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Is Andrew Yang the Doomer Candidate?

Is Andrew Yang the Doomer Candidate? thumbnail

How will Democratic candidates respond to the crisis of climate change? Over the course of two early August debates, the front-runners outlined their ambitious plans to save the future. Elizabeth Warren pledged to put $2 trillion toward research into energy innovation, creating millions of jobs and producing technology the world can use. Joe Biden promised to gather world leaders to raise global emissions standards, and hugely expand infrastructure for electric vehicles. Bernie Sanders wants to “take on the fossil fuel industry” and stop its “criminal activity.” And Andrew Yang? “We are too late,” he said on Wednesday night’s debate. “We are ten years too late … we need to start moving our people to higher ground, and the best way to do that is to put economic resources into your hands so you can protect yourself and your families.” Andrew Yang 2020: The world is fucked, you’re on your own, take some money, head to higher ground.

Until last night, Yang’s cheerfully goofy demeanor, rapidly improving skills as a politician, background as a technology entrepreneur and investor, and brightly colored website might have made him seem, at a distance, like the techno-optimist’s candidate. His central issue, the universal basic income, or UBI — through which every American citizen would get a yearly, no-strings-attached check — has the veneer of a science-fictional dream, the central pillar of a prosperous, automated utopia free from daily drudgery or scarcity. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Yang had been embraced by the internet’s foremost memers, who churn out #YangGang emblazoned cartoons and Photoshops every time their hero hits the news, because of this perceived techno-optimism — just another instance of tech-obsessed internet dorks celebrating one of their own.

But as his performance at Wednesday’s debate indicates, Yang’s vision of the coming century is not always articulated as the gleaming futurist paradise that a shallow reading of his campaign would suggest. In most cases, Yang frames his UBI as an initiative to revitalize forgotten or left-behind communities, but his answer on climate last night cast it less as policy intended to catapult America into an internet-age Elysium and more as a way to mitigate a Yang-prophesied dystopia, in which artificial intelligence and automation puts Americans out of jobs just as rising waters swallow their homes.

It’s possible that Yang just misspoke, awkwardly attempting to cram his signature policy innovation into an answer where it didn’t much make sense. Either way, my sense is that what makes Yang the choice of “the internet” — or, specifically, of its political memers — is the way his diagnosis of, and solution to, American problems fits neatly into a darker, we’re-ten-years-too-late dystopian worldview that’s become fashionable in some of the internet’s less supervised spaces, as Trump-era channers, trolls, and memers, facing down widening inequality on a rapidly warming planet, turn to new and forgotten strains of nihilism, egoism, and “post-left” politics. As imagined by at least some of his fans, Yang isn’t the techno optimist’s candidate. He’s the doomer candidate.

Trigger warning: This post gets pretty weird, starting now. What is a “doomer?” A character archetype first fleshed out on 4chan last year, the doomer is a depressed, purposeless 20-something usually depicted smoking a cigarette and wearing a beanie. The doomer isn’t necessarily a NEET — that is, a basement-dwelling, unemployed loser “not in education, employment, or training,” as the acronym suggests. He simply doesn’t believe he, or his society, or, for that matter, the planet have much of a future. He has, to use the 4chan phrase, been “black-pilled” into nihilism and despair. The doomer, according to various meme portraits, is “at high risk for opioid addiction,” has “no hope of career advancement,” and “cares … but knows there’s nothing he can do.” He “likes the unabomber” but “still uses technology.” He is “black-pilled on climate change/peak oil,” and “genuinely believes the end of civilization is imminent.” His “true political views only come out when drunk.”

This deep, black-pilled despair — plus the doomer’s lack of faith in the ability of contemporary liberal-democratic politics to give him a future — plus also the fact that he’s probably a weird guy who spent too much time on message boards in high school — is why, at least in some incarnations, the doomer turns to highly reactionary or hard-left revolutionary politics, reading de Maistre or Mao (or both!), inwardly fantasizing about a catastrophic restructuring of society even as he goes through the motions of participation in society at large. Out of their nihilism, doomers construct barely coherent fusion ideologies, some of which are listed in the artist Joshua Citarella’s study of Politigram, a loose Instagram community where political-philosophy obsessed teenagers and young adults gather to shitpost and make memes: “National Trotskyism, Dharmic Eco-Reactionaryism, Libertarian Neo-Monarchism, Traditional Primitivist Caliphatism, Christian Bolshevism.”

What is this ambiguously ironic, endlessly shifting kaleidoscope of abject nihilism and new or forgotten world-remaking political tendencies? The many claimed ideologies of the most vocal doomers can seem less like proper visions of an ideal society, and more like, as Citarella observes, the performances of highly individuated identity you’d find in “the identity politics culture of Tumblr.” My sense is that “Libertarian Neo-Monarchism” and “Dharmic Eco-Reactionaryism” (to pick out two examples) aren’t really two different philosophies, but two manifestations of a broader ideology —  a “doomerism” that’s recently taken root in the internet’s weirder, darker corners.

Let’s call it “anti-socialism,” in part because its adherents tend to position themselves, from both the right and the left, against millennial socialism, and in part because it is quite literally “anti-social,” in that it rejects the idea of “the social” at all. Drawing on esoteric sources like the UFO-obsessed, eschatological Marxist J. Posadas, who advocated for a thermonuclear war (essentially to create the conditions from which communism could be built), or the somewhat forgotten 19th-century radical Max Stirner, who proposed a nihilistic, individualistic anarchism in which social constructs like human rights, governments, and even society itself are regarded as “spooks” or illusions to be negated, anti-socialism rejects not just the idea that society can be redeemed, but that society should (or does) exist at all. How this kind of thinking is supposed to manifest itself in everyday life is unclear, in part because anti-socialists are, well, anti-social: As the doomer memes indicate, they regard their “normie” peers with something between contempt and fear, and decline to even discuss politics with them, let alone join political organizations or agitate for the change they purportedly seek, instead mulling it over on Instagram and 4chan, intricately weaving together exciting new ideologies to meme about.

So what do doomers actually want? Marianne Williamson, bless her heart, might suggest that they want a vision of the future they can believe in, and probably also the love and respect of other human beings. (And she wouldn’t be wrong.) But barring that, they want (1) a complete restructuring of a society they reject, and, barring, or perhaps in addition to that, (2), financial security and freedom from the obligations of that society. (Deep down, anti-socialism might just be a sort of deep-fried, heavily ironized mutation of the libertarianism that once seemed to be the internet’s native ideology.) This is where Andrew Yang comes in.

Yang is obviously not himself a doomer, or an anti-socialist; he’s running for president, after all. His sense of what the future holds is not necessarily wrong: Automation isn’t putting people out of work at the scale he frets about, but as any liberal or left economist will tell you (probably without you even needing to ask), we’ve seen vastly improved labor productivity over the last 30 years without concurrent wage increases. And whether or not we’re “ten years” too late to address climate change, I did admire the bluntness of Yang’s point in the debate: We’re now late enough in the warming process that a significant portion of any real climate change plan will need to be the mitigation of catastrophic effects, not prevention. His solution, at least to the labor-market problems we face, isn’t entirely wrongheaded: There is a version of the UBI that envisions wealth as the product of a society as a whole, to be shared among that society’s members, based on need, in order to empower them.

But taken all together, Yang’s dystopian vision and proposed answer can fit uncomfortably well within doomerist attitudes — especially for his climate answer last night. As Robinson Meyer puts it in the Atlantic, “Asked about climate change on national television, Yang said that climate change is an inexorable problem, that the U.S. can’t do much of anything about it, and that if the seas take your house — that is, if a problem outside your control deprives you of your most expensive asset — then the government shouldn’t do anything specifically to help you.” I’d just note that it’s not precisely that the government shouldn’t do anything specific; it’s that the government should give you some money so you can figure it out as an individual, rather than addressing it as a collective, societal problem. Another way of putting it might be: “The world is fucked, so let’s pay people off to disband society.” That sounds anti-socialist to me.

Of course, Andrew Yang isn’t going to be president, and doomers and anti-socialists, for their part, constitute a tiny fraction of people, let alone voters. What worries me more than a few thousand too-smart-for-their-own-good sad sacks on Instagram, rigging internet polls to make Yang appear popular, is the way their climatological fatalism and every-man-for-himself egoism is echoed among some of the tech industry’s wealthiest and most prominent people. Tech and financial elites, as Evan Osnos documented in The New Yorker in 2017, have been buying up property in remote places, and teaching themselves survival skills in preparation for a coming societal breakdown. Peter Thiel has New Zealand citizenship now. Jeff Bezos seems more interested in building space colonies to help (some of) us escape from “pollution” than he does in addressing climate change on Earth. At some point, when we’re talking about people with billions of dollars and powerful political connections, these fantasies of collapse and escape become self-fulfilling prophecies. Which actually makes me like Andrew Yang more. I don’t always agree his futuristic libertarianism, but at least he’s running for president of the United States — not CEO of a breakaway seastead, not captain of the Good Spaceship Bezos, and not Grand Vizier of the First Traditional Primitivist Caliphate.

NY Mag

20 Comments on "Is Andrew Yang the Doomer Candidate?"

  1. ANAL REAPER on Thu, 1st Aug 2019 5:43 pm 

    This is the guy who wants to give people $1,000 a month in free money. He is a joke and looks like a clown.

    This is all liberals have to offer is taking from from working Americans and giving it to lazy assholes.


    Thank GOD we have Trump in the White House otherwise we would be fucked.

    TRUMP 2020!

  2. Jerome Purtzer on Thu, 1st Aug 2019 6:27 pm 

    Trump has proven that the only thing he is good at is enriching himself and his family and then pushing the country into bankruptcy. Better to give the devalued money to the people instead of the banks and the richest people.

  3. Sissyfuss on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 7:54 am 

    Limits to Growth, the 6th Mass Extinction, Arctic Methane misadventures, what’s not to doom? When you can’t combine the reality of todays world with an accommodating political view you just might end up with a leader like Trump. Yang is not nearly doomish enough but he’ll get there soon.

  4. Dredd on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 9:40 am 

    “Is Andrew Yang the Doomer Candidate?”

    No, Moscow Mitch is (Snoring While Woke – 4).

  5. Richard on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 9:59 am 

    ANAL REAPER – Stop the snooty, bitter attitude, society today isn’t exactly as it was twenty years ago.

  6. Duncan Idaho on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 11:55 am 

    “You would think the U.S. could somehow afford some staff who are not idiots.”

  7. JuanP on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 12:06 pm 

    “Cue The Cry: ‘That’s Racist!'” Race Hustle
    When the shining city is at hand, a special slum will be built for me and my meanness. I will be the person, if that’s what I am, in the slum; there will be one of everything; one rat, one tin can. … I will behave poorly. – Thomas McGuane, Ninety-two in the Shade After two double rounds of Democratic Party debates, one thing is for sure: the characters onstage are followers, not leaders, and they’re following each other off a cliff like so many Wile E. Coyotes, while the Golden Golem of Greatness streaks, beeps, and tweets across the buzzard flats below like the fabled Roadrunner. In an epic and bizarre case of mimesis, the Democratic Party is mau-mauing itself into America’s political slum, complete with a rank-and-file demographic dependent on government largesse and an infestation of bad ideas, like the scurrying rats and cockroaches of the ghettos they pander to so relentlessly. The candidates themselves are so terrified of being a few syllables away from getting branded with the scarlet “R” on their foreheads — according the to the rules of Wokesterism — that they blindly submit to any idiotic Simon Says command, such as raising their hands in support of free medical services for illegal immigrants, to signal their racial uprightness and sensitivity. How are the actual city ghettos and their denizens doing after half a century of Democratic Party rescue operations? Not so well, the Golden Golem averred last week about Baltimore, igniting a firestorm of grievance and objurgation from the political ghetto. Isn’t the point exactly that the people, and the place where they live, are not doing any better despite decades of federal programs, household assistance, affirmative action, and every other attempt to (theoretically) improve their existence? And isn’t the heart of the matter the desperate shame and chagrin of Democrats that none of this has worked? It hasn’t worked… so, do more of it! That’s the Democratic Party’s neurotic strategy for winning the hearts and minds of this republic. Driving men out of households via the welfare rules that don’t allow “a man in the house,” and destroying family formation wasn’t bad enough. The Democratic party has spent the past three years vilifying and demonizing men and their “toxic masculinity,” and retailing the insane multiplication of “genders’ in a bad faith attempt to manufacture sexual “diversity” — with the net effect of negating all previous understandings of the relations between men and women. Newsflash: that’s not going to work, either. The shriekings of “racism” aren’t helping much anymore. Few observers have missed the fact that the city of Baltimore has been run by an African American city hall (Mayor, Police Chief, District Attorney) for many years, with over a billion dollars in additional federal assistance. So, if political power is the answer, how’s that working out? Add some extra shrieking about “white privilege” to explain the situation? How does “white privilege” explain the fact that 86 percent of kids in Baltimore primary schools can’t read and 89 percent can’t do arithmetic to grade level? This, despite the fact that at $15,564 per pupil, Baltimore is fourth highest per student of the 100 largest school districts in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Maybe becoming the party of a national race hustle isn’t such a good idea. The race hustle is wearing out its welcome in American politics, and the more the Democratic Party resorts to race hustling as its chief strategy, the sooner the party will go extinct. That is, if it doesn’t incite some kind of civil war first. Cue the cry, “That’s racist!” Maybe there is a whole range of human values and human behaviors that have nothing to do with race — like reading to small children and helping them learn the English language so they don’t grow into adults who have to say “know what I mean?” every other sentence because they’ve barely acquired enough language skill themselves to know what they mean. Maybe there’s something called an American common culture that contains values and behaviors worth emulating rather than opposing. Maybe “multiculturalism” wasn’t such a good idea after all. Maybe ghetto culture is not such a precious foundation for a successful life. Maybe the Democratic Party should move out of the ghetto it’s built for itself.

  8. More Davy ID Fraud on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 12:10 pm 

    JuanP on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 12:06 pm

  9. makati1 on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 5:39 pm 

    Duncan, the sane Americans are either leaving the country or building a shelter against the coming storm. Few, if any, want to jump into the DC swamp and be eaten alive by the psychotic, immoral, degenerate monsters there.

    If nothing else, it is awakening the world to the real US, and that is a good thing. I hope it is in time to prevent a major war. We shall see.

  10. makati1 on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 5:40 pm 

    We all know that only Delusional Davy posts run-on word salads noone reads. He really is psycho.

  11. makati1 on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 5:56 pm 

    The problem for me is I am jealous of what Davy writes and I am incapable of writing anything but a few lines. This has gotten worse since I started to draw near 80

  12. makati1 on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 6:01 pm 

    Bannon: Trump Tariffs Put China On Notice That They Can No Longer ‘Game The System’
    Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon says that President Trump’s new China tariff threat is a clear message that Beijing can no longer ‘game the system.’ In a Friday discussion with CNBC, Bannon said “It’s pretty remarkable how the Chinese have tried to … game the system,” adding “They’re used to American leaders buckling under this false concept of engagement.” On Thursday, President Trump announced that the US would impose a 10% tariff on an additional $300 billion of Chinese imports – days after negotiators from both countries met for trade talks. Later in the day Trump told White House reporters that he’s mulling a 25% tariff or more. “It can be lifted in stages so we’re starting at 10% and it can be lifted up to well beyond 25%,” said Trump, adding “But we’re not looking to do that, necessarily.” Bannon said that if the new tariffs hit on September 1, that it would “cross a psychological barrier in China,” and would be a “new day” for Chinese imports. That said, Trump is apparently willing to shelve the tariffs if China takes positive action, according to CNBC’s Kayla Tausche. As I just reported on @SquawkCNBC: – USTR planning notice in Federal Register w/ tariff details “soon” – Sr admin official tells me expectation is tariff will apply to goods that arrive in US on Sept 1 – SAO says POTUS willing to shelve if China takes positive action — Kayla Tausche (@kaylatausche) August 2, 2019 In June, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that China would purchase more US agricultural goods in exchange for a pause on additional tariffs – however the US has accused China of failing to hold up their end of the bargain. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that China is “doing very badly,” and that they “just don’t come through.” ..My team is negotiating with them now, but they always change the deal in the end to their benefit. They should probably wait out our Election to see if we get one of the Democrat stiffs like Sleepy Joe. Then they could make a GREAT deal, like in past 30 years, and continue — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2019 According to Bannon, Trump has “given the communist party enough time” to express their concerns over US policy and come to an agreement. Washington and Beijing have been engaged in a trade war for the past year, with each side upping punitive measures on one another. In May, Trump increased the tariff rate on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%. In retaliation, China at the time announced plans to raise tariffs, some to as high as 25%, on $60 billion in U.S. goods. Bannon, a longtime critic of China, told CNBC shortly after that May skirmish that Beijing has been “running an economic war against the industrial democracies for now 20 years.” -CNBC However this plays out will be “the defining event of our time,” according to Bannon, who added that none of the 2020 Democratic candidates would be able to handle the China situation like Trump.

  13. makati1 on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 6:33 pm 

    Davy, you are so obvious!

    BTW: 75 is not “drawing near 80”. Math challenged? LMAO!

  14. makati1 on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 6:49 pm 

    I meant to say Davy I am so obvious. When you see my comments you realize I am approaching 80.

  15. makati1 on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 6:49 pm 

    Juan, help me please. I am flustered

  16. More Davy ID Theft on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 6:51 pm 

    makati1 on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 5:56 pm

    makati1 on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 6:49 pm

    makati1 on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 6:49 pm

  17. Cloggie on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 8:14 pm 

    Another lost war:

    “Donald Trump CONFIRMS he is planning massive Afghanistan pullout amid peace talks with the Taliban saying he could end war in two days but adds ‘I’m not looking to kill 10 million people – some of them innocent’”

    Size country: France
    Population: 32 million archaic Pashtuns a.o.
    Duration: almost two decades
    Result: strengthening of fundamentalist Islam through the use of Jihadists mercenaries to get the Soviets out of the country. Now said jihadists have driven “the Great Satan” out and are pursuing the US into its own

    “Ilhan Omar suggests people should be ‘more fearful of white men’ than jihadists in 2018 interview”

    The NWO is a bad joke.

  18. Cloggie on Fri, 2nd Aug 2019 8:56 pm 

    After B737-Max, the Boeing Dreamliner could become a nightmare as well:

    Internal Boeing whistle-blower engineer reports that faulty parts are used in the plane. Safety procedures and quality control are a mockery.

    Third world country —> third world plane.
    NWO —> IQ80 world
    The US are “winning” the race to the bottom
    Egalitarianism was the death of the USSR, it will be the death of the USA.

  19. tommytommywantshismommy on Sat, 3rd Aug 2019 12:04 pm 

    Trump is just accelerating the collapse that was already in place. No politician can fix this mess. Trump thinks he is the best or knows everything..well i hope he knows that this corrupting rotting system is going to crumble like a house of cards in the not too distant future.

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