New York magazine published a hefty feature on this trendy new fad called Socialism on Sunday night.
The article, featured on the cover of the print magazine with the headline, “When Did Everyone Become a Socialist?” (or “Pinkos Have More Fun” if you’re reading the online version) would initially lead the reader to believe it might actually have a couple interesting questions to ask of the people that make up the leftist wave that’s swept across the country since Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential victory. Instead, readers are forced to trudge through 5,669 words dedicated to featuring some of the most heavily amplified and tired voices on the left and asked to believe the experience is somehow novel, or even worse, representative of a national movement.
Maybe unsurprisingly, the piece leans heavily on the Brooklyn socialist identity—namely podcasters, writers, and other Extremely Online People—to craft what it thinks is a clever analysis of the national left as it currently exists. To get an idea of the piece’s short-sightedness, let’s take stock of all the places reporter Simon van Zuylen-Wood traveled for this article:
- A “monthly general meeting of DSA’s North Brooklyn branch in Bushwick.”
- A big party at the Manhattan loft of Verso Books, a leftist publisher
- A Chapo Trap House book event at the Strand Bookstore
- A bar in Crown Heights
- A Julia Salazar campaign fundraiser at a Bushwick beer garden featuring Chapo Trap House
- A Bed-Stuy bar “popular with white gentrifiers”
- A Queens DSA branch meeting
- A leftist happy hour in the East Village
- A general meeting at DSA’s North Brooklyn branch in Bushwick
All the normal beats you’d expect from a New York Times column make their appearances. The now-standard soundbites from think tank impresario Sean McElwee (he gets a whole section this time around), the repeated Chapo references, the shitty race politics quote from Jacobin founder Bhaskar Sunkara (“I’d rather be a black middle-class person than a white poor person”), the incessant AOC mentions—it’s all there, and it’s all boring as hell because it represents a singular, limited scope of what socialism actually looks like in America in 2019.
In place of anything remotely useful or interesting, the magazine and van Zuylen-Wood decided that, rather than introducing their readership to actual organizers or members of the Democratic Socialists of America’s burgeoning red-state chapters or the bevy of local POC socialists and political hopefuls, it would instead let the same five people journalists call up every time they want to write about socialism give their Twitter takes over cheap, stale beers. It’s not surprising, though, since, from all available evidence, the root of the piece was as bland as the end product:
As a result, the actually interesting tidbits are discarded, or shuffled off to the side. For instance, the piece makes passing mention of DSA’s nationwide growth, but it says nothing of the organizing happening in American towns and cities, because, again, this is not about them.
At a certain point, I do get it: Living in New York City and monitoring Twitter as part of your media job often requires you to follow certain individuals and pay attention to the same set of viral-tweet-loving weirdos that populate the platform. There’s an interesting blog to be written about those folks, if properly contextualized as a piece solely about the online pseudo-celebrities and capital-p Posters of the Left. The problem is, when you spend too much time drinking beer with like-minded people with college degrees and decent paying jobs and podcasts (even the ones who will willingly tell you that they are not organizers!), you tend to end up writing some shit about “the spiritual Brooklyns of America” and genuinely believing it’s an actually thought-provoking line and not a string of words hollower than a happy hour Tecate.