Folk Activism

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

We do need to remember that terrorism, left or right, is a legitimate military tactic, Mencius Moldbug says:

But by the natural law of war, which no man made and no man can unmake, 9/11 was far more legitimate as a military act than the Utoye massacre. ABB is worse than OBL.

Why? Because the law of war is that all war’s carnage, whether it affects “soldiers” or “civilians” (a completely arbitrary distinction) is legitimate if and only if it serves a military purpose. What is a military purpose? Since the purpose of all war is the transfer of political power, a military purpose is a political purpose.

Slaughter that serves no purpose is sadistic, insane, terrible. Slaughter for purpose is the very nature of war, and cannot be separated from it. Since right-wing terrorism does not work, it is illegitimate as a tactic of war. Since left-wing terrorism does work, it is perfectly legitimate. Thus, OBL is legitimate and ABB is not.

Islamic terrorism (which is in every case left-wing) is legitimate because it’s effective. It’s effective because its political result is to expand the political power and privilege of Muslims and their progressive sponsors. Right-wing terrorism is illegitimate because it’s ineffective. It’s ineffective because its political result is to contract the political freedom and influence of conservatives (extremist or moderate).

If it was militarily possible to free Norway from Eurocommunism by killing a hundred communists, or a thousand communists, or ten thousand communists, we might have an interesting moral debate over whether this butcher’s bill was worth paying. Since it is not possible to free Norway from communism by killing a hundred communists, ie, roughly 0.01% of all the communists in Norway, leaving the other 99.99% with a permanent raging hard-on, no debate is possible. The verdict is clear: illegitimate, ineffective and wrong. I condemn Anders Behring Breivik! So there.

Of course, there are plenty of historical contexts in which right-wing terrorism did work — for instance, Germany in the 1920s. In these contexts, it was legitimate. Conversely, left-wing terrorism was ineffective in the fascist nations, and hence illegitimate.

Why does left-wing terrorism work, and right-wing terrorism not? As Carl Schmitt explained in Theory of the Partisan, terrorist, guerrilla or partisan warfare is never effective on its own. While an effective military strategy, it is only effective as one fork of a pincer attack. The terrorist succeeds when, and only when, he is allied to what Schmitt called an interested third party — either a military or political force.

Left-wing terrorism succeeds as the violent arm of a political assault that would probably be overwhelming in any case. In every case, the terrorist plays Mutt in a Mutt-and-Jeff act. Right-wing terrorism in the modern world is cargo-cult terrorism: Mutt without Jeff. Indeed, in historical cases where right-wing terrorism has been successful, in every case we see it aligned with powerful forces within the state. Right-wing terrorism worked in Weimar Germany, for instance, or prewar Japan, because it aligned with fascist conspiracies in the security forces. Somehow I don’t see a lot of that in 2011 Norway.

Thus, we note that there are two responses to terrorism: the natural response and the unnatural response. The natural response is to take revenge on the terrorist and everyone even remotely resembling him. If he is a Muslim, the natural response is to chastise the Muslims. When Grynzspan, a Jew, kills the German vom Rath, the German people must chastise the Jews. And, of course, when a right-wing piece of filth slaughters the cream of the Norwegian Komsomol, all racists and reactionaries are automatically suspect.

The unnatural response — which will not happen by itself, but can be made to happen by a sufficiently powerful psychological-warfare machine — is to look instead at the grievances of the attacker. After all, no one commits terrorism unless he has some complaint. No complaint — no terrorism. Thus while the Nazi response to the terrorism of Grynzspan is to collectively punish the Jews, the Atlantic response to the terrorism of Grynzspan (ineffective and thus illegitimate) is to attribute it to the injustices suffered by the Jews. This of course is also our response to the terrorism of Mandela (effective and thus legitimate).

In more typical cases, however, the political movement allied with a successful terrorist campaign adopts a strategy of dualism. Here is our Mutt-and-Jeff act: the unnatural response. We can always tell a Mutt-and-Jeff strategy because Mutt and Jeff have the same demands. Mutt tells you to satisfy these demands, or die. Jeff tells you to satisfy these demands, to “take the wind out of Mutt’s sails.” Also, Jeff and Mutt are frequently found at the same parties, enjoying the hell out of one another’s company.

Thus, Islamic terrorism is productive, because it results in increasing communal deference to the Islamic community and its progressive allies. Fascist terrorism is counterproductive, because it results in increasing communal intolerance toward the fascist community — which of course has no conservative allies. Rather, the community — whose information source consists almost exclusively of progressive organs — adopts a monist approach, ascribing guilt by association to everyone even remotely resembling a fascist. Ie, everyone to the right of Mitt Romney. Since this is the natural response, it is not at all difficult to orchestrate. The story writes itself.

This gets us to the essence of what’s wrong with ABB‘s thinking. The error of ABB goes far beyond his decision to run wild with a Glock. This is just his specific error. His general error is what Patri Friedman calls folk activism — a broad pattern of ineffective or counterproductive political action which extends across the entire right-wing spectrum, from moderate libertarians to hardcore neo-Nazis. It’s not just that running wild with a Glock is stupid. Almost everything the right does is stupid. Very few rightists are running wild with a Glock, but most are in some way or other guilty of folk activism.

Why did ABB think right-wing terrorism could work? Because ABB grew up in a leftist world, he thinks like a leftist. His heroes are leftist heroes — Max Manus, not Vidkun Quisling. Terrorism works for leftists — and so do many other forms of democratic activism.

Terrorism is anarchism: a shattering of order. Is there such a thing as right-wing anarchism? Of course not: the concept is retarded. If the word “right” means anything, its goal is not to shatter order, but impose it.

Who governs Norway? The Norwegian Labor Party? If an ABB wanted to accomplish something useful, he shouldn’t have decimated the Norwegian Labor Party. Rather, he should have joined the Norwegian Labor Party. After all, Chinese communism became fascist — why can’t Norwegian communism? ABB could have been Norway’s Deng Xiaoping, not its Timothy McVeigh. That’s the difference between action and folk activism.

Who Are These Luzers?

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Gary Brecher found his book, The War Nerd, criticized by a “goody-goody lefty” named Daniel Luzer, leading him to ask, Who are these Luzers?

These American lefties, I swear to God. Other countries have revolutionaries like Pancho Villa. I could back somebody like Pancho in a second. But these little preachers — that’s what they remind me of more than anything: preachers  — and not Pentecostal ones either because to give them credit Pentecostal preachers are a salty bunch. More like Anglicans. Yeah that’s it: Leftists are like Anglican preachers. In fact half of them are Anglican preachers. The women, mostly.

And what these lefty preachers hate more than anything is bad language. Seriously. Nobody notices but it’s true. Everybody think because the movies say “fuck” a lot that we’re all past the bad-language thing, but the bad words have just changed, that’s all. These preachers are as twitchy about language as they ever were. That’s why Daniel Luzer had a problem with my book.

I was expecting him to continue his tirade with an attack on political correctness. Instead, he mocks Luzer for writing “s–t”.

One of the commenters immediately saw the parallels to Mencius Moldbug’s argument that American leftism is protestant millennialism minus the whole God part.

A Simple Game of Rock, Paper, Scissors

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Power in Egypt — and the world has many Egypts, Mencius Moldbug says — is a simple game of rock, paper, scissors:

In Egypt there are three kinds of people: sheep (liberals, upper-class), dogs (nationalists, lower-class), and wolves (Islamists, beyond class). Sheep (with a big hand from Twitter and State) beat dogs, dogs kill wolves, wolves eat sheep.

If our twittering hipster is especially hip, she’s seen Persepolis and met the wolves. And indeed, the wolf form is natural to humanity. It is our society, the civilized European system with lots of sheep and some dogs and a very, very rare wolf, that is anomalous. And if it keeps behaving as it is, the anomaly will not take long to rectify.

The “Arab Spring” is springtime indeed for the violent, ruthless young man with a mission. Mubarak’s dogs, equally violent — indeed once Nasser’s wolves themselves, for fat authority turns wolves into dogs — tamed the most violent of wolves with the most wolfish of methods. The dog, half wolf himself, speaks the language of the wolf. The sheep looks at the wolf — and sees a sheep. And there has never been any shortage of wolves who speak sheep. Baa! Baa!

In the dog state, so long as they minded their own business, within very broad definitions of their own, a sheep could live as a sheep. Now we see the sheep state, young heaven for wolves. Even the dogs turn into wolves — what’s an old Mubarak thug to do? Thuggery is all he knows. The old firm has disbanded. The jihad is hiring. Allahu akbar! Indeed, Islam is the future in Egypt — if I were an Egyptian, I’d be working on my raisin right now. Sovereignty is conserved; power creates its own popularity. In anarchy, violence is power, and the wolves have it.

The tragedy of Egypt is that if the dogs and sheep did not respond to different masters, if the sheep did not have Twitter and Harvard to follow, the sheep would do what sheep do naturally and follow the dogs. Who would in turn love and cherish the sheep, and kill the wolves. This is the difference between Mubarak’s Egypt and Elizabeth’s England — both societies with a small educated elite, a vast base of varlets, an absolute ruler and an active, efficient secret police.

In other words, if Egypt’s natural intelligentsia was not Americanized, if it was not drawn away from its own country and its own leadership by the lure of Twitter, it would have no choice but to participate in the government of its own country. Which would, in turn, lose much if not all of its peasant-thug character, having better talent to draw on than peasant thugs. If this hypothesis is correct, it’s the apparent solution — the Americanization of Egypt — which creates the problem.

So the American liberal, who is not after all dumb, if he was genuinely concerned about the Egyptian liberal, would observe reality and tell his tawny friends: chill out. Deal with it. You cannot rule Egypt; we are not the British Empire, we are not going to rule it for you. Yet someone will rule Egypt, as they have since the Scorpion King was a little boy. Do you even begin to know how much worse than Mubarak it can get? If you don’t like peasant thug secret policemen, apply for a visa or just come illegally. Learn a little Spanish and pass for Mexican. Or, you know, just deal. I mean, it’s not like our permanent government is that great either.

But no. And here is the American’s sin: from his own cupidity, from his ennui and folly and innate, instead of using the power of America in the best interest of Egyptians, or even in the best interest of Americans with an Egyptian passport, what does he do? To entertain himself, to get his TV jollies, shouting hosannahs and clapping himself on the back, he assists his Egyptian friends in committing horrible and spectacular political suicide. Is the American moral? Is he realistic? He is both criminal and insane. His nightly news is quite dramatic; his gas goes up by a dollar a gallon; his friends are devoured by wolves. Hell, it’s America, we’re bored and rich.

Thus brains on the road. And thus, Libya — which is to Egypt as Egypt is to New Jersey, at least culturally. Thus America, twittering away, says to Libya: “Come on! Have a revolution! It’s fun! Don’t miss out! Besides, we’re all done with Egypt and we’re getting bored bored BORED!”

More Concentrated, Less Direct, and More Anonymous

Friday, February 11th, 2011

In Unchecked and Unbalanced, Arnold Kling argues that knowledge is becoming more diffuse while political power is becoming more concentrated. Foseti disagrees:

I unreservedly agree with Kling’s argument with respect to knowledge. Knowledge is becoming more complex and diffuse. Kling focuses on the financial industry. Knowledge has become more specialized, and therefore more diffuse. Kling also repeatedly cites the example of the internet as a inherently diffuse source of knowledge.

Unfortunately, with respect to power, I have some disagreements with Kling. Let’s take his favorite example of TARP. Under TARP, Congress allocated close to a trillion dollars to buy “troubled assets” (my favorite term from the financial crisis) from failing banks. Kling uses this example to show how much power Congressmen have — they can spend trillions!!

But, a closer look at TARP reveals who really had the power. Congress was essentially blackmailed by the financial bureaucracy into passing TARP. Did Congress want to destroy the global financial system? Of course not. So, they only had one choice — pass TARP. The financial bureaucracy told Congress to dance and Congress did. There was clearly a crisis, did Congress have any better ideas? Of course not — please don’t be ridiculous.

Once passed, what did TARP actually do? In short, it gave a trillion dollars to the bureaucracy to spend as it saw fit. The bureaucracy had changed its mind by the time TARP passed. Instead of investing in “troubled assets” the bureaucracy now wanted to invest directly in what we might call “troubled banks.” Nothing in the bill prevented bureaucrats from totally changing how the money was spent (a good indication of who was really in charge). TARP was therefore immediately used to inject capital into banks and into auto companies in a decision that could only make sense to the bureaucracy (if the plebes don’t like bank bailouts, maybe they’ll be happier if we bailout some plebe companies, and who’s more plebe than GM?).

So, if I’m right, it’s overly-simplistic to describe what we see as a concentration of power. I admit that in some ways power is more concentrated — someone is clearly exercising a huge amount of power. But who and how? If we don’t know, are they really that powerful? The exercise of power is also not particularly direct. TARP was — perhaps more than anything else — an unorganized mess. Whoever was exercising power was doing so in an incredibly haphazard and disorganized way. I think these facts — that we don’t really know who is exercising power and they don’t seem to be able to exercise it very directly or effectively — are as salient as the fact that the power has become more concentrated.

How do we explain how power has gotten more concentrated, less direct, and more anonymous? Foseti turns to Moldbug, who ranks the preferred sources of policy within a large bureaucracy like the government:

  1. The Law
  2. Science
  3. Public Opinion
  4. Committee
  5. Personal Authority

For instance:

Congressmen, like everyone else, don’t want to exercise responsibility, so they consult the law, which doesn’t help. Next they consult science. Fortunately, the financial bureaucracy is staffed with many economics PhDs who will be happy to scientifically demonstrate why not bailing out the banks will cause ruin.

The specialists can use “science” and who is a Congressman to question science? Science demands $700 billion dollars! So Congress wrote the check. (Notice that science trumps public opinion).

On government employment

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

One of the things that drew Foseti, then a neo-fusionist libertarian-conservative, to Mencius Moldbug’s neo-reactionary point of view was that Foseti had an inside look at how government bureaucracy works, and Moldbug was the only writer who seemed to understand that elected officials aren’t in charge any more.

Now Foseti has written his own piece on government employment, answering questions and explaining how it works:

I’m suggesting that the bureaucracy runs the show. You might take that to be a bad thing. But, it’s important to remember that it’s far superior to the alternative. We would really be screwed if Congress was actually running the show. In this sense, one can agree with me that the bureaucracy is in charge and be very happy (not cynical) about the status quo.

I share my cynicism with people in government all the time. Almost alll agree that agencies have immense power — and they see nothing wrong with this fact. I sometimes push back that the bureaucracy is totally unaccountable. This often gets some objection, but not in the form of a coherent argument opposing my position.

Accountability does not work in the bureaucracy. I can’t stress this point enough. The defining feature of the bureaucracy is lack of accountability. It’s very hard to understand the complex ways in which the total absence of accountability affects and organization.

If someone really really screws up, they will not be given any new work. That’s about the extent of accountability.

The bureaucracy changes it’s mind when the media and the academics change their mind. This is rare — I haven’t seen it happen yet. This also means that only tangible results that fit media narratives and academic biases inform policy.

Read the whole thing.

From Under the Rubble of Egypt

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Mencius Moldbug cites Solzhenitsyn’s From Under the Rubble to explain the situation in Egypt:

The intelligentsia proved incapable of taking action, quailed, and was lost in confusion; its party leaders readily abdicated the power and leadership which had seemed so desirable from a distance; and power, like a ball of fire, was tossed from hand to hand until it came into hands which caught it and were sufficiently hardened to withstand its white heat (they also, incidentally, belonged to the intelligentsia, but a special part of it). The intelligentsia had succeeded in rocking Russia with a cosmic explosion, but was unable to handle the debris.

The Dark Side of the Left

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Foseti reviews another Moldbug-recommended work, The Dark Side of the Left, by Richard J. Ellis:

The radical leftists are uncompromising in a way that no other groups are. Thus, they inevitably win — everyone else compromises with them and the political equilibrium is thus constantly shifting leftward. Radically leftward.

Finally, the non-leftist reader will be struck by the similarities that run through all of the movements covered in the book. The abolitionists are the first group covered. The feminists are the second to last group covered. Yet, we don’t even have to leave the chapter on the abolitionists before we get calls for the end to “the patriarchy of marriage.” Let’s look closer at abolitionism.

Ellis quotes Stephen Foster as saying that “every family” is “a little embryo plantation.” Traditional marriage to many abolitionists was a form of slavery that needed to be eradicated like all other forms. Many of the abolitionists also rejected capitalism, as again, it creates “slaves.” Of course, the abolitionists also became militants. Many eventually gloried in the deaths of the Civil War which killed more Americans than any war. For example, Wendell Phillips said that “the bloodiest war ever waged is infinitely better than the happiest slavery which ever fattened men into obedience.” It would be hard to better distill the totalitarian mindset in one sentence.

I’ve chosen to focus on the most controversial topic (i.e. slavery). Don’t let this shade your view of the book. Ellis is best discussing the violence of the New Left, but I found the initial chapter on abolitionism more interesting.

I should conclude by saying that the reactionary will agree with many positions held by the radical leftists. Specifically, the radical leftists have a disdain of the masses that the reactionary will find appealing. However, the radical leftists believe that this makes the masses expendable. Further, the radical leftists believe that the deficiencies of the masses can be fixed with the right program. The reactionary believes neither. The radical leftist despises the masses but continually embraces democracy — his movements, therefore, fizzle in this inherent contradiction. Unfortunately, the don’t fizzle before the damage has been done.

Ellis believes that the core of radical leftism is radical egalitarianism, but Foseti shares Molbug’s belief that it’s really radical protestantism, which has evolved into a secular religion.

How much German World War I propaganda have you read?

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

How much German World War I propaganda have you read? Not much, I’m sure. Mencius Moldbug recommended reading The Vampire of the Continent, and Foseti took him up on it:

Before I started reading this, I decided to think about what I knew about the beginning of WWI. I knew that Europe was a tangled mess of alliances. I knew that England followed its historical pattern of allying itself in such away as to maintain a “balance of power” in Europe. I knew that the major powers were building up their armies and navies. I knew that when war broke in the Balkans, the alliances caused every country to instantly be at war with every other country. I knew that England was pledged to defend Belgium, but that it could have easily decided not to do so, when German attacked France. I knew that the war lasted a very long time and that lots of people died.

Looking back now on this narrative (which I have perhaps over-simplified slightly), I see some holes. Why were the alliances the way they were? If the major powers were accidentally drawn into war with each other — as the story goes — why were they willing to fight so long and lose so much? Why were they building up their armies prior to the outbreak of WWI? What did they hope to gain from the war once it had begun? Etc.

Reading Reventlow’s work, I realized that my understanding of WWI is based largely on Allied propaganda — this is really only a slight exaggeration. The hazy answers that I would have been able to provide to these questions were also based on Allied propaganda — this is hardly an exaggeration. Allied propaganda in 1916 (the year Reventlow wrote this book) is now known as “history.” The Allies, after all, won.

Reventlow’s work is over-the-top. But if Germany had won the war, it would probably be known as “history” now. Thus, one can argue that most of history is written by cranks.

Reventlow explains the build-up to WWI, starting with British foreign policy going back to the Spanish Armada:

Thus began, as British historians solemnly tell us, the “hero­ic age” of the English people. It was an age characterised by organised piracy and high way robbery; which was at first tolerated, and subsequently sanctioned, by the English sovereigns — especially by the Virgin Queen, the champion of Protestantism.

This is hard to argue with, Foseti notes:

In Reventlow’s telling, England did nothing good. In fact, in his telling, the industrial revolution didn’t really start in England. It started elsewhere, but since England controlled the seas, England prevented any other country from becoming truly industrialized. Instead, England stole technology from others and ensured that markets around the world were opened to its goods. In other words, if you want to industrialize, you should: 1) steal others’ technological advancements, 2) prevent their goods from being sold abroad, and 3) prevent anyone from closing off other markets to you. Actually, this sounds like it would be highly effective.

Secret America

Friday, October 1st, 2010

What is the truth about the secret America of the 20th century? Mencius Moldbug gives his take:

The truth, which no one wanted or wants to hear, is that communism is as American as apple pie. Communism is a form of American liberalism, or progressivism. It is not, as so many anti-communists liked to suggest, an exotic foreign import. When imported from exotic lands, it’s because we exported it there in the first place. In America it may speak with a Russian accent; in Russia, it speaks with an American accent.

By the 1930s, communism with a strong Protestant flavor had become the dominant religion of American high society — the wealthiest and most fashionable Americans. But it was not yet the dominant religion of the American population, and America was a democracy. Thus the strong flavor of secrecy and intrigue, often frankly anti-democratic, that we find in the progressives of the early 20th century.

With a figure like Colonel House, for instance, the conspiracy theorist cannot find much else to ask for. Was Colonel House a free agent? Or did he report to some committee of bankers? How would we ever know? Frankly, in the Colonel’s world, the Elders of Zion hardly seem necessary.

Thus, as Quigley himself pointed out, the crusade of anti-communism was doomed from the beginning. Rather than attacking a foreign infection, anti-communism was attacking the host: the American social establishment. For this purpose it was a little short of lymphocytes. No surprise, thus, that it should fail and be consigned to historical ignominy.

Moreover, this social mismatch has been entirely rectified. What the bohemians of Greenwich Village believed in 1923, everyone in America (and the world) believes now. The beliefs of an ordinary Calvin Coolidge voter would strike the ordinary John McCain voter as outlandish, ridiculous, insane, and often downright evil. America has no surviving intellectual tradition besides progressivism — which is no more than a synonym for communism. (My own grandparents, lifelong CPUSA members, used “progressive” as a codeword all their lives.) Communism is as American as apple pie, and America today is a completely communist country.

The Study of History

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

The study of history reduces to two tasks, Mencius Moldbug says — reading primary sources and assessing their credibility — and one good way to assess their credibility is to test their predictions against hindsight.

This test is especially useful when the prediction comes from someone on the losing side, powerless to make his predictions come true, like Confederate theologian R. L. Dabney, who made the following declarations in his Life and Campaigns of Lieutenant-General Thomas J. Jackson (1866):

History will some day place the position of these Confederate States, in this high argument, in the clearest light of her glory. The cause they undertook to defend was that of regulated constitutional liberty, and of fidelity to law and covenants, against the licentious violence of physical power. The assumptions they resisted were precisely those of that radical democracy, which deluged Europe with blood at the close of the eighteenth century, and which shook its thrones again in the convulsions of 1848; the agrarianism which, under the name of equality, would subject all the rights of individuals to the will of the many, and acknowledge no law nor ethics, save the lust of that mob which happens to be the larger.

This power, which the old States of Europe expended such rivers of treasure and blood to curb, at the beginning of the century, had transferred its immediate designs across the Atlantic, was consolidating itself anew in the Northern States of America, with a wealth, an organization, an audacity, an extent to which it never aspired in the lands of its birth, and was preparing to make the United States, after crushing all law there under its brute will, the fulcrum whence they should extend their lever to upheave every legitimate throne in the Old World.

Hither, by emigration, flowed the radicalism, discontent, crime, and poverty of Europe, until the people of the Northern States became, like the rabble of Imperial Rome, the colluvies gentium. The miseries and vices of their early homes had alike taught them to mistake license for liberty, and they were incapable of comprehending, much more of loving, the enlightened structure of English or Virginian freedom.

The first step in their vast designs was to overwhelm the Conservative States of the South. This done, they boasted that they would proceed first to engross the whole of the American continent, and then to emancipate Ireland, to turn Great Britain into a democracy, to enthrone Red Republicanism in France, and to give the crowns of Germany to the Pantheistic humanitarians of that race who deify self as the supreme end and selfish desire as the authoritative expression of the Divine Will.

By the way, you probably know Thomas Jackson by his nickname: Stonewall.

Three Attitudes Toward Government

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Mencius Moldbug wrote a letter to a liberal friend who had sent him a link to J.M. Bernstein’s NY Times opinion piece on the very angry tea party:

If I had to describe it in a sentence, I would say that the rage is easily explained, but not easily explained in the terms of those who feel it. They are clearly angry about something, but the actual words that come out of their mouths are often nonsensical and contradictory. This is why it is so hard for so many to get a handle on. It is simply inarticulate demotic discontent.

Basically, you will see this in any hieratic system of government which the peasants do not really understand. They feel, somehow, that they are getting jobbed. They are (in my opinion) getting jobbed. But how they are getting jobbed is infinitely more complicated than their simple peasant mind can understand. (Also, the idea that they are in some way jobbing the peasants is the farthest possible concept from the collective mind of the gentlemen.)

Therefore, the peasants open their mouths and out comes rage and nonsense. As a gentleman, you are fascinated and repelled by this extraordinary wave of rage and nonsense. Do I have this reaction right? You may of course feel free to disregard the crude metaphor of medieval class conflict, which is no more than a metaphor. Still, I feel it is a good way to ground the conversation in history.

One easy reaction is to blame Fox News. It is true: for the first time in a long time, the peasants have an exclusively peasant-themed mass propaganda channel. However, the objective observer notes quickly that Fox News is not so much telling its audience what to think, as telling them they are allowed to think what they already think. Since they are peasants, lacking any semblance of an aristocratic culture that can accumulate and transmit collective wisdom across generations, what they think is generally nonsense.

Fox News aggregates and retransmits this nonsense, but does not really direct it much in Goebbels style. In some ways it even moderates it — for instance, Fox, and neocons in general, are not much less aggressive in purging racism than establishment journalists.
But, although they do not reason openly and explicitly in this existential manner, the tea partiers feel emotionally that their entire system of government has lost, over the course of decades, their confidence, and needs to be replaced by something entirely different. The basic problem with their rhetoric is that in place of “something entirely different,” they insert two-dimensional cliches of historical American nationalism, dimly remembered at a folk level from the 1920s. It was no less nonsense then, but at least it had an aristocratic leadership caste, which was actually capable of governing a country. In short, it had Calvin Coolidge. Sarah Palin is no Calvin Coolidge.

There are three basic attitudes toward government in America today:

There are people who believe government is there to serve them; there are people who believe government is there to serve others; there are people who believe government is there to subsidize them. In our medieval metaphor, these correspond to peasants, gentlemen, and varlets respectively. The last is the caste Marx called the “lumpenproletariat” — and he was no fan of this group, or of political movements that exploited it. Respectable people say “underclass.”

When gentlemen look at progressivism, they see a movement whose purpose is to help the underclass, those whose plight is no fault of their own. When peasants look at progressivism, they see a movement whose purpose is to employ gentlemen in the business of public policy, by using the peasants’ money to buy votes from varlets. Who, in the peasants’ perception, abuse the patience and generosity of both peasants and gentlemen in almost every imaginable way, and are constantly caressed by every imaginable authority for doing so.

Among gentlemen, the idea that government could be there to serve us is almost socially taboo.
Peasants see a patron-client relationship between the gentlemen and the varlets — a relationship not at all unlike the late Roman relationship of clientela, where a patrician measured his social status by the vast army of plebeians that battened on his trenches. Again, what to the gentleman appears as a noble act of charity, compassion, etc, to the coarse and cynical peasant reveals itself as a purchase of political power, with his tax dollars if not his physical safety. Therefore a vision of the gallows arises in his hindbrain.

Can both be correct? Of course they can. Every case, in every detail, is different, and every case can be viewed from both perspectives. As Solzhenitsyn said, the line between good and evil runs through every human heart.

And again — are the tea partiers thinking this story? No such elaborate historio-political fantasy has ever come anywhere close to their heads. But it is, I would argue, the reality of history in our time. Truth, even if not realized in totum, glints off every surface. Therefore, it is an emotional subtext that spawns a continuous stream of inchoate, inarticulate and inexplicable rage. Precisely as your New School prof observes!

Taboo Cannon

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Mencius Moldbug opens fire with the taboo cannon and recommends prohibiting travel between Salafist countries and the West:

Frankly, orthodox Salafi Muslims don’t want or need cultural contact with the West, any more than the West wants or needs cultural contact with them. Isolation is a no-brainer here. The fact that noticing this requires a blast of the Taboo cannon is itself truly worrying. I’d really like to think the world was run by sane grownup people, who can see obvious things and act on them in the obvious way.

But no. But after 9/11, no one asked: what does America gain by allowing random dudes from Saudi Arabia to visit New York? Let alone Afghanistan? What — a billion dollars in tourist revenue? So instead we had to go spend a trillion dollars, not to mention thousands of our finest young lives, on turning the Hindu Kush into the 51st state.

True History of the American Rebellion

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

The Fourth of July is the perfect time to revisit the true history of the American Revolution — or, more accurately, the American Rebellion — which hinges on some little-discussed factors:

  • Why do the American loyalists share a nickname with a British political party? Is this just a coincidence, or does it imply some kind of weird alliance? And what is on the other side of said alliance? If the loyalists are called Tories, why does no one call the Patriots Whigs?
  • By coincidence, two of the leading British generals, Howe and Cornwallis, were Whigs — in fact, Whig MPs.

Vietnam 2.0

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Afghanistan, Mencius Moldbug claims, is Vietnam 2.0:

Persons interested in the 1.0 edition may consult one of the few informative English-language histories of that war, Background to Betrayal, by the incredible Hilaire du Berrier.

Note that as the moderate, pragmatic, realistic left-wing option (Diem/Karzai) is revealed as a complete and utter disaster, the Overton Window of DC shifts to include the radical left-wing option (helicopters on the roof). In other words, as the moderate left-wing quack cure (strength through weakness) fails, the extreme left-wing quack cure (victory through defeat) becomes a legitimate policy option. Since it is inevitable, hopefully it will be embraced as quickly as possible. Americans should prepare themselves for lots of good Afghan food in their diverse urban areas.

No apology is ever offered for completely ignoring the obvious and original strategy, ie, actual conquest, occupation, or any other form of right-wing domination, foreign or domestic. Hiring General Fonseka is not a legitimate policy option. No one in the reality-based community asks: how did Afghanistan/Vietnam work before we broke it? How have these kinds of problems been solved here in the past, or elsewhere in the present? Instead, the leftism response to the failure of leftism is always: the failure is caused by insufficient leftism. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It’ll be interesting to see what the Taliban do with their state. At least there won’t be any liberals there.

Blue Monkey Hindsight

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

It’s easy to assume that causes like that of the Arabs in Palestine are indigenous movements, Mencius Moldbug says, which arise spontaneously and then attract influential foreign backers:

One notices, however, that the foreign backers often precede the indigenous movements. Which is the cause, and which the effect? If you invert the relationship, you get a very different political structure which seems to make a lot more sense.

Moldbug then geeks out a bit:

Before Sigourney Weaver got her mind-tentacles into the blue monkeys, I’ll bet they were perfectly happy to find a new sacred tree. The whole war was her fault. And the monkeys may be partying right now, but in fifty years they’ll be living in gang-infested shantytowns. District 9 is Avatar 2: Alien Aid. Blue monkey hindsight: throw Sigourney Weaver off the tree, as soon as she shows up. No war, no movie, happy monkey life with new views.