Why Discuss Anti-Modernist and Anti-Democratic Literature?

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CK MacLeod

WordPresser: Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001.

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  1. Avatar greginak
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    In an open forum being open to discussing views considered to be repugnant or beyond the pale is perfectly reasonable. Discussing the value of communist, alt-right, marxist, openly racist or sexist ideas can be interesting. It is up to the presenter to express that carefully lest they be seen as cool with the bad parts of those ideas for the protection of their own reputation. If someone wants to talk about the value of openly racist ideas then they should specify what about them are useful to discuss if they want to kick off the discussion well.

    However if someone wants to chat about the value of anti-semitism or racism they really shouldn’t expect the targets of those views to be all that fine with it. In fact they should expect jews or blacks or whoever to feel pushed away and not valued in the slightest since discussing racism as an idea with value implicitly suggests treating them as being subhuman is a viable discussion.Report

  2. Avatar Chris
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    The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.Report

  3. Avatar Murali
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    Moreover, we political philosophers would be without a job if there was actually a sound and publicly acceptable argument against racism or fascism etc. In many ways, to concede that it is impossible to provide an argument to a rational fascist that will convince him to be a liberal (in the expansive sense) is to concede that fascism is coherent and rests on assumptions which are no less falsifiable than liberalism. That is, if we are not talking to fascists and convincing them to be liberals, we have given up the game already.

    If, on the other hand, fascism is indeed incoherent, then there is an argument that can show this to be the case and it is possible to show that fascists ought to give up their fascism. One way to do is by studying what fascists actually say and interpreting it as charitably as possible. Another way is by providing an argument for liberalism that does not beg the question against fascism. And to do that, some familiarity with fascism is required.Report

    • Avatar Brian Murphy in reply to Murali
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      1. Liberalism is also incoherent (e.g., the paradox of pluralism at issue in this discussion).
      2. There will always be an is-ought gap that renders efforts to rationally prove liberalism or fascism futile.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Brian Murphy
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        @brian-murphy

        I think 2 is wrong, and I’m trying to show that in my thesis. Particularly, I don’t think we need to worry about is ought gaps so long as we try to show that people who accept at least one ought, e.g. fascists or Nazis, are committed to certain things which, together with certain empirical facts, commit them to liberalism. If liberalism can be justified to Fascists, then 1 is also false. Only fascism is incoherent.Report

        • Avatar j r in reply to Murali
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          @Murali

          Doesn’t this depend on fascists or Nazis or whomever acting in good faith?

          My sense is that lots of these folks base their beliefs on the claim that whatever -ism they support would bring the best outcomes for all, but what they really want is a set of outcomes that privileges their preferred ethnicity/nationality/social class/whatever.

          You can prove to a race realist that liberalism brings the best outcomes for whites, but that won’t be enough if what that person really wants is the worst outcomes for everyone else.Report

          • Avatar Murali in reply to j r
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            It doesn’t depend on them actually acting in good faith. All that is required is an argument that would get them to change their minds if they were to act on good faith. And by good faith, I don’t necessarily mean any commitment to substantive normative principles. If my argument is successful, all it should require of them is that they be consistent.Report

            • Avatar j r in reply to Murali
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              Then perhaps we are saying the same thing, because my definition of good faith is agnostic towards normative ethical principles. Someone who says that they wish to maximize the relative position of whites to blacks or Christians to Muslims can be acting in good faith.

              I am curios to know why you think someone committed to such principles could be persuaded to accept liberalism over some other political order that explicitly favored his or her preferred group.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to j r
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                j r: I am curios to know why you think someone committed to such principles could be persuaded to accept liberalism over some other political order that explicitly favored his or her preferred group.

                I think it’s important to distinguish ‘liberalism’ from ‘pluralism’ in this construction. That is, much of the ‘historic’ alt-right is pretty much straight up neo-confederate in its thinking. They are fine with democracy, but only as long as ‘people like them’ are doing to voting. (and hence, some nostalgia also for old South Africa and Rhodesia, where there was voting, but with a strictly restricted franchise)

                (and also the frequent Sailer trolling about how progressives love the ‘blue-eyed utopias’ of Northern Europe, and for that matter, Vermont and Portland)Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Kolohe
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                Its also important to distinguish liberalism from democracy. The latter is just about counting heads, the former is about securing certain fundamental individual rights to life and liberty especially with regards to speech, association, conscience and property.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to j r
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                Very roughly, its because I think that in order for someone to endorse a set of institutions as normative for those who are to live under them, they must be able to conceive of people having reasons to accept those institutions given a level of idealisation that provides some traction on those institutions. If the amount of idealisation required for compliance with the institutions is very high, many alternate institutions could also be rationalised by the same underlying principles. i.e. at high levels of idealisation, it is difficult to theoretically get a grip on why we should favour one set of institutions rather than another. Thus, any set of principles which do not secure certain basic liberties for everyone are going to end up requiring lots of idealisation on the part of the person who cannot enjoy those liberties.

                The difficulty is in showing that even Nazis and Fascists are committed to the above requirements. That is harder than it initially seems.Report

        • Avatar Brian Murphy in reply to Murali
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          says:

          My apologies. I didn’t realize I was talking to the greatest philosopher in the history of the world. Can you forward me some of whatever you’re smoking?Report

  4. Avatar Damon
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    Indeed,

    I seek out those of extreme views to learn. To learn how they think and why they think such. So many live in a bubble and screen “unacceptable” viewpoints. It’s putting on blinders. I may not share their viewpoint, but understanding their viewpoint, assuming they can form a logical, coherent position, it’s very enlightening.

    Dismissal out of hand of their position seems unwise.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Damon
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      Given the length of human history, and the riotous breadth of weird political ideas people become entranced with, you’re never going to be able to study and understand them all. Going back to pay careful attention to weird old ideas that were popular once and no longer are seems to be playing the odds in the worst possible way, since those ideas were discarded by lots of people, many of whom were smarter than any of us, and they were discarded for a reason.

      Sure, there’s a tiny chance that you might find something really good, but it’s like playing the lottery. You’re still buying 70 cents for a dollar.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy
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        Going back to pay careful attention to weird old ideas that were popular once and no longer are seems to be playing the odds in the worst possible way, since those ideas were discarded by lots of people, many of whom were smarter than any of us, and they were discarded for a reason.

        And our Current Year ideas will be discarded for a reason.

        The ideas that replace them will be discarded for a reason.

        There will be a post-enlightenment, and a post-post-enlightenment, and even a post-post-post-enlightenment.

        Our society will fail and it will fall and our descendants 100 years hence will look at us the way we look at our ancestors 100 years ago and the best thing that we can hope for is that our descendants will point out how ahead of the curve we were when it came to Current Year tastes and values. (“Zhe refused to enslave house animals!”)

        It is somewhat important to figure out how and why this sort of thing happens. The failures are archaeological digs. Cthulhu, in his swimmings, will occasionally swim a trench he swam before. It feels important to know how this sort of thing failed last time.

        It’s 2016, after all.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird
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          @Jaybird:

          And our Current Year ideas will be discarded for a reason.

          For reasons we are unlikely to know now. If we knew the reasons that future generations would have for discarding our current ideas, we’d likely have discarded them already.

          It is somewhat important to figure out how and why this sort of thing happens. The failures are archaeological digs. Cthulhu, in his swimmings, will occasionally swim a trench he swam before. It feels important to know how this sort of thing failed last time.

          Well, yeah, if you want to understand them in a historical perspective, that’s fine. But it’s also not what I understood @Damon to be advocating in his post[1], which suggests that the discarded ideas are likely to be valuable in their own right, and that’s why they’re likely to be worth studying. Like I said, this seems to be playing the odds backwards.

          [1] This is also the problem, IMO, with the Slate Star Codex approach to extreme ideas, too)Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy
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            For reasons we are unlikely to know now. If we knew the reasons that future generations would have for discarding our current ideas, we’d likely have discarded them already.

            To replace them with… what? The ones that will replace them?

            Like I said, this seems to be playing the odds backwards

            If you want to win the bet, it seems like the safest play would be as Current Year as you can possibly be and the very second things seem to be changing, change along with them. You will totally display mastery of the odds.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird
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              @Jaybird:

              To replace them with… what? The ones that will replace them?

              Seems pretty likely, unless you believe that the ideas that will replace our current ideas have nothing to do with the reasons our current ideas need to be replaced.

              If you want to win the bet, it seems like the safest play would be as Current Year as you can possibly be and the very second things seem to be changing, change along with them. You will totally display mastery of the odds.

              Not necessarily. However, you’re going to be better off paying attention to those ideas. They’re more likely to usefully address problems with the status quo if they’re good, and it’s much more important to refute them if they’re bad.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy
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                Seems pretty likely, unless you believe that the ideas that will replace our current ideas have nothing to do with the reasons our current ideas need to be replaced.

                I think that without understanding the failures of the past, we’re likely to switch out a handful of kludgy solutions to problems of the past for new kludges that fail to take into account the other times these particular kludges were applied.

                Not necessarily. However, you’re going to be better off paying attention to those ideas. They’re more likely to usefully address problems with the status quo if they’re good, and it’s much more important to refute them if they’re bad.

                From what I understand of the alt-right/dark enlightenment, they have the whole “paying attention to those ideas” down. They’re just saying that whether they’re good or bad seems to have little to do with anything but the status quo.

                And the virtues that you champion in the Current Year will be mockable as backwards and retrograde the moment the status quo becomes a new status quo because the fundamental ruler is divorced from “good” or “bad”.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird
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                @Jaybird:

                I think that without understanding the failures of the past, we’re likely to switch out a handful of kludgy solutions to problems of the past for new kludges that fail to take into account the other times these particular kludges were applied.

                Yes, but NRX is about pretty much exactly the opposite of understanding the failures of the past. They’re taking the failures of the past and holding them up as successes.

                And the virtues that you champion in the Current Year will be mockable as backwards and retrograde the moment the status quo becomes a new status quo because the fundamental ruler is divorced from “good” or “bad”.

                Yeah, this is answered by the same objection. It would be a lot more convincing if the historical ideas that they kept returning to weren’t the most thoroughly discredited ones. That suggests to me there’s a fundamental weakness with their whole program which makes it not really worth engaging with seriously unless it progresses beyond an Internet fringe weirdo thing.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to pillsy
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                Nicely said, pillsy. I approve of this message!

                Well, except for this part: That suggests to me there’s a fundamental weakness with their whole program which makes it not really worth engaging with seriously unless it progresses beyond an Internet fringe weirdo thing.

                I think I disagree here. Whether or not neoreactionaries gain enough political power to influence or shape policy is a different issue then whether their arguments and visions are desirable, justified, coherent, etc. For example, it seems to me that insofar as democracy can be defended (legitimately!) as being the worst form of government except for all the others, then it’s important to make that argument to the Moldbug’s of the world contemporaneously with their advocacy of an opposing view.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Stillwater
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                @Stillwater:

                For example, it seems to me that insofar as democracy can be defended (legitimately!) as being the worst form of government except for all the others, then it’s important to make that argument to the Moldbug’s of the world contemporaneously with their advocacy of an opposing view.

                If there were worlds enough and time, you know? I think the biggest challenges to things I care about, from a political standpoint, come from a very different place than the NRXish skepticism of democracy. It’s arguable that his point is abstractly interesting, but so are an arbitrarily large number of other points.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy
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                Yes, but NRX is about pretty much exactly the opposite of understanding the failures of the past. They’re taking the failures of the past and holding them up as successes.

                Oh, I tend to agree with this criticism. My biggest problem with Mencius Moldbug’s “Why I am not a Libertarian” essay was not his criticism of Libertarianism (which was spot-on) but how he sort of hand-waved away the other solutions that involved going back to Hobbes.

                In the same way that Communism (American Variant) follows from Enlightenment Values, Enlightenment Values follow from Hobbesnian Values.

                The useful insights from NRx are not “these older values are gooder” but “these modern values are built on sand”.

                My own take is that “these modern values are built on sand (too).”

                And spending time with old discredited values is very, very important to learn about our own in the same way that it was important for ichthyologists in the 1960’s to study the coelacanth.

                You never know when you might see one again.

                That suggests to me there’s a fundamental weakness with their whole program which makes it not really worth engaging with seriously unless it progresses beyond an Internet fringe weirdo thing.

                Well, if the main thing you’re interested in is being on the right side of the numbers, absolutely not. You’re absolutely right.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird
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                @pillsy:

                Well, if the main thing you’re interested in is being on the right side of the numbers, absolutely not. You’re absolutely right.

                I have an interest in engaging with ideas where the engagement provides a clear benefit. I also think that, since the NRX types prove repeatedly that they can’t tell good ideas from bad, it calls the basic premise that ideas from the past are discarded without regard to their quality into question. How the hell would they know?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy
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                Given that you already know that your current views are retrograde and backwards, can *YOU* tell good ideas from bad?

                How?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                Socrates lives!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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                They didn’t kill that bastard half as fast as they ought to have, don’t you agree?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                I was making a slightly different point, about certain aspects of the socratic method, and your response was pure sophistry! Nicely done!Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird
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                My judgement is based on information that I do have about the quality of available ideas. The assumption that my current ideas will one day justifiably be viewed as retrograde and backwards is a solid assumption, but an assumption it remains, and it’s rooted in the understanding that things I don’t know would likely cause me to reevaluate my ideas if I did know them.

                NRX, on the other hand, preferentially embraces bad old failed ideas, ones where we have plenty of compelling information to indicate that they’re failed. If I’m going to find ideas to challenge myself and my understanding, I’m best off seeking ideas presented by people who plausibly know as much or more than I do. not ideas presented by people who very obviously know less.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to pillsy
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                P1: ideas that are considered correct nowadays will someday be considered incorrect.
                P2: PC sucks!
                C: ideas that are considered heinous nowadays will someday be considered correct.

                QEDReport

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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                Did the 1940’s have an equivalent of some sort of “PC”? Some sort of socially enforced “correctness”?

                If so, I’d say that it certainly seems that if you turn C into P3, that, suddenly, all premises are demonstrably true.

                And if you don’t like the 1940’s, we can go 1840’s.

                Or 1740’s.

                Or 40’s.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                Yes, most definitely YES, there has always been a form of “PC”, but went by the name “etiquette”.
                Words and language has always had boundaries and mandatory norms of what could or could not be said or expressed.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy
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                it’s rooted in the understanding that things I don’t know would likely cause me to reevaluate my ideas if I did know them.

                I’m not certain that these things you don’t yet know consists of anything more than a new and different consensus/status quo. Matters that we used to know were matters of taste became matters of morality (and vice-versa). But we are secure in the knowledge that we know more than those who came before from different status quos/consensuses.

                NRX, on the other hand, preferentially embraces bad old failed ideas, ones where we have plenty of compelling information to indicate that they’re failed.

                Again, I find this a worthwhile criticism. I find that this criticism applies just as much to us and our status quo and our consensus as it does our ancestors, though.

                If I’m going to find ideas to challenge myself and my understanding, I’m best off seeking ideas presented by people who plausibly know as much or more than I do. not ideas presented by people who very obviously know less.

                Is this somewhat universal? Is it true for others, for example? To what extent are there people who would seriously benefit from seeking you out? (I don’t need a ballpark much better than “more/less than half” for that one.)

                Or does that not follow?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird
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                But we are secure in the knowledge that we know more than those who came before from different status quos/consensuses.

                Yes, because–at the bare minimum–we know about their status quo while they don’t know about ours. Why know about our conditions and make choices to respond to them.

                I find that this criticism applies just as much to us and our status quo and our consensus as it does our ancestors, though.

                Yeah, but the NRX types aren’t our ancestors. That’s the crucial difference here. Our ancestors have an excuse of having to deal with a different world, based on a different, smaller knowledge base. NRX doesn’t. These are people out there now with blogs and Twitter… and, um, that’s about it.

                Is this somewhat universal? Is it true for others, for example?

                Seems like a reasonable rule of thumb.

                To what extent are there people who would seriously benefit from seeking you out?

                As a source of unique and challenging ideas? Probably not very many.

                As a reasonably well-informed exponent of quite a few popular and influential political ideas? I dunno, maybe half, but I can’t really say they wouldn’t be better off talking to other people with any degree of confidence.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy
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                Yes, because–at the bare minimum–we know about their status quo while they don’t know about ours. Why know about our conditions and make choices to respond to them.

                I’m pretty sure that my knowledge of their status quo is superficial. For example, were I to wake up tomorrow in 1745, I’m pretty sure that I’d be nigh-useless in the culture and society. Sure, maybe I’d be useful because I could read and write and have some simple knowledge of first aid/sanitation, but beyond that? I can’t shoe or ride a horse, fire a hunting rifle, plow a field, milk a cow, or build a chair.

                My knowledge of their status quo is based on books, some art and entertainments, and dramatizations.

                My standing in judgment of them strikes me as coming from a place of extreme privilege, to coin a modern term.

                My understanding of NRx is that when we judge those who came before, we seriously ought to check our privilege.

                Seems like a reasonable rule of thumb.

                I tend to agree. When I think on things too long, however, it leads me to reframe my thoughts on colonialism. Moving it from “unalloyed bad” to “alloyed bad”.

                As a reasonably well-informed exponent of quite a few popular and influential political ideas? I dunno, maybe half, but I can’t really say they wouldn’t be better off talking to other people with any degree of confidence.

                The 50th percentile, then. I suppose I can see that. I, myself, alternate between thinking I’m in the 90th and I’m in the 10th. On average, I guess, I’d be in the 50th too.Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq
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    You can a defensible claim that the alt-right and their ideas need to be studied because bad ideas simply do not go away simply when they become taboo. Even social democratic Nordic countries have many people that are attracted to reactionary ideas despite active social engineering on the part of Nordic governments to spread enlightenment ideas, more than any other Western country.

    I think why people get upset at Roland or Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex, who has a similar interest in the alt-right, is a suggestion that alt-right ideas might have some validity. Studying fascism to avoid fascism is one thing but coming to s conclusion that fascists might meaningfully contribute to the body politic is another.Report

  6. Avatar Burt Likko
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    That there are people now who seem to dislike democratic government is, in my mind, a bit of an illusion. I think that most of the folks under discussion here don’t like the current results of democracy. They don’t like losing. They like democracy just fine as long as enough other people vote the same way they do. When they lose, they seek other ways of getting their way. That’s not to say that this isn’t a dangerous trend, or that this mode of thinking is pro-democratic. This is dangerous, and it is anti-democratic. An unwillingness to subject oneself to the rule of whoever gets elected in a democratic election is a tacit rejection of what democracy is all about.

    But if I’m right about what these folks are really thinking and why they’re acting the way they are, then they aren’t crypto-fascists — they just think that a particular policy constellation is objectively Right-with-a-capital-R, and the means of realizing that constellation of policies isn’t nearly as important to them as that the policies are enacted.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Burt Likko
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      This sounds a little bit too much like the “there are no atheists, only people who are angry with God” trope to me. I have no doubt that some, perhaps many are drawn to anti-democratic, anti-modern, anti-politically and socially liberal (though always economically liberal) ideas because they don’t like the political and cultural directions our society is taking (or that they perceive it taking), but I see no reason to doubt the sincerity of the “Dark Enlightenment” and other alt-right folks like Moldbug in their anti-liberal and anti-modern ideas, and they’re the folks CK and Roland are suggesting we should be reading.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Chris
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        Most of the alt-right or Dark Enlightenment faction seems to think that they will end up as the leaders or at least close to the top if their ideas come to fruition so I think that Burt does have a point on this.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Burt Likko
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      they just think that a particular policy constellation is objectively Right-with-a-capital-R, and the means of realizing that constellation of policies isn’t nearly as important to them as that the policies are enacted.

      Well, if you take a step back and think about it, a commitment to headcounting at the cost of substantively bad policy seems downright bizarre.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko
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      I disagree. The Kevin MacDonalds of the world, for instance, want a country in which first-class citizenship means being white according to their definition of white (you qualify, but I don’t, while my kids would probably benefit somewhat from being half-Asian and only half hereditary enemy of the white race.) Democracy to them means sharing power with people who should have no rights, including the one of living here; outcomes other than ones that affect their primary agenda are irrelevant.Report

    • Avatar Joe Sal in reply to Burt Likko
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      Burt, I have general nits to pick with semantics of ‘democratic government’, which probably originally had a lot more to do with self governance than the particular system that we currently have. Democratic governance has turned into representative, which basically now pivots around politicians picked by party establishments.

      Oft we hear at OT the ‘liberal democracy’ term which invokes the same problem in the actual versus perceived notion of democracy. Additionally it brings in the actual versus perceived terms of ‘liberal’ which originally had specific terms of individual fundamental rights, but as deployed by current liberal factions would nearly have a meaning of nearly the opposite.

      So in these semantics, I can’t quite figure which actual or one-off hill we are supposed to be defending, and how much drift to the actual, until we are defending a lie told to make folks comfortable.Report

      • Avatar Joe Sal in reply to Joe Sal
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        Hell, I’m not so sure we didn’t end up in a (anti-modern) Hellish Hobbesian construct that requires both social contract and coercion:

        “The logical conclusion is Hobbes’s “state of nature” teaching, which describes the anarchical condition of individuals without an artificial social contract and a coercive sovereign to hold them together.”

        Such a construct should be laid to waste as a first order enemy to freely maintained consent.Report

  7. Avatar Glyph
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    I haven’t read the post or the comments yet (I hope to later), but seeing the words “anti-democratic” reminded me of this thought that I encountered the other day, that keeps nagging at me:

    Respect may matter more than sympathy; it may be the most important social virtue across social classes, just as sympathy may be the most important virtue within them. (The challenge, possibly the deepest problem, of a democracy is that it asks the society to rule itself, and thus asks it to live the virtues of judgment and sympathy at the same time.)

    It is perhaps irrelevant to the topic at hand, but I share it here in case it nags at anyone else as it does me.Report

  8. Avatar j r
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    Being unpopular is not the same thing as being persecuted.

    The unpopular are often persecuted, but I have seen no evidence that this is the case here. Have any agents of The Cathedral shown up at Moldbugs door? Has Steve Sailer been dragged off in the night to some antiracist re-education camp? From what I can tell, the only people who legitimately find The Dark Enlightenment in any way threatening or scary are a handful of folks who make their living selling scare stories about the underbelly of the internet.

    Even the very premise off this post is off. People stating disagreement with Roland and asking what value the alt-right holds for them is a long way from the Roland “having to defend” himself. The biologist who studies mollusks does so because he finds value in that study. I’ve yet to see many biologists make the claim that we all ought to be familiar with the relevant literature in marine biology.

    That said, I have read the relevant literature. I’ve read Moldbug and Sailer and Vox Day and Hans-Herman Hoppeand and Carlyle and so on. And ultimately I find most of it banal. The bits of truth that exist do so within a colloidal form. The only really interesting part of this is the meta-level conversation about why the alt-right feels the need to constantly assert its narrative of victimization.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to j r
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      Day was, perhaps ominously, my entry into the world of blogs. I was on a telnet BBS (seriously, I’m old and slow to change), where someone quoted a World Net Daily article of his on atheists (I think it was called “Irrational Atheists,” and ultimately formed the foundation of a book when the New Atheist movement made anti-atheist publishing profitable a few years later). I even commented there off and on, and got into some private, er, discussions with him back in ’03 and ’04. The foundation of his current politics was pretty much formed back then, in his Christian Libertarianism, as he called it.

      Back then he was also a 9/11 Truther.

      I mention this not only to show that this is not new, but that I’ve been around it for a long, long time, so my dismissal of it as hackneyed, which CK mentions, was a considered one.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to j r
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      Well, there was this… but, of course, that private corporations have every right to moderate speech that is attached to their names.

      So, technically, what happened to Yarvin was just like what happened to the television show All American Muslim and I don’t remember anybody complaining about that.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
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        I imagine the criticisms of a national TV network canceling a show as a result of racism were so ubiquitous that even major publications like Slate joined in. It’s a shame that nothing like that happened in Yarvin’s case.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
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          says:

          If you don’t like the idea of people calling a corporation and screaming that they’ll stop offering monetary support if the corporation doesn’t start policing its content, move to Somalia.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            I’ll say it again, if only a publication as big as Slate, say, had criticized the conference organizers. Alas.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
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              says:

              I’m uncertain as to how much any given thing being done is mitigated by “hey, someone criticized it!”Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I was responding more to your last sentence than your first one.

                Yarvin clearly got a raw deal, and the conference organizers set a bad precedent as well. Not sure that particular incident tells the us that he or his fellow neo-reactionaries are being presented, though.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, if the question was “Have any agents of The Cathedral shown up at Moldbug’s door?”, is my example relevant? Is my example a distraction given that, obviously, that’s nothing at all like someone going to his door?Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Your example is a data point, one you exaggerate with a bad comparison and snarky “Somalia” talk, which were definitely “distractions.” Might have been easier to just give the data point and perhaps, with other data points, your view of how they speak to the question of persecution of the alt-right.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, I would never talk about “persecution” of the alt-right.

                I would merely talk about how they talk about things that get them shunned in polite society and even exploration of their thoughts can result in the side-eye.

                You know, like, if someone linked to a person and it got a handful of comments opening speculating on why someone would link to said person.

                Persecution? Hardly. It’s offensive to people who actually have been persecuted to use the term.Report

              • Avatar j r in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                My initial reaction is no. It is a data point, but not on the level of what I meant. And circular firing squads take out just as many fellow travellers as they do supposed apostates, so I’m not seeing proof that neoreactionaries are the target of any special level o suppression.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to j r
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                says:

                Oh, I’m sure that the suppression that any given alt-right person might see is far from a special level of it.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Yarvin clearly got a raw deal

                Which amendment is it that grants the right to be an asshole without consequences?Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                I don’t think he has a right to speak at the conference. I think it’s a really bad idea to start excluding people from professional conferences because we don’t like their ideas, though. Hell, views not too far (or perhaps exactly like) my political views have been mentioned in some of the alt-right discussions on this blog in the last few days as being something like the left-wing equivalent of the alt-right. It’s no wonder I use a pseudonym and remain relatively vague about my political ideology.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Chris
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                says:

                There is also the thing about when we next go to war. There is an argument that if they’re going to do it we can too, but that’s different from arguing that it’s right.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                There is also the thing about when we next go to war

                I’m unaware of that thing. (And probably happier for it, but still curious.)Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                Remember “who should be able to say what and where as long as it’s not against the First Amendment?” debates the last time we went to war?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                Sorry, still not getting it.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                You know, if people genuinely don’t want to listen to the Dixie Chicks, what can you do? It would be foolish to promote one of their concerts in the face of predictably poor attendance.

                If, on the other hand, some guy who happened to control a huge percentage of country music stations (because the FCC doesn’t do its job in preventing that kind of aggregation) decides to take them off the airwaves based purely on his personal political beliefs (because fiduciary responsibility and corporate governance are bad jokes these days), you could find some things to criticize.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                If only there was some other way to disseminate and listen to music beside terrestrial radio.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kolohe
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                says:

                If that were true (which it was, even 13 years ago, though radio play is important now and was even more so then) it would only have been career-limiting rather than career-destroying. How about that.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                What Clear Channel did was perfectly in keeping with the First Amendment, though. They didn’t have a *right* to be on their stations. If that’s the standard we’re using.

                I seem to recall there being numerous cases of “if you know what’s good for your career you will not publicly oppose the war” but maybe everyone was better about that and more just than I recall.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                Yes, which is why I made the distinction between a CEO who was using his position to enforce his own views and a conference organizer who was responding to those of his potential attendees. They are not the same thing.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                There was also one heck of a backlash from fans, though. The CEO was far, far from being the sole actor here. It wasn’t just the self-licking ice-cream cone of where the songs were on the charts (based on such things as radio airplay) but also concert venues that had to be changed because so few people bought tickets.

                In addition to the CEO saying “yeah, forget those guys”, there were a bunch of little people who started doing stuff like having a good old-fashioned bulldozing of CDs.

                There was synergy.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Like when Lennon said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, and the Beatles were banned in large parts of the South, along with their records being burnt and bulldozed. It’s why they disappeared from pop music after 1966.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                The Dixie Chicks are still around. They’ve recently announced a tour!

                Say what you will about the Dixie Chicks but they’re touring even though there are only three of them!Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Mike Schilling
                Ignored
                says:

                I lived in the South, and listened to country music, was going to shows, and all of that, at the time in question.

                It wasn’t just the CEO. It really wasn’t.

                There were four major country stations at the time in Colosse. One of which was owned by Clear Channel. All four immediately suspended playing the Dixie Chicks. One of them reversed course a few days later. Notably, however, another one of them did not change course… and it was under the same ownership as the one that did (Infinity).

                The main difference between the two was their audience. The one that reversed itself was more of a “cowboys and hippies” station that was reasonably liberal-friendly (Their biggest DJ was a Lesbian). The other one had a more traditional country music audience.

                I mention four, but the fourth wasn’t the type to play Dixie Chicks to begin with. So I think their response was more PR than anything. (Come to think of it, that one *may* have been owned by Clear Channel as well, but I don’t think it was. It’s not around anymore. Neither, for that matter, is the C&H station.)

                So anyway, I feel pretty comfortable saying that it wasn’t just the CEO. I believe the Dixie Chicks they were getting it from all over.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Chris
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                says:

                I’m with Chris on this. Yarvin wasn’t giving a speech on his political views but another area where he apparently knows a lot. If he could meaningfully contribute to the conference on topic than he should be allowed to speak even though his political views are abhorrent.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Chris
          Ignored
          says:

          @Chris:
          It’s a shame that nothing like that happened in Yarvin’s case.

          Well played.Report

  9. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m going to echoe the others here. One pays attention the alt-right so that one can understand how their twisted ideologies and philosiphies work primarily so that one can identify the contradictions and destroy them. Targetted attacks are more effective than scattershot ones. Know thy enemy right? A truism old as dirt.Report

  10. Avatar Roland Dodds
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    says:

    Really excellent piece CK. There is a lot to digest here and respond to. I will have to get to this after the commute and debate…Report

  11. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    I think Lee and Greg have it right. There is a difference between studying ideologies in an academic sense and saying “Hey maybe authoritarian dictatorships have a point!”

    I give Roland pushback because even though he claims to be on the left, he seems to give the alt-right a pushback to their more noxious views on racism, homophobia, anti-semitic views, etc.

    Maybe they do say some novel things but is that the same thing as being right. Don’t people get annoyed at the contrarian for being contrarian nature of a Slatepitch? it seems like a dangerous rabbit hole to me.Report

  12. Avatar Roland Dodds
    Ignored
    says:

    Again, fine piece CK. I think you articulated why one should read the texts in question.

    I would challenge your point about studying this from an academic perspective and your analogy to mollusks. I know a number of doctors in the humanities who study radical movements and politics around the world. I had a friend do a lot of research about the Shinning Path in Peru for example. Now yes, he could have studied anything he wanted and focused on this specific group that is basically dead and without influence. He also happens to be a socialist, so there is a philosophical interest in groups within his movement’s extreme. He even happens to agree with some of the group’s ideology or political justifications. But at the end of the day, he is far more interested in looking at how this group found “success” in the 1980s, why they failed, and what can be learned from it.

    I see my interest in the alt-right in a similar light. I spent my youth in radical politics and my interest in fringe ideas never left. Unlike @chris above, I didn’t pay a single bit of attention to the right in any meaningful way (we just assumed everyone to our left was a sellout or a fascist). So when I was bored with my same old conversations around 2013, I started looking for different debates to involve myself in.

    Having said that, having read some interesting things from folks in the broader alt-right, I am also quickly realizing its pretty much the same old right wing stuff I didn’t like the first time I heard it. Antisemitism, conspiratorial nonsense, racism, veiled violence, etc. So I may have reached the end of any real exploration into the realm (or at least any exploration that requires hours of my time).

    As for having to “defend” my reasons for reading/writing about the alt-right, I never felt like I had to do so. Seems perfectly reasonable for someone to say “why bother talking about this at all?” But I think CK did make a strong argument as to why one should engage with those ideas.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Roland Dodds
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      says:

      I can understand being intrigued by the alt-right, if you’re not familiar with their ideas. I mean, most of us grew up hearing about fascism and white supremacy and plutocracy or enforced aristocracy (even monarchy) and castes, but with a few exceptions, mostly in antiquated texts read only in anticipation of Locke, or as abstract curiosities from distant times and places, we didn’t encounter the arguments for such things, the justifications in the ground. Now we can, with only a few mouse clicks, and it’s shocking that people who believe such things exist, and that they believe so fervently. It’s easy to find that entertaining on some level, particularly if we can engage them.

      But you and I, most of us, can find their ideas interesting, even entertaining — and I admit I used to find Day entertaining — because they don’t really affect us. Their more recent historical antecedents, which affected so many so, probably didn’t affect people like us, either. We’re operating from a place of complete safety and immunity, and it is only from here that we can act as though these horrible ideas are to be anything other than shunned.

      The thing is, I’ve engaged. I’ve spent time with the alt right, and their various ideological neighbours. I know who they are, I know what they say. But that’s not enough for some people. I can no longer find them anything but contemptible, and for such people that is a sin.Report

  13. Avatar Fortytwo
    Ignored
    says:

    It’s called the shinning, boy. Do you want to get sued.Report

  14. Avatar Atomic Geography
    Ignored
    says:

    CK, I’d like to comment on the end of the post, including footnote 5.

    If we think of the A/R as an example of the return of repressed material of the body/mind politic, then it is we ourselves as components of that collective, that we examine when considering any of its elements, such as the A/R. The return of the repressed is commonly represented as the uncanny, the ghostly. As ghosts of our collective past, the A/R can be both terrifying and unable to act in a direct material way – they act mainly through our past fears felt in the present.

    In their “abreactionary” mode, angry, assertive, in our faces, they are expressions of their present uniqueness, rather than as a shared collective past. They are made up neither of psychological types nor arch-types but as particular individuals and groups. It is in this mode that they appear as the abcanny – the monstrous. The radical uniqueness of the monster is no echo or ghost, but acts directly in the present.

    In a ghostly form, we may study it, if at all, as a pursuit of knowledge, of self knowledge even. The problem is that the piviot from ghost to monster can happen so very quickly we cannot prevent our own participation in it.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Atomic Geography
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      says:

      (I think) I like this comment!

      I like it in particular because this sorta thinking is what follows from taking “an image of the truth” as a serious topic of discussion: we can discuss the ways an account of a particular “image of the truth” isn’t correct without ever having to say anything about truth itself.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Atomic Geography
      Ignored
      says:

      I think you get and put it all very well, AG (though I’m wondering why you’re not going by an indivdual’s name – are you now speaking as a transitory, only provisionally mappable assemblage of particles?).

      Will think over my response to it and to several other comments above. Normally, I might have participated much more actively in this conversation, but I think the experiment (which in part was forced on me (cuz I’ve been busy)) of saying my piece and letting others discuss it for a while worked well. I may respond to the comments collectively in a follow-up, maybe to be published when I’m in a better position to back-and-forth with whatever responses to the response to the responses.Report

  15. Avatar Gabriel Conroy
    Ignored
    says:

    I gotta say, I’m not sure I understood CK’s post, but I agree in broad brush strokes. But I also agree with @greginak in his first comment above.

    I’ll add a couple more things.

    1. It’s one thing to investigate really horrible ideologies and even to try to extract the “image of truth” from it–and to be clear, I do believe that even those ideologies do have an image of the truth–it’s another to posit that the one is open for debate. I’d wage that most of us have certain values that at the end of the day we’re not going to say are debatable, or that even considering them to be debatable is giving certain views too much power.

    2. We–by which, I mean I, but probably others–should be really, really careful when we read these ideologies. We might be captured by them. We might allow ourselves to be seduced by them. I’m a white guy from a traditional’ish background, and I suspect that if I spent any time in the alt-right, things that seem beyond the pale to me now wouldn’t seem so beyond the pale. I believe that’s a danger all of us face, though perhaps in different venues and with different ideologies/circumstances. (For the record, when I say “we…should,” I mean it to be a personal decision, for which the agent has to take full responsibility. I don’t think people should be forbidden, or even shamed, from reading or engaging such stuff.)Report

  16. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    A thought that occurred to me in the shower:

    It’s similar to Communism, in a way. As a prescriptive theory, it’s somewhat demonstrably destructive. When it does work, it works in very small communities and it doesn’t scale particularly well.

    Ah, but as a critical tool? It is capable of providing pretty interesting insights into some pretty screwed up dynamics. It’s when you get to “therefore you ought to…” that you need to close the book.Report

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