In which I discuss things I have no idea about

Thursday, 24 October, Year 5 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Consider the following comment :

The ugly truth is that outreach has already killed “neoreaction” as a viable intellectual movement. And in retrospect, I have to say that this failure is deserved, because it shows that all these people who take pride in their supposedly superior understanding of modernity have in fact failed to learn some basic lessons necessary to grapple with its realities. It also shows that for all their alleged insight gathered from the forgotten past, they have failed to learn any lessons from the defeats of all those people who had challenged progressivism in past times.

One sort of self-destructive outreach is courting the attention of progressives and attempting to engage them in public forums. Contrary to some people’s wishful thinking, this will not get their message out and prompt masses of people to “see the light.” Instead, it will strengthen the memetic immune system of progressivism, thereby just reducing the number of people who might in principle be receptive to their ideas. You may have a chance to get people to listen if you don’t pattern-match any of the established “hate” categories, and if progressives can’t readily produce a standard boilerplate quasi-refutation of your position. However, once these memetic antibodies have developed in the bloodstream of progressivism, it’s game over. If the recent loud exposure of “neoreaction” has any lasting effect, it will be to inoculate progressivism against any of the truly original and powerful ideas that originated in this milieu, and diminish the chance of getting high-quality minds to take these ideas seriously in the future.

Another kind of bad outreach has been the movement-building. This means proudly sporting an ideological label and its associated buzzwords, attempting to build symbolism and propaganda around it, and welcoming anyone who will drop a few of these buzzwords and feel self-important about his new-found ideological identity. This is a sure way to reduce the signal-to-noise ratio to near zero, making further interesting discourse impossible — a process that has already advanced very far with “neoreaction.” It will also make the label associated with the kinds of unremarkable and dysfunctional people and immature youngsters who are usually attracted to contrarian movements. (Of course, this also gets us back to the previous point: lowbrow and juvenile versions of “reactionary” ideas circulating around are the perfect vaccination for progressivism to develop the memetic antibodies that will also be effective against the real thing.)

There are even more fundamental problems with outreach. It requires ideas to be systematized and finalized — however, we’re still far from having a comprehensive, coherent, and well thought-out answer to progressivism. Anything like that would require a lot more high-quality discourse to produce. Yet, rather than seeking out opportunities for such discourse and pursuing the fundamental open questions, the “neoreaction” seems to have collectively decided to split its time between increasingly lowbrow bickering, rehashing of half-baked and half-digested ideas from Moldbug, and self-referential posturing — all of which is mainly due to the pretense that it presents a coherent worldview with ready answers. This really marks it as a dead end: can anyone, in all honesty, point to anything of unusual originality and insight that came out of the vast explosion of “neoreactionary” writing and self-idenfitication since last spring?

Overall, outreach in the name of “neoreaction” is at this point certainly doing more damage than good to the cause of getting smart, insightful, and accomplished people to question the fundamental assumptions of the reigning ideological orthodoxy. It’s really time to start thinking of alternative ways.

As an intro we have to consider the terms. As part of this endeavour

  • I must confess that neoreaction is a symbol devoid of meaning to me, so we'll be treating it as a black box. From the context it appears to work as some sort of intellectual construct opposed to libertard socialismi (herein called "progressivism").
  • "Modernity" is of course misused in context, but we'll just chalk that up to the author being from the US, thus ignorant, and ignore it in turn.
  • It is unclear to me if "memetic" is intentionally spelled that way to reference to memetics or was supposed to be mimetic instead. Stylistically this ambiguity serves, I would say.
  • Moldbug is, of course, the self-important kid that's still cowering over my proposed bet.

Also today I've learned that there's been an explosion of so and such writing since last Spring. I had not noticed, and on the strength of that I wouldn't expect this neoreactionary doohickey to be much more than Fratireii.

Now that all that's out of the way, I could observe that "progress" and "progressivism" and libertards and equalitarianism and the welfare state and all the rest of the (mostly US centric) nonsense has been regularly deconstructed, exposed, used for comedic relief, pissed upon and set ablaze on Trilema for about half a decade (in English, even, for the past year). Pretty much every aspect of post-Victorian (and in that, pre-modern) orthodoxy, from sexuality to economics, politics and even language has been thoroughly challenged, debunked, rebuked, taken apart, made to dance and curtsy and so on. This to no particular shortage of audienceiii, but for that matter whether widely known or not widely known, knowledge is just as powerful.iv

This would be enough to nullify the first proposed "bad type of outreach" : it's quite clear that publicly engaging progressives and their retarded "system" yields splendid results : a lot of butthurt on their part, a lot of involuntary comedy, a lot of desperation and eventually a group of confused monkeys running away in terror.

The only caveat is that the procedure has to be undertaken by actually competent, actually cultured people. When fielding me, any pattern-matching "immunity" the hordes might display otherwise is perfectly useless, both in theory and in practice. When fielding some well meaning but self-qualified "neoreactionaries" both sides are basically rehashing a different set of pre-prepared speeches and talking points, and as such the encounter obviously boils down to "who has a better chant book". It's unlikely that something hastily prepared and delivered by shoddily trained deacons will be able to stand up to much older, and therefore much more refined text regurgitated by much older, and therefore much more experienced zealots.v

Should I not wish to observe that, I could say that "intellectual movements" aren't something that's deliberately constructed. It takes very little conscious effort to start an actually viable intellectual movement, exactly like it takes very little conscious effort to start an actually viable family : just find a girl you like a lot and do a lot of things with her. The people who spend a lot of time considering meta-problems rarely end up with any sort of family at all, much less so with functional ones. Consequently, "movement-building" is absolute masturbatory nonsense, forget about it.

I'd like to close by pointing out that progressivism has yet to deliver any sort of defeat to its opponents. Progressivism is today, and it has been in all times and all places squarely an exercise in childish temper tantrums, a sort of "if we don't get [more] cake we will hold our breath". That such an infantile strategy occasionally delivers cake from the hands of more impressionable mothers hardly can be parlayed into some sort of "victory" for the child. Moreover, the famine and societal collapse that always and everywhere follows extensive weak handed treatment of the socialist imbecile is more than enough to settle the point. What defeats ?!vi

  1. A topic much discussed here on Trilema, such as for instance in Racists and socialists ; The Pulizer Prostitute ; The sanity “dogma” ; The linguistic mark of cultural failure ; Bitcoin and the poor to pick but a few, and none of the numerous Romanian language articles at that. []
  2. A few mediocre comedy writers tried to get this "style" off the ground a decade or so ago, it lasted for about a year and died the usual death of such commercial gimmicks, in a midwestern Borders autograph booth with half a dozen kids in attendance. []
  3. Probably the best way to evaluate the cultural impact of this blog is to consider that ten days after I express my suspicions, MSM darling and minor celebrity Schneier feels obligated to respond while taking care not to name the big bad wolf that scared him so.

    And since we're on the topic : it's funny to notice in practice the irrational belief in brands, titles and names these people hold. Think about it, the man whom I've scared into the defensive imagines that by not naming me he is going to avoid empowering me, but fails to consider that if I were quite all that powerless, or if this appelomancy worked at all, he wouldn't be quite as scared in the first place. That some nameless bureaucrat in some doomed bureaucratic entreprise quite naturally renames things as part of his unavoidable attempt to cheat tests by faking the measurements is one thing ; that private individuals in their day to day lives resort to name-voodoo as their chief, principal and often only line of defense from reality is shocking to me. []

  4. If you're the only one privy to the mysterious secret of differential calculus that's not liable to make it any less effective or anything. There's simply no correlation between power and headcounts when intellectual pursuits are concerned. []
  5. Shannon entropy makes for an equally good simile. Someone with a hardware RNG capable of delivering as much entropy as needed wins by default. Otherwise, an encounter between two sides equipped with PRNGs will be decided by "who has the best algo" and "who has the best seed", and in general both of these improve with experience. Actual ideas are about as hard to get as actual entropy. []
  6. I get it, highschoolers not doing their homework also imagine they are "sticking it to the man", and for that matter think they're "bad motherfuckers", as teenagers are wont to misrepresent the world around them (and their position within it most of all). So what of it ? []
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3 Responses

  1. To make my position more concrete, I predict that the existing internet “neoreaction” will fail to attract a single extraordinary intellect in the future. In fact, it will likely fail to attract even someone as interesting as the currently active top 5-6 bloggers and commenters in these blogs — and definitely nobody with a chance of becoming another Moldbug. Which means that it’s doomed to become, at best, a stale and uninteresting intellectual swamp, incapable of advancing beyond the basic ideas developed years ago.

    Influencere, cum futi tu meciu la oameni...

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Thursday, 24 October 2013

    Lol acu' citeam. Ziceam nuca era vorba de altcineva, bine?

  1. [...] Mircea Popescu Lol acu’ citeam. Ziceam nuca era vorba de altcineva, bine? [...]

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