Remedial Reading #2
Some other Substacks worth your time. Plus: Twitter gets bonked
As I write this, one of the world’s most influential social media platforms is, in a word, bonked.
After a clown show of a morning, where a Republican-controlled Congress laid into Twitter executives for censoring the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop — Twitter, in turn, revealed how Donald Trump wanted to censor Chrissy Teigen — and amid urgent pleas for aid coming from Turkey and Syria, Elon Musk’s new toy broke.
In trying to limit how many tweets third-party apps can pull from Twitter’s API, it seems Twitter limited how many tweets Twitter can send out in a day. But they couldn’t even fuck up properly, as users quickly discovered they could circumvent the snafu by scheduling their tweets — and a whole afternoon of Elon-dunking was had.
The most recent trials and tribulations of the hapless billionaire have reminded me of two things.
One: How much I love Twitter Spaces. While the platform itself as a whole is increasingly toxic, unusable, and downright unpleasant, I thought Twitter’s move into audio-only chatrooms was actually a really exciting innovation for the internet (that they, in fairness, stole from Clubhouse.) Those rooms enabled some real, genuine, long-form conversations that seemed to skirt away from the peacocking dunk culture that 140/280-characters engendered.
To that end, even as the platform seems to be falling apart, I’ll be hosting a Canada-centric Spaces event today, at 4pm, with three politicians from across the spectrum that I’m quite fond of. Please join!
Michelle Rempel Garner has her own Substack that strikes me as a profoundly interesting exercise in actually just saying what you stand for. In an era where politicians try desperately to sand off any edge from their words, lest anyone understand what they’re talking about or who they’re talking to, Rempel Garner is putting it all on paper. She’s doing that, it seems, with little support or encouragement from her party. That’s interesting.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is an independent thinker in a Parliament with very few of them on offer — that has earned him the, perhaps overly dramatic, title of “maverick.” He’s carried himself in politics with little apparent interest in promotion or prestige: And he certainly hasn’t been given it by his party. Now, it looks like he’s gearing up for a run to take over the Liberal Party of Ontario. If he does, it may be an interesting test-drive for some lofty ideals of a more earnest, unvarnished version of democracy. That’s interesting.
Kennedy Stewart is the former mayor of Vancouver with whom I had the opportunity to grab lunch while in Vancouver last month — he featured heavily in Dispatch #39. As a Member of Parliament, Stewart was of a small cohort of politicians trying to figure out how to make Parliament more democratic, less partisan, and more functional. While he may have failed, you’ve got to salute him for trying. He’s got a book coming out this spring that promises to reveal a lot of how our country stumbles into big changes, like drug decriminalization. That’s interesting.
Spaces is an easy, functional (for now) platform to enable these kinds of conversations. So come join, ask some questions, listen in. If you’re really keen to get a word into the conversation, leave a comment here or shoot me an email and I’ll keep a lookout for your name in the Spaces. In the future, I may try and move some of these conversations to Substack, or some other platform. But, for now, it’s Twitter.
Two: I’ve recalled how much I need to shout out some of the fantastic Substacks that I’ve been growing fond of in recent weeks.
I published one of these round-ups in December, highlighting some of the best authors and platforms on here (and its open-source alternative, Ghost.org). I’ve been remiss in not following up with a second one, so here we go.
Sometimes being a journalist of many (too many) beats causes real beat envy. The full-frontal assault on simply acknowledging the reality of LGBTQ people in the U.S. education system is a terrifying, backwards, draconian campaign that needs significantly more coverage.
Luckily, there are journalists like Judd Legum. One of the earliest Substack correspondents, Legum’s Popular Information has become one of the biggest on the platform and is making a real impact. His reporting on the far-right’s effort to scrub mention of sexuality and gender from the school system has prompted lawmakers in Michigan into action, and has earned scorn from the censors and puritans in Florida.
Not to keep simping for a platform that I am (clearly) quite fond of, but this is the great appeal of Substack: You can be a generalist who specializes, or a specialist who goes wide, or any combination of those things. Legum keeping up scrutiny on this file is enormously useful.
I may just crowd into his beat in the future.
While Legum treats Substack like a news blog, from the olden days when there were news blogs, Ken Klippenstein treats it like a reporter’s notebook: A rundown of the work he does for his day job at The Intercept.
His work exposing Musk’s wildly hypocritical blocking of a documentary critical of Narendra Modi in India is a useful reminder of what real political censorship looks like.
Virginia Heffernan’s Substack is an eclectic mix: A compendium of articles published elsewhere, musings on culture, transcripts from her podcast. A lot of it comfort reading from a eminently readable writer.
Come for her thoughtful opining on politics and society, stay for a meditation on SHAR-DAY (Sade), SAB-oh-tarj (Sabotage), GER-tuh (Goethe), and the rhotic R.
In my neighborhood, in Montreal, I’ve noticed missing persons posters for Eduardo Malpica. Given that I spent years of my life delving into unexplained missing persons cases — disappearances not taken seriously by police, which were later attributed to a serial killer — I’ve stopped and stared at the posters every time I walked past.
Investigating missing persons cases is not easy or satisfying. If you find answers, they are rarely welcome news. Often, they only raise more questions. Christopher Curtis has taken up the challenge just the same. His writing beautiful and heartbreaking, his reporting is detailed and revealing, and his decision to stick with the story is worth supporting.
If you’re looking to keep tabs on the state of extremism today, and where it’s going tomorrow, Teddy Wilson is a required subscription.
In the height of the War on Terror, we had plenty of reporters dedicated to monitoring and analyzing the threat — real, perceived, and imagined — that al-Qaeda and, later, the Islamic State posed to the world. Today, we have significantly fewer reporters dedicated to the much more deadly and pressing threat that domestic extremism poses to our society. To that end, people like Teddy are very deserving of your follow and support.
Aaron Rupar on Twitter is the guy who religiously watches C-SPAN, Fox News, and Trump rallies so you don’t have to. His Substack is that and so much more: Longform conversations, deep dives, media criticism, and a lot more.
I love Tomorrow Never Dies. It’s an excellent film. I’m recommending Read Max because he likes Tomorrow Never Dies, too. That’s it.
I am swamped with other deadlines this week, so don’t expect a full dispatch in your inbox tomorrow. In the coming weeks, both for this Substack and in other publications, I’ll have some in-depth insight into the emerging, and increasingly successful, anti-vaccine push to prosecute their enemies; details on Russia’s mercenary foothold in central Africa and why they’ve been so successful at gaining that foothold; and how Ukraine has managed to stay connected while being under constant bombardment.
"Tomorrow" was the introduction to Michelle Yeoh for most in the west. Startling to realize that's 25 years now. I did not know Sid Meier was Canadian. And, while I guard my remaining sanity fiercely by adding new news addictions as minimally as possible, I will have to check in with MRG's substack now and then.
Her article about government ignoring information requests - even from MPs(!) is needed.
My suggestion, for both public and private bodies, is that "Communication Departments" - an Orwellian name, since they specialize in restricting information (I can give yawn-inducing but very serious examples from my little municipal career) - all be abolished.
Replace Abolish the Police with "Abolish the Police Communications Department", make serving officers face the media, and I guarantee you'll get improved policing that same year.