Two weeks ago, Caitlin Johnstone, an unabashed anti-establishment blogger, penned a controversial piece on Medium about how the Alt-Right and the Left Should work together to demolish the establishment 4th Estate. I didn’t see anyone post the article “The Lefties Need to Stop Being Shy about Working with the Anti-Establishment” here, so it made me wonder if there was some discomfort with her opinion, or just overlooked?
Caitlin has defended her position this way (from Medium):
I was a little disappointed and more than a little hurt to see that the excellent lefty outlet Counterpunch had published not one but two highly personal attack editorials about me this week. I’ve received a stunning amount of support from my readers in response to the two articles, and it’s been really touching to see so many people rushing to my defense over this.
That said, if my readers will hear me out I’d like to strongly discourage them from abandoning Counterpunch over this. There just aren’t enough solid anti-establishment media outlets on the left for us to have that luxury; Counterpunch is far too good and far too useful to be rejected over some petty egoic bullshit, and at this critical juncture in the media war the work they do is too important.
And, as always with my writing, the media war is what this is all about. Reading some of the criticism my fellow leftists have leveled against my article “Lefties Need To Stop Being Shy About Working With The Anti-Establishment Right” you’d think I was saying we should all just abandon social progress and go work on political campaigns for neo-Nazis, but all I’m actually talking about is winning the media war, which I insist is the single best way to bring down America’s unelected power establishment.
I was uncomfortable with her stance about independent left media being an accomplice with the extreme-right media. Why?
Because to me working with Mike Cernovich is playing into Trump’s game, it is not smashing the constant drumbeat of how Trump allegedly is in cahoots with the Russians on a variety of levels, including financially and backing off sanctions with the Russians when the pressure does need to stay on when Crimea was annexed by Putin and the Russian Federation. As a Democratic Socialist, I don’t like regime change or interventionism as an offense. I don’t think Breitbart, the proprietor of fake news and often fuels Trump’s lies, is one to be of the body with them. Even though less than 40% of the US voting populace supports Trump, those numbers have waivered little. Fox Media, which wasn’t exactly in Trump’s corner during the 2016 primary season, has stepped up to blast more Trump propaganda. Alex Jones is a big conspiracy theorist that many of the alt-left do not question. And the last thing we need is more reports that we, the progressive left, are embracing a group of Nationalists.
Counterpunch doesn’t agree with Caitlin Johnstone either. Here’s one of the two articles explaining why, this one related to potential harm to the Green Party:
Since when is her version of the overly-simplified “deep state” (which is apparently equivalent to the Illuminati in Johnstone’s mind) more important than tangible issues like capitalism, class dynamics, imperialism or the environment? Johnstone is emblematic of the left’s utter lack of political acumen. There’s no theory. No genuine ethos. No real organizing. Just a bunch of self-serving hot air. It’s the Johnstone-type of thinking that continues to ensure the left remains irrelevant.
Back to the disgusting Mike Cernovich, who hates gender equality and believes that white men are oppressed by big bad feminism. He’s tweeted that, “Not being a slut is the only proven way to avoid AIDS. If you love black women, slut shame them.” Fuck him. He doesn’t give a shit about women, class issues, climate change or the ugly side of capitalism. Cernovich even told Andrew Marantz of the The New Yorker, “I believe in strong borders, including keeping out Islamic terrorists. If people think that’s inherently racist, fine—but I’m an American nationalist, not a white nationalist.”
Along a synergistic line, Gallifreyan Jedi, a blogger at Medium and at DK, penned an opposing view last week that is worth examining further. From Medium:
My concerns about this revolve around what happens when the stated goal is accomplished. It is my view that the Breitbarts and the Infowars and the Drudge Reports will be much better positioned than we are to fill that vacuum and seize the megaphone. Not only does the left lack media outlets with that level of reach and funding and backup from near-monopolized talk radio, but we will have further strengthened the right wing proporags by the time we get to the point that the giants are falling. Without robust, well funded, popular, and credible left media outlets to counter the alt-right narratives, we have little chance of winning the battle to replace the corporate media, even should we win the battle to impeach it in the eyes of the majority.
Consider the grocery store tabloid. Inside, you will find true, verifiable stories. Of course, the fact that they are in the National Enquirer doesn’t make them false, but these articles do lend credibility to the made up nonsense for which tabloids are known. This is intentional. Simply by their proximity, the factual stories in the margins make it easier to believe the fictional headlines.
Much like the Enquirer, the right wing propaganda outlets operate on a stopped watch principle, wherein they have a handful of verifiable reports they can point to, asserting journalistic integrity. In signal boosting these, although we may be conveying the unvarnished truth regardless of source, we are also fortifying the credibility of the publication as a whole.
This is very dangerous, because while Breitbart and Infowars may be correct twice a day, they still primarily traffic in neofascist, white nationalist, and redpill/mra propaganda. There’s nothing that helps us strategically about lending credibility to that. Even if there was, it could never justify the suffering it would cause our own brothers and sisters who aren’t heterosexual cisgender white males. That alone is a dealbreaker for the vast majority of the left. (including myself.) On top of that, we would be damaging our own credibility with the implicit claim that these outlets are garbage except when they agree with us.
But Jedi takes it one step further, same op-ed:
Another cog in the machinery of the doom I see down this path is Neoliberals. As you’re aware, the left is being constantly and falsely maligned in a variety of ways by the milquetoast center, even as establishment democrats break bread with republicans. They always want to look bipartisan, don’t they? Even when they criticize the right, they’re insufferably congenial about it. When they go after the far right, it tends to be concurrent with pushing their silly horseshoe theory. “Look! They’re all Nazis! Also, the left is just like them! Vote for us!” Hence their branding us Alt-left as soon as some decaf nazis started branding themselves Alt-right.
I believe this is because the center sees the left as a legitimate electoral threat going forward, while they see the right as a useful foil to excuse them from ever doing anything useful. What neoliberals want is not to eliminate fascists, their stated enemies, but to marginalize and discredit the left. They seek to position themselves as the only ones who can stave off autocracy. Based on the narratives they are putting forward, this seems to be their entire electoral strategy.
So in addition to strengthening the right’s credibility while damaging our own, we make it much easier for the neolibs to further discredit us. “Look at the alt left retweeting Infowars! They’re just like the alt right!” “Look at the Bernie Bros citing Breitbart! This proves they’re all racist manbun scumbags who no one should ever listen to!” The cacophony will be orders of magnitude more deafening than what we’ve experienced up to this point.
They won’t have to prove that all, or half, or even a couple hundred of us are on board with this. They need only make the assertions and show a couple examples to lock in the narrative. “The left is as unhinged as the right. Ignore them and leave the nazi fighting to us.” This dynamic kills us in two ways. First, it blunts the initial attack on mainstream media by summarily discrediting anything from the left, while leaving us in an extremely weak position relative to the right should the attack succeed. Second, we will all have to spend most of our time denying that we’re nazi sympathizers instead of pushing our policy proposals. All we wish to accomplish will be lost in the din.
Jedi then offers alternatives, which we sort of already do, but it’s worthy reinforcement:
Let’s end as we began, on positive ground. I really do appreciate your willingness to have read this far, and I hope you find yourself receptive to my concerns. I’m not here to just tear down an idea. I do agree with the goal of discrediting corporate media, and I further submit that we must, must have a replacement for it ready to go when this happens. So, in support of this goal, I humbly suggest we do the following instead:
Always, early and often, discredit corporate media bullshit with reporting from credible left wing media. Signal boost the shit out of credible left wing media, as much as possible, forever. Verifiable facts, primary sources, and arguments solid in their logic and rationality are what we need to counter the propaganda from the right and the center.
Upon noticing truth in right wing media, my suggestion is that we simply cut them out. An article? Let’s look up the primary sources and write one ourselves. A photo or video that has to be credited and only exists in the sphere of Infowars? Let’s add some shade to the attributions. “Video by Alt-Right Activist Mike Cernovich, which we believe to depict actual events despite it being him who held the camera.” A good link tweeted by a kek from a credible source? Let’s link it ourselves instead of retweeting pepe. We can accomplish all the truthseeking and truthtelling to which we aspire without involving the alt right. This way, we further strengthen the left wing media sphere without adding to the legitimacy of the alt-right.
Concurrently, let’s continue to do everything in our power to delegitimize far right agitprop. Remember, when the monopolized infotainment juggernaut does fall, we need to be the ones that fill that vacuum. Back to my tabloid allegory: let’s not promote the “Dog finds its way home after 2 months,” commenting, “oh look this one’s true.” If we link at all, let’s link to the “Batboy” and the “Aliens Meet With President Whoever” commenting “lol wtf is this?” Even better, let’s use verifiable facts, primary sources, and arguments solid in their logic and rationality to debunk that nonsense.
Instead of helping the alt-right, we ought to be undermining them. If they fall before the MSM does, all the better. We’ll be well placed to supplant the status quo.
And his final thought:
If the MSM goes under first, then our second fight will be with a weakened foe. Because make no mistake: they are not our friends, and they will not hesitate to destroy us as soon as they get what they want out of the deal.
Jedi and Counterpunch are not alone on the opposition. They are in good company with Anoa (friend of Nina Turner) and Benjamin Dixon, who devoted a better part of an hour of his show last night about Caitlin’s doubling down on this issue. OTH, HA Goodman thinks progressives are being too hard on her.
Oh I'm violent and her champion HA thinks I don't understand the issue in its entirety
— 🖤 Black Womxn Running My Fresh Ass Mouth🖤 (@TheWayWithAnoa) July 24, 2017
Let me be clear. I think Caitlin has penned many dinners for thought for progressives. I will continue to read her columns, and many instances, I may agree with her. But I think this is one major blunder by Catlin.