What is the Red Scare podcast, and how does it fit into the problem of ‘Left’ infiltration?
Red Scare might just be the epitome of pointless contrarian bullshitting by bored upper middle class kids. Anna Khachiyan and Dasha Nekrasova started this project in early 2018, and you probably would never have heard of it if they weren’t coastal petit bourg with just enough connection to the elite New York media class. Prominent media publications certainly don’t profile every nobody who records themselves talking for a few consecutive weeks. Red Scare has known relationships with members of the Chapo Trap House and Cumtown podcasts, and may or may not share a business manager with them.
As a Twitter pal wrote the other day, “Can’t get over how some absurdly reactionary person said they like pizza and healthcare and parlayed that into making nearly $100k from some shitty podcast.” Well said.
Red Scare is currently being targeted by Shia LaBeouf collaborator Luke Turner, who has evidently taken it upon himself to fight fascist ideology in the bourgeois art world, over their refusal to stop using the “r slur.” So far, this has resulted in the suspension of Anna’s 9-year-old Twitter account.
You would probably know Dasha best as “Sailor Socialism.” Dasha was a poet and indie actress in LA before she moved to NYC a few years ago at least in part to date her boyfriend who makes a nice Patreon living mocking rape and mental disability on the Cumtown podcast with Nick Mullen. She had been friends with Khachiyan, at least online, for several years at that point. On her own, Dasha isn’t particularly bad, but her involvement here illustrates how generally unscrupulous the petit bourg are.
Anna Khachiyan is the daughter of a successful mathematician who was a professor at Rutgers. Anna is a dropout of an NYU PhD program who would be known to most people from her Twitter account where she posted one-offs written for virality over the past several years. Some posts were funny and got a lot of retweets. Many were political. She used the word “neoliberal” prolifically in a way that sounded like she didn’t really understand what it meant.
I started paying closer attention to Anna after I noticed that her political posts, when decipherable, were pretty reactionary. It wasn’t just once. I got annoyed that people who styled themselves as “Leftists” followed and retweeted her, and didn’t seem to care about the questionable remarks she made.
I dug into her old posts. It became clear to me that, where a message shone through the pseudo-intellectual buzzword salad she often wrote in, it was a very reactionary one. She criticized “liberal feminism” and praised Camille Paglia amid low-brow misogynist posts.
I noted Anna’s friendships with “Socialist” micro-celebrities Amber A’Lee Frost, of Chapo Trap House and the DSA, and Angela Nagle, author and pundit. Pictures of them hanging out appeared on her Instagram page. Having seen these people propagate Strasserist ideology on the “Left” over and over again, I feel pretty comfortable describing them both as crypto fascists. But I’d never seen Anna label her political beliefs until I dug a bit.
In 2015, she tweeted “Let’s be clear on one thing: I am not and have never been a liberal or a leftist. I’m a cryptofascist, and the ‘crypto’ is being generous.” (archived)
An archived page of her Twitter account from 2014 shows a bio hinting at libertarianism: “If Ayn Rand and Adam Carolla had a daughter. – nobody, ever”
The reaction of my “Leftist” peers to Anna Khachiyan’s misogyny and a crypto-fascism surprised me: they either didn’t care, or they thought she was being “ironic.” It was disturbing. Why did these people who thought themselves real ‘radicals’ continue to follow and retweet a clear reactionary?
Guests and Friends
Red Scare guests Angela Nagle and Amber A’Lee Frost are prolific crypto fascists in their own right who will be covered in other posts, so I’m only going to focus on two RS guests: Liz Bruenig and Deanna Havas.
Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig a.k.a. Liz Bruenig
Liz Bruenig is a 27-year-old propagandist at Jeff Bezo’s Washington Post. She is a Christian “Socialist” whose marriage, religion and motherhood figure prominently into her public image. She is known for her pro-life stance, which she discussed on Red Scare. She has also been a guest on Chapo Trap House.
The Chapo connection can be explained, at least superficially; they’re all “Democratic Socialists.” But what about her friendship with Khachiyan and her guest appearance on Red Scare? Is it just run-of-the-mill media career boosting? Or is it that their latent mutual love of the patriarch-led white nuclear family unites them? Perhaps a combination of both? A commenter summed up Bruenig’s role on the Left nicely on the Chapo subreddit: “NazBol lite.”
Deanna Havas is a “conceptual artist” from NYC. Khachiyan started following her on Twitter in 2009, and it appears they’ve been friends for at least a few years. Havas went on Red Scare last month to say it’s “bourgeois” to care about climate change.
During the 2016 election, Deanna Havas was a Trump supporter. I observed it first hand then, but you don’t have to take it from me, as there are lots and lots of screenshots:
It gets worse. Deanna Havas is linked to LD50, the “Nazi gallery” in London. In early 2017, LD50 faced protests for having an “alt-right” show in the wake of Trump’s election. Protestors wrote that LD50 “functioned as an organising space for racists and as a media platform to infiltrate the London artworld.” The gallery owner Lucia Diego expressed in writing that she was sympathetic to Trump’s “Muslim ban.” The Baffler article notes, “There is strong evidence to suggest that Diego is and has been for some time personally sympathetic to the far right.”
Havas had an art show there in the summer of 2016. Given everything else we know about Havas, it seems doubtful that her showing at LD50 is just a weird coincidence.
Lest you think this is obscure Internet drama, last month students at Yale told their professor that they did not want Deanna Havas as a guest speaker because of her racist posts. The student newspaper published and then took down a statement from Havas, issuing an apology in light of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting.
The Crypto Nexus
So to review: “Socialist” Liz Bruenig debates whether abortion is ok on a podcast that’s one or two degrees tops from neo-Nazis, and that’s considered “fun intellectual debate” on the ‘Left’ these days.
How can neo-Nazis and “Socialists” – including Jacobin writers and DSA organizers – be friends with the same people, and be guests on the same podcast? Even if, being the art world / media class climbers that they are, these people’s only goal is to boost each other’s capitalist careers through cross-promotion, their actions still have a real impact on Socialist organizing.
Where does the “ironic” fascism end and the Socialism begin? How did it become acceptable to oppose abortion as a Socialist? How did joking about racism and disability become acceptable behavior for Socialists? There’s a word for when the morals and goals of a movement are compromised or subverted: infiltration.
One way to sabotage democratic socialist organizing would be to prevent the most oppressed (the ones with the least to unlearn) from leading
The “who cares about racist jokes” attitude and the day to day micro-jihads against critics and detractors both feed into the resentment of the privileged, and alienate people with more concrete + fundamental needs.
Another dynamic at play here is the layers of deniability between all of the players – the DSA, Chapo, the agglomeration know as Weird Left Twitter, and the Democratic Party. Critiquing one group because of their implicit support of another can always be dodged – “Nick Mullen isn’t part of Chapo” (even though they share a home + promote each others work) “Chapo isn’t DSA” etc. The sloppy DIY nature of it all makes all of the coordinating and cross-promotion and sharing of resources appear social and informal, so there’s nothing concrete to critique.
Those who wish to derail Socialist organizing will sabotage with irony and apathy. Those who wish to subvert will inject it with reactionary ideology. If we are ever to build Socialism successfully, we must stay vigilant of and thwart these efforts.
**Update: a reader named Leonard Christie Evans has shared photos of Dasha hanging out with local Zionist agitator turned imperialist mercenary Brace Belden and hanging up an SS flag in someone’s house (that’s apparently Belden in the foreground). You know, normal fun stuff.
You need to understand the context in which all of this is being said. This isn’t about ‘cancelling’ people who were ‘problematic’ one time. It’s not about proving that specific individuals are uniquely bad. You should dump irony podcasters, but not because one of them gave a questionable soundbite once.
The overall point that I and others are making doesn’t hinge on any one thing. People can reach all they want to discard this and that, but it doesn’t matter, the general point still stands. The point being made is an overall point about a class of people. We make a lot of connections and present a lot of evidence to show the overall picture. The big picture is to see how these petit bourg are all connected: media people, art world people, Jacobin, DSA leadership, Democrats and neo-Nazis, when they’re powerful enough to be ‘relevant.’ Most of these people are one or two degrees tops from military contractors and corporate media billionaires. They may or may not be directly controlled. They don’t necessarily need to be, or even be conscious of it: it’s in their class interests, organically, to serve bourgeois interests.
A reddit commenter asked, “how do all of these people know each other?” Well, this is how.