Political movements in the modern time tend to fail because they self-assimilate into the dominant paradigm, which is liberal democracy. They do this by rejecting it on a surface level but having no actually distinct structure, which leads to them being compatible with it and then, because people seek what is simpler and going with the flow is always simpler, merging into it and becoming a flavor of it.
This is why the Libertarian party leans left instead of to the center, the GOP leans left instead of to the right, and the Communist party runs in elections only to make the Democrats look good. Stepping off the road of the mainstream in politics does not produce different human psychologies, only a different group of people who have a tendency to — when not being assimilated — self-marginalize by deliberately making themselves incompatible with mainstream thought. (There is a smaller and rarer group of us who self-marginalize accidentally by insisting on philosophical consistency. Both groups hate us.)
Neoreaction and the New Right both belong to a parent group called conservatism. In this world you are either committed to egalitarianism as the singular goal, or you are a conservative. All of liberalism is united by egalitarianism, which is a social impulse disguised as a moral rule, and those who do not go along with this form the varying degrees of conservatives. The very word “conserve” implies retaining what is valuable. Conservatives uphold traditions that achieved the best results in the past. We do not theorize in the realm of ideology, which is composed of what “should” be according to individual human impulses. Instead we look at what works and realize that, as long as keep doing those things, our society will not only be stable but rise. Therefore, for us there is only one issue: keep civilization healthy. Although Neoreaction takes a post-libertarian surface and puts it on conservatism, it is conservatism; while the New Right adopts the methods of the New Left, its ultimate goal is conservative.
Recently several Neoreactionaries took issue with me over the following message on Twitter:
— Brett Stevens (@amerika_blog) July 15, 2015
— Nick Bro Stevesâ˜‚ (@Nick_B_Steves) July 15, 2015
— The Jackal (@soapjackal) July 15, 2015
In response to the lengthy pseudo-debate that followed, I wrote a post on solipsism and the dangers of social standards overwhelming logical ones, which was the subject of my original Tweet. I then sent it to both of the above. Neither has responded on this blog.
I have avoided using the word “clique” regarding Neoreaction, but it is time to unbind it and release it. Neoreaction is not itself a clique, but it has separated itself into cliques. These cliques consist of bloggers who support each other and think they are generating activity, when really it has become an audience preaching to itself. I do not doubt that they mean well, but meaning well without honest and thorough analysis calls to mind the old folk wisdom, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Good intentions without good methods leads to non-solutions; instead of doing what needs to be done, people buzz around signaling their good intentions and then, because after several years nothing has happened, they depart to their next fascination. At that point you have to wonder whether they honestly believe what they say, or are merely using it to justify their lifestyles.
The cliques of Neoreaction have centered themselves around a number of what I will call “sacred fictions.” These fictions justify their inaction and their lifestyles. As a result, they buzz around these with high interest, not realizing they are the auto-marginalizing group described above. They have in fact already created a group that only appeals to a certain type of person and this has stopped their expansion to the audience they want to reach, which is normal people. This is why movements descend into geekery; they unconsciously target a specific group, which means that anyone in that group — no matter how socially inept — is eligible. The people from that category who need to belong to something the most are the socially inept, so they become the cutting edge and quickly the majority. At that point, people from outside start looking at the group like the Renaissance Fair or a Star Trek convention, because its most prominent members and the bulk of its membership are geeks.
Neoreaction appeals to the angrily under-appreciated tech geek crowd. These people act as if they believe a STEM education is all that is needed to understand the world, and ignore the wider world of philosophy. Very few if any of them have read Nietzsche, Kant, Schopenhauer or Plato. Most of them however are familiar with technology and tend to see the world as engineers do, which is why they are drawn to social engineering, even if by the “hands off” methods of libertarianism: they think society is like software, where you can make rules and get results that fit the profile of a well-maintained server room. Did I mention that few of them are familiar with literature, either? They deny the importance of a classical education, which interestingly enough does not require going to school. It requires reading the books, thinking them over on long walks (ideally through the countryside and not the mental spam of the advertising-coated and distracting cities), and then struggling with the tough questions that do not succumb to easy paint-by-numbers answers like technical issues.
Neoreaction as formulated by Moldbug and others was a series of points of analysis, not yet to the level of academia or philosophy, but good enough to cerebrally circumnavigate the arguments on The New York Times editorial page. Neoreactionaries however have fallen into treating society like a giant iPad application, and it means they have missed many of the surrounding issues and lessons of history. Even when they memorize facts, they fail to interpret them, because their means of interpretation is too narrow. STEMlords like to talk about how STEM is the only game in town, but they have simply done what others before them have done, which is to shutter their eyes to information beyond what they know how to do, and thus to declare their methods the only methods. This creates a Dunning-Kruger effect within this group, who are generally above 115 but below 125 IQ points, and creates the kind of arrogant presumption that enables the formation of cliques. Not all of them fit into this pattern, but Neoreaction as a whole is going down this path, which explains its increasingly circle-jerky tendencies.
Let us look at a Neoreactionary concept, “Exit.” Alrenous writes up an interesting analysis here:
The point is discipline. Exit is a good first approximation, but Exit empowers Voice and and opt-in is just as powerful as an opt-out; exit is essentially a two-syllable word for freedom of association. (Similarly, families are not normally in Exit’s domain of validity, because genetics imposes its own discipline; I’m sure you can think of other exceptions.)
The essence of Exit is discipline, and the essence of discipline is survival. To truly have Exit, the institution’s survival must be under the power of its putative beneficiaries. History shows this is the only way putative beneficiaries will match actual beneficiaries.
This strikes me as closest to the original concept, which Mencius Moldbug used to illustrate how libertarian theory could apply to societies: if civilization was a marketplace, and people or groups could have the option of “exit” or leaving a society, the rules of economics would apply and overly-restrictive liberalized societies would lose members to less-restrictive and more traditional ones. There are a few fatal flaws with that idea, starting with the problem of the “informed consumer”: most people buy Budweiser over Sam Smith’s, and most of them smoke Marlboro instead of Dunhill, which means that most of them will go to the cheap, convenient and stupid answer or society instead of trying for something better. What this means is that, like the Renaissance Fair, a few self-marginalizing geeks will run away to a new society and watch it promptly fail from ineptitude beyond the few tasks they do well. Another flaw is that having people moving around globally by convenience would create chaos; yet another is that the instant a better society is created, the same forces that corrupted other societies will infiltrate and replicate the process there. It would require a stronger defense mechanism than individual preference to defend against that.
Alrenous makes a really solid point here that transcends the definition of “exit”: exit is freedom of association. In other words, remove liberal laws and let birds of a feather flock together. That is what Jared Taylor has been saying since at least 1995 and what the original libertarians, and indeed the framers of the United States’ Constitution, believed. To them, government failed when it became ideological, and so it should be neutered so that people could — by free association — sort themselves into a hierarchy. Such sorting will favor nature, and not ideology, so it will be racist, sexist, homophobic and intolerant in the language of liberals. Looking back over history, we see that liberalism exists because nature is not liberal. Naturalist societies came first, and liberalism rebelled against them, and everywhere too much liberalism appears, society fails; this means that liberalism is an act against nature designed to compensate for that natural distribution of hierarchy. If you wonder why egalitarianism, or the anti-hierarchy was chosen, you can infer it from that fact alone.
However, shortly after that point, Alrenous and I must part ways. It is here that I find myself detaching:
To truly have Exit, the institution’s survival must be under the power of its putative beneficiaries.
I.E. “power to the people.” He has taken a clear statement, which is that a civilization must exist for the benefit of its people, and translated it into the dominant paradigm, which involves the choice of those people. Let me clarify this with some classical wisdom: societies are organic things. What matters is that the organic whole survives, not that every single individual survive. In fact, society is weakened when individuals survive who are criminal, incompetent or merely against the culture of that society. More importantly, organic societies are divided into hierarchies with each group having a role. Most people cannot make complex decisions, and so should have no part in the power process. Yet “under the power of its putative beneficiaries” would do that. Even a group of highly educated STEMlords will find themselves falling prey to this democratic fallacy.
Nick B. Steves — one of the participants in the conversation above — steps in with a more application-oriented definition:
Exit is, at the most abstract level, private government. To exit is live beyond the reach or beyond the notice (or both) of prevailing, entrenched formal institutions of government. Therefore one must be prepared to build oneâ€™s own. It is agency, writ largeâ€”at the level of a social collective of some size. If you win, youâ€™re a government. If you lose, youâ€™re dead, along with those who cast their fortunes with yours.
In case it is not clear at this point, exit not merely secession, the orderly exchange for one set of familiar political bindings for another. Secession could be important. And it is practical. The American Empire is fading fast. Americaâ€™s credibility overseas having been wasted, her client states are quietly seeking better and more fruitful relationships. And as the pile of unfunded liabilities stack up at home, the question is only when not if, the austerity imposed by the fiscal laws of physics will come due. When the empire falls a citizen of an independent Texas or Alaska, like those of Switzerland, will be far better off than a citizen of USG.
In other words, exit is forming smaller nations in order to withdraw from the large ideological government, and in the process basing those smaller nations on some idea other than ideological government. I find that distinction most important: exit is not merely physical exit, but exit from the concept of the purpose of government. However, the above has some issues in that it is merely a 200-year deference of the American experience. The United States started as a libertarian nation and, through the preference of the masses, arrived at its present state. We see every major empire in history following the same path. Thus the exited nation will quickly find itself back in the same place the Americans have because its exit was not complete enough. Nietzsche offers a good answer here, but Neoreactionaries do not read Nietzsche and so are oblivious to it.
The state lieth in all languages of good and evil; and whatever it saith it lieth; and whatever it hath it hath stolen. – Fred
In other words, we need to make exit from the concept of the State itself… which requires both ethno-nationalism, which in North America would be keeping the WASPs and sending everyone else away on boats, and a change in power structure from State power structures. That requires more exit that the exit-prone are willing to take. Another problem faces the exiteers, which is that the host society does not take willingly to this because it is fundamentally a criminal enterprise. It exists to tax, invent more justifications for taxes by expanding its mission through ideology, and then tax some more. A private government would rapidly find itself being heavily taxed and also policed. Given the power large corporations had today, if such a thing as being unbound by US law was possible, they would do it. The issue is not so much the long reach of the law itself but the opportunity presented to (1) government and (2) the voters. Government will want to seize control and tax; voters will want the same thing so that it can help subsidize their benefits and happy warm feelings about the progress of our nation. Further, popular opinion can and does swing against anyone who is perceived as having escaped society and gotten away with it. One of the most common behavioral archetypes in humanity is the crowd racing after the one kid with the candy, or the nice bike, or who had some special privilege. They will do the same to any “exited” group as they did to the South.
No, it is sad to say, but in life, oftentimes the only answer is a hard answer, but because it is the only answer, anything else becomes self-defeat. There is no exit from modern society except conceptually, and that requires going farther than Neoreactionaries at least right now are willing to. Then again, there is hope. As one writer on our forum said, Neoreaction is under the control of people who are butts, which is slang for those who exist for their own self-gratification and will divert any organization from its actual goals to personal goals. We see the same thing in mainstream conservative groups like the GOP, in underground far-right groups like white nationalists, and perhaps all of leftism. The self-serving latch on to ideas so that they can use those ideas to make themselves popular. From popularity comes power and even monetary success. This is a type of corruption, and it has afflicted Neoreaction since the Google AdWords checks started rolling in. I find it interesting that many of the people most in need of questioning their own motives refuse to comment here or promote anything I do beyond surface recognition. I wonder where the Twitter conversation above falls on that spectrum.
As others have observed, Neoreaction will succeed when it drops the geeky use of language — imprecisely, as one can easily see — and focuses instead on clear communication and plain solutions. Neoreaction gained popularity because it created talking points to counter those from Pravda-on-the-Hudson and Pravda-on-the-Potomac. It gave people theoretical devices to work around the ideas that hold us dominant in this time. Its most important achievement has been to help make it acceptable to talk about right-wing ideas again in public, although Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen and Michel Houellebecq have it beat there. But when its own ideas become impractical, like “exit,” and it is ruled over by butts and cliques, it loses not only its validity but its appeal. Perhaps this writing, like many in the past, will give it a spark of direction that could rectify that problem.