Preemptively Apologizing

I’m publishing a very grumpy article about Substack later this week, and I feel guilty. (Edit: the article is now published, available here)

It is too easy to be mean on the internet, and too hard to actually build something. Even if the target is a company, it’s a company made up of humans, and built by human effort.

So why am I publishing it at all?

First of all, I think I’m right, and in the US, “truth is an absolute defense against defamation”.

But truth alone is not sufficient to justify meanness. As Nietzsche put it years before anyone uttered the words “post-truth”,  “The falseness of an opinion is not for us any objection to it… The question is, how far an opinion is life-furthering”.

Thus, the much more important defence is that I think my criticism is important. It may do some small part to ensure our future is filled with interesting writing, and I think it ought to be said.

But still, I feel guilty.

So the next 3 posts will be a kind of extended apology, covering:

  • Why Substack is not the harbinger of end times
  • Why Substack can’t be judged by its top writers
  • Why culture always appears to be decaying, but never actually does

I also plan to think very hard about and enumerate a clear set of standards for civility.

Finally, I will take the time to build something. It will probably be small, and will not set the future direction of the blog, but it’s important to occasionally do purely constructive, creative and generative work simply to remember how painful it is.