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.
In an effort to undertake a major upgrade of libcom.org and make the site sustainable into the future we have launched a fundraising drive. If you can, please support us on our patreon here.
[i]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 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. The book has been cited as an inspiration for Russian policy in events such as the War in Donbass, and for the contemporary European far right in general.
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.