"THE WORST OF AN EMERGENT POLYTHEISTIC PAGANISM"
How my essay on druggy orgies triggered Jordan Peterson/FOX News' latest satanic spiral
When an editor from UnHerd reached out to me in December asking if I could turn my latest Rave New World post on chemsex into an essay for their site, my main concern was whether I’d be able to squeeze the assignment in between building a pussy portal for my shroom rave. Then I wondered if anyone I cared about would even read it. Tbh I’d never heard of the site, and suspected many of my friends/readers hadn’t either; a quick skim of its homepage revealed lots of posts about British politics, football, and JK Rowling’s latest TERF-y controversy.
A quick Google search revealed that UnHerd is a UK-based opinion site founded by former Times comment-section editor Tim Montgomerie with a mission of “Challenging the herd with new and bold thinking in philosophy, politics and culture.” Sounds good right? Until you remember this “fReE YoUr MiNd” language is often a dogwhistle for libertarian/alt-right conspiracists…
Still, UnHerd’s mission statement claimed to not be aligned with any political party and that they writers from both the left and right. Some progressive UK journalists also assured me that they’ve pitched the publication before. The editor seemed really stoked about the essay and the rate was fair, so I decided to give it a go. Maybe stepping outside my comfortable liberal media circles could be cute?
Besides, creating a broader conversation around chemsex—the practice of using drugs like methamphetamines, GHB/GBL, and mephadrone for casual/group sex, typically by gay/bisexual men—was literally the whole point of the piece.
What was the worst that could happen?
My Twitter mentions started to blow up this week as I was winding through the seaside cliffs of Santa Barbara during a road trip up the California coast. That familiar queasy feeling when the online mob raises pitchforks in my direction hit my gut as I scrolled through comments to the published essay. The reply-guys seemed to fall into three camps: people who think chemsex should stay stigmatized (white Christians and dudes with lots of numbers in their usernames); people who couldn’t believe that “drug journalist” was a real beat (mostly meme shitposters); and homophobic monkeypox truthers slinging incel slurs about my fuckability (my personal fave).
Then FOX News and Jordan Peterson started stirring up their latest satanic scare, and shit got super surreal.
“The worst of an emergent polytheistic paganism” is definitely the most based epithet anyone has ever said blessed me with, and for that I will be forever grateful to fellow pseudo-intellectual JP.
However, nothing about this rather inane episode left me feeling “cute.” Unwittingly wading into the FOX News satanic scaremongering spiral allowed an up-close, horrifying high-definition view of how hopelessly bipartisan the media ecosystem is. Then, when I posted Peterson’s tweet on my Instagram, I got a surge of friends/followers applauding the piece—everyone agreed that if I was pissing off FOX News, I was doing something right. Yet even this deluge of affirmation didn’t feel like a win. I just felt used by an outrage machine that spins earnest intentions into clickbait fuel for the endless media spectacle of political warfare.
That this assignment for an outlet that claims to be post-partisan turned out to be the ultimate trigger for satanic-slaying conservative cucks was the ultimate irony.
In the end I was left with more questions than answers:
Should more progressive journalists write for publications with audiences that disagree with their values? Or is it naive to think that placing radical ideas in conservative think-spaces could make a difference?
How much does a platform’s politics even matter in the age of the algorithmic scroll?
Should journalists still care about who runs/reads the outlets they write for in an era where the social media platforms that actually distribute their work are all terribly unethical and opaque?
Is there any ethical journalism under platform capitalism lol??
Let me know what you think in the comments / reply to this email!
Till next time,
Your favorite methhead witch
I agree with the sentiment that your earnest and thoughtful ruminations on the topic of chemsex were weaponized as clickbait. It leads back to that age-old question, is all publicity good publicity, as long as it’s exposing more people to a topic generally misunderstood or ignored by society? With the state of the media environment, I don’t think it’s ever worth putting yourself in harm’s way — even if the detractors are unequivocally wrong. The publication should also be responsible for protecting you, but I guess there’s also only much they could do anyway. Keep doing you, there’s no one out there writing or covering the world like you.