Sunday, December 24, 2017

Why I Went on a Nazi's Podcast: Approaches and Goals

Plenty of far leftists have ended up in far right media in one way or another, mostly by accident. One of the hosts of a podcast I have been on twice (holiday episode coming soon!) called 2 Spicy actually got blindsided by Gavin McInnes in 2014 before he had made a name for himself beyond his status as persona non grata at Vice. (Apparently, McInnes only varied by degree from the rest of Vice's leadership.) Heather made the unfortunate mistake of taking an invite to do media without doing background research. Always do background research.

I've done a bit of background on the show I'm set to go on. (I'm writing this in advance of going on the show.) If you haven't heard of Millennial Woes, you're not missing much. His only noteworthy accomplishment seems to be speaking at the 2016 Maggiano's Seige NPI conference. Literally. Millennial Woes (who, despite having been doxxed as Colin Robertson still told me to call him 'Woes') is a 35 year old Scottish white nationalist with a mean antisemitic streak, anti-immigrant views, and a strange ambivalence towards bestiality. After he was doxxed (as a result of his only noteworthy accomplishment), his messaging suddenly became extremely conciliatory with regard to racial violence. You know how fash do.

Every year, Millennial Woes does a month long series of interviews he calls Millenniyule. This year he had designs to do 50 interviews in December. As a result of a fight on Twitter, I became one of them. What I hope to lay out here is how it came about that I got this "opportunity," my rationale for accepting it, my strategy for approaching it, and my goals.

How This Even Happened

As you probably know, I was put on paid leave from my teaching position at John Jay College for tweeting "Some of y'all might think it sucks being an antifascist teaching at John Jay but I think it's a privilege to teach future dead cops." Well that's the abridged version anyway. The longer version is that I was doing media regarding antifascist organizing; one of the journalists misrepresented my views and the conversation we had; the far right got mad at me; Far Left Watch and Kiwifarms rooted through thousands of my tweets; I went on Tucker Carlson's stupid talk show; cop lovers sent my school death threats; and I was put on paid leave as a security matter. Shit happens.

In the wake of all this, some of my trolls found my Fetlife profile and began spreading it around trying to make a story out of it. A reporter from the NY Post was planning to do a profile on me, but when her editors got wind of the Fetlife profile, they made her pursue that story instead. I had prepared for this and wanted to use the opportunity to talk about the various consent practices that kink involves and the general accord between that and my politics. Unfortunately, our schedules didn't match up to do a proper interview, so the story ran will little comment from me. This is where Millennial Woes comes in.

For whatever reason, the Post story got picked up by The Daily Mail and then recycled through various right wing blogs where I assume it made its way to Millennial Woes. So Woes starts digging into the scandal surrounding me and decides to post a 47 minute video called "The Ballad of Mike Isaacson." To save you the 47 minutes, it's basically him going through the factoids about me and laughing at things he doesn't understand. This is especially the case when he spends 23 whole minutes going through my Fetlife profile line by line. After being taunted by random low follower Twitter nazis about it for a couple of weeks, I finally sat down and watched the video.

The video was exactly the kind of waste of time I expected, so I tweeted at him. We went back and forth a bit with him calling me a degenerate and me telling him that degeneracy is the only way that life is able to thrive. Eventually, he jumps into my DMs asking if I am indeed myself to which I reply with a short video of me saying "Yep, it's me." (I did the same thing with Mike Enoch when he was taunting me on his podcast. Coward invited me on, and then balked when I accepted.) After I confirmed my identity, he immediately invited me on for this Millenniyule thing that he does. After some deliberation with my friends, I accepted. (This is generally how I deal with right wing media invitations.)

Why I'm Even Doing This

According to him, we are due to discuss my understanding of the alt-right and identitarianism. I asked him this week when he was reconfirming my time slot if he had read any of what I had written on the topic and he said he hadn't in a way that seemed to imply that he wasn't going to. To me this indicates one of two things: Either he is earnest in his stated intentions and will be blindsided by my ability to talk about the subject with a degree of nuance he isn't used to from leftists, or he is lying and intends to attempt to blindside me with the various bullshit he discussed in his 47 minute Helga Pataki routine about me. (He's apparently bi, so it's possible.) Either way, I'm prepared.

As antifascists, we are committed to denying nazis a platform. In practice, this looks like disrupting their meetings, shutting down their events, and interfering with their recruiting efforts. However, the past three years has made it plain that the approach of preventing nazis from operating in public is insufficient for a holistic antifascism, even if it does keep public space safer for everyone. Regardless of antifascist attempts to deprive nazis a public platform, they have built an infrastructure to provide their own platforms. Millennial Woes is merely one of hundreds of video channels in a sea of podcasts, blogs, forums, etc. sponsored and frequented by the far right. Those platforms not only serve to broadcast nazi views, they serve to broadcast only nazi views. My approach with this wacky adventure is to sully that by inserting unapologetic antifascism into their platform.

This approach is of course not sufficient on its own. Merely being a leftist on a nazi's media channel does not by itself sully their platforms. Heather learned this the hard way when she was tricked into going on Gavin McInnes' show. As an antifascist going into the lion's den, you must go in with a clear idea of the impact that your appearance can have and to tailor your behavior to the audience you're trying to reach. This is generally the way I approach any encounter with the far right, and one I build a template for in my zine "You Can't Punch Every Nazi." While most people reading that zine are probably doing so to engage with individuals espousing fascist ideologies, its lessons can be equally applied to this absurd situation I've gotten myself into.

My ultimate goal actually has nothing to do with Millennial Woes. I do not expect to convince him that his views are wrong or to make him feel anything. In general, I find that the expectation of changing a nazi's mind puts one at a disadvantage since that positions the nazi as the one whose approval is being sought. I am not seeking, nor would I ever seek, the approval of Millennial Woes. Why should I? He's a 35 year old nazi who lives in his parents' basement and makes money by amassing subscribers to his Hatreon account with videos of him smoking cigarettes in the dark. Dude has made a career move into full-time white nationalism. He's all in, and will fight like hell to rebuke anyone who suggests that he's made a catastrophic mistake.

His followers however are not so committed. It takes a certain level of commitment to put your face in front of a camera and go for broke on YouTube with nazi race theory. It take a minimum commitment to watch such a troll while browsing on the internet. If Millennial Woes admit the error of his ways, he is disgraced. If his followers do, it was an unfortunate phase. Ultimately, my goal is not to argue with Millennial Woes at all, but rather to speak to the insecurity of his followers.

What Can I Even Say

As I describe in my zine, people generally find themselves drawn to fascist ideology out of the sense of isolation wrought by capitalism and the injustices relative to its egalitarian promises. Fascism rationalizes the latter as the emergent truth of the universe attempting to break free of the shackles of capitalist egalitarianism. National chauvinism is, to the fascist, the ultimate reckoning for a society raised on the false hope of an egalitarian civilization. Fascism is, in many ways, giving up on one's own personal improvement for a belief that one's destiny (genetic, cultural, spiritual, or otherwise) will carry them to where they are supposed to be in society.

My goal is to speak to that sense of isolation and injustice that drives fascists toward their general animosity towards whatever groups they have deemed Other. My messaging will largely reflect on the common roots this isolation and injustice has in the material history of capitalism itself. Given the extent to which far right rhetoric has appropriated anti-racist and anti-colonial discourses, it should be all the easier to trace the white nationalist logic back through equivalence and reversal (i.e. how nazis go from "why isn't there a white history month" to "there isn't a white history month and that's the real racism") to force the ideology to justify generalized solidarity. Certainly not the ideal approach one should have to anti-racism and anti-colonialism, but it's a start.

This approach is only effective if coupled with subtly disrupting fascist preconceptions about evolutionary fitness. Ultimately, fascists see nations as organic entities akin to multi-cellular organism. Rather than disrupting this framework, my intention is to use insights from sociobiology to describe the fallacy of "survival of the fittest" as it is commonly understood. My go-to reference for this is usually Kropotkin since it provides a wealth of evidence that hasn't really been centralized to the extent Kropotkin did. Despite being from the 19th century, the major conclusions hold (and of course his observations from animal life and human history). In sum, evolutionary survival is the result of generalized cooperation in far greater measure than of generalized competition. This is something that nazis generally intuit as it pertains to "preserving their identity" but not beyond that. Usually, it's not especially difficult to stretch their understanding to new horizons.

More important than messaging is tone. Anyone who has had an encounter with a nazi (or even a shitty libertarian) knows that the conversation will never end in an understanding or acknowledgement of fault. The right wing criteria for correctness is one's emotional reaction to what's being presented. Rationality to the right winger is not about the soundness of one's argument so much as the circumspect calmness with which it is delivered. Chief of my concerns going in is to always maintain an air of calm or at worst derisive dismissal. Emotions like anger, shock, or outrage are absolutely useless when approaching a nazi as a leftist. They already know they shock and anger you. They thrive on that. To them, that is what demonstrates that they're right and you are a cuck unable to debunk what they're saying apart from shock and anger. To do this requires the background research to prepare you for what you will encounter as well as confidence in the foundations of your convictions.

Above all, I am not trying to put myself or my community in jeopardy. I intend to derail any conversation that attempts to suss out personal details about myself or my friends beyond what I have done publicly. Family and friends are off limits as are details about my personal whereabouts or anything involving my relationship statuses. If he starts to press these issues, I have various cosmetics that I intend to whip out to unsettle him with my degeneracy. This will serve the dual purpose of distracting him from what I don't want to talk about as well as put him in the position where he is the one who is offended for which I can make fun of him.

My assumption is that Millennial Woes is intending to make me look like an easily offended social justice troll or something next to his calm and dismissive demeanor. My plan is to turn the tables on him and get a rise out of him while maintaining a perfectly cool tone and dismissing the ridiculous nazi shit he says with an air of sarcasm. Or who knows, maybe we just have an earnest discussion of the alt-right and identitarianism in which case his followers might be inoculated to the more insidious tactics of those movements and be disenchanted when they are able to recognized them for what they are. Either way, he doesn't seem to know what he's getting into.

I'm publishing this after I appear on the show so I don't end up spoiling my strategy. I plan to write another post in a few days to assess how things went. I don't plan on promoting the appearance beyond this and don't think anyone should watch his videos because they're really long and boring. Also he's a nazi.