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An introduction to the newsletter
Here are my plans going forward with this space
Hey everyone, thanks for checking out the newsletter. I’m doing this out of order, but I wanted to share an introduction, so you know what my plans are with this space going forward. For starters, this newsletter is free and will remain free to all for the foreseeable future. I won’t say forever, but I have no plans to go paid anytime soon. If it does change, I’ll give you ample notice ahead of time, so you can decide if you want to keep reading or not. I would appreciate it if you sign up for a (free) subscription, as it will help me gauge interest and grow the newsletter over time.
Some people have asked if there’s a way to support my work (which I greatly appreciate), and if you would like to do so, I’ve setup a page for donations at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/jamesfourm. You can make one-time donations there in $5 increments (1 cup of coffee is $5, 2 cups are $10 etc.). They accept all major credit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay. The website takes a 5% cut of all payments, and I keep 95%. It’s easy and quick to use. It doesn’t require a subscription or recurring payments. I appreciate any support I get, but whether or not you donate is entirely up to you.
As for the upcoming content of the newsletter, I’m going to focus on social media driven narratives, information warfare, propaganda and extremists. These are the various topics I’ve been researching for several years and feel confident commenting on. If you’ve followed me on Twitter, you may have a basic grasp of what I mean by this, but in general, this is going to include disinformation narratives originating from Russian, Chinese or other nation-state sources, particularly authoritarian regimes purposefully seeding false narratives. Often, these narratives get amplified and helped along by Western-based propagandists and extremists with their own agendas. Whether it’s an ideological or monetary need, there are people incentivized to aid the spread of falsehoods. I want you to see this for what it is, explain why they do it and how best to respond.
While I may do some fact-checking in the future too, I’m more interested in why they’re putting out these narratives. Some stories can be so obviously false and absurd that it’s easy to dismiss the claims altogether. However, even the least believable narratives can serve a purpose. I’d like to break down what that is for you and how those narratives may evolve in the future. You will have seen me do this if you read the first article I published last week.
While it may not be so obvious to some, the overlap between nation-state disinformation and individual social media influencers is so streamlined that it can be hard to tell them apart. We saw this for four years with MAGA accounts and pro-Kremlin networks. Their collective talking points about the “fake news media” and the “Deep State” carrying out a “witch hunt” were indistinguishable halfway through Trump’s term. This didn’t happen all at once, and it didn’t require hundreds of people taking orders from Moscow. It happened slowly at first and then all at once. I commented on that narrative arc at the time and as it progressed. If something similar happens again in the future, I’ll guide you through that build-up as well.
How often do you read an article these days and think "wow, that's something, I wonder if it's true?" For me, the answer is every single day. There are journalists I read regularly, and I can generally trust their reporting. However, there aren’t a ton of people I can say that about. Journalists can have an agenda. Media outlets can have an agenda. Corporations, nation-states and contrarian internet “thought leaders” can have them too. If there’s a story circulating on social media that seems too good to be true, it usually is, so when I see an emerging narrative that deserves some skepticism, I’ll try to break it down and explain why.
Some of this work may be somewhat speculative. Some of it will be incomplete. We can’t always know where a story is going or what the outcome will be. I’ll tell you as much as I can with the goal of making your world simpler, not more complicated. If you have suggestions on something I should spend some time on or have any other questions, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, here’s what I’m not going to be about. I’m not a constant contrarian who thinks the mainstream media is the enemy. I think newsrooms are staffed by people who do their best to get it right as often as they can. I think many of those newsrooms are staffed with overworked people who occasionally get things wrong or don’t dig down deep enough on a particular story. When they do this on a topic I know something about, I will occasionally call that out, but I’m just as likely to praise excellent reporting when I see it too.
I couldn’t do what I do without the hard work of great journalists, so the point of this newsletter is not to pick apart every mainstream consensus and throw my contrarian take into the mix. There are more than enough people doing that already. When the MSM gets it right, I’ll say so. When even my worst enemy gets something right, I’ll say so. The goal here is getting as close to objective truth as we possibly can on stories that I believe matter. That people lie on the internet isn’t a revelation. What interests me is why they do it and who benefits from the lie.
I can’t tell you right now how often I'm going to post here. I can see myself posting as often as twice a week or as infrequently as once a month. I’m going to strive for quality over quantity. However, I will say I have another job and two small children, so my availability to deliver on that is going to fluctuate. Having said that, I want to offer you a unique perspective on a given subject whenever possible. If I don’t feel I can offer that on a given topic, then I’ll hold off posting until I can.
I'm going to be as straightforward as I can to everyone reading this newsletter. Obviously, life happens and plans can change, but I will let you know if and when they do.
Thank you to everyone who's already here. I hope you enjoy my work and will keep reading. I’ll try my best to simplify your world and mine.