Person

Will Menaker

Occupation:

Podcaster

Co-Founder and Co-Host, Chapo Trap House

Political Ideology:

Socialist, Far-Left

Will Menaker is one of three co-founders and regular co-hosts of Chapo Trap House (Chapo), a for-profit socialist podcast. As of March 2019, Chapo was grossing more than $120,000 per month through the website Patreon. [1] Menaker is the “planner” and “showrunner” of the group, who organizes the show. [2]

He grew up in what he refers to as a “liberal” family on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and is a graduate of Skidmore College. [3]

Menaker believes the Republicans are a “racist party” but that Democrats are “pretty racist, too.” [4] He has said the “people in charge of the Democratic Party have contempt for the left because they know the left has nowhere to go,” [5] and that liberalism “has been a failure” both as a force to improve the lives of “people who need it most” and stopping the “right-wing” from winning elections. [6]

General Background

Will Menaker is one of three co-founders and regular co-hosts of Chapo Trap House (Chapo), a for-profit political podcast from a hard-left, anti-capitalist perspective, that includes coarse language and comedic parody. The other co-founders are Matt Christman and Felix Biederman. The three friends met on twitter and began podcasting together as Chapo in March 2016. [7] As of March 2019, Chapo was grossing more than $120,000 per month through the website Patreon. [8]

Menaker grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and has described himself as being raised in a “liberal family” in a “liberal neighborhood,” and that there was a “history of radicalism” in his father’s family that he started to identify with. His mother, Katherine Bouton, was an editor at the New York Times. His father is Daniel Menaker, a former editor at the New Yorker and a former executive editor at Random House. He says the family watched the NBC political drama The West Wing together when he was growing up. [9] [10] [11]

He attended Skidmore College, and in 2006 was an intern at the left-of-center Talking Points Memo news website. After college Menaker worked in the publishing industry, as an assistant editor for an affiliate of W.W. Norton, but left in 2016 when Chapo began to become commercially successful. [12] [13]

He told an interviewer: “If you have ambition in your life to do something other than something you would get paid for, then I think you would be amenable to left-wing politics.” [14]

Criticism of Democrats

Menaker defines the Iraq War as the turning point that drove him away from being a liberal Democrat and led him toward socialism. He says being a Democrat “obviously wasn’t enough” because so many Democrats and the media were supportive of the war. [15]

He believes American liberalism “has been a failure” both as a force to improve the lives of “people who need it most” and stopping the “right-wing” from winning elections. He has said liberalism defines itself only by its opposition to the right-wing and avoids solutions that don’t involve compromise with the right. As such, liberal Democrats are no more than a “safety valve” for a “faltering capitalist system” and cannot change the political trajectory of the country. [16]

“The people in charge of the Democratic Party have contempt for the left because they know the left has nowhere to go,” he told an interviewer in August 2018. “And as such, they are never going to produce anything that is remotely like a decent or livable solution, politically, for anyone in this country.” [17]

Speaking to another interviewer about politics and labor policy in November 2016, he said: “If I were to create a political party, it would be the Three-Day Weekend Party. The only political goal is to make either Friday or Monday part of the weekend, and just have a four-day workweek forever.” [18]

Menaker believes the Republicans are a “racist party” but that Democrats are “pretty racist, too.” [19]

“Look at the Clinton administration when they were in the White House,” he said in August 2018. “They certainly enacted some very racist policies and ran a fairly racist campaign in both ’92 and when Hillary Clinton ran in 2008.” [20]

Goals for Chapo

Both Biederman and Christman have stated that Menaker is the “planner” and “showrunner” of the group. [21] The “central issue” of the show, according to Menaker, is to provide an “entertainment product” that is both funny and infused with the politics of the hosts. He says the political goal of Chapo is to have the “biggest possible audience, the largest number of people united under a common and well-defined cause,” but that the goal to be entertaining (and humorous) is sometimes in conflict with the desire to achieve the ideological objectives. [22]

Menaker believes the “right-wing media,” which he defines as the Fox News Channel or the Daily Caller, does “a better job” of covering the far left than the “liberal media,” which he defines as “MSNBC or CNN or The New York Times.” He says this is because socialist policy objectives such as Medicare for All are broadly popular, despite being to the “left of the Democratic Party consensus.” In his view the mainstream liberal media has a desire to retain a large consensus of support for mainstream Democrats and prevent news consumers from noticing and gravitating to popular left-wing alternatives. This causes the media to “obscure the difference” between more radical ideas and the mainstream Democrats who may not fully support those proposals. [23]

“Bend the Knee” Controversy

During a Chapo podcast in 2017, Menaker stated the terms that should be expected for the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party to expect support from people on the socialist left such as himself, noting they must come his way, and there would be no compromises: “You must bend the knee to us. Not the other way around. You have been proven as failures, and your entire worldview has been discredited.” [24]

Historically, to “bend the knee” is to bow and show loyalty to a political or religious authority. [25] In an identical context, the phrase is used in HBO’s Game of Thrones fantasy drama, and the program is frequently referenced by the Chapo hosts.

Critics on the left accused Menaker of stating a demand for sexual deference from women. A New York Magazine writer, quoted by the left-of-center New Republic, said the comment was “read as a sexual reference” because it “conveys a hunger for dominance and submission, which is very quickly heard as gendered and sexual.” [26]

References

  1. “Top Patreon Creators.” graphtreon.com. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://graphtreon.com/top-patreon-creators ^
  2. Rhode, Jason. “Chapo Trap House are the Vulgar, Brilliant Demigods of the New Progressive Left.” Paste Magazine. July 29, 2016. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/07/chapo-trap-house-are-the-vulgar-brilliant-demigods.html ^
  3. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house ^
  4. Schafer, Joseph. “DOPE Interviews | Chapo Trap House’s Will Menaker.” Dope Magazine. August 17, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://dopemagazine.com/chapo-trap-house/4/ ^
  5. Schafer, Joseph. “DOPE Interviews | Chapo Trap House’s Will Menaker.” Dope Magazine. August 17, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://dopemagazine.com/chapo-trap-house/2/ ^
  6. Schafer, Joseph. “DOPE Interviews | Chapo Trap House’s Will Menaker.” Dope Magazine. August 17, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://dopemagazine.com/chapo-trap-house/3/ ^
  7. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house ^
  8. “Top Patreon Creators.” graphtreon.com. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://graphtreon.com/top-patreon-creators ^
  9. Schafer, Joseph. “DOPE Interviews | Chapo Trap House’s Will Menaker.” Dope Magazine. August 17, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://dopemagazine.com/chapo-trap-house/2/ ^
  10. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house ^
  11. Tolentino, Jia. “What Will Become of the Dirtbag Left?” The New Yorker. November 18, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/persons-of-interest/what-will-become-of-the-dirtbag-left ^
  12. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house ^
  13. Marshall, Josh. “For reasons both mundane.” Talking Points Memo. September 6, 2006. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/92558 ^
  14. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house ^
  15. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house ^
  16. Schafer, Joseph. “DOPE Interviews | Chapo Trap House’s Will Menaker.” Dope Magazine. August 17, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://dopemagazine.com/chapo-trap-house/2/ ^
  17. Schafer, Joseph. “DOPE Interviews | Chapo Trap House’s Will Menaker.” Dope Magazine. August 17, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://dopemagazine.com/chapo-trap-house/3/ ^
  18. Shade, Colette. “THE RADICAL CHEEK OF ‘CHAPO TRAP HOUSE.’” Pacific Standard. November 4, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://psmag.com/news/the-radical-cheek-of-chapo-trap-house ^
  19. Schafer, Joseph. “DOPE Interviews | Chapo Trap House’s Will Menaker.” Dope Magazine. August 17, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://dopemagazine.com/chapo-trap-house/4/ ^
  20. Schafer, Joseph. “DOPE Interviews | Chapo Trap House’s Will Menaker.” Dope Magazine. August 17, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://dopemagazine.com/chapo-trap-house/4/ ^
  21. Rhode, Jason. “Chapo Trap House are the Vulgar, Brilliant Demigods of the New Progressive Left.” Paste Magazine. July 29, 2016. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/07/chapo-trap-house-are-the-vulgar-brilliant-demigods.html ^
  22. Schafer, Joseph. “DOPE Interviews | Chapo Trap House’s Will Menaker.” Dope Magazine. August 17, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://dopemagazine.com/chapo-trap-house/5/ ^
  23. Schafer, Joseph. “DOPE Interviews | Chapo Trap House’s Will Menaker.” Dope Magazine. August 17, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://dopemagazine.com/chapo-trap-house/3/ ^
  24. Helmore, Edward. “Leftwing Breitbart? Chapo Trap House is strong new voice in resistance to Trump.” The Guardian. July 23, 2017. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/23/chapo-trap-house-leftwing-breitbart ^
  25. Masschusetts Historical Society, comp. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Vol. XIX. 2nd. MA: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1906. Accessed from the original, March 14, 2019. https://books.google.com/books?id=NFkMAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA266&lpg=PA266&dq=%22bend+the+knee%22+%22historical%22&source=bl&ots=x4IsON-0bC&sig=ACfU3U17cgubXcyqIT9xQAymMDb3LrzMRA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwji_9my_YHhAhXB54MKHVNABOwQ6AEwEnoECAAQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22bend%20the%20knee%22%20%22historical%22&f=false ^
  26. Helmore, Edward. “Leftwing Breitbart? Chapo Trap House is strong new voice in resistance to Trump.” The Guardian. July 23, 2017. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/23/chapo-trap-house-leftwing-breitbart ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Chapo Trap House (For-profit)
    Co-Founder and Co-Host
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