‘Red Scare’ Aftermath: Exiting the Crypto Closet

The day after “Red Scare Pod and the Crypto Nexus” was published, I received an email from someone named Leonard Evans. The email said, “Photographs of Dasha Nekrasova with imperialist mercenary Brace Belden in which she is seen drawing on a woman’s face and posing with an SS flag.”

It was an apt description of the attached photos.

I added them to the original post and tweeted about it. The photos bolstered the case I had made in several important ways. It also caused an influx of traffic to the post; a lot more people read it than otherwise would have.

The next day something surprising happened. Dasha posted on Twitter that she herself had sent the photos under an alias as a ‘prank.’

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Dasha Nekrasova admitted to sharing a picture of herself hanging up an SS flag in a now-deleted Tweet.

Not only was Dasha not ashamed of a photo of her with an SS flag, she had willfully circulated it to the largest possible audience. Dasha knew that this photo would be attached to her name and follow her for the rest of her life, and decided in a span of less than a day that she was cool with that.

She later deleted the Tweet. When asked why she deleted it, she responded, “My CIA handler told me to.

Actions and Reactions

So far, none of the evidence presented in “Red Scare Pod and the Crypto Nexus” has been disputed or refuted. There has, however, been a wide variety of attempts at distraction and deflection, and many other, uh, interesting responses. Here’s a quick survey:

Two people, including an apparent old friend of Dasha’s, thought that criticizing someone for using Nazi imagery was callous and lacked nuance.

One person waded in to assert that Nazi imagery is a part of their family heritage that they have every right to “honor”:

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Multiple people, including an apparent Socialist group, explained that it was mocking or sarcasm. One person seemed to suggest that using Nazi imagery is simply part of a long, cherished art tradition. I would ask why that tradition exists.

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A few people insisted that this work was personal, jealous ‘hating.’ Now, I’m no social expert, but this sure seems like a difficult and backwards way of getting invited to parties with these extremely cool, enviable people. (Note: it’s unclear if the account pictured is actually run by AK).

Jeff Bezos propagandist Liz Bruenig responded to the revelation of her compatriot circulating a photo of herself with an SS flag the same way any of us normal people would, with no denouncement or distancing whatsoever, and a light joke:

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Yep, extremely normal stuff. Nothing to worry about.

Most of the boring irony shitposters responded exactly the way you’d expect, doing their jobs shutting down discourse and debate by joining with ‘ironic’ fascists to dismiss or mock me and others as ‘crazy’:

“Commie Cadet” Spenser Rapone, the U$ soldier who made a remarkably sheepdip-like ‘exit’ from the military and immediate launch into a ‘Left’ media career, made an entrance to joke around with Dasha, and made his own tweet deriding me as ‘unhinged.’ Apparently his mission to obliterate any internal movement against U.$. imperialism by making us all sympathetic to the military isn’t enough fascist entryism for him, so he’s got to pile on with the ‘irony’ fascists to defend SS flags, too. (archived)

Many people on Twitter responded to Dasha’s revelation that she had emailed the pictures by following her lead and insisting that I had been tricked or one-upped. That doesn’t make sense, but knowing this crowd, it doesn’t have to. I would’ve shared the picture regardless of who sent it; it’s a picture of her with an SS flag. Sadly, her followers’ response to this only reveals how locked into irony-poisoning and groupthink they are, blindly following, no longer capable of seeing events for what they really are.

Context Matters

A few people defended this stunt on the grounds that Jewish people could reclaim the SS flag. Unfortunately, available context doesn’t favor that as an excuse. As blog commenter Homer wrote:

sure maybe dasha owning an ss flag is some kind of extremely sophisticated attempt to grapple with her own intergenerational trauma, as somebody asserted on twitter in her defense, but when you look at the people who hang out [in] her mentions on twitter or on reddit that’s not what they’re getting out of it. they just like that she’s created a space for them to use the r-word or indulge in whatever gross white-supremacist, bourgeois bad habits they don’t want to let go of.

Well stated. But does it hold up? Well, several days after it all went down, I checked in on the Red Scare subreddit. Someone had shared a homemade spoof of Red Scare guest Angela Nagle’s book cover to make it about Angela being able to say the n-word, and featuring a picture of watermelon, which is a racist trope. So they have a single bad fan, right? If only. The post had received 71 upvotes. That means a net 71 people on the Red Scare subreddit thought that this horrible racist joke was funny (the original image does not censor the n-word).

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If you had any remaining doubt that ‘ironic’ fascist media just attracts and organizes fascists, I hope this will remove that doubt.

The Impact

As discussed in the original post, all of this acts as a kind of infiltration or entryism. How can such a sizable group of ‘Socialists’ be entertained by a racist joke and want to express that? How can people tell when something is just ‘ironically’ fascist or actually fascist? Why does it feel like the whole point is to make it impossible and undesirable to distinguish that? Again – where does the ‘ironic’ fascism end and the Socialism begin? How can we ever believe anything that these people say when their whole game relies on it never being clear whether they’re being serious or ‘just ironic’?

As my Twitter mutual John noted pithily,

“it’s incredibly telling how they could ‘ironically’ goose-step through the Auschwitz museum and their followers would march right along with them.”

‘Ironic’ fascist imagery desensitizes us to the severity of the topics at hand. It can change our mentality and behavior without us realizing. Studies show that a joke is never just a joke. What happens when the fanbases of these ‘ironically’ fascist media ventures gather around together, make racist jokes together, start getting ideas? If you are following all of this and don’t see a problem here, it might be time to take a step back and reassess.

Red Scare Pod and the Crypto Nexus

What is the Red Scare podcast, and how does it fit into the problem of ‘Left’ infiltration?

Red Scare

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.

Dasha Nekrasova

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

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.

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“A guy like Donald Trump primarily attracts glorified prostitutes so you probably shouldn’t feel too bad for anyone whose pussy he grabbed.”
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“Often, the difference between having a good time and having a #MeToo moment boils down to whether or not you think the guy is a good lay or not.”

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)

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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”

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Ayn Rand lover?

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?
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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

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:

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Additional Havas tweets can be found here. (archived)

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.

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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.

Let’s return to the Cuttlefish thread from the Chapo Reader, which discusses infiltration and sabotage:

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.

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Addendum 1:

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.

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.

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