Man, I could’ve totally been one of these guys. I feel a horror- induced bristle as I acknowledge this fact, but we’re cut from the same cloth. This book is very much a Millennial product, and I’m a Millennial too. Born too late to own a home, born just in time to own the Libs. The Chapo crew would claim that their ideas are too radical for the Liberal Baby Boomer, but when I showed their podcast to my Center-Left mother she simply couldn’t understand what the fuck they were talking about. I don’t think anyone over the age of 50 or under the age of 23 possibly could. The sensibilities of their polemic have been relentlessly inculcated in the distinctly irony-ravaged milieu of early “meme culture”, reality TV, indie rock, and ‘Adult Swim’. Unlike my mother, however, I am entirely capable of parsing through their snark-laden screeds. When they made a joke about Obama “krumping on the Constitution,” I let out the same churlish chuckle that everybody else reading this book did. The fact that I am an Urbanite residing in the Northeast portion of these United States may also facilitate my explication of this book. In Chapo lingo, I would be referred to as a “Failson”; a Middle Class disappointment. The question is, why did they end up writing this fake Communist book while I ended up anonymously eviscerating it for a right wing internet magazine? After charting the landscape of our common ground and assessing where our divergent paths were heading, I determined that Chapo will likely fold when the cards are on the table. Their critiques of Liberalism are often salient, but their actual opposition to Liberalism’s global hegemony is shallow. This kiddie-pool depth of commitment is reflected in the book’s lackadaisical and often unfocused style; their worthwhile critiques quickly give way to comical (less comical then they seem to fancy themselves) padding, thus revealing the craven cash-grab that underpins their Diet Marxism.
Chapo’s rise to prominence (among certain circles; regular people don’t a clue what “Chapo Trap House” is) has largely been fueled by their nominal opposition to Liberalism. They were vocal (and often quite funny) critics of Hillary Clinton and her gaggle of media functionaries during the 2016 Presidential Election. Horseshoe Theory/Red-Brown Alliance rhetoric was invoked very quickly by these shitlib functionaries. Both Leftists and Rightists absolutely detested this invocation, but it wasn’t an unwarranted one. On Twitter dot com, Rose Emojis (an indicator of DSA membership) and Anime Avatars (an indicator of being a Nazi) attacked the same blue checkmarks for the same awful posts. The Chapo guys were ringleaders of the Rose squadrons, just as folks like MILO and Ricky Vaughn rallied the frogs on the Right. This phenomenon has grown less prominent post-2016 but can still be readily observed. When I initially noticed this pattern in 2016 I found it compelling. My entire political evolution has been spurred by the insufferable nature of the North American Liberal. I grew up surrounded by these people. I’m still surrounded by them. As the Chapo book puts it, “In place of real beliefs, Liberals have guilty consciences”. Seeing this despicable Center under attack by both Left and Right very much amused me and at the end of the day I’ll do a lot just for a laugh at the expense of the insufferable. That’s what drove me to 4chan as a pre-teen, to punk rock as a teenager, and to the Dissident Right as an adult. The Chapo book makes it quite clear that inducing laughter is a huge component of the Chapo praxis. Much of their humor is cloying in the same overwrought way that Leftist humor typically is, but they land some decent punches. When they described the “TradCath Weirdo” archetype as “the only type of contemporary white person who actively hates dogs”, I thought about how funny that is for pretty much an entire day. Even if most of it actually irritates me, I can definitely see why somebody would think this little song-and-dance is funny, which is more than I could say about any other Leftist “humor” since Jon “Stewart” left his position at The Daily Show. What is notable about Chapo’s use of humor is that it very nearly mirrors the praxis of the Dissident Right (particularly circa 2016 Election Season). Per the ‘Daily Stormer’ style guide, Dissident Rightists engage in ironic unironic Fascism. Edgy Nazi memes and ironic racist humor draw in disaffected young men, and erstwhile polemicists like Andrew Anglin oscillate seamlessly between this humor and “real” Fascism. These young men are thus dizzied into their ideological awakening. Plenty of breathless Liberal journos and SPLC operatives have “exposed” this technique (a technique that every major present-day Far Right figure has openly advocated for- nice work, journos). Chapo’s praxis has been less thoroughly analyzed but it’s structured the exact same way. Amongst the whacky, millennial-absurdist gags about video games there’s jokes about the “Chapo Cultural Revolution” and the “Chapo Emergency Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage”. I recognized their tactics immediately and was taken aback by how clearly they were on display in this book. Beneath the many layers of obnoxious Simpsons-style pop culture references and irony, these guys are pushing pretty standard (albeit very dumbed-down) Marxist stuff. This is made more obvious in this book than it is on their podcast. When they glibly assert that “half-assed Marx” is a superior worldview to “the For Dummies Version of Antonio Gramsci”, they’re asserting that economics dictate the flow of history which is of course the bedrock of the Marxist worldview. Unlike the vicious polemic of the Daily Stormer, however, Chapo’s thinly-veiled illilberalism comes across as a weak-kneed pose. It hides under layers of irony not for tactical reasons, but because when laid bare it’s unconvincing, half-baked, and dishonest. I simply don’t believe them.
In the “LIBS” chapter of ‘The Chapo Guide to Revolution’ Chapo moves beyond the snide mockery of Liberals that typifies their podcast and Twitter presence, attempting to offer a more in-depth indictment of Liberalism. Chapo asserts:
“The essential problem is not that Liberals are ‘as bad’ as Conservatives but rather that there is a giant sucking void at the core of their being. In place of real beliefs, Liberals have guilty consciences; in place of politics, they have a Democratic Process to assuage those consciences. This process pits tepid reforms against a deranged and revanchist right-wing with no such inclination toward consensus or incrementalism… Without an organized and popular Left, liberals end up negotiating themselves into oblivion, moving the country, inevitably, to the Right.”
I’m inclined to agree with the “giant sucking void” assessment and I’m sure that most of you are too. Moreover, I’m very fond indeed of the “guilty consciences” bit and plan on incorporating it into my own rhetoric. Every Liberal is propelled by the little pangs of guilt they felt while being inundated with atrocity propaganda, which is what atrocity propaganda is engineered to do. What takes me back is the notion that Chapo and their cohorts were driven towards their beliefs by anything other than these same guilt pangs. What else could possibly be fueling them? Are we really supposed to believe that these alt-media hipsters are “Scientific Socialists” in the tradition of Marx and Lenin? They’re positing themselves as Marxist in most noncommittal fashion possible and regardless, we all know that Marx and Lenin were driven by something else entirely. Although Chapo is correct to assert that Liberals worship “process” and bureaucracy, their focus on this notion is a means by which Chapo seeks to artificially distance themselves from Liberals. Liberals are animated by the same basic impetus that Chapo is capitalizing upon: the belief in Egalitarianism. More precisely, both camps are driven by a feverish desire to escape the gnawing pangs and relentless cognitive dissonance caused by subscribing to a view so plagued by easily observable and fundamentally unresolvable contradictions. Liberals think that a bureaucratic Neoliberal welfare state is the best way to advance their Egalitarian ambitions, whereas Chapo thinks that it’s the abolition of wage labor. Their foundational impetus is the same. I was flabbergasted by their reference to the “deranged and revanchist right-wing” that is apparently crushing these useless Liberals. Where are they? How do I vote for them? They’re not in control of the GOP. The idea that the GOP has consistently steamrolled the genuinely Liberal Democrats by engaging in illiberalism is ridiculous bizarro world stuff. The GOP has historically worshipped the “process” of Democracy as much or moreso than their Democratic counterparts. This is because the GOP and the Democratic Party serve the same interests and pursue the same goal of propping up Liberalism. The fact that Chapo obscures this should strike any true Radical (Right or Left) as extremely suspect. They obfuscate the fact that both the Establishment Left and the Establishment Right protect the same Money-Powers. This obfuscation is subtle (they still have ample criticisms of the Establishment Left, to be fair) but absolutely crucial. Failure to understand this fact represents a failure to understand the fundamental problem of our Age, as any true Marxist-Leninist AND any true Fascist could readily tell you. If Chapo doesn’t find themselves in either of those ideological camps, it’s almost as if they’re really just Liberals themselves.
As stated above, Chapo’s characterization of the Right Wing will appear laughable to anybody who actually knows anything. They portray the GOP and Establishment Conservatism as a monstrous machine of illiberalism, while completely jettisoning any discussion of genuinely illiberal Rightists. This absurd narrative is not only laughable, it’s also deliberately and tactically dishonest. Chapo crafts this narrative in Chapter Three of the book (“CONS”), which opens with the following:
“The right wing in America is like Dracula: a grotesque avatar of inherited wealth who is unlikable, casts no reflection in mirrors and lives off the blood of peasants.”
Yet another point where I could quite easily find myself in agreement with Chapo (despite the rather gay and histrionic tone used). “Conservatism” as it exists, and has historically existed in America, is at best a release valve for White Angst, and at worst a comically craven defense of Money-Power, Imperialism, and the Zionism. The Republican Party is indeed grotesque and unlikable, a shuffling undead mechanism propped up by inertia and the inherited wealth described by Chapo. What Chapo fails to mention is that the true Right Wing isn’t Conservatism; Conservatism is the “right” side of Liberalism. Again, an obfuscation of how the Liberal global order is actually structured. Chapo entirely ignores the illiberal Right. The Right-Wing intellectuals cited in this book are Russell Kirk, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robeson, Ayn Rand, G.K. Chesterton, Paul Kersey (the ‘Death Wish’ character, not SBPDL guy), Fred Flinstone (oh man you guys are really really fucking funny, zany shit alert, watch out), William F. Buckley, Murray Rothbard, and Hans Hermann Hoppe. I’m a charitable guy so I will readily acknowledge that the illiberal Right has historically had a fairly marginal presence in the US, so given that this book focuses mainly on the US it wouldn’t be at all fair to expect a lengthy exploration of the Nouvelle Droit or any other European movement. That being said, the Chapo crew are neither dumb nor ignorant. They know what they’re doing. Matt Christman is an autistic spazz and he knows exactly who Carl Schmitt is. He wants to make sure that none of his fans know who Carl Schmitt is, because if they did then they might become our fans. Chapo calls sharply into focus the pro-Capitalist and Individualist Right because they know those are ultimately losing positions. Like I said, I could’ve become one of these guys. The reason I didn’t is because I’ve never read Ayn Rand or Russell Kirk; when I stumbled upon the Far Right, I started reading Yockey, Dugin and Mussolini. The true Far Right terrifies the Chapo crowd because their hustle demands a perceived a monopoly on Liberalism’s unanswered questions.
Their answer to these unanswered questions is ultimately just watered-down Marxism; in the penultimate chapter “WORK” they finally lay out their positive vision for the future. I had to slog through a ton of pages of rehashed Howard Zinn history and bootleg Zizek pop culture critiques to get to this. I’m still pretty annoyed that I read this entire book, there’s a downright insulting amount of filler in this thing. Anyway, this is what these guys apparently want:
“When freed from the soul-crushing system of wage labor, what we used to call “work” actually becomes the passionate, creative fulfillment the lizards in marketing tell us it is. After setting everyone on equal footing (by seizing the billionaires’ money, socializing their wealth, and handing the keys to production over to workers), you’re looking at an economy that requires something like a three-hour workday, with machines taking care of most of the drudgery; and- as our public fund pays for things like health care, education, scientific research, and infrastructure- all this technology actually makes work quicker, easier, and more enjoyable.”
So yeah, that’s it. They’re offering a bunch of bullshit that sounds really nice and we’ve all heard about hundreds and hundreds of times. I was dumbfounded by the sheer wearisome nature of the above paragraph, and I was even more dumbfounded when I read this tidbit in the earlier “WORLD” chapter (a chapter which was admittedly a generally decent summary of US Imperialism, albeit with some predictable obfuscations (Zionism is a mere footnote, and I’m sure if pressed these guys would explain Zionism as a weird Reactionary mutation caused by wage labor or whatever):
“We’re sure that you, the idiot reader so stupid as to buy this book, can imagine a global order built on egalitarianism- one in which the productive forces of society aren’t spent on inventing new weapons of mass destruction and clever ways to brutalize dissidents but on ensuring that all people enjoy the fruits of their birthright, an order that holds human beings and their fundamental rights as sacrosanct, and believes that the provision of basic human needs to be the sole objective of politics and the economy, that rejects violence and militarism in toto.”
As a matter of fact, I actually can’t imagine this particular global order and I have a hard time believing that the Chapo guys do either. A global order based on the concept of human rights? Wow, that sounds a whole hell of a lot like the hideously blood-drenched Liberal world order that Chapo spent the entire rest of their “WORLD” Chapter complaining about. They would of course argue that Liberalism’s humanitarian pretenses are a trick whereas theirs are genuine, just as the anti-Capitalist sentiments of Fascists are a mere ruse whereas theirs is not. Needless to say, I don’t believe them. That’s what a whole lot of this boils down to: I don’t believe you, Chapo. It boggles my mind that anybody would. Chapo has developed a clever grift where they oppose Liberalism’s most plainly distasteful elements while reinforcing its fundamental premises. As a fellow urbanite Millennial shithead I can completely understand where this grift came from. If I told my friends that I actually thought Hillary Clinton was a good candidate, they would’ve laughed at me. Chapo oppose Liberalism because no one from their milieu would be caught dead supporting it outright. A cursory examination quickly reveals, however, that they aren’t interested in genuine opposition to Liberalism either. Chapo doesn’t want a “Revolution”- they want a contrarian pose, Medicare For All, and a steady (and ample) flow of Patreon revenue.
Chapo Trap House and their DSA comrades have been widely dubbed the “Dirtbag Left”. Believe you me, I know a thing or two about being a dirtbag. I spent my early twenties drinking heavily, doing a shit load of drugs (pretty much all of them- never came across Meth or PCP though), and slowly but steadily dropping out of Community College. I’m probably more of a dirtbag than any of these guys. Probably more of a Leftist too. With that in mind, I’ll close this little missive by focusing on our common ground. Here’s a bit from the book’s Epilogue that resonated with me quite deeply:
“Finding some happiness in this hellworld is essential for your mental health, but it’s not enough. No one would blame you for simply ‘getting by’— zoning out after work, ordering the occasional GrubHub delivery, and saving up for a PS4. But you’ll still feel the dread. Fact is, there’s no way to truly escape the anxiety and alienation, let alone the economic and ecological catastrophes we’re going to witness in our lifetimes.”
“Getting by is not enough. But neither is ceaseless anger, sadness, and fear. That will burn you out quickly, and what you need is energy to sustain you, to motivate you to be part of something bigger. Spending every single moment thinking about politics (particularly on the Internet) will turn you cynical, hysterical, and probably reactionary. Let’s avoid that.
What we all need—as far as our ancient, wise, giant brains can tell— is a good-humored, thick-skinned, and maybe even optimistic struggle against the world outside.”
It’s going to be quite a struggle indeed. Are all you Chapo fans feeling optimistic? I know I am.