Amber A’Lee Frost is a writer and podcaster. She writes for publications such as The Baffler, Current Affairs, Jacobin and is a co-host of the political and satirical podcast Chapo Trap House. In this session we were joined by Amber to discuss her work, and the cultural movement known as the dirtbag left. According to Amber “the cultivation of the dirtbag left” involves “the embrace of the vulgar and the irreverent, and an absolute zero tolerance for po-face humourlessness.” (Zero Squared #94: Free Speech for Dickheads). Fusing radical left politics with irreverence and vulgarity, dirtbag leftism attempts to reclaim traits often associated with Trump for the lefts own ends. Writing in Current Affairs Amber tells us,
“The left will always need its journals and polemic and academic writing, but there are times when it is both right and proper to terrify the bourgeoisie with your own feralness. Reclaiming vulgarity from the Trumps of the world is imperative because if we do not embrace the profane now and again, we will find ourselves handicapped by our own civility. Vulgarity is the language of the people, and so it should be among the grammars of the left, just as it has been historically, to wield righteously against the corrupt and the powerful. We cannot cede vulgarity to the vulgarians; collegial intellectuals will always be niche, but class war need not be.” (The Necessity of Political Vulgarity)
In this session, we discussed a range of political issues raised in Amber’s work, the ways she integrates humor, satire, irreverence and vulgarity into her work, and the ways the “Dirtbag Left” could be seen as constructing a counterculture in our own time.