So what’s Notes from the Underground even for? In a cacophonous world why sign up for yet another addition to all the noise out there? Maybe for this reason: that one of the main missions of my Substack will be to give readers the weapons necessary to debunk and sometimes even prebunk the worst and most insidious of the bogus claims and arguments widely disseminated in the modern world. I’ll try to pre-emptively identify the legion of conspiracists, grifters and hoaxers who plague our public discourse. And frankly I’ll have some fun doing it and you’ll have some fun reading it.

Then there’s the business of myth-sifting - separating plausible nonsense from the complicated truth (or the nearest thing we can find to it). As we approach 2024-5, a watershed election year in the UK and the US, we could do with all the help we can get. And part of that help could be me. Finally there’s the problem that I just can’t not do this.


Yes, that’s me

I suppose you could call me a rooted cosmopolitan - a person who thinks about the world but lives 100 yards from where he was born. In my youth I was president of the National Union of Students of the United Kingdom and a member of the liberal wing of the Communist Party of Great Britain. (Seriously. Maybe we can talk about that one day.) Since then I have worked as a researcher, producer, editor and presenter in TV and radio current affairs and documentaries and written regularly for five national newspapers. Most recently I have been presenting BBC Radio 4’s The Briefing Room since its first broadcast in May 2016 and still contribute every few weeks to the Jewish Chronicle. I have published three books, including Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theories Have Shaped Modern History and Party Animals: My Family and Other Communists. For five years I was chair of the freedom of expression advocacy organisation Index on Censorship. Until the end of February 2023 I wrote weekly for The Times. Now I’ll be writing strongly here.


I will be publishing at least twice a week or sometimes more, and at various lengths depending on subject and timing. The response I get from you will partly determine how the project develops. As a former Marxist I see this as part of the great dialectic of life. Also as I get older I become more not less curious about the world around me, so who knows where this will go.

That’s not all though. If my thoughts on big historical debates, on books, on exhibitions, on theatre, on films or on health are of interest to you, and you think perhaps you’d like to discuss them with me and with others, then a paid subscription will enable you to do that, both in writing and on monthly Zoom sessions.  Your subscription will help keep some common sense in the game.  

To become a paid subscriber, simply pop your email below


In these first days I could really use some Founding Members, who want to see a project like this succeed and who, with only the paltry pleasure of seeing their names up on the site and my undying gratitude, will take out a subscription plus.

This is a scary project for me. I’m starting something new, alone, without the backing of a big media company. Your help now will make the difference to the life of this Substack.

To become a founding member, pop your email below. And THANK YOU

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Writer, broadcaster, author, editor, producer and former Times columnist for 18 years