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State Of The Newsletter, 2021
A very good year, which is why some changes are coming
Happy New Year!
I’ve got some brief thoughts about this here newsletter and where it’s headed. But first — and feel free to scroll past this part down to the next subheadline — a quick look back.
(Some Of) What You’ve Missed If You’re Not A Premium Subscriber To Singal-Minded
If Democrats Get Destroyed By The "Critical Race Theory" Backlash, It'll Be Their Own Fault - On the Democratic loss in the Virginia gubernatorial race, which was far more complicated than pundits’ cutting-edge “Voters sure are racist!” theory might lead you to believe.
If You Believe In Structural Racism, You Believe In Pipeline Problems - It would be nice to think that debiasing hiring procedures can greatly increase workplace diversity, but this view reflects a blinkered understanding of the meritocracy and the insidious way it shuts out members of certain groups from elite opportunities.
I Don’t Like Watching The Institutions I Respect Melt Down Into A Single Congealed Unprincipled Gloop - On the ACLU and other organizations that have stopped even pretending to have stable animating principles.
The Compulsion To Broadcast Opinions About Everything Is A Terrible Drug - I have so many opinions about this!
On Tim Pool And Ideological Capture And Online Cruelty - We can criticize grifters and bemoan the influence of paranoiacs while acknowledging that they are able to attain clout online for very specific reasons.
Liberal Condescension And Statistical Dishonesty Won't Help Crime Victims - One Gizmodo article summed up everything wrong and scientifically illiterate about mainstream crime discourse. (This was a really bonkers one — I just couldn’t believe the article in question got published.)
We Should All Stop Pretending We Pick Our Experts For The Right Reasons - This tends to be a social process, not a rigorous logical or scientific one.
Pro-Justice Organizations Should Stop Pretending All Justice-Deficits Are Connected - Have you noticed that I am frustrated with the performance of liberal groups lately?
Free-Speech Skeptics Still Haven't Come Up With Any Decent Alternatives To What We've Got - On a very silly proposal to enshrine the idea of ‘abuses’ of free-speech rights in the Constitution.
In 2022, Let's Hope Fewer Writers Call For Blacklists And Corporate Censorship - It’s been really bad.
There’s So Much Justice Going On I Can Hardly Stand It - On a Planned Parenthood bigwig who got fired for ridiculous reasons, and on the broader moral panic that can explain such outcomes.
It Isn’t Cool Or Interesting To Reflexively Mock Earnestness - Just out today!
If any of this strikes your fancy and you aren’t yet a premium subscriber…
The State Of The Newsletter
Imagine me up at a podium, except in reality I’m on my couch in sweatpants.
Ahem… [shuffling papers nervously]
I am pleased to report that this has been a very, very good year for this newsletter. And I am exceptionally grateful.
On January 1, 2021, I had 1,094 paying subscribers. As I write this, on the afternoon of December 31, 2021, I have 3,071. (These numbers include direct subscriptions and gifts but not the comped subscriptions I give to a small handful of close friends and family members and others.) In other words, my paying-subscriber base almost tripled during this calendar year, which I never would have thought possible. In 2020, by way of comparison, my paid-subscriber base a bit more than doubled, so this was a much better year.
This really opens up some new opportunities and changes my approach to Singal-Minded in a few ways.
First, I am stealing Matt Yglesias’s idea and instituting an annual donation of 10% of my revenue from this newsletter (after fees, as recorded on the tax form Substack will send me early next year) to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact fund. As Matt put it when he made his own donation announcement (paywalled), this fund “supports grants to the charities GiveWell believes are doing the most good. Past recipients have worked on malaria prevention, direct cash transfers to the global poor, and the deworming of children, among other issues.” You can read more about the fund here.
I’m being a little bit lazy by simply piggybacking off of Matt’s idea. But the world of charitable giving is very, very confusing, and based on what I know about GiveWell, I am confident the money I donate will be distributed wisely and will help people. At the end of the day, I care about that much more than I care about being original, or about putting on a show of having spent dozens of hours researching whether the People’s Empowerment Fund has lower administrative cost than the Empowering Peoples Fund, or whether I should simply throw my hands up and donate to The Human Fund instead.
So that’s what I’m doing, charity-wise, early in 2022. I’m open to deciding on a different charity, or mix of charities, next year, but 10% is the minimum I’ll be donating going forward, once per year. If the newsletter keeps growing like this, I might bump that amount up. This is a start.
Second, early this coming year I am hiring my first part-time staffer, an assistant editor who will help me out, 15 hours per week, mostly with this newsletter but also with some of my freelance stuff. I made the announcement earlier this month, and since then I have gotten some incredible applications — about 85 in total. I’m hoping to notify the finalists next week. The person I’m hiring will do a bit of administrative work but will mostly be tasked with meatier assignments. I’m really, really excited to bring on board some more brain power, because God knows I only have so much of it myself.
Third, in part because of the extra help I’ll have, I’m hoping to get a bit more ambitious and a bit more original with Singal-Minded. Don’t get me wrong: I’m proud of what I’m doing, and it’s absolutely working. But I’d like to stretch the newsletter’s wings a bit more, in part by diving deeper into social-science controversies that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve, exploring weird or fraught or exciting ideas that sit at a comfortable, refreshing remove from quotidian news items and culture-war fights (look for an upcoming post on the so-called “evil god challenge,” for example), and sporadically conducting long-form interviews with interesting people.
None of this means I’ll be turning away from Singal-Minded’s core areas, and in fact I have some fairly in-depth stuff planned for January on the youth gender dysphoria controversy (a subject I keep getting sucked back into despite some ambivalence, given just how toxic it is). I think I’ve done a good job writing about culture-war stuff without turning into a shrieking banshee or predictable partisan, and that I don’t have anything to feel bad about on this front. For example, two of Singal-Minded’s all-time best-performing posts are this one about Dave Chappelle and this one about Kyle Rittenhouse. No one could fairly accuse me, in either case, of scoring cheap points off of these stories — rather, I tried to offer analysis that is a bit deeper than the dreck constantly bouncing around via Twitter. People seem to respond to this, and I’m going to keep doing it. It’s just a matter of interspersing coverage of these hot-button subjects with other stuff, of finding the right mix.
I think that’s it. If I had to sum things up, I’d say “The state of Singal-Minded is quite strong — stronger than I ever could have reasonably asked for, at least — and I’m hoping I can make it even stronger in 2022.” Thank you so much to you all, whether you’re a paying subscriber or a casual peruser. It’s crazy I get to write and talk for a living, and it wouldn’t be possible without folks subscribing and spreading the word.
Happy New Year to you and yours.
Questions? Comments? Speculation about how 2022 could be even worse than 2021? I’m at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jessesingal. The inspiringly low-quality photo illustration of ‘me’ giving the State of the Union comes via Getty Images and @SillyMeWe, who responded to my appeal for image-assistance on Twitter and who won a one-month subscription to Singal-Minded in the process.