- Paperback: 136 pages
- Publisher: Zero Books (June 30, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1785355430
- ISBN-13: 978-1785355431
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.3 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 111 customer reviews
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Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right Paperback – June 30, 2017
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Angela Nagle is one of the few writers anywhere who has consistently refused to hold a double standard for virulent racism and misogyny even when it came in edgy countercultural packaging. Kill All Normies is a brilliant exposé of the new faces of online nihilism and fascism, which can no longer be explained away as doing it “for the lulz”. (David Golumbia, author of The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism)
Amidst the chaos of our times, it is a relief to have a brilliant and fearless critic like Angela Nagle to turn to. Unwilling to stomach the liberal shibboleths that fail to adequately explain the emergence and significance of right-wing subculture, she's the only one willing to descend into the grimiest of Internet grottos and give us the benefit of her incisive and cool-headed analysis. (Amber A'Lee Frost Chapo Trap House)
With a liberal left dangerously lost in the stormy waters of middle class self-flagellation, Angela Nagle is the lighthouse keeper showing us the way out. Her writing is unsparing in its diagnosis but never cruel. Unlike much of the Left who've grown far too accustomed to marginalization and defeat, Nagle still believes in politics as the only way of changing an increasingly brutal world. She is the writer and social critic I've been waiting for. (Connor Kilpatrick Jacobin magazine)
This short head-butt of a book taught me more about recent political events in a single rich evening of reading than I've learned in this entire last and very unpleasant year of obsessively monitoring cable TV, and confirmed for me something I've been feeling for a while now, namely that social media is a toxin we are gleefully and cluelessly injecting into ourselves, even as we ask, “Why are we getting so mean and stupid?” (George Saunders, author, winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize Guardian Review Books of the Year 2017)
Kill All Normies is an important book, albeit one whose conclusions are likely to prove unflattering and potentially unpopular. In it, the alt-right emerges as something not quite as alien as many would like to think. Rather, it is a bastardized version of the cultural currents that most of the book's likely readers ― myself included ― participate in and valorize. And although there may be no easy way out of the mess we have gotten ourselves into ― stabbings in Portland, riots in Berkeley, and Trump in the White House ― the book's indictment of our elitist culture wars does point toward an inevitable, if slightly horrifying conclusion: Perhaps the normies aren't so bad after all. (Park McDougald New York Magazine)
Nagle approaches the alt-right with understanding and patience. Her political taxonomies are careful, her sociological explanations are persuasive, and her psychological evaluations are considerate. She has a genuine sympathy for her subjects and a genuine solidarity with their victims. Most important, she shows that psychological and economic analysis are complimentary rather than at odds. Read Kill All Normies, then everything else Nagle has written. It'll be time better spent than listening to your favorite podcaster complain about “political correctness” for the nth time. (Mark Dunbar The Humanist)
About the Author
Angela Nagle's work has appeared in the Baffler, Jacobin, Current Affairs, the Irish Times and many other journals. She's also the co-editor of Ireland Under Austerity from Manchester University Press.
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But this book is a quickie book, rushed out so quickly that no one bothered to proofread it. The author doesn't even take the time to tell you the name of books that she quotes from at length. This quick-and-dirty approach might be a wise publishing decision, given how quickly online trends come and go. But this is a book after all and it's not unfair to bring to it greater expectations than one would to a magazine or an online post.
So, on the positive side, I like the author because she was a strong point of view. She advises progressives to abandon "transgression," which is simply a-moralism; she implies feminism needs to get over the trigger warning/safe space BS; and she believes that a progressive politics needs to put less emphasis on identity and identitarian politics. I don't agree with her in all respects but I appreciate her willingness to take stands.
From the fairly casual style and lack of any footnotes or bibliography -- and, indeed, from her willingness to take stands -- I took her to be a journalist or freelance critic. So I was surprised to learn that she's an academic. Learning that made me wish she'd displayed some of the virtues of academic writing. For instance, she doesn't tell us anything about the research on which she bases her observations. One assumes she spent a lot of time on social media, Tumblr, and perhaps IRC channels, in reddit forums, or whatever. But she doesn't bother to share that with us. I think it matters. For instance, what do we actually know about these guys (including the assumptions that they are all guys)? Who are they and where are they? The author is Irish but an awful lot of this book is about the US. Why not address the limitations (and potentials) of this sort of limited online research?
A yet bigger problem for me is that, despite her interest in the alt-right, she really drops the ball on the issue of race. She focuses instead on the gender side of this problem because that's what she knows best. I suspect this is because she feels much more confident around gender issues. She clearly finds it easier to criticize Tumblr feminism and the influence of Judith Butler than she does the other much maligned "social justice warriors" concerned with mass incarceration, extrajudicial killing of black people, intractable racial disparities, institutional violence, etc. But haven't they played a big part in campus "anti-free speech" politics on university campuses today? And haven't they too raised the hackles of the newly emboldened on (and off) line racists? And why are young women attracted to these alt-right groups?
Finally, geography and culture matter. The author makes little of the fact that she is Irish and writing in Ireland. It's as if in writing about online groups, history and specificity disappear. But, as someone reading in the US, I've got to say: history matters. Is Tumblr feminism universal? Did the alt-right play a part in Ireland's recent elections? Does "free speech" mean the same thing on an Irish campus as it does in the US?
But it's really the race issue that rubs me the wrong way. Nagle can't expect anyone to think she's come to terms with the alt-right based predominantly on her interest in its anti-feminism.
In the end, I find Nagle strong, intelligent and nervy, but her interpretations in the end don't address the marriage of 4chan and the alt-right in the past few years in a way that satisfies me. For that, she needs to go deeper, wider -- and to wander offline. And she needs to admit what she can and cannot know using the methods she employs.
For one, this is a very light book on cultural factors that contribute to the characters in her book, including the alt right and the tumblr liberals. Very little goes into how these people are born or find their path, which makes the book feel light on psychology even though it's ostensibly about that.
Also, the book inevitably goes into their rivals, the tumblr liberals, but it's a very harsh take that goes purely into the criticisms of their actions (which, for what it's worth, are accurate). She's very openly critical of the worst misogyny coming out of the alt right, but it makes the book feel lacking to talk only about their contributions to the fight and not more on who they are and how they operate. Why not more on the culture of tumblr as a whole, or how the platform affects all this? It feels unfair and un critical to sell a book on Chan culture while shrugging off the culture of their ideological opposite.
It's still a good book if you didn't live it and wanted to know where we got Proud Boys or Milo Y, but it needed more to feel completed, as it is it comes off more like an extended collection of articles for Jacobin. Often she writes detached and with an emotionally disconnected tone, which makes her moments of weighing into, say, her opinions on Zoe Quinn's game stick out as weirdly harsh for a book dissecting the alt right like one would cut open a worm.
Needed to go deeper, yet ironically the times it stays surface level there's an incredible amount of stories that hammer home points she already made. A very odd piece of writing.
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