9 min read

I'm a Ghost

I'm a Ghost

I’ve switched over to Ghost from Substack. I mean, obviously. If you’ve spent as much time online as I do, you probably have an inkling why. But let’s discuss anyway.

Substack portrays itself as an editorially neutral platform. Which, to me, is great. Or at least fine. My expectations for corporations is only that they are not actively immoral, not that they espouse all the same hippy dippy politics that I happen to subscribe to. In fact, I tend to especially not trust a corporation that talks too good a game. I don’t trust kickstarter even a little. While I FUCKING LOVE Bandcamp, I’m not under any illusions, should anything ever happen to the current management/Bandcamp Daily editorial team, that the Bandcamp owners will maintain their moral compass in perpetuity. Maybe they would/will. But it’s not an expectation I have. My family is my family. My friends are my friends. And no corporation, no matter how many ‘zines they produce, will ever be either. Which is fine! The shareholders of DIY Corp Dot Com probably don’t want to spend the high holidays with me either.

So, Substack is ostensibly neutral. Fine. And if its owners were clearly on the tech-libertarien spectrum, also fine. I liked the ease of the platform. I liked being able to write 4,000 words about Born Against. And, nice as those initial unemployment benefits were, I both liked and needed the money. Anyway, I freelanced for VICE and Penthouse for years. My other high horse is a Lamborghini Countach.

That being said, I have lines. Those lines, like the lines of many who share my subculture proclivities (noise, goth, black metal, etc), may be difficult to define and may even be discernible only to myself. But they exist.

I don’t mind, in of itself, that Substack gave a huge advance to Mathew Yglesias. I understand why he drives many of my friends crazy but I find him to be one of the least offensive of the Just Asking Questions Crew.

I don’t mind, in of itself, that Glenn Greenwald is raking in the billions either. He seems like a deeply unpleasant, occasionally heroic, muckraker-slash-fascist(or whatever)-sympathizer. And someone who, in his need to balance every correct analysis of media hypocrisy with ten-to-twenty acts of bizarre cruelty and/or blithely transphobic tweets, has found that the muck suits him. But I could share a platform with him in the same way I share Twitter with him (and thousands just as bad or far worse).

I don’t mind, in of itself, that Bari Weiss is making bank on Substack. She’s a startlingly bad writer but there are a half dozen versions of her at every even slightly mainstream outlet. In fact, Bari Weiss used to be the norm. We just called them “David Brooks” and went about our day. If anything, I get more annoyed that people like Caitlin Flanagen, because of tribal allegiance, pretend that Weiss isn’t the literary equivalent of ear wax. Flanagen may have some appalling politics but the motherfucker can write and I wish her allegiance was more to aesthetics than to a Bobo-in-Palastine hack who just happens to come from the same general social milieu and shares Flanagen’s contemptuous fixation on whatever politically correct barbarians are theoretically (hopefully?) at the gates. Anyway, Weiss can’t write for shit and thinks about Israel way too much, but that statement applies to half the leftists I know as well, and I still joyfully get down with those idiots. So.

Before this becomes a tedious list of Dark Intellectual Web twitter personalities, and I expose myself as someone who pretends to not care about interscene warfare but who somehow still knows what neo-folkian fence walk the twitter account “Alice From Queens” is indulging in on any given week, let’s jump ahead to where you knew it was going anyway.

The reason I’m leaving Substack is because the cumulative effect of all these assholes has, somehow, taken the fun out of blogging about Turnstile. Because one of the Substack founders tweeted “defund the thought police” and instantly became indistinguishable, in my imagination, from Robbie The Waiter Recommending The Fountainhead To Baby in Dirty Dancing. Because Substack isn’t my friend or family and I’ve agonized less about dropping considerably less irritating friends. Because, while the trans community isn’t exactly begging me for solidarity, I’m sure as shit not showing up for the next Native Cats Record Release Party with Jesse fucking Singal on my arm.

In making the decision to leave Subsatck, do I take the word of Jude Doyle? Fuck no. While transitioning has, I’m sure, many laudatory effects, I’m pretty sure “no longer being a disingenuous Clintonista jerkstick” isn’t one of them. Not sure how someone can be written off as a complete asshole during the Bernie Bro Wars and then, just a couple years later, be rehabilitated as Truth’s Flaming Sword. But whatever. I don’t need Doyle’s truth to be, you know, absolutely true to agree with the gist.

If I don’t trust Doyle (or, god help us, Noah Berlatsky) as far as I can, metaphorically, throw them, do I think Jesse Singal is an irredeemable transphobic monster? Not for me to say. But I can say that he’s definitely a writer who exists on the wrong side of every vibe I try to live by. Trans folks I’ve discussed Singal with, even those not subscribing to the notion of Singal as a “chaser” or him being an intentionally hateful person, are pretty unified in loathing him as, at best, a useful idiot in the service of a transphobic agenda. And that seems correct to me. Only relevant pal I have who is agnostic on the subject grew up going to Murphy’s Law shows, so her threshold for dubious characters is pretty high. And even she only defended Singal by saying “he doesn’t seem as bad as Katie Herzog.” Who is also doing just great on Substack. So, there’s that. End of the day, Singal acts like a whiney, obsessive, mean spirited prick. About an extremely marginalized community of people that he could simply choose to leave alone. As numerous members of said community have requested him to do, on numerous occasions. Instead dude opted to make his media bones playacting the trans-whisperer for the Atlantic Monthly crowd. And now everyone with half a soul thinks dude is an asshole. So the fuck it goes.

Do I think Substack, as a corporation or platform, is actively transphobic? Fuck if I know. Who cares. The founders’ indifference to their trans’ writers concerns is enough. They big upped Singal and continue to grant Inarguably Transphobic Hateful Piece Of Shit, Graham Linehan, free reign to violate the platform’s own malleable behavior guidelines. Substack can follow its sour bliss as it pleases, and I can respond accordingly.

And that’s the thing. My ideology is imprecise. I make for a pretty shoddy activist and, as far as allies go, I’m more the Luxembourgish Government in Exile than any of The Big Three. Truth be told, I may have quite a bit in common, politically, with a lot of the Free Speech crowd. I’m not a de-platformer for the most part. I think a lot of things some on the left advocate for (expansion of the term “terrorist,” tech oligarchists being encouraged to arbitrate what constitutes abuse or accurate news, the ACLU jumping its mission shark to essentially become just a chapter of Food Not Bombs) will inevitably blow up in the Left’s face. I don’t think one can, regardless of the idea’s merits, use the term “multiracial whiteness” and act surprised when non academics don’t take you seriously and, while we’re here, I do tend to think college kids are, by and large, corny idiots. I have a lot of the centrist bullshit politics of the aging hipster grump that I am. Under different circumstances (such as COVID not closing the bar I work at, and therefore necessitating my starting a newsletter or, like, if I’d never started a twitter account) I probably wouldn’t pay attention to most of this. I’ve got my own problems, you know? But, dull witted and passive as I may be, Substack and it’s Top Ten Classic Liberal Brain Geniuses have forced my hand. And, more than I know the exact percentage of intentional lies in one of Jesse Singal’s many (MANY) discussions about detransitioners, I know who I trust, spiritually and aesthetically. And it’s usually whatever opposite-of-Bari-Weiss happens to be closest. As imprecise an ideologue as I may be, I don’t like bullies and, maybe more than that, I resent the hell out of squares who frame their Extremely Basic hand-holding-with-modes-of-oppression as necessary narrative busting and brave truth telling. I’ve been hanging with assholes since the early ‘90s, baby. I recognize the type.

I have done enough drugs with paste-faced noise musicians with suspiciously shaped tattoo cover ups to know where “just asking questions” usually ends up landing. And I grew up in Massachusetts, went to school at a baby junkie version of Bard College, and spent roughly 300 years in pre-highrise Williamsburg. So I know, like the back of my hand, both the most pure essence of gormless liberalism and the pure reactionary spite that’s so often born out of being invited to too many gormless liberal parties, or not enough. Weiss and Greenwald and Singal, and even Michael Tracy, would all deny being part of the same tradition as Gavin McInnes, but the lineage is there. He who owns libs will later join the cast of Red Eye. Usually, eventually, they’ll do worse.

And, part and parcel all my other issues, all these Singals and Herzogs and Greenwalds (and all the other goons doing the backstroke in the Substack money vault) give me the goosebump heebie-jeebies. I feel the malignant smugness they project in my fillings; so much serious square energy, beamed down from satellites, that I’m looking to invest in tinfoil. Basically, I think these fuckers are mean. Truth, to them, is just a weird hobby. Like the stereotypes of Trekkies, who know every statistic relevant to The Enterprise and use the contextless numbers to render interplanetary space travel as dull as Earth at its worst. It’s why all these chumps take so much glee in mocking the term “lived experience.” Because if they allow for the validity of perspective they’d have to allow for the possibility that they’re wasting their lives on self-valorizing cruelty, tilting at trans windmills that only want to, like, exist in the Summer wind.

To be clear, I don’t want any of these nerds censored. Like I said, Substack can and should go with its Ayn self. But if I was in a bar and I saw a single one of these psychic vampires shimmying their blovacious carnage across the dance floor, I’d leave. Well, I’d probably ask them for a bump first. You know half the numbers on Katie Herzog’s phone are listed under names like “Dr. Blaze” and “late late.”  BUT THEN I’D LEAVE.

So that’s what I’m doing. Who needs the karmic hassle, I figure. Anything I owed Substack was paid back a hundred-fold in their 10% commission from my dear, sweet paying subscribers. So, fuck ‘em. Going to the bar down the street, where the drinks are slightly more expensive but at least the bouncers aren’t specifically friends with the girl touchers, pickpockets, and bathroom stall lookie-loos. As far as I know at least. I’m not under the impression that the management of Ghost are, when not running their brand enhancement service, sporting Antischism patches and hopping trains. Guess we’ll see. But, while on the subject of back patches, it also kind of goes without saying that I can’t really do a newsletter devoted to ostensibly counterculture art and not at least (accepting all the usual “no ethical consumption under capitalism” rationalizations) making some small effort to show up for my people. End of the day, I got trans friends, acquaintances, and possibly even an enemy or two, online and off, that I don’t ever want to be even slightly bummed when they see my newsletter in their inbox. I don’t have to love all you commies to prefer your company to that anti-woke crybabies. Like Ash definitely says in Army of Darkness: facts, feelings, I’m the guy with the newsletter.

Up with us, down with them. Substack? More like NoThanks.


tldr version: In 1993, there was an ad campaign that said “Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner.” Despite not particularly giving a fuck about animals, I’ve been a vegetarian ever since. I don’t like smug jerks with badoodles of money telling me what kind of pizza to like. “Defund the thought police” these nuts.

So welcome to Abundant Living: Ghost World! Abundant Ghosting! Ghost Living: the sexy halloween cover newsletter! Abundant Living.... BOO! You get the idea. Next week, I’m definitely going to talk about some punk rock bands. (I'll also take the internet tough guy language down a notch... I'm just so ramped up!)

Hope you’ll consider staying with me.