Robbie Sapunarich


The cofounders of Substack:

Declining trust is both a cause and an effect of polarization, reflecting and giving rise to conditions that further compromise our confidence in each other and in institutions. These effects are especially apparent in our digital gathering places. To remain in favor with your in-group, you must defend your side, even if that means being selectively honest or hyperbolic, and even if it means favoring conspiratorial narratives over the pursuit of truth. In the online Thunderdome, it is imperative that you are not seen to engage with ideas from the wrong group; on the contrary, you are expected to marshall whatever power is at your disposal – be it cultural, political, or technological – to silence their arguments.

In a pernicious cycle, these dynamics in turn give each group license to point to the excesses of the other as further justification for mistrust and misbehavior. It’s always the other side who is deranged and dishonest and dangerous. It’s the other side who shuts down criticism because they know they can’t win the argument. It’s they who have no concern for the truth. Them, them, them; not us, us, us. Through this pattern, each group becomes ever more incensed by the misdeeds of the other and blind to their own. The center does not hold.

Many people call for greater intervention, as has become increasingly common on other platforms, making companies the arbiters of what is true and who can speak. To those who endorse such an approach, we can only ask: How is it going? Is it working yet?

The linked piece is a great example of why I admire Substack, but I was pleasantly surprised to see them express such an understanding of low anthropology. Talk about the law increasing the trespass.