Hidden between the preaching hashtags, the elaborately designed threads dictating what terms are or aren’t offensive to certain communities and the continual cancellations tweets of liberal-left media, there is a certain milieu of comics, critics and commentators who denounce said doctrines, challenging the dogmatic pieties and the overarching PC identitarianism of the new, “New Left”, penning hot takes and spewing jokes that dangerously veer into potentially cancel-worthy territory — , unapologetically. And no, they’re not Trump supporters either.
They call themselves the Dirtbag Left, a title coined by one of its forerunners Amber A’Lee Frost, journalist and co-host of podcast Chapo Traphouse, one of its closest associates. Though there are many journalists within the Dirtbag Left, much of their infamy and success is attributed to their tweeting and respective podcasts that cover political and cultural events, such as the aforementioned Chapo Traphouse as well as Red Scare and TrueAnon, all of which have been met with astronomical levels of both praise and criticism. To call them a “community” or a “movement” however, takes away from their principles; simply put, they are a group of anti-woke leftists, fed up with, the current direction, manner and content of political discourse (amongst others) within left-of-centre circles, media and institutions in the West.
To the lib-left mind, their title may initially be read as an outright contradiction — “how can you be a leftist and be anti-woke at the same time?”, and this knee-jerk-reaction is precisely one of the reasons as to why they are quick to be labelled as “reactionary” by their critics. Their response? They simply reject that hypothesis.
It is important to note that their trademark vulgar style of rhetoric that so “triggers” their liberal critics is not for the purpose of being edgy, contrarian, provocateurs— there is a legitimate reason and justification for this, they argue. They point to the plight of what has become of the so-called left, including but certainly not limited to its new defining characteristics such as the incessant PC policing and emphasis of identitarian victimhood in the liberal-left, where the concept of class, once (and by definition) the core of leftist thought, is now seldom the centre of discussion. Simply put, they refuse to engage in the kind of pious, banal and unreasonably PC form of discourse that only detracts from the underlying issue of class— still the foremost dire and divisive problem and the common denominator of much of, if not all of the inequalities and injustices that plague us today. Amber A’Lee Frost said in her essay “The Necessity of Political Vulgarity”: “Vulgarity is the language of the people” and “Reclaiming vulgarity from the Trumps of the world is imperative because if we do not embrace the profane now and again, we will find ourselves handicapped by our own civility.”
And it is not at all difficult to understand and recognise this predicament. Much of the language of today’s left is focused on maintaining harmonious civility by preaching inclusive and inoffensive terms. This “woke culture”, the Dirtbag Left argue, leaves little space for talk regarding economic policies and systemic change that would improve the lives of working-class and only panders to a certain echelon of educated neoliberals so that it has only pushed the working class— the primary and traditional base for leftism— away from associating with this new left and toward the lure of right-wing populism or simple disengagement. Furthermore, they assert that this detachment of class from important issues has only allowed the corporations and billionaires to co-opt these causes and don a “woke” face as a virtue-signalling marketing scheme while they continue to exploit workers and resources. We can clearly see this in action all over the media and in our day-to-day lives, from the Democratic Party’s Kente cloth spectacle in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd to the banks that wield the rainbow flag during pride month. To advocates and supporters of the Dirtbag Left, this understanding of the limitations and detriments and consequent rejection of “woke culture” is both refreshing and revolutionary, and quite understandably so.
Also closely associated with the group is the aforementioned Red Scare, a podcast run by Anna Khachiyan and Dasha Nekrasova — most known, loved and hated for their subversive humour and hot takes. While the topics of their podcasts mostly centre around current affairs, a constant theme throughout is their ruthless takedowns of today’s state of feminism. Though both are chiefly feminists, they say, much of what passes as “feminist discourse” today, is disproportionately focused on minimal so-called inequalities such as “mansplaining” or the lack of female presidents, leaders or board members, that once again only caters to a certain class of educated neoliberal women, while prominent issues such as low wages and inaccessible child-care that working women face are overshadowed—more or less a side note.
The central tenet of Dirtbag thought is simple: the culturally dominant neoliberal left has little to offer to real working people, woke-policing is more counter-productive than good. Though their style of humour may not be for everyone and understandably so, there may very well be some new insights to be learned and revealed in hearing them out. It is imperative as young people newly navigating politics that we listen and try to understand new perspectives that may challenge ours every now and again, as we can become blinded by restricting ourselves to the same sources of information, time and time again.