Are you a man who was called a “Bernie Bro” for favoring Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton? Are you a woman who was called a Bernie Bro for the same reason? Are you just old and wondering when the fuck liberalism became a low-budget infomercial for a narcissistic hipster’s Twitter account? A McCarthyite witch-hunt of anyone, even fellow liberals, who dare say a word wrong or tell an off-color joke? Is this shit bothering the shit out of you, but you’re afraid to call it out, because you don’t want to be burned at the stake?
Then this 2013 essay by the late British writer Mark Fisher, called “Exiting the Vampire Castle”, is required reading. A critique of what I call Vanity Liberalism, just at the moment when it was at its peak (I think it’s died down a bit in the past few years, because thinking liberals and leftists are no longer consenting to being bullied by it).
The Vampires’ Castle specialises in propagating guilt. It is driven by 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. The danger in attacking the Vampires’ Castle is that it can look as if…one is also attacking the struggles against racism, sexism, heterosexism. But, far from being the only legitimate expression of such struggles, the Vampires’ Castle is best understood as a bourgeois-liberal perversion and appropriation of the energy of these movements
The “bourgeois-liberal perversion” is a more accurate term for Vanity Liberalism. The reason I label it with the term “vanity” is that I am looking at the ways this perversion of actual social justice movements led to a toxic discourse which enabled the rise of Trump. Trump and the alt-right fed on this negative energy, because vanity liberals could not help but feed the Trump 24/7 media frenzy by their very active, negative reaction to him in order only to prop themselves up as morally superior. Through this, vanity liberals propelled Trump upward. (maybe I’ll write more about this later)
Fisher goes on:
While in theory it claims to be in favour of structural critique, in practice it never focuses on anything except individual behaviour. Some of these working class types are not terribly well brought up, and can be very rude at times
They spread their legs too far apart on the bus. They tell rude jokes. They fucking like football for godsakes! What brutes!
Because they are petit-bourgeois to the core, the members of the Vampires’ Castle are intensely competitive, but this is repressed in the passive aggressive manner typical of the bourgeoisie. What holds them together is not solidarity, but mutual fear – the fear that they will be the next one to be outed, exposed, condemned.
I seriously needed to read this in 2013. The toxic online environment propagated by uber-hip snark-ass rich-kid liberals created fertile ground for the rise of the alt-right and Trump, who is exactly like them – no real ideology – narcissistic and phony to the core– only saying the right things to get the right allies, and promote their fucking brand.
It must be remembered that the aim of our struggle is not recognition by the bourgeoisie, nor even the destruction of the bourgeoisie itself. It is the class structure – a structure that wounds everyone, even those who materially profit from it – that must be destroyed. The interests of the working class are the interests of all; the interests of the bourgeoisie are the interests of capital, which are the interests of no-one. Our struggle must be towards the construction of a new and surprising world, not the preservation of identities shaped and distorted by capital.