Did you start a podcast or a blog during your coronavirus quarantine?
If you did, you’re not alone.
You’re probably also not alone in discovering that you starting a blog or podcast doesn’t entitle you to suddenly have thousands of readers or listeners, with many of them giving you money.
I want to tell you, then, about a few things I’m supporting, and a couple that I would support if they had a good route for me (they might by the time this posts, for what it’s worth, but I’m writing this three weeks ago — yay time travel!).
I’m hoping the point of sharing here is twofold: (1) you’ll find something you like and (2) you’ll be inspired to do better work.
Team Human (website – patreon). Douglas Rushkoff is an author, media critic, professor and one of the guys who (originally) made Manhattan a cool place. I first became aware of Rushkoff in the 1990s with his profile in an independent arts newspaper of the late Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Rushkoff isn’t a technophobe. Instead, he writes about finding the ways to use technology to be more human.
His book Present Shock reminds us that on the internet, time is flat. It might have happened 10 years ago, but if you’re just finding it, it’s new now. Like if you were to find this post in 2045, it’s happening now to you, even though it’s 25 years old.
Rushkoff’s manifesto Team Human is a continuation of his work, remarking on how memes work, how algorithms work, and how we can make technology work for humans, rather having it as a tool to make humans work for corporations. His podcast is a combination of monologues and conversations about doing just that.
The Portal (website – wiki). Eric Weinstein started a podcast that quickly grew into a community of different-thinkers and difference-makers. Weinstein has a wide-ranging group a friends and a great curiosity for deep ideas, especially dispruptive ones. His initial idea for the podcast was every time we enter a fantastical place, it’s through a portal — Alice goes down the rabbit hole; Neo takes a pill and plugs in; Dorothy opens a door into a Technicolor world. Here’s Weinstein himself with the explanation:
Some of Weinstein’s big ideas include the Distributed Idea Suppression Complex (DISC) — think, for example, mainstream media’s leaving out Andrew Yang from the narrative in the 2020 Democratic primary cycle — and making physics more accessible to the masses. He’d like to change the political system in the U.S., the education system in the U.S., and plenty of other stuff.
Blocked and Reported (podcast – patreon). Let’s call Katie Herzog and Jesse Singal tangential journalists. Herzog was laid off from The Stranger during the COVID crash and Singal has a book coming out in 2021. They come from a sane-left viewpoint. Essentially, solidly liberal, but not “you’re a bad person because you don’t agree with this litany of demands” leftist. They’ve both been exiled from that far-left-wacko movement because they’ve written about the de-trans community; that is, people who at one time were undergoing treatment to transition their gender and then changed their minds and undid the work.
Let’s not unpack this sniping battle too much, but that did not put them in favor with the far wing of the left, which assumes that if you change your mind on something like being trans, you must hate trans people, and by pointing out that these people exist, you must also hate trans people.
Anyway, these two started a podcast. They do some media criticism and some angry-left-Twitter criticism. They present the stories like journalists, and then do an essentially fair job of breaking down the story, each coming from their own respective viewpoint. They’re friendly with each other, it’s fun, and they’ve begun to put together some inside jokes. They play well with and off each other on Twitter (Herzog – Singal).
They very quickly put together a supportive community; as I write this, they are 20 episodes into their podcast and have over 2,400 people donating to their Patreon campaign. At the very least, take a look through their podcast episodes, find something that made you angry, and listen to their take on it.
The Psychology Podcast (website – patreon). Scott Barry Kaufman is a humanistic psychologist who has written a book reimagining Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It turns out Maslow never envisioned the pyramid we attribute to him. Kaufman has gone through Maslow’s unpublished notebooks and come upon a new way to diagram the hierarchy. Since it’s not in common circulation yet I won’t stick it in here.
Kaufman is interested in things like kindness and happiness and transcendence. He has an interview-style podcast dedicated primarily to the psychology of these things, with some other stuff thrown in.
Articles of Unity (website). Bret Weinstein (Eric’s brother) came to national attention when the already liberal university at which he was teaching went wingnut. They had an annual event called “Day of Absence,” during which Black students, staff and faculty would stay home to remind everyone of the impact of the Black community.
One year, however, they turned the tables and asked white people to stay home. Weinstein declined, saying in effect that you can opt yourself out, but you can’t opt others out. And further, you don’t tell Jews where to go or not to go — we have the lessons of the Holocaust and everything leading up to it drilled into our brains from an early age, including “Jews go over there.”
He was then declared a racist, and hunted to such an extent there were students with baseball bats looking for him. He had to move his family from their home and sources of income in secrecy, to an undisclosed location.
Flash forward a couple of years, and Weinstein is starting to see the divide that got him run out of town splintering the nation.
He has launched a new organization focused on drafting a new ticket to run for president. The ticket would consist of one person whose views are center-right but far enough outside of the inner circle of the Republican Party that he or she would not currently be welcome on a Republican ticket, and a similarly center-left candidate unwelcome by Democratic insiders. In 2020, one would be the presidential candidate and the other would be the vice presidential candidate. In 2024 — even if that ticket were to win in 2020 — the ticket would flip, so the vice presidential candidate would run for president, and then they flip again in 2028. They do that until one candidate is no longer eligible or someone decides they no longer want to be on the ticket.
Weinstein does have 2020 candidates in mind; they are not yet on board as of this writing, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be, or that there won’t be others. Here is the introductory video, including Weinstein’s preferred candidates.
Persuasion (website). This is another group looking to overhaul the discourse. Yascha Mounk is a professor at Hopkins, an author and journalist.
I knew nothing about Mounk until I heard him on Blocked and Reported (see above), but he’s put together a board of impressive names, and in addition to the newsletter and a podcast (free with unpaid subscription), there are paid add-ons like virtual get-togethers and book clubs with the likes of chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and authors Jonathan Haidt and David Frum, among others.
These people are creating new things. They are making money doing so. Because those things are excellent, not just because they did it. It’s not “if you build it, they will come.” It’s “if you build something awesome, they will come.”
So go. Create. Do so excellently.