How To Make It As A Left-Wing Polemicist

Is your poetry not getting picked up by the Paris Review? Has your novel just not flowed from your fingertips like you’d imagined? Does each year of being an adjunct professor feel less fulfilling than the last? Starting to think that no amount of Adderall can launch you past the boredom of your role as a research assistant? Could it be that so much time has passed since you last picked up your guitar that it wouldn’t even be possible to get the old band back together again?

Do you seek validation? Are you hungry for permanent and hip confrontational posturing? Still having dreams about the glory of radical nonconformity? Eager to purge your upper-middle class and white guilt? Want to do something new with your life, but want to rely on the skills you already have instead of learning new ones?

I’ve got just the thing for you: become a left-wing critic of the mainstream American Left. It’s easy, really, and no matter what, your Twitter following will increase at least five-fold.

Just follow these simple steps:

1) Know your enemies. You’ll have a lot of enemies, too many to list here, or anywhere really, but here are the most important ones:

  • A) Every Democratic candidate for president, including the ones that won, since FDR. Don’t worry. Like most Americans you needn’t develop meaningful opinions on politics before 1932.
  • B) Writers that use graphs. If any pundit on the left is using lots of numbers, charts, regression tables, or graphs, it means they have sold out to the man. These are “neoliberals,” “wonks,” and “respectable liberals.” Never counter a number with a number, or a chart with a chart. The presence of these sorts of things are prima facie proof that the author has sold out to capitalism.
  • C) Folks who care too much about race. If someone identifies as black first and foremost, label them as solipsistic and sophomoric. Remind them that class comes first. Inform them that identitarianism is a product of academic myopia, and encourage them to get a good grasp of classism by reading a few key academic texts about the matter, just like you did. Be careful, though. You have to care about race way more than colorblind/racist libertarians and conservatives. Vigorously support Black Lives Matter and migrant rights. Remember: people who care less about race than you are racists; people who care more about race than you are dupes of neoliberalism. Save them from their ignorance with lots of acerbic wit, ideally on Twitter.
  • D) Anything that might be “neoliberal” or “elite” is your enemy. Make sure to use these words more than libertarians use “liberty” or neocons use “freedom.” Neoliberalism is any welfare state that has any kind of free market component to it. Neoliberals are writers who support this and cultural figures who exist while neoliberalism is in place. “Elites” are neoliberals who live in a city you have lived in, but have much more money than you do. These people care too much about race, like every Democratic candidate for president, including the ones who won, since FDR, and use lots of graphs and numbers in their writing. If it weren’t for these people, the white working class would be part of the American Left, and the American Left would be cool the way Che Guevara is cool.

2) Your writing has to follow some pretty strict “dos and don’ts.” Here are the big ones:

  • A. Don’t write about Republicans very much. We all know they are just racists with boring graphs.
  • B. Do write about other leftists. Regularly attack neoliberal “leftists.” Important targets are: Jonathan Chait, Matt Yglesias, Neera Tanden, Thomas Friedman, Ezra Klein, and Joan Walsh.
  • C. Don’t write about religion. There is no God, and believers are dumb. Since this is objectively true, religion plays no meaningful role in society — except for propping up capitalism, maybe.
  • D. Do write about obscure leftist movements throughout the world and history. The less connection you have to these movements, and the less impact they made on human history, the better and more virtuous they are. Good places to start are: The Zapatistas, the Paris Commune, Salvador Allende, and the Spartacus League. Idolize these movements regardless of their success, and harshly juxtaposition their awesomeness with the lame neoliberals of today.
  • E. Don’t stake out a firm position on immigration policy. While conservatives who oppose immigration are racists, identitarians who favor open borders don’t understand how that depresses wages. Never note both of these things at once–do so separately to hide your uncertainty about what to do about it.
  • F. Do be opaque. Use lots of jargon and obscure references to ensure newcomers won’t be able to just dive in. Throw around lots of words and phrases from grad school like: hegemony, false consciousness, late capitalism, conjuncture, etc.

3) Remain passive. As you blossom into a well known left-wing polemicist, you will spend more and more of your time writing, speaking at small conferences, and tweeting. While it’s important to do all those things, it’s equally important to do nothing else. Don’t be a member of a union or organize one. Don’t do any kind of volunteer work. Don’t donate to charity, and only sometimes donate to other leftist non-profits. If ever challenged about any of this passivity, dive into an aggressive response about how the neoliberals and elites make doing this pointless, since their invincible actions guarantee you’ll lose.

4) Don’t let the long wait get you down. You’re right, and you know it. Never forget that. Refer back to Hegel and Marx if you start to feel your confidence slip. All you need to do is keep writing. The path to full Communism and total equality is paved with tweets and condescension.


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  1. Is this mainly Jacobin?

    1. This essay is a pretty solid swipe at Jacobinmag, but in all fairness. I would much rather read an essay written by one of the editors at Jacobinmag than any of the “neoliberal” “experts” at New York Times, Vox, Slate, Salon, etc.

      Jacobinmag and other far-left critics of the “Center-Left vs. Center-Right” political dichotomy of the West comes the closest to calling a spade a spade on a variety of issues.

      They usually dig straight to the bottom of an issue like race, welfare, jail, urbanism, etc. even if their conclusions are 180 degrees from ours.

  2. This is hilarious. I think I will embark on my career as a leftist polemicist this very day, now that I have all the necessary tools (which I have stored in my invisible knapsack of privilege). Thanks, Social Matter!

  3. Hahaha… the snark is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

    However, at the end of the day, I find that people like Thomas Frank or even Michael Moore are quite closer to the truth than your run-of-the-mill conservative pundit and its tired tropes, regardless of how egregious their misjudgements might be sometimes.

  4. Jacobin is good at deploying the kind of radical language and graphics that inspire coffee shop communists to ultimately do something wildly radical like support a mainstream Democrat.

    I think suggesting they’re capable or desiring to achieve more is assigning undeserved credit to them.

  5. Pseudo-chrysostom May 23, 2017 at 12:05 am

    I’ve often theorized in the past that the abstruse logolalia deployed by mid to late 20th century continental academoi, was not *just* a form of status signaling (personally, i approve of purple prose), but was also in fact a form of *defense mechanism*.

    Obscure, arcane, and ambiguous prose helped to serve as squid ink to befuddle the prole SJWs of the day, a method that the paris intellectual could use to help ward off the ever present danger being sighted by the circular firing squads looking to increase their status, looking for a sacrificial target to signal their lefter-than-thou bonafides; for as as a leftist, among leftists, his friends are his enemies, are ever inclined to stabbing their neighbors in the back.

    1. Could it be the theory of permanent revolution applied to the personal psychology of the leftist?

      Or perhaps just neurosis on their part.

  6. How could you leave out Paullie “The Beard” Krugman?

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