The outrage clown industrial complex

· 560 words · 3 minute read

Freddie deBoer on socialist entertainers:

“… I often get asked about ‘Breadtube,’ a loose constellation of socialish vloggers and streamers, and about Contrapoints and Hasan Piker in particular. For many, they offer an easy onramp for socialist community. The trouble is that I don’t know what exactly I’m supposed to react to. Breadtube and those in its orbit appear to be entertainers first, and typical of entertainers they’re longer on passion than on coherence. Which would be OK, if such coherence lay in some larger socialist project. The problem is that there is no real socialist movement in 21st-century American politics. All we have are entertainers.”

The rest is an interesting, prickly read and branding exercise.

As I’ve picked up my reading and listening I’ve been worrying at a related idea that’s still not completely formed, so I’ll keep this brief:

As I’ve tried to broaden my reading, listening, and viewing, I’ve seen a pretty healthy outraged left industrial complex. It has staked out broadly pro-socialism, anti-Democratic Party, anti-liberal, anti-“woke” territory. The thing that really strikes me about it is the way it behaves mostly like any other political entertainment entity across the political spectrum, stoking outrage and going after the center from the left. One vlog I found tries to look sort of like a cable news talk show, only with a copy of Manufacturing Consent stood up on a shelf behind one of the hosts in a way that I can only describe as “anti-casual,” and I think that might be because the Biden-bashing, Covid-truther, pro-Rogan, anti-“woke” stuff might confuse someone without a helpful indicator that no, the hosts think Chomsky is cool so just go with it.

The content and format are pretty tedious unto themselves. Maybe the more interesting thing about it is that all of these “attack liberals from the left” outrage merchants are plainly trying to serve a market niche of some sort and seem to be doing okay at it. Like, there’s an actual market for attacking liberals from the left that can be serviced and people can make a living at it, and that says something interesting about where political sentiment might be right now … something interesting about what people are hungry for.

The bad part of it is that a lot of it recreates the stuff we used to rightly condemn right-wing talk radio for: It cuts corners, resorts to ad hominem, and appeals to feelings of disgust and anger. Its interpretation of the mood in the market it is trying to serve is that anger will sell just fine, and it doesn’t care who is alienated as it goes about serving that market.

The personal line I am walking comes from a place of opposition to a lot of stuff going on “out there” that has abandoned any attempt to bring people along, or call them in, so the left outrage merchants are as odious to me as the right-wing ones you can find on Fox or wherever.

So, I’m all paid up on my subscription to Jacobin, with its very square, not particularly outraged socialist nerds. I enjoy Catherine Liu and Thomas Frank. When I see Adolph Reed get attention in The New Yorker, I feel the same way I felt when someone from my home town made it big on Star Search.

Very wholesome. Not super angry.