Angela Nagle's Plagiarise Any Nonsense

Angela Nagle's Plagiarise Any Nonsense

Nagle's poorly sourced book on the online culture wars includes a copy and pasted definition of a fascist ideology and misrepresents non-binary genders.

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Since the publication of this piece, we have followed it up with a longer post dealing with some of the cases below, and other issues in Kill All Normies.

As with many other members of the left-wing pundit class, Angela Nagle has been getting a lot more attention than she deserves. We recently stumbled upon some very questionable sourcing in [i]Kill All Normies, which in one case was used as the basis of one of her central arguments in the book.

One consistent barrier to reading Kill All Normies is the lack of citations. If you're very lucky you get a book title and author, or "Interview in x magazine" (without a date), but that's about it. Some of the most contentious information in the book is completely lacking citations of any kind and after some investigation, it looks like this isn't just a stylistic choice.

Up front, we should say we don't really give a shit about plagiarism as such. If there's a news event, and 19 news sources have a similar account of that event, it doesn't necessarily make any difference which source you use as the basis of your own writing - they've probably copied it from another source themselves anyway. A citation can be useful for tracing back the source of a factual inaccuracy, but not necessarily much more than that. If you're writing for an audience that you can reasonably expect shared knowledge, or very informally like on a Tumblr blog, you might skip citations in that case too. None of these apply to the following examples though.

When facts and concepts are themselves contentious, then you should either be able to cite a source, or stand by them as a product of your own original research or ideas. Nagle does neither, and in the cases we cover here, there is a consistent theme of reproducing events and narratives which either do not stand up to scrutiny, or simply repeat alt-right narratives about themselves as Nagle's own analysis of the alt-right.

Who better to talk about fascists than fascists? (via Wikipedia)

The example that set us down this path, was Nagle's description of Aleksandr Dugin's politics, the 'Fourth Political Theory', more commonly known as 'Third positionism'. Third positionism is part of an obscure strain of fascism that aims to mask fascist goals by appropriating left-wing rhetoric and imagery, and has precursors all the way back to the Strasserites and National Bolsheviks in 1920s Germany. It's a very specific tactic to inculcate fascist ideas amongst groups who superficially would not appear to be receptive to them, and given the influence on Richard Spencer, might seem more relevant to a study of the alt-right than one sentence.


Aleksandr Dugin pictured with the flag of his Eurasia Party

So, it was very strange to see Nagle describe Dugin's ideology as 'entirely new' and 'supercede'ing Marxism, liberalism and fascism:

On Radix Journal they draw on the idea of the ‘The Fourth Political Theory’, with reference to the Russian theorist Aleksandr Dugin and the French New Right’s Alain de Benoist, an entirely new political ideology that integrates and supersedes liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism.

(KAN, pp 121)

We googled this and found the Wikipedia entry for the Fourth Political Theory. Just in case Wikipedia had been updated since KAN was published, we used archive.org to verify versions prior to KAN's publication in June 2017. This is the entire entry minus footnotes:

Wikipedia: February 2017:

The Fourth Political Theory (Russian: Четвертая политическая теория, Chetvertaya Politicheskaya Teoriya) is a book by the Russian political scientist and theorist Aleksandr Dugin, published in 2009. In the book, Dugin states that he is laying the foundations for an entirely new political ideology, the fourth political theory, which integrates and supersedes the three past "theories" of liberal democracy, Marxism, and fascism.[1] The book has been cited as an inspiration for Russian policy in events such as the War in Donbass,[2] and for the contemporary European far right in general.[3]

Even without footnotes, Wikipedia is clear that this summary of Dugin's ideas is from Dugin's own description of them in his book. Nagle, rather than simply copying the entry entirely, omits this vital information and presents Dugin's summary of himself as her own, or even worse a generally accepted one. Additionally, she omits Dugin's influence on the Russian and wider European far right, except via Spencer's Radix journal, and has nothing to say about third-positionism as a strategy for promoting fascism. The copypasted version manages to be inferior even to the one-paragraph Wikipedia summary and actively misleading. Save your money and stick with the wikis.

Just how many genders are there on Tumblr

Chapter 5: From Tumblr to the campus wars: creating scarcity in an online economy of virtue, contains a list of non-binary genders (pp 130). This section of the book has already been criticised in reviews for presenting the list 'directly from Tumblr' simply to mock it. When we googled "Cadensgender – A gender that is easily influenced by music." we found only two original references to it.

First was the non-binary wiki's list of poorly attested gender identities. This is what the nonbinary wiki says about the list (retrieved 2016):

This list of poorly-attested nonbinary identities contains any entries that have citations, but still have insufficient notability to move to the main list of nonbinary identities article. This may be because the only source cited is a poor source (such as the MOGAI Archive or other dead links), or because they lack evidence that people have ever held those identities. (For example, terms that were proposed, but were only adopted by one person, or perhaps by nobody at all.)

The other place we found the list was an archived /pol thread where people copy and pasted sections from the list to mock them.

Returning to Nagle's introduction to this list:

It was the subcultural digital expression of the fruition of Judith Butler’s ideas. For years, the microblogging site filled up with stories of young people explaining and discussing the entirely socially constructed nature of gender and potentially limitless choice of genders that an individual can identify as or move between.
The following are just a few of the ever-expanding list of genders, now in the hundreds, all taken directly from Tumblr.

Most of the examples on the nonbinary poorly-sourced genders page are from the MOGAI archive, a now defunct Tumblr blog. This was a widely-criticised project including among tumblr users, where people could submit gender definitions. It was shut down by the editors in 2015 (CN: link is to a forum thread dedicated to mocking MOGAI and non-binary gender generally), at least in part due to them taking a request to list BOFA-gender seriously.

The important thing to note here is that MOGAI was happy to list completely hypothetical genders that people had made up from scratch. This means literally fictional genders that no-one, not the editors of the blog nor the people submitting them, claimed to identify with at all. Reading the examples, many look like thought experiments or wordplay (even if earnest ones), and as we see with the BOFA example, the project was very prone to trolling. It is quite possible that 4chan users submitted entries to the blog in order to mock them later.

We had not heard of the MOGAI archive before researching this blog post (it is of course not mentioned in KAN), but it's immediately reminiscent of the novelty twitter account @1001ideologies, which only tweets out fictional ideologies such as "405: Georgism-Dengism" "353. Neo-Salafist Larouchism" and "358. Naglean Brezhnevism". You could write a post about the British left and mock the alphabet soup of groups like the CPB, CPGB and CPGB-ML, but if you then added in the CPGB-ML Naglean-Brezhnevist split as an example of an actual group based on someone putting it in their twitter bio in 2017 for a week, no-one would take you seriously. Criticisms of those groups can be made in good or bad faith, but the groups have to actually exist in the first place.

Even if someone independently and earnestly came up with an ideological label that happens to be on the 1001 ideologies list (would Prince Charles call himself an eco-monarchist? Could there be a split in the CPGB-ML based on differing opinions on Nagle and Brezhnev?), 1001ideologies would still be a bad source for the proliferation of ideologies.

It would be quite possible to criticise the MOGAI archive as a harmful project, one prone to troll submissions, ridicule, that would obfuscate and dilute serious attempts to get trans, non-binary and gender-fluid identities recognised. Indeed, non-binary people on Tumblr have already done that. But Nagle uses the list to ridicule the discussion of trans and non-binary issues as a whole, much like the 4chan users that pasted the list uncited themselves.

Indeed, while the Dugin Wikipedia copypasta ultimately belies a certain laziness and failure to treat seriously an increasingly significant far-right trend, the use of a gender list which describes itself as "poorly-attested" in order to criticise all actual non-binary gender identities (a criticism which itself forms a central plank of her book's overall argument) seems significantly more malicious.

Posted By

Mike Harman
May 3 2018 11:33

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  • You could mock the alphabet soup of groups like the CPB, CPGB and CPGB-ML, but if you then added in the CPGB-ML Naglean-Brezhnevist split as an example of an actual group based on someone putting it in their twitter bio in 2017 for a week, no-one would take you seriously.

    Mike Harman

Attached files

Comments

R Totale
May 23 2018 12:35

"Hello, is this libcom? This is your handler from the CIA speaking. We're a bit worried about this Nagle character now that she's criticised state department policy on Syria, so we want to find a way to take her out of the picture somehow. I know it's a bit of a long shot, but if there's any way you could possibly find anywhere she takes some sentences written by a Russian fascist and presents them as if they were her own work, that would be fantastic, and also tie in nicely with our ongoing plan to make the anti-imperialist left look dodgy by pointing out that they do dodgy shit. OK, that's all for now, like I say if you could dig up anywhere she uncritically repeats stuff by Dugin that would be a massive help. Cheerio!
P.S. I hope everything's going well with your Venezuelan truck company."

Steven.
May 23 2018 15:06
R Totale wrote:
"Hello, is this libcom? This is your handler from the CIA speaking. We're a bit worried about this Nagle character now that she's criticised state department policy on Syria, so we want to find a way to take her out of the picture somehow. I know it's a bit of a long shot, but if there's any way you could possibly find anywhere she takes some sentences written by a Russian fascist and presents them as if they were her own work, that would be fantastic, and also tie in nicely with our ongoing plan to make the anti-imperialist left look dodgy by pointing out that they do dodgy shit. OK, that's all for now, like I say if you could dig up anywhere she uncritically repeats stuff by Dugin that would be a massive help. Cheerio!
P.S. I hope everything's going well with your Venezuelan truck company."

shit our emails have been hacked!

R Totale
May 24 2018 18:52

Honestly, the line of defence Nagle/Zero have chosen does, in my view, make them look much worse than the original allegations did. Like, looking at that line from the Zero statement:
"minor errors were used to imply that Nagle was channeling the ideas of Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, a common claim made against critics of military intervention"
1) "Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin" is a curiously value-neutral way of describing him, as if he was just some harmless soul like Kirkegaard or Spinoza - I'm happy to accept that the copypasta in KAN was just pure laziness, but I'm not really sure what motivates that precise choice of words here
2) "a common claim made against critics of military intervention" - without citation (that problem again!) it's hard to know who exactly this is referring to, but it sounds an awful lot like it's lumping Nagle together with the various people who've been criticised for having actual, extensive, well-documented political connections to Duginist/third postion fascists. Which is like... a really, really weird defence to make, it's like saying that your client couldn't possibly have parked in a disabled spot because at the time they were over on the other side of town ordering a hit at a mafia meeting or something.

Similarly, Nagle herself says "It's not just Syria. Davis is on the hunt for Russkies. Last month, I loudly condemned a (retracted) piece framing anti-war leftists as neofascist agents. Davis claims the retraction was the work of a Russia conspiracy. Suddenly, my year old book's integrity is under attack."

If you read the article in question, Davis never comes anywhere near to making the claim that she attributes to him, which... really, really does not help establish her credibility? Shame she couldn't just plagiarise some of Davis' article, that way she might be able to represent its arguments a bit more reliably. What actually happened was that independent antifascist journalist Alexander Reid Ross wrote an article about red-brown alliances (I don't think it was a great article, but that's beside the point at this time), featuring alt-lite Fox News personality Tucker Carlson and rich-kid Assadist Max Blumenthal, and rather than write a reply setting out his disagreements, Blumenthal threatened to sue for libel, while Fox News accused ARR of conducting a "McCarthyite smear campaign" - just to repeat, Fox News accusing an independent socialist journalist of McCarthyism.

This is remarkable in that, for all the talk of "the answer to bad speech is more speech", censorship is bad and so on, Nagle looks at this case, where some rich fuck uses the courts to get an article he doesn't like literally, actually censored and gets given a Fox News platform to whine about it in the process, and decides that her sympathies lie squarely with the libel lawyers and Tucker Carlson, not the writer whose article got censored. Or, as Charles Davis put it:

"When a white supremacist killed a left-wing protester in Charlottesville, North Carolina, Greenwald composed a principled defense of free speech. But when an anti-fascist communist has his journalism purged after conspiratorial legal threats from an alt-right champion’s lawyer, no principled defense of speech can be found but a meek suggestion that there must have been something to it.

On another occasion, when a college pro-Palestine group chose to not to invite Rania Khalek to speak at their event, Greenwald, Blumenthal and Noam Chomsky alike all signed an open letter proclaiming it a threat to discourse. “It runs contrary to the possibility of people learning from one another, changing their minds, and educating one another,” the letter stated.

No one purged her work, even when it was flawed.

Where, then, is the defense of unpopular speech — and on the left, Ross’ position is a dissenting one — in the face of an organization buckling to the pressure of online mobs and the threat of pending litigation? “I find that the people behind these lawsuits are truly so odious and repugnant, that creates its own motivation for me,” Greenwald once said of civil rights activists seeking to hold a neo-Nazi responsible for inciting violence; he was motivated to provide the defendant counsel, to which all are entitled and which lawyers of principle have long provided, however unsavory the client. But where’s the defense, on principle, of civil speech, published by civil rights organization, that its harshest critics are fully entitled to counter on platforms that are readily available to them?

Where’s the left, in general? Missing in action, perhaps, because the subject is unsettling: these fascists are not your friends, but some of your friends may have partied with them. But even those don’t buy the thesis, yet — that the Russian government pursues its interests abroad; those interests are pursued with the help of the media properties it owns; the left should be wary of those who say those interests are its own — should absolutely reject attempts to shut down the conversation with appeals to the state.

Consider also that the right, historically, has been the perpetrator of McCarthyism, not its victim. Misuse of the term to silence left-wing dissent, however, has a long tradition: Murray Bookchin, a socialist writer, called it “McCarthyism in reverse” — and it was used then as now by reactionary elements looking to silence their critics to the left. In practice, “McCarthyism” today means “shut the fuck up,” and it is being used by those who invoke its specter to deplatform and censor others."

Can you see the bit in that where Davis blames a "Russia conspiracy"? I can't seem to find it for the life of me.

Mike Harman
May 24 2018 21:48

Just a note we've followed this up with a longer piece here: https://libcom.org/blog/5-big-problems-angela-nagle-kill-all-normies-24052018

R Totale
May 25 2018 06:22

Oh, and one last footnote on the above - it didn't even register at first, but in that post, Nagle doesn't even actually provide a link to the anti-censorship/pro-free speech Davis article, just a screenshot of the headline and first few paragraphs. Seems a bit weird - like if you thought the person you had beef with was conducting some kind of obsessive McCarthyite anti-Russian smear campaign or whatever, you'd link to the evidence, so everyone could see what an obsessive McCarthyite anti-Russian smearmonger they were, right? If it wasn't such a cynical thing to say, you could almost suspect that the reason she just puts up a picture of the headline and not a link to the article itself is because she's hoping her followers will just look at the headline and accept her description of it, without actually reading the piece itself and making their own minds up. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Comrade Motopu
May 26 2018 04:28

This blog post came out today and focuses on issues with Nagle's treatment of Germaine Greer:

https://redstarovercalifornia.com/not-my-issue-nagle-and-greer/

This one a couple of months ago challenges the idea that the "tumblr left" had nothing to offer, including a look at demographics of tumblr:

https://creepingmarxist.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/tumblr-dragged-me-left/

R Totale
May 31 2018 20:18
darren p wrote:
So any recommendations for a better book on the "online culture wars"?

OK, so I have no idea if darren p's likely to see this at this point, but just to say that, while I don't know if I can name a specific book - I think the speed that online culture moves at doesn't go well with the length of the book publishing cycle, and when you try to mesh the two there's a risk that you just end up rushing it and printing badly edited books, but whatever - I have just got around to reading some Vicky Osterweil pieces that have been on my "should read when I get around to it" list for a while, and I would really seriously recommend Osterweil as being a writer on online culture stuff who gives a proper, seriously materialist take in terms of considering the "forces of production" or whatever of the internet, the data/algorithm stuff that's vital to understanding why the big websites that've increasingly cornered the whole place behave the way they do. So yeah, I'd recommend Darren (or anyone else who's interested) try Like and Subscribe or Force Fed for example - these are proper intellectually serious takes on the subject, imo.