2023: What a silly year

Originally published Dec. 31, 2023

It’s New Year’s Eve—a time for reflection, self-deprecation and aggrandizement, and plumbing the archives of a newsletter that is likely about to find a new platform. In mid-2023, The Racket surged past 10,000 subscribers, then just kept going—we’re well over 13,000 now. I got a shiny new bestseller badge too, for however long I keep it:

Thanks to every one of you who helps support this newsletter, my work, and my (growing!) family by paying for a subscription. And please, if you can, stick around until I’ve sorted out my next steps, it will make whatever transition comes in 2024 a lot easier.

Here’s a brief retrospective of the year that was, via a few of my posts:

Twitter imploded

When Elon Musk bought Twitter, there were a lot of takes and counter-takes about the future of his platform. Would he really bring back the Nazis? (A: Yes.) Would advertisers really flee? (A: Yes.) Would journalists and other terminally addicted super-posters follow? That’s harder to track, but I can report that at least one did: Me. I’d spent thirteen years amassing a following of over 62,000, some of whom I learned to count as real-life friends. I tried to stick it out for a while. But in the end, the site on which I had spent way too much of my life became intolerable. However long “X” survives, the old site at the center of the discourse is gone, leaving a warning for over-confident platform chiefs everywhere: Sic transit gloria, especially on the internet.

So did the “lab leak theory”

In June, a couple of prominent Substackers promised that a bombshell report from the U.S. government would prove key elements of the theory that COVID-19 emerged from a lab in Wuhan. The mainstream media got excited! Social media got very excited! Then the report came out—and blew those key elements to pieces. Scientists continue to hunt for a definitive explanation of how the virus emerged, leaving ample space for the grifters to continue their grifts. But unless something wholly unforeseen comes down the pike in the years to come, that aspect of the debate seems to be all over but the coughing.

Trump announced he is running for dictator

This has been a big story for the last few weeks and will probably be the story for much of 2024. The Racket had it in July.

We had a baby

Easily the top story of 2023 in my household.

My book won an award

And thanks to everyone who voted for it.

My aunt died

It turned out she meant a lot more to a lot more people than I’d realized. (The New York Times had another remembrance this month.)

A dick took my newsletter’s name

He sucks.

The U.S. lost interest in Ukraine (somewhat)

Israel embarked on genocide

The very first post I wrote in 2023 was about Israel’s far-right turn. Throughout the year, I’d written about the costs of its settler colonialism and chronic revanchism. Then came Oct. 7. Here are two of the many things I’ve written in the months since:

Things got even worse in Haiti

We marked 20 years since the invasion of Iraq

And didn’t learn a thing.

The ‘anti-wokes’ showed us who they are

And so did Substack

See you next year.

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