Parallax Views w/ J.G. Michael

Can the Left Learn to Meme: Adorno, Video Gaming, and Stranger Things w/ Mike Watson

November 26, 2019

On this edition of Parallax Views, Mike Watson, author of Towards a Conceptual Militancy, argues that there's liberatory potential in millennial cultural-production such as memes in his new book Can the Left Learn to Meme?: Adorno, Video Gaming, and Stranger Things. From the synopsis courtesy of Zero Books:

"Taking in an array of cultural references from the contemporary art world, to cat memes, Stranger Things, the Kardashian-Jenners, Mad Men, Run the Jewels, and video gaming, Can the Left Learn to Meme? argues that there is positivity in millennial-era cultural production.  Utilising Adorno’s unswerving yet understated hope in spite of the odds, Mike Watson embraces the abstraction of the new media landscape as millennials refuse to surrender to cynicism, by out-weirding even the world at large. They pose a radical alternative to the right wing approach of Steve Bannon and the conservative psychology of Jordan Peterson.  Here, the cultural elitism of the art world is contrasted with the anything-goes approach of millennial culture. The left avant-garde dream of an art-for-all is with us, though you won't find it in museums. It is time the left learned to meme, challenging conventions along the way."

Watson joins us to discuss the book as well as his observations of and understanding of the art world from an insider's perspective. Additionally, we take a dive into the ideas of Frankfurt School critical theorist Theodor Adorno, who serves as a major inspiration for Can the Left Learn to Meme?. From there we delve into the world of internet culture and memes, which have been seized upon by the right. Watson sees figures like Steve Bannon and Jordan B. Peterson as targeting online audiences and a sort of battle for the millennial mind taking place in cyberspace. We also discuss the relevance of the TV show Stranger Things to Mike's book, Adorno's concept of the shudder, the jarring webseries Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, vaporwave music, and more.