“Remember the war against Franco?
That’s the kind where each of us belongs
We may have lost all of the battles
But we had all of the best songs.”
— Tom Lehrer
We recently fell down the youtube rabbit hole and discovered ContraPoints. ContraPoints or Natalie Parrott, is a trans originally from Baltimore, and if you mention David Simon and The Wire we will send reptile assassins to kill you in your sleep.(1)
ContraPoints has been favorably reviewed (2) because it gives an Oscar Wilde meets ChapoTrapHouse snap and snark to criticism of the current socio-political crisis. Which also means it’s safer to be fierce from behind the relative safety of your keyboard than to actually do something to confront the system.
This also means slick graphics that appear to be just slightly off kilter, and kitch and deep cut snark about people who make deep cut snarky comments, about people who rank social worthiness based on whether or not you can quote Gramsci or Horkheimer, or make jokes with punchlines that rest on getting a pun in French that echos Foucault.
A lot of this is because Parrott was a philosophy PhD grad student but dropped out, and also because the internet has made a lot of previously obscure writers available, and people with a lot of time on their hands (because there are no jobs) have been able to log on and sit at home, or in a café reading previously obscure writers.
And out of this we get ContraPoints.
ContraPoints works because at this stage of our collective nervous breakdown the fascists sound unapologetically like fascists, the liberals sound like spineless dithering liberals, and the leftists sound either psychotically violent (like fascists) or painfully mirthless (or just full of snark).
Over all of this as ContraPoints correctly points out, is the vast blob of post capitalist consumption with its thunderdome economic gulag and dystopian 24/7 Pee Wee’s fun house meets The Truman Show three ring circus. After all strip away the self-awareness, knowing irony and absurdist humor, and what’s Morning Joe except Pee Wee’s Fun House in drag.
ContraPoints is good at highlighting the talking points of the relatively well read, disenfranchised, borderline intellectual leftists, and finding the points of common rage where the left and the right merge. Even though it requires a moral HAZMAT suit, if one listens to thugs like Richard Spencer long enough, you’ll eventually hear him say something that sounds just like something Marx might have said.
However it’s after that where ContraPoints goes off the rails, into a paralyzing snark fueled, limp cheerleading for the same old liberal propaganda, albeit with pom-poms that reference everyone from Derrida to Bukharin.
Correctly pointing out that a great deal of what we charitably call the left, is righteously angry at the corrupt system but hobbled by a lack of actual vision (as in, you say you want a revolution but what exactly does that mean and being unable to articulate anything beyond blind rage) is all well and good, but blithely mentioning things like a general strike and then dismissing it and saying we should change the system by voting in “radicals” who will change the system, while then giving voice to the legitimate suspicion that the system (like the world’s largest bladder) will simply absorb all efforts at change, and then secrete them through the sphincter of capitalism, is a correct reflection of current angst. But it is not a legitimately moral criticism of a lack of action by others because, in the end it is a declaration of (limp) snark in place of actual action.
Consider ContraPoints otherwise correct and clever deconstruction of neo-fascist goober and conservative blow up doll, Jordan Peterson.(3)
ContraPoints hits all the left wing erogenous zones highlighting Peterson’s total lack of erudition, his lack of any real engagement with the people he insists are hiding under his bed, and posing a threat to “western civilization” (you know, all those dead French philosophers who are more talked about then read) and sticks the landing by highlighting the weird jizz stained dimly lit corners of the right wing mind, where lubed up neo-fascists and neo-fascist fanboys secretly dream of Peterson yelling at them to clean their room, and after failing to clean their room properly, are spanked by Peterson while being forced to recite lines from Carl Jung’s sadomasochistic erotic poetry.
But at the end of the video ContraPoints says, in the bitchy tone of a bored drag queen imitating a bitchy bored suburban housewife, who doesn’t have the nerve to start advertising as a dom: I don’t really care one way or the other I just do this because I like dressing up – or words to that effect. In other words the well-rehearsed ennui of an effete snob who doesn’t have the nerve to be an elitist, or a revolutionary, or both.
Which brings us to ContraPoints’ views on the age old question: what then must we do?
In her video “the left” she again correctly highlights several of the chief defects inherent in left wing approaches to rebellion. Most of these defects have to do with being both excruciatingly boring and humorless, and also are down to really bad design aesthetics.
And, that’s pretty much all true.
In other words, you go around carrying pictures of Chairman Mao you’re not going to make it with anyone anyhow and Lennon and McCartney are a hell of a lot cooler than your average antifa, even though John’s been dead for nearly fifty years.
So ContraPoints suggests more Miles Davis and less Susan Sontag or more Kind of Blue and less Frankfurt School rhetoric.
And though she doesn’t say it, Adorno hated jazz and no revolution that hates jazz is worthwhile, but what ContraPoints seems to not understand is that you can’t be as cool as Miles anymore than you can be as tall as Kareem and shoot skyhooks just because you’re wearing goggles.
Cool at that level is not something you purchase or copy. That level of cool is earned and usually, if not always, it’s earned by getting your ass handed to you, by a gang of fat White cops who deeply regret not having been born in Germany. It’s not a requirement of course but usually people who are that cool are that way because they had the abyss shoved down their throat. Or as Breton said to Victor Serge while they were waiting at the Villa Air-bel to see if it was the Last Plane to Lisbon, or the next train to Buchenwald: Victor, we love you but every time you answer a question, it’s like being trapped in a Russian novel.
Which is not to say it can’t be a guidepost, or one can’t develop a sense of the cool, and a sense of the cool in place of boring lefty rhetoric would not be a bad thing, and would go a long way towards winning the argument against the spineless colaborationist liberals and the fascists.
But the fact is it took getting executed by the state for Bobby and Dr King to be cool. Prior to that most people thought of King as an uppity nigger and a commie, and they thought Bobby was a rich punk who whored for Joe McCarthy. Sainthood, martyrdom and eternal cool came after Cavalry, which of course was in the form of a dirty motel balcony in Memphis, and a dirty kitchen floor in Los Angeles.
The fact is the other side – by which we mean the establishment – is not fucking around.
Which ContraPoints alludes to with coy references to their power and their sadism, and the impulse among (some) leftists to want to beat their heads in with bricks and baseball bats.
But you’ll notice that so far as we can tell, what’s missing from any of ContraPoints growing video oeuvre, is any mention of mass surveillance.
Of course she’s not alone in that and outside of co-opted mentions of it in establishment cartoons like SVU and NCIS and Jason Bourne films, it’s as if Edward Snowden never happened.(4)
The truth is that when the feds say they have 15,000 informants (as if that’s not a threat to the Constitution) you can safely add another zero to that number and then start asking yourself questions like, how many of ContraPoints’ “friends” are informants and then consider that there are two primary reasons Occupy failed.
The first was that the “movement” had more in common with a temper tantrum than a revolution, and the petulant reactionary refusal to promulgate a platform was a political sin, and the second reason, as documented by left and left of center media, is that the NYPD used the Bill of Rights as toilet paper and decapitated the movement in a classic counter revolutionary act based on the old zen aphorism – cut off the head and the snake dies. In other words they violated the civil liberties of the organizers and rousted them.
And so here we are. Add in that YouTube is a subsidiary of Google and being “punk” and clever seems a whole lot less punk and not so clever. Parrot is right when she says the zeitgeist feels like any other pre-revolutionary moment of crisis, hallucinations and breakdowns (to paraphrase Henry Miller) and that if things don’t change and soon, there really will be large scale anti-establishment violence, with inchoate revolutionary rhetoric and the establishment really will unleash the paramilitary local police, and if need be, the national guard.
So, we come right back to the beginning. What then must we do?
The obvious answer is a general strike but the form the strike should take, is that it should hit the system where it is most vulnerable: Its morbidly obese and overextended communication grid.
Not only do cell phones and computers (we type on our slave manufactured government sanctioned tracking device) represent an immoral aspect of the corrupt establishment, they are an opportunity to force the establishment to negotiate its own transformation from quasi fascist corporate dictatorship, to genuine democratic republic.
Instead of occupying Zuccotti Park, the same disenfranchised cadre should stop using their damn smartphones for three months and refuse to pay for them.
The impact will be both immediate and long term.
Advertising, clickbait, telecoms, tech imperiums and the federal snoops will all develop a bad case of the jitters and shakes.
The stock market will get the heebeegeebees and the federal goons and their lizard overlords, will panic and then scream bolshie Islamic terror loving anti-American subversives.
Then they will threaten legislation that would effectively make it a crime to not use the internet, and a smart phone which of course will force them to either take off their human masks, and show everyone they are in fact lizards and fascists, or they will have to negotiate.
But between the spineless bowls of jello that are the liberals, and the Oscar Wilde meets Noel Coward’s less talented niece that is ContraPoints, we have zero optimism that this will ever happen.
On the other hand, stranger things have happened and history is both a bitch and a trickster, so you may just wake up one morning to discover that they’ve set up guillotines on the National Mall.
Of course you may then also discover that you’ve been selected for a national haircut, and find yourself being marched passed psychotics, doing their knitting and counting off the number of heads that will roll.
But make no mistake, there’s a fever on the loose and things are going to get ugly one way or another, and you will have to ask yourself, which side of the barricade is yours.
1 For a look at our utter contempt for David Simon and The Wire, see the following:
2 For a look at a pleasant handjob for ContraPoints see the following:
3 For a look into the mind fuck that is Jordan Peterson see the following:
4 Edward Snowden was recently quoted as saying that while people are still powerless now at least they are aware that they are living in a hightech Orwellian mass surveillance state.