tv Theses on Nagle, or I See a Red Door and I Want to Paint it Brown
1) On Monday evening, the self proclaimed socialist Angela Nagle went on the white supremacist Tucker Carlson’s television show and made fun of the DSA. Just so folks in the back can hear clearly, someone who is identified as being on the Left and indeed has her defenders, went on the television show of someone extreme even in a Fox News context. Carlson is an endorser of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, and come to think of it, Angela Nagle’s reprehensible immigration stance isn’t that far off from Carlson, or for that matter the El Paso shooter. And this was on the Monday after two mass shootings that both, to varying degrees, were influenced by a new fusionist “red/brown” common sense. One almost imagines the two opportunistic slimeballs joking as to which shooter was more influenced by which talking head. But it was all DSA sliming, one almost thought Carlson would pull out Grayzone. Nagle and her new pal laughed mean-spiritedly about accommodations that are actually not uncommon in the labour movement – keeping clapping and noise to a minimum and using gender-neutral pronouns, avoiding heavy scents. Of course this was a laugh riot to Nagle, who as we may recall, spent a good four pages of her Dirtbag Turner Diaries book making fun of non-binary folks and “spoons theory”. Of course, this is red meat for Tucker Carlson. Not unlike Nagle’s “left case against open borders”, Carlson loves having on guests that help forward the “great replacement theory” or “white genocide”. It helps to see that Nagle in all likelihood shares this point of view.
2) Of course this was all on Fox News. This summer, the cable network Showtime has an uneven if informative series on the disgusting figure of Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice, with great performances from Russell Crowe and Naomi Watts as Ailes and Gretchen Carlson respectively. Ailes, a serial sexual predator of the type the Dayton shooter imagined himself, and right-wing family man was a true believer. He is cadrified at a young age to be of service to the powers that be precisely because he is not only such a true believer in reactionary ideology, but his knowledge that this true belief would be lucrative to him. Being a true believer can be good for the pocket book indeed. So upon being forced out of CNBC for sexual harassment, he starts Fox News on the successful wager that he’d be filling a lucrative market that doesn’t want CNN or MSNBC or the “liberal coastal elite media”. Pitching it to Rupert Murdoch, he compared the formation of Fox News to “turning out the base”. And yes, he’d pander to their racism, implicitly and explicitly so. He is shown nixing any anchors of colour during the founding year of the network. It would be churlish to draw a straight line from Ailes and his Murdoch money, his Nixon, Reagan and “IC” connections right through to the shootings of this past weekend, or would it? It was Ailes that pushed Trump on the birther stuff and perhaps nudged him towards running for president. It is Trump that took the Ailes model and ramped it up to a fever pitch from the beginning, as approved by Ailes, who loved his “Mexicans are rapists” line at the campaign launch that he helped conceive, along with Roger Stone.
3) The night after hosting Nagle, Tucker Carlson smiled at the cameras the same big smile he gave as he vented about how Stalin and Trotsky would be disgusted by anti-clapping strictures at meetings. He smiled and declared that white supremacy was a hoax, even while giving up the game by making the claim that one could fit all the white supremacists in the United States in a football stadium. Football stadiums can fit sometimes almost 100,000 people. That’s a shitload more than a hoax, young Tucker. Ink does not need to be spilled to prove that Carlson at the very least instrumentalizes white supremacy for ratings, thus he is effectively a white supremacist himself. The scion of a liberal beltway journalism family, perhaps preppy Tuck has taken his Alex P. Keaton rebellion into an adulthood of real-deal racism. To wit, it is not going on Fox News or even Carlson that is a problem as such though – but it was to go and join him in slandering the organized Left, not unlike when she joined him for her Left-Lou-Dobbs schtick a while back. After all, the point is, to Carlson, to Ailes, and indeed to Angela Nagle, to gaslight viewers and readers. Who are they gonna believe? The fair and balanced Fox News and/or the “socialist” Nagle, not to mention her cothinkers like the has-been Adolph Reed and the opportunistic Adam Proctor? Or logic, eyewitness accounts, statistics and the like.
One of them is a dangerous demagogue with far too much clout and feared by those who should know better, the other is Tucker Carlson.
4) And this was precisely the point, indeed, of Nagle and Carlson poking nasty fun at the DSA convention’s commitment to equity, in particular, the strictures against clapping and the use of gendered language. By most accounts of participants from a variety of tendencies and caucuses, there was a lot more to say about the convention than a triviality about clapping and gendered language. Yet suddenly, everyone is talking about clapping. Mean spirited jokes are bandied about. And to their credit, a good number of those who once could be counted as defenders of the Nagleans made it a point to defend the DSA convention rules around accessability. That It was much ado about nothing was rightly proclaimed by a wide variety of prominent DSA figures – but it was out there anyway. In point of fact, given Nagle being such a polarizing figure, the point of her going on Fox News was precisely to participate in this muddying of waters, no different from Ailes feeding the Obama/birther nonsense to Donald Trump himself. It is the classic Cambridge Analytica/Russian bot/whatever you want to call it “Fake News”. It is putting something out there to repeat, repeat, repeat. Usually that something may be a half truth, sometimes a lie, but always decontextualized. Whether Maddowian conspiracy theory about “Russiagate” or talk of “death panels” or for that matter, “they want to take away your insurance”, the point is to get people talking about it, complaining, arguing. Distracted.
5) So then this begs the question – and indeed has begged the question – why give someone who is effectively RCP/Living Marxism/Spiked cadre who wrote a mean spirited book a few years back more attention. Why even talk about Nagle? Why “fall into the trap”, so to speak, of precisely what I am pointing out here? But the trap is not talking about Nagle, it’s talking about jazz hands in place of clapping, something increasingly common in the labour movement. But Leftists have traditionally taken genuinely dangerous renegade more seriously than just “ignoring them and they will go away”. For fuck’s sake, Nagle went on a goddamned white supremacist TV show the day after a weekend of mass shootings and the DSA convention, and she went and called the great efforts of the DSA as a whole to create an equitable atmosphere as “bourgeois narcissism”. She shit-talked an organization in the most unprincipled of possible fashion, from enemy territory. Is there a distinction between what she actually said and did on Carlson and her past misdeeds, from her encouraging of chauvinist anti-migrant social democracy to her rendering transgender folks and the disabled an object of humour? No. What she did by going on Carlson was relatively mundane. The point is that she did it in the context of a fascist assault on the population as a whole, and with the Left being a particular target. Indeed, Mike Pence was in Atlanta on Sunday inveighing against socialism. It’s hard not to speculate that the Vice President was in Georgia to incite protests, if not outright violence against the DSA convention.
“The moment America becomes a socialist country is the moment America ceases to be America.” says Pence.
6) And here we come back to Roger Ailes and from Ailes to Carlson to Nagle, and from Nagle to the mass shootings this past weekend. This stochastic terrorism, this nihilistic murderousness is indeed qualitatively different from the more organized party-like Klan or Neo-Nazi movement of the past. Yet this fascism-from-below is merely an appearance, it is being manipulated in time-honored decentralized fashion, through information warfare. And that information warfare is not some Russian plot to destabilize America, though it may well have some connections to the emerging right wing international that certainly has Russian as well as Beltway ties. That information warfare, rather, is against not so much the Left as such but any and all left and even liberal reform, to strip rights that have been won and to repress the population, to defend and continue the programs of international apartheid and concentration camps from Texas to Xinjiang. An intrinsic part of this new model is violence from below precipitated by incitement from above - take what has already happened in Brazil and Honduras, for example. So while it is indeed important for us to understand the changing face of fascist violence, we also need to understand that it is happening for a reason. That old magick, that old hauntin’ spectre.
True believers like Ailes or for that matter Steve Bannon or Tucker Carlson may be cynical and fundamentally financially motivated yet they are a foundational part of an emerging right wing international, an emergent fusionist common sense, “beyond left and right” as the saying goes but in truth brutally anti-socialist and anti-communist. Thus the ongoing attacks on socialism, AOC, the “squad’ and so on. And part of the emergent fusionist common sense is precisely the type of terrorism witnessed in El Paso, Dayton and Galway. There are those that point out that the Dayton shooter seemed to be a Democrat, a Warren supporter, even someone who posted left-wing material on his Twitter account. Yet the particular bar he attacked was known to be multi-racial and queer-accepting, perhaps even a gay bar. The presence of queerphobia on the Left is not news, but what it accompanies is instructive. As well, with the continued popularity of the wretched Ben Norton/Max Blumenthal analysis of international affairs (admired by Nagle), a lot of what passes for left “analysis” is pretty damned reactionary – and also essentially indistinguishable from the narratives coming from the likes of Tucker Carlson. The long and short of it is that while detached from the overall pattern of manifesto writing 8Chan and 4Chan posting lul-seekers, the Dayton shooter must be counted as part of this pattern. Indeed a paradigmatic case for an understanding of what is of particular concern to the organized (and disorganized) left.
7) And so with Fox News or with Nagle, or with Nagle on Fox News, I hate the band but the fans are worse. For real, though. As shown in Loudest Voice, Fox News are just a bunch of DC hacks, and there are some incredibly sad stories of idealistic young conservative women destroyed by the rapists Ailes and O’Reilly. But Fox News set in motion an atmosphere, during the first few years of the Bush administration that was as authoritarian and pro-police state as anything ever seen on American media. Successive attempts to dial it down by the sober Rupert Murdoch never succeeded, and later it pioneered vicious and racist attacks on Barack Obama. Make no mistake, Obama is not our friend. But the campaign to delegitimize him as a socialist Muslim who was not really American and was friends with terrorists like Bill Ayers may not have denied him the election, but that was not the point. The point, to Ailes, and his passing the birther information to Trump was to awaken the slumbering beast of American racism and anti-socialist, anti-left thought from below. Top reactionaries genuinely believed their own bullshit about Obama. And it worked, witness the wave of terrorist murder of African Americans by police unanswerable to the federal government increasing exponentially during Obama’s presidency. Witness the terrorist pigs with their “I Can Breathe” T-Shirts. Pig racism is nothing new, but they were empowered by the emergent reaction. As social rights were hard won or gained back during the relative social thaw of Obama, so increased animosity pumped out against people of colour in general and African Americans in particular, Muslims, LGBTQI folks. Anti-Semitism even crept back into the mainstream.. And meanwhile, the apparently “socialist” Obama was not doing a goddamned thing to ameliorate these human catastrophes that got worse under his presidency. To wit, as the “deporter in chief”, he laid Trump’s groundwork at the southern border.
8) Obama, like Bernie Sanders and even some Leftists, not just Nagle, but some sincere (and misguided) Leftists, was for “comprehensive immigration reform” and against open borders. This is not the place or time to rehearse what should not be a debate, especially among socialists. But here is where we find the common ground between Trump, Obama, Carlson and Nagle, and why Nagle’s fans, those denizens of StupidPol on Reddit, given their existence as a coherent stratum of the Left, are the danger that we need to address. Nuance is important when parsing out differences between why person A, person B and person C all have the same political line when abstracting out particularities, yet seem different when those particularities are in place. Engaging all of this within the context of a philosophy of internal relations, or dialectical reason allows us to connect the dots not in a positivist sense but in a sense of affinity and memesis. Of course, a contrarian gadfly, a bowtied preppy fascist and a wonkish Neibuhr fan are different. We can’t go conflating widely divergent political positions as “red/brown” or “social fascist” lightly and we should absolutely avoid the latter term. Obama was not a fascist, obviously, nor were the social democrats of Weimar, who made plenty of errors that led to the rise of fascism but did not deserve that Third Period epithet. But we - do – need to examine the very real emergent fusionist common sense has for years been making overtures to the Left. Recall that Steve Bannon cultivated a relationship with left figures and gave an interview to the Social Democratic American Prospect. And left figures, in particular, “tankies” often appear in right wing media. But this is not about tracing out institutional ties and “fascist creep” as it is about an emergent common sense and how that common sense is being weaponized in the multi-faceted present fascist offensive.
Key Nagle backer Adam Proctor, an absolute reactionary who somehow still is given the time of day by people who should know better..
9) When I first reviewed Angela Nagle’s book, comrades and I would speculate if she really was red/brown. I think it is safe to say continued ties to Spiked and the “Dirtbag Left” qualify someone who – at the very least agrees with Tucker Carlson’s hot take on white supremacy being a hoax or blown out of proportion. I am saying here quite clearly that the telos of this position is indistinguishable from that of the fascist right. This is elementary history now, we talk about hose who were not Nazis but turned a blind eye and bought into its presumptions, even if opposed to its methods. From the very beginning of the Trump years, and on a deeper level, for a long long time - perhaps since World War 1, elements of the left, particularly among the nationalist wing of social democracy, have downplayed the threat of the far right. And not surprisingly this same milieu, with its links inside the labor bureaucracy, often develop the same essentially Say’s Law oriented vulgar economistic position on migrants. And when Trump won office they downplayed a lot of the organizing around the women’s strike and the Muslim Ban, even Black Lives Matter as “neoliberal identity politics”. It wasn’t appealing “to the working class”, showing that they have the same vulgar and ossified and outdated view of what constitutes the working class as does Carlson. In turn, and in fairness, many younger denizens of this emerging fusionist commonsense – the left side of it, the stupidpol and Cumtown and Chapo side of it, having developed their politics within the realm of a genuinely toxic social media culture. So called “cancelation” culture and the circular firing squad it entails is a real thing – but that is not to leap from a critique of its abuse to the critique of the very act of veritable “cancelation”. Lyn Marcus, AKA Lyndon LaRouche was canceled by most of the American Left for a reason and Nagle, Norton, Blumenthal and others are participating in what is essentially a new version of “Operation Mop Up”. That people don’t see the threat of a presence of stochastic manipulability on the part of this wing of the so-called Left is indicative of a dangerous blind spot indeed.
10) But yet Angela Nagle, who I now have very little doubt is not only a reactionary in effect, but also in intent, as why would even the most sincere but misguided Leftist go on a white supremacist TV show to bash the Left, has her defenders yet still. This ranges from the obvious, the denizens of StupidPol, a subreddit dedicated to a “critique of essentialism” but is essentially an effectively alt-right conveyor belt, championing Nagle, Adolph Reed, Aimee Terese and the like, while like early 4Chan ostentatiously using offensive, homophobic, racist and remarkably ableist language. Chatter indicates that the clapping segment was fed to Nagle and Carlson by way of StupidPol, itself started by a former member of Solidarity. I will pause and mention that when Nagle attacked my review of her book, she caught onto my line of her fetishizing the working class as able-bodied. With one sentence from my review, Nagle sent out a dog whistle that her critics shouldn’t be taken seriously and she and Amber Frost called me nasty names on a series of podcats.
Disability is a real theme for Nagle, as it is for StupdPol, as it was to the Nazis. The disabled are trash, they can’t be workers, they have nothing to offer either the socialist project or the national socialist project, this is the underlying message. But when people point out the affinity of her message with the shooters, when people call her out for going onto enemy territory, they are denounced. There is a lot of “she has a point” or “Even if she shouldn’t be going on Fox News, that stuff about clapping is weird” and it goes on and on. The presence of this mindset, when all of the connections are so obvious speaks to an obliviousness of the parts of the “online” left that are not at the DSA conferences or even meetings, but are like all too many people, alienated and isolated on the internet that are being hegemonized by this fusionist common sense. In turn, since Pence was not able to stir up violence against the DSA conference, instead, an information op was undertaken, targeting this segment, which is aflutter with denunciations and retweets. And everybody is talking about clapping and jazz hands, not about processing the conference and what looks from the great white north to have been a long and harrowing but successful weekend. Everybody is staking out a position instead of processing and coming to continued terms with the fascist threat, both retail and wholesale to use Noam Chomsky’s terms.
Once more for good measure. Teen Vogue has better politics than Angela Nagle.
11) This isn’t about Nagle. Nagle is a rapscallion shit disturber, a Marlo Stanfield type figure delighting in an act of wrecking. But it is about the fact that the English-speaking Left needs to really take seriously the emerging fusionist common sense. This fusionist common sense is often anti-corporate or even, as in the case of the Dayton shooter, self-proclaimed anti-capitalist. It is also highly misogynist and queerphobic and racist, as in the case of the Dayton shooter and his targeting a queer and multiracial establishment. Make no mistake this Dayton shooter was not someone involved in the “IRL” left. He was not known to anyone in Dayton, I’m told by veteran Ohio based socialists. His worldview was not nearly as well formed as the El Paso shooter, yet even if he was at a different stage of cadrification, he was fascist cadre. His actions, the El Paso and Gilroy shooters actions, Mike Pence’s presence in Atlanta, Angela Nagle’s presence on Tucker Carlson are all indeed part of this emergent fusionist common sense. Just as much as are the likes of Blumenthal and Norton with their stanning of Putin and Assad and slander of the DSA, their ‘anti-imperialism’ is explicitly, as has been documented, in line with Dugin and Eurasianism. So when they say “Of course Assad is a dictator”, it is like when respected socialists say with regards to Nagle “Of course I wouldn’t go on Fox News”, they aren’t to be taken seriously. But in point of fact, it is easy to recognize that their politics and methods and slander are poison to the Left and actually an attack on the Left. As are the actions of Nagle. Prominent left wing figures who have said privately and sometimes publicly they strongly disagree with Angela Nagle should not be implicitly or explicitly defending her in public. Is her audience that important? Do people at long last have no shame?
Comrades, this is not happening in a bubble and it is not bound by the American or any other state. An emergent right wing international is on the war path. We must broke them no quarter and what’s more we must see our own role in either encouraging or stopping the spread of their common sense in our own movements. Left thought isn’t a consumer item to tail the base. It’s to move the base to our politics. And if our politics can have affinity with Carlson and worse, we need to think through these politics, eh?
It cannot be emphasized enough that Mike Pence was in Atlanta on the Sunday of the DSA conference. It cannot be emphasized enough that progressive women of color, socialist or not, are being targeted by their own party and by the President, implicitly and explicitly respectively encouraging violence. Pelosi collapses into Trump as Nagle collapses into Carlson. Trump and Pence and beyond want violence, and they want violence against the Left. The American state in turn, the “deep state” and perhaps the Democratic Party establishment is targeting the Left on all fronts. Take it seriously. Teen Vogue does.
Jordy Cummings is an editor at Red Wedge