Creating a Substack
I’m starting a Substack. For now, this is a platform for me to provide further context for my reporting, as well as original source documents, research tips, and analysis. I’m interested in exposing the hidden dynamics that shape public policy, politics, and our society at large. Subscribers will be intimately connected to my reporting. I’m not leaving The Intercept. This is a place for extended documentation.
This platform feels like a natural home for me. I am disturbed by the ideological and partisan polarization remaking our society, a force that stifles free expression broadly and journalistic inquiry more specifically. The overall media environment in recent years has been shaped by conformity and in many cases, by fear. The chaotic events around the Trump election, debates around racial identity and the role of political violence, and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, have been beset by extreme opinions often untethered from fair-minded scrutiny. There’s a demand by many in the media to “read the room” and regurgitate conventional wisdom – a sentiment directly opposed to independent journalism. Substack stands apart as a beacon for individual thought.
For those who do not know me, I was raised in the Washington D.C. area, in Prince George’s County, and now I’m based in San Francisco. Over the last fourteen years, I’ve worked as journalist with a focus on the intersection of money and politics. In the last eight years, I’ve worked at The Intercept, exposing special interest groups and establishment politicians. For a glimpse of my writing, here’s my reporting on Saudi lobbyists ghostwriting the congressional debate on the war in Yemen, the CIA’s investment in a skincare start-up, the FBI’s heavy-handed attempts to recruit an informant at the behest of a pork conglomerate, the union-busting industry’s adoption of social justice rhetoric, the dangers of widely used insecticides, a feature on the Department of Homeland Security influence over social media, and a Chinese mogul laundering foreign cash into a Super PAC, a story that resulted in a record fine. Earlier today, I published my first story using access to Twitter’s internal emails and tools — which reveals that the social media giant quietly aided the Pentagon’s covert influence operations in the Middle East. One of my earliest journalistic coups was exposing the role of right-wing billionaires in funding the Tea Party movement in the 2010s, which became the basis for my book, The Machine. I am, above all, a humanist. I am opposed to efforts to exploit and deprive anyone of their basic dignity. I remain skeptical of all forms of tribalism and fundamentalism, and try to maintain an open mind to anyone with an earnest perspective.
My goal is to be nimble and interesting. If you’ve followed my work, I produce mainly investigative journalism on a very wide range of topics. Eventually, I plan to maybe even host some podcasts or video discussions. This Substack will feature more commentary and explanations about how I go about my reporting, as well as other thoughts.
In a way, this has been a long time coming. I became immersed in media as a teenager in part by obsessing over the so-called blogosphere that rippled into existence during the Bush administration. In the rush to war, the establishment press often fell short as a closed echo chamber, with little room for dissent. I’ve bounced from magazines to think tanks and nonprofit supported investigative sites, seeking any place that will give me the opportunity to critique power and make sense of the world consistent with my values. Before I joined The Intercept in 2015, I helped run an anti-corruption blog for a short time and had a lot of fun doing it. I want to contribute to the public interest while not playing alongside any team, faction or partisan interest.
The great I.F. Stone created his popular weekly newsletter in the twentieth century by documenting malfeasance that he found buried in government reports and political intrigue he devoured across Washington, D.C. He built a loyal subscription-based following, creating almost an old-school version of a Substack newsletter. An ardent leftist, Stone reported on military corruption and pressed for labor rights and civil rights, and was the most vocal critic of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) when the Wisconsin demagogue was at the height of his power. Stone’s self-reliant newsletter business also gave him a special perch from which to critique the excesses of the left, from the brutality of the Soviet Union to the abuses and hypocrisy of the sixties-era New Left, topics that many self-styled progressives of his era often avoided. It’s an admirable legacy and one that I seek in some ways to emulate.