When someone gets weird and quiet about their politics, or even just details about their politics, you should always keep your eye on them, the severity of your suspicion perhaps depending on what detail it pertains too. Here’s the kicker, though: This is an inherent factor in the relationship between content creators and consumers. Sure, the more creators frontload their politics by stating them candidly/boldly, the “safer” it is to trust them more, but the skeptical eye and degree of distance should never fade unless you literally get to know them very personally in real life. They should always be accountable to their own behavior, as you are to your behavior towards them, and I feel this is something lacking even in far-left circles revolving around specific writers.
For instance, here’s three formative leftist creators for me and many others [CW: reference to rape & bestiality apologism]: Hbomberguy, who (outside of me personally falling out of favour with his tone & critical approach) still hosts a playlist of LPs ft. a co-host that was revealed to have sexually harassed his friend, a fact buried in a years-old hollow late apology to the person hbomb ruined a friendship with after a tumblr callout post months after the incident; Garrett, an anarchist Youtuber that’s now deleted his political channel in favour of an “apolitical” film crit channel where one of his first videos knowingly & uncritically references an open antifeminist bestiality supporter as a resource; and Dan Olson, who has done some outstanding journalism on the darkest corners of GG and done foundational work in modern critique of creepy bullshit like exploitative sexual imagery with concepts like The Thermian Argument, yet still had an Akira poster on his wall for a full year of streams (funnily enough, nobody mentions the pointless, exploitative scene of attempted rape of a 14 year old featuring nudity of said child in that film). I bring this up in like, every thread here, but leftist anime communities in particular have a bad habit of handwaving heinous shit and idolizing creators because a work or body of work is so packed full of cohesively “interesting” stuff that’s sure to downplay the gross damaging content in critique, even though it doesn’t have to.
Passionate inspiration can be healthy, reading personality & meaning into creators & their works is inherently presumptuous yet vital to critique as a concept, and “kill your idols” is too platitudinal at this point to be useful to people who aren’t already in on it. You can’t truly kill the influence of the people who’s works you’ve engaged the most with, but you can interrogate and evolve it. It’s tough, it can be heartbreaking, it can be outright miserable and even destroy your comfort zone(s), but it’s necessary to not becoming complacent.
Unfortunately, since most people have neglected this kind of cautious reflection in their formative days (myself included) and few things prompt them to do so, there’s a whole lot of negative energy that can come from this–that is to say, a negative energy that tends to lean more depression than righteous rage due to the defeatism that can come with it-- that means few people ever think to do so, even less people want to do so, even less want to make it a habit, and the idea of doing so is less easily compressed or immediately appealing than a fix of “get mad at these easy targets, feel good you’re not them”. This is preyed on by right-wing reactionaries/recruiters, and it’s something the left can be pretty complicit in because we’re all tired and the depth of modern systemic oppression & group complacency is terrifyingly insurmountable.
Trying to counteract this with extreme distance can be so, so harmful though. I disagree with the sentiment of “make no presumptions” because, well, we do. We all do, it’s how humans do and there’s no getting away from that. It’s the same as saying “be apolitical” or “be a true nihilist”: you can’t. To live is to be political, to exist is to be as a whole entity, to perceive is to presume, it’s just that the privileged among us can carry pretensions that remove them from conscious self-reflection of their presumptions in anything more than the comfortably abstract.
We need to learn to live with our presumptuous nature instead, the same way we must evolve our political and philosophical understandings beyond briefly-convenient non-engagement. We need to apply scrutiny to our own scrutiny, listen to ourselves, what we excuse about… anything, really, and why. We won’t defeat or fully best our own nature in one fell swoop, every pretense of it being that simple has led to it taking control in the darkest of ways. Instead, we have to constantly confront it, challenge it, evolve it in small and massive ways.
There is no good way not to feel bad about the distant figures you admire, whether it’s distance of time or place, whether it’s the nostalgic comforts you could have sworn weren’t this uncomfortably racially coded, or the rich dude you could swear would turn out to be decent. It’s never going to be truly easy, the temptation to slip into abrasive cynicism or willful ignorance/denial is always present when confronting these things, but it’s worth fighting against for when you find the honestly good people that matter the most to your life, and when you find what/why/how you want to express yourself and your ideals to the misinformed and uninitiated.
Sorry this has been such an absurdly long & repetitive post, I have a very personal experience with idolizing & excusing an evidently shitty person for far too long in my formative years, with growing cultural awareness making it evident that they’re not the exception to a rule. Caused me a fair bit of psychological damage and making it kind of the most important part of philosophy to me, yet i’m not at all used to articulating it openly.