Telling It Like (I Think) It Is

I can’t decide what I think about the relatively recent phenomenal growth of Substack newsletters. I’m one of the thousands–millions?–who regularly reads Heather Cox Richardson’s “Letter from an American,” and after my sister strongly recommended Robert Hubbell, I subscribed to his daily newsletter as well.

On the one hand, these transmittals afford writers much more scope than they would have if confined to more traditional columns or “op-ed” pages. On the other hand, an individual reader’s ability to pick and choose who to follow–and to disregard arguments from people with contrary perspectives–rather obviously adds to our ability to construct and inhabit “bubbles” that protect us from conflicting points of view, and thus reinforce our own biases. 

Newsletters–and not just those from Substack–are part of the significant and growing fragmentation of our current media environment–a fragmentation that has many Americans living in incommensurate realities.

I am one of those Americans, and despite the foregoing admissions, I will admit that I enjoy getting a newsletter that expresses my own views in language I find particularly apt. That was the case with Robert Hubbell’s reaction to Donald Trump’s announcement that he is once again running for President. I am sharing his response–which includes observations with which I heartily agree–but with the admission that people like Richardson and Hubbell have become essential parts of my bubble (and that I’m not proud that I inhabit one despite genuine efforts to access contrary perspectives…)

Hubbell focused less on Trump’s rambling and low-energy speech and more on the “about faces” of some of those who have previously been prominent Trump supporters. The former President’s announcement met with a marked lack of enthusiasm from major GOP donors, and from Fox News, the NYPost, and the WSJ –a lack of enthusiasm that has been widely reported.

With respect to Murdoch’s media empire, Hubbell wrote

Each was a staunch ally of Trump through two impeachments, insurrection, bribery and sex scandals, and Trump’s criminally negligent handling of the pandemic. The fact that each has changed its news coverage and editorial policy on forty-eight hours’ notice demonstrates that they are not independent news organizations… Rather, the supposed “news organizations” are extensions of Rupert Murdoch’s ego and desire for personal power. It is a disservice to maintain the fiction of their legitimacy. It is a pretense that insults the democratic tradition of a free press.

Then there was the seeming defection of a number of those all-important major donors.

So, too, with Trump’s major donors. The media is ticking off each announcement by a hedge fund billionaire or captain of industry who will no longer contribute to Trump’s campaign. See, e.g., Axios, GOP megadonor Stephen Schwarzman defects from Trump after 2024 announcement, and Fox News, GOP megadonors want to move on from ‘three-time loser’ Trump, look to back DeSantis in 2024 presidential bid.

It is shocking that billionaires are casually mentioning their switch in loyalties as if they are describing their preferences in wine or cigars. Their corruption of the political process is grotesque and yet they are unashamed and unrepentant for their role in funding a man who attempted a coup and incited an insurrection. No apology; no “Mea culpa;” just “Next!”

 In a particularly pithy phrase, Hubbell suggests that the lesson these donors took from their support of an aspiring fascist was that they needed “a better-educated, more articulate aspiring fascist to support.”

Hubbell is quite correct in pointing out that the current exodus from Trump–even assuming it isn’t transitory– isn’t the story. The story–the lesson we observers should take away from the current spectacle–is that

the enablers and co-conspirators who nearly prevented the peaceful transfer of power have learned nothing—except that they can make more money and acquire more power by creating another Frankenstein’s monster. We cannot treat them as if they are legitimate participants in the political process. They are not. They are vultures looking for carrion.

While I appreciate his felicitous turn of phrase, what really makes Hubbell’s newsletter valuable–at least to me– is that he consistently includes suggestions for actions citizens can take. He provides answers to the recurring question: what can we citizens do? It was that aspect of his newsletter that most appealed to my sister, and now appeals to me–a roadmap of sorts that helps dispel the feelings of powerlessness that periodically overcome and depress us.

My newsletters: Richardson for historical context. Krugman for economic wisdom. Nichols for biting commentary. And Hubbell for positivity and–despite occasional lapses into legalese (he’s a lawyer)–intermittent rays of sunshine….. 


  1. Heather Cox Richardson has been my go-to source for historical context and sanity for several years now. Not too long ago, I saw you, Shiela, interviewed and added you for local, legal perspective because I am also a lawyer from Indiana. You and Heather Cox Richardson are part of my daily sustenance. I have plenty of friends and family to burst my bubble, and I try to listen to what they are saying and look for their sources of information and test their reliability.

  2. I get several journalists writing from Substack. It’s just a software platform. I’m also watching the daily unraveling of Twitter as a leading tool of journalistic impression with the question, “Is this being done intentionally?”

    As Sheila states in her post today, the question I always ask, regardless of what I am reading, is, “What’s going on here? Or what is the bigger question?”

    The other question is, “Where is this coming from?”


    The oligarchs have always dictated the message to the people. Because of the expansion of social media platforms, independent journalists and writers have been able to go beyond the levers of power and disseminate what’s happening.

    I am reading the book about secret power by the Italian journalist Stefani Maurizi, who worked with Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

    Julian’s primary motivation from an early age was discovering facts and sharing the truth with others. He also worked on cryptography to protect sources.

    This is the goal of the free press.

    However, it is not the goal of the oligarchy or the politicians and media the oligarchy controls. 😉

    The primary instigator or disseminator of information is the intelligentsia controlled by the military-industrial complex – the power and money flow through the oligarchy.

    The billionaires decide – not the people.

  3. “Newsletters–and not just those from Substack–are part of the significant and growing fragmentation of our current media environment–a fragmentation that has many Americans living in incommensurate realities.”

    Is the “current media environment” meant to be didactic in nature to offset the blatantly current immoral media environment of Trump’s again rising White Nationalist MAGA party foundation? Watch not only Trump’s repetitious campaign foundation but pay heed to McCarthy’s promise to attack thee Democrats if elected to Speaker of the House. Is that the reason he was elected to the House, is revenge the job of the Speaker or any member of the House and how and why he has risen to the level of possibly becoming third in line for the presidency? There is no mention of resolving the divisive issues which are tearing this country apart.

    I will ask again how many of those we follow in the media have been on the “inside” of government at any level? Sheila and I have been inside the same Indianapolis Republican party administration and she left the party when it turned on her; I was an Independent voter working with and for Republicans for 20 years. The transition from the Hudnut administration to the Goldsmith miss-administration gave me an insight into Trump’s “incommensurate reality” of what governing a nation means. My level of fear has again risen to recognize the fact that we have more than a possibility of returning to 2016; it is again a PROBABILITY due to the strength his administration still holds over our democracy, Rule of Law and ability to save our Constitution.

    Be afraid, be VERY afraid!

  4. Another mea culpa; my fear and anger has my self-editing below standards on this blog. Of course McCarthy’s plan for revenge should say “three”, not “thee”.

  5. The state of this nation right now is pitiful. With McCarthy as House Speaker, let him bring whatever he wants into play. But with the Senate majority being Democrats, then let’s give these turncoat, power hungry, despicable fools a taste of the same medicine they gave to Democrats for the last two years. Vote against every bill the House sends to the Senate. How do you like me now? Maybe after it happens a time or two, then they will get the message and we can get back to governing and really doing work that applies to ALL Americans. The time for this party BS needs to be done!

  6. Whenever I feel the need for self-flagellation, I look for opposing points of view. Unfortunately, too many of them are no longer fact-based and their tendency to repeat conspiracy theories sickens me. Many of the rational conservatives now endorse Democrats, as the only way to save our Republic. They may still hold their quaint notions of “trickle down” economics, but they don’t spend time worrying about that now. They may, in fact, change that tune after the Great Britain fiasco, but we won’t know that until our existential crisis is over.

  7. An unrelated second thought. Biden’s administration is preparing to counter the crazy caucus’s zeal. They will be fact checking and have spokespeople, liberal and conservative, ready to respond. This gives me hope for the Democrats. Like Twisted Sister, they’re not gonna take it anymore!

  8. Ah, the echo chamber!

    Really explains nothing new, it just regurgitates what you already perceive as the truth! There is no exponential expanse of new information! Because the preferred information is sufficient. So those purveyors of our chosen path of wisdom, lol, isn’t really rooted in wisdom, nor is it wisdom at all, is it? It’s rooted in philosophical identity, our perceived commission to spread that philosophical identity as some sort of truth-telling.

    The reality, big religion stands behind big business and big politics! Until fairly recently, they tried to obfuscate their deep roots in both business and politics. Now, it’s not even hidden! The agenda is power, is it theological power? I highly doubt that’s the case, it’s more greedy and needy power. Big religions dogma is just a ruse anyway, because if they actually believed what they spewed, they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing!

    Sex, drugs, and rock and roll! These mega pastors love it. The adoration, the self-a-grandizement, put them on a level of big business and big politics! A place where they have no right to be.

    Why do fascists and authoritarians go after the press? And why do they like to go after professors and open-minded liberals? Because, fascists and authoritarians don’t want to play field that’s fair for everyone, just those who support their particular agenda!

    The Germans in World war II the Italians in World war II, our beloved former El duce I mean president, Loved to scream and point at Fake news, or Lugenpresse as the Germans called it. They could then eliminate eliminate the watchdog by demonizing The watch dog! Julian Assange had his own agenda, he wanted to be recognized, he didn’t want to work behind the scenes! He put himself out there as a hero, and with putting yourself out there, it invites scrutiny. You got tired of the shadows, and whatever the truth was or is, it’s all obfuscated beyond repair right now.

    The natural instinct of those in charge, find the opposition and eliminate them, either by prison or death or just isolation by claiming they be subversives!

    Everyone likes to be told what to believe, nobody wants to put forth the effort to find the truth, to find what the realities are.

    So we follow those who reinforced our philosophical leanings and preconceived notions. Hence, the echo chamber!

    There’s no advancement in the echo chamber, the same mumbo jumbo is passed off as some sort of saving grace when in effect, it’s just what we want to hear.

    It’s really a shame, how she could is to be ignorant! But then again, can anything be done about that level of ignorance? Those who march the beat of their own drummer so to speak, those who march through the streets with torches and pitchforks are hell bent on ripping everything apart, unfortunately, the business, religious, and political trinity, supports this for the reason of power and authority. Nothing else matters to them, and too bad everyone still walks around like a zombie failing to recognize what’s not even on the horizon anymore, humanity has given in! This surrender was predicted millennia ago.

    What a shame!

  9. Amerika was born in DC as a means to serve more to those with plenty. It was a minor backwater political view until Rush Limbaugh, the NRA and Rupert Murdoch monetized the spread of it. They invented an entertainment for those whose development was arrested at an early age. They were taught that they hated progress because it caused change which left them falling behind the times. The hate for progress turned into hate for progressives for the sake of the preachers of it who got very, very wealthy by spreading that gospel. In fact, those preachers rivaled the wealth being accumulated by the Christian preachers who had moved from the pulpit to the TV camera.

    Now we are stuck with a culture adapted to these times competing with a culture adapted to those times.

  10. In his book “Nasty, Brutish and Short,” Scott Hershovitz talks about the differences between epistemic bubbles and echo chambers. He quotes another author (C. Thi Nguyen) as defining an epistemic bubble as “in informational network from which relevant voices have been excluded by omission.” And an echo chamber as “a social structure from which other relevant voices have been actively discredited.”

    While both are not ideal, there is an important difference. An epistemic bubble can be “easily shattered;” to pop one, all you have to do is to expose people to information and arguments they’ve missed. This is not true of an echo chamber. An example is Rush Limbaugh. He advanced right wing ideas for a long time but also “taught listeners not to trust anyone who disagreed with him.” That also applies to Trump (fake news) and his many imitators.

    So most of us live in a epistemic bubble which can be popped by anyone with new, compelling, information. But beware the echo chambers!

  11. I believe that reality exists independently of our ability, or lack of ability, to perceive it. I make a thoughtful effort to stay open to conflicting perspectives, but I have to draw the line somewhere. The perspective I’m considering must not be completely disconnected from reality as I perceive it. And once I’m convinced a source has lied to me, I never again respect it. There is a huge difference between being mistaken and being dishonest.

  12. Sheila,

    What you quote from Hubbell is fine – more bubbly like us in this space. But, you claim “what really makes Hubbell’s newsletter valuable–at least to me– is that he consistently includes suggestions for actions citizens can take. He provides answers to the recurring question: what can we citizens do? ” Such would really enrich us here, rather than the pain recounted daily…No nuggets? Are you an “influencer” for subscriptions? 🙂 🙂

  13. I agree with Lester. I gave up listening to MSNBC for the simple reason that I find it less newsy and more editorial and opinionated. I’m also weary of rants—they’re preaching to the choir, I don’t need convincing! What I hunger for is approaches, possible solutions, thoughts on how once again make our democratic republic sound and stable again. Dare I dream?

  14. I stopped apologizing for living in my bubble because those stories on the other side are CRAZY! We have to stop the crazy talk. Rush Limbaugh and Fox Spews brainwashed a whole generation of nincompoops with their white supremacy. We have to deprogram them back to our sane reality. They are the most stubborn just like 45 and Rush. There’s only 24 hours a day and I think Dolly Pardon and Heather Cox Richardson are two fabulous humans that happen to give back so I’ll spend time reading them. I just wished Rush’s teachings would have died when he did. Long live Truth!

  15. Roberta,

    Don’t expect any legislation to come from the House. The Republicans will be too busy attacking each other and the Democrats to bother with the “people”. They present as the epitome of “damned fools” and wallow in that ignominy. Why? Because the people who elected them are the same and expect their “representatives” to attack the libs while they allow themselves to be screwed by the well-funded and uncaring Republican party and their donors.

    It’s the highway to governmental hell. Well done, voters. You still don’t get it. Bubbles or no bubbles, you’d still rather sell your relatives into slavery than vote for a Democrat. Until Republicans are out of power EVERYWHERE, it will only get worse, newsletters or no newsletters.

  16. I will gladly live in a bubble where facts and context are respected. There is no “other side” to give credence to where a soup of lies and conspiracies abide.

    Yesterday, I started listening to the interview with Mike Pence on Meet the Press to see if he had been changed by his experience on January 6th. Silly me. He’s just as slippery and slimy and facts-averse as he always was. I had to turn it off.

  17. Sharon, referring to Dave’s informative comment,

    Of course I have to agree with what Dave said about fake news and the echo chamber, because that was in my comment! But, The epistemic bubble, I’m not so sure of the accuracy of that interpretation. Originally from one of the four cornerstones of Roman civil servants, Sophia, Areté, Ennoia, and episteme. You can see the root words of Greek philosophical houses in these four separate cornerstones of appropriate Roman civil servant knowledge.

    I think the unfortunate aspect of those who believed in these four cornerstones, were very brutal to any outside influence that threatened their dominance! The early Christians were slaughtered en masse
    Because they resisted the Greek philosophy and the Greek pagan religious beliefs. Eventually, emperor Constantine of Rome used Christianity for the same purpose as the four philosophical cornerstones provided. So, the modern atheistic philosophizer embraces pagan religious and philosophical beliefs but will kick to the curb Christian dogma!

    The church till this day has corrupted its teachings and its dogma by infusing Greek philosophy into its dogma, none of it was ever expressed with a positive view by Jesus Christ.

    People have faith in pagan religious dogma, but if they perceive it as a Christian dogma, faith is a joke! That seems very hypocritical at the very very least. It’s always good to be aware of history and how things came about the way they did. That way you get an accurate understanding of what you think you know!

  18. Hubblell on Murdoch: It seems that it took Hubbell too long to see what Murdoch has been all about.
    “No apology; no ‘Mea culpa;’ just “Next!'” So, when was the last time a
    corporate entity, or the puppets they own in congress was seen to apologize
    for anything, even Inhofe (of the snowball, or Gingrich,of the “No such thing as
    acid rain”? AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN!
    I read this blog and HCR’s, sometimes Thom Hartmann’s. I don’t read Michael
    Moore’s, or Robert Reich’s as that would be too much being part of
    the choir for me. I can not recall seeing anything they have written with which I
    do not agree.
    I do not look for opposing views, as I do not have the patience to slog through
    the BS I anticipate finding there. I have to carefully monitor my B/P when I see
    Faux “News” spewing obvious propaganda, when I am on the bike, at the gym.

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