I’m always happy I use Ghost and not Substack, but I’m extra happy today

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read

Hamish McKenzie in a note on Substack:

We believe that supporting individual rights and civil liberties while subjecting ideas to open discourse is the best way to strip bad ideas of their power. We are committed to upholding and protecting freedom of expression, even when it hurts.

Here’s what I’ll say for myself, I see an internet chock full of communities and services that allow us to talk to each other and share our thoughts. Some of those places welcome Nazis and most of them don’t. I personally gravitate to the ones that don’t welcome Nazis as “just another viewpoint.”

Substack is a private company who controls who can and can not use their services. As Richard Lawler points out for The Verge, Substack has moderation rules in place that prevent some people from using them, but Nazis fall on the “that’s fine with us,” part of the spectrum.

Companies like Substack and X like to paint themselves as “the digital town square,” but (a) they’re private companies not public spaces or utilities and (b) they can’t both be the town square, so either one of them is or what is actually the case is neither of them is, and the internet in general is the digital town square, they’re just shops along the main street. And just like if I went to a restaurant that had some Nazis wearing swastikas, talking loudly about Nazi stuff, and the owner went, “I’m not saying I like what they’re saying, but their checks clear, so they’re welcome anytime they want,” I would indeed not be going back to the restaurant anytime soon.

“But Matt,” I hear at least one person thinking, “you use Ghost, which I’m sure Nazis would start to use if they couldn’t use Substack anymore. Some probably already are. Aren’t you being hypocritical?” And I’d say absolutely no because Ghost actually stands by the ideals Substack claims to. You can host your website on, and Ghost will host and manage your site and present you a nice front end just like Substack does. However, their terms of service clearly lay out what sorts of websites are not welcome on their private platform. In section 2.2 for Prohibitions, they cite:

promotes discrimination, bigotry, racism, hatred, harassment, abuse or harm against any individual or group

As content that is not allowed on accounts, and they can shut you down if you post it anyway.

They also have a code of conduct that starts the very straightforward, “Don’t Be a Dick” section with:

You shall be judged to have been a dick when a group of your peers have deemed that you were being a dick. If, after being warned, you continue to be a dick: you will be banned. There are no exceptions to this rule. Common examples of dickery include (but are not limited to):

And one of the items includes:

Sexist, heterosexist, racist, or otherwise hateful remarks. Which are not tolerated under any circumstances.

Look at that, rules, what a concept! If you don’t like those rules, no problem, Ghost is free and open source so you can install Ghost on your own server (or use one of the many one-click installs out there) to run it on your own, in which case you avoid these rules entirely. That’s what I do, so none of Ghost’s terms of service or code of conduct applies to this site.

I would also reference WordPress as another great example of a blogging platform that will host your site for you if you follow their terms of service, but people who want to break those rules can go run WordPress wherever they want. Mastodon is a good example of the same thing for social media, with each Mastodon server having its own rules, and if you don’t like them you can find another server more to your liking.

To sum up, Nazis can fuck right off and private companies who write posts that say, “we don’t like Nazis, but we’ll keep taking their money,” are going to have to deal with the fact people are going to see them as the place that welcomes Nazis.