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Matt Christman (Chapo Trap House) on Useful Idiots

Published by marco on

I had only heard of Chapo Trap House (and listened to part of a podcast once), but had never heard of Matt Christman (one of the founders), until I got an extensive introduction in the video interview below. He seems like a pretty intelligent guy with lots of interesting ideas and analysis.

Matt Christman and MSNBC’s Petty War on Sanders (YouTube)

The following is a partial transcript that includes the bits I found the most insightful.

Matt Christman: What it does is it makes the Democratic elites feel less bad about being elites. And that’s all it was meant to do, is launder their guilt. To make them feel that they deserve their granite countertops in their town house—because they know, deep down, they don’t deserve it.

“Unlike the heathen in the McMansion, the Republican voter, who thinks he has his wealth by God’s grace.

“[As the Democrat] I know that it’s privilege. I’m not giving it up. But I deserve it. And he does it. That’s what politics is meant to do.

“And vice-versa, the [Repulican] voter, he can feel superior to the coastal-elite liberal because he “believes in God”, which he absolutely does not. His God is an inground pool and an ATV…like, that’s God. But that fake spirituality is enough to make him worthy of his wealth and other unworthy.

Matt Taibbi: It’s kind of like the political version of the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. Catholics feel guilty; Protestants don’t.

Matt Christman: Yeah! American evangelical conservatism is like the end-state of American Protestantism. We cannot find God’s will in our social lives, we cannot find [it] amongst our fellow man because … we don’t know them. We only know each other as consumers and as employers and employees, as strangers. So, God’s will can only be discerned by the distribution of fortune among people. Who’s got the stuff.

“And Liberalism is just that guilty Catholic conscience that gnaws at your acceptance and that’s why there’s so much energy, you know, if Trumpism is redefining the Republican Party and its cultural language and values in a way that’s irreversible, that’s appealing. Because who doesn’t just want to have fun? If the ship’s going down, why not grab everything you can and have as much fun in the moment as you can? What good is feeling guilty?

“Unless you’ve instilled in yourself through acculturation in the college experience and living in the social milieu that comes after that, there is a real virtue and there’s something to really enjoy — essentially, Democrats get off on not getting off.

“You have to have a special experience where that is in any way satisfying. And it’s very difficult to do if you don’t have money.

“It’s that superego denial and, in denying yourself, you express your virtue, and therefore you can enjoy the things that you do enjoy. It launders your sensual enjoyments and allows those to be accessible.

“But if you don’t have a lot of money, if you don’t have a lot of comfort, then you don’t have … you have very little need to do that. What you have a need for, is to feel anything other than misery.

“And all the Democrats are telling you and will tell you in the future is: No, no, no, you have to feel bad about any pleasure you have in life. Whether it’s going to Thanksgiving or having a cigarette or having a full-sugared soda or going hunting. You have to feel bad about it. Or not do it and then feel bad about not doing it. And if you don’t have material comfort and ease and you’re haunted by precarity, a real felt precarity, then the appeal of that denial is nonexistent.”

Katie then asked if Christman could, in one minute, convert Taibbi to be a Marxist or Socialist.

Matt Christman: We know where everything’s headed. We know. It doesn’t matter if the Republicans win the election or the Democrats win the election or we beat the Chinese or the Chinese beat us or we have a a leveraged buyout by the Chinese. Whatever. The future holds … it’s a neo-techno-feudalism until all the resources are gone. The only alternative to that is the boring shit that Marx talked about 150 years ago: working people organizing their place of exploitation and alienation, sharing their common experience of alienation and exploitation, applying it to the problem of making their lives lives of dignity and plenty and then getting numbers sufficient to confront power. (Emphasis added.)

Katie: There you go. Boom. Cut to the Internationale.”

Christman goes on to note that there is little likelihood of this happening as long as media figures and journalists are an elite that lives in a “discursive bubble” that has nothing to do with “the price of butter”.

He acknowledges that nothing he does (or that people like him do) has a chance of getting anything useful to happen and that he and others each have to fill this existential void in their own way. There is a giant disconnect between those who know how to fix things — or see parallels to past problems — and their ability to get anywhere close to helping people to help themselves. E.g. No-one knows who this relatively brilliant and well-informed person is (including me, before this interview).