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.