Codes of the Underworld¹

One of the many concepts that has entered the mainstream from the Dissident Right is signalling. It’s first appearance came as criticism of social justice warriors, who were signalling their virtue by opposing someone or some thing, real or imagined. Virtue signalling is not new. It has probably been a part of human society since people began to settle into agricultural communities. Scipio Africanus, the great Roman general, who defeated Hannibal at Zama, was also famous for his virtue signalling.

These days, you will hear guys on the alt-right talk about counter-signalling. The easiest example of this is the newly minted rich guy going out and buying expensive display items, like cars or gaudy homes. NBA players are prone to this. They want to signal their wealth by acquiring highly visible, expensive items. An old money guy, in contrast, counter-signals by living in an old farmhouse that has been in the family for generations and driving a 40 year old Saab. He’s the sort of rich that feels no need to advertise it.

Signalling is a basic human trait. We all do it to one degree or another. Walk into a prison and you will see an array of tattoos on the inmates. These will signal gang affiliations, time served in the system, facilities in which the inmate has served and the individual’s violence capital. That last part is an important part of keeping the peace. To civilians, a face tattoo is always scary, but in jail, the right neck tattoo can tell other inmates that they are in the presence of an accomplished killer for a particular prison gang.

Virtue signalling and danger signalling are the easiest to understand, but people also use verbal and non-verbal signals to indicate trust or test the trustworthiness of others. A criminal organization, for example, will have a new member commit a pointless crime to demonstrate their trustworthiness. This is not just to sort out police informants, as is portrayed on television. It’s mostly to ascertain the willingness of the person to commit to the life of the organization. It’s hard to be a criminal if you will not commit crimes.

Outlaw biker culture is a good example of the use of signalling to establish trust relationships. Bikers have always, for example, adopted Nazi symbols as part of their display items. Bikers are not sitting around reading Julius Evola. What they are doing is signalling their complete rejection of the prevailing morality. By adopting taboo symbols and clothing, the outlaw biker is letting other bikers know his status, as much as he is letting the squares know he is a dangerous guy, who should be avoided.

This type of signalling is also defensive. Someone who is not serious or unprepared for life in a motorcycle club will try hard to hide this from himself and the club he is trying to impress. When those club members all have visible tattoos and swastikas on their vests, no one can kid themselves about what is expected from members. The visual presentation of the outlaw biker does more to chase away posers and trouble makers than character tests and initiation rituals. A biker is a walking entrance exam for prospects.

It’s not just an in-group/out-group thing. When you start prospecting for a biker club, you are routinely forced to choose between the moral framework of society and the morality of the club. The same process works in cults, interestingly enough. The prospect is always in a position where he must either divorce himself emotionally from his old life and the old world, or leave the club. It’s why one percenter clubs take their time patching in new members. It takes time to leave the old world and fully commit to the lifestyle.

That’s the way to read the alt-right and the stuff they say and do on-line with respect to non-whites, Jews and women. They don’t actually spend a lot of time talking and writing about these groups. They spend most of their time talking about how to organize themselves, the issues that face white identity movements and the philosophical points of their thing. The offensive memes and the racists language are mostly signalling. If you freak out over Hitler themed twitter avatars, then you are never going to be in their thing.

As with bike culture, it is defensive signalling to ward off entryists and the posers, but it is also a signal that joining their thing is more than just a secret handshake. If you are on-line talking about white identity, you’re never going back to the squaresville world of normie politics. You are rejecting that world as illegitimate in favor of the new thing. In effect, the racist memes are an offer. Accept it as a price of admission, but understand that by accepting the offer you are leaving the old morality behind for the new moral framework.

What this sort of signalling suggests is that the alt-right may have more staying power and more momentum, than their current numbers would suggest. Political movements come and go because they are rooted in the moment. “Free Silver” stopped being a rally cry once the currency issue was put to bed. The “Happy Warrior” stuff from the prior generation no longer has any relevance, as those ideological wars are now a part of history. Political movements are born to die, as soon as their issue is resolved.

The other thing about political movements is they are inherently open. The whole point of the Tea Party, for example, was to rally a lot of people from different ideologies to challenge the Progressives, who sacked Washington. The Tea Party people welcomed anyone who opposed the bailouts and reckless spending that was ushered in by Obama and the Democrats. That openness is what allowed the army of grifters from Conservative Inc to sail in and hijack the movement, turning it into a fundraising arm of the GOP.

Cultural movements, like identity or race movements, are closed and exclusive. They certainly seek to grow their numbers, but only on their own terms. They place narrow rules on members and never accept divided loyalties. You are either in the thing or outside the thing. There is no in between. This is why the American Left has been so persistent and able to re-spawn after each collapse. It’s not a list of agenda items. It’s a lifestyle with a moral code and a wide array of symbols for the members to accept and display.

That’s what is evolving with the alt-right. There’s no way to be “sort of alt-right.” You’re either in it or you’re not in it. That’s become clear with the schism between the civ-nat guys and the alt-right. Rejecting a guy like Milo Yiannopoulos forces guys like Gavin McInness to decide. He can be edgy TV funny guy or he can be in the alt-right and everything that implies. The result is his thing is dissolving as some people bite the bullet and join the alt-right, while others go back to sleep.

The jury is still out as to whether the alt-right is the long hoped for response to the rise of the New Left in the 1960’s. Ironically, the worst thing that could happen for the alt-right is for Trump to be everything his critics in Washington claim. White identity politics can only flourish when whites believe they must be an intolerant minority, battling other intolerant minorities for space. What is clear is that the alt-right is not another Tea Party. It has staying power because it is a cultural movement, not a political one.

¹The title of this post comes from this excellent book, Codes of the Underworld.

The Jay Kay Kay

Last week, The Anti-Defamation League put out a proscription list of hate thinkers they have deemed to be a danger to the republic. In years past, they would roll out lists of old geezers from the 1960’s, but now they are going after the alt-right. They describe Richard Spencer’s thing as “the most visible extremist movement” in the country. They also listed the alt-lite as fellow travelers. The point of the list is to intimidate people into disassociating from the people on the list. The ADL is trying isolate and ostracize these people.

Ironically, it is not a lot different from what the Klan used to do in a bygone era. As is true with most things in the current crisis, the history of the Ku Klux Klan has been retconned to fit the current narrative. According the prevailing mythologies, the Klan was just like the 19th century Cossacks. Instead of riding through Jewish villages on horseback, the Klan drove through black neighborhoods in pickup trucks.They are portrayed as sort of an off-the-books secret police, run by southern political leaders.

The truth is something different. The primary role of the Klan was to keep whites in line, not blacks. Sure, the Klan would terrorize blacks on occasion, but they were mostly interested in keeping the white majority in line. A white business that did not strictly adhere to the color line, for example, could find itself in trouble with the local Klan. They did not have to resort to physical violence in most cases. The most effective weapon of the 20th century Klan was social pressure to force whites to toe the racial line.

The other important bit about the Klan that has been thrown down the memory hole is that they lost. The reason is that after a while, their moral authority eroded and therefore their ability to apply pressure on whites decreased. Think about it. The Klan has no credibility today so they have no power. That means they had real power only when the white majority took them seriously. A look at history shows that the Klan was most active when their influence was on the wane. In that regard, it was always a rearguard action.

The same logic applies to the ADL and SPLC. Within recent memory, being called out by either group would ruin a media career and certainly destroy a political career. People in outsider politics could guarantee they would remain in outsider politics if they found themselves on the ADL’s list of bad thinkers. While you could survive having private doubts about the prevailing orthodoxy on race, you could not survive even the hint of antisemitism. That’s what made the ADL and SPLC so powerful.

This list and the SPLC’s recent missteps suggest that like the Klan in the 50’s and 60’s, these groups are now waning in authority. Including guys like Gavin McInness on their list of crime thinkers is so ridiculous, the only proper response is to laugh. The Proud Boys are about as edgy and subversive as bingo night at The Villages. The only reason anyone cares about them is that McInness is a media gadfly. His “group” is really just a fan club he maintains to promote his media appearances and internet show.

Another indication that these groups and their moral authority are on the wane is the fact that the response has ranged from indifference to mockery. McInness had a meltdown on twitter, but he was the exception. Most of the alt-lite people simply ignored it, as there was very little media coverage. The alt-right people were howling with laughter, congratulating one another over having made the list. The whole point of the name and shame campaign is to actually shame people. If they are laughing, they are not feeling much shame.

There’s another connection to the Klan. These groups, especially their leaders, have gotten very rich in the skins game. Morris Dees has become super-rich peddling himself as the Hebrew Avenger. When you need to hide your money in the Cayman Islands, you have a lot of money. The skins game has been very good to groups like the ADL, just as segregation was a profitable venture for members of the Klan. The ADL is mostly playing defense now, hoping for one last payday in the skins game.

Of course, that’s where the analogy breaks down. The Klan was never able to turn their thing into a profitable enterprise. That’s mostly because they lost, but there’s not much evidence to suggest they tried to monetize their movement. The ADL and SPLC have always been money making schemes from the start. Despite the greed though, they were highly effective at changing public attitudes. At the very top of the modern hierarchy of sin is the sin of antisemitism. It’s the one unforgivable transgression.

Still, the thumbless way that groups like the ADL are responding to the Dissident Right suggests they have not just lost their way, but lost their relevance. When Progressive propaganda outlets are running features like this one about the SPLC, the writing is on the wall. The people in charge no longer respect the moral authority of these groups and their intended victims no longer fear them. Like the Klan, the ADL and SPLC can only exist as long as they are feared or respected. Neither is true now.

Better Living Through Suicide

Religions tend to set limits. Those limits come with the force of God or some spiritual force that transcends man. Otherwise, a religion would be nothing more than man-made rules enforced by the strongest. This is why laws in most of the world are rooted in the dominant religion of the region or country. The local religion is a list of restrictions and limitations placed on the believers. Naturally, when it came time to form a government and write laws, they relied upon the laws and rules of their religion.

This may seem rather obvious, but the concept of the limiting principle is easy to take for granted. This is a core feature of most religions and it easiest to understand by considering our laws. Take two people who are not robbing banks. Just as long as both are not robbing banks, neither is more or less of a bank robber than the other. Both are simply not bank robbers. In other words, while there may be degrees of bank robbery, there are no degrees of not bank robbery. Not being one is the limit of that virtue.

This is true of religion, of course. The sinner can be someone breaking a minor rule or someone violating the big rules. Their degree of sinfulness can be established, but their degree of virtue does not exist. If you are not violating the rules of the faith, then that is as good as it gets for you, at least in this life. In other words, there is a limit to virtue. That limit is the rule or prohibition. You are either within the rules or not. Efforts to out-virtue others are usually seen as vanity, unjustified boasting about one’s spiritual state.

The limiting principle keeps religions and the law from going crazy and descending into virtue spirals. After all, if one can be more virtuous than the next guy, then the next guy can be even more virtuous. The cycle ends only when everyone is dead. The same is true of the law. Utopian schemes like communism are aimed at constructing the perfect society, but since perfection is impossible, it is a never ending cycle of madness to make society better, which means making people better. It’s why they always end in violence.

This has always been the problem with efforts to create a civic religion. Robespierre and his radical buddies figured this out quickly, which is why they came up with the Cult of the Supreme Being. Of course, their new reason cult got weird in hurry and contributed to the demise of Robespierre. The reason is any effort to invest moral authority in men or their creations turns those men into gods. The madness of the French Revolution was a virtue spiral, as there was no transcendent limit. The radicals could always be more radical.

We see this with the nature movements that have been a feature of the Left for as long as anyone reading this has been alive. The greens always aim for some sort of Edenic outcome. Their goal always lies just a little further. The idea of “good enough” is outside their comprehension. Couple that with their preternatural belief in the sinfulness of man and you end up with a nature cult that borders on being a suicide cult. The end point of every Progressive nature movement is the end of mankind.

The greatest impact individuals can have in fighting climate change is to have one fewer child, according to a new study that identifies the most effective ways people can cut their carbon emissions.

The next best actions are selling your car, avoiding long flights, and eating a vegetarian diet. These reduce emissions many times more than common green activities, such as recycling, using low energy light bulbs or drying washing on a line. However, the high impact actions are rarely mentioned in government advice and school textbooks, researchers found.

Just look at that list. It sounds like a combination of the Shakers and 1970’s new age mysticism. In order to save the planet, according to researchers and experts no less, is to avoid having more humans and make the ones waiting around to die as miserable as possible. The unspoken reason for selling the car and sitting in the dark with your nothing burger is so you can suffer and atone for your sins. In other words, it is not enough to be a green, you have to kill yourself as the ultimate sign of your virtue.

This is not new. The Shakers, obviously, are an example of what happens when a religion cannot imagine a limit to virtue. The Shakers, though, had the decency to mind their own business and not try to inflict themselves on the rest of the world. In the long run, they were a slow-motion suicide cult, but they were willing to let nature take its course. The modern nature cults not only want to rush their demise, they want to take the rest of us with them, or at least make us suffer for their religion.

This is the problem that has haunted the Left in America. There’s no concept of good enough. They are always chanting, “we can do more” or “there is more work to do.” No matter how much damage they do in the holy cause, they are sure that more needs doing, more must be done. It’s why their causes tend to burn out in fits of insanity like we see with the whole transgender thing. The quest for the ultimate victim has led them to celebrate mental illness as a virtue and deny biological reality.

There’s another point here worth mentioning. A reason Progressives lack the concept of the limiting principle is that the modern American Left grew out of the postmillennialism of the 19th and early 20th century. This was an American Protestant movement based on the belief that the time between now and the end times would be one where the Church came to dominate the nations of the earth and usher in an era of peace, prosperity and righteousness, signally the return of Christ. Abolitionism was a product of this movement.

Modern Progressives have abandoned the language of Christianity, but they retain the characteristics and much of the language of their spiritual forebears. Instead of spreading the Word, they spread democracy. Instead of defeating Satan by expanding the kingdom of God on earth, the modern Progressives expands the inclusive Community to defeat the Hate. Saving the earth is, in a way, the restoration of Eden. When the goal is to immanentize the eschaton, it is no wonder they set no limits for themselves.

Gab TV

I will be on the Devil’s Advocate, a Gab TV show, tonight at 7 PM Eastern Time. You can sign up for Gab here. All you need is an e-mail address and a the ability to click your mouse. There’s no wait period or approval process. Just click on TV at the top left.

The Z-Cast: Radio Days

This week I’m continuing the experiment. The segments are shorter and there are more of them, but organized into logical groupings. I think I may have struck on an idea that will work for me. Each week, I’ll do bits around a few themes or topics. That makes it easier to select material and keeps me from rambling on like a lunatic. I’m finding that there’s so much in the news I can rant and rave about that I need to set limits.

I also did some tinkering with the sound quality. People told me I needed to crank back the volume a little and trim the high parts of the audio. In the process of learning how to do that, I found out that cheaper gear and software, means it is much harder to do this efficiently. It looks like another item to the learning curve will be figuring out how to select the right equipment for the job. But, I only have a whole $30 invested thus far.

This week, Spreaker has the full show. YouTube has the full show and an image that stays put the whole time. I’ve also offered up on YouTube segments from the show for those with a short attention span. I think I like this method going forward. Next up will be loading up iTunes with the podcast, but that’s a bit more involved. I want to use their API rather than do it manually so I’ll be unriddling that this week, as time permits.

This Week’s Show

  • 00:00: Opening
  • 01:40: Ballot Stuffing (Link) (Link)
  • 05:45: Court Packing (Link)
  • 09:44: Drone Swarm (Link)
  • 14:58: Grifters (Link) (Link) (Link)
  • 20:13: Health Care (Link)
  • 25:30 Sports Posting (Link) (Link)
  • 35:30 The Mule (Link) (Link)
  • 45:30 Saudi Arabia (Link)
  • 50:30 Syria (Link)
  • 55:30 Israel (Link)
  • 59: 59 Closing

Direct Download

 

Essential Knowledge: Part XII

Prior to the technological revolution, a common lament from geezers was that the younger generations no longer had a mastery of the written word. Instead of writing letters, they would talk on the telephone. Instead of reading books, they would watch television or go to the movies. The result was that literacy, or what passed for it, had declined. Read the letters of soldiers from the Great War or the Civil War and you see their point. Even the most humble citizen had good penmanship and the ability to express himself in writing.

Ironically, the technological revolution brought writing back to prominence. Word processors solved the penmanship issue, allowing anyone to type out well formatted printed text. Of course, the explosion of e-mail meant that people were back to writing letters to friends, relatives and colleagues. The explosion of websites, providing written information, meant that even the dumbest people were reading. A strange and unexpected result of the internet has been a greater demand for literacy.

Despite the gripes from today’s geezers about the kids and their phones, people are better at communicating via the written word. In fact, we make judgments about one another based on our writing skills. It’s why gold plated phonies like George Will can pass themselves off as deep thinkers. In order to have a successful career, you have to express yourself in writing to your peers and superiors. If you want to get involved in social issues, you better be able to write well. Good writing is essential knowledge.

The most important part of writing is knowing your audience. Writing a proposal to a client is different from sending a buddy an e-mail about your weekend. Formal work correspondence not only needs proper spelling and grammar, it should lack colloquialisms and slang. The client does not want to see “Let ‘er rip, tater chip” in your proposal. On the other hand, if you’re a blogger, you should not get hung up on formalism. The point of casual writing is to be accessible, so the reader can breeze through it over coffee.

Of course, writing should have a point. We are are flooded with e-mail and texts. There are millions of places on-line offering up content. The only reason for you to be writing is that you have a point that needs making. Before you sit down to compose your e-mail, letter to your Congressman, or blog post, ask yourself, “what’s the main point I want to express to the reader?” This not only helps you focus, it helps the reader determine if they should be reading whatever it is you have written. It’s only fair.

If you have ten points that come to mind, then try to arrange them by subject. There’s a good chance you can consolidate them into a few main points. Once you have a clear idea of the main topic, the point of what you’re writing, then the other points should be in support of that main topic. The items that don’t fit, can and should be left out, in order to not take away from the main points you are trying to make. This is especially true in business writing, which needs to be on-point and free of unnecessary chatter.

If you end up with a bunch of important points, that cannot be boiled down to a manageable number, it means you have tackled too broad a topic or you don’t know the material well enough to write about it. The exception is you are writing a book about something like the Civil War and you expect it to be a big book. Since hardly anyone reading this will be writing a book, a good rule of thumb is to have one main point and three supporting points. That keeps you from meandering on the page and losing focus.

Another good rule in this regard is to set limits. If you have a general point and three or four supporting points, put a word limit on the whole thing and then assign equal space to your points. Good proposal writers do this. They know the prospect will look at the first few pages and then jump to the important bits, like the pricing page. Clear breaks in the proposal, between the sections of the proposal, makes it user friendly. An essay that follows this format will quickly cover the material and please the reader.

The key in all expository writing is brevity. A 5,000 word blog post is unreadable, which is why they tend not to be read. If you need 5,000 words, you either picked too big of a topic or, most likely, you don’t know the material well enough to state your case. Humans can read about 1500 words of an argument before their minds start to drift. Similarly, if you are sending an email to a friend, remember that they are your friend. Making them read 5,000 words about your trip to the vet is a rotten thing to do to someone you like.

Then there is the issue of vocabulary. The temptation to use complex vocabulary, or insider language, should be resisted. Studies suggest that readers, when confronted with complex grammar and vocabulary, suspect the writer is trying to hide their stupidity. Never use big words when little words can do the job. Plain language and straightforward sentence structure, gets the point across and shows the reader some respect. The point is to clearly make your points. Leave the thesaurus on the shelf.

As far as resources, you cannot go wrong with a copy of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.  Another classic on writing is On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser. These are two classics that all good writers recommend for a reason. A personal choice is The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. For business writing, this is a great choice. It’s a book that takes its own advise. Of course, using Google for spelling is a good idea too. I like this site for grammar opinions.

Avoid using lists. A list is great for a lunch order, a grocery run or a packing slip, but it has no place in expository writing. The reason is the reader will simply look at the headings and skip to what they want to read. Lists invite skimming. Unless you work for Teen Vogue or some other pop publication, where the readers are assumed to be dull witted, you should avoid lists in writing. Even in business writing, lists are best used as summaries at the end of a document or in a graphic to illustrate a point.

Finally, think about how the reader will be consuming your content. An e-mail to a buddy will be read on a PC or a phone. A work e-mail is most likely being read off a PC at a desk. That proposal will be printed and read as paper. The point is, reading from a phone or tablet is a different experience than the written page. If the reader is most likely using a mobile device, short paragraphs are better than long ones. If it is a web site, then you will have a range of ways to consider. Again, the idea is to make reading you easy.

Hollywood Math

A while back I watched the movie Kong: Skull Island on the Kodi. It was one of those impulse things. I felt like watching a movie and this one just happened to be easily accessible. Samuel L. Jackson’s angry black guy routine stopped being fun a long time ago, but I figured the movie was going to be mostly about the giant gorilla. As far as modern movies go, it was not too bad. I suspect it was better in a theater with high end sound and the giant screen to make the monsters look more monstrous.

For some reason, I got to wondering what it cost to make, so I looked it up. (I know, I know. I should not be using Wiki, but the Infogalactic page is out of date.) According to the published data, the film cost $185 million to make and generated $586 million in ticket sales. That looks like an amazing success, but movie accounting is a bit weird. The theater gets half the gross, so the distributor got about $285 million. That’s a gross simplification, but a useful one for looking at the mathematics of movie making.

Movies don’t always do so well. King Arthur was a giant flop this summer. It cost $175 million to make and grossed just $140 million. According to people who know these things, the studio lost $150 million on this one film. There were other massive flops this summer like the Aliens movie and the Amy Schumer comedy. The opacity of Hollywood accounting makes it impossible to know the final tally, but people who claim to know suggest that the big studios are posting losses this year as a result of the bombs.

Hollywood can withstand a bad year because of the high cost of making and distributing movies. Getting together $185 million to make a giant gorilla movie is not something you do on Kickstarter. It’s why Hollywood seems to be hooked on films with massive special effects budgets. It’s a niche only they can serve so they are trying to squeeze every penny from it. Dramas and documentaries, in contrast, have small budgets and small margins, so lots of small players can fight for those customers.

A common complaint about Hollywood is that they are not investing in new ideas and original scripts. Instead it is comic book movies, remakes of old films and sequels. The people in the business will counter with the fact that the losses are almost always accounting losses. The actors and directors are all getting paid. Once the accountants do their magic, often taking advantage of tax laws and special deals made with governments to shoot their films on location, the studios are in the black or close to it.

They are probably right in the short term. Hollywood is surely aware of what happened to the pornography business and what is now happening to the news business. Porn used to have a high barrier to entry. If you wanted to sell sex to the public, you had high costs due to a complex thicket of state and local laws to navigate. The Internet obliterated the barriers to entry. First came a wave of video makers who wiped out the skin mag operations. Then a wave of amateurs came through to wipe out the movie industry.

A similar thing is happening with the news and commentary business. First the internet undercut the ad business of newspapers. Why sell your car in the classifieds when you can sell it on eBay? Why advertise your job in the Boston Globe when you can use Monster? The only logical response has been for the newspapers to slowly move from their old distribution model to the internet. But, the cost of putting up a website is near zero now so anyone wishing to compete with the NYTimes can give it a go.

It’s not just the legacy media. Take a look at on-line audio and video. Joe Rogan does a one hour interview show that will get a few million viewers. His production costs are a fraction of what it cost to make the Charlie Rose program. Yet, Rogan reaches ten times the audience. The YouTube comic PewDiePie reaches 55 million people and he is essentially producing his show from his basement. Anthony Cumia was making his show from his basement until his success allowed him to rent a studio in Manhattan.

A similar thing is happening to radio. Podcasts are becoming a popular way to listen to news and commentary, that used to be the domain of radio. Buy a new car and you can sync your phone to the audio system, so you can tote around your own music and podcasts to play on the road. It will not be long before your car radio will let you listen to this stuff off the internet. Again, the low barrier to entry means a wider range of shows so the public can narrow cast to their taste. Old fashioned radio, as a result, is dying.

If you are in the media business, your number one task right now is figuring out how to keep the barrier to entry to high for that army of internet content makers. That’s why Hollywood is fixated on massively expensive super hero movies and film series based on comic books. They spend $100 million building out the infrastructure and then make five versions of Pirates of the Caribbean for $200 million a copy. Mike Cernovich is not competing with that, no matter how many Kickstarter campaigns he starts.

The beauty of this approach is that these sorts of films can easily be sold into foreign markets. The Chinese dudes watching Fast & Furious 19 don’t care about the dialogue or story. They want to see buff white dudes driving cars while shooting at bad guys. Given the level of writing for some of these movies, they may not even have to provide subtitles as no one really cares what’s being said. Hollywood is now in the business of creating giant special effects demonstrations that are viewed in movie theaters.

Whether this is sustainable in the long run is hard to know. Kong: Skull Island made a lot of money so a lot of people must have enjoyed it. I thought it was mostly stupid, but I watched it free at home, so I got my money’s worth. As long as these things keep making money, there’s no reason to think this model will break. It also means that Hollywood will be looking for ways to make these films even dumber. If they can get global audiences habituated to enjoying two hours of explosions, it simplifies their business even further.

Musings On Moldbugism

I no longer recall the first time I heard about Mencius Moldbug. I want to say it was seven or eight years ago, but I’m not sure. What I recall is someone asking me what I thought of Mencius Moldbug and not having the slightest idea what was meant by the question. I was soon reading through his blog, skimming mostly. The person who had asked about it was younger than me and a fan of Moldbug, so I felt obliged to thank him for the link and say some nice things about it, even though it was really not my thing.

My first impression was that it was for young males who were part of third wave internet culture and gaming. By third wave, I mean those who came along with mobile computing and immersive on-line gaming. The second wave were the folks who came along with the PC revolution. The first wave were the people who built their own computers, started a dial-up BBS and enjoyed hours of free long distance, courtesy of phone phreaking. I fall somewhere between the first wave and the second wave.

I would read the Moldbug blog a few times a month and maybe read some of the other guys in the NRx thing when I had the time or interest. I’m guessing that peak neo-reaction was half a dozen years ago. That seems like when the term was popping up all over the internet, associated with the phrase Dark Enlightenment, which I think was coined by Nick Land. Since then many of the bloggers big in the movement have closed up shop and the terminology has mostly fallen out of usage. NRx seems to be dead.

For those unfamiliar with Moldbug, looking to kill a few days reading his work, his blog posts are archived here. I’ll caution you that they tend to be long and meandering, bordering on stream of consciousness. For a shorter and more concise reading of Moldbug and the core of NRx, you can read this retrospective at Thermodor. People in the movement may quibble, but it strikes me as a clean and concise summary of Moldbug and the NRx movement in general. The criticism at the end is also worth reading.

As far as criticism, the most potent and accurate is the simple observation that Moldbugism, and to a lesser extent NRx, was not able to outlive its creator. Once Curtis Yarvin gave up blogging, the internet movement he created quickly faded away. Maybe a better way to state it is that it was quickly gobbled up by the alt-right, alt-lite and other manifestations of dissident politics. My guess is a fair share of his fans simply went back to the safety of techno-libertarianism. Regardless, Moldbugism is no longer a thing.

As an aside, an indication of just how out of touch and superfluous the Buckley Right has become is the fact that they never felt the need to disavow NRx. In fact, they were largely unaware of its existence. Instead they were still obsessed with rounding up the remaining paleocons and casting them into the void. National Review finally got around to addressing neo-reaction and Moldbug, when their in-house homosexual took on the topic, confusing a bunch of things, in the process of trying to make sense of Buckley Conservatism.

Anyway, there are two possible explanations for the end of Moldbugism. One is that his arguments were not original, just stated in a new way. His assertion that Progressivism has its roots in Puritanism, for example, is not new. I was making that point 25 years ago in Usenet debates and I know I’m not the first guy to notice it. His criticisms of democracy have been around since the Enlightenment. Old ideas restated in modern terms eventually just fade into the tapestry of the intellectual movement that spawned them.

The other possibility is that the people attracted to Moldbug’s ideas, including Moldbug, came from the Left ideologically. Young people raised on Progressivism were attracted by the subversiveness of these old ideas. They moved right into Left-libertarianism, then Right-libertarianism and then eventually dissident politics of various flavors. Put another way, the Dark Enlightenment guys were merely going through a phase as they first experienced the outlawed ideas from the outlawed past. Now, they are onto other things.

Moving from libertarianism, often Left-libertarianism to the alt-right is something you hear a lot on the alt-right. Mike Enoch, of The Right Stuff, has talked about his political evolution and it matches this pattern. He was in a Trotsky movement at one point, then moved through libertarianism and eventually to the alt-right. Maybe neo-reaction is like withdrawing from heroin. Going cold-turkey from Progressivism leads to all sorts of reactions, but eventually they fade and the patient can begin a normal intellectual life.

In this regard, Moldbugism should be a cautionary tale for those into dissident politics, particularly the alt-right. Discovering outlawed ideas from a bygone era is liberating and exciting, but there is a reason that those ideas were outlawed. The reason we find ourselves in a Progressive theocracy, is that those old guys with all of their sound ideas about human nature, lost the fight with the Left. Studying their failure will probably count for more in the coming fights than digesting and internalizing their philosophy.

Another angle here is that Moldbugism never got much traction from paleocons, paleo-libertarians and Southern populists. If like me, you were a Buchanan man in the 90’s, NRx felt more like an echo than a calling. Further, neocameralism has a whiff of libertarian dreamer about it that biological realists find ridiculous. Therefore, the more potent minds in dissident politics were never attracted to Moldbug. Long after many NRx bloggers were onto other things, guys like Steve Sailer are still going strong.

In the end, Curtis Yarvin should be remembered as an important part of this thing, if for no other reason than he normalized and made interesting, the critique of the prevailing orthodoxy for a generation of smart people. By calling into question some of the shibboleths of the ruling elite, he helped make it possible to question all of them, including their most cherished beliefs. Whether or not Yarvin gets all the credit for that is debatable, but he was part of an effort to get smart people asking questions about this stuff.

The lesson of the Left’s dominance is that they institutionalized a critique of Western civilization. For as long as anyone reading this has been alive, it has been hip and cool to question the culture and customs of the West. Like water dripping on a stone for a century, the Left has eroded Western civilization with an endless stream of small challenges. If this counter-culture we see forming up is going to succeed, it will have to develop a culture of endlessly questioning and challenging the prevailing orthodoxy.

The Torquemadas

Long ago, it became clear that genetics was going to upend all of the Progressive assertions about human nature. In fact, it was going to challenge the core of Western Liberalism. It’s a little hard to hold onto the idea that “All men are created equal” when you no longer believe in God and science says some men are more equal than others. It’s impossible to maintain the universalism that is the foundation stone of the prevailing orthodoxy, when group differences are clearly rooted in genetics and evolution.

This is, of course, the end of the world. All of the laws and political institutions of the West have been modified to comport with the belief that all humans are the same, regardless of location. Race, ethnicity, even sex, are now considered outmoded notions from a less enlightened era. The reason American Progressives endlessly talk about institutional racism, for example, is it is the only acceptable answer for why blacks perform so poorly compared to other groups. To consider anything else runs counter to accepted dogma.

It’s not just Prog dogma that is under pressure from science. Most of what people in the West believe about human nature is rooted in the idea of free will. It is assumed that people can choose to be good or evil. A drunkard, with help and training, can choose not to drink. Everything about the self-help industry is based on free will. If you work at it and buy his materials, you can be just as successful as Tony Robbins. If you take his class, you can be like Mike Cernovich. The assumption is you can make yourself into anything.

Again, the universal belief in free will and the blank slate is the bedrock of the modern West. You see it in this Joe Rogan podcast with Sargon of Arkkad. Both guys are right-libertarians, or at least that is how Rogan would describe himself. Arkkad calls himself a liberal, but he most likely means it in the British sense, which corresponds to our conservatives. In their back and forth, they both start from the premise that people are free to make of themselves what they will, regardless of their biology.

Whether we like it or not, science is punching big holes in this underlying belief. At the individual level, it is becoming increasingly clear that your general intelligence is a result of your genes. Personality traits are clearly biological. Even without genetics, people had understood this to be true up until fairly recent. Then there are group differences, which have always been out in the open, but made taboo. It is only a matter of time before science  begins to confirm what people have always known about human diversity.

We are on the cusp of an age, not all that dissimilar to the end of the Renaissance when science and philosophy began to challenge the age old assumptions of the West. The Church gets a bad rap for Galileo, but they were not acting without reason. From the perspective of the people in charge, challenges to the prevailing assumptions about the natural world felt like a leap into the void. Maintaining public order is the first duty of an elite. In that age, it felt as if the ground was shifting under their feet.

The difference, and it is a big difference, is we are not experiencing science for the first time and the public is better informed than 400 years ago. In fact, much of what is coming from genetics and the cognitive sciences confirms what our grandparents took for granted about humanity. The expression “the apple does not fall far from the tree” did not become a hearty chestnut by accident. Long before anyone could conceive of the human genome, humans knew that you inherited your physical and mental traits from your parents.

Another big difference is the modern keepers of morality are far less reasonable and more prone to hysteria than the leaders of the Church in the Renaissance. You see it in stories like this one the other day and in efforts like this one. Race mongering is a sacrament of the Cult of Modern Liberalism. Academics are forced to play along with the morality of the one true faith,. Those who refuse are accused of heresy and threatened with internal banishment, which is exactly the point of promulgating the term “scientific racism.”

The point of a movie called “A Dangerous Idea” is to serve as a warning. The term “scientific racism” is a nonsense phrase. It has no meaning in the literal sense, but it carries with it the implication that science is subject to moral scrutiny. It does not matter if the conclusions of your research are accurate, you could still be found guilty of the mortal sin of racism. Accuracy is no defense against the charge of heresy. The PC enforcers may not have an Inquisition, but they have an unlimited supply of Torquemadas.

They also will have a lot of sympathetic minds in the general public. In the current age, racism and antisemitism are at the top of the hierarchy of evil. White people stumble all over themselves to prove they have nothing but love in their heart for all mankind. At least three generations have been programmed to think that the ultimate goal of society is to achieve perfect racial parity, where everyone is equal and in perfect harmony. Demonizing anyone who speaks out against the prevailing moral hierarchy is not going to be difficult.

It is easy to be pessimistic about these things, but history says that reality does eventually carry the day. There’s also the fact that science has greater moral authority with the public than the PC enforcers. Then there is the reality on the ground. The migrant invasion of Europe is teaching the West that it is a good idea to have separate countries for different people. Even so, the people in charge are not going to yield without a fight. We are on the cusp of a long ugly period in the West, as the old beliefs give way to the new.

It will not end well.

Guns and the Prog

A useful way to experience the lunacy of Progressives is to discuss guns with your local lefty. Most people understand that gun control is worthless as a tool to control crime or even reduce gun accidents. The people using guns in crime are by definition not the sort to obey gun laws. Similarly, the people inclined to shoot themselves or friends while playing William Tell will find some way to off themselves, no matter what you do. The only result of gun control is to harass honest citizens exercising their rights as citizens.

The mountain of data in support of liberalized gun laws is beyond dispute. Even if you are not inclined to dig into the details, the fundamental logic is manifest. People who abide by the laws are, by definition, not the sort to break the laws. That means people who break the law are not interested in any new laws you are passing. Therefore, passing gun laws will only inconvenience those who follow the law and do nothing to stop the criminals. At best, gun laws are just a tool of the state to go after the more clever street gangs.

Despite all this, Progressives obsess over gun laws. This story from a few months ago is a good example. The people who support this sort of stuff know nothing about guns, gun culture or gun shows. Yet, they remain convinced that gun shows resemble an arms bizarre in the Middle East, where bearded men buy and sell military gear. Further, they remain convinced that gun shows are exempt from the thousands of gun laws on the books. They are convinced that “gun show loophole” is a real thing.

That’s what makes guns a useful topic for understanding the Prog mind. All of us have had the experience where the Prog friend or relative starts going on about guns. Someone then steps forward to correct all of their errors about guns and gun laws. Then someone gently explains to them the anti-logic at the core of gun control. The Prog will take correction, nod along and seem to understand the material, but then soon after they will be repeating the same gun control slogans they were saying the last time.

It’s tempting to think it is a mental illness and to some degree it is. It’s just the nature of the fanatic. They see only that which confirms the nature of their fanaticism. That simple and seemingly effective conversation you had with the blue haired girl at the office about guns may as well have been in Swahili. As soon as she confronted disconfirmation, her receptors shut down and she went onto autopilot, appearing to comprehend what you were saying, but not really hearing any of it. You were Charlie Brown’s teacher.

It’s why it is an error to think they are stupid or dishonest. Those things may be true, but the reality is, they don’t know they are doing it. It’s as natural to them as blinking is to the living. Gun control has become an obsession with Progs, because they are convinced it harms white people, particularly white men. Again, this is not malice of forethought. It is instinctual as the Prog faith is an explicit rejection of the culture created by western white males. Gun control reminds them of this and it makes them feel good, so they embrace it.

This is why gun control has been a political topic for more than fifty years. G. Gordon Liddy, when he was in the Nixon administration, worked on gun control. That was the early 1970’s. His task was to help craft regulations to get the so-called “Saturday Night Special” off the streets, particularity the streets of DC. That term came into the lexicon via the Gun Control Act of 1968. In other words, like the “gun show loophole”, 1960’s Prog fanatics invented a phrase to market gun control, despite the fact there was no such thing.

That’s what makes the gun issue useful in understanding the Prog mind. Gun control as a social policy has been thoroughly discredited, but that does not dissuade the Left from pushing gun control. It’s why it is pointless to think you can change their mind or get them to reconsider their position. The Prog is beyond the reach of facts and reason. They are the truest of true believers committed to a cause they put above all else. You can no more talk them out of their beliefs than talk a Muslim out of his faith.

This applies to all issues, not just guns. Take a look at this video of Tucker Carlson talking with the neocon nutter, Ralph Peters. The neocons have been wrong about everything with regards to foreign policy. Despite the disastrous results, they continue to advocate for the same polices that have been discredited by reality. At one point, Peters admits to having been wrong about Iraq, but then seamlessly presses the case for repeating the mistake in Syria. It’s as if he tuned out his own admission of failure.

The lesson here is that there’s no point in trying to reason with a fanatic. Whether or not the neocons are the Trotsky wing of the Progs or the Buckleyites is debatable, but there is no debate about their fanaticism with regards to Muslims and the Russians. The endless fake news about Russia and the election is rooted in neocon fanaticism. They are sure Putin is Tsar Alexander III threatening to impose the May Laws on Manhattan. The abject lunacy of it, like the lunacy of gun control, has no effect on the mind of these fanatics.

There’s another lesson here. The NRA has been the one effective organization in the culture wars of the last half century. They do not win every fight, but they have managed to claw back territory after having lost some fights in the 60’s and 70’s. The reason is they avoided party politics and the temptations of political access, They stuck to building majorities in favor of their issues. They win because they transcend Washington politics and build large coalitions in favor of gun rights. Our team can learn a lot from the NRA.