What is this place?
I’m Freddie deBoer, and if you’re reading this you likely already have an idea of whether you like me and my work or not. I’m a blogger who has always tried to remain at a distance from the cultures of the internet, media, and politics. I’d like to think I've mostly succeeded.
I am an overeducated Xennial who started a peculiar kind of media career when I launched a Blogspot blog at the public library in 2008. From there I built up a cult following and a reputation as something of an asshole. I switched to a Wordpress at my own URL in (I think) 2012, then flamed out in spectacular fashion in 2017. Now I’m trying paid blogging for the first time thanks to Substack reaching out. Along the way I started producing freelance pieces for various publications, eventually writing for some of the bigger newspapers and magazines in the world. You can check out some highlights here. In 2020 St. Martin’s Press put out my first book, The Cult of Smart. New York magazine named it one of the 10 best books of 2020.
I write about everything but have a few jams that I engage with consistently. I am a Marxist of an old-school variety, which means I frequently complain about liberals, social democrats, and whatever “democratic socialism” is. My posts on media criticism and critiques of progressive pathologies from the left have always gotten the most attention; not coincidentally, these are also what have brought me the most antipathy from liberals and people in media. I think the contemporary political project of the “social justice” world is badly misconceived, incapable of building a mass movement, and a failure on its own terms. I think modern mass media is broken, saddled with bad incentives and home to a truly corrosive social culture that leaves reporters and writers desperately jockeying for each other’s approval to the detriment of rigor, the public interest, and the truth. I am a committed atheist but have no interest in convincing others to be. I am a decidedly amateur fan of research methods and frequently write about them as a way to better understand them. I read a lot and like everyone else I have strong opinions about movies, with a particular fascination with the toxic state of “fandom” and the death of mass entertainment for adults.
I have an MA in Writing and Rhetoric from the University of Rhode Island and a PhD in English from Purdue University, where I studied writing assessment, educational measurement, and standardized testing. I used to work for the City University of New York in assessment of student learning but they fired me.
I have bipolar disorder and have been in and out (mostly out) of treatment my entire adult life, but I have been continuously in treatment and medicated since late August of 2017. I write about it sometimes.
I live in Brooklyn with my girlfriend and my cat Suavecito.
Why should I read? Why should I subscribe?
Look, our politics aren’t healthy and our media isn’t healthy and despite what some people think nothing is getting better. And in both politics and media there is a meta problem to go along with all the problem problems: everyone is scared to say how and why things are fucked up. In politics, an admirable increase in attention to the plight of minority groups has come packaged with a culture of fear, fear of appearing to step outside of the consensus about these issues and being subject to cancellation, job loss, exile. Even if these tactics worked to improve the material conditions of minority groups, I would be opposed to this condition on the grounds of basic fairness - and those tactics don’t work. Instead they line the pockets of a small number of careerists and narcissists while doing nothing to reduce suffering. In media being popular with your peers has taken on such outsize professional and personal importance to most of the people within it that it has become impossible for them to say “something is very, very wrong with our industry.” I’ve been calling out the inside dealing, corruption, and petty hypocrisies in politics and media for almost a decade and a half, and I’m good at it. I think that’s worth supporting.
Subscribing allows me to do this as the major source of funds in my life, which means I can keep doing it while remaining truly independent. I cannot tell you how indispensable truly independent voices are right now, and even if you don’t support mine, I hope you’ll support others. Most news cycle-driven posts will always be available to everyone, subscriber or not. As far as subscriber-only content, there will be at least one substantive post a week for subscribers only, and most weeks more, usually things that are lighter and briefer than the typical fare. I have in mind several series that I will make subscriber-only, more ruminative and introspective posts that are not bound by the news cycle or current conversation. I hope that’s an inducement to let me do this professionally.
Also, subscribing to my blog will make a bunch of people mad. Isn’t that fun?