You might notice that this email isn't coming from Substack. That's because we've left Substack behind, after its founders stated, in no uncertain terms, that they're not just OK with, but in principle supportive of, having loads of out-and-out Nazis on their platform.
Being me, I think of this in terms of New York housing. It's like having a landlord OK with a certain amount of asbestos in the ceiling, or black mold in the bathroom, or (and this actually happened to me some years ago) mice scampering all over the kitchen pissing and shitting on your food. The correct amount of Nazis on a platform is none—there is no validity to their ideas, only perniciousness and violence. At least mice can be sort of cute, and mold gave us penicillin. So we've moved, and now we're here on Buttondown.
I must admit that there's a fair amount of anger and resentment that comes along with this decision—anger at feckless rich crypto-fascists like Hamish McKenzie of Substack, and his many Silicon Valley peers, who all seem to subscribe to the notion that race-based hatred is just a simple quirk of the marketplace of ideas. The profession of writing has never been more precarious; it feels like tapdancing on quicksand, and Substack offered a pretty, easy-to-use platform with a lot of network connectivity that made it easy to find others and be found. And comments! (Which Buttondown is working on...). I have no resentment towards those who stayed, decided to tapdance on a safer patch of quicksand, and even to try to fight the ugliness from within. In an atmosphere of precarity there is a certain fellow-feeling that I cherish and I don't want to sow any animosity, nor can I afford to do so. Nonetheless, I have made my choice.
Being an out-and-out antifascist for a long time, I've given up a lot for that cause—my safety, and the safety of my family, and the ability to do things like sign up to vote without fear without worrying I'll be doxxed, and not receiving ominous packages, and not having accrued half a decade's worth of psychic damage about my Judaism, my body, my ability, my worth, the value of my life. Now I've had to give up a platform I worked for years to build, and dive into uncertain waters.
Of course, this is small potatoes compared to what others in my family have lost to Nazis (their whole families, root and branch! their very continent!) and what others now face from organized hate groups. I still resent it bitterly. But I am also excited about the possibility of navigating these new waters with you and feel a certain flush of pride in having made a difficult and frankly terrifying gamble with my primary source of income, with the idea that no marketplace I belong to ought to include Nazis in it. I'm so glad you're along for this ride. And if you support this kind of principled stance, please consider upgrading from free to paid, or invite your friends to subscribe to the newsletter! Just click the link below:http://buttondown.email/theswordandthesandwich/buy
There will be much more from me to come, including a rundown of vacation reading (I read so many British novels you guys, some were really great), the ham sandwich essay this Friday, and who knows what strange cavil, what circumstance, what injustice, and what bizarre fallout of this nuclear-disaster election year I'll write about to you?
For now I am stuck on this magnificent quote from Howard's End, a thinly plotted but gorgeously written piece of English lit that I devoured over the last few days, and would like to share:
Death destroys a man, but the idea of death saves him—that is the best account of it that has yet been given. Squalor and tragedy can beckon to all that is great in us, and strengthen the wings of love. They can beckon; it is not certain that they will, for they are not love’s servants. But they can beckon, and the knowledge of this incredible truth comforted him.
And so in these early days on this new vessel David and I ask for wishes of a good voyage together, and know that we value you deeply, and beg your patience as we launch into these new blue and unknown waters, with the deeps lapping at our bow, and a bad place left behind in the creamy foam of our wake.
Yours with love,