From Kanye West to Red Scare, the pipeline between the progressive left and the nu-right is growing – but it’s more than just Trump hats and traffickers
Earlier this month, Kanye West officially declared his allegiance to alt-right pundits and conspiracy madmen when he sent a White Lives Matter t-shirt down the runway at Paris Fashion Week. An artist already known for his erratic tweetstorms, Ye’s desire to provoke his fans is nothing new. But the show and its fallout – plus its vocal anti-Semitism – marked a new chapter in the artist’s radicalization. As fashion editors and celebrities rushed in and wrote fiercely worded opinion pieces, alt-right circles hailed him as a “cancel culture” warrior gone wrong.
Go back to before 2020 and maybe Kanye’s behavior could be brushed off as your standard edgelord stunt – he has a history of wearing MAGA Hats and play with confederate imagery. But after years of the pandemic, as we become more online and the IRL world plunges further into disarray, it no longer feels like harmless trolling. What Kanye is suggesting is that political beliefs, like fashion trends, are an aesthetic to be tried and stripped regardless of the actual consequences. (Some have of course argued otherwise, her ties to Candace Owens suggesting a more deliberate political strategy).
Kanye-isms aside, this kind of all-out behavior isn’t limited to traditional provocateurs trying to stay relevant. Nor are they 4chan users or anonymous alt-right Twitter accounts with ancient Greek avatars. Rather, it is emblematic of a larger trend that has taken hold of the internet and is now permeating progressive spaces. This is especially true for a certain breed of extremely online artists and tastemakers, the kind you’d assume responsible for pushing the culture forward, but who have gone so black they’ve traded progressive politics for doomer- system-embracing nihilism via Trump hats, trafficker and Big Tech payments.
At the center of this shift is Dimes Square, the memorable New York City micro-neighbourhood that has become synonymous with the post-liberal anti-revival political movement. Like countless thoughts suggests, this is the place where so-called inner city cool kids gather to share their dreams of becoming passionate housewives, cosplay as trad-cathsmake flippant jokes about migrant crisisand use words like “retarded” and “gay” like diversion away from the safety pin politics that encompasses the liberal left. Whether it’s an elaborate LARP or not, some of these e-girls and edgelords also engage with far-right thinkers and pundits. This could perhaps be interpreted as a AltWoke way to exploit corporate resources, accelerating through capitalism to dismantle structural power. But coupled with the conservative attitudes of the scene, it starts to look more like a shadowy think tank.
In September, the second official congregation of the Urbit Foundation took place in New York. Founded by Curtis Yavinthe far-right leader of neo-reactionary politics, and backed by billionaire venture capitalist and pro-Trump political donor Peter Thiel, Urbit is essentially a decentralized, peer-to-peer network and operating system loosely associated with Web3. It claims to offer an alternative to the World Wide Web, although its current state is extremely basic. early 90s chat room. Given its corporate background and backing from Big Tech, outsiders to the industry would assume that Urbit’s customers consist primarily of computer enthusiasts and gamers. But the organization caught on to the downtown New York scene. Honor Levy and Walter Pearce, co-hosts of the wet brain podcast, hosted an event at Urbit, as did No Agency, a hip Chinatown-based modeling agency that represents Dasha Nekrasova of Red Scare. Like James Duesterberg, who wrote one of the most comprehensive dives in Urbit, writes: “a handful of well-connected New York publicists, magazine editors, artistic advisers, modeling agents and socialites [are] on his payroll. »
What drives a group of twenty-something creatives and socialites to want to engage in business with the world’s darkest far-right figures is a tricky case to unpack. Downtown New York is at the epicenter of the so-called “internet scene,” which emerged from the pandemic and spread through an endless stream of Adderall and schizoid content: Substacks, podcasts and anonymous Instagram accounts. It has also caused an influx of nu-right podcasts, which are long, self-referential and intentionally opaque, spanning hours of nonsensical audio and rambling blocks of text that are nearly impossible to distill into blocks of information. significant. They are often led by the kind of terminally ill online scenes that listen to Red Scare and carry Prayer t-shirts with mimetic slogans like ‘God’s favorite’ or ‘Flop Era’. A similar strain of tongue-in-cheek humor can be spotted across Urbit. An Instagram account, shirts_of_assemblydocuments pattern fashion, which includes “I MET MY WIFE AT URBIT ASSEMBLY” and “URBIT MAXIMALIST”.
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— soph (@alivegirl001101) October 16, 2022
With no clear avenues for political potential on the horizon and no major global events to reinvigorate the progressive agenda, online political movements like Theorygram have lost momentum. As left-wing progressive spaces dissolve into memey entertainment, there is an overwhelming sense that the system is broken – in short, we have lost our sense of urgency. Young people who voted for Bernie Sanders in 2016 were forced to live out Trump’s fever dream, then witnessed the chaos of the pandemic and the demise of liberalism. With Biden and capitalism offering no viable leftist alternative to the current political system, they have decided that politics is for them, not for us, and have fallen down the pipeline of nihilism, into the dissident fringes where the only thing that remains to be done basking in the chaos. Like the living embodiment of the Joker meme, they shitpost and troll and LARP as reactionaries and traditionalists, raising an eyebrow at any libs who oppose it as if to say: why so serious?
This is especially true when life already looks like one big meme. World leaders communicate via The Simpsons still images and even the most tragic world events can be distilled into bytes of shareable content and ultimately lost in the eternal scroll. This lack of permanence, combined with the sense of triviality instilled by such means of communication, has helped to shape the idea that everything is contained. Online identities are roles to be fulfilled; ideas are memorized, remixed and broadcast until forgotten. As technology advances, algorithms direct our interests and our lives seem more out of our control than ever.
We live in a cyberculture where social and capital are inseparable, and where everything is a commodity – especially your identity. It’s all filtered through social media, which is funded by tech billionaires with their own agendas. One only has to look at Instagram’s strict censorship or shadowbanning rules to understand that the algorithm, which undeniably shapes our behavior, facilitates an ideological evolution that fuels the motivations of these companies.
In this current moment of cultural stasis, capitalizing on the disruptive power of the internet can feel liberating, especially when technology continues to advance and we find ourselves relentlessly rehashing past eras and trends to fill in the gaps. Like schizoposting, which takes an unfiltered approach to sharing information via unintelligible walls of text, there is a hedonistic desire to push content to its extremes – and to express broader dissatisfaction with the order. global.
But isn’t that exactly the future that Big Tech wants? While nihilism certainly provides an easy fix, it doesn’t address the real problem – and there are far better ways to show your displeasure than rude comments and Hail Marys. Some have suggested we are heading towards a neo-feudal society where very few powerful elites control all resources and capital for rent as memberships to the public – last week Kanye announced plans to build a mini -city called the Yecosystem. Yarvin wants to accelerate the more dystopian aspects of our neoliberal present, suppress democracy and make figures like Elon Musk our true overlords. So while we deal with trolls and scammers, or give up caring about them altogether, the tech billionaires get exactly what they want – and lead us further down a darker and darker path. .
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