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The State of Karlstack
objectivity in journalism is a myth
Every couple of months I update my readers on the state of Karlstack.
Here is the previous update:
Many readers find it illuminating, interesting or otherwise intriguing to follow me on my road towards becoming a professional writer.
If you don’t care about this journey, here is a reminder: Karlstack is split up into 5 sections: Economics, Academia, Politics, Crypto and Personal. To opt-out of this “Personal” section you can click the “Settings” button (at the top right corner of your screen) and then click “Manage Subscriptions.”
You’ll notice that I changed my tagline from “opinionated investigative journalism” to “guerilla gonzo journalism”
A large reason why I quit my job as a investigative journalist in the mainstream media was that I do not believe objectivity or unbiasedness in journalism is attainable, or even desirable.
I felt like a total clown every day writing “impartial” mainstream stories, knowing full-well I wasn’t impartial in the least. The cognitive dissonance drove me insane — in my mind, I wasn’t any better than an MSNBC or CNN reporter surreptitiously shoving woke narratives down America’s throat. I wasn’t living my truth. I felt like a fraud. So I quit.
Hunter S. Thompson said in an interview with The Atlantic. "Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You can't be objective about Nixon"
I don’t know enough about Nixon to comment, but I agree with the general sentiment — I simply can’t remain objective about wokeness, academic fraud, political corruption, or central bank digital currencies — malignant cancers all.
I don’t have the resources, clout, experience, access, or reach of the mainstream media, but Thompson turned those liabilities into assets, mostly by ignoring journalistic norms and telling the unvarnished truth as he understood it. I arrive at the truth in much the same way.
Substack permits me the freedom to seek truth, to rant and rave to my heart’s desire, to be nakedly partisan and polemic, to attack whoever I want, to insert myself into the story — you may have noticed that I have a penchant for making myself the protagonist, which is the last thing a professional journalist is supposed to do. I’ve gradually developed this style over the past year… little did I know that what I was doing was becoming a gonzo journalist.
I actually didn’t know what the term “gonzo journalism” meant up until this week, I had vaguely heard the term before, but didn’t know the definition. I suppose if I had attended journalism school I would’ve been taught about it, but instead I organically reverse-engineered it by mistake.
As per Wikipedia:
Gonzo journalism is a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story using a first-person narrative
Gonzo journalism disregards the strictly-edited product once favored by newspaper media and strives for a more personal approach; the personality of a piece is as important as the event or actual subject of the piece. Use of sarcasm, humor, exaggeration, and profanity is common.
As per Random House dictionary:
Filled with bizarre or subjective ideas, commentary, or the like; Crazy; eccentric
That describes Karlstack perfectly. I often get people criticizing the chaotic stream-of-consciousness format of my articles, and I always respond that this Substack isn’t classical music, this is more like jazz.
Much like I stumbled upon gonzo journalism by mistake, so too did it’s founder Hunter S. Thompson. His 1970 article The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved is generally considered to be the first true gonzo; he expected it to be a flop, but compared its unexpectedly popular reception to “falling down an elevator shaft into a pool full of mermaids.” Same with Karlstack; I just started writing in my own voice and was fortunate enough to fall down an elevator shaft into a pool of 3,244 mermaids:
This growth has been unexpected, almost haphazard, and there was nothing inevitable about this mild amount of success.
Hell, maybe I’ll start doing a bunch of drugs.
One other similarity between Thompson and I is that he began his career as a writer bumming around in Puerto Rico, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, etc. As described in the article Chasing the Origins of Gonzo in South America, “After a year in South America he came back with impressive clips, hard-earned reporting chops, admirers at big publications, and the new conviction that he was a serious journalist”
“The tools Hunter S. Thompson would use in the years ahead — bizarre wit, mockery without end, redundant excess, supreme self-confidence, the narrative of the wounded meritorious ego, and the idiopathic anger of the righteous outlaw — were all there in his precocious imagination in San Juan … there too were the beginnings of his future as a masterful American prose stylist.”
So while he stumbled through South America to seek his literary fortune, so do I.
Of course, it is unbelievably cocky and delusional for me to make these comparisons to Hunter S. Thompson. Many would say that gonzo journalism is sui generis because of its creator; thus, with his death, it could no longer continue.
I disagree. The flame of gonzo journalism must be kept alive at all costs (despite the fact that I only found out it existed this week, lol). On that note, to keep the flame burning, please consider becoming my 141st paid subscriber:
You may have noticed that I just raised the price for a subscription from $5 to $6.99.
I did this because these 140 paid subscribers @ $5 translate into an annualized salary of $8,000 USD.
Life in the Global South is cheap but it’s not *that* cheap — despite popular belief, I am not a trust fund kid, in fact I am rather poor, which is the entire point of moving here — to stretch out my savings as long as possible so that I can pursue a writing career.
I live modestly and am on the verge of breaking even on my monthly expenses; meaning that by giving myself a a 40% raise, I will instantly cross the personal finance threshold from “slowly bleeding money” (I’ve been bleeding money for my past 6 months as a full-time Substack writer) to “slowly saving money.” Big milestone for me.
Over the next couple of years I am planning to keep growing exponentially as I become the world’s premier gonzo journalist (can you name a single other one? I might already be it), but until then, yeah it would be great if existing subscribers could chip in an additional $1.99 per month. This amount is presumably meaningless to you, but a 40% raise is tangible to me.