Scott Alexander’s Slate Star Codex is an exceptional blog, probably the only notably left-wing part of the internet I routinely visit. In terms of thoughtfulness, interest, and its comment section, it is second only to Nick Land’s Outside In.
A wildly bellicose comment from ‘Well-Manicured-Bug’ on his Open Thread ruffled feathers, and I can’t help but think some additional response might be useful. All quotes provided as they were when copy and pasted. Please insert ‘(sic)’ as required.
So, is Michael Anissimov ready to accept that he’s intellectually bankrupt? I didn’t know anything about him or neoreaction until I read the anti-reactionary FAQ here. But I thought they’d have more substance to counter it than what Anissimov’s anti-anti-reactionary FAQ comes up with.
Anissimov’s problem isn’t that he lacks substance, but the fact that unlike Mencius Moldbug, he’s not verbose enough to cover it up. I mean, if there ever was such a thing as talking past the other anti-anti-reactionary FAQ is that.
Zathille then (charitably) suggested Well-Manicured-Bug elaborate, rather than waiting for the ‘true, kind, accurate’ rule to be invoked. The response:
What to call intellectual bankruptcy other than intellectual bankruptcy? Much of neoreactionary writing is verbose, obscurantist nonsense, and in the case of Anissimov, even the verbose, obscurantist aspects are missing.
Since you asked for an example, here’s one. Anissimov claims that Communism is progressivism carried to its logical conclusion, and since Communism killed 92 million people, progressivism is shit. Except, since neoreaction is sometimes defined as anti-progressivism, this would mean that pretty much everyone here is a neoreactionary.
According to their own verbose, obscure philosophy, egalitarianism, pacifism, anti-racism, tolerance and social justice are major aspects progressivism. Does communism have all those aspects? Probably not. So why choose Communism? Why choose something that no one wants to defend? Do we have to defend it simply because they call it progressivism and call themselves anti-progressives?
If your problem with progressivism is things like Communism, then your claim is trivial one. You need to be progressivism where it has worked, namely in liberal democracies. Instead you get to call yourself an anti-progressive, say Communsim is progressive, and hold liberal democrats responsible for whatever crimes the Communists may have committed? What on earth the word Communism doing in that article? Did Alexander try to defend Stalin? I’m pretty sure he didn’t. This attempt to discredit progressivism is as intellectually bankrupt as it can get.
Finally, as for starting a flamewar, these ideas do not deserve respect. People who say stuff like the Negro is a vicious and stupid subhuman beast, are the scum of the earth and if that kind of people are attracted to your ideas, there’s something wrong with your ideas. Yes, I say that because I’m a progressive, and I’m right.
That last sentence really sums it up, right?
Anissimov’s brand of reaction certainly won’t appeal to left-wingers like our friend here is. Moldbug and (perhaps) Land are there for them. We have suggested that progressivism has a Soviet Union-sized problem with Communism because so many progressives in the West supported the Soviet Union and wished something like that would happen to their part of the West. If we are to discuss intellectual obfuscation, our little insect would do well to remember that it cuts both ways. Reminding us, with smug superiority, that Evola was vaguely supportive early on of the Italian fascists is no different than suggesting that, from the tone of the comments, Well-Manicured-Bug would have looked approvingly upon Lenin’s revolution.
The distinction is that while Evola quickly saw through fascism and ended up criticising and opposing it (although for very different reasons to the ones Well-Manicured-Bug might choose), many leftists remained in support of the Soviet project until it ended. There is a Senator from the Greens here like that (Sen. Lee Rhiannon, for non-Australians).
There’s even an outside chance that Well-Manicured-Bug might just have become a fascist, if they were an Italian socialist in the 1910s.
It is also important to note the practical reality that logical conclusions do not have to be perfect embodiments of the ideas that underpin it. Take anarcho-syndicalism/ anarcho-communism. Both imply from ‘anarcho’ that government is not a part of the idea. And yet, in order to avoid hierarchies, it is necessary to have a mechanism which is virtually omnipotent in order to prevent them. Of course, these hierarchs, being flawless and wonderful, are acceptable.
The broader point of anti-progressivism is that technological improvement has disguised a huge degradation in virtually all areas of society. Certainly, I think we could safely say that modern policies could not exist but for the high and advancing technology that we have. To point, to the model favoured by many who said they were liberal (social) democrats through the course of the 20th century as the ultimate conclusion of the project, and suggest that it would be easier to see if technological advances had ceased in 1900 is perfectly reasonable.
My personal favourite moment, of course, has to be:
I didn’t know there was a written comment policy. I do believe that people who say stuff like “the Negro is a vicious and stupid subhuman beast” are scum of the earth and I believe I can say it here because it’d be covered under “delivering a very well-deserved smackdown against someone who is uncontroversially and obviously wrong.”
I’m reasonably convinced that there is only one person on the thread who has used those words, and indeed I’d go a step further and suggest that there is only one person on the entire blog who has. I’ve read significantly more NRx material than our contemptuous friend, and I’m yet to come across those words there either (except, of course, in isolation).
Well-Manicured-Bug is engaged in a very unexpected and thankfully rare exercise (on SSC at least) in strawmanning, and the unwillingness to engage with the ideas suggests that they have been listening to someone who was influenced by someone who once skim read Marcuse. With a sigh, reality:
There is a broad agreement among people who identify as NRx with Human BioDiversity, and sure, there’s reporting of (significantly) above average crime among blacks which is generally linked to genetic predisposition, as well as intelligence studies that have been roundly unfavourable to black people, but vitriol rarely, if ever, enters the fray. Detachment from emotionality is rather indicative of the NRx parts of the web.
After some prodding from both sides, and well-put explanation of the actual concept behind the Cathedral by Tom Hunt, we receive this (de mal en pis):
If people actually believe that it’s the three branches and separation of power that keeps democracies alive, that’s probably because they don’t know much outside what happens in the Western world. If you look at a place like Singapore or India, it’s pretty clear what their problem is. Their problem is that the civil society has no power, and are too atomized to claim any power…
It’s funny to think that we both use Singapore as an example, us as a success, Well-Manicured-Bug as a failure. But of course, the reason Well-Manicured-Bug doesn’t like it is not based on objective measures of success, in which Singapore ranks rather well, but in that it does not conform to the social model that Well-Manicured-Bug would like to see. Presumably a genuine Universalist, Well-Manicured-Bug wishes for everyone to live in the same system as they do.
As for the Indian example, a significant problem lies in too much centralisation of governmental power, rather than a lack of political influence among the masses. I’m sure we all followed NaMo’s election with interest. There is such a thing as a mass movement there; Well-Manicured-Bug again just doesn’t like the outcome. If I dare invoke Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose Chapter 2, perhaps if India had embraced capitalism like Japan did, things would be rather different.
But if we are to play with India, one of the most positive changes that could be made (and this is applicable everywhere, but especially where there is a billion people of very different backgrounds) is radical decentralisation.
At the top, the Indian Federal Government (seems obvious now, doesn’t it?). The Indian government is comprised of representatives of each State chosen by the legislative mechanism of each state to administer the military and set international policy, and is able to levy monies from the Provinces to pay for those areas. As far as I’m concerned, there is no requirement for it to have any domestic responsibility whatsoever, and given the nature of Indian society, it is probably better off without.
Next come the Provinces. Selected in whatever manner is most pleasing to Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti, the governments of those jurisdictions have essentially have the same responsibilities as the Australian Federal government from an originalist Constitutional law perspective minus the yucky foreign stuff. That means they can’t levy income tax, can’t engage in socialist redistribution and so on, but they set the overarching legal framework of the constituent parts of the Province. The Australian Constitution is a generally good document, and I recommend (for brevity’s sake) the powers contained be copied (sans successful referenda and revisionist interpretations) word for word, with room, of course, for non-conforming government types. The most important job, especially in large cities, is ensuring that law enforcement goes smoothly.
Finally, Sub-Provinces that operate as Australia’s States were originally supposed to. They levy income tax, and they can engage in social spending. Again, it is worth noting there would be no penalty for adopting a non-conforming governmental structure. Ideally, there would be no more than 500,000 people to each of these. The intent is that they be small, because small means competitive. With 500,000 people, there would be in the area of 2000 in the nation. Movement could easily be free, but citizenship only in your home Sub-Province by birth (those who don’t believe in the historical precedent for multiple citizenships within a country would do well to read Book X of the Younger Pliny’s letters Numbers 5-7. Pliny plays Trajan like a fiddle). The other intent is that, insofar as is possible, they are comprised of one ethnicity, and more importantly, do not mix rural and urban constituencies. It’s a fact of human nature that we prefer our own, and since many of India’s internal problems are ethnically driven, general, happy separation is preferable to ongoing drama that causes misery and death. We also need to have governments that reflect the differences between urban and rural living, and make accommodations for that. Queensland, prior to the merger of the Liberal and National parties, was the only state where the Nationals (‘Think regional, vote National’) dominated. Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was despised by the leftist city elite (still is, his ghost haunts give or take any place where politics gets discussed), despite being the best thing to happen to Queensland since the first white guy showed up and said ‘finally a fucking river!’
To return to the original point of all this:
So anyway, if decisons are made by universities, the press and civil service, isn’t that sort of the point of democracy. Isn’t the whole point of democracy is to let people make decions, instead of a select few people? You may not like that, but isn’t that precisely what everyone else who is not a reactionary?
Democracy affords anyone who shows up on the day the illusion of choosing a select group of people to be figure heads for another select few people who actually do the work and have the power. Because of the selective pressures of academia (verbose, obscurantists who can’t/ won’t get a job in the private sector, and/or have an ideological preference for the influence that comes from the position), the overwhelming mass of peer-reviewed material (in the humanities, at least) is by people left of centre, and usually quite radically so. Journalists receive this apparently credible data (‘right wingers have lower IQ, eat dirt, worms into adulthood’) and transmit it to the public, who do their democratic duty every 3-5 years and elect someone to administer the civil service, who never gets fired and replaced en masse. They, being the most permanent part of government, and against any cuts there to, implement the policies they have received as scientific from the humanities department that suggest we are always a spending increase away from Nirvana. Riddle me this: as literally the wealthiest society in human history, why would transfer payments generally be increased rather than wound back?
The other side is the nature of the right. Moldbug noted that even the most reviled right wingers of history who have made it into office have only done so as long as they made significant concessions. Nixon and the EPA, Thatcher and the EEC/ EU, Howard and muh guns.
After Gough Whitlam (Australia’s most left wing leader in history, who was unceremoniously dumped out of office by the Queen’s representative) was replaced Fraser, who was notable for pretty much leaving Whitlam’s entire programme intact. With friends like these, right? It’s hard to imagine that Whitlam was taught by Enoch Powell.
The left has a coherent platform. It might not be a return to the Soviet Union, but it is more spending, more ethno-masochism, more tax and so on. Social democracy requires it. In Don Colacho’s words, ‘A “revolutionary” today means an individual for whom modern vulgarity is not triumphing quickly enough’. The debate is never about what direction to take, just the tempo of the march. But every single iteration of the ‘right’ agrees with some measure of the left’s platform, and not opposing it when it enters the Parliament, it becomes a common place fact that cannot be argued against without agitation and protest. Apparently paying $7 towards visiting a doctor, formerly policy of the Labor Party (yes, they Americanise. Modern vulgarity triumphing indeed), is now a crime against humanity.
The right takes us left, and the left takes us left, and Cthulu swims ever further, dragging the Overton Window along a track that I would swear has been coated in a near-frictionless, industrial strength lubricant.