Now you have a nazi bar

The dimly-lit crustpunk bar was not a place where anyone would want to spend their evening, but that’s where Mike found himself, after work, looking for a beer.

He and the bartender were busy ignoring each other when a punk kid sat, a couple of seats down. Without missing a beat, the bartender pointed a finger at the newcomer and said “Get out”.

“Hey, I’m not doing anything. I’m a paying customer!” said the punk.

The bartender reached for a bat. “Out. Now.”

The punk kid left, although not quietly.

The bartender caught Mike’s quizzical expression, and in answer said “You didn’t see his vest, but it was all Nazi shit. Iron crosses and stuff. You get to recognise them.”

Mike crooked an eyebrow.

“You have to nip it in the bud immediately”, the bartender continued. “These guys come in, and it’s always a nice, polite one. And you serve them because you don’t want to cause a scene. And then they become regulars, and after a while, they bring a friend. And that dude is cool too.

“And then they bring friends, and the friends bring friends, and they stop being cool. Then you realise, “oh shit, this is a Nazi bar now”. And it’s too late because they’re entrenched. If you try to kick them out, they cause a problem. So you have to shut them down.”

This little playlet is a dramatisation of a tweet thread posted by @lamRageSparkle (who is sensibly no longer on Twitter). This story was invoked by Mike Masnick in a post for TechDirt, in which he likened Substack to that same crustpunk bar, but without the proactive bartender.

Why? Because Substack’s policy has long been iffy – and now is getting more problematic – when it comes to censorship of hate speech. I’ve “known” for a while that it wasn’t a wholesome place when it came to moderation, but couldn’t dig up any actual evidence.

Which brings us to this week’s minute: from Decoder, with Nilay Patel. The bit in question starts at around 48:04 in my copy, and is the slow melting of a tech CEO under the glare of a journalist that’s about as blazing hot as a desk lamp.

That is not a knock against Nilay. He asks good questions… I just don’t think they’re all that hard.

Essentially, Patel asks Substack’s CEO Chris Best if his platform would censor an overtly racist and inciting comment. The correct and obvious answer is “yes”, and somehow Best manages to completely miss the target. It’s as if he were trying to throw rolled up pieces of paper into a bin, but somehow completely missed the bin and stabbed himself in the eye.

I don’t know if this is good journalism. Best accuses Patel of asking a “gotcha” question which I think is wrong. Whether it’s good journalism to make the question s personal one, I don’t know. What I do know is that it was a fascinating listen, with Patel not giving any quarter and even calling out how Best was blowing the answer.

I wanted to share it, not because of the sensationalism of it, and not to revel in someone’s epic PR fail. But there are moments in audio when everything else drops away. When you’re no longer folding the laundry, or watching the dog run around, or chopping vegetables, or getting out of your car. You’re still – in a timeless vacuum – just waiting to hear what they say next.

And with that, it’s closing time. Please take your gasses back to the bar. We’ll reconvene next week. So until then, keep listening, and I’ll do the same.

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