I'll start by saying this post is focused on Andrew Sullivan, and specifically on the conservative contrarian's announcement that he is leaving the Daily Beast, and striking out on his own — while asking readers for $20/yr subscriptions to the independent site, so he can make it ad-free.
First, Sully IS conservative of some sort, or something similar. Ignore his bromance with President Obama and remember he's British. His conservativism is not of an American stripe, whether Religious Right social conservativism or neoconservative warmongering (though he did do that in the past, see below), though he's not chided Obama as much as he could for his own warmongering. Of course, that's because, as he admits, Sully was originally FOR the invasion of Iraq. Hot and heavy cheerleader for it Another reason real liberals shouldn't like him that much.
Anyway, Sully's about order, preserving the state of things, and similar, to the degree that he's still a British-type conservative and not just a contrarian. (Or, he's some kind of libertarian; see below.) Picture one of those 19th-century British manor conservatives, an anti-egalitarian racialist of some sort. That's what you should think of, while then adding two scoops of American ice cream on top -- one of libertarianism (compatible with that British conservativism) and one of neoconservative warmongering -- also compatible with that British conservativism, all in the name of enlightening the darker-skinned type. (Chris Hitchens had one foot in this same world.)
Anyway, back to Sully's "Brave New World" and its Gnu Media angle for a minute.
So, why go ad free? Why not just do like Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo and other A-list bloggers and set up a tip jar system, which would make the Jay Rosens of the Gnu Media world love you more anyway?
Well, Derek Thompson at The Atlantic speculates that, on his own, Sully's contrarian enough he won't draw that many A-list advertisers, so making the pitch that his blog will go ad-free for enough subscribers turns a possible negative into a positive. It also reduced a bit of sales overhead.
Now, paying $20/yr for Sully?
I wouldn't do it. As I said, he's still some type of conservative, and liberal types who have a bromance with him because of his bromance with Obama are probably making statements aboutboth themselves and Obama. (Enough of them, surely neoliberals more than true liberals, along with Sully-type conservatives, have a bromance to the tune of $400K so far, reportedly, on Jan. 11.)
Anyway, per the picture above, and it's background (more on that below) we've got more ideas about what an independent Sully might be like.
So, to tie Jay Rosen back in... a commenter at his blog post talking about Sully's move said that he might pay the freight to see Sully unbound.
To which, I replied:
That said, Aaron, wasn’t Sully semi-unbound when he edited TNR?Hence, my use of my Photoshopping from a few years back.
Oh, yeah – an entire issue singing the praises of “The Bell Curve.”
See, Aaron, you can now save your $20.
Further proof that Sully is a conservative of some sort? Or better yet, some sort of British-American libertarian fusion? Folks like Matt Welch of Reason commenting on that same thread. Other than gay rights, which he approaches from a libertarian angle, I challenge people to point out one authentically liberal stance of Andrew Sullivan.
Let's tie this back to Gnu Media, though. Sully admits he didn't get to the staffing size he did without partnering with a for-profit media company, first Time, then The Atlantic, then Daily Beast.
If his staffing level, etc., requires $900K and he's serious about going ad-free, and his "paywall" is going to be a New York Times one and not a Wall Street Journal one, that means he needs 450K people a year to pony up.
He may get it, but I won't hold my breath. I definitely wouldn't hold on sustaining that number.
This, then, leads to another question. Whether it's Sullivan's metered paywall or Josh Marshall's tip jars and fund drives, shouldn't you, if you are a contributor or subscriber, get some financial transparency? Shouldn't you ask for it, if you haven't been?
How much does Sully plan on paying himself? Or, since he's been independent a few years, how much does Marshall currently pay himself?
At your traditional newspaper, if it's part of a publicly traded company, much of that information, at least for executives, is publicly available. Others of it, via estimates, is available by occupational review websites, etc.
Another reason I wouldn't pay for Sully? A fair amount of what he does is nothing more than one sentence plus a link micro-mini-blogging, like Duncan Black, aka Atrios, and his Eschaton blog, which I stopped reading long ago for such reasons. A fair amount of the remainder is mini-blogging of just three grafs, maybe four. On average, I'd venture that at most 25 percent, possibly less, is in-depth blogging. And, most of that, even, is opinion. In that sense, he and his staff aren't Josh Marshall, with some degree of reporting as well as opinion.
Anyway, should this move fail, per my above comment, I would not at all be surprised to see him join Nat Hentoff at Reason.
Update, Jan. 11: Hell, I was just touching the edges on Sully as alleged journalist. Mark Ames really has the goods on him, from his gutting Clinton's attempt at national health care, to mau-mauing against discussion of Reagan's October surprise and more.
MUCH more. See details below the fold.
The pattern, set early, proves that no matter how hard he fails, no matter how disastrous the consequences for journalism or his adopted country, Sullivan's career advancement is guaranteed to keep rising. Journalism, schmournalism: He's a proven reliable waterboy for the tobacco lobby and the Republican Right, what value can journalism have that can possibly compete with that?Followed by this, undercutting any claim to Sully having done real journalism, or having real ethics:
Even after his own magazine recanted the article, [about Clinton's health care proposal] in 2007, Sullivan, while admitting "I was aware of the piece’s flaws but nonetheless was comfortable running it as a provocation," defended his failure, and the catastrophic consequences to millions of Americans, with all the aggressive conviction of a sociopath.Maybe he is a sociopath? His penchant for "bareback riding" in an age of AIDS could be supporting evidence.
Ames also reminds us, with a link to Sully, that Sullivan, as of 2005 at least, STILL backs the "ideas" of "The Bell Curve" and regrets nothing about publishing what he did in TNR:
One of my proudest moments in journalism was publishing an expanded extract of a chapter from "The Bell Curve" in the New Republic before anyone else dared touch it... The fact of human inequality and the subtle and complex differences between various manifestations of being human - gay, straight, male, female, black, Asian - is a subject worth exploring, period."Just. Wow.
Not wow enough?
In 2011, again via Ames, Sully said he still believed in racial differences in intelligence, and attacked the PC-type media for not writing about it:
[The study of intelligence] has been strangled by p.c. egalitarianism. The reason is the resilience of racial differences in IQ in the data, perhaps most definitively proven by UC Berkeley psychologist Arthur Jensen...That's still not all.
The right response to unsettling data is to probe, experiment and attempt to disprove them - not to run away in racial panic. But the deeper problem is that the racial aspects of IQ have prevented non-racial research into intelligence, and how best to encourage, study and understand it.
Almost half of Ames' piece is about Sully as neocon flack for Dubya and the invasion of Iraq. Go read the full thing.
One partial splitting of hairs. The circumstances around Trig Palin's birth ARE skeezy. That said, I long ago moved beyond the "fake pregnancy" idea to the idea that Trig's got a different daddy than the rest of Sarah's kids. It's a much simpler explanation than Sully's and ties in with known marital difficulties between Sarah and Todd Palin. But, Sully wasn't a loon for looking at the idea.
Any liberal who would pay $20/year to read this man is a self-hating liberal of some sort. Or else even more deluded by Sully than by Barack Obama.