Chapo Trap House Sucks lol
We witnessed history on Sunday when a strong but floundering Cleveland Cavaliers team overcame a 3 to 1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Congrats to them. I was hoping the Spurs would win so I could watch Kawhi Leonard’s huge hands clutch the Larry O’Brien trophy and hoist it over his head, with his usually perfect corn rows fraying after a hard fought battle, mustering up a faint smile out of an obligation he only learned about the first time he won a championship in 2014. But Kawhi Leonard, my hero, is not the point here.
The point is the Cavs had been here last year and failed to get the job done. Injuries to Kyrie Irving aside, the major difference between this year and last was their coach, transplant from Israel (where he coached for Maccabi Tel Aviv) and Princeton’s shiny-toothed son David Blatt. Blatt’s approach failed spectacularly, and as a result he was fired midseason in an embarrassing affair that led to LeBron James’ prolonged trashing in Israeli media and getting trolled in Hebrew on his instagram account. The new coach, Tyronn Lue, 11-year veteran NBA player, implemented a new approach, new lineups, defensive schemes, etc., and found himself bawling tears of joy at the end of the bench Sunday as confetti spiraled down from the rafters and landed around him.
Maybe this is a terrible analogy for political praxis, maybe I just wanted to write about basketball. So what. (Imagine sports under communism...ahhh).
The biggest threat (within the core) to empire and the ruling class is, not a measly vote, but a conscious working class that understands the source and nature of their oppression, with a praxis rooted in marxist-leninism. That should be easy for any “leftist” to admit. That means agreeing with Freddie “white votes matter” DeBoer’s “commie friends” who dismiss the electoral spectacle altogether as a “tool of capital”:
Good friends you got there, Freddie. I wonder if they’d call you the same. But maybe you’re real friends are more like the irony vultures that circle over your head with outstretched talons ready to swoop down and claw up any Hillary supporter (or “schizophrenic tanky” when the weather’s fair) that you shine the red dot on with “owns” and “pigpoops” and accusations of “failson.” That same crew that calls themselves “volcel” and form autonomously like Voltron in some cases with language lifted straight from 4chan’s /v/ board to harass new targets every day. Yep, politics is now your after-school venting routine, in between “fapping” sessions and voting for Bernie of course.
And now this crew has their own flagship podcast called Chapo Trap House! A brave new venture for young white socialists ironically raised on 50 cent and The Sopranos, where they can rally around the three Titans of the Ironic Left: Felix Biederman, Matt “Baritone Zizek” Christman, and Will *gulp* *tongue-click* Menaker.
Let’s cycle briefly through the history of Chapo. It all started back in March when these three guys appeared as guests on this radio show called Streetfight Radio (itself a “left leaning podcast” out of Cincinnati, where Matt Christman lives). They critiqued the movie Zero Dark Thirty, and it was wholly unremarkable, but the acclaim was so overwhelming for these guys that they decided they should capitalize on the opportunity and make their own podcast. Will worked at some publishing house, and he became the host. Matt has some job in Cincinnati that I don’t know about, and he gets skyped in to the show, which is why it sounds like he’s broadcasting out of some kind of volcanic trench miles below the surface of the earth. Felix, on the other hand, has a well known perch at Cafe.com, which, as cuttlefish_btc has helpfully pointed out, is a startup owned by some rich dude who made his fortune during the dot.com bubble days.
So, to recap, three dudes who made their name trashing Hillary supporters on twitter start a podcast, and it blows up in like 2 weeks. As was the case with the whole Matt Bruenig episode, where he got fired from his job for calling Neera Tanden a “scumbag”, you should always be wary of people who seem to have an easy time getting famous/generating a profit.
Now, back to the podcast, which is more like a Young Democrats’ bildungsroman. The Mediaite article linked above labels these guys and their fanbase as “left-leaning”, but they only seem to go as far left as Bernie Sanders allows them to. No self-respecting “left-leaning” individual should ever deride communist history, rather they should defend it, but that’s not what these guys do on Episode 11 in an interview with Matt Taibbi, where they describe George Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech on the aircraft carrier as having “taken a page straight out of a Soviet mayday parade.” That’s an “ironic” red flag if you ask me.
Red flags abound in this shit. I personally stay away from any pundit who uses code words like “dove”, “hawk”, “non-interventionist foreign policy”, etc. when skirting around the issue of AMERICAN IMPERIALISM AS IT SHOULD BE CALLED. Matt, to be fair, calls it that in an interview with Derek Davidson (formerly employed by the Rand Corporation), but it never comes up again. Always with the code, the Beltway blob speak, which divorces the problem from its root: capital, and its ever present need to accumulate, reaching farther and farther out beyond the edges of the empire’s periphery taking hold in new places. I’m no master of theory, I’ve just now started reading about this stuff, but I know for damn sure that this doesn’t happen because Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or George Bush is some capricious person with a need to bomb children in Yemen or Eritrea or Haiti. And that’s the kind of picture these guys paint, of some cartoon villain sitting in the Oval office waving fingers over a map, spilling coffee all over it and saying “maybe i’ll bomb those guys next lmao.” Which leads to the idea that, hey, maybe if there were only a good candidate that we had, like a benevolent one, maybe the bombs would stop. Maybe people die because of bad personalities or silly whims, and not because this is a worldwide profit-making scheme, an imperial racketeering project.
Or maybe you’re just misleading people. Like when you had Jacobin writer and internet freakout baby Connor Kilpatrick on (Episode 13) to talk about Hillary and the state of the election after Bernie’s defeat was assured. So funny to hear Kilpatrick mutter under his breath “uhh yeah, i’m uhhh voting…for Hillary” and dismiss this straw-man “accelerationist argument” that he attributes primarily to tankies. (The accelerationist argument is that tankies are voting for Trump because it would bring about the exaggerated contradictions necessary to start the “revolution”). Who is he referring to, @ZeroAnthropology lol? Half the “tankies” Connor Kilpatrick has nightmares about don’t even live in the US, and the rest have too much respect for themselves to even participate in the horribly compromised electoral process (see DeBoer tweet above).
Kilpatrick is a particular kind of nuisance. Followers of mine will note that he writes for Jacobin, a petty booj publication disguised as dissident commie lit despite its outright dismissal of every single bit of real communist history. He’s the one spreading this diseased neologism around, the discourse around the so-called “white working class”, in line with @Cato_of_Utica’s completely distorted history of Southern labor movements. The desired effect of this crap is to obscure all the real work that labor movements led by black folks have accomplished in the US (I’m referring primarily to the Civil Rights movement, the abolitionist movement, similar movements that sprung up around the south and tower over anything Cato’s ever accomplished in his anonymous life) and limit the scope of working class praxis to begging the president to implement a New-New Deal that would carve up the Tennessee river even further and most likely exclude any emancipation for the millions of prisoners in this country. Kilpatrick doesn’t mention these movements once in his interview or article, he never has, and he probably has never thought about them. Instead he lies and says that white voters didn’t flock to the republican party in favor of Reagan after the Civil Rights movement had taken effect, which, as any self-respecting individual in the South knows, is exactly what happened. And there’s Will *gulp* *tongue click* Menaker nodding along stupidly, and Felix adding his own layer of stupidity over the lie, taking any chance he can to smear Angry Black Lady or Arthur Chu or whatever other twitter pundit he can think of instead of engaging with real history, and real politics.
Let it be known that if there were ever an outlet created solely for people to air out their “personal bugbears,” this is it. What Felix and co. engage with here is the caricatures they draw up in their heads of other twitter personalities with similarly sized followings, that they spend all day subtweeting on twitter, only to come on their stupid podcast later and complain about it there.
What has all this accomplished for people who work all day? For people in Lebanon? (A country which Felix is always touting his “superior” knowledge of, knowledge that consists of naming-dropping Kataeb party leaders and recognizing the name of the leader of Hezbollah, a remarkable organization that has become the subject of a joke with these kids, leading some imbecile on twitter with a Hitler profile pic to make his banner photo the flag of Hezbollah, if only this kid could wanter into my neck of the woods, i’ll let you imagine what would happen). What have these guys done for the millions still imprisoned this country, who miraculously make websites for us to exhibit their deeply materialist understanding of their realities and ask that we advance their cause? Nothing, these guys have accomplished nothing, except limit the scope of possibility to voting for Bernie/Clump and, as a little something extra, voting in the midterm elections.
Somebody on twitter (@la_tanquista) said something really smart about all this. The gist of it was, that the ruling classes have every incentive to freeze communist mobilization by repackaging neoliberalism as some kind of soft-leftism, and selling the idea that this could lead to more. In the Episode with Kilpatrick, these fools show their hand by saying something along the lines of “Bernie represents true, incrementalist movement towards actual socialism. Would he have gained power, that would have opened peoples’ imaginations to what we could really accomplish with socialism.”
IMHO, that’s some horseshit. Workers don’t need Bernie, just like the Cavs didn’t need David Blatt. You can’t have more of this shit, you can’t obscure the problem of capital, you can’t have this kind of analysis that hovers over the problem and never gets close to the meat of the matter, the material basis of our current horrorshow country.
In the most recent episode, they interview Lee Fang of the Intercept, a publication founded by Pierre Omidyar, a man who is deeply invested in the “status quo” and shivers at the thought of worker mobilization. Fang got up there and said all this smart stuff about Washington lobbying culture, made fun of some lobbyist woman who looked like she was on drugs during an interview, and joked that he saw Glenn Greenwald’s dog on a Skype chat once. It was all fun and games, and the hosts imagined themselves doing real advocacy work, advancing the cause by highlighting one of the major problems, lobbying, that currently plagues our system. Yes, Washington corruption, what we all didn’t know before has been exposed. We need a leader who will clean up all this corruption, and then maybe our leaders won’t be so naughty, maybe they’ll play nice and let that money trickle down to us, the common man.
The problem here isn’t just David Blatt. You can’t sit David Blatt down in a room and tell him to shape up and run these schemes and these defensive alignments and imagine that it’ll all be OK. It’s not that the government is “corrupt” or that the army gives the wrong coordinates or that Saudi Arabia takes our money and turns it into dead children in Yemen. Quit avoiding the issue.
Anyway, there’s my take on Chapo Trap House. All the other stuff said about it on Twitter was much smarter than any of this. I just felt the need to type something out. Follow cuttlefish_btc, redkahina, philgreaves01, and la_tanquista and they’ll break it down further. I’m not as qualified as them, but I’ve sacrificed my mind, body and soul by listening to every episode of this crap on my long commute so I had to do something with all this useless info. If you’re a kid like me, there’s better places to look to for leftist analysis than Chapo. Don’t get sucked into this shit. It doesn’t advance our interests.