left twitter + weird twitter = chapo trap house
September 2, 2016 1:47 PM   Subscribe

On the Chapo Trap House Podcast (@ChapoTrapHouse), Felix Biederman (@ByYourLogic), Matt Christman (@cushbomb), Will Menaker (@willmenaker), and producer Brendan James (@deep_beige) talk politics and the internet, and are extremely vulgar.
All four are members of “weird Twitter” Eleven previouslies, and the podcast reflects those sensibilities. (Biederman is also notable as one of the two authors behind CAFE.com’s fake-yet-weirdly-accurate pundit Carl Diggler.) In a laudatory and thorough July interview with Jason Rhode at Paste, the foursome talk about bringing back the “Dirtbag Left” and mocking the punditocracy. (Additional adulation from Sam Reisman at Mediaite.)

Despite its being a subcultural phenomenon (or as a sign of it?), CTH is the 26th most supported creator on Patreon. (Patrons, not dollars.)
posted by Going To Maine (59 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love this podcast, so glad to see it posted here. It's nice to have a voice from the left that's not buying into the new morning-in-america version of the democratic party. Plus its hilarious.
posted by R.F.Simpson at 2:07 PM on September 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


to paraphrase a sentiment i saw on twitter, the bright side of this election is that it's revealed a vibrant and funny and thriving leftist community online
posted by burgerrr at 2:11 PM on September 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


the thing with CTH, and by extension the Twitter/New Media left, is that they seem to have answered the question: "What was wrong with Jon Stewart's 'Daily Show'"? with: "It's bland and insincere middle-of-the-roadism masquerading as politics," without pausing too long to think about whether there is any relationship between new mass media and left politics. The closest they come is when one of their friends gets banned by Twitter or the "Short Happy Life of Matt Breunig as a Twitter Commentator" ie. maybe building a mass media product is not actually doing politics, or maybe even is doing "bad" politics.

So, CTH climbs up all of the very standard metrics of new mass media: crowd-sourcing, clicks, social network engagement, etc, much the way, say, Jacobin, climbed the same hill, but both heavily rely on and amplify the political table talk of the "NYC grad student left" without any substantial engagement with actual politics.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:46 PM on September 2, 2016 [12 favorites]


i cannot wait to hear them read that comment on a future episode
posted by beerperson at 2:58 PM on September 2, 2016 [22 favorites]


>maybe building a mass media product is not actually doing politics

Agreed, but I think they're pretty explicitly *not* doing politics. They're a morning zoo radio show from an alternate universe where America has an actual left, and it's incredibly cathartic to listen to.

Maybe it's because political engagement in America is roughly as engaging as being stuck in traffic on the way to a dead end job, but a morning zoo radio show is exactly what I needed this election.
posted by DGStieber at 3:07 PM on September 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


They also criticize the Daily Show and John Oliver for being useless (and even counterproductive) catharsis while not being much more themselves. And I say that as a huge fan.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:25 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am not a podcast guy, but I enjoy their show because they tear down bad ideas and shitty politics regardless of what corner they come from. They made fun of the RNC and DNC equally, albeit attacking different aspects — as but one example.

"But what are they doing to change politics." That's a weird question to ask of a podcast done largely for entertainment purposes, albeit with a political theme.

Also, their cast on the attempted Turkish coup was very informative. The real highlight is some of the guests they bring on.
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:34 PM on September 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Wait, so unless a news or comedy show actually makes policy changes, they are counter productive?
posted by clockworkjoe at 3:37 PM on September 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I love Chapo and the spinoff podcast Frost/Christman (w/ Amber A'Lee Frost and Matt Christman from CTH) is also gearing up to be one of the more interestinf podcasts about film.
posted by griphus at 3:39 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also I am literally right this moment listening to the episode with Liza Featherstone and this is some of the most worthwhile criticism of Hilary Clinton from the left I've heaed yet.
posted by griphus at 3:42 PM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Wait, so unless a news or comedy show actually makes policy changes, they are counter productive?

The argument as I understand it is that these "speak truth to power" comedy shows that get regularly posted and shared in social media ("John Stewart DESTROYS Trump with five little words" or whatever) get mistaken by people posting them as some form of activism, thus fooling people into thinking they're making a difference when in fact they're just sharing a comedy show with likeminded friends, none of whom are changed by the experience.

It's a criticism with some validity, although to my mind its much more of an indictment of the viewers than the shows.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:46 PM on September 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


Wait, so unless a news or comedy show actually makes policy changes, they are counter productive?

The argument as I understand it is that these "speak truth to power" comedy shows that get regularly posted and shared in social media ("John Stewart DESTROYS Trump with five little words" or whatever) get mistaken by people posting them as some form of activism, thus fooling people into thinking they're making a difference when in fact they're just sharing a comedy show with likeminded friends, none of whom are changed by the experience.

The other counterargument (or just a different counter-argument?) is that these shows are acknowledged to essentially be ineffective but at the same time propagate a myth that comedy and mockery are the only weapons we have. That is, they promote a certain kind of nihilism.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:54 PM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's a facile criticism because you can say that about any news or critique that does not include direct political action. It's also false because the Daily Show has created actual policy change. The problem is a major cultural problem, where the powers that be have done everything possible to discourage collective action on the part of the citizens.

It's like criticizing the Occupy movement because they used mass produced goods.
posted by clockworkjoe at 3:58 PM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


The argument as I understand it is that these "speak truth to power" comedy shows that get regularly posted and shared in social media ("John Stewart DESTROYS Trump with five little words" or whatever) get mistaken by people posting them as some form of activism, thus fooling people into thinking they're making a difference when in fact they're just sharing a comedy show with likeminded friends, none of whom are changed by the experience.

is there actually any evidence one way or another about

a.) who is reached by this kind of thing
b.) whether, even if it is in fact mostly received by people who already agree, it is useful in mobilizing them to action?

that seems... unclear?

(I haven't listened to CTH yet so I don't know what they're like but I'm pretty sure people with mass media distribution absolutely have the ability to set "actual politics" into motion.)
posted by atoxyl at 4:04 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


is there a way to listen to this that doesn't require itunes
posted by kbanas at 4:12 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


@kbanas You can find them on SoundCloud (they release premium episodes there as well).
posted by kyp at 4:14 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Spotify too.
posted by griphus at 4:17 PM on September 2, 2016


It's like criticizing the Occupy movement because they used mass produced goods.

Occupy is a nice example because "it" achieved a real mass audience, but once they got the kind of audience most political radicals (or CTH) would kill for, "it" turned out to be totally disengaged from any real politics, a kind of spontaneous branding exercise with an airy anarchist attitude, but in the real world occupy encampments had "kettled" themselves and were easily crushed by the cops.

I mean, bourgeois entertainment like Chayefsky's Network did this whole line of criticism 40 years ago. Would Howard Beale have a blog be on Twitter, would he go viral? would his podcast reach #1 on iTunes?

The problem with "grad student radicals" isn't that they are bourgeois parasites, it's that they tend to ether be solid middle class types, or aspirational working class types. Despite the academic language, they tend to be pragmatists at heart, they don't think ideas are particularly valuable, and tend to distrust asking deep questions. Because, if you want to a succeed in academia you have to produce and most "deep thoughts" are totally wrong. Despite all of the paranoid metaphysics problems, it's not accidental that the Situationists invented modern branding and marketing. They were really trying to take Marxism and use it to bootstrap an understanding of how the production of *immaterial* goods for consumption was vitally important to understanding capitalism itself.

If you want to see what a government of modern Jacobins looks like, look at Syriza in Greece. The radicals in Syriza failed to have even a basic understanding what work would have to be done to leave the Euro and so were completely out-maneuvered by the "centrists" who demonstrated that the only way to hold power in Greece was to be better managers of austerity than the other guys... despite rhetoric more radical than anything you might get on CTH.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:31 PM on September 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


I remain divided on Chapo Trap House because I’m a timid person who is probably to the right of their politics. But it’s very satisfying to listen to the RNC episode and hear them talk about Milo being a joke or how the scandal over Melania’s speech was so much silliness relative to everything else. It seems like it’s either perfect agreement with me or perfect disagreement, just juvenile enough or oversimplification beyond belief. Still, I think the phenomenon - especially the patreon part, is just astounding to me.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:22 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why is everyone talking about CTH as if it's a mass media product designed for demographic appeal? Maybe them being relatively successful at Patreon is hiding the fact that this is just really subniche humor from guys vibing and clowning on a similar level, with very little calculated about it. Maybe if they get a show on Adult Swim or something (oh god) then we can compare it to the Daily Show or Occupy but for now chill out, it's a funny, sometimes surprisingly incisive podcast from a few weird twitter dudes with a minor following.
posted by naju at 5:35 PM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't think anyone minds a Left-wing podcast that isn't doing "real politics" (whatever that means) as long as they don't repeatedly spout off about other media entities because the latter aren't doing "real politics" (see their criticism of the Daily Show etc. above).
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:38 PM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Maybe them being relatively successful at Patreon is hiding the fact that this is just really subniche humor from guys vibing and clowning on a similar level, with very little calculated about it.

Well, yes, absolutely I don’t think it’s calculated. But the interesting thing about it doing aces on Patreon to me is that it suggests that, hey, the market exists for this stuff. It’s another tale of our modern age making niche stuff possible.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:43 PM on September 2, 2016


There's probably a big intersection between folks who'll give $27 to Bernie and their Patreon patrons. I for one welcome the normalization of funding political entities and content.
posted by kyp at 6:02 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


as long as they don't repeatedly spout off about other media entities because the latter aren't doing "real politics" (see their criticism of the Daily Show etc. above).

The criticism of The Daily Show is not that they're failing to do real politics, but rather that they're safe, smug, wan liberals catering to other safe, smug, wan liberals by validating how right they are compared to Fox News ("as opposed to the wan liberalism of people who are mostly interested in showing how much smarter they are than Republicans"). Part of the delight of CTH is in them being an antidote to that safe consensus brand of liberal political humor and pointing out its absurdities and flaws from a genuine, uncalculated left/progressive perspective. I don't think it's hypocritical at all for them to do so.
posted by naju at 6:12 PM on September 2, 2016 [18 favorites]


I love CTH because as left media critics, they don't just go after Fox News again and again and again (though they're definitely not above a knock on the Federalist or Ross Douthat.) What I enjoy is they consistently, and usually hilariously, articulate problems I always had with centrist and center-left media -- be it Vox' "everything is better than ever, yay capitalism!" schtick, or Buzzfeed's consumerism-as-activism streak/uncritical Obama love parade, or everything Ron Fournier has ever or will ever do.

Well, yes, absolutely I don’t think it’s calculated. But the interesting thing about it doing aces on Patreon to me is that it suggests that, hey, the market exists for this stuff. It’s another tale of our modern age making niche stuff possible.

There's probably a big intersection between folks who'll give $27 to Bernie and their Patreon patrons. I for one welcome the normalization of funding political entities and content.


Indeed. I give 'em five bucks a month. And isn't direct support for niche artists you like - with minimal interference from third parties - the ideal?
posted by joechip at 6:13 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I tried to get into CTH but I couldn't manage it. Too much oversimplification, too much generalization, too little data, too little deep thought. They're a bunch of guys who have already decided that they're right and are just going to rant about it in the way only self-satisfied white dudes can. Go be a morning zoo show, you do you, but don't do your morning zoo "analysis" that barely skims the surface of any topic and then whine about how other morning zoo-type media like TDS or John Oliver are smug and ineffectual. Look in a damn mirror, dudes.

All that even without getting into the idea of three middle-class white dudes (and their producer) having a show called "Chapo Trap House." SO EDGE. MUCH IRONY.
posted by schroedinger at 6:49 PM on September 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


Some other recent left-leaning podcasts of note that I listen to:

Delete Your Account (@deleteuracct) by Roqayah Chamseddine (@roqchams) and Kumars Salehi (@KumarsSalehi).

Politically Reactive by W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) and Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu).
posted by kyp at 7:14 PM on September 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


"But what are they doing to change politics." That's a weird question to ask of a podcast done largely for entertainment purposes, albeit with a political theme.

Weird one to ask of TV shows done largely for entertainment purposes, albeit with a political theme, too.

Hell, that got said out loud during Jon Stewart's famous take down of Crossfire.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:18 PM on September 2, 2016


The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight are on another level of stature and maturity where it's fair game to attack them with fervor, whether hyperbolic or cathartic or some combination, and CTH is small and scrappy and more likely to benefit than suffer by taking snark to a meta level. This arguably can lead to some improvement in news-entertainment shows over time, whether or not CTH cares about that or they're just experiencing their own sort of catharsis while making some money and notoriety in the process. They are far more liberated to speak freely and engage in their own catharsis rather than presenting a watered-down version designed to appeal to a larger audience without offending potential guests.

I was 23 when the Iraq War started and watched TDS religiously with my very radical roommate who was very much a leftist-anarchist-Marxist-purist at times but we both loved it and found it cathartic because Bush seemed so horrifying and it was just entertaining enough to see him mocked even if we figured he was playing dumb and just a figurehead for Cheney and the neoconservative agenda. Tom Tomorrow's comic (I'm old and forgetful now) and Get Your War On were in full swing.

Jon Stewart was definitely at his best during that second Gulf War, and his intensity seemed to peak when he brought down Crossfire (for a time) which coincidentally involved a dialog about cable news being elevated too high in stature despite being a low-information-density 24/7 form of mindless entertainment. Stewart made astute observations about how politics affects real peoples' lives and is not taken seriously by the shit-eating-grinners of the pundit-class, which to see it all as kayfabe, pure entertainment for its own sake.

But somewhere along the line Stewart watered himself down and seemed to be seeking a sort of "respectability of discourse" that wouldn't offend recurring guests like John McCain or Bill O'Reilly. This is a hot topic on CTH, the notion that being civil and respectful and having a proper tone is often seen as the most important thing in political cliques, and that this belief in the importance of Elevated Discourse has real-world limiting effects on the magnitude of political change that can be affected because Getting Mad is not allowed.

The White House Press Correspondent's dinner has illustrated the incestuous nature of the beltway media, roundly mocking everyone but very playfully, as they all pat themselves on the back and laugh nervously about jokes surrounding horrifying things like the "search for weapons of mass destruction." I've enjoyed many of these but there's a point where you start counting pulled punches and wonder why they don't push The Discourse to the limits where you really wonder how they got invited -- Larry Wilmore was definitely going for this.

I suspect much of the original 18-35 audience of this show and its spinoffs is the same audience today, though they've moved on in age to 30-47, which is probably one reason Trevor Noah was selected, to court the new 18-35 demo. This makes it easier for more radical young people to ridicule the show as well, for appealing to a more comfortable "settled in" audience.

CTH definitely speaks directly to a younger audience that is increasingly difficult to capture due to their preferred methods of consuming news--if you're not a huge cable news fan, cutting the cord and enjoying cable items a la carte is much easier--and the fact that most of the Jon Stewart they've been exposed to from the point where they became politically aware seemed more feckless than the Stewart we saw in Iraq.

CTH is punching up at the elevated stature of these shows and directly at the audience, particularly those who endlessly praise hosts current and former for being So Important.

There are many breathless "We Need Jon Stewart Back in These Tough Times" thinkpieces and surveys like this reinforce a smugness based on setting a very low bar--"people who watch MSNBC or just The Daily Show are better informed than Fox News viewers" when we're talking about answering an average of 1.47 domestic questions out of 4 correctly (just Daily Show viewers) vs 1.04 (just Fox News viewers).

Interestingly MSNBC-only and CNN-only viewers only answered 1.26 out of 4 correctly. It's probably no accident that a quick 30-minute TDS recap carries more weight than hours of cable news, and Jon Stewart knew that and criticized cable news for not trying hard enough to inform viewers about the world they live in.

Clearly The Daily Show was making an effort to be educational but when Jon got called out for lobbing softballs (I became very frustrated when watching some of the more recent interviews in comparison to his fiery Iraq years) or making bad false-equivalencies, he always fell back on "I'm just a comedian!" But worst of all, when Stewart was interviewing a random celebrity due to a movie release or whatever, he could be a total asshole and be far more hard-hitting and aggressive than he was with say, Bill Kristol in newer appearances.

It's complicated...and certainly there's some "fuck your self-importance and performative displays of allegiance to John Oliver and IFuckingLoveScience." There's a ton of snark here, and the more I read about smarm, the more I appreciate snarky voices, even when they miss the mark.

I still watch TDS and Last Week Tonight, I like John Oliver and wish maybe he'd not do so many "here's a list of rephrases of the exact same joke to make me sound authoritative," and not do things like this. But I appreciate him. I appreciate CTH too and don't take offense when they mock these shows, as they are not sacred cows but willing participants in The Discourse Game.

TDS and LWT definitely entertain and often inform me (though I'm sad that Trevor Noah seems to be more of a celebrity-gusher than a hard-hitter), but now that I pay attention to Twitter and listen to CTH, I find that I'm much more caught up on current events and the greater depths behind them when I flip the TV on.
posted by aydeejones at 10:27 PM on September 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


...and Twitter tends to point me often to primary sources of information, roundly ridicule people who don't seek those sources of information when they run off half-cocked at the mouth, and stretches me to really assess where I fall on the left-right spectrum and how I'm living my life in accordance with those values. I've also known that I was more left-leaning that I outwardly projected, but didn't have a solid foundation for those views and continue to explore it daily. CTH is like listening to a very entertaining incisive part of Twitter largely for entertainment and cathartic purposes rather than having to scroll through tons of shit, piecing together bits and pieces of information.

It's rather strange to be in your mid-30's trying to grok Twitter and all of its factions.

I kind of hope they make fun of me for being the Old Guy Trying to Act Cool
posted by aydeejones at 10:43 PM on September 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


All that even without getting into the idea of three middle-class white dudes (and their producer) having a show called "Chapo Trap House." SO EDGE. MUCH IRONY.

This would be why I used the “weird Twitter” tag.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:19 PM on September 2, 2016


The peak of the Daily Show as something I enjoyed watching was probably the 2004 election. I'm not really concerned with whether it lost its teeth or ever had teeth or whatever. Later Jon Stewart Daily show is just - so much mugging and applause.
posted by atoxyl at 1:24 AM on September 3, 2016


I also don't get the impression that they're criticizing The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight themselves (i.e., the hosts, producers, crew etc.) as much as they're criticizing the fans and people in media who write about those shows as if they're accomplishing something politically significant. That is, the Buzzfeeds and Upworthys and whoever else who have run dozens and dozens of headlines about someone on TV or Twitter "DESTROYING" or "EVISCERATING!!!" Trump or whatever, and did so throughout the GOP primary where he was an unstoppable force, etc. Like, those shows or people may have said something very funny and satisfying and true about Trump or some other repellent figure, and that's valid for what it is. But that in itself isn't enough to destroy someone (except Tucker Carlson that one time, who wasn't an actual politician and was a much smaller fry anyway), and writing or passing around triumphant articles to like minded friends and then doing nothing else isn't enough to effect real change.

I think THAT'S what the CTH hosts and other grey wolves are criticizing. It isn't hypocritical because they're just talking shit about people or discussing the Turkish coup or the Iran deal or whatever, and they realize that their show isn't EVISCERATING anything and don't claim otherwise. They aren't trying to disembowel terrible politicians, they're just discussing the latest news cycle (mainly filtered through the people they've been interacting with on Twitter) and cracking jokes about the stupidest things people have said. (They do have a tendency to bend the arc of reality towards things that they've discussed on previous episodes, but it's usually the most terrible things they've made jokes about coming true because reality is terrible, not something good that they want to happen being realized as a result of their efforts)
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 2:05 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Although let me amend my previous comment: I think the CTH boys criticize the Daily Show, Last Week Tonight, etc. directly when they wield their audience purportedly in an attempt to achieve something political, but do so in a way that is ultimately powerless. For instance, the Rally to Restore Sanity with its message of basically "both sides are crazy, so stop demonizing Republicans" or LWT's push to theoretically demoralize Trump by spelling his name "Drumpf" instead in Internet comments.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 2:40 AM on September 3, 2016


This is a hot topic on CTH, the notion that being civil and respectful and having a proper tone is often seen as the most important thing in political cliques, and that this belief in the importance of Elevated Discourse has real-world limiting effects on the magnitude of political change that can be affected because Getting Mad is not allowed.

This right here is what frustrates me, about both Chapo Trap House and about Weird Twitter in general. I really genuinely want there to be a ridiculously funny, ridiculously politically–active community that I can belong to, not least of which because I am a pragmatist and I think that making political progressivism entertaining is one of the more–guaranteed ways to make people give a shit. But I've found, again and again, that people who think that "Elevated Discourse has real–world limiting effects on the magnitude of political change" are, as often as not, just as willing to shit all over minority groups who try to argue that the way issues pertinent to them are discussed feel racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/whatever. I keep oscillating between wanting to like this group of genuinely funny people more than I do, and finding myself forced yet again to keep them at arm's length.

This is exacerbated in 2016, when the "liberal" candidate for POTUS also happens to be a woman, who receives criticism for things that other, male candidates don't. This is not something I want to rehash in this thread—we have a few thousand comments' worth of this elsewhere if you want to look—but the smug, snide Weird Twitter anti–Hillary attitude overlaps with enough of what I consider hypocritical slander that it reeeeally puts me on edge. I also think that, in this weird/left movement, there's exactly as much of a hivemind/echo chamber thing going on: I don't see people in this group discuss subjects so much as flatly agree on them, and I do very strongly get the impression that any deviation from the accepted norm is discouraged, more often by mockery than by any other means.

Which gets me to the part where, beyond even the political approach of this group, it's the humor itself that leaves me feeling really fucking skeeved. Because this is absolutely an in–group that's willing to be pretty fucking vicious about people who they don't like. They're a group that'll interrupt a group of women/PoC having a conversation and spout some sarcastic bullshit their way, or else say some pretty gross stuff that's "funny" because ha ha look at these people looking to have Elevated Discourse, the fucking real–world limiters. Arthur Chu, an admittedly–problematic writer who I think has nonetheless written some pretty fantastic stuff, doesn't just get critiqued or dismissed, his face gets used as a punchline that sums up to "what an ugly–looking man". Sady Doyle and Amanda Marcotte—neither of whom I like as writers, most of the time—get dumped on in a way that makes me think that the people doing the dumping would love to just call them a gendered slur and be done with it, only they're smart enough to know how that would affect their image so they code their insults instead.

The real breaking point for me was when a pretty–lauded Weird Twitterer (and a guy who's funny as fuck, too) wrote an article basically saying that Zoe Quinn's supporters shouldn't support her, because Depression Quest is a shitty video game. Mind you, that was a bit of an outlier, and that guy is a particularly mean–hearted prick, but Brianna Wu, another central #GG target, is a pretty frequently–recurring target: recently she was shat on a bunch because she took a photo that revealed her computer wallpaper had an anime character on it, which, ???????

How the fuck is that punching up?

What bothers me about the "liberal v. left" discourse is that I don't think the politics of contemporary America are as simple as "there are neoliberal sympathizers over here, and progressive stallions over here". I think there are at least two distinct progressive movements going on right now, and that one of those movements refuses to see the other as legitimate. That's also the whiter and more male movement. It's also a very funny and passionate movement, and I really wish I could jump on board with that one as much as I want to jump on board with the other one. I also don't think it's impossible to empathize with both groups simultaneously. But there's something really gross about this group, and no matter how many times I give them a try and how much I try to look the other way, it feels at times like they're determined to shove their grossness in everybody else's face.
posted by rorgy at 4:00 AM on September 3, 2016 [22 favorites]


i cannot wait to hear them read that comment on a future episode

Remember when Howard Stern was huge, and fans said "Oh, he's gonna get that guy" type stuff all the time?
posted by ignignokt at 4:24 AM on September 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Arthur Chu, an admittedly–problematic writer who I think has nonetheless written some pretty fantastic stuff, doesn't just get critiqued or dismissed, his face gets used as a punchline that sums up to "what an ugly–looking man".

They say Arthur Chu's face looks moist. Arthur Chu said they are a more legitimately threatening group than the alt-right, who include actual Nazis and other racists and who propelled their preferred candidate to the nomination of one of the two major political parties.

Sady Doyle, in turn, has repeatedly broadcast borderline slanderous lies about leftist writers like Matt Bruenig and Carl Beijer both on her blog and in letters to their employers--successfully in the case of Bruenig, who was fired from both Demos and his federal job as his wife was going into labor with their first child.

As much as you and they assert that it's a guys hating girls thing, that really has nothing to do with why they rib that group so much. Which you could confirm by asking any of the many women (including WOC) in the same leftist Twitter circle, who will tell you that the regular way Chu, Marcotte, Doyle and others treat them is either to ignore them and refuse to engage in conversation, or outright block them at the first sign of disagreement. That same crew also frequently quote tweet people saying horrible things who openly proclaim themselves as pro-Trump, then claim to their followers that the quoted person is a member of the racist/sexist Left.

I agree with you that between liberals and the Left, one movement doesn't recognize the other as legitimate. I don't think it's the same one that you're referring to, however. I think it's the side that refuses to ever engage on the merits with the other side's arguments, instead preferring to claim it's made entirely of white guy harassers who are more threatening than literal Nazis. (I am referring to Chu, Doyle, etc. here and not you, rorgy, as I recognize that your post was much more fair and even handed although I obviously don't completely agree with your read of the situation)
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 5:17 AM on September 3, 2016 [20 favorites]


I'd like to read that Zoe Quinn article, rorgy. Where would I find it?
posted by Alex Goldman at 5:31 AM on September 3, 2016


Oh my god, that Aaron Sorkin masterclass sketch (#34), I just want to paste it into the thread
posted by grobstein at 6:40 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd like to read that Zoe Quinn article, rorgy. Where would I find it?

The article is here and the person rorgy refers to goes by Lowenaffchen. The offending paragraph, which naturally invalidates the entire argument by the Dutchman's Horseshoe Principle, appears in this tweet.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:49 AM on September 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


I guess my big problem with twitter users is how messed up their behavior is. Sometimes they go after right wingers, and sometimes left wingers, and sometimes they purport to provide customer service for companies online, and sometimes they're political candidates or even pop stars. To be honest, I think they're a little all over the place, and I'm not even sure if they realize how inconsistent they're being.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:04 AM on September 3, 2016 [18 favorites]


Oh lord, that Lowenaffchen essay. It's like if Milo decided to jump to the opposite end of the political spectrum.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:34 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't know what "Chapo Trap House" means. I am clearly not their target audience. Something to do with skeet shooting? What?
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:09 AM on September 3, 2016


It's nonsense. A "trap house" is a house owned by a drug dealer, in this case El Chapo. That said, trap music is a genre of hip hop, and there have been a lot of hip hop mixtapes released with "trap" and "trap music" in their titles. So the name is also evocative of some weird hip hop mixtape.

It has next-to-nothing to do with the content beyond the general aesthetic.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:17 AM on September 3, 2016


The name "Even More White Man Opinions" would not lionize them as well as something that evoked dangerous Latino drug dealers and a souther rap subgenre.
posted by ignignokt at 10:41 AM on September 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


So, is the term "Weird Twitter" useless now? I remember it being funny, strange poetic Twitter posters. Now, it's a little of that plus harassing Sarah Jeong, ugly Harambe jokes, and "Leftist not liberal!" stuff, I guess?
posted by ignignokt at 10:54 AM on September 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


What did weird Twitter do to Sarah Jeong?
posted by Going To Maine at 10:58 AM on September 3, 2016


The article is here and the person rorgy refers to goes by Lowenaffchen. The offending paragraph, which naturally invalidates the entire argument by the Dutchman's Horseshoe Principle, appears in this tweet.

Thank you for the link! That was the paragraph that really squicked me out, though I read that essay in the middle of reading a bunch of WT writings elsewhere and found enough along those lines to really squick me out. A lot of my friends are game designers from the same general scenes as Quinn and Wu, so I'm more up–to–date on GG stuff than other Internet goings–on, and am mostly at the point where any bullshit aimed Quinn's way in particular pings my "wow fuck this person"–o–meter.

(Wu is a bit more controversial, both because her online persona is a lot angrier and more talkative, and because from what I gather she's been caught up in a few mini–controversies of her own. But I'm wary of anybody who sticks her on their enemies list, because of the company those people have chosen to keep.)

Sady Doyle, in turn, has repeatedly broadcast borderline slanderous lies about leftist writers like Matt Bruenig and Carl Beijer both on her blog and in letters to their employers--successfully in the case of Bruenig, who was fired from both Demos and his federal job as his wife was going into labor with their first child.

Is there a place I could read up on this? Letters to employees over people snarking on Twitter feels like it's crossing a serious line, and I'd like to know more about Doyle's doing this. The most I've seen from her involved her being pissed off at Bernie supporters out in the wild, sometimes in pretty ridiculous ways. What you describe here sounds considerably more abhorrent, but I haven't heard about it before this thread.

That said:

They say Arthur Chu's face looks moist. Arthur Chu said they are a more legitimately threatening group than the alt-right, who include actual Nazis and other racists and who propelled their preferred candidate to the nomination of one of the two major political parties.

I have my criticisms of Chu, most of which revolve around hyperbolic tendendies and a narrow–mindedness when it comes to which things he decides are serious issues and which aren't. (He's a graduate of Swarthmore, and his political priorities are very similar to those of my friends from Swarth and its sister schools, so it's kind of irritating I'm inured to.) But I think it's really shitty to make a joke out of a guy's face with the subtext of "this dude is ugly", especially to the point that it becomes a meme independent of anything Chu has recently said or done (which is the case). I'm uncomfortable even when the same joke is made out of whichever random neo–Nazi most recently tweeted something stupid—it feels like a line–crossing to me even if I dislike the person who happens to be its target.

Likewise,

the regular way Chu, Marcotte, Doyle and others treat them is either to ignore them and refuse to engage in conversation, or outright block them at the first sign of disagreement.

That seems like a standard anti–harassment tactic? And the way Chu/Marcotte/Doyle get treated online, regardless of how shitty they are as individuals—again, I'd like to know more about that Doyle firing than I do—definitely qualifies as harassment in my book. Especially since I bet they receive such a deluge of hate from other sources too, especially the Trump and alt–Right bunch, that they don't want to invest the emotional energy into separating out the righteous Leftist critics from the trolls and worse. That doesn't seem hypocritical, to me, and this:

That same crew also frequently quote tweet people saying horrible things who openly proclaim themselves as pro-Trump, then claim to their followers that the quoted person is a member of the racist/sexist Left.

...probably isn't helped along by how similarly the Weird Left behaves online to the alt–Right? I mean, IMHO the Weird Left is way funnier, and I keep reading their funny things despite the occasional bad taste in my mouth, but the difference between them and Milo Y in terms of rhetorical style is pretty damn similar at times. Especially considering how rancidly anti–Hillary some of them are. I voted Bernie in the primary, and even so a lot of their viciousness left me feeling queasy.

I still think that, on the whole, I'm glad they exist as a subculture; I listened to most of their episode about Snyder's Batman, and enjoyed it despite (again) the occasional yechy offputting bits. But I also think that they're as likely to make the polarizing "us vs them" argument as the people they're themming, which continues in this very thread. (Though I really appreciate your response to me, and hope my disagreement/uncertainty with parts of what you're saying doesn't get in the way of that.)

As a bystander, I can't easily tell which side started going after the other side first, though I know that the Weird Twitter bunch has been an inflammatory bunch for as long as the Internet has been around; I loved Jeb Lund's Mr. Destructo blog, but it was certainly not mild–mannered in the least. At this point, I don't think it's fair to say that either side "started it", considering the gusto with which each group seems to be going for the other's throats. It's bothersome in either direction.
posted by rorgy at 10:59 AM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, rerailing the thread: I really appreciate posters like griphus who are talking about their favorite episodes and why they like em! I'm pretty bad at listening to podcasts, and am grateful to have enthusiasts filter through the hours of material to point out particular areas of interest. So, thank you, all of you!
posted by rorgy at 11:02 AM on September 3, 2016


What bothers me about the "liberal v. left" discourse is that I don't think the politics of contemporary America are as simple as "there are neoliberal sympathizers over here, and progressive stallions over here". I think there are at least two distinct progressive movements going on right now, and that one of those movements refuses to see the other as legitimate. That's also the whiter and more male movement. It's also a very funny and passionate movement, and I really wish I could jump on board with that one as much as I want to jump on board with the other one. I also don't think it's impossible to empathize with both groups simultaneously. But there's something really gross about this group, and no matter how many times I give them a try and how much I try to look the other way, it feels at times like they're determined to shove their grossness in everybody else's face.

One thing I've learned over the last several years is that funny just isn't as valuable as I thought it was, and it's fine to sacrifice it to better stuff.

The Leftists remind me a lot of programmers working in high-frequency and/or algorithmic trading. They are very smart, and sometimes it's interesting to see what comes out of their work. But holy shit – whether it's making robots try to exploit the mechanics of trading instead of creating actually helpful things or it's just endlessly writing about who's right and who's wrong instead of actually doing stuff – what a fucking waste.
posted by ignignokt at 11:04 AM on September 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


@rorgy, you may enjoy this episode about recent events in Mexico (and by extension Canada due to the infamous jogging photo). They have on Tony (@MexicAnarchist) a Mexican-American who writes about "leftist movements in Mexico" according to his bio and it's pretty funny and enlightening.
posted by kyp at 11:11 AM on September 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's a protracted fight between Twitter/writer cliques with Doyle and Jeong on one side and some of these guys' friends on the other. Bernie/Hillary stuff underneath probably plus a couple of Incidents but it's seriously difficult to get to the bottom of shit on Twitter so (since I respect things all of these people have written) I'm just gonna say this much and hope it doesn't consume this thread.
posted by atoxyl at 11:46 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


If anyone can list the questionable/harrassing things the CTH guys have personally, directly done or encouraged, I'm interested in hearing it and evaluating based on that. I'm not too big on lumping a whole lot of people into an ill-defined, nebulous group and then judging each person based on what that group has done. With something like the Breitbart alt-right, there are very much coordinated efforts happening and like-minded goals. I'm not seeing that as much or at all with the intersection of "weird twitter" and left twitter. For my money, weird twitter as a discrete thing died sometime in 2012, and I wouldn't even know how to map the boundaries of what it constitutes now in 2016. It's more like the particular sensibilities have diffused into how youngish people joke around on twitter in general.
posted by naju at 12:41 PM on September 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also this: I don't see people in this group discuss subjects so much as flatly agree on them, and I do very strongly get the impression that any deviation from the accepted norm is discouraged, more often by mockery than by any other means.

ymmv obviously, but I see way more left in-fighting and ideological drama happening than I see what's being described here. The idea that this is a monolithic group that all flatly agrees is somewhat bizarre to me. It's more like thousands of splinter groups, or even just thousands of individuals with their own individual thoughts and opinions about things! Any one of them might be getting really mad about something, or rolling their eyes at someone else, or asking people to chill out, or starting a beef for no reason, or making something up, or laughing at how dumb it all is, etc. It's all fairly silly, as politics on twitter tends to be, and sometimes it goes over the line and you try not to follow those people or anyone who makes you exhausted. I don't know how to put it better than that. With that in mind, you can see how it might rankle to just label everyone as a single hivemind equal to gamergate, doing vicious shit and mobbing PoC or whatever.
posted by naju at 1:10 PM on September 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think some of this comes down to the question - if you talk shit about somebody through whatever outlet and they get mobbed on Twitter, how much are you responsible for that? Because it's sort of a predictable outcome but if it's a predictable outcome in response to anything maybe the problem is more with Twitter than anything.

Or - what are the boundaries of a fair fight between someone with a modest public platform and

... someone else with a modest public platform?

... someone with a taller public platform?

... someone with a modest public profile but legitimate ideological influence with a mainstream political party?

(etc.)
posted by atoxyl at 1:53 PM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


naju you are wrong and have been sentenced to Internet Gulag
posted by beerperson at 2:36 PM on September 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


All that even without getting into the idea of three middle-class white dudes (and their producer) having a show called “Chapo Trap House.” SO EDGE. MUCH IRONY.

Actually, to return to this - I’m not sure that there is anything wrong with having a show called “Chapo Trap House”. That is, it’s edgy in the sense that it deliberately pretends to sound subcultural. But it isn’t particularly undermining anything or appropriating anything, or pretending to be somehow superior to it. It’s just interacting with it.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:58 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


If anyone can list the questionable/harrassing things the CTH guys have personally, directly done or encouraged, I'm interested in hearing it and evaluating based on that…

Just to bring things full circle, I was listening to a recent episode and they were talking about having lowenaffchen-who wrote that essay- on as a guest. So while I might look askance as treating the entire group as a bloc, it does seem like there’s some overlap there.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:48 PM on September 9, 2016


A lot of folks here noted that CTH engages in snark, and the On Smarm essay got a mention. But I think that an interesting, running difficulty of On Smarm is that it seems to conflate the notion of substantive critique with irreverence. This isn’t to say that CTH has some obligation to be substantive, but that by mingling substantive commentary with mockery that line does get blurred. Of course, that line has been getting blurred for years by Limbaugh and Hannity et al., so perhaps we should have some too.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:20 PM on September 17, 2016


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