At 1pm on February 11 2017, Sophie Jung, a Swiss artist based in London provoked a reply from Lucia Diego, one of the directors of the LD50 gallery in Hackney. Jung had asked Diego to clarify her politics in the wake of what Jung perceived as a problematic political expression on her Facebook page in the wake of the New York MoMA’ decision to protest Trump’s travel ban.

Diego confirmed her agnosticism about Trump, and her disagreement with the MoMA’s action. Thirty-six minutes later, Jung publicly posted the private message on Facebook, where it initiated a spiral of escalating condemnations. It was revealed — as if it was a secret — that LD50 had hosted an exhibition about “Alt-Right” memes, and a conference on “Neo-Reaction” — two contemporary currents whose meaning is contested. In fact, the conference took place over Skype, but this was never mentioned. I knew the names of some of the people commenting second-hand.

I’d started following LD50 about a month before on Twitter. Their account linked to Jung’s Facebook thread, and I jumped-in to comment that they were creating a witch hunt. I’d also been researching the Alt-Right, trying to decipher the real meaning of this loaded term everyone had suddenly all started hearing, and I knew things were less clear-cut than the discussion was allowing. I’d seen YouTube videos of student activists rioting at Middlebury College, and the University of Berkley, and a masked Antifascist sucker-punching Richard Spencer in DC. And I’d also seen Jacobin, a radical left-wing magazine, carrying advertising for an MFA program in CalArts in Aesthetics and Politics costing $50,000 a year, and a YouTube video of a man in Times Square declaring cryptically to a local TV news journalist that “Trump would complete German idealism.” It was anybody’s guess what was really going on.

I became interested in LD50, because, after seven years of working in the art world, I’d noticed a pervasive ideological hegemony, endorsed by almost everyone within it. I wrote about the topic for Art Monthly. I thought it was encouraging that a gallery was engaging with ideas outside the normal frame of reference. They had to be confronted somewhere. Why not in a gallery? Art, it seemed to me, should be a space for ideas and symbols to attack each other. The question is what art can do, and what artists are allowed to do, or not do, and by whom.

But a machinery of rumor was already in motion. The story seeded an anonymous tumblr, writing in a tiny voice of terror of fascistic currents present in, for instance, the philosophy publisher Urbanomic’s Robin Mackay, just back from his friend Mark Fisher’s funeral, and jumped to the publication Mute, under the headline “Is it Okay to Punch a Nazi (Art Gallery)?”

LD50 was now a Nazi gallery. The writer was O.D. Untermesh, likely an Antifa activist named Danny Hayward and Mute editor and former student Benedict Seymour. Their incendiary conclusion was based on Diego’s anti-MoMA comments, her social media profile, Google searches, a recent Atlantic Monthly article, and readings of the positions of the speakers designed to make them seem as sinister as possible.

The writing was incoherent, jargonistic. A cryptic line by one speaker, Brett Stevens, speaking of veils of secrecy (on his public blog), was transformed into charges of secret fascist organization. Stevens — who did write some twisted things about Breivik — was designated an Anders Breivik apologist. Peter Brimelow, a journalist who runs the anti-immigration website VDare, was labelled a White Supremacist (and VDare a “hate group”) according to the Southern Law Poverty Law Centre — the same organization which last September declared Pepe the Frog a hate symbol. The only name I knew at this point was the philosopher Nick Land, who was denounced as both himself a fascist and a racist, but also as a cover to the other, even more racist and fascist speakers.

“Untermesh” claimed the most sinister possible interpretation of everything the gallery and all the speakers ever said, or shared or tweeted, that he could locate on Google. No reference was made to what Stevens, or Brimelow talked about at the conference itself, despite the fact that both those recordings are online — he hadn’t listened to them. He also didn’t discuss the exhibition, because he hadn’t seen it. There was no evidence that he had ever visited the gallery or spoken to anyone involved. I commented that Mute were acting like fascists themselves, and they replied with violent insults alleging I was channelling my racist class fears.

Stevens was also following the story and linked to Jung’s original Facebook thread from his blog; notably, given how all this started with the sharing of a private message publicly, this move was seen to confirm the gallery’s malevolence. They had ‘leaked’ it, and ‘doxxed’ their critics to the far-right.

By now Stevens was mutating in the radical imagination from a nihilistic blogger into a far-right terror organizer, in effect, Breivik himself. The gallery was a Nazi cell that needed to be shutdown immediately. It was effective propaganda, and went viral, shared across Facebook, and the neoliberal art world advertising platform e-flux. Two days later a new anon tumblr appeared — Shutdown LD50 — repeating the arguments of Hayworth/Seymour’s article, and adding a further twist — that the very lack of information that they had about the gallery indicated an intention to conceal.

Diego responded with a statement defending herself — this was flatly rejected (by people who had never visited the gallery, or seen the program) as “lies and evasions.” There could be no discussion and no debate. The gallery had to be shut down immediately.

A rally was organized for Saturday February 25. With SDLD50 now campaigning, the “Nazi gallery” story kept spreading, first to local Hackney papers, then the Guardian, who illustrated their article with a photo of former KKK-leader David Duke, who had nothing to do with the gallery, and misattributed a quote from Diego as Jung’s. The charges of the tumblr were repeated, and we now learned about their author — Andrew Osborne, a Corbyn-supporting member of the union Unite, a technician in the IT department at the Royal College of Art, and a PhD student in sociology at Goldsmith’s without a publication record.

SDLD50 was spreading fear. We were reminded that the gallery was not a gallery, but a secret fascist cell, organizing under the subterfuge of art — it was a public safety issue, Osborne told the New York Times, who mechanically reported it, despite the fact the dangerous program had already occurred, and nobody had noticed or felt threatened at the time.

I still was following the story on the LD50 Facebook page, mesmerized. It kept snowballing. Al-Jazeera had picked-up the story and added an “Islamophobic” angle. Philip Glanville, the Labour Mayor of Hackney, made a comment in support of the campaign to close the space.

By now I was also talking to Diego. I sympathized with her predicament. She was being scapegoated on unsupported slanderous allegations, and convicted on no evidence and with no trial — getting rocks through her window, and threats over the internet. I didn’t know what her intentions had been, but neither did anyone else. None of the campaigners had seen the exhibition, or listened to the talks, or researched the story for themselves; they’d just believed things they read on Facebook and the internet.

Diego and I discussed advertising the protest as a performance — the kind of work I once did with the group Public Movement. But the night before she backed out on police advice.

I had other ideas. I was in Copenhagen a day before for work, the flights were cheap, and I decided to attend alone, and make a counter-protest to support the freedom to discuss ideas, and against intimidation. I made a sign saying “The Right to Openly Discuss Ideas Must be Defended” (the reverse side said “Stand-up to Violence and Intimidation”) and came in the morning and stood against the gallery wall. I’d only been there for a moment when a crowd began to form. Almost immediately, I was surrounded by a group of people screaming Nazi at me — “Nazi”, “white supremacist”, “fascist”, etc. I said I was Jewish, and also an anti-fascist myself, and I believed in discussion. The crowd jeered. I stood my ground until a guy appeared — Garry McFarlane, a Black Lives Matter leader, and ripped it from my hands. Led by him, the crowd pushed me away. “Don’t worry, I got the whole thing on video,” I heard a voice next to me say, and she disappeared. You can see her video here. Later, I noticed Andrew Osborne in a military jacket standing near the back.

At the demonstration journalists had asked me for my name, and I’d supplied it, on the basis that I wanted to stand-up for something, as an individual citizen, in my own name. In retrospect, that was a bold move. When I logged back on the internet, I was an hero. There were dozens of hits on my Facebook pages, and Andrew Osborne was retweeting an Antifa account called FashXKilla threatening to punch me in the face. I stayed the night with a friend in Highbury, and returned to Berlin the next day.


I was supposed to be giving a talk at an Israeli-owned bookshop later that week about Julius Evola as part of an art project called the University of Muri — a fictional university first initiated by Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem in 1917. So far we’d talked about the philosopher Giordano Bruno, and the historian A.E. Waite as part of a series of discussions on magic. My colleague Amir and I had read a New York Times article on Evola’s apparent influence on Steve Bannon two weeks earlier, and we’d decided now would be a good time to discuss him.

We put up an advert, and nobody said anything. But this, too, now had to be shutdown. “This is not okay,” a Goldsmiths graduate named Casper Jade Heinemann wrote on a thread on her Facebook page. The protagonists were people from Jung’s thread. They now came as a group, some with fake usernames, to our event page, informing the owners of the bookshop, who I knew very well, that the man giving the talk, your correspondent, was a fascist sympathizer who had defended the Nazi gallery in London. A guy called Justin Katko wrote: “Fascists should have their tongues cut out before they are allowed to speak.” Andrew Osborne showed-up to write cryptically: “what a wasteman” “fash” “off your meds” and “?!?!?” Àn ex-student named Jacob Bard-Rosenberg said that I’d spent the days leading up to the demo “annoying the Antifa” by putting up posters which criticized them, when I hadn’t even been in London, and threatened that, if the event was not shut down, he’d write to publishers telling them not to stock books in the shop. Ed Luker, a PhD student studying Ezra Pound demanded we justify discussing Evola. A mysterious anon named “Gallimard Radiant” appeared, and threw charges back.

This went on for several days. At one point Antifa threatened to come to the bookshop with dogs to attack us. Nobody arguing — SDLD50 — had any knowledge about Evola beyond Wikipedia, but that wasn’t the point. The point was desire for control. Like with LD50, every argument and explanation just made them crazier. Buckling under pressure, Doron, the owner of the bookshop decided to cancel the event. I posted the text of talk I was going to give, a basic overview of Evola’s biography intended to open a discussion, previously delivered in a seminar at the University of Amsterdam two years before, and someone commented it was the “most fascist thing (she’d) ever read.” But SDLD50/Antifa now had what they wanted, and departed, deleting their most violent comments, and returning to their own pages, at which point a new person arrived, like in Kafka, to inquire: “How could you even think of hosting this kind of event in the first place?”

We were bewildered. Amir, an emotional man, was on the verge of tears. The event page was like the ruins of a destroyed city. Elsewhere on Facebook they were calling me a fascist, and a racist, almost randomly mixing ideological and personal insults based on things they‘d invented or read somewhere. A writer named Megan Nolan wrote a hit piece for The Baffler, misrepresenting things I’d said, and my motive as greed for publicity. My sole action had been to counter-protest, in my own name, for the right to discussion.

I e-mailed the Baffler and requested a right to reply, they responded with a formal rejection. I read some of their Twitter accounts, they seemed lonely and sad. I remembered Mark Fisher, the last time I had seen him alive, and the last thing he’d written I’d read — about the Vampire Castle: a “grim and de­mor­al­iz­ing im­passe: where class has dis­ap­peared but mor­al­ism is every­where, where sol­id­ar­ity is im­pos­sible but guilt and fear are om­ni­present. Not be­cause we are ter­ror­ized by the Right, but be­cause we have al­lowed bour­geois modes of sub­ject­iv­ity to con­tam­in­ate our move­ment.”

“They are united by hatred and fear, not solidarity — the fear they’ll be the next to be exposed,” Mark wrote. He’d been vilified for writing it, and chased from the internet soon afterwards. And now here it was again.


I’d somehow hurt my knees in London, so by this point I could barely walk, but I still dragged myself to Mitte a few days later to see a talk by an Urbanomic author named Yuk Hui. By this point, a mixed-race British art writer named Hannah Black was demanding that the Jewish artist Dana Schutz destroy her “black death spectacle” painting of Emmet Till at the Whitney Biennial in New York.

In Berlin, I was hoping to meet Urbanomic’s Robin McKay, who I’d met ten years earlier at the Speculative Realism conference at Goldsmiths. Instead, I met Mohammed Salemy, one of two organizers (with Jason Adams) of the New Centre for Research and Practice, or NCRAP, where Nick Land had been conducting a series of internet seminars on Bitcoin. Yuk Hui referred to Land at one point in his talk — I asked him in the questions what he thought about the campaign against him. He dodged the question. A man in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt — Salemy — now leaped to his feet to declare (incorrectly) that he had been the only person named as a fascist in the “I’m scared” tumblr page which had appeared shortly before the Mute article.

I tried talking to Salemy afterwards.

“But don’t you understand, if people are saying it’s fine to punch Nazis, and a Nazi is anyone they define as a Nazi, that means…”

“I’m from the Bronx, we punch Nazis in the Bronx,” he repeated, like a robot.

The story was still developing. Frieze, a publication that I used to write for, now ran a story centered on an artist named Daniel Keller. Scheduled to talk about meme magic at Goldsmith’s, he’d been targeted for liking posts on LD50’s Instagram by SDLD50 — in particular by Twitter account named Horrible Gif, and had his talk shutdown.

“In order to proceed with my lecture as planned,” Keller said, “supporters of Shut Down LD50 demanded me to:

‘- stop making *any* further online comment on LD50/protest/etc.

- stop liking or RTing LD50 feeds.’

A few days later I was informed by Suhail [Malik of Goldsmith’s] that he had spoken to the students, and those involved in the Shut Down LD50 campaign would agree to not heckle my talk provided I carry out the following:

(i) a clear renunciation from me of affiliation or allegiance with [LD50] and the views it is understood to espouse.

(ii) my direct endorsement of the campaign against the space

(iii) a counter-presentation to my talk from Shut Down LD50

Keller cancelled, and doxxed his tormentor Horrible Gif as Kyle Zeto, another technician at the RCA.

In frieze, former Goldsmiths student Casper Jade Heinemann was invited to represent SDLD50’s position with a construction from the intersectional theorist bell hooks: the enemy was “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” According to Heinemann: “contemporary art is structurally dependent on right-wing sentiments inasmuch as such sentiments are intrinsic to current economic and social formations… I, and others in similar positions of relative privilege, have been complicit in a cultural discourse predicated on exclusion that implicitly or explicitly upholds white supremacy and misogyny, and which many of us continue to socially and economically benefit from.”

This is what they are taught. But the reality is that international contemporary art promotes multicultural left-wing sentiments, for obvious reasons: it is a State-supported, global capitalist industry. Capitalism isn’t itself racist, sexist, or right-wing: it’s beyond ideology because it sells ideology, and the more manufactured it is, the more capitalist. Capital liquidates patriarchy because it it liquidates tradition and nature in its insatiable hunger for profit — that is Marx’s argument. It’s anti-racist — it annihilates all human differences into quantitative units; on the same basis, if feminism lowers wages, and creates consumer markets, it’s pro-feminism.

With Keller cancelling his lecture, SDLD50 now occupied his slot, and organized what one attendee described as a recruitment rally, and another as an employment pitch. An art world curator at the Kunstwerke named Tirdad Zolghadr flew from Berlin to join them, on the basis of his participation in the anti-Israel BDS movement, and I wrote a story called Microstalin in which I fantasized that SDLD50 murdered him.

The official event page describes a trap set in four stages: “The far-right attacks inclusive and diverse societies in order to be challenged by those who defend such inclusivity; The FR then position themselves as advocates of free speech repressed by an orthodoxy of ‘political correctness’; the liberal commitment to free speech leads to them defending and legitimizing the FR as liberal victims; and the alliance of liberals and the FR then condemn as authoritarian those who seek to block the FR.”

The attack had come from SDLD50, who’d accused an individual on invented charges of promoting far-right ideology and hate speech, as defined by themselves, based on a private Facebook message too supportive of Trump for the radical London art scene to tolerate. They’d appointed themselves judge and jury, and refused to substantiate their arguments, instead responding to their critics with intimidation tactics, defamation and abuse.

SDLD50 positioned themselves as anti-fascist defenders of the tolerant society by demanding that a targeted individual be shut-down, and created a campaign of violence and harassment to achieve that aim. In their escalation, the nominal liberal commitment to anti-fascism led liberals to defend and legitimize their actions, and to condemn as idiots or fascist sympathizers anyone who attempted to block their advance. Those who questioned SDLD50’s political authority, or argument, were labeled apologists for ’fascism’ and themselves attacked and threatened.

The rally was officially programmed as part of the Goldsmith’s MFA course, to around a hundred people, and registration was taken.

Some quotes:

“(People) can’t tell the difference between irony and fascism”

“Boycott one thing boycott everything”

“What we don’t occupy, Israel will “ (Zolgahdr, representing BDS)

‘No discussion.. it’s a threat. Shut it down”

Andrew Osborne, Sophie Jung, and the jittery Antifa Danny Hayward, who refused to give his name, appeared on stage on the panel with Zolgadhr and Malik of Goldsmith’s. Jung read an Adorno pdf and looked bored. Zolgadhr, the international curator, accepted there might be collateral damage, but believed this was a necessary price to pay, presumably by other people. Responding to a request from an Antifa member in the audience, Andrew Osborne, McCarthy-like, said he possessed a list of artists who were associated with fascism, which he was slowly working through, and at the right moment would reveal, and again declared that “LD50 was not a gallery but a recruiting platform for the far-right.”

A few days later the campaign reported that they’d succeeded in their mission, and that LD50 had been shut-down. They’d also, for the moment, created a climate of intimidation in which nobody except for them, in London, or the internet, was permitted to discuss the subject. Across town, Natalie Lambert, an MA art student at Central St. Martin’s asked Diego if she could display an object from the LD50 exhibition — a crystal with no obvious ideological meaning depicting Pepe being sacrificed by other Pepes — as part of her interim exhibition. It was forbidden: the crystal was deemed “too dangerous” for public viewing; there were concerns it would be destroyed by protestors, who might also target surrounding exhibits, and Lambert was asked if she had sought the ‘permission’ of her classmates to show the work. She requested a formal, written explanation and justification as to why the work could not be shown, but to date none has been provided.

Nick Land — the only figure connected with the gallery with links to art, and therefore the closest target, was next on Osborne’s list. As at Middlebury, where Murray was supposed to speak about class issues, anyone between the populist Right and college Left — anyone talking to both sides — was being violently rejected through a “kill the gray zone” strategy. Equally significantly, Land’s followers held desirable positions academically, e.g., teaching hours, which could potentially be seized.

With LD50 apparently dead, and the witch hunt requiring new fuel, Land was re-indicted on charges of racism and fascism for his writings and tweeting. Publishing another blog, SDLD50 — Osborne, Zeto, Jung, Heinemann, Ed Luker, Uma Debray, Jacob Bard-Rosenberg, Benedict Seymour, Megan Nolan, Linda Stupart, John Russell, and whoever else — demanded Salemy fire him from NCRAP. “We invite them to ditch their positive association with Land before their credibility is tested beyond repair.” Inconsistent from the outset, and now himself being harassed by Andrew Osborne on Facebook, Salemy crumbled and obeyed. After consulting apparently with e-flux associate Hito Steyerl, he denounced the man on whose work NCRAP had constructed their entire program.

Nick Land is a philosopher who helped create the CCRU, arguably the most original philosophical project in the UK in the last three decades. His students have included people from all over the world. In recent years, he’s argued that the world is organized by artificial capitalist intelligence, which will enslave, and destroy humanity in an unconditionally accelerating Darwinistic process, and he criticizes fascism as a “sustained social mobilization under central direction.” Salemy now denounced Land as a racist crypto-fascist and announced they would stop working with him — in a decision taken unilaterally by Salemy and Jason Adams without full consultation of the NCRAP board. A student named Giancarlo Sandoval wrote on Facebook to protest — he too, now, was no platformed, and an article that had already been accepted by the journal Boundary 2 was cancelled by the editor, David Golumbia. Sandoval continued his criticism.

An art world media studies lecturer named Matteo Pasquinelli, an NCRAP associate issued a strange public statement denouncing them — for unclear reasons and observing with odd glee that following Land was now a path to “structural unemployment” that is, being blacklisted, or as they now call it, no platformed. Warning of a “large grey zone of political ambiguity growing right in the center of the art world” he ended with the phrase: “I agree with what Florian Cramer said during the Transmediale in Berlin, that “we should not leave the monopoly of hate to the alt right.”

A week later, closing the account, Jacob Bard-Rosenberg added an blogpost from Amsterdam where’d he been attending the Sonic Art Festival. His new contribution picked-up where his last one left-off, and remained on the same level. Again, he denounced “racist events in the art world” like my talk on Julius Evola at a Jewish bookstore, supported the Antifa, and finally denounced nuance itself in the cause of ideological authority — kill the grey zone. His blog was retweeted enthusiastically by SDLD50.


I’m publishing this on April 16 2017. The latest news I’ve heard is that SDLD50 have been invited by Salemy to present a seminar at NCRAP themselves. All of this seemed scarcely conceivable a month ago, yet strangely now inevitable. It provokes some thoughts.

The power of the networked media — this machinery of viral replication — was something to behold. But it wasn’t inexplicable. The speed through which the campaign escalated was possible only because of a shared interest of elite cultural institutions, and the radical Left in presenting the specter of a “fascist” enemy as their opposition. The Hackney Gazette, e-flux, the Guardian, and The New York Times all recirculated propaganda legitimating the campaign. The Mayor of Hackney supported it. Art Monthly, funded by the Arts Council, carried a piece by a junior academic and writer named Larne Abse Gogarty describing “a delusion of free speech only permissible to those who never have to feel vulnerable on the street.” (I wondered how facing a mob screaming Nazi ranks in the vulnerability sweepstakes.)

SDLD50 are children of the cognitive elite — composed in universities, instead of factories. They are not the underprivileged, or not exactly: they are privileged with their nausea. At the same time, they’re attending a brutally expensive art university at the end of a long decade in which the costs of elite institutions like the RCA and Goldsmith’s has dectupled, and their value to their graduates has fallen off a cliff. This generation will be poorer than their parents, who retain unprecedented shares of global wealth, and faces feral competition for diminishing resources and status.

The structural point pertains to the reality of their political formation within a cultural academic system that is itself a form of exploitation. The fact is that demand for art students and liberal arts graduates does not support production. The difference is split with ideology. Students graduate into debt, precarious employment and freelancing, low-paying service jobs, including sex work, theorized intricately by radical academics, and/or continuing economic support from their parents. By selling them identities instead of skills, paid via debt guaranteed by the government (in the US, student debt is now $1.3 trillion) universities and the contemporary culture industry have created radicals in and as the process of exploiting them.

What the art world education system in fact creates is surplus labour art consumers and Apple customers, who tape over the logos on their Macs and protest capitalism, for capital — for cultural capital — their own. It’s a perfect storm of dissonance and mental illness. How can someone think and speak critically about a system which itself has instructed them in criticism, defined the limits of its objects, accredited their own identity and authority to speak, and either currently, or at some point in the future, will hopefully employ them?

On one level, SDLD50 is a form of acting-out — a ritual of discharge in a system in order to remain inside it — an identity parade, and cry for help. At the same time, it represents itself the embodiment of the menacing projection it developed — a repressive and manipulative network element coagulating in the art world. In the black mirror of its own guilt and desire, SDLD50 embodies everything it claims to criticize.

Either way it should be taken as a warning. Sales of 1984 skyrocketed after Trump’s election but a machinery of dystopia was already here — it just had to be switched-on. Pepsi’s recent ad was criticized for co-opting global protest imagery — it’s real crime was to expose the fantasy of protest which today is encouraged and consumed around the world. We are the children of Pepsi and Mao, cradled in an apparatus of ideologically directed thought and action, manufactured mask-identities and manipulation by accredited careerist propagandists, participating, more or less consciously, in a memetic escalation in real time. This present trajectory of increasing violence can either can be de-escalated, or confronted, or it can’t be; everyone can draw their own conclusions.

At the same time as SDLD50 was launching their campaign a friend was working on a project with a group of artists in London. She built a website — an empath library — which included, amongst other things, a quote from Aristotle via William of Auvergne. When she showed it to the group, another member had a problem — the page didn’t represent her own beliefs. She didn’t like the quotation from the “psychic woman” (Dion Fortune) and she wanted to replace a reference to the Stoics with a piece written in BitchMedia. And she also had a problem with the quote from Aristotle.

“But he’s one of the most important philosophers who ever lived!” my friend said.

“Yes, he has contributed to the long history of patriarchy, and that’s why he has to be removed.”



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