To understand trumpism, study the self-professed "betas" of 4chan

Dale Beran's been writing about 4chan, /b/ and Anonymous for years, and lurking on their message-boards, and he traces the rise of the self-professed "betas" who embody fragile, toxic masculinity and have been important bellwethers for many internet and real-world phenomena, linking them to Trump as "the loser who won": "Someone who is all brash confidence and then outrageously incompetent at everything he does."

But as you read Beran's piece, be sure to read Belle Waring's reaction, which talks about the proper role of empathy (understanding how fragile masculinity makes life miserable for men and women) and sympathy (not letting people off the hook for being cruel, sociopathic jerks) -- an important gloss that Laurie Penny also applied in her outstanding piece on the followers of Milo Yiannopoulos.

Here's Beran:

Trump is loserdom embraced.

Trump is the loser who has won, the pathetic little frog on the big strong body.

Trump’s ventures of course, represent this fantasy: this hope that the working man, against the odds dictated by his knowledge, experience, or hard work will one day strike it rich — Trump University, late night real estate schemes, the casinos. Trump himself, who inherited his wealth, represents the classic lucky sap.
But Trump also equally represents the knowledge that all of that is a lie, a scam that’s much older than you are, a fantasy that we can dwell in though it will never become true, like a video game.

Trump, in other words, is a way of owning and celebrating being taken advantage of.

Trump embodies buying the losing bet that will never be placed.

He is both despair and cruel arrogant dismissal, the fantasy of winning and the pain of losing mingled into one potion.

For this reason, the left should stop expecting Trump’s supporters to be upset when he doesn’t fulfill his promises.

Support for Trump is an acknowledgement that the promise is empty.

And here's Waring:


Wait, no. I don’t deny Beran is talking about something interesting, but this is wrong-headed. These guys have cornered themselves into their mother’s basements, a point he makes explicitly above in the section I quote. And laughing at people with dumb complaints about how chicks only want to sex up alpha males isn’t the same as denying that the patriarchy…hurts men too. Nor is their personal felt hurt unreal or null. It’s as if someone were reproaching critics of Dostoyevsky’s man of ressentiment by saying “your insistence that Lake Como isn’t in Rome is hurting him!” Lake Como isn’t in Rome. That his fantasies include ‘Lake Como being moved to Rome for the occasion’ is precisely what makes them fantasies; that he is miserable no one will deny; that it is in some important way his fault is clear; as is the fact that he will hurt others and may be unable to care. This article is brilliant right up until the point where it goes (analogously speaking) full “the Left is at fault for not convincing white Trump voters, and is wrong for labeling them racist assholes, and caring about trans people cost us the election. Also Bernie.” Because while it’s true that feminism could, in fact, save these people from this loathsome pit they are in, it doesn’t follow that it’s a failure on the part of the political Left that they are down in the pit to begin with. The kernel of a good point is that people hate to be mocked, and one is unlikely to accept a rope thrown down by someone laughing at you, but on another, more important level, no.

4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump
[Dale Beran/Medium]

He Took It All Too Far/But This is an Excellent Article
[Belle Waring/Crooked Timber]

(Image: Serena Danna/Corriere della Serra

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