Good Vibes Leftism
oom bop bop
I was watching a video a while back about the McElroy brothers, podcasters who I listened to in various forms for a while in the early 2010s before tiring of them after a couple of years because their stuff was all pretty much the same. (They had an odd transformation into internet darlings largely because they did a Dungeons and Dragons podcast with their dad; I didn't listen as I'm generally not a fan of "actual play" podcasts but I know some people who were really into it.) The video is slightly odd, in that certain parts feel like they were constructed from Wikipedia summaries; the presenter refers to Justin and Griffin as having 'written posts for' Joystiq in the 2000s—Justin was the reviews editor and if memory serves Griffin was, at least at one point, the news editor—and the outro theme as having been "written and performed" by "Bean Dad" in a way that makes it sound like he did it himself for the show, not that it was a John Roderick and the Long Winters song from 2006.
One thing that did get mentioned, though, was this rule the brothers made at podcast live shows, of “no bummers”, i.e. no asking questions about Real Shit that would bring down the mood because that’s more difficult to be funny about. Fair enough; but apparently a lot of fans started taking it as a rule for outside that context as well: Negativity of any kind was not welcome in the community, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how easily a norm like that could lead to a slide into toxicity. This slipping of a rule from original context. chimed with something I read by David Renton on no-platforming a while back. His contention is that no-platforming, as was in British universities in the ‘70s and after, was a specific tactic to deal with the particular threat of fascism. There was debate about how widely it should be deployed but it wasn't a universal solvent, a rhetorical (or rather, anti-rhetorical) carpet-bombing, but a precision strike against particular targets who had been adjudged specifically, particularly harmful. If I’m honest, that sort of selectiveness of behaviour and tactic is something I’d like to see deployed more often, particularly by the left online.
I joined Twitter in early 2008, when I was a younger teenager. I left it for good—deactivating my account and leaving it for the required, sacramental-feeling period of 30 days that it could die and be quietly reborn as a dead account because I’m damned if anyone else is getting my name—over a year ago now. It took me a long time to get here but from my remove I will evangelise up and down the benefits of getting rid of Twitter (more on that soon!). One thing that is definitely for the good is that I'm exposed to far less of what I will call depression leftism: people spending all day complaining about "rainy fascism island"; talking about 'Keith'(still don't really get that one tbh); bemoaning the general hopelessness and pointlessness of it all, even if not in so many words. I have struggled with depression myself, and know better than most the absolute beating-your-head-against-a-wall feeling that trying to do anything political can induce; I'm not unsympathetic. However, it also smacks of wallowing, and I also know that Twitter positively invites wallowing—and wallowing is the worst thing you can do. It is absolutely antithetical to any kind of action, and it doesn't make your movement look very appealing.
Chris Dillow wrote about Boris Johnson's popularity, presenting a number of possible contributing factors toward it, chiefly positivity:
Johnson exudes a sunny optimism – in Tom McTague’s words, “an all-encompassing belief that things will be fine” – encapsulated by slogans such as “Get Brexit done”, “level up”, “Global Britain”, and “build back better”. This contrasts with the Guardian’s endless list of complaints about the country, and with the nay-saying fiscal conservatism of the May government: one Tory friend of mine describes Philip Hammond as a “ghoul”. Nobody likes a whiny little shit; they prefer the optimist.
Having a negative attitude, in a room, virtual or otherwise, full of others with the same, can be incredibly self-reinforcing. And it puts anyone who isn't in the circle off. By and large, this is not what most people want. People want to be happy, cheery, optimistic—or at the very least, prefer to deal with others who are. I think this is also a lesson that can be drawn more broadly. However correct your analysis, most non-aligned or reachable people people aren't super interested in guilt and lectures and negativity. I think a positive vision—ambiguous though it maybe—would be to promote a "good vibes leftism". How much better can we make things? Wasn’t there a song about that?