Politigram & the post-left

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R Totale's picture
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Aug 26 2019 19:02
Politigram & the post-left

Found this report via a mention on 12 Rules..., may be of interest to people trying to understand the weird world of radicalisation via internet memes: http://joshuacitarella.com/_pdf/Politigram_Post-left_2018_short.pdf
As a quick summary, it's an examination of a group of instagram kids (sample size never really made clear) who seem to start off with relatively standard anarcho-communist type positions, then in a relatively short space of time go through the post-left/nihilist/egoist/anti-civ/etc end of things, before ending up as fans of Nick Land and all the reactionary misanthropy that goes along with that. Ends by concluding "It seems that the end trajectory for every type of online radical is ultimately “the black pill”. The network itself works to individuate and isolate everyone; each user is an island. All roads eventually lead to nihilism." Which, if true, might have some grim implications for all the attempts at online left projects like breadtube and so on.

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Aug 27 2019 13:38

I remember the full book becoming "viral" on left-discord because it had like full lists of people from one of the largest socialist discord servers.

Furthermore, I think this has always been an issue for breadtubers who came from the online space directly like "Xexizy". He always said very grim and "problematic"(to say the least) "jokes" and went from a "leninist" to an incoherent ultra-leftist who bases his entire politics on Capitalist Realism and being opposed to everything.

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Aug 27 2019 15:03

I haven't read through it but this reminds me of something I was and still am very worried about the current online left on dischord and in group chats.

Early when I was new to the dischord thing I joined a really big and really active Leftist dischord. It was non partisan and its users were supposed to choose from a massive list of ideological labels, everyone of them had at least a half dozen members. The channels were really active, a lot of ebooks and articles were being shared, they had a long term bookclub and it seemed really nice.

But after some months the server had largely died with many of the remaining active users growing increasingly abrasive and openly reactionary. I quit the server shortly after users had started adding fascist texts to the library.

But there were some early warning signs, that massive list of leftist labels you could choose from included "Left nationalism" and "ba'athism" and others like that. The general chats were full of "Ironic" jokes and slurs, and at one point half the user base seemed to spend several days typing out 14\88. In addition its mod team kept trying to have "coups" at first I thought this was an awkward joke but the losers often had to leave the server, the bookclub was killed because the mod running it was kicked out.

Then another mod was kicked out because his private server was full of open fascists and European new right texts.

By the time I left the only activity was cheering on reactionary youtubers and a small group of self described ultra lefts who opposed everything.

I've noticed this drift a lot more online too. Anyone I've come across who was into "leftypol" has either burnt out and moved onto other hobbies or gone into a pretty dark place.

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Aug 27 2019 15:17

I didn't actually read it, so don't accept what I say as true, but that paper didn't seem very professional. It's also difficult to read because there's four meme images on every page.

Is the idea that usage of offensive humour (usage of slurs and memes about killing or raping or something) increases the likelyhood of the "joker" becoming a rightwinger?

Edit: A downvote after three minutes? That's gotta be a record

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Aug 27 2019 15:34

Youtuber Finbol also has a discord that allows like open fascists I think. It used to have a "sorelian" admin or something, allows people to use the n-word, and so on...(let's not even start on what finbol himself did in their "nsfw"-channel). I think a big problem is also the thing where people feel the need to convert fascists by allowing them into leftist online spaces, or leftists feeling the need to enter fascist spaces to "debate" or "learn to know their enemy".

Quote:
Is the idea that usage of offensive humour (usage of slurs and memes about killing or raping or something) increases the likelyhood of the "joker" becoming a rightwinger?

Isn't it just a way to normalize racism, sexism, and so on?

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Aug 27 2019 17:05
LeninistGirl wrote:
I remember the full book becoming "viral" on left-discord because it had like full lists of people from one of the largest socialist discord servers.

Ah, I'm quite glad that I'm not online enough to have any idea about that happening.

Quote:
Furthermore, I think this has always been an issue for breadtubers who came from the online space directly like "Xexizy". He... went from a "leninist" to an incoherent ultra-leftist who bases his entire politics on Capitalist Realism and being opposed to everything.

Well, that sounds like a step in the right direction at least. wink

Reddebrek wrote:
I've noticed this drift a lot more online too. Anyone I've come across who was into "leftypol" has either burnt out and moved onto other hobbies or gone into a pretty dark place.

My turn to ask people to explain things to me: does "leftypol" explicitly mean like lefty spaces on 4/8chan, or at least derived from that sort of approach? I only found out that 8chan has a "lefty" board relatively recently, and when I found out I was like 1% "well I suppose it's nice that 8chan users are exposed to alternative viewpoints" to 99% "why, out of every possible space you can choose, would you want to discuss left politics on 8chan?"

explainthingstome wrote:
I didn't actually read it, so don't accept what I say as true, but that paper didn't seem very professional. It's also difficult to read because there's four meme images on every page.

I think it's sort of like "a report on meme culture, written in the style of meme culture", but I appreciate that kind of presentation isn't to everyone's taste.

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Is the idea that usage of offensive humour (usage of slurs and memes about killing or raping or something) increases the likelyhood of the "joker" becoming a rightwinger?

Kind of, but I think that's sort of a banality. To me, it's not really arguing a thesis so much as it's just like "these people said these things, then they said these things", but like my reading of it, or stuff I got from it that chimed with other things I've read recently, would be
1) I think getting politicised online kind of lends itself to a fairly shallow engagement with ideas that makes it easy to jump from one thing to another with little real investment in them - like, for much of history, if you've been an IRL socialist or anarchist militant, then the barriers to you becoming a fascist are really high because those are the people who've been trying to break up your meetings and demos, and vice versa, so there's not much chance of you even having a polite conversation with them, whereas if your political engagement is like reading a wikipedia summary, thinking it sounds cool, and sharing memes or whatever then going from one thing to another is much easier.
2) The "attention economy" kind of rewards people for coming up with the most bizarre and contrarian takes - so no-one's impressed that you joined the DSA or Momentum, and joining the IWW isn't much more attention-grabbing, but if you announce that you've synthesised the ideas of Max Striner, Bordiga, Derrida, and Ted Cruz, or some shit like that, then people will pay you attention. Even if it's only on the "lol, check out this clown" level, that still gets you views and engagement.
3) This is the big one - communist politics is always based around like collective, shared experiences, so there's an argument to be made (and to be clear, the paper doesn't really make it, just sort of gestures at it) that any form of communication based around one person making content alone in their room and then another person, or ten thousand other people, all consuming that content while sat alone in their room, will always tend toward misanthropic, nihilist individualist politics more than it tends towards communist ones, because it can never replicate the experience of being in a shared collective space, whether that's a squat party, marching behind a brass band at the miners' gala, watching a St Pauli game or whatever else. Like that thing where anarcho-syndicalists, rank-and-fileists and so on always say that decisions should be made by votes at mass meetings, while union bureaucracies, industrial relations law and so on always want decisions to be made by votes with individuals voting alone in secret ballots.

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Aug 27 2019 18:03

LeninistGirl: Isn't it just a way to normalize racism, sexism, and so on?

Well I think that can be the effect of the humour, but I don't know if I would call it the necessary function of it.

I am guilty of using offensive humour but that has been under private conversations with friends that weren't homophobic etc. Using it publicly though would probably help to normalize crappy views. One could argue that only a bigot could make an bigoted statement, however ironic, but I disagree. I've taken the role of a very thick and firm believer of the Christian god in some conversations with friends, but my atheism hasn't weakened.

R Totale: I think getting politicised online kind of lends itself to a fairly shallow engagement with ideas that makes it easy to jump from one thing to another with little real investment in them

Hmmm. That might be true but I'm not sure. I haven't really done anything political in real life. I've just read stuff on the internet. I'd still say that I'm invested in politics.

But I think it's more likely for a keyboard rebel (like me) to make a swap, but that might not be because of not being out there in the real world, but rather because of people on the computer entering a political camp because of style instead of substance ("wow this party logo is really cool").

R Totale: any form of communication based around one person making content alone in their room and then another person, or ten thousand other people, all consuming that content while sat alone in their room, will always tend toward misanthropic, nihilist individualist politics more than it tends towards communist ones

I think that the paper, if it argues this, is not giving the internet enough credit. I think that being a member of an internet community can make you feel like you're a part of a collective. It might not be as good as the real, physical thing, but still.

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Aug 27 2019 18:23

Yeah, the above was mostly sort of my musings on the paper more than stuff it says explicitly, and definitely a very broad generalisation, I'm sure lots of counter-examples exist. And might just be me yelling at clouds anyway.
And I should definitely acknowledge it's a double-edged sword: even if we were to all agree that being handed a copy of Resistance/Class War/Freedom or whatever in real life is "a better way" to become an anarchist than reading the wiki article or memes or whatever, it's also probably the case that the number of people who've looked at the wikipedia page for anarchism or seen an anarchist meme is vastly, vastly higher than the amount of people who've ever picked up a physical copy of any those papers.

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Aug 28 2019 05:12
Quote:
Is the idea that usage of offensive humour (usage of slurs and memes about killing or raping or something) increases the likelyhood of the "joker" becoming a rightwinger?

No that would be 1984 newspeak. The argument is that when you use "shock" humour* and offensive terms you're telling the people who are targeted by them they aren't welcome. Or that they can stay but they won't be given the same respect everyone else gets.

In addition normalising this behaviour means its much easier to rub shoulders with open reactionaries because they share the same targets for jokes and insults. And that is what increases the chances of a slide to reaction. To go back to my example most of the online leftist types I've seen slide into open reactionary politics started liking the popular and funny right wing personalities like youtube vloggers or game reviewers who openly think black people are inherently criminal. Or bands like Death in June and esoteric right wing philosophers.

Its just normalisation.

*Which always seems to target the marginalised so it seems less about being provocative and shocking and more just punching down.

Quote:
My turn to ask people to explain things to me: does "leftypol" explicitly mean like lefty spaces on 4/8chan, or at least derived from that sort of approach? I only found out that 8chan has a "lefty" board relatively recently, and when I found out I was like 1% "well I suppose it's nice that 8chan users are exposed to alternative viewpoints" to 99% "why, out of every possible space you can choose, would you want to discuss left politics on 8chan?"

Yes its a board on 8chan, bizzarely image boards are still popular despite their extremely dated UIs. I never went on it but there was a bot that shared new threads I followed for a bit. Every time I clicked on them it would be a thread where someone would say they were new and ask a basic question. It get three or four replies all calling them some variation of mentally deficient and or queer.

Quote:
2) The "attention economy" kind of rewards people for coming up with the most bizarre and contrarian takes - so no-one's impressed that you joined the DSA or Momentum, and joining the IWW isn't much more attention-grabbing, but if you announce that you've synthesised the ideas of Max Striner, Bordiga, Derrida, and Ted Cruz, or some shit like that, then people will pay you attention. Even if it's only on the "lol, check out this clown" level, that still gets you views and engagement.

I've noticed this a lot, a lot of the new online left is increasingly militant about their labels, but at the same time really into obscure and contradictory philosophers.

Also when I first started to use twitter properly I nearly deleted my account because once I started finding left wing and anarchist users I quickly found hundreds of "National Bolshevik" accounts active. It turned out that these were mostly young teens who didn't know national bolshevism was a real movement and the joke largely died out fairly quickly. But since then, whenever a user switches to Third Positionism there will always be people willing to bat for them that its just a joke.

So this culture of shock humour has given space for reactionary politics and some cover for fascists to be more open then usual so long as they can play it along.

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Sep 1 2019 10:40

I started on the text, but it didn't seem to make much sense and could not hold my attention. I will respond to what else was being said.

I used to think ironic racism and sexism were funny because 'everyone got the joke' and I used to think that it could take away the power fo these things. The 'fun' of ironic racism sexism etc is saying things that you 'can't say', but this isn't how this functions, or how it should at least. I don't use racial slurs because they represent a world view and system of oppression that I am completely against, not because some PC overlord bans them. This is why I dislike the term n-word, because it equates it with a swear word. So saying a word becomes some kind of rebellion against society rather than participation in it. This is why you will see dozens of people responding using a racial slur on a comments section etc because they think that they are doing something subversive in some way.

Far-right etc live off this, selling themselves as 'fighting back' etc, and people start saying 'naughty' words and know that they shouldn't, then they feel emboldened and start going on about free speech and then most will stop, but some will continue. 'Irony' gives people the ability to say things without taking any responsibility for them and how far they go from there depends.

There was a joke in Community where one character says "And Pierce, your'e always looking for someone old enough to find your racism subversive" because the racism of one character was sometimes subverted and sometimes just lazy humour. If anyone watches It's always sunny in Philadelphia you can see that any deconstruction of racism seems to have disappeared, we are just supposed to laugh when one character says racist, sexist, homophobic things.

I don't excuse myself incidentally, I think it is childish that I use swear words and ridiculous that I have any difficulty stopping. I think making 'ironic' jokes was also stupid.

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Sep 1 2019 13:15
Reddebrek wrote:
Quote:
2) The "attention economy" kind of rewards people for coming up with the most bizarre and contrarian takes - so no-one's impressed that you joined the DSA or Momentum, and joining the IWW isn't much more attention-grabbing, but if you announce that you've synthesised the ideas of Max Striner, Bordiga, Derrida, and Ted Cruz, or some shit like that, then people will pay you attention. Even if it's only on the "lol, check out this clown" level, that still gets you views and engagement.

I've noticed this a lot, a lot of the new online left is increasingly militant about their labels, but at the same time really into obscure and contradictory philosophers.

this is basically the same thing that sophia burns calls "expressive hobbyists" here https://medium.com/@sophia.burns/the-us-left-has-only-four-tendencies-81...

although she seems to be talking about offline, while on line you can nearly always find someone with the same ideology as you no matter how obscure