10 May 2021

A comment left this morning by my friend Laura on the last of these brief-item posts has had me revisiting two summer-of-COVID episodes of the Digiday podcast today, interviews with The Dispatch CEO Steve Hayes and Defector operations VP Jasper Wang — separately on the show to talk about their quite differently politics-oriented internet-based publications’ remarkably similar business schemes.

I’ve given a good deal more attention to Defector than to The Dispatch in the past year or so. But there’s no denying that the latter’s case lends the former’s a degree of the vividness and weight it has for me and (I suppose) many others right now, both of them read as phenomena of the moment’s ‘great media unbundling.’

It’s an especially curious thing to hear Hayes speaking, without trace of irony, from the position of a smaller market player concerned to protect the work he’s become invested in from destructive forces hyperconcentration in the financial order generates. Digiday host Morrissey’s repetitions of the expression notwithstanding, Hayes and crew are in no meaningful way ‘small-c conservatives.’ In respect to policy, these guys are simple ideologues of unrestrained capital. They share with a Paul Ryan the dream of a world where everything outside the bounds of an arbitrarily-conceived, always unstable space of ‘the private’ is reducible to commodity — ideal that a recently rising, no less dangerous modern U.S. right has taken, with good justification, to attacking as ‘dead consensus’ American conservatism. (Conflict much on my mind these days.)

Without quite acknowledging the trend they’re part of, these same embattled (for branding purposes, at least) Reagan-Thatcher-gospel believers are building something of a cooperative media enterprise together. It sure is interesting.

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