July 13, 2017

THE RISE OF THE INTERNET’S ‘DIRTBAG LEFT’ — How a new strain of progressive leftism is using humour, irony, and diaper jokes to push back against the emerging alt-right:

What Michelle Obama—or Canadian writer Jonathan Kay, who recently issued a critique of social media boorishness in a National Post essay—miss in their clarion calls for civility is that, for many, politics isn’t just some academic discussion or reimagining of a collegiate debate club: It’s a battle. It’s about drastically opposed visions of society rubbing against each in open conflict. The reinvigorated left doesn’t want to debate; it wants to disgrace.

The fact is that there are many on the left who don’t want to be civil—who want to mock and joke and hurl ad hominem and be as baseless and vulgar as possible. And why? Well, for one thing, it’s productive (and fun!) to unnerve those in power, and to make them feel uncomfortable in their laziness and privilege. And if it’s acceptable for members of the utterly powerless online liberal #Resistance to tweet at Donald Trump calling him a “Cheeto” or a “carrot” as if he’ll miraculously resign when he’s read it for the 17-millionth time, why is it not also valid to needle more immediate villains with harsher, more pointed criticisms?

These tactics will likely present a problem for some. The valuing of vulgarity and snarky hostility (“so much for the tolerant left!”) may scan as cannibalization and in-fighting among those with loosely shared agendas (i.e. anti-Trumpism). The dirtbag left understands this. What they reject are progressive-leftists being neglected, despite the foundering of the liberal/Democratic institution. They’re tired of sitting, slouched and bored, elbows on the table, at the kids’ table. And unlike the purely anarchic alt-righters doing it “for the lulz,” the alt-left offers a coherent, practical, progressive political agenda. As Chapo co-founder Will Menaker put it on a recent episode of the show, addressing an imagined audience pragmatist liberals and centrists: “Yes, let’s come together. But get this through your f–king head: you must bend the knee to us. Not the other way around. You have been proven as failures, and your entire worldview has been discredited.”

As Marcus H. Johnson of the Huffington Post tweets, with a screen cap highlighting that last sentence, “Imagine being a wealthy white guy and telling this to poor minorities who vote for Democrats.”

It’s like there’s a fascistic side to liberalism, or something.