Kill All Normies
Recent years have seen a revival of the heated culture wars of the 1990s, but this time its battle ground is the internet. On one side the "alt right" ranges from the once bizarre neo-reactionary and white separatist movements, to geeky subcultures like 4chan, to more mainstream manifestations such as the Trump-supporting gay libertarian Milo Yiannopolous. On the other side, a culture of struggle sessions and virtue signalling lurks behind a therapeutic language of trigger warnings and safe spaces. The feminist side of the online culture wars has its equally geeky subcultures right through to its mainstream expression. Kill All Normies explores some of the cultural genealogies and past parallels of these styles and subcultures, drawing from transgressive styles of 60s libertinism and conservative movements, to make the case for a rejection of the perpetual cultural turn.

Kill All Normies Details

TitleKill All Normies
Author
Formatebook
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 30th, 2017
PublisherZero Books
ISBN1785355449
ISBN-139781785355448
Number of pages136 pages
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Politics, Sociology

Kill All Normies Review

  • Blair
    May 22, 2017
    I was expecting to be interested in this, but I didn't expect to be so impressed by it. Angela Nagle writes so even-handedly and with such a fair critical eye about recent iterations of disruptive political groupings on both the right and left. On the right is the now-notorious alt-right, divided between the 'alt-light', typified by meme-making/gleefully antagonistic trolling/use of 4chan-derived argot, and the more genuinely fascistic tendencies often masked by the headline-grabbing behaviour o I was expecting to be interested in this, but I didn't expect to be so impressed by it. Angela Nagle writes so even-handedly and with such a fair critical eye about recent iterations of disruptive political groupings on both the right and left. On the right is the now-notorious alt-right, divided between the 'alt-light', typified by meme-making/gleefully antagonistic trolling/use of 4chan-derived argot, and the more genuinely fascistic tendencies often masked by the headline-grabbing behaviour of alt-light figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos. On the left is what Nagle sometimes refers to as 'Tumblr-liberalism', the extremely performative culture of calling-out, victimhood and competitive identity politics that seems driven by (and here I will quote Nagle quoting the late Mark Fisher, as it couldn't be paraphrased any more perfectly) 'a priest’s desire to excommunicate and condemn, an academic-pedant’s desire to be the first to be seen to spot a mistake, and a hipster’s desire to be one of the in-crowd'.Nagle draws a line through history from the 'culture wars' of the 1960s to those of today, arguing that the transgressive, countercultural spirit historically embodied by the anti-establishment left has been sublimated much more effectively by the modern right. She also undertakes an in-depth (though concise) review of the many, many factions of what is often sweepingly referred to as the alt-right, from 'chan culture' to the alternately pathetic and terrifying 'manosphere'. Not only is this pretty fascinating in itself, it also brings to light the serious theoretical and academic roots of certain strands of this movement – something often ignored by liberal pundits who concentrate instead on clutching their pearls at the outrageous antics of high-profile figures like Milo and Alex Jones. The idea of a handful of demagogues and professional trolls riling up people who essentially don't understand politics has been a common theme (deployed with varying levels of sensitivity) in analysis of the Trump and Brexit victories; Nagle's study shows this to be dangerously reductive.Kill All Normies is an accessible but unpatronising study, perfectly balancing academic critique, political commentary and assured, intelligent, non-embarrassing writing about the internet and its unique subcultures. It is so refreshing to read something like this, that comes at the topic from a left-leaning perspective but refuses to toe the line with regards to the frustrating, ever-shifting rules of engagement that now seem to define online discourse. The version I read had some typos and needed a bit of tightening up from an editorial perspective, but it was a review copy. And that is genuinely my only criticism. Somehow Nagle also manages to write a conclusion that tears everyone a new arsehole AND ends on a contemplative note.I thought I knew quite a bit about this topic already, but I learned so much from this book, particularly about the historical context of these movements. Thoroughly and enthusiastically recommended to anyone with an interest in the current political climate as it manifests in online culture.I received an advance review copy of Kill All Normies from the publisher through NetGalley.TinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr
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  • Baglan
    June 10, 2017
    First of all: Holy shit. This is a book that I have been waiting to read for quiet some time now, but the level of insight and highly comprehensive discussion of what is going on in the cultural wars on the Web by Nagle exceeded my expectations. It reminded me of early works by Naomi Klein which combined the journalistic approach to the material at hand with detailed, but still accessible discussion of the theoretical aspect of the subject.Nagle discusses the ongoing (or lost?) cultural war betw First of all: Holy shit. This is a book that I have been waiting to read for quiet some time now, but the level of insight and highly comprehensive discussion of what is going on in the cultural wars on the Web by Nagle exceeded my expectations. It reminded me of early works by Naomi Klein which combined the journalistic approach to the material at hand with detailed, but still accessible discussion of the theoretical aspect of the subject.Nagle discusses the ongoing (or lost?) cultural war between Tumblr liberalism vs. 4-chan inspired alt-right while both of the terms comprises of highly heterogenous elements. Internet, once lauded as the free, “horizontal” space of a new kind of anarchical democracy (not long ago but around 2013 many of the liberal left still saw and hailed the new “democratic” terrain of the Internet) today has been dominated by the misogynistic, Nazi-sympathizing Man’s Rights activists. Her historical account of what happened over the last 10 years is remarkable. Once a place of “progressive boosters” of the first-generation users of 4-chan, the transgressive and cynical culture of the website becomes a fecund terrain for rape and death threats, organized bullying that leads to suicides and depressions, complete annihilation of lives of regular teenagers and famous scientists alike.The discussion of transgression for transgression’s sake is great. When one considers the inter-war and post-WWII origins of the proliferation of “transgressive” politics or what I call “Nietzschean left”, the turn of events become even more remarkable. A remnant of the transgressive left politics of 1960s, actually 1968, how transgression and cynicism is weaponized by the extreme-right vanguard (in the base, only a fierce anti-PC sentiment is prevalent) seems more contingent than it is a necessary trait of this line of thought. The turn of events looks like it resulted because of numerous failures of the Left.Nagle argues that the pain, suffering and victimhood-affirming culture of Tumblr-liberalism is one of these reasons for the failure and I think she is right. “Kony 2012” videos among others comes to mind in this rush to collect “virtue points” in this scarcity of virtue market on the Web. Also, the intra-left purge and exclusion of the critics of this self-pleasing activities is another example (Nagle gives the example of Mark Fisher who sadly committed suicide this year). One other aspect of the failures of the left in my opinion is how the Left overlooked the realm of Desire that is almost necessarily not satisfied in our contemporary societies. Nagle discusses the frustrated sexuality of the regular young male today and it is a legitimate discussion insofar that it makes up a portion of the frustrated young male who is not politicized until he is pushed towards the misogynistic underbelly of the Web which is again, not necessarily Nazi, but a couple of steps away from it at best. Desire, in this case, is also a desire for the commodity, of course, which also necessarily dissatisfies. When you have the means to buy a given commodity, it fails to restore a sense of satisfaction but rather perpetuates it even further. When you are not able to buy it, well, in an intuitive fashion, you are dissatisfied in a world of instant satisfaction, pornographic images and incessant advertisements. The left’s complete immersion and self-satisfaction with identity politics (LGBT and the alphabet goes on as Zizek was lambasted by critics from the Left when he criticized some of the aspects of the politics of gender in a recent article debate, you can Google it) leaves the room for this new brand of extreme right to tap into the frustration and insecurities of the young male.The weird question to be asked is then how to answer such an effective version of “Gramscian” right who successfully waged a cultural war against the cultural Marxism? (this is an incredibly effective misnomer as the war is waged on politically correct liberalism) Nagle doesn’t shy way from the question in an equally strong conclusion chapter. She claims that “trolling the troll” is not effective. One should definitively leave the privilege-checking, victimhood-loving trenches of identitarian politics for a start. Staunchly anti-xenophobic and also positively built left populism might be one of the answers. “Chocolate eating-vibrator waving” (in Nina Power’s immortal words), consumer-friendly feminism of Lena Dunham did not help Hillary much as one can see. Another question to be asked could be if a newly reinvigorated left aesthetics is possible along the lines of Guy Debord, Beatniks and others or the 1960s wave of transgressive left-wing aesthetics is completely compromised by the alt-Right. While the economic (what Nagle calls “materialist”) left has never been in a complete alliance with the anti-authoritarian aesthetics of the 1960s, it is a question that should be re-asked again. All in all, 5 stars and a strong recommend.
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  • Rohan Ramakrishna
    June 16, 2017
    The Internet was a mistake. Angela Nagle charts the rise of internet subcultures from the abysses that are 4chan and Tumblr to their effect on IRL politics
  • Kathleen O'Neal
    June 8, 2017
    I was blown away by the quality and fair mindedness of the analysis in this book as well as the scope of the author's knowledge of both historical and contemporary thinkers of note - both academic and those less so - across the political spectrum in the English speaking world. As I have watched identity politics become an increasingly sinister force in many respects on both the left and the right, this book was a refreshing breath of fresh air, a reminder to me of my own sanity, and ultimately I was blown away by the quality and fair mindedness of the analysis in this book as well as the scope of the author's knowledge of both historical and contemporary thinkers of note - both academic and those less so - across the political spectrum in the English speaking world. As I have watched identity politics become an increasingly sinister force in many respects on both the left and the right, this book was a refreshing breath of fresh air, a reminder to me of my own sanity, and ultimately a compelling history of the present - where we have been, where we are, how we got to where we are, where we're headed, and where we ultimately ought to be. I cannot recommend this fine book enough. Particularly excellent is the chapter that deals with call out culture on the contemporary left (especially online and on university campuses) and which introduces the concept of the creating a scarcity of virtue in a virtue-based economy of activism and what the author refers to amusingly as "performative wokeness." The analysis of the contemporary alt right and its historical precedents is learned, fair, and fascinating as well. I also thought the author's treatment of both men's rights and feminism was refreshingly fair minded and sober. It should not be shocking and impressive that a learned and educated feminist is able to ferret the difference between a version of men's rights that advocates for true equality for men versus the fanatical ravings of online misogynists that refer to themselves "men's rights activists" but sadly these days that is actually a pretty high bar to meet and it was refreshing to see Angela Nagle meet it. I would highly recommend this book to anyone involved in left wing activism or academia. Too many people in these circles seem to have recently taken leave of their common sense, human decency, and respect for all people regardless of race, sex, sexuality, gender identity, disability status, age, etc. and Nagle points the way back to the good judgement and good manners that seem to be missing for so many people in contemporary activist and academic milieus. The book is also notable for Angela Nagle's astute criticism of what she refers to here as "the perpetual cultural turn" in academic discourse and activist activity which keeps many of us on the left from coming together to make a more materially just present and future for all people. In short, compulsively readable, deeply learned and up to the minute, refreshingly grounded and fair, and highly recommended.
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  • Matthias
    June 11, 2017
    This is what cultural criticism should be: it draws on academic theory while remaining readable, is capable of impassioned polemic and clear partisanship while remaining relentlessly fair regarding matters of fact, and in general, it knows its stuff. (Like Nagle, I am perhaps overly familiar with the forms of online discourse she describes; and that she was able to do so so accurately makes me trust her on everything else - for instance, on the fascinating history of how representations of "the This is what cultural criticism should be: it draws on academic theory while remaining readable, is capable of impassioned polemic and clear partisanship while remaining relentlessly fair regarding matters of fact, and in general, it knows its stuff. (Like Nagle, I am perhaps overly familiar with the forms of online discourse she describes; and that she was able to do so so accurately makes me trust her on everything else - for instance, on the fascinating history of how representations of "the mainstream" have been gendered.)I really have only two complaints, one major, one minor. The major complaint is that, for an avowed materialist, there is very little materialism here - almost all the cultural phenomena are understood in terms of continuations of and/or reactions to other cultural phenomena. Of course, providing an adequate materialist explanation would be a fully separate research project; but Nagle's ontological commitments, and some of the subjects she touches upon (for instance, her discussions of Thomas Frank and "populism,") call out for more nods in this direction, even when her immediate topic (the online culture wars) and thesis (that the valorization of transgression for its own sake is inherently self-defeating and vacuous, and that as a positive political project the left was always stupid to embrace it) are essentially cultural. The minor complaint is that while Nagle is both a clear writer and a flavorful writer, much of the prose feels a bit underedited, at a purely technical level. Commas and other punctuation marks are frequently not where they should logically be; sometimes conjunctions are missing; it all has the feel of a first draft (or one of my reviews here lol). Since the author's publications elsewhere (for instance, Jacobin) lack this deficiency, I lay the blame on Zero Books. Of course, as noted, this is pretty minor as far as things go. All in all, a fascinating read even for readers for whom the immediate subject matter is old hat; and if it leaves certain questions wanting for answers, I can only hope that it successfully provokes them.
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  • Brian
    June 11, 2017
    Zero Books (or as they inconsistently spell it, Zer0 Books) is one of the interesting new publishers of timely, theoretically sophisticated works on topics in philosophy, culture, and politics, often in short-form and at some distance from the traditional academic world. The current work show advantages of this form. I had it pre-ordered from Amazon, and received a physical book in early June 2017 which included in its reporting events from the early months of the year. But it also shows a disad Zero Books (or as they inconsistently spell it, Zer0 Books) is one of the interesting new publishers of timely, theoretically sophisticated works on topics in philosophy, culture, and politics, often in short-form and at some distance from the traditional academic world. The current work show advantages of this form. I had it pre-ordered from Amazon, and received a physical book in early June 2017 which included in its reporting events from the early months of the year. But it also shows a disadvantage, at least in that the copyediting is slipshod. For one of many examples, all of them quite minor: in discussing Pat Buchanan, about half of the time his name is spelled correctly, and the other half it gets an extra "n" as "Buchannan".I find Nagle's topic quite interesting, as I have various promotional interviews that she has given in the podcast world. I'm a Gen-Xer for whom the Internet has been part of my life since the early '90s, and have in the past ten or so years seen it evolve into something that I mostly dislike. The incubation of right-wing hate documented and analyzed by Nagle is perhaps the most troubling of those aspects.She gives a fair amount of recent history. Especially if this history is new to you--if you've heard a few breathless surveys in the popular media and this is your first detailed look into this world--what you see may overwhelm your senses and lead you to gloss over her analytical thesis, which is really worthy of attention. This is that the valorization of transgression, of the smashing of icons, that was a feature of the Left at least since the 60s, has in the last decade been taken on by the Right, and in this time period the "alt-right" have deployed it far more successfully. In an analysis that also criticizes the identity-politics-obsessed Left for going off the rails in the course of their own valorization of transgression, she suggests that the way to get past this carnival of cruelty is to move beyond seeing transgression as in itself as a good.
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  • John
    June 8, 2017
    Great book, fast read. Should be required reading for all Americans under 70. The book does three things exceptionally well:1, it paints a picture of how the [online] Alt-Right and Alt-Light aren’t a monolith sprung from inchoate American white rage, but rather a coalition of about five or six Internet tribes, profiled in detail.2, Despite the fact that the biggest champions of “Internet as crucible for a new decentralized, networked form of politics” were left-leaning, in the last decade it has Great book, fast read. Should be required reading for all Americans under 70. The book does three things exceptionally well:1, it paints a picture of how the [online] Alt-Right and Alt-Light aren’t a monolith sprung from inchoate American white rage, but rather a coalition of about five or six Internet tribes, profiled in detail.2, Despite the fact that the biggest champions of “Internet as crucible for a new decentralized, networked form of politics” were left-leaning, in the last decade it has been a New Right, and not the traditional left, whose coalition deployed the Internet for the maximum possible effect on presidential elections.3, how “transgressive”, nihilist online communities, perhaps once considered likely “safe spaces” for libs, have been equally if not more owned by a new online community with zero interest in moving left, but who simply enjoy the power of these new online tools to impose their world on the Internet and the world outside it.There are a few chapters and passages that might benefit from an editor; buffing out some of the academic jargon in a few sections (a few too many postmodern hegemonic whatever's), and smooth out some of the prose, but all in all, an extremely good and quite timely book.Side note: It’s disappointing but not surprising to see that the author Angela Nagle's Twitter account is now gone, after being active as recently as three days ago. Wondering, after so many other women critics have been run off the Internet after criticizing the Alt-Right / Alt-Light / Manosphere, whether that was a Twitter self-deportation or whether harassers fraudulently got Twitter to suspend her account, or?
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  • Oisín Fagan
    June 5, 2017
    Vital, perspicacious and hilarious. A tonic for the oceans of bad faith surrounding us. Cultural histories of the present, or rather historiographies, are genuinely rare, and rarely this excellent. Mark Fisher comes to mind, so does Fredric Jameson, as does Richard Barbrook. This is at that level of excellence. A genuine intellectual with an incredible style. I knew a book like this would be written, but there was no guarantee it would be this good.I was at the book launch and got a copy, but th Vital, perspicacious and hilarious. A tonic for the oceans of bad faith surrounding us. Cultural histories of the present, or rather historiographies, are genuinely rare, and rarely this excellent. Mark Fisher comes to mind, so does Fredric Jameson, as does Richard Barbrook. This is at that level of excellence. A genuine intellectual with an incredible style. I knew a book like this would be written, but there was no guarantee it would be this good.I was at the book launch and got a copy, but the book isn't out on Amazon yet, and afaik isn't in bookshops yet, so treat with caution the Pepes who probably haven't read it giving it one star because of their agenda and because the writer had the temerity to tell the truth in all its damning nuance.
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  • David Walsh
    May 28, 2017
    A very timely piece by Nagle. We live in a time of great global political upheaval, increasingly polarised, increasingly aggressive. Nagle walks the reader through the various sects and personalities which make up the alt-right, alt-light, the hypersensitive tumblr "liberals", MRA* / PUA** subreddits, and 4chan. There are few if any redeeming characters. There is no clear indication of a voice of reason emerging in the discussion. Instead we have angry sour-faced identitarians on the left (Fisch A very timely piece by Nagle. We live in a time of great global political upheaval, increasingly polarised, increasingly aggressive. Nagle walks the reader through the various sects and personalities which make up the alt-right, alt-light, the hypersensitive tumblr "liberals", MRA* / PUA** subreddits, and 4chan. There are few if any redeeming characters. There is no clear indication of a voice of reason emerging in the discussion. Instead we have angry sour-faced identitarians on the left (Fischer's term, not Nagle's), and sexually-frustrated, angry misogynistic trolls on the right.A guide for Normies.*MRA = Men's Rights Activists**PUA = Pick Up Artists
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  • Aaron
    June 11, 2017
    A deep dive into the often unsettling world of online political culture, KAN chronicles the beginnings the philosophical underpinnings of the alt-right as well as the call out culture of Tumblr. Nagle is an astute observer and presents an even-handed assessment of the movements defining online politics. If you are concerned about the state of political discourse or curious about the preponderance of extremist movements gaining traction in mainstream discourse, this is a must read.
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  • Bradley Herring
    June 18, 2017
    This is by no means enjoyable but it is absolutely essential to understanding precisely what progressives are up against, not only in illuminating and detailing the vile cultural structure the internet has spawned but in revealing how the left has been complicit in its creation and must adapt to destroy the threat.
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  • Alex
    June 18, 2017
    This book desperately needs a revision with the help of a strong editor because there are many silly typos (including incomplete sentences) and some organizational issues that hinder readability and detract from the quality of the work; however, the content is too important and interesting to give anything less than 4 stars.
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  • Gabe
    June 18, 2017
    3.5 really. Delves into some interesting/awful subcultures, and I definitely learned some things. It could have been a bit better edited (things would be referenced the first time without any set-up, sometimes transitional sentences could've been better fleshed out too).
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  • Nixennacht
    June 22, 2017
    If you only want to read one book about the online culture wars. Read this one. It is good. And very true.
  • Chris
    June 11, 2017
    The Internet is so stupid.
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