Why I decided to create my own Substack
People may wonder why I set up this Substack. The truth is, I didn’t even mean to start blogging again. My initial intention was to simply serialise my second novel, and hopefully find a publisher.
In the modern Very Online World, it’s possible to be popular, but only if you say nothing of real import. That way, you’ll never offend anyone. Nonetheless, I’ve started expressing opinions again.
A while back, I wrote something intended for the mainstream media, on why it is important to resist online cancellation mobs. Although it was not (at least in my view) a radical piece, and it reflected the old-fashioned left wing values I’d been raised with, it was rejected by “progressive” outlets.
The Australian version of The Conversation told me that it was not of current interest—despite the fact that a Tasmanian public servant had just been sacked for expressing pro-abortion views online—and ran a piece on chilblains instead.
The only outlet which would accept the piece was Quillette. Immediately, I faced accusations from my left wing friends that I’d “gone to the dark side” and become “alt right”. They queried why I hadn’t chosen a more mainstream outlet.
I’d tried to get the piece into other outlets, and failed. No mainstream “progressive” media outlet wanted a long form nuanced take on cancellation mobs. It didn’t suit the narrative, namely, that firing people for unpleasant views is necessary to protect the safety of the marginalised. Should I just give up and not say it at all? I didn’t think so.
It was then that I realised how very siloed our mainstream media is. Media outlets curate the views that they publish, and if you only read one brand of media, you get a very one-sided view of the world.
If anything, it’s even worse now. Some friends and I recently had an idea for a piece expressing a view which I haven’t yet seen in the more “progressive” media outlets, but it quickly became evident (after some queries) that we could not get our piece into an outlet where other academics would be likely to read it.
I already know that some of my colleagues refuse to read certain outlets, tout court, regardless of the views expressed. It’s why I have stuck my article in The Australian on academic publishing on my office door: I think it’s worth reading, and anyone who comes to my office will see it, even if they have a prejudice against the outlet.
I’ve never quite understood why people only want to read views with which they agree. I’m very curious about the views of people who disagree with me: I want to know why, and what makes them tick. I will read pieces from all kinds of outlets, and of political stripes wildly different from my own, simply so that I’m made to think.
I write my own Substack because, although it will never have the impact of a mainstream media outlet, or even an alt media outlet, I don’t want to be in a silo. I hope that, if I’m just me, people will give me a chance. Also, I can write in longer form, to my own time and schedule and include eccentric side-journeys.
The siloed nature of modern debate really worries me. It undermines civil conversation and trust. It means that different people have wildly different views of what the issues are, depending on what outlets they read (unless they’re insane like me and read everything).
Anyway, if you’re reading this: thanks for supporting and reading an eccentric academic.
I hope that what I write makes you think: that’s really all I want.
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