Category Archive 'Mencius Moldbug'
17 Jan 2013
Aaron Swartz (November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013)
Argues the learned and cynical
Mencius Moldbug, and he makes a darned good case.
Aaron, born one of humanity’s natural nobles, grows up in a century cleansed by military force of its own cultural heritage, in which all surviving noble ideals are leftist ideals. No one ever had a chance to tell him that his only honorable option was to live in the past. And in any case, that option was probably too antisocial even for Aaron Swartz. He must be noble, he cannot retreat to mere selfish bourgeois money-grubbing and family-rearing. So he must be an activist.
So he takes the blue pill. He starts with a blue joint or two and gradually works his way up to the blue heroin. He believes in his century’s narrative as it is – except more so. Why not more so? For even without marinating his brain in Chomsky, what bright young person can miss all the trouble our polity has in living up to its own comm – I mean, “progressive” – ideals?
The Nazis are beaten, supposedly. But somehow the seeds of autocracy are everywhere. Wherever you see a corporation, you see a little Third Reich with its own pompous CEO-fuehrer. Wherever you see property, especially inherited property (have you noticed the increasingly universal meme of saying “privilege” when you mean “property?”), you see a little king of a little kingdom, whose answer to “why do you own this” is no more than “because I do.”
As an Aaron Swartz bred on Horace instead of John Dewey might have remarked, tamen usque recurret [Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret. “You may drive out Nature with a pitchfork, yet she still will hurry back.” Book I, epistle x, line 24 -DZ]. Of course the utopia is unachievable. As a geek world which had not Chomsky but Mosca on its dogeared hackerspace bookshelves would know in its bones, autocracy is universal and cannot be repealed, only concealed. Always and everywhere, strong minorities rule weak majorities.
You cannot drive out nature with a pitchfork. ...
Here’s how Chomsky kills: first, he sets you to the pitchfork. In the Plato’s cave of Chomsky it is not nature, of course, that you are driving out with a pitchfork. It is black, unnatural, fascist conspiracy. Which is naturally everywhere – and yet, everywhere in embryo. Giant terrifying kings and dictators are nowhere to be hacked and sawn. It was your ancestors who had this privilege. Today, in a diminished age, the enemy is no more than the seeds and sprouts of advancing black reaction, whose every great stump is crowned with dangerous suckers.
And while these seedlings are everywhere, each is small and weak. Individually, they yield quite handily to the hoe, giving the stalwart farmer a sense of progress and victory. If only a local sense. For the activist who is only really interested in power, this is quite enough. He just wants to be part of something that’s fighting something else. It’s a normal human drive. And of course, his team is the winning team, which he likes quite well.
You can be this farmer, and live a happy, successful and fulfilling life. But be sure to focus on the seedlings. Or the old dead stumps. Notice, however, that the vines which slew those old trees have grown so great and woody that they almost resemble trees themselves… and you are in for a different experience. At the very least, you’ll need to come back with something sharper than a pitchfork.
The truth is that the weapons of “activism” are not weapons which the weak can use against the strong. They are weapons the strong can use against the weak. When the weak try to use them against the strong, the outcome is… well… suicidal.
Who was stronger – Dr. King, or Bull Connor? Well, we have a pretty good test for who was stronger. Who won? In the real story, overdogs win. Who had the full force of the world’s strongest government on his side? Who had a small-town police force staffed with backward hicks? In the real story, overdogs win.
“Civil disobedience” is no more than a way for the overdog to say to the underdog: I am so strong that you cannot enforce your “laws” upon me. I am strong and might makes right – I give you the law, not you me. Don’t think the losing party in this conflict didn’t try its own “civil disobedience.” And even its own “active measures.” Which availed them – what? Quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi [“What is lawful for Jove is not lawful for cattle.” -JDZ].
In the real world in which we live, the weak had better know their own weakness. If they would gather their strength, do it! But without fighting, even “civil disobedience.” To break a law is to fight. Those who fight had better be strong. Those who are not strong, had better not fight.
In this case, you see, Leviathan’s henchmen simply failed to recognize how feeble their adversary was. Today, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, argued publicly that she and her minions had not done wrong. They merely intended to convict young Aaron and give him a sentence of six months in a minimum security federal facility. Ortiz neglects to mention that part of his sentence would have denied him usage of a computer and access to the Internet for some very substantial period of time, most likely an interval resembling the full-term of his minimized-to-six-months actually served sentence.
Giving up one’s personal computer and the Internet would not be a life-shattering catastrophe for everyone, but for an IT prodigy, software designer, and Internet activist it would be pretty terrible. It would have been a lot like convicting Mozart of something, putting him in jail for a few months, but also then denying him access to musical performance and composition.
16 Jan 2009
Mencius Moldbug, most prolix of bloggers, goes on at great length, but is still often worth a read.
The mysterious Moldbug, it has been learned, is a 1992 Brown graduate who majored in Computer Science. Further details here.
In this alleged introduction to his blog, Moldbug accurately identifies the enemy (complete with whimsical H.P. Lovecraft allusions).
[I]n post-1945 America, the source of all new ideas is the university. Ideas check out of the university, but they hardly ever check in. Thence, they flow outward to the other arms of the educational system as a whole: the mainstream media and the public schools. Eventually they become our old friend, “public opinion.” This process is slow, happening on a generational scale, and thus the 45-year lag.
Thus whatever coordinates the university system coordinates the state, through the transmission device of “public opinion.” Naturally, since this is 100% effective, the state does not have to wait for the transmission to complete. It can act in advance of a complete response, as in this case the Supreme Court did in 1967, and synchronize directly with the universities.
This relationship, whose widespread practice in the United States dates to 1933, is known as public policy. Essentially, for everything your government does, there is a university department full of professors who can, and do, tell it what to do. Civil servants and Congressional staffers follow the technical lead of the universities. The residual democratic branch of Washington, the White House, can sometimes push back feebly, but only with great difficulty. ...
There are a few brief periods of true reaction in American history – the post-Reconstruction era or Redemption, the Return to Normalcy of Harding, and a couple of others. But they are unusual and feeble compared to the great leftward shift. Nor, most important for our hypothesis, did they come from the universities; in the 20th century, periods of reaction are always periods of anti-university activity. (McCarthyism is especially noticeable as such. And you’ll note that McCarthy didn’t exactly win.)
The principle applies even in wars. In each of the following conflicts in Anglo-American history, you see a victory of left over right: the English Civil War, the so-called “Glorious Revolution,” the American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Clearly, if you want to be on the winning team, you want to start on the left side of the field.
And we are starting to piece the puzzle together. The leftward direction is, itself, the principle of organization. In a two-party democratic system, with Whigs and Tories, Democrats and Republicans, etc, the intelligentsia is always Whig. Their party is simply the party of those who want to get ahead. It is the party of celebrities, the ultra-rich, the great and good, the flexible of conscience. Tories are always misfits, losers, or just plain stupid – sometimes all three.
And the left is the party of the educational organs, at whose head is the press and universities. This is our 20th-century version of the established church. Here at UR, we sometimes call it the Cathedral – although it is essential to note that, unlike an ordinary organization, it has no central administrator. No, this will not make it easier to deal with. ...
Whatever you make of the left-right axis, you have to admit that there exists some force which has been pulling the Anglo-American political system leftward for at least the last three centuries. Whatever this unfathomable stellar emanation may be, it has gotten us from the Stuarts to Barack Obama. Personally, I would like a refund. But that’s just me. ...
intellectuals cluster to the left, generally adopting as a social norm the principle of pas d’ennemis a gauche, pas d’amis a droit, because like everyone else they are drawn to power. The left is chaos and anarchy, and the more anarchy you have, the more power there is to go around. The more orderly a system is, the fewer people get to issue orders. The same asymmetry is why corporations and the military, whose system of hierarchical executive authority is inherently orderly, cluster to the right.
Once the cluster exists, however, it works by any means necessary. The reverence of anarchy is a mindset in which an essentially Machiavellian, tribal model of power flourishes. To the bishops of the Cathedral, anything that strengthens their influence is a good thing, and vice versa. The analysis is completely reflexive, far below the conscious level. Consider this comparison of the coverage between the regime of Pinochet and that of Castro. Despite atrocities that are comparable at most – not to mention a much better record in providing responsible and effective government – Pinochet receives the full-out two-minute hate, whereas the treatment of Castro tends to have, at most, a gentle and wistful disapproval. ...
[T]he problem is not just that our present system of government – which might be described succinctly as an atheistic theocracy – is accidentally similar to Puritan Massachusetts. As anatomists put it, these structures are not just analogous. They are homologous. This architecture of government – theocracy secured through democratic means – is a single continuous thread in American history.
17 Aug 2007
Michael Blowhard knows, and spills the beans, thusly:
Having made a score in a recent dot-com boom—though “I only made out like a thief, not like a bandit,” he writes—he has been treating himself to a sabbatical, reading, thinking, and writing. He confesses that his monthly book bill is around $500.
Mencius Moldbug lives in San Francisco, where he is temporarily retired from the software industry. His principal occupations are feeding ravens, reading old books, and working on his programming language, which will be done any year now.
There follows the Moldbug political manifesto, a piece of intellectual provocation certainly worth a read.
The basic idea of formalism is just that the main problem in human affairs is violence. The goal is to design a way for humans to interact, on a planet of remarkably limited size, without violence. ...
The key is to look at this not as a moral problem, but as an engineering problem. Any solution that solves the problem is acceptable. Any solution that does not solve the problem is not acceptable. ...
A further difficulty is that the definition of “violence” isn’t so obvious. If I gently relieve you of your wallet, and you chase after me with your Glock and make me beg to be allowed to give it back, which of us is being violent? Suppose I say, well, it was your wallet – but it’s my wallet now?
This suggests, at the very least, that we need a rule that tells us whose wallet is whose. Violence, then, is anything that breaks the rule, or replaces it with a different rule. If the rule is clear and everyone follows it, there is no violence.
In other words, violence equals conflict plus uncertainty. While there are wallets in the world, conflict will exist. But if we can eliminate uncertainty – if there is an unambiguous, unbreakable rule that tells us, in advance, who gets the wallet – I have no reason to sneak my hand into your pocket, and you have no reason to run after me shooting wildly into the air. Neither of our actions, by definition, can affect the outcome of the conflict.
And so on.
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