BuzzFeed is a Commie Plot

My kinda clickbait:

The Alt-Text Did Not Take PlaceVox

Vox's Dylan Matthews reports that in 1996, BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti published an essay in the journal Negations titled "Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution." Peretti's paper, which draws heavily on the Marxist literary critic Fredric Jameson and the post-structuralists Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, explores "how identification functions in the media saturated world of late capitalism and, more importantly, the issue of how identities can be fostered that resist the logic of commodification."

Hey, it was 1996. They say if you weren't engaging radical critical theory in the '90s, you weren't really there. What's great about this find is that, in Matthews' words, the paper "more or less lays out (and critiques) Buzzfeed's entire business model—a full decade before the company was founded." In the young Peretti's view, Matthews writes,

But where is Fat Freddie Engels?Tucson Marxist-Leninist CollectiveCapitalism needs people to have moments of schizophrenia, where their personal identities are in flux, but it also needs them to be able to recover from those moments with new identities, which can fuel new consumption so as to realize the identities in question. "Capitalism needs schizophrenia, but it also needs egos," he writes. "The contradiction is resolved through the acceleration of the temporal rhythm of late capitalist visual culture. This type of acceleration encourages weak egos that are easily formed, and fade away just as easily."

So you may, say, identify as someone who went to summer camp, but that's not a durable identity, so you'll soon need to pick up another, like, say, someone raised by conservative parents. And the way this identification will happen is through images and video, through "visual culture." Presumably, in this late capitalist world, someone who creates a website that can use pictures and GIFs and videos to form hundreds if not thousands of new identities for people to latch onto will become very successful! Especially so if they allow brands to create and channel these identities themselves by, say, hosting a "Which Barbie Doll Are You?" quiz from Mattel or a video of "Awkward Things We All Do In Our Teens But Would Never Admit" from a company selling acne cleanser.

The cat is a lie.BuzzFeedThere is more, which you can read here. And if you really want to get into the weeds, you can read this year-old post by Eugene Wolters of Critical Theory, which is where Matthews picked up the story. Wolters raises the possibility that Peretti is "a subversive genius who is using Buzzfeed to destroy our mode of production," making BuzzFeed "one giant resistance." When Matthews asked Peretti "whether he saw Buzzfeed as embodying the trends described in the paper or as subverting them," the cagy commie replied "lol." I think that means "Lacan Our Lord."

So this story is doubly useful. First you can deploy it to persuade your parents that the advanced degree in critical theory that they're financing is the first step toward becoming a successful Internet entrepreneur. Then you can use it to convince your old comrades that your Web company is a cleverly camouflaged weapon against neoliberalism.

For further developments, follow @MarxFeed on Twitter.

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  • Ken Shultz||

    You can also use it to point out how thoroughly absorbed the left is with mass communication and the manipulation of the masses. It's fundamental to what it means to be a leftist.

    People on the right just don't think in those terms. They denounce that sort of thing--and when they do, it comes across to the left like denouncing Ayn Rand for being a selfish capitalist comes across to Objectivists.

    Yeah, we're using the media to manipulate people, duh!

  • ||

    This. They are entirely obsessed with the idea that the media can be used to brainwash people. They assume the evil capitalists are doing it, and that therefore they have to do it better.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    "where their personal identities are in flux, but it also needs them to be able to recover from those moments with new identities, which can fuel new consumption so as to realize the identities in question. "

    Sounds like a pretty prestigious journal. This statement is so brilliant that I can't even understand it.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Amateurish compared to Sokal's work. Amateurish!

  • Sudden||

    My understanding is that the critique is such that he thinks the role of capitalism is to constantly destroy a person's sense of identity so that they will seek to replace it with a new sense of identity, one that allegedly can only be found through consumption/purchasing.

    Of course, the great irony is that Marxism and socialism strike me as far more materialistic narratives than capitalism. Within a truly free market system, one has the ability to purchase any variety of things, but one is limited by the fundamental economic law of scarcity. Insofar as scarcity exists, people will have differing abilities to consume. Moreover, those who delay consumption and opt instead for savings and investment, whether through shrewd calculation or simple asceticism, will prosper greater.

    Marxism and socialism at their core are theories about how to equalize income to that you can consume just as much as your neighbor. Its a theory built entirely around consumption, which seeks to limit the consumption ability of the well-off (though not practice since the rich tend to consume significantly less than they're able to, hence how they became rich) and expand the consumption ability of everyone else via theft and redistribution or outright central planning.

    Its a theory based entirely upon consumption, greed, and envy. And yet it acts like it is beyond such base concerns.

  • Sudden||

    Moreover, the very notion that a person's sense of identity or intrinsic self-worth is somehow tied only to their material possessions is something only a leftist could contemplate. My self-worth is unrelated to my income, possessions, or perception of status by my peers and strangers. My self-worth derives from deep contemplation about myself and my role within this world.

  • Brandon||

    Mine comes from my car.

  • Sudden||

    Oh, sweet. We're having an L.A. reasonoids get together tonight. I'm naturally assuming you're in L.A.

  • ||

    Mine comes from my vagina!

  • ||

    Just like that discharge!

  • ||

    Warty told me that was considered normal!

  • ||

    The first rule of rape club is never listen to Warty.

  • MJGreen||

    Yep, I see that projection all the time when talking with these kinds of people. I'm constantly accused of believing that a person is only "worth" what they're paid, that all that matters is how much stuff they buy, blah blah blah. Except that I don't believe any of that and I never say or suggest anything like it. I'm never the one suggesting that what you own (or can't afford to own) or what you make is indicative of your self-worth or your worth as a human being.

  • GILMORE||

    "Everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
    Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.
    We don't care"

    "...except how it gives us a great excuse to hate you and take your shit..."

  • John||

    Of course, the great irony is that Marxism and socialism strike me as far more materialistic narratives than capitalism.

    That is because they are. Marxism and socialism are crude materialist ideologies. They measure success strictly by material equality. They both dismiss the idea that there could be nonmaterial principles like "equal protection under the law" or "privacy" or "free expression" that exist independently of the material world and have primacy over their effects in the material world. If "equal protection under the law" means a rich person getting a better defense than a poor person, then a Marxist is going to reject that and give the rich person less protection. If "the right to privacy" means allowing someone to do something in their home that harms the material well being of the collective, then privacy has to go. Concepts like that only exist in so far as they contribute to the cause and by extension the intended results in the material world.

  • Fluffy||

    I think there's a fundamental flaw in the concept of a "sense of identity" as well.

    I think it's closely tied to the left's absolute obsession with how an individual relates to an institution or a place.

    They're positively obsessed with the idea that places aren't "safe" for minorities, women, etc. That they don't feel "welcome".

    It's an utterly alien way of thinking to me, because I would never feel that way in Africa or Beijing. I have never felt that way when I wonder into their little womyn's culture hidey holes.

    I always and everywhere feel like the center of the universe. All institutions and places are judged by how well they revolve around ME. All places are "my" place.

    Because I feel that way, the notion that some evil capitalist is creating and destroying my identity just doesn't compute. My identity is a constant. The shit I do for fun might change, but my identity is the one fixed point on this Earth. The people who make the products I buy are my servants, and their marketing communications are dances and vaudeville routines they do for my fucking amusement. The entire concept that they're somehow oppressing me when they caper for my attention is absurd.

  • Sudden||

    The people who make the products I buy are my servants, and their marketing communications are dances and vaudeville routines they do for my fucking amusement. The entire concept that they're somehow oppressing me when they caper for my attention is absurd.

    This is one of the greatest pieces of writing I've seen transcribed here.

  • ||

    Dude, did you just sort of self-describe as a sociopath?

  • ||

    Lil bit

  • Fluffy||

    Lol.

    I don't think I claimed that others have no moral value.

  • ||

    Yeah, that's why I said "sort of".

  • GILMORE||

    "Its not sociopathic if you're nice about it!"

  • ||

    This plays well into another thing I have been thinking lately. Perhaps leftists are weak-minded people who are easily swayed by advertising and political propaganda. In fact, maybe they are weak-egod people too. Maybe it's just that they think everyone else is like them and so are constantly paranoid about how easily manipulated they are and think that everyone else is being brainwashed.

    Maybe they really do constantly dissolve their identity and have to resolve new ones, because their own identity so weak. And because they have no firm grounding they feel like this is caused by someone other than themselves.

    Maybe it's all just one massive piece of projection.

  • PACW||

    Interesting. Helps explain the 'save the planet' crap that has to be part of every transaction and every school project.

  • R C Dean||

    he thinks the role of capitalism is to constantly destroy a person's sense of identity so that they will seek to replace it with a new sense of identity,

    In sharp contrast to the Marxist project of creating a New Socialist Man via the totalitarian state.

  • ||

    They're just going to do it once, it may take a while, and it will be a slow, soul-crushing grind, but it'll just be one time. Capitalism apparently does it 30 times a day without us even knowing it. Monstrous.

  • ||

    That just shows you how much smarter and more evil the capitalists are.

    What hope can the proletariate possibly have against such grand masters of human manipulation?

  • ||

    Uh....yeah. I was raised on a farm so I know horse shit when I run across it.

  • Brett L||

    So this guy figured out that he was shouting into the wind, and that the market would support exactly the opposite of anything Marxist critical theory posits? Smarter than I would have credited the founder of Buzzfeed. Way smarter.

  • entropy_factor||

    Oh hell, here we go. You might as well light the Tony beacon. Prepare your minds for the mental gymnastics and idiocy that has become H&R's mascot.

  • ||

    I knew there was a good reason I hated Buzzfeed.

    Also, Jesse, if anyone here knows the answer to this, it'll be you. What the hell is neoliberalism?

  • Jesse Walker||

    Like the highest-paid hooker in town, it can be anything you want it to be.

    (Someday I will write a rant about all the contradictory ways the word "neoliberalism" is used.)

  • GILMORE||

    Typical neoliberal evasion

  • Swiss Servator, CH yeah!||

    *applause*

  • ||

    It's a dog whistle for antidisestablishmentarianism.

  • ||

    Nice.

  • ||

    I have this idea for a website called "TrollFeed" ....

  • Lord Humungus||

    "Critical Theory" = blah blah blah

  • Brett L||

    The theory is critically lacking in both inductive and deductive reasoning as well as any relation to the actually universe the reader and writer inhabit.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    That leaves a whole helluva lotta people in that mythical universe. I sense a Matrix meme waiting in the wings ....

  • Brett L||

    OT, mostly: Feminists organize boycott of Quantum Chemistry conference over sexism. The problem is, no women wanted to attend in the first place.

    Conference organizers responded to the boycott almost immediately. Zhigang Shuai, a professor at Tsinghua University in China and chair of this year’s ICQC, wrote a letter to explain that one woman had been among the original invitees, but had not responded, and that he had already reached out to industry leaders to recommend more female scientists for the remaining 11 or 12 speaker slots that hadn’t yet been awarded.
  • lap83||

    Was it held on a friday or saturday night? That might explain it :)

    But seriously, feminists are just embarrassing. Any of the women boycotting could have gone into chemistry instead of gender studies, but the fact that they'd rather have a tantrum outside the conference than learn something inside of it just sets a bad example for young women. It encourages them to prioritize dumb politics over intellectual curiosity.

  • ||

    I would imagine that young women who are actually interested in chemistry won't be swayed to not do so by these people. The only example these women set is what not to be.

  • lap83||

    The more confident ones would definitely maintain interest regardless of what feminists say. But I wonder if a girl who's on the fence about it might be dissuaded if they became convinced the industry was full of sexism. I just think it's possible it could have unintended consequences.

  • ||

    Right, but the truly ambitious and/or stubborn ones would probably decide to buck that sexism and succeed anyway, which is what ambitious people do. That's why they succeed.

  • ||

    It takes a delicate fucking flower not to pursue a career one likes because one is afraid of hearing too many men speak at conferences 20 years later.

  • Brett L||

    There was an excellent article by a very high achieving female programmer, who just completely demolished the sexist complaint. Essentially, she said that everyone in the field when she got into it who was worth a shit did x, so that's what she did, and she has never had a problem. (x in this case was to spend 3 days in a room with four other people, doing little else besides consuming caffeine, coding and arguing forcefully over technical intricacies that may or may not matter.

  • Paul.||

    (x in this case was to spend 3 days in a room with four other people, doing little else besides consuming caffeine, coding and arguing forcefully over technical intricacies that may or may not matter.

    If I recall the heady days of my software development career, there was a lot of time arguing forcefully over the intricacies of the space-time continuum.

  • Brett L||

    Sure, it would take 8 months to implement with our current team! That's why we're going to outsource it to a team twice as big even further removed from the actual customer and implement it in 12!

  • Paul.||

    That's why we're going to outsource it to a team twice as big even further removed from the actual customer and implement it in 12!

    45 days and I'm cordless, poolside, and all of my beloved colleagues that I've given loving IT support to for the last nine years will be talking to Mumbai.

    I can't wait.

  • Brett L||

    Remember, when they call you back as a consultant, triple your rate and halve your hours.

  • Paul.||

    Remember, when they call you back as a consultant, triple your rate and halve your hours.

    *furiously scribbles notes*

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    And behave like you're Peter Gibbons from Office Space.

  • datcv||

    But arguing forcefully is a masculine trait, i.e. sexism! NPR did a story about how wikipedia is mostly edited by men and part of it is because their ratings and feedback system is too argumentative for the delicate woman. I had to turn it off lest I scream "FUCK IT ALL" and Thelma and Louise myself off the mountain on my commute home.

  • lap83||

    Btw, my aunt is a pretty successful biochemist and I doubt she'd attend that conference now because her priorities have shifted to her family in recent years. My grandmother was a chemistry major and I doubt she would've attended it either because she became a stay at home mom after her first son was born. Many women who have the interest and capability to do STEM end up having different priorities as soon as they start a family.

  • Sudden||

    Btw, my aunt is a pretty successful biochemist and I doubt she'd attend that conference now because her priorities have shifted to her family in recent years

    Perhaps worth noting insofar as they did invite one female to be a panelist, and she declined.

  • Brett L||

    My mother decided she didn't like being the NMR tech in a Bayer lab and got an MBA and a CPA. Of course, my mother is basically a man when it comes to her professional career. She has never cared if her boss liked her, and felt that pay raises and the occasional attaboy were plenty to affirm her self-esteem. So I guess the feminists would label her inauthentic.

  • ||

    I met this man, once, Brett, but it turned out to be...your mom.

  • Brett L||

    You should see her hands! Oh wait, you have.

  • Sudden||

    In fairness, many of those protesting were in fact female professors within the relevant field of Chemistry. Having said that, simply having a vagina (or penis as the case may be for other fields) doesn't make one's research or presentation equally valid to the other panelists. The conference is very specifically about quantum chemistry, which I imagine without significant scientific background myself is something particular in focus that not every chemist would be able to speak on with great authority. Also, I would think they relevance and abundance of peer-reviewed publishings within that very particular emphasis within chemistry would be the most precise metric for assembling a list of desired panelists.

    Of course, this being a Slatist article, it doesn't bother delving into such numbers.

  • lap83||

    Oh I see, I admit I only skimmed the article. Like you said, it still seems obvious that the panel could end up being exclusively male without sexism being involved.

  • gimmeasammich||

    BUT WHAT ABOUT THE QUIZZES?! How am I supposed to know which 90's female lead character I am or what hair color I should rock this summer?

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

  • gimmeasammich||

  • lap83||

    That's incredible

  • Sudden||

    See, there it is. Capitalism is seeking to destroy your existing identity and replace it with a new one, forcing you to purchase Z Cavaricci jeans in order to feel whole again.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Is Buzzfeed the one with all the animated gifs?

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Y'know, as much as I rag on certain dogmatisms among libertarianism, they have nothing as batshit insane as "critical theory". I guess when you have a bankrupt ideology...

  • Paul.||

    "Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution."

    So a kind of corporate seminar for marxist theory?

  • Paul.||

    I don't really even know what Buzzfeed is... isn't it a kind of news aggregator site?

  • ||

    If memes cut and pasted from Reddit is news then yes.

  • ||

    "Capitalism needs schizophrenia, but it also needs egos," he writes. "The contradiction is resolved through the acceleration of the temporal rhythm of late capitalist visual culture. This type of acceleration encourages weak egos that are easily formed, and fade away just as easily."

    This literally means nothing. It's pure, unadulterated gibberish. It's exactly the Turing-level word salad that seems to capture the imagination of the morons who desperately want to believe they're actually intellectuals. It's impressively dumb.

  • Paul.||

    Like I say, a kind of corporate seminar for marxist theory.

    You can get that Tsunami of words by attending a typical business meeting run by an ineffectual middle manager.

    The commie pseudo-intellectuals won. They're everywhere now.

  • Brett L||

    Let's off-line this for now, Paul. We really want to stay laser-focused on the point at hand to leverage all of the really good gestalt we're getting today. I'll sneaker mail you later so we can get some face-time to close the loop on your concerns and make sure that everyone has full buy-in.

  • Paul.||

    You've done this before, haven't you?

    I want my goddamned phase exit review! When is the phase exit review?

  • R C Dean||

    Needs more synergy. Multi-disciplinary teams. And parking lot issues.

  • MOFO.||

    Ok, lets put a pin in that issue for now.

  • Sudden||

    It takes years of training to compose such riveting gobbledegook. One first starts in their Social Justice Masters Program by typing monosylabic words into a MS Word, then hits shift F7 on each one to find a lengthier and less-relevant or apt word to describe their feelz. By the final year of their masters program, their heads are so overflowing with such red herrings that the critical theory just flows without thought.

  • Brett L||

    See this article for a perfect example of how critical theorists demand that their word salad be taken seriosuly:

    A big reason people are critical, Roth writes, is to show "that you will not be easily fooled. It is a sign of sophistication." He goes on to warn that "fetishizing disbelief as a sign of intelligence has contributed to depleting our cultural resources." Question Emerson and America will fall, or at least be depleted.

    The biggest problem with this argument is fairly obvious. Who decides which works are beyond questioning, and which questions are inappropriate? Should we open ourselves and be absorbed and inspired by Birth of a Nation? By Mein Kampf? Or, closer to home, by the collected speeches of George W. Bush or (so as not to be accused of partisanship) Bill Clinton? Should we just do it, to quote an inspirational slogan that will help us grow if we only take it at face value?

    Yes, you should question Mein Kampf, you should also question whether the Marxist Queer Critical reading of Huck Finn's cross dressing as a statement on gender fluidity has anything resembling a point. Not all critiques are equally valid.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Episiarch,

    "Capitalism needs schizophrenia, but it also needs egos," he writes. "The contradiction is resolved through the acceleration of the temporal rhythm of late capitalist visual culture.


    Well, my Marxian to Any Human Language translator is a little rusty but what I can understand from this pile of gobbledygook is that capitalism sells self-image (trends, fashion, things that distinguishes us from others and from people of other times, that sort of thing) and that these images stifle the individual.

    This is nothing new, of course. God forbid I would accuse a Marxian of having original thoughts! This is nothing more than the disdain for the materialistic pursuits of the middle class the Proggies and old socialists showed from the late 19th Century to today. The implication is that a society managed through a command and control structure would result in the liberation of individual talents and spirit, as this structure would completely replace the community and family relationships that, supposedly, keep the individual in bondage. This is complete nonsense, but it is entertaining.

  • ||

    No, I think they actually MEAN "egos".
    I could say that I know people whose egos are as fluid as the latest fashion mags, so they aren't entirely wrong.

    What they are wrong about is that any of this is part of any sort of deliberate plan or that everyone is like that.

    Critical theory is where people that read fashion mags go to get material to talk about at cocktail parties.

  • ||

    Maybe it just means whatever you want it to mean. I agree with Epi on this one.

  • OldMexican||

    Vox's Dylan Matthews reports that in 1996, BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti published an essay in the journal Negations titled "Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution."


    This is very interesting. The fact that the founder of BuzzFeed is a Marxist does lend itself to create a couple of ironies. It also posits a question in my mind: just what the fuck is BuzzFeed, and how is all this relevant to me?

    And now, back to my regularly scheduled work. Thank you.

  • Paul.||

    After going to Buzzfeed at the behest of this article, it looks like a kind of news aggregator site.

    Specifically though, after browsing the main article page, it's EXACTLY that shit that appears in the center of EVERY WEBSITE ON THE FUCKING PLANET (INCLUDING REASON) NOW where every article is titled:

    10 crazy things you didn't know about Bradd Pitt
    12 women your mother never warned you about.
    16 things you wouldn't believe are in Warty's basement

  • Sudden||

    16 things you wouldn't believe are in Warty's basement

    Oh ye of little faith

  • ||

    16 things you wouldn't believe are in Warty's basement

    You can't get me to click on that. I know Warty's basement is just V'Ger's rapey brother. It contains WORLDS of horror.

  • gimmeasammich||

    It sounds like you need to download AdBlock. Someone here suggested that to me a few weeks ago. I can't imagine my internet browsing life without it now. I like how it tells me exactly how many ads I *don't* have to look at. It's a steady two for Reason.

  • Paul.||

    Hey, it was 1996. They say if you weren't engaging radical critical theory in the '90s, you weren't really there.

    By the way, Jesse, I really thought this line deserved some extended applause, if not an (albeit brief) standing ovation.

  • ||

    Seconded.

  • Acosmist||

    Deleuze and Guattari are infamously terrible purveyors of gibberish, and the kind of people who wrote unfavorably about the Tiananmen Square protestors. Anyone who does anything but spit upon their memory should be ashamed.

  • Paul.||

    Deleuze and Guattari are infamously terrible purveyors of gibberish, and the kind of people who wrote unfavorably about the Tiananmen Square protestors.

    Thank you for that. Seriously.

  • GILMORE||

    Q: "What's the difference between a neoconservative, a neoliberal and a conservative?"

    Best Voted Answer

    A: "GrilledCS answered 4 years ago

    "This is actually a tough question with a lot of grey area, and most people get it wrong because their answer is informed by political biases"

    This hits all the right Critical Theory Notes.

    a) its a 'tough question' = meaning, the 'answer' will be multilayered, complex, possibly self contradictory, and so abstruse that it simply raises more questions about what the terms used to answer the question *even mean*

    b) 'most people' get this stuff 'wrong' = for you see, these sorts of complex terms are only to be used 'correctly' by those who have done extensive reading of herm harp hur dur (insert French Poststructuralist Name HERE) and of course reviewed herpa derpa (insert Marxist Linguistics Theorist HERE) somewhere respectable such as (insert appropriately expensive liberal arts school HERE). This assures us that TOP MEN always maintain the ability to dismiss alternative points of view as being 'uneducated' or 'misunderstanding' their elite and refined appreciation of the textual bases for their declarations.

    c) we can be sure that most people's definitions will be in error because of their innate "political biases", which are inescapable and all-encompassing, unless of course they manage to be 100% in complete and total alignment with our own, at which point they magically disappear and become irrelevant.

  • Brett L||

    "political biases" -- The people who don't agree with my politics are wrong, but I can't be arsed to understand their arguments, so I'll just use psychobabble.

  • ||

    You see people, one day a very brilliant and evil capitalist came up with this master plan.

    He was going to devise a system to force pople to dissolve their identities and constantly reform them so as to make them consume more stuff.

    Not only was this person so brilliant that he understood human psychology to this depth, but he could actually predict what types of visual images would cause them to dissolve their identities.

    Isn't that amazing? This guy must have been a total genius. And then he applied all this masterful knowledge of human psychology not to making people join a world-wide cult worshipping him, but just to making them buy more crap. We should be grateful to this guy's benevolence. I mean, we could all be lobotomized zombies by now if his ambitions had been greater.

  • JW||

    I was wondering what could make me loath Buzzfeed more than I already do.

    Now, I know.

  • CWMeier||

    I noticed they used the famous, "Keep On Truckin'," R. Crumb image on the book's cover. I wonder if they had permission to appropriate it (and add Marx's mug)? If not, this would be a case of a writer and his publisher bosses exploiting the working man cartoonist, all for profit!

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