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Monday, February 7, 2022

Razib Khan & Matt Yglesias, selling out and Substacking

After all this talk of one of Razib Khan's biggest "science" influences, the racist J. Phillippe Rushton, and in view of Khan's public agreement with racist Charles Murray that Black Americans are an existential threat, I had a cynical thought about Razib Khan.

I thought he might suddenly find a way to seem friendly to a Black American in an attempt to deflect from the notice recently given to his two-decade long career of smearing Black Americans as sub-human, based on the racist claims of Rushton and Murray.

Like clockwork, he's posted, an interview with a "black" American on his Substack.

I guess capitalizing the word Black would be a step too woke for whoever is funding Khan now.

Speaking of funding, Khan and his buddy, Matthew Yglesias were recently joking about "selling out."

According to Khan's Unz column in 2013, he's "interacted with Matt Yglesias as early as 2003."

Khan, of course, has already made it clear he has no ethics or integrity.

But since it's likely he and Yglesias are both on the plutocrat payroll, what does "selling out" mean in this context? Betraying the interests of the plutocrats?

I mean, what do Razib Khan and Matthew Yglesias do for a living, other than express their unoriginal, monotonous, conservative opinions all day long?

The fact that they both have Substacks is one reason why I suspect Substack is an astroturfing scam, similar to the money-laundering scheme that Saul Goodman created for Walter White in "Breaking Bad." 

If you saw "Breaking Bad" you know what I'm talking about: Walt's son created a crowdfunding web site savewalterwhite.com and a little later Goodman got a hacker to create thousands of fake accounts to make it look like regular people all over the world were sending money in. But it was coming from one very rich guy.

What would stop the people running Substack from doing the same thing? Does anybody audit Substack accounts to make sure they are attached to real human beings? 

We know that some Substack authors got paid money upfront by Substack itself, including Yglesia.

We know that the Right is fond of astroturfing and ratfucking

Why couldn't Substack be one more method to financially support those who spout right-wing talking points and race pseudoscience? 

Razib Khan claims to have thousands of Substack subscribers. I find that hard to believe. He's not well-known outside of those of us who are very online and he's a terrible writer.

On top of that, he doesn't hype race pseudoscience often, directly, on his Substack, so he doesn't really offer much for his most reliable audience, racists. He seems to reserve his most racist opinions for Quillette.

And some of his content is not at all scientific, but rather political, like interviewing Megan McArdle

If you want to know the opinions of "Koch-trained conservative activist", Ayn Rand fan, and Washington Post op-ed columnist Meghan McArdle, you don't have to pay a race pseudoscience-monger to hear them - McArdle's opinions are everywhere either for free, or with a subscription to something with actual worthwhile content like the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, for people who want actual science, rather than Khan's occasionally science-adjacent ramblings, there is biologist P. Z. Myers, who offers science content, the same offered in a university, for free.

To get some perspective on the cost of subscribing to Khan's Substack, consider that the Washington Post is offering a first-time subscription of $25 a year. After that it bumps up to $100 a year. Now $100 a year is more than $79 a year, but subscribing to Khan's Substack is like getting a tiny portion of the Washington Post, the equivalent of only Meghan McArdle's column plus some badly-written science pieces, all resting on a race pseudoscience belief-system that occasionally erupts, as when Khan defended racist E. O. Wilson

So who are these people willing to pay a minimum of $79 a year for content from Razib Khan when they could get much better content at a better rate or even for free, all over the Internet?

Yglesias' Substack, named with refreshing honesty, Slow Boring, is a minimum of $80 a year. In contrast to Khan's more generous way with free content, almost all of Slow Boring is behind a paywall. And half the content is posted by someone identified as "incumbent intern" and "incoming freshman at Yale," Milan Singh.

So for a mere 80% of the cost of a subscription to the Washington Post, you can get Matt Yglesias' center-right opinions (also available for free on Twitter or with a Post subscription) plus chatter from Yglesias' subscribers, posted by someone who just graduated from high school.

The best part of the possible Substack scheme would be that the favored Substackers wouldn't even have to know that most of their subscriber accounts are fake. Like Walter White, Jr. they might think their site (and their views) suddenly achieved grassroots popularity for no apparent reason.

The fact that Lulu Cheng Meservey, the vice president of communications for Substack is a member of Razib Khan's clubhouse as well as a member of the clubhouse of the anti-CRT grifting, IDW-riddled, far-right leaning FAIR, does not help dissuade me from the suspicion that Substack is simply a high-tech Donor's Trust.

Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie has a Thiel connection. Thiel was an investor in PandoDaily, which McKenzie worked for.

Another Substack co-founder, Chris Best, appeared on a podcast for the race pseudoscience promoting, Thiel-funded Quillette. According to a description of the interview on Padverb, "Tech entrepreneur Chris Best talks about Substack, his self-publishing platform that is attracting journalists like Andrew Sullivan, Jesse Singal and Jen Gerson.
The Substack gang apparently has no problem with promoters of race pseudoscience, at the very least.

UPDATE: My suspicions about the right-leaning racism-friendly orientation of the Substack founders and funders received a boost from Jonathan M. Katz.

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