And finally, you can view your Pressimus profile by clicking on your profile image, and selecting your profile, and you can customize your Pressimus settings by selecting settings.
Watch quick explainer video
Finish
X

Request Invitation




Submit
Close
Submit
X

Acknowledgements

X
Published in Stream:
National Bolshevism in the US
Press by
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
From Exile to Dirtbag: Edgelord Geopolitics and the Rise of “National Bolshevism” in the U.S.
7 months

Image courtesy Princess Bubblegum / forums.spacebattles.com

This article first appeared in Medium.

By Alexander Reid Ross

“What’s wrong?” I asked my friend Mikhail* as he stumbled into the dorm room. “You seem shaken up.”

“It’s nothing,” he said, sitting next to me on the bed. “A gang tried to beat me up on my way from the Metro.”

It happened in a central district of Moscow. And then it happened again two weeks later. It was the spring of 2005, the early stages of Russia’s precipitous descent into the far right.

“What? Who?”

“A group of five or six,” he replied breathlessly through a thick Russian accent. “They wore black and had armbands with a hammer and… how do you say it?… A sword.”

After he left, I went to my computer to research the insignia, finding myself in the territory of the so-called “left-wing of fascism,” with terms like “Strasserism,” the “Black Front,” and “National Bolsheviks.” The leading National Bolshevik in Russia was a well-known aesthete and provocateur named Edward (Eduard) “Limonov” Savenko.

I recognized the name Limonov from The eXile, a bi-weekly English-language tabloid that thrived among the expatriates who flocked to Moscow in search of rebellion through sex, drugs, and nihilistic misanthropy.

As a student, Moscow’s unfathomably complex socio-cultural composition gave me vertigo. I hoped to find in The eXile something like a weekly alternative news guide. What I found increasingly struck me as deranged and delusional.

Limonov performed the deeply-nihilistic sentiment that expatriates wanted to find within Russian culture — like an actor playing the gimmicky stereotype of the Russian avant-garde. I had a sadly-mistaken faith that the editors of a popular expatriate alt-weekly would not regularly publish a fascist. Yet even former eXile editor Matt Taibbi would later call him a “neo-fascist revolutionary,” and Taibbi’s former co-editor, Mark Ames, gave Limonov the cringe-worthy tag-line, “the Iggy Pop of the right-wing literary world.”

The more I researched the supposed “left-wing fascists,” and particularly the National Bolsheviks who made Russia their geopolitical redoubt after the Cold War, the more I realized how vulnerable we were to an encroaching far right that used pop culture, decadence, and nihilism to access subcultures, co-opt their spaces and signifiers, and draw them into a morass of political reaction.

Much of the Western media and many experts have rightly emphasized the brutality of the Alt-Right, drawing its lineage to sectors of the U.S. far-right. However, there is far less understanding of the influential role played by National Bolshevism and the destructiveness it has ported into the left under the guise of prurient satire and hysterical chauvinism.

With horror, I watched this process unfold over the next decade, as so-called National Bolsheviks crossed over into American countercultures, drawing together left and right-wing tendencies that have influenced the US’s political spectrum contributing to the alt-right. The eXile’s alums played a critical role in cultivating these connections, joining with and influencing the inchoate alt-right in defense of Putin’s aggression and in opposition to Western liberalism.

Set as default press image
2019-01-21 11:04:22

Limonov firing on Sarajevo with war criminal Radovan Karadžić / YouTube

Limonov and the National Bolsheviks

A goateed Trotsky look-alike, Limonov had spent an extended stint in New York City’s bohemian subculture during the 1970s before mixing with the banal fascists of the European New Right in France. Advocating “an incinerating hatred of the anti-human system of the triad of liberalism/democracy/capitalism,” Limonov came to fuse far right and left, celebrating the genocidal former leader of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin, as “the Bolshevik Caesar of our country in its best period.” Of self-proclaimed “super-fascist” Julius Evola, Limonov wrote that the “racist and woman-hater...presents the only ideological balance to socialism and Marxism.”

Limonov’s ideological synthesis, known as National Bolshevism, has its dubious origins in the 1920s, amid an assortment of leftists, Russian émigrés, and “revolutionary conservatives” hoping to unite Germany and the Soviet Union in national-socialist brotherhood. After Hitler’s death and the destruction of the Reich in 1945, Nazis aligned with dissident Otto Strasser to create a “national revolutionary” following seeking a “Third Way” between the Communist Soviets and the Liberal North Atlantic. Influenced by these trends and promoted by banal fascists associated with the European New Right, National Bolsheviks continued the fight against NATO for a “spiritual empire” stretching “from Dublin to Vladivostok.”

With the fall of the Soviet Union, Limonov joined fellow National Bolshevik, Aleksandr Dugin, to promote that dream of a Eurasian “large space” premised on fascist geopolitics and based in the Kremlin. Committed to the total destruction of what they perceive as the liberal and weak West, the National Bolsheviks asserted the spiritual greatness of Traditionalism found in the “Heartland” of the Asian continent.

While Dugin became the philosopher of this fascist ideology, influencing everyone from the Communist Party to the so-called Liberal Democratic Party of Russia to the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Limonov developed his role as a leading propagandist of the Russian far right. According to professor Markus Meili, Limonov “decisively influenced the emergence and growth of the Russian skinhead movement in the mid-1990s.” Despite this, firing on Sarajevo with war criminal Radovan Karadžić, and calling for a “Serbian solution” to challenges against Russia, he was indulged as a misunderstood performance artist.

Set as default press image
2019-01-21 11:05:09

 Image from Jezebel

Moscow and Misogyny

With Limonov, The eXile’s editors, Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi, took a leading role in defining some of the most chauvinistic tendencies of non-Russian expats who used Russia as an exploitative playground for glorified sex tourism and corruption. While articles have been written about The eXile’s misogyny, it is rarely shown in the context of the broader melange of left and far-right politics that the tabloid put forward with Limonov.

When confronted by an interviewer about writing, “we actually prefer Russian women who embrace their roles as sex objects,” among other missives, Taibbi responded that he “had this idea that I was an equal opportunity offender.” In his own part of their co-authored book about The eXile’s early years, The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia, Ames tells of hiring underage sex workers and threatening to murder his ex if she refused to abort their baby.

The authors now claim that the book and the tabloid merely featured, in Ames’s words, a “shockingly offensive satirical aesthetic,” despite its original claims to “non-fiction.” Also, The Daily Caller reported that no woman has come forward with accusations of sexual impropriety against Taibbi stemming from those days.

At the same time, Newsweek contributing editor, Owen Matthews, claimed in The Moscow Times that he was present during real occasions that Ames wrote about in the tabloid under a pseudonym, “Johnny Chen,” only to later dismiss as fiction. Specifically, Matthews referenced an article in which “Chen” rapes a woman he meets at a nightclub. In an article that fits the description, “Chen” describes the victim as “bleeding and crying,” and contemplates throwing her off a balcony.

Contacted via email, Matthews cautioned that not all of The eXile’s writings should be taken completely literally. “The eXile’s weakness — in this puritan age — was their prurient celebration/satire of Moscow’s excess, it’s celebration of rape culture and denigration of women,” he explained.

“If you think they were reveling and exulting in Russia’s deep decadence, you missed the point,” Matthews wrote. “They were living it, and writing about it, and exposing the horror of it on their own skins, as the Russian phrase goes.”

In an exceedingly hostile tweet responding to a question I emailed him, Ames called his pseudonymous persona “a character created to be outrageous and morally vile in order to burlesque 1990s American expats’ rape and pillage of Yeltsin’s Russia.” Since The eXile was at the heart of the very 1990s American expat scene it was satirizing, however, it becomes difficult to parse the satire from reality — and such blurred lines, themselves, obscure the effect of rape “humor” on that community in the first place.

Under his own name in a June 2000 interview, Ames told The Observer, “It took me a while to learn you really have to force Russian girls, and that’s what they want… All relations between guys and girls is basically violent, I think. It’s all war.” Satire was not mentioned.

Limonov took such logic to its political conclusion in his delirious essay, "Who Needs Fascism in Russia": “Russia’s citizens really want the FASCISTS to come — terrible, tensed, young — and solve all problems,” Limonov declared. “Life will suddenly become easy for the kept intelligentsia… A boss will come, take her by the hair, pull her to him, and use her in accordance with her purpose.”

Politically, The eXile came to follow now-familiar rules: criticize Putin, but reserve the most obscene tirades for Western media hypocrisy. They would level criticisms against Putin on tough issues, such as his stony response to the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, but turn those articles back against the US. Ames seemed to oppose Putin and the oligarchs, but downplay the threat of fascists like Dugin, while publishing his comrade-in-arms, Limonov. For this reason, scholar and author of Russian Fascism, Stephen Shenfield, argued that “ways should be found to put The eXile out of business” (according to Ames’s account).

Set as default press image
2019-01-21 11:06:45

Richard Spencer lecturing at a college (David J. Phillip/AP)

Contributions to the Alt-Right

One of The eXile’s most recognizable contributing editors was “the War Nerd,” the sobriquet of a war-obsessed misanthrope named John Dolan writing under the pseudonym Gary Brecher. In 1997, Dolan let his affinities be known by translating a Limonov novel under his own byline, but the pen names afforded him more license. He has admitted that the War Nerd is based on “my early self and people I knew” and that Brecher is “a more honest version of who I am.”

“Indians and Pakis Too Faggy for War,” read one Dolan headline in The eXile, deploying the racial slur common among the British far right. In another piece, he argued for “pruning” the world population by “nuking the entire Middle East,” because, “In a century the population will be 14 billion devout imbeciles (a nice volatile mix of Hindu and Muslim — what fun Saturday nights will be!)”

In 2002, Dolan joined far-right ideologue Steve Sailer for a Q&A in which he advanced racialized ideas about conflict. Alongside an essay by Sailer, Dolan placed a 2007 book review in The American Conservative, a magazine co-founded by Pat Buchanan, whom Dolan described as someone “I usually agree with.” The assistant editor at the time was alt-right “co-creator” Richard Spencer, who had already built a reputation as a far-right misogynist through his handling of the Duke lacrosse scandal.

Spencer told me in an email that he brought the War Nerd with him to Taki’s Mag after being fired from The American Conservative for extremism. A spin-off of American Conservative, Taki’s Mag was founded by Panagiotis Theodoracopulos, who has defended the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party as “good old-fashioned patriotic Greeks.”

Along with landing far-right agitator, Gavin McInnes, a job at Taki’s, Spencer told me he personally solicited and edited three articles from Dolan in 2008 and 2009. Spencer’s work at Taki’s was crucial to the development of a new far-right movement that he was starting to call the “Alternative Right,” or “alt-right,” bringing anti-interventionist voices together with Ron Paul libertarians, hipster fashion, and white nationalists.

One of Dolan’s articles in Taki’s Mag, “War of the Babies,” presented undocumented migrants as combatants in the “conquest-by-immigration we’re seeing now in Europe and North America” — a typical white nationalist talking point. “I was a fan of the War Nerd’s outlandish yet very smart analysis,” Spencer told me.

As with The eXile, the alt-right presented the horrifying with a satirical twist, thus testing and challenging the boundaries of acceptable discourse. Dolan’s 2008 eXile article, “Bush Fought the Wars and the Wars Won,” was reposted five days later at The American Conservative, showing his cross-over status. Indeed, he was so popular among the inchoate alt-right that white supremacist, John Derbyshire, used a Dolan epigram for his 2009 book We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism before being fired by the National Review three years later for a racist article published in Taki’s Mag.

Under Spencer’s leadership, the alt-right was growing, and it embraced Dolan and The eXile with alacrity.

Set as default press image
2019-01-21 11:10:40

MRAs Matt Forney (left) and Daryush Valizadeh (right), / Matt Forney Show

The eXile Returns

The eXile increasingly came to represent a common thread between left and far right in geopolitical sympathy with Putin’s Russia and ruthless animosity for those they identified as neoconservatives, humorless leftists, and fussy liberals, alike.

Taibbi and Ames had parted ways in 2003, apparently on bad terms, but The eXile continued in Moscow for another five years. When Ames finally shuttered the publication, based on claims of state repression that were disputed by The eXile’s own investors, Spencer wrote the publication up as a “fantastically irreverent English-language paper” and praised Limonov as “a true fusionist, as it were.”

Hoping to help find Dolan a new job, American Conservative editor, Daniel McCarthy (aka Tory Anarchist), proclaimed, “Save the War Nerd,” calling The eXile a “samizdat” [lit. self-published] — the word for Soviet dissident publications that tracked the persecution of activists.

As the alt-right grew, its members idolized The eXile. Daryush Valizadeh (“Roosh V), a leading Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) often condemned as a “rape advocate,” described Taibbi and Ames’s book as life changing, writing, “my favorite part of the book being when they describe ladies night at the Duck Bar. It was dubbed ‘rape camp’ by the expats.”

Like Roosh V, leading MRA, Matt Forney said of Ames and Taibbi’s co-authored book, “This is honestly one of the few books I’ve read that changed my life, and one of the few I make a point to re-read once a year.” Similarly, on the alt-right Counter-Currents Radio, Forney praised Ames’s 2005 book, Going Postal, as an adequate explanation, if not justification, for Incel-style school shooters.

Since the Men’s Rights Movement helped fuel some of the most violent currents of the alt-right, The eXile’s life-changing role in the lives of two of the most influence further illustrates its editors’ influence on modern fascism.

Within two years of The eXile’s shuttering, Dolan was able to land a new gig at the American University in Iraq-Suleimaniyah, but the university let him go after learning of hysterical rants involving an image of Ann Coulter’s face on the body of a woman being gang raped by four Arabs with the text, “Oh Annie, you little fascist flirt, you know you want it.” The university’s dean called Dolan an “academic fraud” and “oblivious to any rational distinction between the real world and his imagination.”

Set as default press image
2019-01-21 11:11:57

National Bolshevik Party propaganda / Stormfront

National Bolshevism Empowered

Though The eXile left Moscow, it maintained an online presence as Russian foreign policy grew more interventionist. From Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 to the war in Ukraine in 2014, The eXile’s editors helped frame West-East conflict in ways that deflected criticism of Putin back to the US and reflected Russia’s propaganda line, which brought left and right together in a geopolitical struggle with National Bolshevik overtones.

Ames blamed the U.S. for Putin’s election rigging; The eXile blamed the rise of the far-right within Putin’s government on the US’s support for Yeltsin in the 1990s; Dolan and Ames both relished Russia’s invasion of Georgia, with the War Nerd calling it “the war of my dreams.” Richard Spencer, while praising the War Nerd’s position, felt it necessary to add that Dolan’s “taste for blood and guts exceeds mine.” Meanwhile, Putin waged a personal war against opponents and hired Lyndon LaRouche associate, Sergei Glazyev, as his advisor on Eurasian integration.

Transferring nostalgia for the Soviet Empire into modern, capitalist conditions, Putin oversaw the rehabilitation of the reputation of far-right figures like Ivan Ilyin as well as Stalin, while amassing a vast personal fortuneand unleashing far-right oligarchs on eastern Ukraine. When a Ukrainian revolution overthrew former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in 2013, Putin sent troops who wrote things like “For Stalin!” on their tanks in semi-clandestine efforts to establish an imperial “Greater Russia.” To this day, pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine manifest a melange of mercenaries and ideological fascists, authoritarian communists, and National Bolsheviks.

Looking at Ukraine, Ames took two conflicting analyses which were shredded by analyst Marcy Wheeler. The first report discussed by Wheeler presented a nuanced discussion of the interests of the opposition, while the second offered a weird and dubious account of pro-Western neo-liberals responsible for teaming up with fascists to instigate regime change. His position was summed up in another article: “Stay the Hell out of Russia’s way for awhile… Sorry Ukraine, but you’re screwed.”

Limonov rejoined Putin’s side after years on the opposition, enraptured by the convergence of ultranationalism and Soviet nostalgia. Limonov’s former close comrade, Dugin, exhorted pro-Russian forces in Ukraine to “Kill! Kill! Kill Ukrainians!” and his close associates took leading roles in the Kremlin-supported “civil war.” Limonov and Dugin appeared on Russian TV together, a symbol of the power of the invasion of Ukraine to reunite old comrades.

The alt-right received a meaningful boost from both co-founders of the National Bolshevik Party. Dugin afforded Spencer a platform at his think tank’s website, and Spencer’s then-wife served as Dugin’s English translator. Much of the American far right read Dugin’s books and developed international alliances with his international network — for example, Matt Heimbach’s once-influential Traditional Workers Party.

Meanwhile, left-wingers from the West increasingly flocked to the newly minted Sputnik News, joining the head of Dugin’s Center for Conservative Studies on podcasts promoting conspiracy theories and denouncing “Atlanticists.” Joining the cry of many an anti-imperialist, Spencer appeared on RT to denounce the U.S.’s “cold war” in Ukraine.

Moscow’s clandestine social media influence operations and public support for quixotic “anti-imperialist” movements that united left and right against liberalism followed the patterns of National Bolshevism. Amid the resurgence, Limonov even experienced a small comeback. Holocaust denier and erstwhile Wikileaks collaborator, Israel Shamir, boasted of Limonov as his “friend” on the left-wing site CounterPunch. In a 2017 article in the alt-right associated Unz Review, antisemitic blogger Anatoly Karlin, who had already lauded The eXile as “irreverent court jesters,” recalled “the chiliastic chic of Limonov’s monthly rant.”

Meanwhile, the far right kept up its love affair with The eXile. When the Washington Post’s Kathy Lally described The eXile as “juvenile, stunt-obsessed and pornographic, titillating for high school boys,” Sailer jumped to defend Taibbi and Ames in the Unz Review. One Unz commentator opined, “Their support of Limonov actually makes them somewhat precursors of the alt-right.” Indeed, the War Nerd published white nationalist talking points in Taki’s Mag during the formation of the alt-right, and Ames and Taibbi’s book figured as a life-changing influence for leading MRAs.

For Ames’s part, having spent years creating travel documentaries for RT, he migrated to Pando News, a site partly funded by Silicon Valley Trump supporter, Facebook board member, and Palantir co-founder, Peter Theil. According to the New York Times, a Palantir employee would work closely with Cambridge Analytica to inappropriately gain access to millions of Facebook users’ information and use that data to assist the Trump campaign.

The eXile increasingly came to represent a common thread between left and far right in geopolitical sympathy with Putin’s Russia and ruthless animosity for those they identified as neo-conservatives, humorless leftists, and fussy liberals, alike.

Taibbi and Ames had parted ways in 2003, apparently on bad terms, but The eXile continued in Moscow for another five years. When Ames finally shuttered the publication, based on claims of state repression that were disputed by the eXile’s own investors, Spencer wrote the publication up as a “fantastically irreverent English-language paper” and praised Limonov as “a true fusionist, as it were.”

Hoping to help find Dolan a new job, The American Conservative editor, Daniel McCarthy (aka Tory Anarchist), proclaimed, “Save the War Nerd,” calling The eXile a “samizdat” — the word for Soviet dissident publications that tracked the persecution of activists.

As the alt-right grew, its members idolized The eXile. Daryush Valizadeh (“Roosh V), a leading Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) often condemned as a “rape advocate,” described Taibbi and Ames’s book as life changing, writing, “my favorite part of the book being when they describe ladies night at the Duck Bar. It was dubbed ‘rape camp’ by the expats.”

Like Roosh V, leading MRA, Matt Forney said of Ames and Taibbi’s co-authored book, “This is honestly one of the few books I’ve read that changed my life, and one of the few I make a point to re-read once a year.” Similarly, on the alt-right Counter-Currents Radio, Forney praised Ames’s 2005 book, Going Postal, as an adequate explanation, if not justification, for Incel-style school shooters.

Since the Men’s Rights Movement helped fuelsome of the most violentcurrents of the alt-right, The eXile’s life-changing role in the lives of two of the most influence further illustrates its editors’ influence on modern fascism.

Within two years of The eXile’s shuttering, Dolan was able to land a new gig at the American University in Iraq-Suleimaniyah, but the university let him go after learning of hysterical rants involving an image of Ann Coulter’s face on the body of a woman being gang raped by four Arabs with the text, “Oh Annie, you little fascist flirt, you know you want it.” The university’s dean called Dolan an “academic fraud” and “oblivious to any rational distinction between the real world and his imagination.”

The “Next Stage” of Dirtbags

Despite continuing to defend and promote Limonov amid the rise of the alt-right, The eXile’s alums became idols for a growing online community of self-described “dirtbag leftists,” a term coined by podcaster Amber A’Lee Frost to describe a contingent of leftists associated with the controversial podcast,Chapo Trap House.

The top-ranked podcast on Patreon, Chapo Trap House (CTH) emerged in 2016, growing to include more than 26,000 patrons dishing out over $108,000 per month. Known for an “ironic” sense of humor that blurs the distinction between truth and ideology, the million-dollar a year podcast typically garners 100,000–200,000 listens per episode.

Like the alt-right, hosts make often self-deprecating jokes at the expense of rape survivors and people with autism. Controversy flared when CTH hosts seemingly mocked the #MeToo movement and responded to a critical essay by Jeet Heer in The New Republic with a homophobic comment.

Given their misogynistic tendencies and opportunistic blurring of satire and reality, it is no surprise that in the early days, CTH fawned over Taibbi as “our old pal and first mega-guest.” When Dolan and Ames’s podcast, Radio War Nerd, was listed as part of the “dirtbag left” in a critical piece, Ames tweeted out the hashtag, “#JeSuisDirtbag .”

Showing the alt-right’s sustained enjoyment of The eXile’s form of offensive irreverence, now in the form of the “dirtbag left,” Richard Spencer told an audience, “I do find it kind of amazing. If you listen to fifteen minutes of [CTH], it sounds like an alt-right podcast in terms of the jokes, the memes, the cynicism, the irreverence. It’s pretty funny. So I do think that that’s going to be the next stage.”

Spencer’s comments may not be not far off. A few years before CTH started, soon-to-be host Virgil Texas brought the alt-right “comedy group,” Million Dollar Extreme, to perform at one of his events, indicating the proximity between their style, if not politics.

The “dirtbag left” also engaged in an interesting pattern of geopolitical analysis so conducive to National Bolshevik ideology that the Duginist blog,Fourth Revolutionary War, cross-posted a number of articles and podcasts from Ames, Dolan, and CTH, including a CTH episode with Taibbi. CTH hosts seem to invite such crossovers, having gone on Sputnik and RT and toed the Kremlin’s foreign policy line — particularly with regard to the war in Syria, where one of their hosts praised war criminal Issam Zahreddine.

While Spencer changed his Twitter handle to feature an image of the Syrian regime’s flag after Assad forces deployed a chemical weapons attack on Khan Shaykhun, another CTH host named Will Menaker joined conspiracy theorists in speculating on Twitter that the attack was a “false flag” before deleting the tweet.

Such false-flag conspiracy theories are promoted through an extensive pro-Kremlin network involving a mix of left and right-wing commentators attempting to discredit the Syrian opposition — especially the first-responders known as the White Helmets, whom the purveyors of disinformation accuse of staging the chemical attacks. These accusations, often used to deflect from efforts to confront genocide in Syria, issue from a tendency to support authoritarian dictators that the left has yet to fully reckon with.

Although many of their fans have attempted to distance themselves from The eXile’s former editors, CTH hosted a Syria podcast with the War Nerd, who deflected from regime atrocities in Aleppo. For their podcast, Radio War Nerd, Dolan and Ames brought on frequent RT and Sputnik commentator Max Blumenthal, who has mocked Syrian victims, referred to the White Helmets rescue workers as “an arm of Al Qaeda,” and is currently facing a defamation lawsuit for allegedly participating in a “coordinated effort to attack, discredit and endanger journalists whose work counters a certain political line.”

Aside from attacking me personally in an article co-written with Blumenthal, Ames has defended a similar line on a number of salient issues. Following the GRU’s Novichok attack in Salisbury that left Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia hospitalized and killed a bystander, Ames and a number of pro-Kremlin pundits and right-wing conspiracy theorists started trying to poke holes in the “official narrative.” After open-source analysts at Bellingcat uncovered the identities of the two suspects as members of the GRU, Ames joined The eXile’s Yasha Levine and an extensive pro-Kremlin reaction against the open-source investigation group.

Indeed, Ames has a history of attacking Bellingcat, stretching back to harsh words comparing the group to 9/11 Truthers after it uncovered evidence that Russia had been involved in the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17). Ames and Bellingcat crossed swords again in 2017, when Ames attacked founder, Eliot Higgins, for critiquing journalist Seymour Hersh’s debunked reporting on Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

The “dirtbag left” and associated lefties have revealed similar clustering tendencies regarding Donald Trump — for instance, dismissing allegations of collaboration with Russia, defending Trump’s foreign policy, and supporting left-right convergences. When liberals brought up the potential that Russia engaged in elections meddling, Taibbi compared them to WMD theorists — a comparison repeated by Trump less than a week later. When Trump shocked NATO by questioning the defense of small member states like Montenegro, which had narrowly avoided a Russia-backed coup coordinated with Serbian ethno-nationalists, Blumenthal used the opportunity to deflect from Trump by taking another stab at liberals. When CTH favorite Angela Nagle appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show in favor of hard borders amid Trump’s concocted “border crisis,” Richard Spencer giddily tweeted out, “NazBol [National Bolshevik] gang when?”

It bears noting, despite tendencies to align, that the “dirtbag left” is a complex and decentralized political ecosystem with different pundits related along particular lines of affinity and harboring distinct grudges. Even a CTH host denounced Nagle for her comments on borders, while a host of the related Dead Pundits Society podcast defended her. It is further worth noting that, while the “podcast left” of would-be pundits have an outsized influence, they hardly constitute the ideals of the left, in general. Although they have capitalized on the left’s growth since 2008, the dirtbags’s egos are viewed by many leftists as a liability and an impediment to actual left-wing organizing.

Set as default press image
2019-01-21 11:16:04

Ivan Sekretarev / AP

Abandoning the Geopolitics of Edgelords

In the 1990s, Limonov and Dugin set to work harmonizing fascism and Stalinism in an imperial geopolitik that they hoped would return Russia to a mythical former glory. The eXile gave Limonov a regular platform, bringing his work to a larger English audience and endearing themselves to the U.S. far right. Through this tacit support of National Bolshevism, as well as general misogyny and Dolan’s direct engagement with the inchoate alt-right, The eXile gained a cultish following that still intermingles far right and radical left.

Though The eXile, itself, exists as more of a blog than anything else, its nostalgic status as an edgy and transgressive gonzo publication remains, inspiring the next generation of left-wingers who engage with misogyny and fascism in much the same way that they did. Yet in a world where “anti-establishment” populism has become hegemonic, the renegade aspect of The eXile’s “transgression uber alles” approach may be wearing thin, even for The eXile’s own former editors.

Whereas he once gloated that The eXile published in Russia partly because they “were out of the reach of American libel law,” Taibbi now leverages legal threats against critics with the help of a lawyer who works for Kremlin-promoted activists from left and right.

With the decline of the alt-right, due in no small part to allegations regarding their leaders’ terrible treatment of women, a sense of triumphalism has emerged in some antifascist circles. “We out-organized them,” some proudly declare. However, when the pervasion of misogyny, disinformation, and fringe fusion of far right and hard left go unchallenged, the seedbed from which the alt-right emerged will remain fertile.

To prevent the return of an “anti-establishment” National Socialism, leftists will have to combat ignorance, abandon the geopolitics of edgelords, and build a public reputation as honest and open defenders of the commonweal.

* My friend’s name “Mikhail” has been changed for the purposes of this article

Alexander Reid Ross teaches at Portland State University. He is the author of Against the Fascist Creep, ranked one of the Best Books of 2017 by the Portland Mercury, and his articles have appeared on such sites as Haaretz, Vice Noisey, and Think Progress.