As a person with Rosicrucian-grade thoughts and sociological theories about the weird twitter irony bros, I found this explainer/warning that some Christian dude wrote about them to be hilarious and fascinating. The funny part is just the fact that, like any in-depth look at internet culture, it sounds utterly unhinged, and what I admire about this guy is that he makes no self-depcricating acknowledgment of how insane it must appear to someone who exists outside that culture (which is what I always feel compelled to do). I’m not familiar with 3/4 of what he's talking about, and also he's fundamentally wrong, but there are some nuggets in there that I found very interesting. In part that’s because my sister’s a minister. I’m agnostic but some of the issues he’s speaking to about liberalism and the church…my sister’s very engaged with all that, so I’m sympathetic on some level.
The thing that this dude is fundamentally wrong about is that the Chapo Trap House guys and some others in the same milieu--Dan O’Sullivan, Jeb Lund, Danktml, Virgil Texas, plenty more--as much as they mock the language of political correctness, those guys fundamentally understand the dynamics of punching up and punching down and they do it correctly, almost always. Some of them are excellent clear-eyed writers in longform--very sharp observers of politics and internet culture. They’re the good guys in almost any given beef and I legit think they perform a public service on twitter. I don't listen to podcasts because I hate them for some reason, and the whole idea of Chapo Trap House strikes me as...I don't know...a little too pleased with itself or something, but those guys in general are doing the lord's work. So to speak.
Their adjacents, their fringe, and their following--well, those people are a different story. That’s the caveat. Matt Bruenig’s my least favorite, because that guy’s never funny, he’s fucking strident, and doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on punching up/down, at all. Ed Zitron, who once wrote for Vice about spending twenty million dollars at a sporting event where he ended up getting hospital drunk, skews more bro than socialist. He's okay, but I follow him mainly for the pictures of his fancy cats. Weird twitter irony bro fans…some are people like me, plenty are people smarter than me, but I think a lot of them are dumber. Way dumber, at least in a certain kind of way. Way more aggressive towards weird twitter irony bro targets (Sady Doyle, Arthur Chu) in ways I find far more distasteful than the ways in which the weird twitter irony bros handle those targets themselves. And what I perceive is that this subset of fans is very much responding to the bro stuff. It’s all very alpha male in a way I find discomfiting, and I have a whole subset of theories on that subject of which I’ll mostly spare you.
The fringe is where I find that things are most interesting. If you’re a comics person perhaps you’re aware of that one goon who tries his darndest to keep up with those folks, and it’s fascinating to observe. Also Felix Biederman is friends with this one dude who seems like the type of guy who secretly murders hobos, and some of their interactions are better than TV. Though Biederman’s not my favorite weird twitter irony bro--he’s maybe the funniest, but I’m more earnest and less political, so I’m more into people like O’Sullivan and Lund whose interests seem more broad than lesser-known warlords or whatever--he is by far the most interesting to me. Much of the time he’s a Colbert-like character in that he inhabits the persona of the people he’s making fun of. There are countless levels of performance and irony to his shtick. It puts me in mind of a quote I return to all the time, some observations that Colin Meloy made about Morrissey:
He’s writing songs that work on so many different levels. I continually go back to the Smiths and to some of his early solo work and find something new. Come at it from a different angle, from a different mode of experience and think, “OK, OK I think I get it!” So many layers of irony…
I think of his literary allusions, the flaws of his characters, his self-referential tone, and how well he treats that. That’s one of his strongest traits and it’s also what he gets a lot of criticism for: his being this sort of egomaniacal character in songs when in fact there’s heaps and heaps of irony there—I’m talking strata upon strata. Like there is that egoism, but it’s defending a very, very sincere fragility, but also poking fun at that at the same time—poking fun at shyness and extrovertedness.
There are so many different levels to him, and he’s just so funny and cutting and people don’t see how funny he is and what a sense of humor he has. They just see the surface. So, that’s definitely been the inspiration.
I mean, no one’s mistaking Biederman in character mode for earnest. But the part about egoism and fragility and irony, and just generally that part of the Venn diagram where real and performed identities overlap...that’s what I find so interesting to consider w/r/t to him, weird twitter, and most of all its fringe and fans: layers and layers of machismo and ironic bro artifice built to defend these tiny little fragile inner bros...