Later in the book, there is another quote that sort of deals with this issue that I find a little bit profound. Quote, “Politics has become a realm of purely spiteful grievance. The only way out of this state of gibbering resentment is a positive vision, one that reconciles the concept of ‘America,’ which right-wingers hold sacred, and the fetid reality of multiculturalism and moral decay that they see all around them.” In that quote, I understand that you’re speaking sort of facetiously about the worldview of right-wingers, but is such a reconciliation even possible? And if so, how?
It’s a long shot, but again, another point here is it’s easy to pawn off all the racism in the conservative movement on Donald Trump and Pepes or the alt-right, but I think as you were just talking about, it’s basically always been there in one form or another. It’s just more opened and less receptible now. Like I don’t think, functionally, William F. Buckley or the founders of the National Review or the John Birch Society are in any meaningful way less racist than Richard Spencer.
Now, to this thing, what we mean to say with “positive vision” is that, essentially, race and class and things like that are these bitter fissures in American society, but, like, they sort of … I don’t know, I don’t want to get out of my depth here, especially talking about race and American culture, because I’m so unbelievably white. But I just think by “positive vision,” I mean a politics that engages with people’s sense of … everyone’s lives are too fucking difficult and stressful, and everyone works too hard for not enough money. And again, market forces fuel this horrendous sense of competition between themselves and others that I think heightens and animates racial and religious and ethnic hatreds between immigrants and native-born Americans, between races and religions.
I don’t think bigotry is just going to go away if we give everyone universal healthcare, but I think it will as part of a broader agenda of making possible the conditions for a decent life, a life that is just less stressful. For even the middle-class people just on the absolute precipice of disaster, at any given moment. Maybe this is naïve, but I think it would simmer down a lot of the hatred and anger that expresses itself through politics in this country. And again, maybe that’s utopian, maybe that’s naïve, but it couldn’t hurt to try.
One critique that is voiced by ostensible other members of the Left, or New Left, is that the “take no prisoners” aspect of your humor maybe does more harm than good. What would you say to those people?
I would say, “Fine, I agree with you.” This is getting into a subjective thing about humor. The central issue of the show is that I consider it an entertainment product. I think I want to be funny mostly, but at the same time, our material and point of view is largely driven by our politics. Those things sometimes are in contention with each other, because our goal, politically, is to have the biggest possible audience, the largest number of people united under a common and well-defined cause. However, with something like comedy or any kind of creative endeavor, the same attempt to appeal to everyone makes it vapid and not interesting.
“I can not underscore this enough about outer space – it could not be less hospitable to human life.”
So, to people who don’t like our sense of humor or think that it is hurting in some way, all I can say is: you are the captain of your own conscious. Not everyone has to like our show. All I can say is our sense of humor and point of view is what it is — I understand it’ll rub some people the wrong way, but if we tried to do something that appealed to everyone on the left-speaking [side], I don’t think the show would be successful. I don’t think it would have the same energy, or what makes it unique and independent.
I feel like a lot of people’s frustration with Chapo is that they see that the right has this ability to galvanize and get its large number of people in lockstep behind policy through pop culture. I think people wish we had something on the left that was like that. People that want Chapo to be that, and maybe it just isn’t.
Well, then I would differ with that. As we have said on the show, there’s another big problem with liberalism in America today: they treat politics like entertainment, and entertainment like politics. This mistaking of the two, I think, is very damaging both to art and politics. We do talk a little about that in the book. Liberal consensus is pretty much popular culture now. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they think “South Park” baited the alt-right or whatever. I don’t think I really buy it. I think looking for pop culture solutions to political problems is always a very bad sign. Tells me that people don’t have a kind of confidence in themselves or that they focus on these marginalia. I realize our show is very divisive on the left, but all I can say is, if it appealed to the entire left, I don’t think it’d be a good show. I don’t think it would be funny or entertaining.
What do you think is the best episode of Chapo Trap House? Not the best one to start off on, but best one overall?
I’ve done almost 250 of them so far, so to be honest, they all just kind of blur together. But, man, I guess one that was sort of my personal favorite we’ve done recently — it was one that was very different than most of the other shows we’ve done. Our “Christmas Carol” episode from this year was a personal favorite of mine. I really liked kind of doing it as radio play that we wrote and performed together. I thought that it was very fun and sweet, and sort of captured everything that I like about the show in a sort of different format.
If I were to stage a sort of public intellectual debate in the style of William F. Buckley versus Gore Vidal, and you’re Gore Vidal, who should be my William Buckley?
Well, if could get a debate, I’d like William Buckley. I’d like his corpse on stage. Like his rotting, decaying skeleton propped up on stage next to me.
Okay, but someone who’s alive.
Okay. Someone who’s alive. God, I don’t know. I guess because I genuinely regard him as the dumbest, biggest hack on the planet right now, that Dave Rubin guy.
I was expecting you to say Jordan Peterson. You cover him a great deal on the show.
No, no. I do not want. I would never. Listening to his voice is bad enough — being in the same room with him would be unbearable.
The Chapo Guide to Revolution will be released Tuesday, August 21st on Amazon