To all Substack writers: the new "performance badges"
Capitalism, free market, cash, art, gloom, whining, Nanny State, woe is me, actual WRITING, fake personae, archetypes, mythology, unadulterated bullshit
I hope you’ll stay with me. This has a Part One and Two. There are unexpected twists and turns. Promise.
So here it is. Substack has turned on a feature. You’ll see little color-coded “badges” next to your names. They represent numbers of your paid subscribers.
There is pushback (as seen in comments, here).
Some of you feel this is unfair. Substack is elevating money as a standard. O the humanity. O the horror.
What happened to ART? It’s drowning a sea of capitalist munch-monsters.
“Those writers who tune their pieces to audience response and acceptance for cash are perverting the original intent of the platform. Throw these money changers out of the temple!”
Substack should resemble the Welfare State. Freebies for all. Then more freebies. Be our Nanny. Hey, can you help a brother out? I need a new computer. And an iPhone.
—Any writer or wannabe writer can have FREE access to Substack, and ALL the technical smoothness its software engineers have devised. This is considerable. Big. “Well, OF COURSE I deserve this.” Bullshit. We’re not talking about Disability. Or a registered charity. Or some kind of Equity Clearinghouse.
Then there is this: the fraudulent mythology which divides writers into two separate classes. Those who do it for love, and those who do it for money.
Newsflash: A writer can do both. He can separate the two. Meaning he writes exactly what he WANTS TO write. And then he does his best to make that make money.
Some writers can’t separate the two actions. That’s not suffering or woe is me or whining or gloom. That’s their problem. They have to figure out how to solve it. They have to learn how to write what they want to write…and then make a living from it.
It’s called earning your way. It’s called the free market. The exchange of value for value. Naked capitalism. “I’ve created something good. Here it is. It’s worth six bucks a month. It’s worth a palace in Monaco if I wanted one, but I’ll settle for six bucks a month.”
That’s my model of a working national economy, and I make no bones about it. The myth of the suffering artist doesn’t rate as an excuse. The archetype of the brilliant artist who was ahead of his time and couldn’t get arrested…is quite real. But it still isn’t an excuse. It isn’t a justification for going Full Nanny.
Because the Big Momma lending a free helping hand always turns out to be a repressive government or big repressive corporation.
The solution being worse than the problem.
Next up: Some writers believe their readers will desert them for other writers who have higher performance badges next to their names.
“You know, I loved reading Marmaduke, but I just saw that Von Clausberg has one of those hot PURPLE badges, so bye bye, Marm.”
I don’t want those readers. They weren’t real to begin with. As far as I’m concerned, they can go to Richard Patterson or the NY Times.
I’ve been writing since I was 17. That’s 67 years. I write every day. So naturally I only value the people who ACTUALLY WANT TO READ my pieces.
If Substack wants to put an orange badge next to my name, that’s OK with me. I don’t care either way. Neither should you.
I can handle “this color code means Jon has a lot of subscribers.”
Somewhere in the pushback and whining and complaining, I’m sensing, “Well, if I DID have thousands of subscribers, I’d be celebrating on the roof top and popping champagne corks and emailing my sister and having a cozy little party with my friends.”
I don’t think that’s a good idea. I think it’s a bad idea.
It means your writing isn’t real writing. On some level, it’s a pose.
You don’t really MEAN it.
If you did mean it, you’d just keep writing.
Going back to where I started — you can write exactly what you want to and still make money. You can care about how many readers and subscribers you have. You can feel pleasure in your belly when the numbers grow. Karl Marx doesn’t care. He’s dead. The nun down the street who took a vow of poverty doesn’t care. She’s busy with other matters.
You’re not in a bubble of being put upon by society. Fuck society. You’re a writer.
Maybe this will make things clearer: DIE ON YOUR SHIELD IF YOU HAVE TO. Scratch out a few last words and shuffle off the mortal coil.
Unless what you’re doing is something else. Something halfway or cutsey-tootsie. In which case, it’s much better to go into another line of work.
Maybe I’m a surrealist. Now I have other things to say about money. We ARE talking about money. It seems this is often the case.
How much you have. How much I have. Whether you have enough. Who wins, who loses.
Money is always there. Our thoughts crawl to it. We ponder it. We build roads in the mind that will lead us to money.
We weaponize and cannonize what we think about money. We make philosophies out of money.
This is why he has too much. This is why he has too little.
Can I transfer some to you. Can you move some to me.
What did we do to arrive at money as a single free-standing element?
How will money lead to more money?
Does money tell us what to do? Do we trudge up a hill to seek advice from money as from a mighty Oracle?
You see, I’m not always as hard-headed as I appear. I take a tough approach for a while…and then something else happens.
I’m not entirely consistent. So be it.
I write about quite different pictures. Different sizes. Different types of pictures.
I take sharp turns in the museum.
So here I go, off on a tangent…
What about money that seems not to be money?
Everything I think I know about cryptocurrency (can fit on the head of a pin)…
…FTX, a major crypto exchange, on which many types of crypto are traded, went belly up. Sam Bankman-Fried, the chief honcho, has filed for Chapter 11 protection. He’s facing prison time. Maybe. People say the whole operation is a Ponzi scheme, and many crypto companies went into the toilet with FTX.
I’ve stayed away from all crypto, because I pay for goods and services with cattle. And occasionally, vials of alligator blood.
A person enters the crypto world by buying it with dollars. Crypto is a collective Idea represented by tokens or digits. In that sense, it’s a fake, a fantasy. But so are dollars.
Except, for example, if your bank goes down, the federal FDIC will cover you for up to $250,000. When your crypto goes down, your naked ass is hanging out in the breeze.
Crypto is basically the invention of annoying tech types who think they’re smarter than everybody else. Many of them have too little or too much hair. Some present with a distinctive wan and gray and somewhat shrunken facial structure.
They believe their fake money is better than the government’s fake money — mainly because their money is only subject to the law of supply and demand, whereas the government fucks with economies by artificially manipulating the supply and the value of their money.
But crypto appears to have its own honchos, some of whom are con artists and carnival barkers and thieves and extensive holders of the very crypto they created. (Much like grifters who launch network marketing companies and automatically sit at the top of long downlines.)
There are “visionary” crypto types who believe their fake money is the gateway to a New World. They can explain why. I don’t have the aptitude or the endurance to listen.
I’m told some people believe bitcoin sprang up as a destiny-tinged product of many minds all seeing the same thing at once. Rather than, say, as a CIA operation (or, say, as the brain child of computer programmer extraordinaire Alan Greenspan [see: The Reese Report interviews Bix Weir about Alan Greenspan]).
“Jesus, Herm, we can secretly invent this crap out of thin air and keep the lion’s share for ourselves. Do you realize what that’ll do for the Agency? We’ll be able to buy half the world outright, once it gets rolling…”
As with any currency, the success of crypto depends on the number of people who will accept it as payment for goods and services. For crypto, THAT number will vary, according to PR, promotion, publicity, propaganda, glitches, rumor, government counter-ops.
Like stocks, you can trade cryptos. You just keep buying and selling them. You’re a speculator. What people are willing to pay (in crypto) causes the value of the currency to rise and fall. I suspect one very rich nerd in Palo Alto on mushrooms can boot crypto way upstairs or way downstairs in 8 seconds.
The whole thing sounds shaky to me. At best. I don’t want to be a speculator in vapor. And I don’t want to find out I can’t locate toilet paper in exchange for crypto downtown in the rain on a Saturday afternoon.
Keeping crypto tokens in a wallet in a secret hiding place in my house seems awkward and faintly absurd. I prefer a flamethrower on the mantle.
Personally (and isn’t money personal?), falling for crypto would be on the order of, oh, let’s see, agreeing to install a group of little Dutch windmills on my car to (hopefully) power it.
When I’m holding regular cash in my hand, I know that if I could trace those bills all the way back to their origin, to their release into the system, to the decision to release them, I would be looking at manipulative predators. I know that. I’ve known it for some time. I’m familiar with the situation.
But if I’m holding crypto, I have no idea who stands at the origin. Is it a software engineer with blank eyes and shrunken genitals operating out of Langley? Is it some Japanese animator with a purported IQ of 219 living in cave on Mt. Fuji? Is it a fat slob in his torn underwear eating a quart of Rocky Road while he watches the NFL Today from his custom couch facing giant picture windows overlooking Seattle?
I want to know. I don’t want the uncertainty.
And that’s why I’m launching Rappoport Crypto. I know everything about it. Upon release into the online aether, I’ll know exactly where I stand.
Believe me, this crypto is different. It’s bulletproof. No one can derail it or trace it. it’s composed of pure emotional energy directed toward the Tomorrow that sits right around the corner for All of us.
You can have some. I can have some. Why not?
My crypto is stranger than strange and faker than fake. Believe me, faker than fake is where you have to go. My crypto is alchemical and electrical and sub-atomic and quarkish. It’s backed by 2599999999999999 tons of holy salt water extracted from unique clam beds off the southern coast of Australia. It’s good for the skin, too. Wrinkles disappear overnight. And yet, at its core, it’s…
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. So it can never be overthrown.
That’s the big secret.
If you start with nothing, you’re beyond the reach of cause and effect. You’re skating in a vacuum. You’re firmly balanced while walking on your head.
Time stops. Crowds gather.
You’re dancing through walls and nobody cares about money and we’re all as we were meant to be.
We’ve finally reached the end of the line, and this is the start of something big.
We don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t matter.
The Joke wells up inside us and we see our own tails and bite them.
Money. What a long torturous road we took to get here and find it disappeared and we all have what we need.
Let us raise a glass and toast: TO THAT DAY.
When we know the end is the beginning.
With friendship and love,
-- Jon Rappoport