Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 9, 2019

Amber A’Lee Frost and Anna Khachiyan: the two dingbats who bonded with Spiked Online

Filed under: imbecile trolls — louisproyect @ 8:14 pm

Anna Khachiyan (l) and Amber A’Lee Frost

On the Fourth of July, Amber A’Lee Frost and Anna Khachiyan, who are part of the Brookyn hipster Sandernista milieu, allowed themselves to be interviewed by Spiked Online as representatives of the “anti-woke” left. Despite the fact that the Koch-funded Spiked is hostile to the left, interviewer Fraser Myers lobbed softball questions at them that were softer than the kind Charlie Rose used to lob at Bill Gates or George Soros. How and why such seemingly clashing worldviews can converge is something worth examining. It might be said that contrarianism is shared across the board but there’s more to it than that.

First a word or two about Frost and Khachiyan. Frost was a FB friend a while back but I can’t remember much about her social media profile. She is a free-lance journalist who has written for some very good magazines, including Baffler. She also contributed an essay to a Rosa Luxemburg collection in 2013. But for most people, she is best known for being part of the Chapo Trap House crew that is commonly referred to as the “dirt-bag” left, a term coined by Frost herself. In one of six articles Frost has written for Current Affairs, she defended the use of vulgarity because it is “a tool for fighting the powerful”. She even has a kind word for Trump whose vulgarity “is appealing precisely because it exposes political truths,” something I admit is lost on me.

I had never heard of Anna Khachiyan before this interview. It turns out that she, like the Chapo people, is best known as a podcaster. She calls hers Red Scare, where she describes herself and fellow Russian immigrant Dasha Nekrasova as “bohemian layabouts”. Like Chapo Trap House, the two women love to laugh at their own jokes, a habit I find almost as annoying as those CNN commercials for prescription medicine that list all the terrible side-effects to watch out for. Last October, “The Cut” reported on a Brooklyn show where fans got a chance to meet their idols. This will give you an idea of what interests these “anti-woke” women:

The women onstage, all striking, were more Sevigny-goes-Hollywood, with leather miniskirts and Catholic schoolgirl provocation-gear and tiny sunglasses. After discussing their newfound addiction to Brandy Melville, a fast-fashion retailer for teens where Nekrasova had shopped for the show, the group moved on to a game: neoliberal disaster or crypto-fascist catastrophe? They debated: was SoulCycle neolib for its conflation of self-improvement with the outlay of cash? Or was there something more fascistic in the cult-leader instructor having her way with a room full of people pumping earnestly on bikes in darkness? Was Beyoncé, with her clothing line, a classic neoliberal opportunist, or, with her utter control over institutions like Vogue, a crypto-fascist? The intended lesson of the game, revealed swiftly, was that the two labels often were interchangeable. The subtext, revealed by the casual facility with which the hosts discussed the cultural products they professed to dislike, is that it’s all inescapable, no matter how mockable.

I guess I am showing my age by admitting that I have no idea what SoulCycle is and have never heard Beyoncé sing a song, not even once. I must confess, however, that I do have a fondness for Pete Seeger and Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” even if that brands me indelibly as a moldy fig.

Myers begins his interview by bemoaning “identity politics”:

The left is in crisis across the West. It is out of power in most countries and out of touch with its historical working-class base. Class politics has given way to identity politics. And noble causes like anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-discrimination have congealed into a stifling morass of political correctness and competitive victimhood.

So funny to hear a member of Frank Furedi’s gang fretting over the decline of “class politics”. Spiked has received $300,000 from the Koch brothers in exchange for articles denying climate change, supporting GMO and other rightwing causes but now is taking up the cause of the working class? Give me a fucking break.

Frost told Myers that “The majority of people are not woke. Why would we dismiss the majority of people as hopelessly reactionary?” I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. The only politician who have said things like that are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. When Obama said “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” was that a typical “woke left” attitude? Or Hillary Clinton’s dismissal of Trump voters as “deplorables”? Since the two women don’t define exactly what the “woke left” consists of, you can’t really decide whether they have a case or not. When I hear the word “woke”, I think of the Sandernista left. When Sanders went on Fox News to defend his program, that hardly sounded like someone who dismissed the majority of people as “hopelessly reactionary”.

As it happens, they hoist Bernie Sanders on their shoulders as one of their own “anti-woke” crusaders. Frost stated:

“The biggest divide in American society is class and that’s it. I’m a class-first person”, she tells me. “You’re hearing in the election how much we need to elect a woman or we need to elect a woman of colour. But the most left-wing candidate is an old, white, heterosexual man [Bernie Sanders] and I want him to win… I’m a Bernie bro. I was a Bernie bro in 2016 and I am now.”

This is what it boils down to: voting for Bernie Sanders on a class basis? For Marxists, the term class has a different meaning. It is not based on income but on the relationship to the means of production. Bernie Sanders is opposed to “runaway capitalism” and the “billionaire class” but he is not for abolishing the class relationships that define American society. In the 1950s, the income tax in the USA was about as egalitarian as anybody on the left could dream of—even “socialistic” given the campaign programs of Sanders and other DSA-backed candidates. But what you never hear from them are speeches that challenge the right of a capitalist to own an automobile, steel, or retail chain. While everybody can appreciate Bernie Sanders confronting Walmart’s bosses at a stockholders meeting, his proposals went no further than to put workers on the company’s board and a minimum wage raise. Of course, we understand that Sanders only became a Senator by soft-pedaling what might be called “communist” demands but that leaves open the question of what it means to be a socialist today. Sanders answered that by saying it means creating a new New Deal, as if that is either possible or desirable. It took FDR’s entry into WWII to life the USA out of the Great Depression, not WPA projects clearing brush or building roads to do that.

Frost is so determined to characterize the “woke left” as anti-working class that she once again makes a statement without backing it up: “The self-identified left are very sceptical of the populist stuff. Look at their takes on the yellow vests: ‘They’re all fascists!’ They’re probably just fucking French people – and who can tell the difference?”

Really? I have no idea what she is talking about. The left has been universally behind the Yellow Vests, even accepting the possibility that there are nativist elements in its midst. All you have to do is search CounterPunch or Jacobin for “Yellow Vests” and if you can find one article that claims “they are all fascists”, I will donate $100 to Red Scare. Then again, maybe Frost had a different “left” in mind. Like the Washington Post or MSNBC but even there you won’t find anything so crude. Perhaps the tendency for these two women to be shock jocks in the Chapo Trap House leads them to project their own vulgarity into the left in a Freudian sense.

Probably to curry favor with Spiked, Khachiyan demonstrates a contrarianism that is positively blood-curdling:

The conversation turns back to Bret Easton Ellis, a critic of what he calls snowflake culture, who is frequently accused of being a reactionary. “A lot of artists either don’t have any politics or their politics are retarded”, says Khachiyan. “His whole virtue as a writer is being a great stylist and a great narrator who retains plausible deniability. American Psycho has references to killing homeless black people, calling Asians ‘slant eyes’. And a lot of these woke SJW people sincerely think he’s a racist because he describes the condition… Artists are sometimes unassailable… The whole impulse to peg someone for what they are now is bizarre.”

I don’t know. Maybe he was just being “literary” in American Psycho but when he says that the film Black Panther was a sop to Hollywood’s “diversity push”, I do have a feeling that he just doesn’t care much for Black people.

Among the most disgusting aspects of this interview is what was said about Lena Dunham, a celebrity I cannot stand myself:

Khachiyan tells me about an event she was at with Roupenian recently. (‘Hands down one of the most inarticulate, scatter-brained speakers – but the woman can write!’) Lena Dunham was meant to speak, she says, but didn’t show up because “she cooked up a fake illness”. “It was around the time she had her uterus removed”, she says. Frost adds that lots of American women are “voluntary removing their reproductive organs”. “Nobody is talking about this. It’s a middle-class, very elite phenomenon, where they’re like, ‘I have menstrual problems, I’m going to remove my womb’. Lena Dunham wrote a whole fucking essay about it.”

As is typical of these two, there is no evidence provided that there are lots of American women who are “voluntary removing their reproductive organs”. What kind bullshit is this? My wife just had surgery to remove some fibroids and we were both grateful that a hysterectomy was not necessary.

In Dunham’s “fucking essay”, which characteristically is not linked to in the article, she states that her hysterectomy was a last-ditch decision to avoid the pain she suffered during menstrual cycles due to endometriosis, a “painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus”, according to the Mayo Clinic. Dunham describes how this affected her:

I wake up surrounded by family and doctors eager to tell me I was right. My uterus is worse than anyone could have imagined. It’s the Chinatown Chanel purse of nightmares, full of both subtle and glaring flaws. In addition to endometrial disease, an odd humplike protrusion, and a septum running down the middle, I have had retrograde bleeding, a.k.a. my period running in reverse, so that my stomach is full of blood. My ovary has settled in on the muscles around the sacral nerves in my back that allow us to walk. Let’s please not even talk about my uterine lining. The only beautiful detail is that the organ—which is meant to be shaped like a lightbulb—was shaped like a heart. Back in my room I hurt in surprising places: my shoulder, my hip, my ankle bone.

What amazes me is that these two dingbats evidently read this essay and were unmoved by this account. They should rot in hell.

24 Comments »

  1. We’re living in depraved times when blind cruelty and meanness have become virtues.

    Maybe these two will get a gig on SNL one day, when their routine ‘matures’ and its rough edges smooth out. They’d spit at the prospect now if you asked them, but just wait …

    Comment by Reza — July 9, 2019 @ 9:19 pm

  2. Somehow it seems de rigueur that they’re from Brooklyn. Never thought my old working class borough would become soooooo cool.

    Comment by Elliot Podwill — July 9, 2019 @ 9:30 pm

  3. There will always be idiots looking for attention; don’t waste your time on them.

    Comment by manuelgarciajr — July 10, 2019 @ 12:20 am

  4. Frost is an utterly worthless person, with extraordinarily limited talent, writing or otherwise. However, she was once championed by much of the Brooklyn left, including people Louis and I both know. She was their protege, and they extolled everything she said and did. Even got her a teaching gig at NYU, when she had, as now, absolutely no qualifications for the job. At all. Now these same people act as if they never knew Frost. It is remarkable to behold. What these former friends of Frost are doing is currying favor with women, racial minorities, the LGBTQ community, etc. groups that Frost and company don’t like much. Anti-woke means they love the white working class, while those they call leftists think of racism, patriarchy, homophobia, etc. as separate from class and antagonistic to it. The whole pack of them are useless and really enemies of socialism and the revolution necessary to bring it into being.

    Comment by Michael D Yates — July 10, 2019 @ 12:59 am

  5. A bit hypocritical Louis, when you tried to excuse your own support for Barry Goldwater out of mere contrarianism, and admit to still listening to Howard Stern’s show for the dirtbaggery. Let’s be clear, you oppose any critique of identity politics, also if it is articulated by people such as Walter Benn Michaels and Adolph Reed. They weren’t even the first, AFAIK, to use that phrase. Another woman, Jenny Bourne, already did so in her ‘Homelands of the mind: Jewish feminism and Identity Politics’ (Race & Class, July 1987), which began with the often-cited lines:

    “Identity Politics is all the rage. Exploitation is out (it is extrinsically determinist). Oppression is in (it is intrinsically personal). What is to be done is replaced by who am I. Political culture has ceded to cultural politics. The material word has passed into the metaphysical. The Blacks, the Women, the Gays have all searched for themselves. and now, combining all their quests, has arrived the quest for Jewish feminist identity.”

    Comment by Noa — July 10, 2019 @ 10:00 am

  6. I think critiques of identity politics so-called more or less inevitably converge on the defense of the indefensible–as for example when “David North” of SEP fame takes a bold stance against MeToo. (What has that po-faced SOB been up to with his followers in that expensively wood-paneled office anyway?)

    I think the neoliberal (Clinton) cult of eg the entrepreneurial “rainbow”–which can be called identity politics if you stipulate the definition–is rebarbative–but this is so because it depends on a classless assertion of the transcendent atomic American or Americanized self with all its delusions of autonomy and its endless imaginary Scrooge McDuck moneybin of purely individual rights, a kind of spiritual Bitcoin transcending governance. What do we need? A rainbow of entrepreneurs of all colors and sexualities. Ugh.

    That is, this view opposes a class outlook as do all these assertions of “colorful” individuality. including Chapped Hole Claptrap and the bozos roasted here, which is finally a cult of self-realization through mere rebellion. That’s one of the awful things about these people. They are as selfish as Ayn Rand and as cruel–and fatally narcissistic.

    We’re seeing now a huge wave of hatred against the repellent Epstein not because he is a mega-capitalist and an exploiter but because as individuals we are deeply and purely morally outraged by the manifestations of his sexuality–his purely individual sins against Sacred Childhood, the fount of all-American selfhood and hence of all virtue. But his sexual behavior was and is in service to the reality of his being a billionaire and what that reveals about social relations under capitalism.

    If billionaires are ok to us but Epstein isn’t, for example, then we are full of shit no matter what a P.O.S. Epstein is. There are less extreme cases. Furthermore, our individual moral outrage is easily converted into immoralism, which readily flops around and supports the very thing it once condemned.

    We defend identity politics when it defends the exploited–which it does IMO when seen correctly. The self-intoxicated individuality of the fashionably avant-garde left is a different matter altogether–a vector when it reaches this point of the same disease it purports to fight. “When you’re a star they let you do it.”

    This is one reason why I’ve never liked Bob Dylan. Uh-oh.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — July 10, 2019 @ 11:55 am

  7. Farans wrote: “We’re seeing now a huge wave of hatred against the repellent Epstein not because he is a mega-capitalist and an exploiter but because as individuals we are deeply and purely morally outraged by the manifestations of his sexuality–his purely individual sins against Sacred Childhood, the fount of all-American selfhood and hence of all virtue. But his sexual behavior was and is in service to the reality of his being a billionaire and what that reveals about social relations under capitalism. ”

    ^ “outraged by the manifestations of his sexuality”?

    Yours sounds like a more “contrarian”/”hot” (dare I say “problematic”) take, than even what the SEP/WSWS actually wrote: “in the United States there are two sets of laws, one for the masses of people, and a different one altogether for the wealthy, where their privileged status protects them from the consequences of even the most heinous and repulsive actions.” (WSWS, ‘Jeffrey Epstein case exposes how US justice works for the rich’, by Matthew Taylor, 10 December 2018)

    Also, where did you see these ‘bozos’, as you call Khachiyan and Frost get roasted, because I only see Louis totally out of his depth: eg: “When I hear the word “woke”, I think of the Sandernista left.” – difficult to believe Louis never heard of the attempt label to dismiss Bernie supporters as white “Bernie bros” or whatever.

    Comment by Noa — July 10, 2019 @ 12:46 pm

  8. A bit hypocritical Louis, when you tried to excuse your own support for Barry Goldwater out of mere contrarianism, and admit to still listening to Howard Stern’s show for the dirtbaggery.

    I think too much of your time and energy is consumed with thinking about me. You might want to look into Wellbutrin.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 10, 2019 @ 12:47 pm

  9. “I think too much of your time and energy is consumed with thinking about me. You might want to look into Wellbutrin.”

    Thanks for confirming, and again demonstrating the hypocrisy by having recall to the lame tactic of pathologizing (as people with depression) anyone who might disagree with such a secluded person as yourself, who never divulges information about himself or his tastes, and in no way has an actual cartoon book on his life. The problem of “woke” (or whatever you want to call it) on the left is a thing, just a minor example, I’ve seen Andrew Kliman (who can’t be suspected of having a soft spot for Trump) get kicked out of a Marxist economics fb group because he made, in passing without any mockery or malice, reference to the practice in China of eating dogs. Whatever your feelings about Kliman, I don’t think such moves help “build a radical left”.

    Comment by Noa — July 10, 2019 @ 1:10 pm

  10. I’ve seen Andrew Kliman (who can’t be suspected of having a soft spot for Trump) get kicked out of a Marxist economics fb group because he made, in passing without any mockery or malice, reference to the practice in China of eating dogs.

    —-

    If you need Wellbutrin, Kliman needs Abilify.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 10, 2019 @ 1:46 pm

  11. Physician, heal thyself.

    Comment by Noa — July 10, 2019 @ 2:07 pm

  12. What’s the big deal? I am on Aricept and Latruda, which I always take with a glass of chianti.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 10, 2019 @ 2:23 pm

  13. This reminds me of that scene in Papillon (1973):

    “Louis, you don’t have to say anything.”

    Comment by Noa — July 10, 2019 @ 2:30 pm

  14. I tried listening to Crap Hole Shithouse more than once and found it insufferable. Bunch of narcissistic bullies and showoffs, not very bright, not very funny, nothing to say. These two Ms. Hankies fit right in.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — July 11, 2019 @ 9:06 am

  15. You can’t say you’ve never listened to Beyoncé and still hope to be part of the conversation. Sorry, you’re time has passed. No one will ever see you as anything other than out-of-touch.

    Comment by Stuart Prine — July 12, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

  16. My preference is for Billie Holiday, so there.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 12, 2019 @ 9:21 pm

  17. Stuart, if you hadn’t learned by third grade how to spell “your,” your (not “you’re) commentary is meaningless. Basic literacy is necessary to remain in touch.

    Comment by Elliot Podwill — July 12, 2019 @ 9:30 pm

  18. “I think too much of your time and energy is consumed with thinking about me.”

    Noa,
    Proyect has made similar comments to a number of people. He really thinks people are obsessed with him. Such a narcissist!

    Comment by Max Power — July 13, 2019 @ 3:01 pm

  19. He really thinks people are obsessed with him.

    Max, you have never written more 3 sentences in any of your interventions here and not a single one of them contained the slightest political content. These were typical: “Whenever I read a post of yours that doesn’t mention you being in the SWP, I feel like something is missing. I don’t feel grounded.” “Wow. You were in the SWP? You should include that information in more of your posts.” “What? You were a member of the Socialist Workers Party? Do tell!”

    Don’t you keep track of yourself? Three times you wrote the same exact banal attempts to do what? Humiliate me? If you wanted to humiliate me, try writing something political for a change. There are no word limits in these comments. Maybe if you were more interested in Marxism, you’d get more out of the discussion going on here. Contact me privately, if you need a reading list.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 13, 2019 @ 3:13 pm

  20. (Since it’s somewhat related to the topic of the “woke” left, which largely supports legalization of “sex work”.)

    For those interested, check the lecture on youtube by Aleksandra Jakubczak: ‘Jewish workers against prostitution and white trade slavery in Warsaw’. (related to the 1905 so-called Alfonse pogrom)

    Jakubczak also did an article ‘Jews as Avant-Garde of Anti-Prostitution Disturbances at the beginning of the 20th Century’.

    The present article presents the wave of anti-prostitution disturbances which unfolded in several cities of the Russian Empire and Argentina. Due to the raise of anti-Semitism, repeating accusations against Jews of being white-slave dealers, and personal contacts with the duped women, Jews became the main agents in the anti-prostitution movement. The aim of the present work is to establish why the violent actions against procurers and traffickers of women took place solely in the Russian Empire and Argentina between the years 1905 and 1908. The author assumes that there were couple factors that contributed to the outburst of violence against the Jewish underworld in Warsaw, Łódź, and Buenos Aires. Among the factors were: the concentration of Jewish working class in those urban centers, significant influence of socialist ideology on the participants of the clashes, and the latency of the authorities which supported the traffickers instead of limiting their criminal activities.

    Comment by Noa — July 14, 2019 @ 10:50 am

  21. Disappointed to read Louis, and also Michael Yates in the comments, lash out at two folks based on gossip in left circles. Looks like they don’t have any real personal experience with them. The left is small, so it wouldn’t take much energy to engage with Anna or Amber or people in their milieu. Instead, they’ll just publish rumors they heard or dug up online like a couple of creeps. This is comradely sectarianism at its finest. I’ll continue reading this blog for its criticism, invective and online trolling. Coincidentally, these are some of the same reasons I listen to Red Scare, Street Fight, Trillbilly and Chapo. Like this blog: They aren’t going to create a revolution, but it is entertaining.

    Comment by Aaron — July 15, 2019 @ 2:48 am

  22. Frankly, I am hostile to the cultural milieu around Jacobin/DSA but Doug Henwood certainly is not. He is one of their biggest fans. But he too found the Spiked interview appalling.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 15, 2019 @ 12:26 pm

  23. I think too much of your time and energy is consumed with thinking about me. You might want to look into Wellbutrin.

    It’s ad hominem crap like this^ in response to a legitimate criticism that makes you a hypocritical troll in your own right, Proyect.

    I happen to largely agree with your take on Amber Frost and co. and appreciate many of your other articles even when I don’t agree with every single word. But your penchant for the nasty ad hominem vitriol that you sling at anyone who criticizes something you’ve written is unseemly, to say the least. Are all your critics simply assholes who deserve to be ridiculed and insulted? Are you a man who who is above any and all criticism from mere mortals? Your jibe about Wellbutrin (an anti-depressant medication) is also “interesting” considering how steeped in identity politics culture you are.

    Speaking of identity politics, you are one of those people who conflates the current obsession with authoritarian language policing, mob “deplatforming” and focus on individual transgressors with an effective left wing politics. Pay attention to the articles and speeches about racism and misogyny from centrist liberals and their left wing dupes. They are almost always about something an individual said or did, or polemics about a pervasive but vague racism/misogyny that hangs in the air. What they are not about is policy and how structural bigotry is intimately linked with poverty and keeping certain people poor and disenfranchised.

    Don’t you ever wonder why neoliberal capitalists and their Democratic Party representatives are such big promoters of this stuff? All these greedy assholes and power obsessed war mongers are suddenly just so concerned about the welfare of women and minorities? Sure. While campaigning in 2016 Hillary Clinton was asked during a rally what her position on regulating Wall Street is. Her answer was “Will regulating Wall Street end racism? Will regulating Wall Street end misogyny?” followed by a sentence about the importance of fairness and a typical emotional but content-free IdPol rant.

    You’re always bemoaning the present-day left’s abandonment of Marx and class analysis, but you promote a dead-end individualistic politics that is as far removed from Marx and the emancipation of the working class as anything else the CEO of Apple or Google would openly support. It’s a “checklist politics” of fools and authoritarians that makes an individual having the “correct” opinion and using the “correct” language its center piece. A member of the “white working class” who voted for Trump or made a sexist joke becomes a facist menace who certainly doesn’t deserve any kind of political support. A member of the “black working class” who questions some of the logic behind IdPol scripture becomes a race traitor and a deluded stooge who needs to be ostracized and taught how to think “correctly.” A woman who-, well, you get the picture.

    You and others on the left who support this nonsense have been manipulated by social pressure, specifically the stigma attached to questioning its gospel or running afoul of its arbitrary and ever changing speech codes. So you throw logical thinking out the window and practice preemptive self-censorship, effectively “self-indoctrinating” yourself into the temple of misguided fools.

    Wake up, man.

    Comment by Eric Blair — July 15, 2019 @ 12:42 pm

  24. Don’t you ever wonder why neoliberal capitalists and their Democratic Party representatives are such big promoters of this stuff?

    Not really. That’s only a concern of people who are brand new to Marxism. Since I have been a socialist activist and writer for 52 years, this is hardly something I would dwell on.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 15, 2019 @ 1:58 pm


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