From the hosts of the cult-hit leftist podcast, a manifesto for those who feel orphaned and alienated—politically, culturally, and economically—by the bloodless Wall Street centrism of the Democrats and the lizard-brained atavism of the right.
The Chapo book is a wry, satiric look at American political culture, interspersed with asides and factoids that layer over the larger narrative ... True to its title, the book is indeed a 'guide' in the sense that it provides a greater vision of the United States today from the point of the view of a burgeoning left-populist movement largely coalescing online and vis-a-vis DSA. In that sense, the most important subsection is the illustrated guides to conservative and liberal archetypes: Even a casual reader with no Twitter account and no online presence could flip to the center of the book and scan these to get a sense of how disaffected millennial leftists (self included) see the world ... The book’s articulation of U.S. hegemony is more or less what you might find in a Chomsky book or Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States, yet it is written in an argot that will be instantly recognizable to any millennial or GenXer who spends time online. This is more revolutionary than it sounds ... a lot of people out there might never read Chomsky or Zinn or Angela Davis—dense, depressing politics books just aren’t everyone’s thing—but would read this book because it’s accessible, funny, and in a language and a culture that they understand. Chapo Trap House are not merely critics, but are also helping to build a culture that is introducing many new people to leftist politics in an accessible way.
The Chapo Guide to Revolution: A Manifesto Against Logic, Facts, and Reason won’t be of much use to anyone running a revolution. This is my central grievance. There isn’t a lot about going to the people, learning from them, concentrating their experiences into a revolutionary outlook, and then formulating a communist leadership ... The Chapo Guide follows the same '80/20 rule' as my diet: 80 percent candy and 20 percent meat ... The book is a mapping exercise of contemporary American politics ... The authors don’t shy away from the tangible aspects of our planetary hell, describing an apocalypse wrought by climate change ... Although political books tend to have a short shelf life, especially in the age of Twitter, The Chapo Guide mostly avoids this problem by focusing on history and archetypes. My favorite parts of the book are the 'Taxonomies' of different characters you find online. This is aided by some wonderful illustrations by Eli Valley. His style has a wild Seventies feel ... Though much of this will be familiar to people who have read writers like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, the Chapo fellows put their own unique spin on it. Here the candy/meat ratio comes in handy for people who would never think to crack open Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (or who bought it and only got to page thirty) but are up for a few jokes ... it has a bit of the magic of a Seventies MAD or National Lampoon, or one of The Onion books, the sort of thing I would have enjoyed flipping through for hours as a kid.
...by the end of the book, it’s hard to escape the nagging feeling that Chapo—the podcast and the book—is, at bottom, an actual, unironic infomercial scheme. They make bank by selling you a candy-coated version of socialism, one that may offend real socialists even more than liberal gruel-peddlers like myself ... The Chapo Guide authors glibly pooh-pooh the postwar Communist threat that drove containment. 'Who cares?' if the Soviets won the Cold War, they write. 'Pick your dictatorship: Would you have rather lived in Fidel Castro’s Cuba or in any one of the U.S.’s many military junta police states?' Would they have applied the same logic when the U.S. allied with Stalin to repel Hitler? They were both not just run-of-the-mill dictators, but mass murderers. What’s the diff? ... we get the usual left-wing criticisms of the Barack Obama and Bill Clinton presidencies ... The infomercial socialists of Chapo have exploited the free market expertly, and at least saved themselves from the 9-to-5 prison. There is always a market for easy solutions to complicated problems. The book’s introduction promises to 'offer a vision of a new world—one in which a person can post in the morning, game in the afternoon, and podcast after dinner without ever becoming a poster, gamer or podcaster.' After reading the book, I know of five who can.