Nagle’s book is a highly readable polemical intellectual history of culturalism and the internet; it makes the case that there would be no Trump without the prankster sadism of meme culture. It’s a credit to the book’s critical sophistication that both ends of the identity politics spectrum will feel aggrieved by Nagle’s assessment of their tactics and their politics ... The book is breathtaking and concise. It is a slim volume and a must-read ... Nagle’s measured prose, her commitment to both context and dialectics, contradiction and convergence as well as her stark imperturbability in the face of deeply disturbing materials make her the ideal reader of both liberal and academic hypocrisy as well as alt-right instrumentalization of transgression as politics.
By presenting one of the few holistic and sensible taxonomies of the alt-right, Kill All Normies offers a bulwark against desultory assessments of the movement that blur the myriad of ideological differences that make the movement’s origins and goals feel impenetrable. It is also a wake-up call to those on the left-liberal spectrum that it is high time they got their act together.
The single greatest strength of Kill All Normies lies in Nagle’s admirable sangfroid in the face of a culture that renders many other commentators febrile and panicky. There’s a coolness to her engagement with the outrages of the alt-right that seems to stem from her understanding of the phenomenon in the context of social relations. And Nagle is at her finest linking the outrageous expressions of the alt-right to the dynamics of cultural insecurity ... The picture of mainline conservatism Nagle relies on as contrast to the alt-right rests largely on the domestication of conservatism in the United States and Western Europe after World War II, but this has proven to be a thin reed...That Nagle would take patently insincere clowns like [Milo Yiannopoulos] at face value is a baffling lapse in critical acuity ... Nagle isn’t the first to note the similarities between SJW-liberalism and the alt-right...The closest thing to a solution Nagle puts forward is an exhortation to pump the brakes on the sort of cultural celebration of transgression for its own sake one sees intermittently across the political spectrum. The last half of the book pushes this agenda heavily. The reader loses sight, at times, of both the alt-right and of the materialist exploration of it that Nagle promises in the introduction ... Nagle goes part of the way toward illuminating the larger political context at work online, but ultimately gets sucked into the culture-wars black hole she otherwise repudiates.