How do you do, fellow kids?
Do you like free trade agreements, pedantically complex public policy, and the idolization of bland technocrats like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton? If you answered yes, then neoliberalism is the ideology for you!
Neoliberalism is a form of laissez-faire economic liberalism that encourages nations to privatize industries, deregulate their markets and reduce government spending in the name of austerity. Thanks Wikipedia!
The ideology took a major hit in the 2016 when both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump made anti-free trade policies mainstream for the first time in decades.
But now there’s an online movement trying to make this radical centrism cool again, or probably for the first time ever. Just like the alt right and Berniebros, neoliberals are crafting dank memes to attract the young ones. And like most radicals they’re not afraid to punch left and right.
The movement uses the irony of weird Twitter socialists and reactionary 4channers and crafts it into a defense of some of the most reviled figures and motifs of American politics at the moment.
Wall Street bailouts, Starbucks and the consequences of globalization are heralded as great successes of neoliberalism. Ben Bernanke, the former chairman of the federal reserve and orchestrator of the 2008 bailout, is the closest thing these folks have to religion. One of the most frequent neoliberal memes is “Thank Mr. Bernke,” a riff on the inscrutable “Thank Mr. Skeltal” memes.
But the heroes of neoliberals aren’t just Obama-era technocrats. Margaret Thatcher, Mitt Romney, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and even Ronald Reagan are all seen as revolutionaries working toward scary concepts like open borders and hemispheric common markets.
The main hub of neoliberal meme manufacturing at the moment is Reddit’s /r/neoliberal. The subreddit has been dormant for the past six years, but came alive and active about four months ago, when a new moderator took over and began promoting the community.
Now it boasts over 16,000 members or “(((globalist shills)))” as they call themselves, who frequently upvote their memes to the front page of Reddit.
“We’ve mainly sprung up to fill the vacuum for reasonable, centrist positions that’s been left by Reddit’s tendency towards hyper-partisan and populist politics,” said ampersamp, a moderator at /r/neoliberal. “In the 2016 election we saw, on both the left and the right, a worrying increase in populism and skepticism for certain policies that had previously been held as a matter of academic consensus—such as lowering barriers to trade and immigration.”
The community uses a variety of memes to get their message across like “a taco truck on every corner.” This is a response to a Latino Trump surrogate, who used the phrase as an example of the terrible consequences of increased immigration. Internet neoliberals want to see the proliferation of taco trucks through elimination of zoning laws, regulations and liberalizing immigration.
While taking swipes at Trump supporters, libertarians and other anti establishmentarians, it seems the subs’ greatest enemy is the Chapo Trap House podcast. This group of chauvinist brocialists regularly mocks neoliberalism on their twice-weekly podcast, and many members of the sub aren’t too happy with their success.
Chapo makes about $60,000 a month on their Patreon account from donors. Neolibs respect the callous accumulation of capital, but hate the message. There are semi-frequent spats between members of the Chapo Trap House subreddit and the neoliberals, which usually result in both sides smugly claiming intellectual superiority.
Not all neoliberals are confident the movement can become mainstream through memeing. The popular neoliberal Twitter account Wokie Leaks says he doubts it will be cool any time soon.
“The most successful neoliberal candidate of recent years was Emmanuel Macron, who basically owns French politics now,” he said. “He’s a former big shot Rothschild banker who married a woman 25 years his senior. Even our biggest winners don’t exactly exude cool.”
Despite all the irony and the shitposting, the mods of /r/neoliberal assured me their shtick is not satire, and they are genuine hyped about neoliberalism.
“We’re a serious community, but we also like memes.”