FWIW, if I’m with someone who preemptively punches a Nazi and the Nazi punches back, I’ve got the Nazi puncher’s back. I may not want to throw the first punch, but I’m going to support a Nazi puncher who does.
I fucking love Contrapoints so much. I’m posting the hyperlink to her video of Decrypting The Alt-Right because the thumbnail would look the opposite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sx4BVGPkdzk
I just finished watching this. It was excellent. Her work in general is excellent. I highly recommend watching it and then everything else she’s put out.
The problem with saying, “Punch ALL the Nazis!” is that we’ve diluted the term already. Reddit has rather liberally and freely bandied the term around to basically mean “anyone to the right of me” (PS, I have be accused of being a Nazi), so now we have to be extra gunshy. I’d say unless they’re in full uniform, doing the Roman salute, and spouting off Nazi slogans, then don’t punch them just yet.
I’ve watched people actually say that the people who marched in Charlottesville weren’t really Nazis, they were merely “fake Nazi LARPers” cause they didn’t match they look of the traditional Axis Nazi. It’s part of the fascist strategy or the Internet strategy of “Fuck all rules, chaos = lulz.”
Of course there’s going to be goalposts that are on wheels and possibly made out of lightweight composites, but if someone has a Nazi Swastika flag and is doing the Roman salute I don’t ask too many questions. But we need a litmus test that is better than, “oh he has a haircut the majority of white supremacists wear.”
Ditto that. And let’s not also forget that if you don’t believe only the exact single correct things, with no compromise given or allowed(for example, supporting a $12 minimum wage as a step towards a $15 minimum wage), you’re just some fucking liberal, with “Liberal” being used like a snarl word to basically mean “Fake lefty, actually a right-winger.”
It’s generally advised to also check with POC in the area who may not want to be a target of police response to punching.
That ContraPoints video is pretty great.
Although I don’t really identify as either, I guess I am among the types of people who could easily be classed as one of the “oblivious centrists/liberals” to whom she refers. I’m sure that in my case the “oblivious” descriptor is probably accurate to a significant degree, and I’m sure some of my recent posts on the forum might be seen in this light, quite possibly to the extent of making people “pretty frustrated with [me] right now”. All I can say in response is that I recognize my own privilege in this regard, that I make a significant effort to not be oblivious where it counts, and that I am open to self-reflection, especially when I am told it is needed. It’s not an easy thing to do, but I do try.
However, I also think she makes a pretty important point when she says that the 4chan comment, i.e. this:
"displays a sense of realistic pragmatism and an incremental approach to long-term goals that I wish were more common on the left".
As the ContraPoints video highlights, you can’t entirely blame people for diluting the term when trying to blur the lines between Nazis and non-Nazis is a core part of the alt right’s strategy. However, I do think that there is a serious problem with supporting or celebrating the punching of, say, people who are simply racists or sexists or people who are reactionaries against “political correctness” or “social justice warriors”, and not outright Nazis or fascists.
More broadly, I think that the punching of Nazis, and perhaps more critically the broad support for and legitimization of the punching of Nazis, is a serious tactical error. That’s not to say that the rise of fascism isn’t a serious concern (it is) and not to say that it doesn’t warrant a serious society-level response (it does). However, the question of what form that response should actually take is a very important one. It’s an important discussion, and there are indeed legitimate arguments for violence against Nazis, but in the present day I think that actually going out and punching Nazis, or parroting the “punch Nazis” slogan, is a big mistake. I haven’t seen very many serious attempts to address this question, but I’d say this article does a pretty good job:
That was quite good actually.
I recognize that this is almost entirely motivated by being annoyed at this sort of behavior, but anyway - It already is extremely common with a large segment of the left. The problem is that when you actually do it, the far left(for lack of a better term) that Contra, hBomb, and similar tend to play to will turn around and start shouting and screaming about how you’re “Not the real left”, how you’re “Just a liberal” (see previous comment about it being used as a snarl word), and every other form of being aggressively hostile for not being “Left” enough.
On a broader note, I think that people on the left need to do a better job of recognizing when and where people on the left go wrong. I haven’t actually read her book, Kill All Normies, but from a couple of interviews I’ve listened to and/or read Angela Nagle (who is a left-wing feminist) has some important criticisms of the left that I think are relevant here. I would love to hear from anyone on the forum who has actually read that book, but this review by Rob Doyle seems to be a pretty good summary of some of the most important points she makes:
Apparently the book can be pretty scathing at times, viz. this quote from Rob Doyle’s review:
Even though it is broadly true that the “white moderate” is an obstacle to social progress, whether (per MLK) due to a devotion to “order” over justice, or (per ContraPoints) due to obliviousness and naivete, and actually communicating with the “white moderate” is often very frustrating indeed, it’s still vitally important that someone, somewhere actually does exactly that. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to spend their time explaining things to “white moderates”, especially not minorities, but it’s an important job and it needs to be done better.
For one specific example that I think is problematic, I would say that people are going too far in a blanket defense of Antifa. That’s not to say anyone should be going out and saying completely stupid shit like this:
- The actions of those particular people in Berkeley are not representative of “antifa” as a whole.
- The underlying ideologies behind fascism and anti-fascism are obviously not in any way morally equivalent.
However, it’s entirely possible to criticize some of these actions without legitimizing any kind of Trumpian false equivalence. Nancy Pelosi wasn’t wrong to say
and she also wasn’t wrong to later express that she did not support the notion of “moral equivalence” between the two:
The critique no_fun_girl cites above, i.e. that this debate is “about antifa stirring negative emotions in white moderates”, is also important. It’s critical to acknowledge that white supremacism is an existential threat to minorities, and thus that (as some in this thread have argued) in certain circumstances violence against Nazis is, while unfortunate, not only justified, but necessary and perhaps morally obligated.
The key point, though, is that although violence against Nazis may be justified in some circumstances, that should not and cannot serve as a justification for violence against Nazis in all circumstances, especially when there are circumstances where it’s seriously counterproductive. In particular, I think most of the “punching Nazis” people have been supporting and/or participating in falls into this category.
I think the protests in Berkeley are one example where some of the actions taken by protesters have been counter-productive. The protests against Milo Yiannopoulos clearly went too far, and the events on August 27 were also highly problematic. Overall, it seems to me that antifa in Berkeley in particular is much more toxic than antifa in general; one doesn’t need to denounce antifa in general to denounce the actions of antifa in Berkeley.
I hate how people have assumed that US campus-nurtured identity politics is this type of cultural plague when it barely happens at all. I find that these pressures are just pressed on due to Republican anti-intellectual agendas that paint Universities as a new type of boogiemen without recognizing the hypocrisy of hating identity politics. Speaking from personal experience, I graduated from a female-majority university 4 years ago and never saw any of that happening in the English/Writing/sociological fields. People forget there are colleges that represent these non-liberal values, that’s why Trump did a speech at Liberty University.
People forget the guy who was shot at one of the Milo protests by a Milo supporter. People also forget then when Milo was given the chance to speak, he openly exposed trans and immigrant students to harassment and targeting. There was no follow-thru against the universities or Milo for the shit that gets pulled so often.
Right now if there’s an issue with American leftists is a complete disavowal of Democrats because they are not more ideally leftist. There’s a lot of online trashing for people considered establishment democrats like Clinton, Perez, and Pelosi. I don’t blame people who want to build up a Socialist Party in America, but I do think there’s a genuine chance this could hurt future elections for those who decided not to vote for Democrats last year. The people who gave pity votes to Johnson and Stein counted. I think that’s where we get a lot of people who are currently mad at Trevor Noah for calling Anti-Fa “Vegan ISIS” on The Daily Show.
Yeah, I think you’re right about this. I’m not sure about the appropriate terminology; Angela Nagle seems to refer to this segment as the “Tumblrized left”. I think it’s a more significant issue than it just being annoying to certain people (like yourself); Nagle’s hypothesis that this segment of the left has played a significant role in the rise of Trump and the alt-right might well be true.
That said, although there’s a clear trend to take these things too far and turn them into snarl words, there are important points to be made about the failings of “liberals”, “white moderates”, and the privilege of straight white males. The huge problem, though, is that these criticisms only work against people who already recognize the importance of some of these things, and thus the main effect is to silence left-wing dissenters who mostly agree with the “Tumblrized” faction already. Meanwhile, the main effect on the so-called “white moderates” is to piss them off and/or alienate them, and there are few people (except, of course, among the alt-right) who are actually willing to stand up and criticize that faction when it gets straight-up stupid.
I broadly agree with this; I think that associating universities with certain strains of left-wing toxicity is mostly unfair and unjustified. Also, I personally know someone who genuinely seems to think that universities are hotbeds for indoctrinating people into cultural Marxism, so pushing back against inaccurate portrayals of universities, and more broadly against anti-intellectualism, is evidently important.
For example, in the particular case of the anti-Milo protests at Berkeley, it may well be the case that the worst of the protesters weren’t even part of the campus community:
I’m not entirely sure how true this actually is, but it’s a very important consideration, and it’s clear that even if some of them were part of the community they were a very significant minority. Most of the broad generalizations about “campus-nurtured identity politics” definitely don’t hold up.
All that being said, while conservatives’ claims that universities are hotbeds for leftist indoctrination are wildly overblown, I think there are some genuine issues worth discussing. The article Why Conservative Fears of Campus Indoctrination Are Overblown by Robert Maranto and Matthew Woessner article does a pretty good job arguing against conservatives’ claims of indoctrination, but their summary says this:
With regards to the quote you were responding to, I think that the choice of the phrase “campus-nurtured identity politics” probably reflects the reviewer’s biases more than it does the views of Nagle herself; c.f. this other quote from Nagle:
As far as I can tell, Nagle herself seems to focus mostly on what she refers to as the left’s “embarrassing and toxic online politics”, with much more focus on the Internet rather than anything that happens on campuses.
Someone not bringing up the long list of wrongdoings by Milo or his supporters doesn’t necessarily mean that person has simply forgotten them, is ignorant of them, or is deceptively hiding the facts. Also, there’s definitely scope to discuss what the university could or should actually have done in regards to Milo Yiannopoulos.
Yiannopolous can (and does) cause significant harm with his words, but I don’t think that’s a good enough reason for the use of violent action to stop him from speaking. I also don’t think it’s a good idea to respond to criticism of a small subset of anti-Milo protesters purely with whataboutism about how bad Milo and his supporters are. Neither one excuses the other.
If anything, responding to criticism of specific anti-Milo protesters solely with criticism of Milo or Milo supporters lends credence to the kinds of false equivalences that Trump and his ilk like to draw between them.
Yeah, this is a problem, but I think there’s more to it than just disavowal of Democrats. I think it’s tied to the issues Churba raised about “liberal” being used as a snarl world, and I think it’s more broadly tied to the kinds of issues Angela Nagle raises about “embarrassing and toxic online politics” on the left.
Honestly, neither am I. You say BernieBros, they say BernieBros don’t exist so you’re wrong. You say Brogressives, same story. You say Dirtbag Left, because it’s what they’re calling themselves, they turn around and start yelling about how you’re calling them dirtbags. You call them the Far left, they try to mock you for thinking their positions are Far Left. They deliberately avoid any sort of persistent label, in a way that reminds me of Libertarians around 2012 - any label you apply, they mock and say they’re something else, and the people you refer to simply isn’t them, so it’s not their fault or problem.
Also, counterpoint to Ms Nagle’s book, here’s Noah Berlatasky from Verge, Splice, and Quartz writing about her book on his Patreon(don’t worry, it’s not a paid article).
And finally, it seems Julian Assange has started tweeting about the very racist Great Replacement white supremacist conspiracy theory, naturally as a proponent of the theory.
Seems pretty similar to some of the tactics used by the alt-right, too.
Using Nagle’s own feminist critiques against her is a pretty neat rhetorical move, although that article doesn’t seem to address what appear to be Nagle’s core points.
An extremely cynical (and, I think, incorrect) view of the article would be that it’s a deliberate attempt to paint Nagle as a fake leftist (a la the “not the real left” trend you mentioned previously) and discredit her by associating her with Richard Spencer, in view of his endorsement of her book.
I don’t think that’s a fair criticism of Berlatsky’s article, but it’s important to consider the subtle cognitive effects of grouping Nagle with Richard Spencer, and to consider the fact that just because Richard Spencer endorses something doesn’t mean it’s wrong. In particular, the fact that Berlatsky accuses Nagle of
does nothing to address the question of whether problematic behaviour on the left exists or has in fact contributed to the rise of the alt-right. You shouldn’t just believe propaganda, and you definitely shouldn’t take it at face value, but reversed stupidity is not intelligence; believing the opposite of propaganda material is also not a good idea.
After all, if Richard Spencer, or for that matter Hitler, were to claim that 2+2=4 and put this in a propaganda video, it wouldn’t make it smart to believe that 2+2=5 instead.
Similarly, the claim that Nagle
is pretty unfair when that’s obviously not the point of the book. I could say the exact same thing about Berlatsky’s article in a “Noah Berlatsky criticizes Noah Berlatsky” article of my own, but I don’t think it would be very useful to do that.
The “egregious examples” that Berlatsky cites are definitely problematic; an apparent dismissal of the seriousness of PTSD outside the context of war, as well as an inaccurate portrayal of trans womens’ legitimate criticism of Germaine Greer, are bad things that Nagle should indeed be criticized for. The other two “egregious examples” really aren’t that bad, though. Overall, absent more context it’s hard for me to judge how bad these cases really are, and whether they are representative of more general issues with the book and/or Nagle’s views. From her interviews it seems Nagle’s actual views are far more nuanced than Berlatsky portrays them to be.
All these issues aside, Berlatsky’s core claim that
seems moderately justifiable given Berlatsky’s presentation of her book and the most egregious examples that he cites, but there’s good reason to take it with a grain of salt given that, overall, Berlatsky doesn’t seem to be making a serious effort to present an unbiased view of Nagle or her book.
I would say that, per some of the criticisms, it appears Nagle does indeed seem to have a certain alt-right-esque flair for the “edgy”, but a certain degree of edginess does not mean she is not broadly intellectually honest in her arguments, and it doesn’t mean the arguments are without substance.
Overall, I think Berlatsky comes off worse from his article than Nagle does. I think Berlatsky’s view of Nagle is likely being significantly colored by Berlatsky’s own biases; in particular, he seems to take Nagle’s apparent criticism of a subsection of the left as criticism of the left in general, when in fact her criticisms were (by her own account, but also c.f. other reviews) focused on particular kinds of toxic trends in leftist Internet subcultures rather than the left as a whole.
Maybe she didn’t do a very good job communicating this in the book, but while that appears true to some extent I think that per an “Angela Nagle critques Noah Berlatsky”, Berlatsky’s criticism of Nagle is actually reflective of some of the toxicity that Nagle was speaking out about in the first place, c.f. my points about:
- Lumping Nagle with Richard Spencer and the alt right.
- Assuming Nagle is setting out to criticize “the left” rather than parts of it.
It also seems to fall somewhat into the category of “performative wokeness”, which Nagle criticizes; one example is Berlatsky’s vocal defense of Zoe Quinn, even though Nagle’s criticism (per the quote Berlatsky chose) was focused on Depression Quest rather than on Quinn herself. In the broader context of the book it may be that Nagle is also critical of Quinn, but when he comes to the end of that point Berlatsky returns to DQ and claims that
but I think this summary comes off as having the same flaws as before, i.e painting Nagle as agreeing with Gamergate, with a hidden implication that because Nagle appears to agree with Gamergate on something she must be wrong, and is simply “positioning herself” in a performative countercultural act that is devoid of intellectual substance.
EDIT NOTE: The original version of this post was far more critical of Nagle than was warranted, and not as critical of Berlatsky as was warranted, because the so-called egregious examples that Berlatsky cites really aren’t all that egregious when you just read the quotes by Nagle and show some degree of skepticism about the framing of those quotes. I’ve since updated it significantly.
After reflection, and after considering Berlatsky’s failure to really give a particularly solid critique, I think I might actually go and bother to obtain and read the book. By pretty much all accounts it’s rather poorly written, though, which is a real shame.
Stick to “dirtbag left”; it fits best, especially for those who have adopted the label. I’m not so sure about applying the label to someone like ContraPoints, though. Another interesting thing about this discussion is that you and Angela Nagle clearly have different people in mind in your criticisms; after all, Nagle herself has been classed as being part of the “dirtbag left”, although I have no idea whether she herself agrees with that categorization. Although these are obviously different (and somewhat opposing) groups of people and/or ideologies on the left, there is clearly nonzero overlap and many of the criticisms carry between them.
Here’s a quick rundown for what comes to my own mind w.r.t. some of the most toxic trends:
- group shaming [sometimes justified, and probably more specific to extremist SJWs than dirtbags, but in danger of overuse/misuse causing people serious unwarranted pain; c.f. Jon Ronson’s book “So you’ve been Publicly Shamed” or cases where the wrong person gets “outed”]
- use of violence to silence others [not that common in practice, with some notable exceptions in Berkeley, but getting way too much mainstream verbal support on the left w.r.t. “punching Nazis” with nowhere near enough serious consideration of the effects and dangers of those strategies; c.f. this forum thread]
- performative wokeness [common in much of the left, although w.r.t. different issues, i.e. the split over class issues vs identity politics (despite this being an obvious false dichotomy). Leads to some amusing memes, but is broadly harmful to productive discourse]
- performative transgression [mostly seen on the alt-right, but can also be seen among the dirtbags; e.g. Angela Nagle can probabl be accused of some degree of this]
- painting political opponents as Nazis or Nazi enablers when they disagree with you [mainstream; e.g. Berlatsky on Nagle, ContraPoints on liberals/centrists, people accusing Churba and Tripwire of being Nazis]
All this being said, political discourse has always been, and always will be, toxic. As a general rule, people don’t tend to make much effort to take their political opponents seriously, and people very rarely change their minds about anything, and especially anything to do with politics; it’s much more tribal than intellectual. The culture wars are even worse, and I think the that the rise of particularly egregious cases over the past few years is mostly evidence for how the nature of the modern Internet, especially social media, but also how the Internet has affected the “mainstream” media and peoples’ media consumption patterns.
Probably, in fact, almost certainly. She’s going for a more scholarly sort of thing, I’m just fucking pissed at seeing things like watching “progressives” attack jewish people with anti-semitism, attack PoC, attack women, and so on for not agreeing with them to a sufficient degree. (There was literally a massive paragraph here with more examples but I deleted it before I hit submit because it’s not needed).
But when you get right down to it, it might just be a case of perspective - we might simply just see different sides of the same people. That wouldn’t be surprising at all - after all, she’s happy to associate with people like Chapo Trap House and Glenn Greenwald, both of whom are part of the faction I’m criticizing, and she (in a very broad sense) is defending. And plus, She’s an academic, knowledgeable, experienced, etc, and you know me, I’m not really that smart, and certainly not that educated, I’m just angry, left-wing, and by luck have some experience on the topic due to work, so obviously there’s another large point of difference in our perspectives.
I do agree that Berlatsky had an axe to grind with his post - after all, he’s one of the people not well liked by the faction Nagle tends to take tea with, With that in mind, here’s a longer, more measured, thoughtful and considered take from the deeply socialist outlet Red Wedge, which takes some issue on the underlying assumptions of her book, though admittedly does have some overlap with Berlatsky’s thoughts, particularly regarding her take on Gamergate.