Jacobin, Frogtwitter and the New Avant-Garde
Originally published at Thermidor Magazine
So it appears, so as not to be left out of the wave of Anti-Alt Right hysteria, Jacobin Mag (or Jacobin Shit Rag as it is affectionately known) has decided to dedicate an entire issue to debunking this new form of Right-wing “False Consciousness.”
This new wave of Right Wing enthusiasm is, apparently, an issue of pressing concern for the emaciated adjunct professors and underemployed MFAs who comprise most of Jacobin’s pool of literary talent. Who, to their credit, have at least been able to recognize some of the sources of the appeal of much of Trump’s New Right Agenda i.e. anti-Neoliberal Globalism, economic protectionism, etc. without deluding themselves entirely into believing that Clinton’s loss was due solely to White people being “Racist.”
This has always been a tricky tightrope for Modern Marxists to walk, as Neoliberal Progressives have essentially cornered the market on identity politics. Thus, Jacobin and co. are in the unenviable position of having to simultaneously attempt to form a broad-based multi-ethnic political movement based on class solidarity (which in the U.S. would have to include White Working Class Rednecks and various other undesirables) while also signaling their Anti-Racist bonafides.
Yet not even having Toussaint Louverture, the murderous leader of the Haitian Revolution, as their avatar has prevented Progressives from leveling thinly veiled insinuations of Racism their way. Hence the entire Sanderista Left (the vanguard of which is led by Jacobin) finds itself in something of an ideological pickle it can’t seem to wiggle out of.
Thus in light of this situation, it is all the more amusing when one reads an article in which Jacobin accuses the newly blossomed online Right of being stuck in an insoluble contradiction: Paleocons for Porn.
The essence of the argument contained therein is that the online Right’s transgressive nature (in regards pornography, promiscuity, general libertinism, etc.) cannot be assimilated into the more traditional, Paleonconish worldview of much of the new Trumpist conservatism:
While liberals enjoyed cultural hegemony and became complacent and intellectually lazy, the young transgressives of the alt-right produced an undeniable level of creative energy. The war for the soul of America Pat Buchanan waged in the 1990s has long since been won by the cultural left, and the tyrannical overreach of liberal intellectual conformity undoubtedly helped create the youthful rebellion against it. But this temporary alliance of very different factions — the most stark being between the traditionalist right and the libertinism of chan culture — has produced a schizophrenic incoherence.
The alt-right mourns European culture’s decline but has itself created the most degraded and degenerate forms of culture the West has ever seen in its own fetid forums. It romanticizes the West but hates its Christian “slave morality” and the best of its intellectual traditions. The alt-right uses the now completely bankrupt language of counterculture and transgression when they talk about being “the new punk,” which should serve as a reminder of how empty those ideas have now become
Now the author, understandably, seems to have a rather distorted and confused understanding of what exactly the forces she’s criticizing actually are. Although one may like to impute goodwill on her part (the online Right can be quite confusing after all), it’s far more likely she’s simply being lazy. After all for the common Leftist Right wing movements all too often just seem to blend together into an undifferentiated “Racist,” “Sexist,” “Fascist” Borg cube of evil. So why even bother to attempt to differentiate between these equally vile philosophies?
That being said, she is able, somewhat haphazardly, to recognize the so-called “Chan” culture as being the actual center or genesis of this libertine rebellion against progressive cultural norms. Probably the best example of this, in terms of quality content output, has been the so-called #frogtwitter cabal which was described in a recent Medium piece as:
frogtwitter’s ideology mixes “techno-fascist futurism” with “anti-industrial primitivism.” It’s a quite complex set of beliefs, few of which would be considered “fascist” in the contemporary sense. frogtwitter loves taboo ideas, and worships Michel Houellebecq. It’s obsessed with primitive, pre-industrial cultures (Menaquinone’s last profile described him as a Khoisian Nationalist) free from the computer/debt slavery that comes with being an American in 2017. They put a premium on physical fitness, semi-ironic lifting and gym talk are common. Simultaneously, they’re deeply entrenched in the worlds of video games and 4chan, sometimes finding liberation in technology. Menaquinone told me that frogtwitter is “an e-brotherhood/death cult/rapidly evolving collective thought-space that we all have outsourced part of our consciousness to.” frogtwitter yearns for both the future and the past.
As odd as such a movement may sound to those not familiar with the intricacies of the obscure online subculture in question, it nonetheless represents a genuine expression of creative energy and power. A Dionysian rebellion against the rotting corpse of American society, a society whose putrid stench has, in the last 25 years, managed to fill the nostrils of the entire world with the unbearable odor of its decay.
They have chosen to rebel against the torpid mechanisms of modern life, but have not done so in the conventional way i.e. a direct rejection. No, they have instead chosen to confront the horror (and thus the reality) of Modern life with open eyes, the atomization, violence, hedonism, cruelty, alienation, superficiality all of it they have chosen to embrace and to embrace fully. They have chosen to drink the poison chalice to its dregs, to make a mask of horror and wear it proudly.
Both the Liberal and the Leftist have come together in one shrill chorus to denounce this revolt as “Nihilistic.” Yet this charge could not be further from the truth, as it is precisely the implicit Nihilism of modern life against which they revolt. A Nihilism which is fully embraced by the critics who hurl the accusation so carelessly. These critics are the swine of humanity, who have spent so much time wallowing in their own excrement that they accuse the man who tries to clean their sty of criminality and uncleanness.
And it is cleanness which the men of Frogtwitter and their fellow travelers offer; they seek to purify themselves through negation, to choose to follow the absurd logic of Modernity to its end.
They have thrown themselves into Weimerica’s soul thresher; their works are merely the sound the machine makes as it shreds them into its gears.
Thus, they have become heroes as well as the new, Right Wing avant-garde.
Of course, for an ostensibly Marxist rag like Jacobin, this is an unacceptable state of affairs. After all, historically it was always the Left which was, at least for the past half century, the sole repository of artistic energy and sophistication and it was only they who supposedly could lead a successful revolt against the Neoliberal status quo. This was, at least, the self-flattering story with which they narrated their existences.
The reality is that far from being a significant challenge to “the system” they have, instead, always been an integral part of it. And as the American Left is comprised almost entirely of the Progressive minded children of the middle and upper middle classes, this is unsurprising. This was as true in George Orwell’s day (the 1930s) as it is today, as he glumly noted:
The first thing that must strike any outside observer is that Socialism, in its developed form is a theory confined entirely to the middle classes. The typical Socialist is not, as tremulous old ladies imagine, a ferocious-looking working man with greasy overalls and a raucous voice. He is either a youthful snob-Bolshevik who in five years’ time will quite probably have made a wealthy marriage and been converted to Roman Catholicism; or, still more typically, a prim little man with a white-collar job, usually a secret teetotaller and often with vegetarian leanings, with a history of Nonconformity behind him, and, above all, with a social position which he has no intention of forfeiting.
Is this not the perfect caricature of our modern “Jacobins”? A collection of lifeless careerists, uninteresting faux-bohemians, and failed novelists who possess all the advanced rhetorical tools an expensive Ivy League education can buy and yet still somehow manage to have nothing worth saying.
It is then no wonder why the Left, not only in America, but throughout the world is as moribund as the system it pretends to critique. Their critique of Liberalism is as soft and gentle as their own, inflamed, midsections.
Their supposed “socialism” is a fashion statement, an attempt to obtain the valuable and rare “cultural capital” necessary to stay afloat in the Modern Social Marketplace of America’s SWPL creative class. This “cultural capital” serves the same purpose for the coffee shop hipster as feathers do for the peacock. Or as Nicholas Gomez Davila bluntly put it:
A motto for the young leftist: revolution and pussy.
But this kind of Neo-Marxist Ideology is not simply a kind of aphrodisiac for our young coffee shop “Marxists” but also, and more importantly, it serves as a “spice” with which to flavor their otherwise unremarkable and boring lives, as was described recently by one of the best and underappreciated bloggers currently typing:
We will even go so far as to say that Technocrats associated themselves with Communism to boost their own self-image.The truth is that Communist revolutionaries have always held an aura of romanticism and excitement for Technocrat Liberals that the latter cannot hope to find in their own lives.The harsh reality for Progressives is that they are just bureaucrats entrusted with far too much power. The vast majority of them are doomed to a boring, unsatisfying existence as underpaid activists for non-profits, faceless bureaucrats lost in the labyrinth of DC bureaucratic machinery, run of the mill academics, or starving teaching associates with no chance of ever gaining tenure, etc. Those few Progressives who do achieve stardom are often frustrated by their inability to advance their agenda.
This then is essentially the formula that makes the Neo-Marxism which is sold to the children of America’s Upper Middle class so attractive: a combination of Social Capital and Romance.
Furthermore, Jacobin and other Socialist rags like it also act as a kind of guilt release mechanism for the modern Bourgeois Bohemian. The Fat Slovenian Marxist sage Slavoj Zizek (himself an occasional contributor to Jacobin) observed as much:
Zizek is talking about the vapid humanitarian marketing of Starbucks, but he could easily also be referring to outlets like Jacobin (and by extension of course, to his own work as well.) Granted the parallel is not an exact one, but it does fit once you focus on the functionality of the gimmick in question. The gimmick of Starbuck’s faux-humanitarianism is that it allows the consumer to simultaneously consume a product while also buying his penance for the sin of consuming. While a publication like Jacobin is not necessarily a consumer product in precisely the same way, it does serve a similar purpose to that of Starbuck’s cup-o-joe humanitarianism. Namely, that it serves as a kind of purchased indulgence with which the Bourgeois Bohemian class which reads it can justify their own life choices. For example, on the surface spending 80 dollars on a brunch of bottomless mimosas, living in a refurbished loft, or going on exotic vacations may seem like extremely “unsocialist” activities, but if one indulges in them while clutching a copy of Jacobin and waxing poetic about the need for a universal basic income or the glories of Rojava the situation suddenly becomes entirely acceptable.
Thus, we can now circle back to our original point: that it is, in fact, the NeoMarxist Left which has an untenable contradiction within it, as it actively serves the very forces (the Neoliberal “system”) which it claims to oppose.
After all, when was the last time someone was fired from their job for being a “Leftist?” The answer is: sometime in the late 1950s. Contrast this with the status of right wing Samizdat, possession of which will almost certainly lead to immediate dismissal in almost any professional position.
Thus, the Right has now become the de facto avant-garde for a new era. Only it has the vital energy to genuinely challenge the Modern West’s decaying paradigms and to regress the codes of life-denying puritanism which our effete coastal dwellers have buffoonishly mistaken for a legitimate system of morality.
So the void striders of Frogtwitter will soldier on, driven by a force which none of them can fully articulate yet one which still nonetheless compels them onward. And this force issues them only one commandment: create.
For out of the corpse of Liberal Society new life forces will emerge, and its carcass will serve merely as fertilizer for what we will grow: