This is NOT my original work. This is a transcript of a Twitter thread by user @cuttlefish_btc. Read the original here.
Cuttlefish, if you’re reading this and would like it edited or removed, just shoot me an email.
You can read archived pages of the original thread here:
This transcript previously appeared at the end of the Chapo Trap House reader post but I’m moving it to a separate post after people pointed out that the formatting confused attribution of the writing. Fair criticism, and I won’t make the mistake again.
Full transcript of @Cuttlefish_btc thread published March 15, 2017:
When you find accounts on here so irony-poisoned you can’t tell if they’re actually Nazis or just FYAD burnouts.
Oh but hey Felix is there chatting it up with them so they must Socialist Good Boys.
How does infiltration of a political organization work in 2017? It’s not like a bunch of swastika-tatt Nazis show up at a DSA meeting and just announce “Hey, what if instead of Doing a Socialism, we Did a White Nationalism?”
There’s definitely a strasserist vibe to alot of the crowd that clusters around Jacobin / Chapo and it really looks like those organizations are trying to inject Strasserist ideas into DSA- but there’s these concentric layers to it. Close to the center is the “irony” racism and fascism promulgated by people so invested in their shitposting personas that they’re probably more or less dissociated all the time.
Here’s one person’s experience with how an ironic persona leads to dissociation [broken link]
The next layer out are the careerists, who are savvy enough not to be irony-poisoned and dissociative themselves, but who need the noise and chaos of the irony brigades to accomplish their own agenda (say, something like injecting Strasserist white-nationalist ideas into the platform of a socialist organization). Creating an atmosphere of hostility + nonsense allows for cognitive sabotage of criticism.
This is why a guy like Felix will send his irony goons to attack critics. One some level, he knows he’s hustling the fans of his podcast, by trying to pretend like he + the Chapo crew are this insurgent, independent group of Good Content Producers who aren’t connected to the political mainstream (while at the same time working w/ one of Hillary Clinton’s former campaign managers on the Carl Diggler character)
Ultimately they want to create / level up to being pundits for the left wing of the Democratic party, and they’re willing to do some work on the ground building out what that infrastructure is going to look like – it won’t be think tanks, it’ll be the fake-DIY podcast, or the weird-twitter persona who’s actually managed and funded by a NY Times editor, Clinton campaign officer and Silicon Valley billionaire.
Lots of dinosaur corporations have picked up on the SRI / Xerox PARC “innovation lab” model for doing research & development – create a company-within-the-company, an encapsulated operation that’s run like a DIY startup from the inside, but funded+managed by the parent corp.
This might be a useful model for looking at the “dirtbag left” and their undisclosed (but documented) connections to the Democratic Party.
I’ve said before that I think the whole “I’m CIA lol” rejoinder is the nervous laugh of somebody who doesn’t know who they really work for.
I think one of the other reasons the Chapo gang get so obviously Mad Online whenever somebody points out their bullshitting is that it’s exposing the uneasiness that they feel over who their real boss is. I don’t think these folks are cold-blooded masterminds playing personas but they’re also smart enough to know that they’re also getting played by the people backing them. The guy who sold Diapers.com to Amazon doesn’t pay $5m out of pocket to publish your Carl Diggler character because they believe in the cause of Democratic Socialism.
“There is also a cackling laughter that convokes a new group united by hatred of the humiliated sucker” Link: Real Life Magazine: The Laugherators: Unstable irony is a difficult political weapon to wield.
What happens when you tap into resentment and shared contempt as the fuel for political organizing? [Attached screenshot from the previous linked article:]
This is where the “irony brigades” come in – these aren’t the hardcore irony-poisoned cryptonazi FYAD burnouts, many of them are people who see the swarming of targets online as a form of civil disobedience – a way to blockade propagandists and force them to be accountable.
But these kinds of tactics become autonomous, + the group bonding+goal-seeking behavior of going after a target of scorn becomes addictive.
There’s actually a good passage from Lenin here on the drama of failsons. [Quote Tweet Club Des Cordeliers @cordeliers: “Exaltation and dejection” Link: Vladimir Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder. Screenshot from text:]
“They surround the proletariat on every side with a petty-bourgeois atmosphere, which permeates and corrupts the proletariat, and constantly causes among [them] relapses into petty-bourgeois spinelessness, disunity, individualism and alternating moods of exaltation and dejection.”
Cycles of exaltation and dejection is a good characterization of the periodic blowups+persecution that happen on “Left” social media.
The proletariat must be the organizing force of any movement for liberation because they are the furthest from being exploiters and have the least to unlearn. “The force of habit in millions and tens of millions is a most formidable force.”
The danger in tapping into the resentment of those who are falling out the bottom of the exploiting class is that you’re tapping into those exploitative habits – individualism, spinelessness, and cycles of grandiosity and despair. Theweleit says something similar in cautioning against falling into patterns of exclusionary masculinity when confronting fascism – “self-satisfied denunciations” “intrigues” “exclusions”
The danger of tapping into those habits as fuel for your political organizing is that they will converge right back at fascism.
Thread on how left critiques of “political correctness” fall into the trap of supporting “cultural marxist” smears [Quote Tweet: Sam Pritchard @thucydiplease: It needs to be said over & over: “political correctness” is a specific idea with a specific intellectual history. It was invented by racists]
There’s also some examples buried in that thread of the kinds of egregious “ironic” racism that’s tolerated by the Irony Left.
What Lenin and Theweleit say about petit-bourgeois intrigues and exclusionary masculinity dovetail with a broader intersectional framework.
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 except the personalities of the individuals involved. The deniability and faux-DIY informality of the “dirtbag left” is why critiques fail to land – it’s like a form of dazzle camouflage, where everything painted in bright, jagged patterns so even though you can clearly see your target, you can’t tell which way it’s going, so your aim is always off the mark.
[Attached photo: dazzle camouflage boat]
So there’s no one bad guy or bad act to target with a critique even though there’s a general sentiment that “the Dirtbag Left is bad lol.”
The deeply irony-poisoned obsessive shitposters are apolitical and stay below the surface – usually operating with multiple alt accounts since they’re constantly getting banned from the platforms they post on. They’re the ones who create the really repulsive content, surveil people to target. But on their own they’d just be nuisances because there aren’t many of them. What makes them damaging is clever operators who can herd these guys, direct them towards different targeted groups, and steal their best (worst) content – these are guys like Nick Mullen, Weev, Felix, and also somebody like Vice’s founder Gavin McInnes – these guys may or may not be “actually racist” and they don’t revel in creating hateful content online all day, but they also aren’t repulsed by the stuff – their role is to normalize it by not calling it what it is and by rhetorically / cognitively sabotaging anybody who does call it what it is – “I’m a modern Diogenes.”
“You’re the intolerant one for being angry at my speech” – etc. We’ve all seen this play out time and time again. Normalizing hate speech sets up the dynamic that the irony brigades feed off of. People who are angered by encountering hate, especially in places where they assume they’re safe, like politically progressive organizing spaces, will get angry. This sets them up as targets for your mobs of resentful downwardly-mobile “failsons” who, in the words of Will Menaker, want “Distraction and just staving off the feeling of impending death.”
Even though these people may, again, not themselves be racist or misogynist, they’re going to be mostly white dudes as a result of the space they operate in being at worst saturated with hateful speech + images, and at best, organized in such a way as to make accountability for abusive speech / images impossible to accomplish (as a result of rhetorical sabotage and deniable organizational structures.)
So the dynamics of this whole assemblage, regardless of what the individuals participating may feel in their hearts, is going to come off racist and misogynist because of how the operators and their targets are sorted out.
Now plug that assemblage into a rapidly growing political organization with its own long history of deniability [Quote Tweet: Steven Salaita @stevesalaita: check out this beauty, same disclaimer, of course: DSA article: “Gaza and Israel: Sorting It Out”]
and petit-bourgeois liberal idealism calling itself socialism and what do you think is going to happen?