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Friday, September 3, 2021

Go go Gizmodo

Wow great article in the Australian incarnation of Gizmodo. It contains these perfect paragraphs (my highlights):
But it also includes the New Atheist movement, which eventually spiraled into Islamophobia; the cringe-aly-titled “Intellectual Dark Web,” which portrays itself as a ragtag crew of “unclassifiable renegades” while parroting right-wing talking points; self-proclaimed anti-“cancel culture” activists; and gender warriors who have tried to gussy up anti-trans talking points as serious intellectual insights.

Substack has become a sort of hive for those latter groups, who have used it as a refuge from bans or perceived harassment on social media sites — because these are media types we’re talking about, they usually cite “Twitter mobs” as the source of their oppression. It’s also served, as in the case of The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald or amateur race scientist Andrew Sullivan, as a lucrative landing pad for writers who were supposedly forced out of their prior publications due to censorious liberals.

Substack has recruited those people with big cash incentives in some instances, though it doesn’t disclose who it pays upfront. (Professional victim Bari Weiss quit the New York Times last summer and is reportedly pulling down $US800,000 ($1,084,560) a year on Substack.)
Kudos to author Tom McKay!

The article links to a MarketWatch piece about "professional victim Bari Weiss" and how much money she is pulling down through Substack:
So far, ‘Common Sense with Bari Weiss‘ has signed up more than 14,000 paying subscribers at $5 each in her first six months, she tells me. She has another 75,000 nonpaying followers. The numbers have been confirmed (with Weiss’s permission) by Substack.

That means her revenues are running at an annual rate of more than $800,000 a year. And rising.

When I did the math my jaw dropped. Weiss’ newsletter has become very successful very quickly. It gave me a startling insight into the kind of money other Substackers are pulling down, including some who have many more paying subs.
The article doesn't mention that Weiss' Substack has the perfect motto for Weiss, combining the obnoxiousness and self-regard that has become the Bari Weiss brand: "Honest news for sane people."

I have doubts that 14K people are interested in paying 5 bucks per month to read what Bari Weiss has to say. I'm not saying there aren't that many right-wingers, I'm saying I suspect the kind of people who are interested in Bari Weiss whining about critical race theory are not, typically, readers, they get their information from Fox News and OAN.

I also have questions about this part of the NewsWatch article:

If you’re fed up with your employer and you want to quit your job, you probably don’t want to do it the way Bari Weiss did it.

The opinion writer and editor quit the New York Times just over a year ago without a backup plan ready.

And she publicly trashed her former employer on her way out the door as well, in a devastating open letter.

“When I left the Times I had no plan, which in retrospect was completely foolish,” she says. “I had no idea. I didn’t make a choice for a while because I was so in a way shocked by what I had just done and wasn’t sure what the next step would be.”
She was, she says, “blackout emotional.”

“I was…overwhelmed and really nervous about what was going to happen next,” she says.

Meanwhile, “It was clear I wasn’t going to get a job in the corporate press, because who would want to hire me after I had done such a thing?”

Now I don't have a high opinion of Bari Weiss' intelligence but I think she's at least strategic enough that she didn't willy-nilly quit her high-profile decently-compensated job without knowing "what was going to happen next." 

What are the odds Substack neglected to offer Andrew Sullivan and Bari Weiss big advances? Very small, I'd say.

Both Weiss and Sullivan have very high profiles and both joined Substack after leaving their respective jobs with great fanfare and loudly-brayed grievances. Clearly Substack would benefit by all the publicity.

Then there is the issue of possible dark money. If you've seen Breaking Bad, you may recall the episode in which Saul Goodman helps Walter White set up a money laundering system via his son's website. SaveWalterWhite.com - the website is still online.

Why wouldn't it be possible for right-wing plutocrats like Koch to have flunkies set up a system to do essentially the same thing, for their favored pundits on Substack, Patreon or other membership platform payment system? I have yet to find assurance, anywhere, that this could never happen. Or even a discussion of the possibility on mainstream media.

Bari Weiss is simply too connected to too many other people funded by Koch - including several members of the Board of Advisors of FAIR - for me to believe she has been left out of the wingnut welfare system

Speaking of FAIR, to my surprise the founder of FAIR has been identified - a rich guy named Bion Bartning. More about him and the New York Times' Michael Powell soon.

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