facebook twitter tumblr newsletter

The Scapegoating Machine


Peter Thiel’s philosophical mentor explains Trump, Gawker, and social media

THE WORD “scapegoat” has been on people’s lips in the wake of the election and it’s not hard to understand why: the scapegoat provides a readily available theory for the popularity of Trump’s supposed populism, which is manifestly directed against innocent victims. As Jeet Heer noted on Twitter, Trumpism can be understood as a variant of what German leftist August Bebel described a century ago as the “socialism of fools,” his term for certain strains of “populist” anti-Semitism, a current which Hitler ultimately rode to power. The “socialism of fools” gains political mileage by highlighting the destabilizing effects of capitalism and turning its resulting anxieties against ethnic and religious others, rather than against the capitalist system itself.

Continue Reading

Hillbilly Ethnography


A well-meaning, best-selling memoir promotes dangerous myths about racial determinism and racial innocence that form the bedrock of Trumpism
J.D. VANCE has had a very good year. With the bewildering rise of Donald Trump–buoyed, supposedly, by a groundswell of support among the white working class–the author of the best-selling memoir Hillbilly Elegy has become a de facto spokesperson for the president-elect’s constituency on the cable news circuit. “I may be white, but I do not identify with the WASPs of the northeast,” Vance writes in the book’s opening pages. “Instead, I identify with the millions of working-class white Americans of Scots-Irish descent who have no college degree.” A Yale Law School graduate who now works for Peter Thiel’s investment firm in San Francisco, Vance has made a second career explaining his Appalachian Kentucky and Rust Belt Ohio roots to the liberal audiences of MSNBC and the New York Times. (The Times even included Hillbilly Elegy in its list of “Six Books to Help Understand Trump’s Win.”)

Continue Reading

Militain Us


Inside the bizarre world of the military-entertainment industry’s racialized gamification of war
“OUR heritage is unique,” proclaims the unruffled radio-announcer voice, as a rocket flies across the screen leaving a trail of white smoke. A bomb showers orange flames in the foreground, and panicked screams battle to be heard in the distance. Graphic images of combat flash by as the voice calmly explains how one of the largest independent television and movie studios in America created a child company called Strategic Operations in 2002, forever changing the face of training, simulation, and education. As the movie goes on, the voice peppers its message with sexy promotional phrases referencing the magic of Hollywood, dynamic recreations, TV and movie special effects artists, and the fog of war. Meanwhile, the macabre carnival continues to unfold on screen. Legless bodies are dragged through gravel, explosions erupt like firecrackers, men in uniforms point guns at men in keffiyeh, and actors have their faces carefully painted in blood.

Continue Reading

Fires of Resistance


Rage is the disavowed truth of what resistance tends toward.

“Don’t expect to see any explosion today. It’s too early…or too late.” – Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks 

Fire is raging across Turtle Island. Fire over Ferguson. Fire in the streets. Fires of protection in defense of Indigenous territories. Burning police cars: a hallmark of indignation, sedition or infiltration, provocateur-led sabotage. Cars aflame in Ferguson and Crown Heights, RCMP vehicles and tires ablaze in Elsipogtog. Fires that clear, nurture, destroy.

It’s too early or too late. The latest instantiation of respectability politics is performed as acquiescence to a status quo that cannot hold. It is a grim acceptance of governance ruled by rights and recognition, sunk under the state’s delineation of what matters, what is counted as “morally legitimate” politics, authentic protest, acceptable forms of resistance.

Continue Reading


Call Me Elena


Elena Ferrante’s Frantumaglia has been marketed as non-fiction. Does it matter if it isn’t?

ON October 2, the New York Review of Books published an article by the Italian journalist Claudio Gatti titled “Elena Ferrante: An Answer?” Gatti’s revelations were co-published by the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore (which commissioned Gatti’s investigation), the German newspaper Frankurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and the French website Mediapart. The question to which Gatti was offering a possible answer was that of Ferrante’s “real-world” identity.

Continue Reading