Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies was a modest attempt to engage a question which the left should be interested in answering: why was the on line alt-right succeeding in swelling its ranks by appealing to economic and social insecurities now more than ever experienced by students and those entering the labor market. It should be the left which reaches out, speaks to their needs, and provides a welcoming environment for new recruits. Why have so many been driven away?
As it turned out, the left didn’t want Nagle’s answer. Or, more likely, it didn’t want any answer at all as this would require taking a hard look at the institutions and leaders which have consigned it to generations of irrelevance. As is often the case for those bringing the bad news to those who didn’t want to hear it, Nagle was barraged with attacks which, even allowing for the tendency of on line exchanges to privilege brainless ad hominem pile-ons, were not only rampant but unusually toxic.
The reception of Nagle’s recent piece “The Left Case Against Open Borders” reprised the earlier appearance in eliciting a high volume of high intensity attacks. On several occasions she was referred to by commenters as a Nazi. Others claimed that she “want(s) people dead or erased.” Others went in for Zombie-like repetition of the mantra “Angela Nagle is not a leftist” as if each iteration magnified the truth of the proposition.
Probably most common was a lower octane smear based on Nagle having published her piece in American Affairs, a journal with a problematic lineage having made its initial appearance promoting Donald Trump’s candidacy. What escaped Nagle’s critics’ notice was that the same issue featured contributions by James Galbraith criticizing Keynesian economics from the left as well as Heiner Flashback’s demolition of E.U. enforced neoliberal austerity. Previous issues featured political theorist Nancy Fraser whose piece touched on the hot button issue of the left’s dysfunctional relationship with identity politics.
These were granted an exemption from the excommunication which was demanded of Nagle for reasons that remained unexplained. The asymmetry constitutes a de facto admission that Nagle’s critics were dismissing a position based on its packaging. In other words, they were advocating that you should judge a book by its cover. As this was a lesson contrary to what most of us learned in kindergarten and haven’t seen any reason to revise since, Nagle’s critics’ rejection of it provides a good indication of the intellectual level on which some were operating. Continue reading Open Borders Means Death: Angela Nagle’s Red Line