Not everything is about an economic theory, right? If we broke up the big banks tomorrow – and I will if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will – would that end racism? Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight? — Hillary Clinton, February 2016
You’re a college student in 1966. Your older brother was drafted and he is in Vietnam, you read every one of his letters and you are outraged. You want the war to end. You find plenty of like-minded people at your university. You go to an anti-war protest, it’s attended by well dressed students and professors holding up neatly lettered signs demanding an end to the war.
Within two years, you have been introduced to the far-out counterculture where everyone is growing their hair long, going to Woodstock to follow the new rock bands like the Doors and CSNY, and eventually you get “turned on” by a cool Harvard professor named Timothy Leary and start taking LSD. You are still against the war, of course, but there is so much more, man. The entire system has to change. And to change the system, you have to first change yourself. Voting isn’t enough, political activism isn’t enough, you have to raise your consciousness. You and your girlfriend “drop out” and live on a hippie commune learning meditation. Your girlfriend decides it’s not time to start a family, with the world in disarray, so she gets an abortion. Eventually you break up because you both need, like, freedom. Flower Power!
The war goes on, and the backlash from the “squares” is intense. They don’t want anything to do with these long haired, dope smoking hippies. Real Americans like John Wayne tell the “squares” we have to fight the Communists.
Of course, you have no idea that the man who introduces your generation to LSD, Timothy Leary, is working with the Central Intelligence Agency as part of the MK-Ultra program studying the use of drugs, like LSD, for “brainwashing subjects” – giving a bit more context to Ken Kesey’s celebrated “Acid Tests.”
You don’t realize that your favorite rock stars, like David Crosby, are themselves from CIA families, Crosby’s father having been a US Army propagandist and already a major player in the Los Angeles entertainment industry before his son was made into a super-star musician by that same Los Angeles entertainment industry. In fact, David Crosby himself seemed to be in Vietnam along with the original “advisers” sent by JFK. Your other favorite 60’s rock star, Jim Morrison, shot to stardom fronting the Doors a year after his father, US Navy Admiral George Stephen Morrison, presided over the Gulf of Tonkin incident that escalated the Vietnam war you are so opposed to.
Your now ex-girlfriend doesn’t know that her feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, was also working with the Central Intelligence Agency. CIA was instrumental in creating a non-Communist Left that would promote identity politics and cultural liberalism to compete with the economic, working class, union based Left existing at the time.
In 1966, the Left was centered around blue collar union workers striking to demand higher wages and better working condition. By 1968, the Left was centered around Celebrity Activists, all of them from wealthy, establishment backgrounds with military and intelligence ties, promoting identity politics.
That was the Baby Boomers. What about the Tumblr Generation and their Identity Politics Leftism and their opposition to “class reductionism?”
David McGowan, the celebrated author of Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation, was sitting on the beach in Southern California, reading the biographies of those 1960’s Flower Power rock stars that he grew up idolizing, had the same idea of the mass media that most Americans do. It’s a “business” thus, it works like any other “free market.” There is competition for celebrity talent, both in front of and behind the cameras and the microphones.
But that is to misunderstand the nature of the mass electronic media of an Empire. There is certainly a lot of competition, but nothing is left to chance. It’s not a coincidence that the Rock Stars of the 1960’s, and the Celebrity Activist Left, came from the same class – the Military-Intelligence class. It’s not a “conspiracy,” it is a class phenomenon.
Is it the same today? Who are the new stars of the Leftist Media?
Bernie Sanders, the Voice of Socialism in American politics, ran for President twice and is credited for a new generation of Leftist activism and a mainstreaming of socialism. A new media phenomenon, of Internet New Media stars identifying as Socialists, emerged during his campaign in 2016. The leftist of the leftist, the socialist of the socialist, and with a “populist touch” like their rivals, Trump’s Alt Right, was what came to be known as the Dirtbag Left.
The dirtbag left is most closely associated with the American politics podcast Chapo Trap House. Chapo emerged in 2016 in the context of the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries and subsequent presidential election. The podcast combines political analysis and punditry from a socialist perspective with elements of comedy and irony. Chapo gained attention for its criticism of both the Republican and Democratic Party, particularly what the podcast claimed was the Democratic Party’s complicity with a conservative agenda.
Beyond Chapo, media outlets that have been alternately linked to or described as dirtbag left include the podcasts Street Fight Radio, TrueAnon, Red Scare, and Cum Town, and the publications The Baffler and Current Affairs. These outlets are noted as presenting comedy as “applied to an ideological reading of the news of the day, with a particular focus on political feeling or style.”
It’s important to note that the Dirtbag Left is claimed to be the Socialist alternative to Identity Politics, “idpol,” and it is supposed to be the “class reductionists” the mainstream Liberal Left opposes. This Left is not afraid to be “politically incorrect” and even uses the edgy humor that was once the province of the Alt Right.
But, really, who are these people? What background did they emerge from? How can we understand this new “Socialist” Left as a class phenomenon? Can we use the tools of the Left to analyze the Left itself?
One thing is certain: the new “Socialist” media stars of the Dirtbag Left did not arise from the working class. And like the New Left Celebrities of the Baby Boomer generation, they aren’t just “petty booj” – not just upper-middle class – they have direct family and personal ties to the Elite Media class, and their “rise” was hardly through some system of free market competition, but in fact, the Dirtbag Left was given massive media coverage and specifically positioned by the Elite Media as a foil to the Alt Right.
And we know that the Elite Media of the Empire is not just enmeshed with the Intelligence Community, but it is indistinguishable from it.
Considering this context, some of the “edgy humor” of this new Socialist Media starts to paint a different picture than one might have expected.
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.”
The next day something surprising happened. Dasha posted on Twitter that she herself had sent the photos under an alias as a ‘prank.’
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.”
Now, Petty Cartography wants you to believe that the Dirtbag Left is some sort of “fascist entryism” – that the Chapos and Red Scare are somehow “fascists” trying to infiltrate the Left to build a Red-Brown Alliance. That the “edgy politically incorrect humor” is actually “real racism.” One might assume that Petty Cartography has some sort of Trotskyist view, and he actually really does believe that somebody in that crowd is reading Strasser.
Of course, that is absurd. The Dirtbag Left, the Socialist Left, the Democratic Socialists of America, the Bernie-bros, they are not fascists, and nobody reads Strasser. And there is no “working class movement” to “wreak havock on” anyway. What this crowd is doing is something completely different than entryism.
But he does notice a pattern, he just doesn’t understand the significance of it.
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.
It’s been pointed out that people in American politics and media are often from wealthy backgrounds. Indeed, they are. But they’re not just from wealthy backgrounds: they’re connected. They are all connected to each other, far too closely for it to be a coincidence. They and their families and friends are much, much more closely connected to each other than to the average working class person who lives in flyover country. It can’t be a coincidence, and it isn’t. They form a class.
Petty Cartography makes the same mistake that Dave McGowan made. He thinks behind the curtain are “fascists” – even “neo-Nazis” – which is, again, absurd. It is an absurdity to believe that the Empire, the USA, NATO, their corporate capitalist nexus, is “neo-Nazi.” It is literally the people that destroyed the actual Nazis, and you would have to be absolutely ideologically committed to the most outdated and misapplied Trotskyite fundamentalism to believe the Empire is anything close to “fascist” or even more comical, “Strasserite.” This guy unironically calls Andrew “Weev” Aurenheimer and comedian Sam Hyde “neo-Nazis.” After all, when you LARP as “Antifa” it’s no fun unless you have a “Fa” to play against.
The man behind the curtain is not Adolph Hitler, it’s Larry Fink. But, of course, Petty Cartography’s entire intellectual milieu – frankly, going back to Marx himself – exists precisely to obscure the Larry Finks and unite everyone against the Ghost of Adolph Hitler.
And even just a cursory glance at DSA, the Dirtbag Left, and the crowd around them makes that quite clear.
To be continued …