Jan 7, 2022

A whole issue criticizing Tangle

How did our writing hold up?

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.” First time reading? Sign up here.

In the last year, I've written well over 200 newsletters about politics. Every day, these newsletters are somewhere between 3,000 to 4,000 words, with anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 words of my own original writing and thoughts.

It'd be impossible to look back at all that writing and dissect every single thing I got right, wrong, or somewhere in between. But I do think it's important to reflect on some of the major stories and take stock of how my writing has held up. I do this largely because other media outlets don't. There is a good deal of navel gazing that happens in the media world, but very rarely is it the kind where writers, reporters and editors reflect honestly on their own work.

In the spirit of Tangle’s ethos, I think this exercise is important. On April 2nd, a few months into 2021, I reviewed my own writing from 2020 to commemorate the two year anniversary of creating Tangle. The feedback was really positive. So, today, I'm going to repeat that exercise, this time with a look at all the stuff I published in 2021.

To do this, I'm going to pick a few newsletters, share with you key excerpts from my writing and my overarching take, and then a brief "reflection" section along with a grade — on the A to F scale — as an honest look at what I said at the time.

Today's edition is for paying subscribers only, but I think it's a good one to share with friends you’d like to suggest Tangle to — so feel free to do that.

Trump ban.

On January 11th, 2021, I wrote about Donald Trump being banned from Twitter.

From a top-level perspective, I wrote that Trump gave Twitter little choice, and I didn't view this as a "free speech" issue, given that Twitter is a private company and could easily make the case that Trump had violated its rules. However, I ended "my take" this way:

If we’re to take Twitter’s justification literally, consider this comparison: Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei can call for the literal genocide of Jews with no repercussions, but Trump is banned permanently for announcing he is not attending the inauguration. It’s absurd on its face. And Khamenei is not alone, by the way: actual dictators, despots and terrorists use Twitter to intimidate and threaten their opposition all the time...I truly don’t know what the answer is. I don’t. I do believe Trump and Parler left these companies with little choice.

But I just can’t shake the feeling that this all feels off, that it’s all going to make things worse, and that it’s absurd to see the President of the United States banned while actual dictators remain on Twitter. I worry that de-platforming will only worsen the radicalization once we’ve martyred those who deserve to be mocked, and that we’ve only put these things in a box under the bed but haven’t actually thrown them out.

Reflection: I felt pretty good reading this writing again. It's been a year since this post, and Trump's influence on the Republican party has not waned. Only the places where his supporters meet and interact with each other have changed, and now it's just out of view of the liberals, who don't want to deal with him anyway. As a result, I think the country is talking to itself even less than it was. I don't think removing him from Twitter did anything to help the polarization or radicalization of our politics, and I clearly don't see Trump's power as somehow diminished. Sure, it’s been a relief for some who don’t like Trump and enjoy not hearing from him every minute. But if anything, he was martyred, and Twitter has just become more dominated by liberals than it was before.

Grade: A