What is Countere Magazine? The Last Refuge For Absurdist Journalism

Magazines suck now. I know, because I’ve written for many of them. In my early 20s, I cut my teeth writing long-form features for publications like Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Vice. The electrifying punk energy those places had is long gone, replaced by clinical wokeness by resentful millennials.

I’m not going to waste my time going into examples, but any fool could see that journalism is decaying — when The Washington Post actively engages in cancel culture against private citizens, or the Pulitzer Prize-winning founder of The Intercept, Green Greenwald, resigns because the editors demanded that he “remove all sections [of a story] critical of [then] Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.” Most newspapers and magazines followed Fox News’ lead and are now instruments for propaganda, unwilling to investigate any uncomfortable truth that undermines their agenda. The “journalists” who remain at these papers will gaslight you and say this isn’t happening. But many immigrants and immigrants’ children, like myself — people who escaped martial law and totalitarianism — can see how this climate of social conformity leads to McCarthyism, the Cultural Revolution, and so forth.

Luckily, someone founded a magazine called Countere last year. In my life, it’s been my favorite place to write for.

Some of Countere Magazine’s finest stories.

I was first asked to write for Countere Magazine by a man named John Flowers. He contacted me using an encrypted email address and gave me an encrypted number to call. I could barely hear his voice over the wind of his surroundings. Flowers said he was somewhere near the Montana-Canadian Border — I could hear wild hogs squealing in the background — and wouldn’t tell me too much about his life, other than he had dropped out of university in the early 2000s and spent some years serving in a South American military.

“I bet you’re sick and tired of writing for these bullshit legacy publications,” Flowers said in his gravelly voice. He told me that he, along with Countere’s other co-founders — a mysterious individual who only goes by the initials RC (who I’ve since come to suspect is a young woman in her 30s) and an eccentric East African artist known as “Tanzanian Wojak” — were starting a new venture and asked me if I’d like to be one of its first writers. They had read some of my pieces — going on the campaign trail with fugitive John McAfee, spending an afternoon with a “meth kingpin” in Cleveland, playing chess with Wu-Tang Clan — and liked what they saw.

Flowers shared some of the aesthetic references for Countere: Mad Magazine, Vice when it was good, Rolling Stone in the 60s and 70s, Dick Tracy comics, The Anarchist Cookbook, TOTSE, Rorschach’s journal. But he also wanted it to break new ground in creative nonfiction, directly engaging with internet culture (i.e. an interview with an “incel whisperer”) and introducing a surrealistic element to journalism (i.e. bringing a fully-dressed “Crusader Knight” to the 2021 inauguration). The best way I could describe it is “absurdist journalism”, or, for those get the reference, “Borgesian journalism”.

“2021 Inauguration: Vulture Journalists, Military Lockdown, and a Crusader Knight” on Countere.

I was down. Some of my first pieces included eating the favorite foods of Trump, Putin, and Kim Jong Un; wearing a face tattoo for a week; and playing 6ix9ine out loud in Brooklyn to see what would happen. The pieces were fun to write, but I tried to make them about something more: insights on geopolitics, the stigma of face tattoos, and how internet hate doesn’t always translate into real life, respectively.

The defining principle of Countere is mirth. What do I mean by that? Imagination, silliness, zaniness, laughter. Privileged millennials — whose daily food selection at supermarkets rivals that of ancient kings, who’ve never lived in fear of foreign invasion, who graduated from private universities — would say there’s nothing to laugh about. But as my beloved Iraqi friend once said, when she explained how Iraqis celebrate harder than anyone, specifically in the face of death — mirth is what makes life worth living. Nowadays, we’re so afraid nowadays of someone coming at us that we’re scared to laugh, especially at ourselves (look at the nervousness of Dave Chapelle’s audiences to see what I mean).

“We Played 6ix9ine Out Loud in New York to See What Would Happen” on Countere.

Every magazine I ever liked got taken over by ghoulish punishers, who promote the most cynical ways of living. Here are some Vice headlines over the past few years: “We Can’t Have a Feminist Future Without Abolishing the Family,” “How to Bio-Hack Your Brain to Have Sex Without Getting Emotionally Attached,” “All Masculinity is Toxic”. Here are excerpts from one of their articles: “Only suckers for the late-capitalist wedding industrial complex actually believe in romance — for the rest of us it’s just a filthy fetish” & “for the most part ‘I love yous’ tossed out during sex are disposable, like condoms simply flung in the trash”. They give more positive coverage to Satanists than God. Any attempt to escape the postmodern prison — for example, men attempting to give up porn and masturbation — is tied by the loosest of threads to far-right movements.

These people fear what they don’t understand: that young people nowadays are yearning for purpose, meaning, and a higher power, not casual sex, staring at screens, and politics-as-religion. They want lives where the divorces of their parents didn’t jade them, but inspired them to find lasting love. They understand that real morality means being a good neighbor, pursuing a career that helps people, and finding inner grace; not antagonizing people online or attending protests that inexorably fizzle out. That bravery isn’t found in hashtags but in saying uncomfortable truths, even at risk of cancellation.

Countere is a culture magazine, not a political one — but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t stand for something. It stands for creativity in journalism, for freedom of expression, and for mirth. It stands for dissident opinions, for a different way of thinking than you’d encounter watching CNN or the unfunny, obnoxious late nights. Along with standard youth magazine fare covering sex, drugs, and hip-hop, Countere also covers spirituality, health, and mysticism.

“The Coronavirus Clearpill” on Countere.

Countere Magazine is distinctly ideologically independent: they’ve interviewed right-wing figures, such as a Black conservative rapper and a lesbian anti-woke YouTuber, but they’ve also done things that one might see as left-wing, criticizing the police brutality during last year’s George Floyd protests in Brooklyn (as well as photographing the aftermath of the subsequent Manhattan riots). If you had to place Countere on a political compass, it’s more anti-authoritarian than anything else.

Countere contributors run across the ideological spectrum: there’s Cuban-American Miami-based writer Alex Perez; feminist blogger Ashley Uzer; BET Uncut legend & “White Girls” rapper Casey Gane-McCalla; Genius founder Mahbod Moghadam; former senior official in Bernie Sanders’ campaign turned based dissident John Gallagher; influential lifter Dark Iron Gains; progressive and incisive thinker Qhai Muhammad. It’s sometimes hard to tell exactly where the authors stand, and that’s the way it should be. Journalism is not propaganda. Look no further than the Socialist realism of the Soviet Union to see how mediocre—and terrifying—moralist art is.

“Fiction: Duper Chomper” by Jordan Castro.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention other magazines also doing really cool stuff: “Man’s World” (published by the mysterious, brilliant “Raw Egg Nationalist”); sexy British cultural magazine SCUM; Blockchain-powered Popula; opinion page and Medium publication Arc Digital; heterodox-leaning The Drift magazine. Lots of friends are starting Substacks, such as “Peripheral” by Reid Small, “The Zone” by Ben Sixsmith, and “The Poolhouse” by Benjamin Braddock. (Forgive me if I missed anyone.)

When our institutions fail, it’s up to us to build up our own. It heartens me to see such friends starting podcasts, writing books, releasing albums, founding restaurants, making memes, building new apps — fighting their own personal war against the authoritarian psychic forces of our age.

Theirs is the way of chaotic evil: takeout food, atheism, snark, woke neoracism, porn-induced erectile dysfunction, Tinder, estrangement from family, and degeneracy. Ours is the way of chaotic good: laughter, lifting, DIY ethics, a higher power, high-trust relationships, imagination, and mirth.

There’s literally nothing more important. Take it from a prophet from God himself—in a quote from Ecclesiastes that sits at the bottom of the Countere website: “Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry.”

Long live Countere Magazine.

Some of the pieces I’ve written for Countere:

“Meet the Crusader Knight Who Fights Communists at Protests”

“I Ate the Favorite Foods of Trump, Putin, and Kim Jong Un”

“How to Run a Gang in Prison: We Interviewed a Heartless Felon Godfather”

Some of my favorite pieces that others have written for Countere:

“‘Leave Society’: An Interview With Tao Lin” by Seth King

“The Book of the INTJ Lifter” by Gustavo Pierre

“‘Thought It Was a Drought’: Weed Dealers in Louisville Are Struggling in the Pandemic” by Qhai Muhammad

“Lifter Opinions Matter More” by Dark Iron Gains

“Fiction: Duper Chomper” by Jordan Castro

“It Is Time to Practice Raw Egg Nationalism” by Benjamin Braddock

“Scott McClanahan: The Last Great American Author” by Alex Perez

Countere links:

Magazine, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.

Taiwanese-American writer from Cleveland, Ohio. Words in Rolling Stone, Playboy, Vice, and Countere Magazine.

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