Left Media and Performative Podcasting

So there’s the podcast, right? It’s by a bunch of hard left folks and they discuss really interesting topics like labour organizing, they provide radical feminist criticisms of popular culture, and they have interesting guests on to discuss their own interesting work. I really enjoy listening to them.

But here’s the thing: they’re a bit problematic. They don’t adhere to the usual political correctness typical of the left. The language they use – calling people “retarded” for example – makes me uncomfortable. They walk a fine line between critique of sexism and sexist critique. Of course, I’m talking about Chapo Traphouse.

As the show gains popularity as a tentpole of radical left culture, it’s come under increasing scrutiny (largely from liberals). And while I agree with some of the criticisms lobbed at the show, hating it has become a sort of signifier among liberals that yes, I too think Chapo is problematic. The liberals that somehow managed to lose to Donald Trump(!) think it in vogue to hate Chapo Traphouse and its fans, and to consider the show to be the real enemy of progress.

Seriously. Instead of organizing against Trump or his awful policies, they criticize a left-wing podcast.

Our capitalist society is so completely imbued with the ideology that you are what you consume that I’ve been hesitant to even admit that I listen to the show (lest I get called out as problematic). But I am not the podcasts I listen to, and I can enjoy media while being critical of it.

And, as the hosts of Chapo Traphouse themselves point out: the show is not politics, it is entertainment. Listening to Chapo Traphouse is about as effective at fighting fascism as watching Stephen Colbert.

MacLean’s had what is probably the most level-headed analysis of the show and it’s emerging popularity. It kind of examines the origins of the show in a roundabout but thoughtful way, interviewing show guest and author Angela Nagle.

If you’re interested in dipping your toes in, I’d encourage you to check out this episode that discusses a popular concept among the left: universal basic income.

But just listening to a podcast doesn’t really help anything. And I want to help. I’ve been reading books they mention, researching the topics they discuss, and have started getting involved in real-world organization in the socialist left. This action, too, comes from the show. From the MacLean’s article:

As Chapo’s Frost sees it, the end goal of Left Twitter and catalyzing podcasts like hers is to help the left regain its footing, to organize—and ultimately unplug. “The most important thing social media can do politically has always been to get people off the internet,” she says. “People need to get offline and plug into organizing and campaigns in the real world.”

The past few months of listening to the show, and the resulting challenges to my existing ideologies, have been tectonic shifts for my politics and even my sense of self (and I was already fairly left-leaning before). I’m not really sure where I’m going, and I’m a bit scared. That’s okay – change is always scary.


Posted on July 14, 2017