Beneficial outcome of the fortnight: I dropped a bunch of culture-war-adjacent subscriptions. Having a few weeks to sit quietly and listen closely to both these voices I allowed into my home and my own reaction to them helped a lot.

I think the way people act about politics on the dimensions I care about is generally bad all around. That is a function of how I think people should behave that is not unique to me, but that is not relevant to many. It isn’t me saying “Democrats are no different from fascists” or “both sides are equally bad.” (I almost never say “both sides,” and Democrats are plainly different from fascists, but I do come from a faith tradition that managed to get martyred by Catholics and Protestants alike and it informs my world view.)

It isn’t Substack’s fault that an industry formed around staking out the real estate to support a pox distribution factory that could deliver to everyone’s home, but SubStack is the most reliable place to find the culture war entrepreneurial complex if you’re looking for examples.

That entrepreneurial movement is comprised of journalists and pundits who have caught scent of the sour suspicions of our times and understand there is some sort of political realignment afoot. They can tell people are frustrated and angry, but not so far gone that MAGA nihilism or weirdo Silicon Valley neo-feudalism is palatable. There’s a huge amount of free-floating anxiety in the air looking for a name, though.

In my frustration with the way people were conducting themselves in the collective political discourse, I found some of the culture war stuff comforting. It was a corner of the discourse that seemed outside the political binary we insist on in the US. But over time you begin to realize it is a kind of “outside” that is necessarily nowhere at all. It isn’t off the left/right spectrum because it is its own current of thought. It is off the spectrum because that’s the only way it can make money off alienated, angry people who still hew deeply to a cultural identity they imagine to be political from “both sides.”

Ultimately, culture war entrepreneurs are as much a product of the culture war and are as beholden to the culture war as the worst combatants. It’s how they make a living. They need it to exist. They need people to be alienated, fearful and angry with each other.

So I unsubscribed from some newsletters, and got rid of some podcasts.

One of the podcasts asked for feedback in the unsub form, which I provided:

“You claim to chronicle the culture war. But you’re not above it, outside it, or between it. You are of it and you manufacture more of it. I don’t think you’re helping.”