Chapo Trap House is “The Daily Show” for Smarter Suckers

I hadn’t listened to an episode of the Chapo Trap House podcast until a few days ago, for a variety of reasons. For those not in the know, Chapo Trap House is a popular podcast hosted by Will Menaker, Felix Biederman, Matt Christman, and a variety of other twitter nano-celebrities. In the profiles of Chapo that have become ubiquitous in the last couple weeks, the hosts are usually described as operating at the intersection of “left twitter” (“Neoliberals are bad!”) and “weird twitter” (“Hitler is good!”).

My lack of interest in the podcast was the result of the little bit that I knew about the podcasters. Without listening to their podcast and going solely by their online presences (especially Felix’s) there’s a visible proximity to a loose agglomeration of what George Bell calls “dissociative shitposting personalities heavily influenced by channer culture.” In a series that’s absolutely worth reading, George explains how members of this sub-culture “purport to be on the left, and even occasionally mouth opinions which approximate mild social democracy,” but “None of this, however, distinguishes them from the alt-right, with whom they share the channer cultural indicia.”

This affinity crops up repeatedly, from the Chapos dubbing their fans Grey Wolves, after the fascist Turkish gang; to the “ironic” references to alt-right inspired terminology, like Menaker’s frequent bend the knees and much of Felix’s timeline; to the group’s affiliation with Nick Mullen, a fellow “ironic” podcaster and Chapo roommate who did shit like tweet jokes comparing President Obama to apes. In the brave new Left, nothing racist or fascist seems genuinely objectionable anymore, as long as someone is popular, has popular friends, and gestures at general positive feelings towards social democracy. These are people who want to make rape jokes and call people “retards” while also having free health care (TW: rape A good microcosm: a user on the Chapo subreddit with the name “CosbyMixedDrink” saying “That’s why I like Chapo is that they don’t do this whole speech bullshit but are still respectful of people in general.” The Left is back, baby—a hearty cheer for the return of The Left!).

“Crypto Cuttlefish” has written an excellent thread on the Strasserite National-Socialist vibe of this sort of politics, and the danger of allowing it anywhere near something claiming to be “the Left.” This sort of thing, coupled with the mainline-democratic socialist bent expressed by the podcasters, makes for a finished product that one favorable write-up summarizes as “equal parts Dissent and 4chan.”

So I never listened to Chapo, because Dissent-meets-4chan sounds fucking horrible.

However, this week, an IRL friend recommended that I listen to Chapo Trap House, specifically the episode “From Russia with CHUD.” By way of self-crit (I had to atone for the fact that somehow I’m giving off the impression that I want to hear about Chapo Trap House), I listened to the actual episode, which threatened to reveal what the Chapos and a writer for The New Republic thought about the Democrat/CIA anti-Russia campaign. A New Republic scribe skewering the hypocrisies of the Democrats–let’s have another round of cheers for the triumphant resurgence of The Left!

Having listened to an episode, it’s clear why Chapo is so popular. Chapo Trap House is basically The Daily Show for dummies who are a little too woke to be #WithHer Democrats. It’s mostly preening and in-jokes about cartoonish right-wing cretins, although it’s meaner and more reliant on internet memes and arcane twitter minutiae than the Comedy Central version.

Having established the template for smug liberal stroke-fests in the 21st century, The Daily Show looms large as a media product. In a piece whose title dubs the trio “vulgar, brilliant demigods of the new Progressive Left,” co-host Matt Christman sells the show as something other than “the smug above-it-all snark of The Daily Show or the quaver-voiced earnestness of, like Chris Hedges or something.” Their New Yorker profile makes distinctions against The Daily Show, as do plenty of other articles and blog posts looking to puff up the show.

It’s bullshit: when you’re not in thrall to the show’s assiduously cultivated brand story, it’s clearly in the vein of The Daily Show. Since this may sound shocking to someone familiar with Chapo’s “radical” dissident branding, it’s worth doing bit of a closer reading.

The episode in question (#118), costarring The New Republic’s Sarah Jones, deals mostly with today’s anti-Russia campaign. The Chapos correctly identify that the Democratic Party is whipping up a jingoistic anti-Russia hysteria in order to distract from the party’s own “shortcomings,” and they give a decent summary of Democratic “hawkishness.” It’s an alright summary, although it’s nothing you couldn’t find on AlterNet or Truth-Dig, and it’s not a fraction as funny as its fans all say it is.

The Chapos also say that Russia probably interfered in the election, that the Trump campaign probably colluded with Russia in a way that “was almost certainly criminal,” that Russia is a declining second-rate shithole, that they wouldn’t object to Trump being ejected from the Oval Office, that the Democrats are inept, that “the problem is the Republican Party being in power,” and that RT is a disreputable news source that “does pretty much suck.” Then there’s a bit of riffing about the degeneracy of the Slav—ironically, of course!

The stuff that’s supposed to be really edgy is when the Chapos tear into some of the prominent figures fomenting the current anti-Russian hysteria, especially Louise “Britain’s Sarah Palin” Mensch, Eric “Always Be GameTheorying” Garland, and the legions of nitwit Hillbots churning out gigabytes’-worth of tweets about the Putinite menace. That’s cool, but these are also really easy targets. Louise Mensch is human garbage, and Eric Garland is an obvious bullshit peddler. Given that Hillary Clinton was running for president with a record to the right of George W. Bush’s, making fun of those in her orbit is as challenging as clowning on the Bush junta circa 2005 (and since the #resistance is rehabilitating Bush admin wall-bait like David Frum, some of the faces are even the same).

Actually, most of the Chapo’s favorite targets are low-hanging fruit: Ross Douthat, one of the New York Times’s stable of “reasonable Republicans” that that publication is so in love with, is a frequent punching-bag. Ross Douthat is also so insipid that he makes David Brooks look inspired, so mocking him takes as much imagination as razzing Tom Friedman. Likewise for Matt Yglesias, Eli Lake, Max Boot, and Donna Brazile and Joy Anne Reid and Peter Daou.

Kayfabe is a wrestling term that most of Chapo’s fans will probably be familiar with, and it refers to the shared suspension of disbelief that wrestling fans engage in so that they can enjoy the spectacle. So many staged political fights have an element of this to them, and Chapo is no different. Fans surrender to the fantasy by ignoring the fact that mocking people like libertarian scumbag Megan McArdle is actually really, really easy—which is why the Chapos spend so much time at the end of each episode on their “reading series,” where they zing the hypocrisies and alleged myopia of this or that neoliberal clown. Episode 118’s installment of the reading series focuses on a Bloomberg piece by McArdle, in which she argues that the Grenfell tower fire which killed 80 mostly poor people in London was a necessary evil, since onerous regulations may not have saved anyone, anyway, so why bother? With McArdle having argued that “poor people being incinerated en masse is fine,” the Chapos then spend about 20 minutes discussing how that’s Actually Bad, and that poor people should not be burned to death by the dozens.

They’re right, of course. But it’s also instantly apparent to anyone who’s not a total piece of despicable shit why that’s a Bad Take, and it’s not hard to explain why. Deeper into the bit, one of the Chapos nails Megan McArdle with a WMD of double-standards:

The one who skypes in (Christman, maybe?): “Where the hell was this absolute paralysis in the face of the butterfly effect when she was like ‘you know what? Go invade Iraq.’”

All the rest and Sarah: YES! YES, ABSOLUTELY!

Yes, yes.


LOL, hypocrisy much? Do these right-wing turkeys even UNDERSTAND how HYPOCRITICAL they’re being?? Can you believe a libertarian doesn’t want to spend taxpayer money on social programs, but DOES want to spend public funds on war?

Well, yes, of course they do. If you have a 101-level understanding of Marx—a genuine understanding, not an empty posture—then that’s a totally consistent position. Yup, a propagandist will advocate not spending money on social programs, and will also agitate for costly imperial wars, since both of those things benefit their employers, a.k.a. the ruling class. This is what a radical, class-based, socialist understanding of ruling class praxis sounds like. What Chapo provides is, to quote Michael Parenti, a liberal complaint, not a radical analysis. So no wonder their show pulls in almost a million dollars a year.

This liberalism is the foundation for what people call “democratic socialism,” and it’s at the heart of Chapo’s commentary. One of the Chapos speaks positively in #118 about Canadian author John Ralston Saul’s Voltaire’s Bastards, a left-liberal holy book, which posits that liberalism served a progressive purpose several centuries ago, but it’s now a fetter on human development. In other words, Saul recapitulates an elementary Marxist truism without all that icky Communism. When discussing US foreign policy, the Chapos invariably use the royal “we” to talk about the predations of the ruling class, a dead giveaway that someone lacks a class-based analysis, and is thus a liberal, not a radical. This is in keeping with their non-radical tendency to defer to Beltway-speak like “hawks,” “doves,” non-interventionist foreign policy,” etc., rather than something grounded in a class-based analysis (though they’ve obviously read the seminal socialist text Interventionist Foreign Policy, the Highest Stage of Capitalism).

This is exactly what anyone should expect from people drinking from the brackish ideological puddle that is the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)—the Chapos are “aligned with the Brooklyn arm” of the DSA, they praise the DSA often, and occasionally host fundraisers for the organization. Large numbers of their fans flash their DSA membership on twitter via rose emojis (and promises to hold the Democrats’ feet to the fire, LOL). February 2017 pieces in both Al Jazeera English and Rolling Stone on the surge of post-Trump interest in “socialism” credit Chapo Trap House with steering people into the DSA.

The DSA was formed in the 1980s as the brainchild of Michael Harrington, an activist who initially supported the US bombing of Vietnam due to the “Stalinism” of the Vietnamese, only coming around to opposing it because the slaughter made Communists sympathetic. Harrington’s political philosophy can be summed up in two statements: “the left wing of realism is found today in the Democratic Party” and “I am anti-communist on principle because I am pro-freedom.” Harrington is a perfect representation of countless generations of radicals, socialists, and Leftists whose radical socialist Leftism amounts to Liberalism = good, Communism = bad.

To its credit, the DSA barely pretends to be anything other than a Democratic Party annex. Check out this post-election “rally” which a New York DSA chapter sold as a chance to “march to [Senator Chuck] Schumer’s home [to] deliver protein bars and weights to Schumer, so he can regain his strength” (if playing Mickey to Schumer’s Rocky Balboa sounds radical to you, I know a podcast you’ll like). Most of the leading lights of the whatever-left get around to echoing or hinting at the same sentiment eventually: case in point, DSA enthusiast, Jacobin managing editor, and self-described “far right of the radical left” Connor Kilpatrick went on Chapo Trap House (#13) and eventually mumbled out “uhh yeah, I’m uhhh voting…for Hillary,” which did not provoke paroxysms of laughter and mockery from the hosts. Neither did Chapo’s fans subject Kilpatrick to a barrage of substance-free invective and asinine ad-homs on social media, the way they do to radicals who are insufficiently enamored of the coolest new podcast sensation. Kilpatrick was kind enough to have the following exchange with David Simon, where the two “democratic socialists” do the what about agency? thing while “hoping to god” that Hillary Rodham Clinton wins the election.

I wonder if when the Chapos “take aim at Clinton supporters,” as a new profile in the Guardian has it, that means not inviting Kilpatrick on their show a third time?

And the Chapos manifest the traditional DSA anti-communism, though they may be more down-low about it than Harrington, who showed what his peers called an “obsessive anti-Communism.” Nothing like a Communist idea espoused on Chapo, and while one or the other may drop a ruling class here and there, the gang doesn’t show a genuine grasp of the fundamentals of class power. To the degree that the Chapos engage with Communist ideas at all, it’s to mine conformist laughter by sneering at “tankies” and “Stalinists” (the difference between sensible, rational Communists and evil, crazy tankies hinges on how much the reds in question love Chapo Trap House). For a good laugh, check out the edgy radicals in this Chapo subreddit thread whining about all the actual Communists in the online left. And for a list of successful Democratic Socialist revolutions, and a tally of human beings fed, housed, and made literate by Democratic Socialist regimes, open a new browser tab and stare at the blank page.

Given how the Chapos’ politics are leftish liberalism (at best), it’s no wonder that, amidst the shitshow of the current anti-Trump hashtag-resistance histrionics, Chapo Trap House has been designated the premier spokes-‘cast for whatever the hell “The Left” is supposed to be.

And make no mistake, Chapo has obviously been selected for this position.

Well, this is obvious to anyone with an actual grasp of how the ruling class manages its propaganda system, but it’s not obvious to Chapo’s fan base, whose criticism of the media is entirely superficial. As with every new crop of Leftie heroes we’re told to listen to, the Chapos are heralded as radical gatecrashers, who managed to circumvent the traditional media barriers through some D.I.Y. bootstrap ingenuity. Apparently the ruling class didn’t hate socialism because it threatens their bottom-line, they only wanted it sexed-up with a ton of riffing about esoteric twitter kerfuffles among the punditocracy.

In their case, Chapo Trap House’s mythology holds that they incubated in the most ironic corner of twitter, finally rocking the boat via their uniquely incisive online presences and nebulous crowdfunding paradigm. “The thing that drives Chapo haters the most insane,” writes Chapo Menaker, “is that they can’t get us fired from anywhere,” a reference to the fact that the show’s creators receive 70 grand a month from mostly anonymous sources via Patreon, allegedly insulating them from the traditional propaganda model.

Their radical cred is seemingly earned when “the establishment” pushes back, embodied by risible centrist trash like Jeet Heer and the sort of radical liberals who say that it’s racist and misogynistic to hate drone strikes. Once the anointed ones and their handlers have written the satisfying origin story, their legions of credulous fans repeat the outsider fairy tale they’ve been told to say—and in Chapo’s case, harass detractors with twitter pile-on campaigns and seemingly automated streams of inanities.

However—and the smart kids whose radical media critique is Actually Good can probably see where this is going—there are no exceptions. No outsiders get to muscle their way into the public eye based on grit and gumption alone, and genuinely radical notions are allowed absolutely no booth in the marketplace of ideas. The media is a megaphone which the ruling class uses to tell us what to think, and any arguments about radicals sneaking in the side door in order to crash the party are at least two decades past their sell-by date.

This much should be apparent in Chapo’s case, even if one was just going by the really obvious things like profiles, ranging from positive to fawning, in The New Yorker (11/8/16), The A.V. Club (12/7/16), Mediaite (4/12/16), Pacific Standard (8/12/16), The goddamn Washington Post (7/20/17), The Guardian (7/23/17), et cetera, or a June 2017 piece in The New York Times where writer Nikil Saval calls Chapo Trap House “prime originators of the left’s liberal bashing.” Eat it, Mao—and can we get three big-ass cheers for the rebirth, resurgence, and renaissance of The Left?!

Dig a little deeper, and it’s even more obvious how fraudulent the “dissident” narrative is. As laid out in a blog post titled “The Rabbit Hole,” Felix Biederman made a jump from twitter personality and Glenn Greenwald hanger-on to paid content-provider and thinkfluencer via the good graces of tech entrepreneur Vinit Bharara, who started an oddly unprofitable-looking site called Cafe and swept up Biederman and future Chapo co-host Virgil Texas, along with various other tech and media apparatchiks including a New York Times editor and a former staffer for Chuck Schumer. “To pull this all together, a New York state, top-brass Democrat and former Clinton spokesman now pens satire as a fictional character online” alongside Biederman. “Odd trajectory, isn’t it?”

Episode 116’s reading series touches on a piece by Katha Pollitt, a liberal serious-person who writes pieces with titles like “liberal elites are not the problem.” Before the bit starts, Menaker makes a big show about leaving the booth, swearing that it has nothing to do with the segment causing him “personal strife, for my family or anyone I know.” This is that irony they’re all about these days: the joke is that the truth is the opposite, because Will’s father, Daniel Menaker, is Pollitt’s longtime friend, collaborator, and occasional editor. According to Chapo’s New Yorker profile, “Daniel Menaker, is a former executive editor-in-chief of Random House, and was also a fiction editor at The New Yorker for twenty years.” Being a member of an elite liberal media family probably helped Will get that job as an assistant editor at a subsidiary publisher of W. W. Norton, and it probably played more of a role in nailing down that New Yorker profile as the new face of The Left than doing uniquely good irony. Also, “Will Menaker’s grandfather was a KGB turncoat who snitched so hard that his FBI handler built a vacation home next to his.”

So Chapo Trap House is very much a part of the media system that it’s claiming to be lobbing bombs at from the outside. Biederman mocks the Democratic Party leadership and Silicon Valley while getting paid by a tech entrepreneur to write anti-GOP “satire” with Democratic Party functionaries—on a website that seems all-but-guaranteed to lose money, yet is funded for some reason (and “the guy who sold to Amazon doesn’t pay $5 million out of pocket to publish your Carl Diggler character because they believe in the cause of Democratic Socialism”). Menaker engages in high-profile mockery of the elite media kaffeeklatsch while being the second-generation scion of an elite media family. They roast this New Republic writer while enlisting the expertise of that New Republic writer; and mock the pretensions of The New York Times and The New Yorker while receiving affectionate profiles in The New York Times and The New Yorker. The outsider branding is savvy marketing, nothing more.

Is it too much to ask that The Left’s designated spokespeople not have direct relations to the ruling class and the Feds? Well, yes, actually, it is too much to ask, since these are the sorts of people who will always be elevated to prominence. It just happens to be Chapo’s moment in the spotlight, since enough people may have figured out that Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee are smug dipshits, or at least picked up that they should feint towards thinking so. That’s why so many puff-pieces about Chapo include reasons why it’s not like The Daily Show: people were sold a right-wing mediocrity like Obama through endless repetition of how he was unlike anyone who’d come before him, despite all the ways that he was exactly like everyone who had come before him. Every time Chapo’s fans are told it’s not like the Comedy Central mainstay which it does very much resemble in content, people are being told this time the hype is real… this time the hype is real… this time the hype is real…

They’re hearing this because Chapo is just the latest in a line of entirely compromised and not-very-radical heat sinks that comes along periodically to scoop up disaffected liberals. Post-Trump, those liberals who aren’t begging the CIA to stage a coup so Hillary can unleash atomic armageddon on the treacherous Orient have decided that they love the color red and that they’re socialists now. There’s clearly a push to brand liberal anger at Trump with a “radical” façade and keep frustrated, furious people in the existing electoral system, which is why Rolling Stone says the DSA “is poised to become a leader in the national resistance against Trump’s administration,” and a Guardian piece speculates that the Chapos might be “the future of Democratic politics.” People are shepherded through these shifts by various ideologists and elite-approved culture-creators: Stewart and Sorkin and Michael Moore laid the groundwork for Obama; those progressives who eventually stopped swooning over Barack were made to fall in love with Jacobin and The Intercept, and on to Bernie Sanders and the DSA. By the time one brand loses its luster, another one that’s been waiting-in-the-wings is given the spotlight, and people are told that the important new thing is the future of The Left. I mean, remember when they said it about Obama?

Now it’s Chapo’s turn, and they’re remarkable for just how hard they’re being pushed at the moment, and the unanimity with which they’re being heralded. Jeet Heer and Rebecca Traister are just about the only paid writers of any prominence who don’t say that Chapo Trap House is important, different, radical, and necessary. At the same time that The Washington Post is publishing daily agit-prop against the Venezuelan government (including calls for foreign intervention), it’s celebrating the return of “Old Left socialism” under the banner of Chapo Trap House as “the voice of a new left.” If a “socialist” sees this and it doesn’t set off any alarm bells, then they haven’t learned a single thing about the media since the headiest days of Obamania besides a new set of radical-looking gestures.

What Chapo has going over all the other is supposed to be the irony, which both provides ample space for some of the most retrograde elements of internet culture to spew filth freely, while also putting everything the Chapos and their fans say outside of criticism. Like so much about what they do, it’s a lot of smoke-and-mirrors.

The Chapos do very much speak with the “the quaver-voiced earnestness of, like Chris Hedges or something,” when the subject is supporting Bernie or Jezza (in #116, one of the Chapos calls Corbyn’s almost-election “world-historic,” LOL). Ditto when discussing the necessity of supporting the Democrats and making common cause with liberals: listen to one of the Chapos in #118 discussing the plight of the anguished progressives who “had” to grit their teeth and vote for Hillary and you can practically see the moon face of Chris Hedges scowling right at you. Amber Frost’s paeans to the DSA are almost as earnest as that story Hedges always tells about the Bosnian farmer, and about as fun as hearing him say “the corporate state.” The same register comes out when waving their crosses at the Stalinist menace or whinging about neoliberal hypocrisy.

So there are all sorts of middling liberal ideas espoused every time the show or their crowds of largely DSA-aligned fans decide to get programmatic, because disaffected liberals are both Chapo’s members and the bulk of its fanbase. But when their mild social democracy or injection of reactionary content gets criticized, then the “smug above-it-all snark” comes out. The ideas are supposed to be immune to criticism because of “irony,” and their cruel troll squads blast skeptics with insults and “it’s ironic,” “you don’t get it,” and “go on Cum Town.” The show doesn’t avoid the extreme poles of treacly earnestness and smarminess; it uses both, and retreats from one to the other depending on whichever’s rhetorically convenient at a given moment.

At least people who love Hillary Clinton and John Oliver will generally own up to having actual opinions. At the same time that they’re providing cover for reactionary trash, the Chapos are selling tepid DSA-style social democracy as revolution, and teaching their fans to deploy the dumbest, meanest, and most dishonest tactics against anyone who doubts the radical potential of this project. This shit is toxic beyond imagination, and the one saving grace is that it only has minimal appeal for anyone other than Chapo’s target audience: America’s downwardly mobile petty bourgeois “failsons,” whose revolutionary potential is and always has been essentially nil.

Can we get one last, big hurrah for the long-awaited re-birth of The Left?

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26 Responses to Chapo Trap House is “The Daily Show” for Smarter Suckers

  1. Geert Svalnikijinijj says:

    Dolores go on Cumtown

    Liked by 1 person

    • this was a very good piece, i think the first paragraph and a few minor things later on are a little out there but the rest is spot fucking on although part of me does feel a deep-seated urge to call you a fag.

      There are so many goddamned threads to follow here nevermind the cuttlefish guy you link to who opens up a whole seperate can of worms to tug on, really liked his comparison of the chapo/tweeter/DSA trifecta to dazzle camo, describes perfectly how I felt encountering this whole thing for the first time

      That whole Spiel about Menaker trying to inb4 his affiliation with the Politt bitch is very telling and kind of pathetic, is that really how they are trying to defend themselves from reality, how does that even work on anybody

      only thing I can really sound off on right now without a reread and some introspection is the “we” bit, as to when you should say “we” well if youre a burgerboy and youre paying taxes its kinda fuckin accurate nigga, most of youll cowards are paying taxes, how much of the budget goes to military escapades and subsidizing Israel again? 53%? If 50 cents of every dollar you pay the gubberment is going to war then yes its definitely a fucking WE, and voting doesnt really have shit to do with it as far as I can tell, name one president since kennedy that wasnt a dirty chickenhawk, hell even kennedy was a hawk until he wisened up, and then they blew his fucking brains out. Same applies to pretty much all senators including that goofy old man bern and most of the peeps in congress. Whatevs, semantics i guess, im not here to judge, most of us have blood on our hands

      anyhow nice piece ima reread this soon its very dense


      • doloresvek says:

        I was on the fence about how fash-adjacent this whole crowd was, but the George Bell thread brought me relatively on board with that idea. The more I see the more I’m convinced. Right now there are people like Caitlin Johnstone explicitly calling for an alliance between Sanders supporters and third-positionists, and plenty of pro-Chapo thinkpieces argue that it’s an important socialist project to poach followers from the alt-right by removing established anti-racist strictures (you can see some Chapo fans approvingly link those pieces right here in this comment section). Chapo’s repeat guest Angela Nagle wrote a book on the alt-right that repeats their own talking-points and gets the thumbs-up from the alt-right itself. And then there’s all the 4chan types who want free healthcare and also rail against “SJWs,” the kind who call Chapo-haters “fags.” This is quite a lot of connective tissue between the Chapo milieu and something that looks fascist, and it’s a lot of reactionary, toxic shit that’s being welcomed into “socialism.”

        It sounds like you mostly understand the constituent parts of why “we” is dumb. People mostly pay taxes because they’re compelled to by someone else, right? And you already understand that those same people who pay taxes can’t vote against imperialism. So that would indicate very strongly that there’s another group of people making the real decisions, a group other than “we.” My contention here is that there is a ruling class, and it rules.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Emma says:

        It seems kind of like you don’t want a bunch of losers getting socialism dirty by touching it with their bigoted fingers? If you ever hope to be successful politically, you will have to accept the fact that many of your individual Marxist atoms are deplorable. That doesn’t mean bigotry should be enshrined in the movement, or overlooked, as it has been for both major political parties in the U.S. Of course. But maybe you should spend a little less time on the chans? They were born a cesspool.

        I am beginning to worry about your desire to exonerate average Americans for their culpability in our nation’s crimes. It seems like you’re very dedicated to the idea that the unwealthy are wholly powerless, and that’s just not the case. For one thing, the acts of violence perpetrated against people of color, LGBTQI+ Americans, immigrants, Muslims, and women are not committed by anonymous political systems. They are perpetrated (mostly) by white trash who have internalized various kinds of easily-debunked supremacist propaganda. Most of these fucks jizz in their jorts when they think about foreign wars; they love imperialism. And even well-meaning liberals support its excesses every time they check their iPhones for notifications. We are a nation founded upon the exploitation of the weak, and we like it that way. When Obama (who had many horrific problems as a president) made vague, symbolic attempts to acknowledge the equality of other nations and cultures, the fuckers lost their minds. The thing they love about Trump is his continual assertion that White America is THE BEST!!!!! [] Why are you trying to explain that away using, like, dialectics? These people are trash. They should know better. They are culpable. The idea is to moderate the effects of their awfulness, not to explain it away. (The same thing would be true of Clinton supporters, had she won.)

        Secondly, Americans are presented with poor electoral choices in every election, for sure — but if they gave a shit about imperialism and ending the Forever War, they could make some different imperfect choices. Lindsay Graham could get voted out of the Senate. Anybody who advocated for foreign intervention could get primaried by a pacifist, or a non-interventionist, or somebody who wasn’t insane. That isn’t gonna happen, because imperialism isn’t a bug in America, it’s a feature.

        I don’t know what you think you mean by, “People mostly pay taxes because they’re compelled to by someone else, right? And you already understand that those same people who pay taxes can’t vote against imperialism.” Yeah, they sure as fuck can. Christian extremists have extralegally reduced women’s reproductive rights to nearly nothing over the last forty years. You think some massive coalition of… nearly anybody… couldn’t lobby against war and imperalism, and against the Pentagon, in the same way? Of course they could. They don’t want to. *We* don’t want to. This is America. We empower the ruling class because enough of us like the job they’re doing to continue protecting them. That might change one day, but it probably won’t be because the average American voter starts feeling real guilty about imperialism. The average American voter is one step up and three steps to the right of slime mold. Nothing that you hope to build out of them, including a Marxist utopia, is going to be pretty.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. tarziecultist says:

    If you set out to prove the Lieberals right,
    mission accomplished!

    How is this critique of your stinging “critique” not spot on?
    Politics Of The Next 4 Years: Part 1 (Rise Of The “Dirtbag Left”)
    Nagle sees the rise of the violent, hateful, and often deliberately confounding culture of the alt-right tied up inextricably with failures of the left. Where the internet was once viewed as a utopian space for free expression, and experimentation with thought and identity, it eventually became colonized by a calcified leftist sameness, thanks to sites like Tumblr and Twitter, where buzzwords and ideologies multiply and spread like viruses. There was also a certain sanctimonious and self-righteous tone that came to dominate these conversations. Certain strains of leftism—and especially those that valued identity above all other social and political categories—began to monopolize the free market of ideas, making the experience of being online if not entirely oppressive in its patrolling of ideas and verbiage, then certainly much less fun.

    Many who were alienated by this culture drove deeper underground, to sites like 4chan and Reddit, where new mutations of far-right, anti-feminist, racist, Islamophobic, white supremacist ideologies—with their focus on memes, jokes, trolling and pushing back against political correctness—restored, for them, the earlier anarchic promise of the Internet. As Nagle writes, the emerging alt-right “had little in the way of a coherent commitment to conservative thought or politics, but shared an anti-PC impulse and a common aesthetic sensibility.”

    The culture of call-outs and one-upping “wokeness”—a condescending term used to describe an overstated performance of political correctness—was diagnosed as far back as 2013 by British blogger and political theorist Mark Fisher. In his essay “Exiting the Vampire’s Castle,” Fisher decried the “stench of bad conscience and witch-hunting moralism” that emanated from the online social-justice set. He also identified the collective paralysis among those on the left who disagreed with those tactics, a “fear that they will be the next one to be outed, exposed, condemned.” Fisher, predictably, became a target of such condemnation after his essay was published; many ghouls returned to mock him when he committed suicide earlier this year.

    “Anyone on the left with any independence of mind has experienced this backlash,” says Nagle. “People will look back at this period as a moment of madness—if it ends. I feel like there’s much more of an exciting, funnier left-wing culture emerging around people who are critics of it. That’s not a coincidence. You can’t be a puritanical purger and have a sense of humor.

    Enter a new culture of the online left. It’s a reinvigorated wing that’s simultaneously anti-alt-right, anti-PC and anti-SJW, anti-centrist and against liberal-democratic line-toeing. It’s a movement that uses many of the tactics of the online alt-right—humour, memes, Twitter trolling and open animosity—while remaining committed to progressive leftist ideology. It’s sometimes called the “alt-left” or the “vulgar left,” or the “Dirtbag Left”—a term coined by Brooklyn based writer, podcaster, and activist Amber A’Lee Frost.

    Frost is a co-host of the popular politics podcast Chapo Trap House. Founded by politically savvy Twitter jokers Will Menaker, Felix Biederman and Matt Christman, Chapo Trap House gained massive traction during the 2016 U.S. presidential primaries among online factions of “Weird Twitter” and “Left Twitter” who were eager to push back against the ascendency of war-hawk Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and stem the tides of #ImWithHer memes. “Twitter was poised to examine the primaries in a way that the established media either would not or could not,” Frost writes in an e-mail. “This was a great moment in terms of consciousness-raising and communication.”


    • doloresvek says:

      How is this critique of my stinging critique not spot on? Well, for starters, it’s not responsive in any way to anything I’ve written here. Although I’ll give Chapo fans credit: one of you has managed to advance beyond spewing homophobia, I guess that this counts as an “own” in your world?

      This Liberty Blitzkrieg (LOL) piece is a good example of what Chapo’s project is. One, it’s un-PC, so it’s offering an alternative to the sort of liberals who say eating sushi is racist. It’s true that there’s a substantial cadre of liberal taste-makers whose main political project is offering arcane linguistic strictures. Blaming these people for “The Left’s” predicament is shortsighted in the extreme — that Nagle “Kill All Normies” book is a typically blinkered and ahistoric take on how we got here. The crypto-fash contingent online is a response to SJW’s on tumblr? Dylann Roof’s related to Robin Moore, one of the intellectual godfathers of right-wing gunfucking survivalist culture, so I find Nagle’s thesis extremely hard to buy. As you can see in my comments section, plenty of Chapo fans have signed up to harangue people online with reactionary bile, so where’s this evidence that the podcast is “anti-alt-right” in any way beyond a liberal revulsion at the worst excesses of the Pepe crowd?

      Two, it’s “funny”: “political ideas coupled with humor are virtually unstoppable!” Okay, and what are Chapo’s political ideas? It matters what the ideas actually are, right? Chapo’s ideas are mainline social democratic liberalism peppered with alt-right-adjacent 4Chan scum.

      Three, it’s “waging war against Clinton neoliberal frauds and Trump’s fake populism”: again, it’s neither neoliberal or right-wing, because it’s offering mainline social democratic liberalism.

      So this whopping “own” of yours basically confirms my thesis, which is that the “socialism” of CTH is social democratic-liberalism with extra room in the big-tent for infantile reactionary 4Channers. That dumb MacLean’s piece that you positively cite sees Chapo as a success of “the free market of ideas,” which probably explains why some libertarian blogging as “Liberty Blitzkrieg” sees Chapo as a victory for socialism. Do either of those things set off red-flags? Does the ecstatic reaction in rags like the Washington Post?

      I guess this is what “The Left” is these days, though: a group of celebrity pundits willing to make common-cause with anyone willing to say positive things about free healthcare, whose ideas are a muddle of liberalism and libertarianism, and with a total credulity towards the things they’re told to think by people in high places. At least you didn’t try to claim that downwardly mobile bourgeois dipshits who MacLean’s and Chapo’s members credit with being its base are tomorrow’s revolutionary proletariat or anything. When you read between the lines and don’t believe CTH’s brand narrative, it’s clear that what its offering is a different wing of the Democratic Party, catering to people who feel abandoned by neoliberalism and resent hearing about white privilege.

      God, when I think about how many libertarians and homophobic trolls are saying positive things about social democracy, I can practically feel socialism winning down in my marrow.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. StillWithHer says:

    this is fucking gay lmao


  4. d.mantis says:

    Wow…this wasn’t a take-down, this was asymmetrical warfare.

    Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. js says:

    You nailed it. We know you all stand for nothing, but is it too much to ask for a little taste, some style? Yes, it is, because you’re painfully parochial adolescents. Freddie’s an unbearable narcissist with the sugar-free politics of a precocious seventh grader, but he at least has the decency to hate himself.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Cumbedict Cumberbatch says:

    Go on Cum Town

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Allien Cumings says:

    You really need to go on Cum Town, faggot


  8. thirdplace says:

    Even if we take all the ideological critiques as granted (even though is pretty bold to suggest a broad negative like “the gang doesn’t show a genuine grasp of the fundamentals of class power” on the basis of a single episode), it is not still a positive sign for the controlled opposition to be upgraded from Jon Daily to Chappo Trot House?


    • doloresvek says:

      The critiques of their liberal ideology range beyond the one episode, as I lay out in the post, and they’re further substantiated in the blog posts I link to (here: and here: It’s actually not “bold” at all to point out that using the royal “we” when referring to imperialism is a dead giveaway that someone’s a liberal who doesn’t understand class power. “We” don’t bomb other countries, that’s done to benefit the richest people on earth. That is a fundamental of class power; someone who’s confused about that does not understand the fundamentals of class power.

      I don’t see CTH as an improvement over The Daily Show, and it’s actually a step back. As I already spent 4,000 words explaining, the radical branding is a lot of marketing. The targets are mostly the same, and even Jon Stewart said positive things about social democracy. One huge difference between CTH and The Daily Show is that CTH has a following which includes a lot of the internet’s most retrograde elements – Dissent-meets-4Chan, yay! – which includes an amorphous troll squad who harass critics through sociopathic social media harassment campaigns. Check out these comments here: it’s a little weird how the internet’s hottest radical socialist podcast includes a bunch of fans who spew Channer-style homophobia. Odd, huh? I don’t remember hearing people get called “faggot” a lot for not watching The Daily Show, but I guess it’s a sign that socialism’s winning.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thirdplace says:

        “It’s actually not “bold” at all to point out that using the royal “we” when referring to imperialism is a dead giveaway that someone’s a liberal who doesn’t understand class power. ”

        I’m glad you brought this up again, because I think this is the weakest part of your piece. I’d suggest the exact opposite: that any white American who avoids the first person plural when discussing American war crimes is acting in cowardice. Our complicity may be forced, but I don’t think most of us can deny its reality. Maybe if you’re a full-time revolutionary, or something, you can dodge it, but most of us must live our lives in the shadow of the facts. And if one happens to be a white person from a bourgeois background, as you accurately diagnose the Chappo boys and girls to be? Then that complicity included, and includes, material benefits, which are certainly unevenly distributed but not at all limited to the very rich. Or do you expect the likes of Felix to pretend he earned his smartphone and air conditioning? Or maybe that the person he exploited to get those things is an American working in an Apple store or something? Maybe you do; maybe you’re one of those people who thinks Settlers is fash, I don’t know, I’m just a guy who got linked to a wordpress he half-agreed with. But me, I think that word choice reflects an extremely accurate view of class relations, not a bad one.

        To be clear I don’t disagree with all of this piece, because you definitely raise some good points; it’s good to see the finances of it all laid out, and while I think you overstate the attacks to the left, the ones you quote are accurate and bad. But you make really questionable inferences at a few points, and you get the genealogy wrong (dirtbag left isn’t a child of chan culture, its a cousin , maybe not THAT much better but still meaningfully different). Your basic point seems to be that bougie stoners with a knack for Twitter shouldn’t be in positions of influence over socialism, and I definitely agree with that.. but I’d bet big money that everyone associated with the podcast would as well (even if they’re not strong or rightous enough to enact that belief by giving up the gravy train that is “make a living by hanging out with your friends for three hours a week.”)


      • doloresvek says:

        I think that word choice reflects an extremely accurate view of class relations, not a bad one.

        We don’t agree on this and it sounds like we’re not going to.


  9. howdies says:

    Chapo house will always lose on the playing field of the right. It’s self calming therapy for liberals really


  10. Peoplewritetoomuch says:

    Too many damn words about chapo. Get a life you only listened to one episode.


    • doloresvek says:

      Which is it, am I supposed to get a life and ignore Chapo, or am I supposed to listen to more episodes? I’d love to never think or hear about Chapo Trap House again, but unfortunately I have to hear a lot of stupid shit about how they’re the hottest new radical thing. Take it up with Chapo’s admirers.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Emma says:

    Well, this is super-old, but I’m going for it!

    I cannot defend Chapo Trap House, because podcasts have always seemed to me like the malevolent vesica piscis conjoining audiobooks and “morning-zoo”-style talk-radio shows, which are two of the things I loathe most in the universe. Also, I probably wouldn’t want to defend them anyway, they sound dumb and boring. I hated 10th grade the first time around, and the fact that I’m expected to continually relive it every day on social media is suicide-inducing. Here are my objections to your post —

    1.) Although you acknowledge that actual radicalism isn’t permitted by advertisers and therefore struggles to find a platform, you don’t seem to realize that this is because nobody likes it. Few people think of the communist revolutions in Russia & China fondly (especially Russian and Chinese people), and Venezuela was a failure. A really stunning failure. I read a recent article about Venezuela that suggested it was an example of Bonapartism rather than proper socialism; I’m not very well-versed in radical history, so I don’t know if that’s an accurate assessment. But you’re trying to feed the people medicine they don’t want to take.

    2.) Like many radicals, you don’t seem to understand that “low-hanging fruit” like Megan McArdle and Ross Douthat, or whatever he is, have been publicly legitimized, and are allowed to inhabit and define an entire pole of political discourse (and that’s part of the reason no one wants to hear about communism). However desperately Chuck Schumer attempts to reify the structures that maintain the status quo, he doesn’t actually want to arrest me for getting an abortion. For example. That puts him in favorable opposition to 67% of the apparatus of the elected American government. Liberals are less bad than Republicans, while still being very bad. Democratic socialists might be less bad than liberals. There are real-life consequences for actual people when the low-hanging fruit is allowed to go unpicked, and I often feel like the people who are agitating for more radical solutions don’t really get that (because many of them are dudes?). Which is not to say that these Chapo dummies shouldn’t have chosen to devote their time to organizing unions rather than being really cool on Twitter. But. Still.

    3.) I categorically disagree with the ‘helpless proletariat’ reading of modern American history. That may certainly have been true of other groups of the dispossessed, but American motherfuckers have the franchise and allow themselves to be manipulated by propaganda because they’re greedy bigots. They really do see themselves as temporarily-embarrassed millionaires, and no joke. Please don’t defend the suburban Trump morons any more ardently than you would defend the suburban Obama morons; they don’t deserve it, first of all, and secondly they voluntarily bought a little piece of every bomb this shit country has ever dropped on a random brown person.

    Otherwise, this looks pretty decent — much more acceptable than a lot of other Trump-era blogging — and I intend to read the rest.


    • doloresvek says:

      “Although you acknowledge that actual radicalism isn’t permitted by advertisers, you don’t seem to realize that this is because nobody likes it.” Okeedoke, well that settles that! On the other hand, there’s that little detail about how majorities or pluralities of people who lived under socialism in the Eastern bloc prefer it to capitalism. Here are a couple of pieces on the USSR and DDR specifically: I can provide similar data for Romania, Bulgaria, and some of the ‘Stans. I didn’t know about China, but it looks like majorities support the Communist Party there, too: I imagine that most people in China, if given the choice, wouldn’t go back to the pre-revolutionary days when China endured brutal foreign invasions, warlordism, 20% literacy, and sky-high infant mortality rates. Ditto for Venezuela: Nicolas Maduro is president because the PSUV has consistently been winning elections for almost two decades. As far as medicine that people don’t want, capitalism looks far more like the bitter pill.

      What “people don’t want socialism” means is that relatively wealthy, mostly white Westerners don’t want socialism. This is probably true for the most part, which is why they get things like the DSA claiming the mantle of a fake “socialism” while promising a more equitable distribution of the colonial plunder. The vast majority of the world’s people, most of whom are poor and liable to die of easily preventable illnesses, would probably think very highly of what socialism has to offer, which is why so many billions are spent slandering it and why the US and its allies have killed tens of millions to protect capitalism.

      It sounds like we agree that Chapo is mostly going after usual rogues’ gallery of low-hanging-fruit, since as we agree, they’re not espousing “actual radicalism.” I don’t know what that stuff about “defending suburban Trump morons” means.


      • Emma says:

        No, no, you don’t understand. I probably didn’t express myself well. I didn’t say that socialism wasn’t desirable. I didn’t say that people who lived under socialist governments weren’t mostly happy and well-off. I said that the purchasing public hasn’t been convinced that they want socialism, and until that happens you’re faced with either a bloody revolution or incrementalist puppet-shows like Chapo Trap House. That’s how things get done in this country — someone finds a thing and then convinces the people that they want it. If you want to win, you have to make your result seem unrealistically awesome. Given the current hostility to feminism, I am legitimately convinced that the only reason the Civil Rights struggle led to an even moderately positive outcome is that everyday idiots think (and thought) that black people are cool.

        I don’t see any way to convince people that that doesn’t involve hitting American conservatism as hard and as often as possible, in its multifarious manifestations. You have to get rid of the Koch brothers (or render them irrelevant) to strengthen the safety net, and eventually expand it. It seems, in this article, like you’re skipping straight from underpants to profit.

        The article about Chavez was here:

        I am obviously in no position to judge its merits.

        The “Trump morons” thing was directed at your above comments in which you defend the complicity of the (allegedly) powerless in recent acts of American colonialism. There is no reason to defend them. Perhaps the peasants of 19th century Russia were blameless; American voters certainly are not. I have also witnessed a suspicious gentleness in the way leftist radicals talk about racist jamokes in coal country in the aftermath of the Trump election. Those sacks of shit were willing to see Mexicans jailed and black men murdered because they thought they might get a job in a coal mine and once again acquire their previous levels of superiority, and they knew exactly what they were asking for. They don’t deserve sympathy from anyone.

        I really liked your older essay about identity politics, by the way. Most criticisms of identity politics are hostile and seem subtextually bigoted, but the way you connected the discussion of privilege as a form of therapy to political inertia made me think twice about the way I view things.


      • doloresvek says:

        I don’t claim that American voters are “blameless” or “powerless,” I said that seeing “Americans” as an undifferentiated mass is the hallmark of a liberal perspective. People who have this liberal view of the world will say “we” do this or “we” do that, but how many Americans own land in Zimbabwe, mineral rights in the Caucasus, or oil off the coast of Libya? Probably not a lot, right? So why is US foreign policy structured around securing those things, since only a scant few of “us” have any connection to those resources?

        I hope you’re being facetious about being “legitimately convinced” about the Civil Rights Act passing because “everyday idiots thought black people are cool,” because that would indicate a serious deficiency in historical perspective. It’s too broad to say that all social change happens due to one pattern or template, but it typically happens because a group (or groups) is making demands and has the power to make the status quo unsustainable if those demands aren’t met. The Civil Rights Movement was one part of the wider black freedom struggle, which involved an armed component, and included Communists as well as pacifists. You’ll notice that as far as the Civil Rights Movement, the US government acceded to some demands like voting rights (which could be rolled back once the insurgency was quelled), and ramped up a campaign of assassinations and domestic counterinsurgency against revolutionaries when the demands threatened change that was too systemic. They did this because the revolutionaries effect the social change, while the incrementalist puppet-shows impede social change. If you’re interested in learning more about the black freedom struggle I’d highly recommend Assata Shakur’s autobiography and “Black Against Empire” about the Black Panthers.

        In Marxist terms, the “purchasing public” is the petty-bourgeoisie, and it’s true that most of them don’t want actual socialism, since they see their interests as intertwined with those of the ruling class. The petty bourgeoisie is highly opportunistic and generally goes where they think the money will be. In the 1960s and ’70s, a lot of them supported or at least agreed with the black freedom struggle because as it made gains, members of this class gravitated to what they saw as the winning team. As a class, this class isn’t swayed by appeals to reason (most Americans support individual social programs, they act to defend their material interests, which means surrendering privileges when they are forced to.

        This is who people like Chapo and the DSA are speaking to. The Chapos are competing to be thought influencers, the same as Josh Barro or Ezra Klein, just with a social-democratic bent. They’re creating yet another left-liberal broadcasting empire, with more of a D.I.Y. aesthetic, to vie for influence over the Democratic Party. There are 100 million Americans who don’t vote, since they understand that it has no effect on their lives: any mass movement that can actually accomplish anything is going to start there, and not with creating a few more celebrities to beg the ruling class for scraps.

        You mention political inertia, and this is how it is created: progressives are told that the only good option to make social change is to petition the bourgeoisie to choose socialism like it’s Pepsi or something. It’s not going to happen, because the rich and their hangers-on understand correctly that socialism threatens their bottom-line. The only option is for them to be made to surrender their privilege, and to then structure society in a way that things like hunger, racism, and sexism are impossible.

        I’m glad you liked the privilege piece and found it useful, please stick around if you like what you see.


      • Emma says:

        Hmm, I just saw this reply when I got notified of a different comment, but I’m still going for it (although I don’t quite understand how the commenting thing is organized? are these threads, or?):

        No, I was not being serious about the success of the Civil Rights Movement being a result of white people thinking black people are cool. The Civil Rights Movement was successful because ordinary African-Americans put their bodies and their well-being in the way of violent white hatred, over and over and over again, for centuries. Thanklessly and silently, for the most part. White violence hasn’t receded enough in the modern moment to pay adequate tribute to the sacrifices required of black America. We should all be more ashamed of that.

        I feel as though I’m having a conversation with a very intense Communist android who has provisionally accepted the idea that humans enjoy laughter, but doesn’t really understand how to apply the knowledge in practice. It’s interesting.

        I’m going to reply to that other comment you made up there, because it’s really dumb, so I’ll just say this down here —

        I never said Americans were a monolith of moneyed interests who are equally responsible for everything bad America has ever done. Few of us “own land in Zimbabwe, mineral rights in the Caucasus, or oil off the coast of Libya.” But “we” write blank checks to the people who do, continually, because “we” are:
        1.) Stupid
        2.) Racist
        3.) Terrified of immigrants
        4.) Terrified of everybody in general
        5.) Really excited about American military glory exacted upon the bodies of Muslims
        6.) Willing to shoot ourselves in the face with an elephant gun as long as a liberal gets hit by some of the blood spatter

        And for us, there’s no absolution under any condemnation of capitalism.

        Liked by 1 person

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