was publishing — and in some cases offering money upfront to — authors they say are “people who actively hate trans people and women, argue ceaselessly against our civil rights, and in many cases, have a public history of directly, viciously abusing trans people and/or cis women in their industry.”

Doyle’s list includes some of Substack’s most prominent and recent recruits: Former Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald, my former Vox coworker Matt Yglesias, and Graham Linehan, a British TV writer who was kicked off Twitter last year for “repeated violations of [Twitter’s] rules against hateful conduct and platform manipulation.”

Transphobia!

Hate!

Anti-civil rights!

The key to understanding everything that’s going on right now, from tech censorship to the JCPA (or as I like to call it, the Establishment Media Cartel Act) is that ever since the invention of the internet, the left’s control over the narrative is slipping.

It’s not really about money. Yes, big media corporations are worried about their future. But it’s not like CNN anchors are ever going to want for cash. After all, they can set up Substacks too. With 10,000 ten-dollar subscribers — a fraction of most cable audiences — a Substack writer can earn close to a million dollars a year.

The problem is that what you gain in money, you lose in influence. A national audience of hundreds of thousands to millions is replaced with a few thousand readers behind a paywall. Your ability to control the narrative disappears.

That’s what the big media companies (and UCLA academics) are so panicked about. Not losing business, or losing profits, but losing the narrative. 

So they’re rolling out the same formula they used on YouTube and Facebook and the other big tech companies: complain about “hate” on the platform until it censors itself.

They’re going to have a tougher time of it than they did with YouTube and Facebook. Unlike those companies, Substack isn’t reliant on advertising revenue, and is thus not threatened by the kind of boycotts the media was able to deploy against the social media platforms, sparked over “extremism” and “disinformation” fears.

Substack does, however, have a “hate speech” policy — and that is a good reason why conservatives should avoid signing up to the platform, for now.

Eventually, though, a Substack-like platform will come along that doesn’t have a “hate speech” policy. The only obstacle is finding a way to process payments that isn’t vulnerable to financial blacklisting from Visa, Mastercard, or the big banks.

When that obstacle is cleared, it really will be game over for the establishment media — and game over for the narrative. 

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.

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