The Chapo Trap House Reader

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From right to left: Chapo hosts Felix Biederman, Will Menaker, and Matt Christman with Twitter user @mikedelic, who has been known to take an unusual interest in teenagers. The grey wolf emoji and hand symbol are a “fun” reference to fascists in Turkey. Courtesy of @willmenaker.

Chapo Trap House is a “new progressive Left” comedy podcast made by 5 scrappy millennials who are beating the odds in media with their independent, grassroots project funded by listeners. Felix Biederman, Will Menaker, Matt Christman, Amber A’Lee Frost and Virgil Texas are inspiring a new generation to look beyond establishment Democrats like Hillary Clinton and fight for Socialism. They are the “Dirtbag Left,” a movement of cool young Socialists who shun “political correctness” and embrace “vulgarity.” At least, that’s how the story goes.

Critics paint a less rosy picture of the project and the people involved. Some point out that, for all their shit talk and revolutionary posturing, Chapo ultimately stumps for the Democrats again and again. Others point out that the hosts of Chapo are actually quite connected to bourgeois establishment politics and media (Menaker’s father is former executive editor-in-chief of Random House, and was also a fiction editor at The New Yorker for twenty years!). How else could one explain the Chapo crew’s ability to rake in over $1.3 million per year on Patreon for what is essentially a bi-weekly radio show?

Many point out that the “ironic” humor that Chapo hosts have brought from their channer days and continue to propagate is anti-social, obliterating the ability to say or do anything sincerely and creating ‘plausible deniability’ for all behavior, making accountability for any kind of wrongdoing impossible. “Ironic” jokes sometimes include racist and sexist humor; they’ve been known to call people “pussies” and “retarded,” and to deride anyone who objects. “Go on Chapo!” dozens of fans have been known to reply to anyone who dare criticize Chapo on Twitter.

The compulsion for “edgy” jokes and the enforced irreverence can blur the lines between Chapo and their fanbase and every other swarm of neo-Nazi channers who live online and love “ironic” humor. White supremacist Richard Spencer noted exactly this in a March 2018 speech:

“We were listening to the Chapo Trap House podcast, which I listen to every week. I do find it kind of amazing, if you listen to, like, 15 minutes of it, it sounds like an alt-right podcast in terms of the jokes, the themes, the cynicism, the irreverence. It’s pretty funny.”

Chapo Trap House is affiliated with the “big tent” Socialist organization the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Multiple Chapo co-hosts are members of the org, and prominent members of the DSA have built clout and influence through their friendships with Chapo. Thanks to its persistent support of Democrats and its leadership’s inability to resist association with irreverent “edgelords,” the DSA has occasionally been called “the Democrats of Something Awful.”

The “Left” media spectacle always seems to lead back to Chapo Trap House, and it will take many posts to tackle their seemingly infinite connections to establishment media, the Democratic Party, multi-millionaires, neo-Nazis, and intelligence. For now, an introductory reader is in order.

This introductory reading list will be continually updated as I find new resources worth adding.

The List:

1. First on the docket is a touchstone analysis to which I will make frequent reference: a Twitter thread from Crypto Cuttlefish (@cuttlefish_btc) that explains the big picture of Chapo Trap House and their irony ilk’s impact. If the original Twitter thread goes down, you can read a transcript here.

2. What happened? I: Virgil Texas: Chapo’s connections to Nick Mullen and neo-Nazis Sam Hyde and w*ev (archived)

3. Frosted Flakes: A look at Amber A’Lee Frost’s taking aim at anyone who’s not a respectable yuppie “Leftist” (archived)

4. If It Quacks Like a Fascist…: On “irony” (archived)

5. Chapo Trap House Sucks lol: A kind of oral history of Chapo (archived)

6. The Cafe.com Rabbit Hole: Chapo’s connections to millionaires and the Democratic party (archived)

7. Will Menaker’s family’s connections to U.S. intelligence (archived: one, two)

8. Chapo Trap House is “The Daily Show” for Smarter Suckers (archived)

9. Chapo’s probable business manager previously did research for Canadian National Defense.

//

Readings may be added. You can send suggestions to pettycartography@gmail.com.

11 thoughts on “The Chapo Trap House Reader

  1. magillagorillas

    Wow, amazing stuff. It is sickly fascinating to look at the whole emerging DIY-branch of the Democratic Party and how this is meant to herd people who are rightfully angry at the current state of things and have the potential to change it, back into the “left” (more like center-right compared to other “liberal democracies”, which isn’t saying much) of fascism. Great work! I hope that there will be some parallels made to the counterculture of the 1960s (I still have to read “Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon” by David McGowan), how organic it all seems, the sort of nebulous nature of its origins (did it start off as organic and co-opted or was it controlled from the beginning), major influencers ties to the establishments they were supposedly fighting against, and how the goal was to guide as many people possible away from BPP-type shit and into hedonistic, hippie co-ops. This was sort of a ramble, I hope I made some sense lol. Thanks for writing this, I will be reading more soon.

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  2. In support of the points above, here’s a description in Buzzfeed of Sam Hyde’s MDE when it was first outed in the mainstream as a neo-Nazi show:

    “…combines nerdy references to anime and video games with the sinister goofiness of Tim and Eric, the anti-PC mean streak of pre-corporate Vice, and the terminal irony of meme culture.”

    This description is of course equally applicable to Chapo.

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  3. Pingback: Red Scare Pod and the Crypto Nexus – petty cartography

  4. I hate to endorse anything really nasty people are saying about you online, but I think the complaint that you’re doing a lot of repurposing of other sources without proper attribution has some merit. There are a number of claims made here about Chapo that aren’t attributed to their source, if only by way of a link. Granted, it’s blogging and no one’s expecting footnotes, but this informality will continue to raise hackles, particularly in posts like this which are mostly aggregations of other material.

    Second, while it’s not outright plagiarism when someone else’s work does the heavy lifting of a piece under your name, it’s in the neighborhood. I think it’s fair to say that most of the impact of this piece comes from the cuttlefish thread, but that not all readers are going to note that and they will instead credit the experience to you.

    I think putting an entire thread in a post is defensible if that’s all the post is, and if the writer doesn’t object — since there’s less chance that credit owed the source for the reader’s experience goes to you instead. What you’re doing here kinda mixes things up in a way that some writers will definitely not appreciate. I wish cuttlefish were around to give their blessing.

    I hope you understand that I’m offering this because I think you appreciate constructive criticism, but might have trouble hearing it through so much noise and because most of your critics aren’t taking things up with you directly. I offer it as someone who’s made many of the same mistakes in the spirit of Take It or Leave It.

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    1. Thanks. Do you think it would be a clearer attribution to move the Cuttlefish thread to a completely separate post and then link to it? Or do you have any other suggestion for how to better organize/present this so the attribution is more visually clear? As you probably realize, the problem with just linking is that Twitter threads go down unexpectedly in the wake of controversies and account suspensions. None of the archived pages I found showed the whole thread. So I want to have a transcription somewhere.

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      1. I think moving it to its own post is a good idea and makes things clearer. I agree about the limitations on threads. Cuttlefish’s account is likely to be deleted for lack of use, so all the more reason to archive it. The shitheads complaining about transcribing threads as being wrong under all conditions are just pulling shit out for their trifling asses pursuant to being insufferable, stirred up dipshits for RK’s approval.

        Speaking of Kahina’s brats, that Nyusha is too much. She’s unintended comedy gold.

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  5. Pingback: Cuttlefish Thread #1 – petty cartography

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