Friday, June 8, 2012

It must be said

... that it appears that the young lefties are more likely to become like the DC neoliberal policy wonks than the other way around. To be honest, as shitty of a display as this is, I'll take it over the absolutely endless shows of regard and influence peddling that's been going on in the new new hotness lefty precints.  I mean, one day, you're complaining about Ezra Klein; the next, you're flexing like Big Media Matt wouldn't have dreamed at his worst. Sunkara has been making friends. I'm only saying: the slide from being the Marxist circus animal on Up with Chris to attending cocktail parties at Bob Kuttner's house is so much shorter than you'd imagine.

Harris is a pretty classic case; he imagines that he's sui generis but he's actually just a consequence of the buffet line of young adulthood. A little black hoodie exclusionary political rhetoric, a Paris Review jokey intellectual vibe, a shiteating sense of importance, a fashion sense inspired (I'm guessing) by what Artie Ziff wore to the prom. Now, I've been dealing with affluent radicals my whole life, and the arc is about as well-worn as you can imagine. I mean, sure, I've known several anarchists who went the full Republican, but more likely you get the political evolution of necessity; theory becomes a vehicle through which you justify your own relationship to it. Given Harris's stated goal of generational warfare, there's three outcomes ahead as he drifts towards the sweaty soft years: he smashes capitalism by way of a children's crusade; he dies trying; or he "evolves," in precise proportion and perfect timing with his aging. You'd be amazed at what getting older can do for your perceptions of the politics of age. You can get past generational warfare at a time just as convenient as, well, as deciding your rallying cry is #nodads after your father has given you a life of privilege, affluence, and comfort.

I'm just saying, it takes a special kind of asshole to profess egalitarian politics and then pull the "I'm a big deal on the Internet" card. That's got to be a historic level of not getting laid going on to inspire someone to try and play that one.

In the world of free advice, I would just recommend two things to the young leftists of the world: first, when you go around dropping showy admiration for people, being sure to name them by their Twitter handle so as to appropriately commodify your regard, you might wonder how that comports with your politics. (My guess: very poorly!)

More, though, I think you should probably abandon all of your watertight theory. You know what I mean? There's so many people out there, lots of them getting love from the people they said they'd never want to get love from, whose politics have been developed in the Cave of Self-Defensive Constructs. They toil away, with the WD-40 and the forceps, and they put together a ballistic missile shield of an ideology. They make themselves into LeftyBot4000: totally impregnable, nearly useless. Nothing to me is less politically valuable than a political theory where all the pieces fit together just so. Nothing is more selfish than a critical theory that has as its principle aim rendering the person who crafted it immune to criticism. There's nowhere for insults to sneak in, which means there's no room for light or heat or just for realizing how fucking wrong you can be. I'm not talking about showy falls at the alter of whatever outgroup you want to ritually prostrate yourself before (again probably because you think you'll get laid). I mean being willing to not just be wrong but to look like an idiot, to lose at the social climbing circle jerk that is not incidental to your politics but rather their cause. Christ, it's provincial.

What if your critical duty requires you to look like a stereotype or an asshole? That's what's actually at risk here, after all: aesthetics, which is a far dearer currency than currency. You might have to look like a naif, a Democrat, even a grad student. The model for me-- the person with the best, most productive, most truly radical sensibility that I've met-- was someone who hit every urban farmer, crunchy lefty stereotype beat. Against the forces of leftwing fashion, she was defenseless. Nobody who reads this would recognize her name. She was only for her cause, not for being known as someone only for her cause.

By all means, come with the comebacks; I'll just be playing with my kitten, and there appears to be ample time to spend on being clever. I just applied to work at Jimmy John's; we can go without pretense here. But at least consider the possibility that your theoretical ArmorAll is the reason you fail. You can, actually, throw yourself on the machinery, and since we all don't, we're all parlor radicals, you, me, and everybody, and never fucking forget it. The odds that you won't someday find your period of toting Bourdieu around Brookyln totally annoying are close to zero, so you should maybe just give up on aesthetics in advance. Preempt that shit. Forget about your peers and get free.


  1. I ask this in all seriousness; how much time do you spend on Twitter and reading terrible blogs, etc? ... maybe just don't spend such a near-infinite amount of time on the internet, and this sort of thing wouldn't frustrate you. I know that you love books; read books.

  2. I ask this in all seriousness: why have you read my blog for years with only minimal interest in what I have to say and maximal interest in psychoanalyzing me?

    Because I've got to tell you, paul, your comments always say much more about you than about me. You know?

  3. Harris has always struck me as a douche since he came on the blogging scene.

  4. Who is Malcolm Harris? I did a google search and found nothing except something on Jacobin (admittedly it was pretty stupid).

    I agree with the analysis incidentally.

  5. Freddie, would you say that Death of the Liberal Class pretty much sums up what you've been saying for years? As someone else who has been reading your blog for years, I've enjoyed your writing, but always felt that I didn't entirely get some of your larger points. Someone turned me on to Chris Hedges, and after watching a couple of in depth interviews regarding the aforementioned book, I had this, "holy shit, so this is what Freddie has been saying!" moment.

    Is this pretty much on the money, or am I still lost?

  6. I think so! But what do I know.

  7. I can't believe you're not on Twitter.

  8. I have an account that just follows people, so that I can keep an eye on the=conversation. Don't ever Tweet anything.

  9. Spelling BeeeeeeeeeJune 8, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    Altar, not alter! Get thee to church, you rapscallion!

  10. I like your blog. You're generally pretty insightful. But this is a bit heavy on the acrimony, no?

  11. What's so great about being "radical"?

  12. "Forget about your peers and get free."

    That's quite good, and true; the Internet panopticon (omphaloskepticon? I don't know if that's proper, I didn't take Greek) can inhibit the ability to realize either part of the injunction.

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