Insidious Social Conservatism in the Online Left

Published on 2018-11-22

Hey doodle-bitches! Any fans of Nathan Barley on here? Wanted to do a follow up gossip post to better illustrate what I mean by "Vice 2." Like I say in the piece, I'm not really interested in litigating this stuff or pursuing it publicly, just processing some thoughts that have rattled around in my head for years. I don't think it's fully formed, but I'm interested in any insights ya'll might have on this topic. -OK

There's a big chunk of American kids that grew up anti-capitalist, but didn't know how to express it. We were little freaks in punk houses, we were fuckups and scumbags, but we loved music and art, and wanted to participate in them instead of a traditional career path. That desire was capitalized on in the form of neoliberal college programs, and we're still unlearning the damage inflicted on us by these institutions every day. 

It wasn't just the colleges gentrifying our minds, it was also publications and advertising. In the mid-2000s Vice Magazine was prevalent in most hubs that signified alternative culture (and rich kid bs like American Apparel). Many people would never notice the blatant misogyny, the hot-or-not sections mocking queer folks and people of color. Many people just saw the glossy photos, and longed to be noticed by them or similar shitty brands using counterculture to spread their ideology to young people. At some point people realized Fox News had a stake in Vice, that Gavin McInnes was peddling transphobia and Shane Smith was peddling western chauvinism. 

In the 2010s Vice did a big rebrand, creating imprints specifically for people from marginalized backgrounds, poaching writers from more independent outlets, and banking on the generation after ours to have no memory of their various scandals. Basically continuing to grift people expecting a left-wing platform. But certain folks still craved the transgression of old Vice so they jumped on to the Sam Hyde train, someone so steeped in fascism most comedy people assumed he was doing an elaborate "ironic" bit. Maybe they thought they were getting the same weirdo humor of Tim and Eric, but with a little more edge, either way Adult Swim ended up showing some reactionary colors by giving him a show. Folks might remember Million Dollar Extreme as a racist, alt-right mess, and to my knowledge Adult Swim still hasn't greenlit a women-led series. 

We know that people felt bad about liking this type of humor, luckily Chapo Trap House and friends emerges for them to enjoy along with decent politics, and when the clear lack of women became a problem they add Amber Frost, Angela Nagle, and eventually Red Scare (aka girl Cumtown) to the fold. These are folks that empower certain sections of the online left to decry any criticism of them as "self-promoting neoliberals" or "virtue signaling." To an outsider, that is the behavior of the alt-right. The criticism I'm presenting here is a call for coalition building. Transphobia, ableism, and racism are not something to be compromised, it's immovable. People who say those prejudices are embedded into the working class are fucking liars.  

The people that make up the dirtbag left have a media history with alt-right figures. That's a fact, and not something I'm trying to litigate here, just contend with. The very online left comes from that sphere of influence, and I don't want leftist media to be another alternative scene, another Vice, another Adult Swim, etc. I say this because I care about the project of socialism in the U.S. and I think CTH is an entertaining, smart show with a unique knowledge of neoliberal media figures, but if CTH wants to be more than another publication on the "humorist" shelf next to dusty copies of America (The Book), they need to take responsibility for the position of power they now find themselves in, and understand they aren't immune from capitalist realist ideology. None of us are.