This post by Damon Krukowski really gets at the conundrum created by platforms like Substack:
Substack itself might eventually fold, or be sold to a bigger corporation like Bandcamp was, or make itself irrelevant like Twitter by following a sophomoric idea of “free speech” into troll oblivion. But our micro-community will continue if you want it to. I may eventually have to move Dada Drummer Almanach elsewhere online; but it’s only if you subscribe that I would be able to contact you about that move, or include you in a mailing from a different platform. Because unlike nearly all the other sites I have to use for my work (Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon…), Substack – like Bandcamp – allows me access to my own list of subscribers.
Which means this low point of faith in Substack is also a moment to emphasize how important it is to me that you subscribe to this newsletter on Substack. I know that sounds counterintuitive, especially if you are critical as I am of Substack’s current policy regarding content moderation. But if you are a subscriber we are in direct communication, and will continue to be.
I think it is really easy to say “Everyone should just avoid Substack because they’ve become the Nazi bar.” That is true; as a bunch of people have said, the correct number of Nazis to have on your platform is zero and if you find yourself in the business of explaining why the non-zero number of Nazis you have on your platform is okay, your place is not one where I want to hang out.
The hard question, though, is what folks like Krukowski are supposed to do.
For individual creators and small businesses who have built a following on Substack (or Facebook, or Twitter, or YouTube, or any of these other increasingly problematic platforms) and rely upon it for their income, there is no obvious and immediate answer. Smaller federated systems are a good idea—theoretically, no one player can come to dominate the space and force people to choose between Nazis and their livelihood—but the road from here to there is unclear. “Just go to Mastodon” is not realistic or feasible for most people or small businesses. Neither is “Just build and manage your own website.” It is easy for technological idealists to say this kind of stuff, but hard for real people to actually do it.
I don’t know where Krukowski will end up. I imagine he will end up somewhere, along with all the rest of the people trying to figure out how to balance their businesses and their ethics. But it’s not going to be easy or quick and I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by imagining that the answers to this stuff are obvious.