This week in Curiosities: The darker impulses of the Dirt-bag Left, Sarah Z on the infiltration of Doomer ideology into leftist and activist spaces, and Ezra Klein interviews Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows.
On the Red Scare podcast
While this article is about the podcast Redscare, it’s ultimately an excellent analysis of some of the darker tendencies of the online left, particularly a corner I find particularly resonant: the “dirtbag left.” The entire article is excellent, and worth reading.
The author writes:
In a truism of our age, @steak_ham recently tweeted, “One of the harder parts of online leftism is making sure everyone knows you’re too cynical and jaded to give a shit about anything, while also displaying that you care deeply about everything, and in fact are the only fucking one getting off ur ass and doing something about it.” This is a savvy encapsulation of the problem with Red Scare: the hosts try to hold the moral authority of their professed class consciousness in tension with a suffuse irony and nihilism, but the two are incompatible. Their provocations are not jokes so much as a way to suggest that both politics and political speech are meaningless, a posture that precludes earnest advocacy for anything.
Read the full article here.
Sarah Z released a video called OK Doomer several weeks ago that I’ve been completely unable to get out of my head. In the video she talks about the rise of the Doomer meme – the image of a hopeless, nihilistic young man – and how doomerism is creeping into leftist and activist spaces. The video is so good and personally resonant that I’m planning on sitting down with my journal and taking notes on her insights.
Her most crucial insight, for me, is how social media blurs the line between “panic time” and “leisure time.” When our timelines are filled with cute kitten pictures and human rights atrocities simultaneously, our ability to practice genuine, restorative leisure and effective activism is corroded.
This insight is one more nail in the coffin of my social media use. Excessive social media use is making me bad at rest and activism.
Speaking of social media, Ezra Klein had a fantastic conversation with Nicholas Carr, author of the The Shallows. In The Shallows, Carr argues that the internet is permanently changing the way humanity thinks, and that this might not be %100 good. He argues that we are losing the capacity for Deep Reading and Deep Thinking. While his argument might initially sound classist, nostalgic, and elitist, I think he has a point. Give the podcast a listen and let me know what you think.
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2 thoughts on “Sunday Curiosities: Red Scare, OK Doomer, and The Shallows”
I listened to her podcast twice. I don’t want to discourage someone who is becoming politically aware but she is very ahistorical. Secondly. Her therapeutic jargon is defeating in itself. Anger and pessimism are normal and can be good things. Her self care advice is mostly rubbish. Getting angrier at times is good. She ends with an advertisement to read a fantasy book. EXCUSE ME IF I AM SUSPICIOUS OF ANY OF HER ADVICE.
I was raised old left. I am an older gen x, almost baby boomer age. I have seen the defeat of social democracy,
democratic socialism, Marxist leninism, third world national liberation movements and old school anarchism.
Nihilism is necessary when the possibilities are slim. Cynical nihilism is often the beginning of a non compromising stance and withdrawal from the system, Especially when based in rage.
Nihilism has a long historical record as a part of the radical left. Political nihilism is originally a reaction to events like the defeat of the 1848 European revolutions, the paris commune of 1870, and Russian reactions to reforms in the late 1800s. While I disagree with the propaganda of the deed that the anarchists engaged in. I use their moral example that nihilism often leads to ACTION!
John Milton responded to his defeat as a supporter of the puritan revolution of the 1640s to 1660 England with his partially hopeless and cynical book, Paradise Lost. Other defeated puritans continued to struggle and were able to either flee to the colonies or join secret societies.
In the last 200 years, avant garde nihilism in the arts produced the the gothic romantics, the symbolists, the decadants, impressionism, expressionism, dada, futurism, surrealism, the situationists, pop art, fluxus, oulipo, punk , industrial, and neoism. All with nihilistic tendencies.
Politically, the post world 2 era produced nihilistic political movements that cynically held to utopianism. In the USA, the Yippies are the most famous. In the Netherlands, Provos gave away white bikes and ridiculed the system. In France, the situationist and enrages got nearly ten million people to protest in 1968 with no hope of victory. “All power to the imagination!” In Italy, the autonomists rejected regular politics and produced a bloody ten years from 1969 to 1979. In West Germany, the Autonmen produced communes, concerts and nude protests that the Greens partially emerged from.
As gen X, I deeply identified with punk rock and industrial music. We built squats, fanzines, record labels, events. All while knowing, we on the left had been CRUSHED by Reagan, Thatcher, and the new right. I watched social democracy, democratic socialism, Marxist- leninism, third world national liberation movements and old school anarchism die, and the pronouncement of the end of history and all ideology. At times, I did engage in nihilism just to say FU . I wouldn’t surrender to the evil American elite. As early as as the 1970s I knew that the US ruling class threatened human extinction by first strike use of nuclear war, religious right policies to block slowing yhe population explosion, the suppression of solar technology, and the beginnings of climate change denial.
Antonio Gramsci said an activist needed “pessimism of the intellect, and optimism of the will.” I find the podcaster with her self care talk partly useful in that regard.
However. Sometimes like in Spike Lee’s movie “Do the right thing”. You may just have to just explode in a nihilistic rage, burn your own neighborhood down, and even though you know nothing will come of your actions, “You did the only right thing possible in a world without full human agency or autonomy for the oppressed!!!”
The struggle continues. Realistically, the left is going to lose. I won’t stop fighting because human extinction may be prevented. I would rather embrace the dialectic of defeat and hopelessness than succumb to self care talk and the false consciousness of American consumerism embodied by this podcaster.
One of left wing nihilisms strengths is that it rejects power. Self help, self care gurus want to “empower” you but unfortunately with self deception and advertisements for their “alternative” products, like fantasy novels.
One of the great and frightening things currently is embodied in Mao’s quote: “one spark can start a prairie fire.”
Burn, baby, Burn.
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Thank you for sharing your perspective and criticism
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