I joined the internet writing platform Substack a year ago. My poor laptop was overloaded with creative writing that had no obvious path to publication and I was going through a period of political re-examination and wanted to be able to, as it were, think out loud.
It turned out to be a far better decision than I could have expected. Not only could I post whatever I wanted—without needing to negotiate with editors or pay a submission fee to a literary magazine and get a form rejection in response—but there was a genuine community. It was common for writers to post paragraphs-long comments on other people’s work, and an air of thoughtfulness and civility prevailed that was rare in the era of quick-twitch social media.
So I was very surprised to discover, from an Atlantic articleof 23 November 2023, that “Substack Has A Nazi Problem.” The piece was written by Jonathan M. Katz, who was at that time himself a Substacker, and who—after rooting around in Substack’s darker corners and finding 16 newsletters that contained “overt Nazi symbols”—declared that, “just beneath the surface, [Substack] has become a home and propagator of white supremacy and anti-Semitism.”
Katz’s piece triggered much handwringing within the Substack community. An open letter to Substack’s co-founders, Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi, signed by 247 “Substackers Against Nazis,” demanded to know why Substack was “platforming and monetizing Nazis” and asked them not to put their “thumb on the scale” by promoting or monetizing Nazis or white supremacists.