The true extent of left-wing censorship in American society today can be perceived by the fact that Ã¼ber-nerd Curtis Yarvon had a software presentation cancelled by a programming conference because some attendees objected to the highly eccentric conservative philosophy expressed learnedly, and at astonishing length, on a relatively obscure (and infrequently updated) blog, titled Unqualified Reservations, writing under the pen-name “Mencius Moldbug.”
David Auerbach, at Slate, considers Moldbug’s political philosophy “odious”, but thinks it is not appropriate to boot him out unless he actually says something casually racist.
What does a bizarre project to reinvent software from the ground up have in common with 19th-century reactionary political philosophy? That question has become the unlikely heart of a computing controversy involving this Septemberâ€™s Strange Loop programming conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Founded in 2009, Strange Loop is a yearly three-day conference with talks and workshops on new computer science technologies. The conference had accepted an apolitical presentation on a fairly obscure project by a software engineer named Curtis Yarvin, only to reject it last week after it received complaints about political views Yarvin espoused on his blog.
Yarvinâ€™s canceled presentation centered on Urbit, an idiosyncratic software platform he created, and an associated virtual machine called Nock. Iâ€™ve read the specifications, and Yarvinâ€™s project is an intriguing attempt to create an entirely new, universal computation framework based around a virtual machine that is truly distributed from the ground up, so that even tiny amounts of computation can be apportioned across multiple machines. It may, as I suspect, be utterly impractical, but itâ€™s undoubtedly different and a worthy experiment. I would attend a talk on it. But I wouldnâ€™t be able to at Strange Loop now, thanks to a strange figure named Mencius Moldbug.
Thatâ€™s the nom de Web under which Yarvin writes mind-numbing political tracts. Yarvin/Moldbug is a self-proclaimed â€œneoreactionary,â€ an unabashed elitist and inegalitarian in the tradition of Thomas Carlyle, one of his heroes. (He fits neatly into the â€œNatural-Order Conservativeâ€ category of a conservative taxonomy.) His worldview: Democracy sucks, the strong should rule the weak, and we could use a good old-fashioned dictator to clean up this mess. That, and he believes that â€œhuman biodiversityâ€â€”as in the â€œscienceâ€ of racial differences, Ã la The Bell Curveâ€”is real, valid, and very important. Neoreactionary thinking is far more complicated and far more verbose than thisâ€”which is in part a deliberate attempt to keep the great unwashed from paying too much attention to such Important Thought. If youâ€™re curious, the tireless Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex has written extensive rebuttals of neoreactionary theory, which go to prove Brandoliniâ€™s Law: â€œThe amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.â€ The neoreactionaries make up a small and mostly ignorable corner of the Internet, but because they include a number of techies and wonks, they have drawn attention and criticism from outlets like the Baffler and the Daily Beast, all of which served to raise the neoreactionary profile far higher than it ever would have made it on its own. If you want serious reactionary activity, look to Congress.
Normally I would have no cause to write about neoreactionary politicsâ€”it is eminently inconsequentialâ€”except that Yarvin was tossed out of Strange Loop because of his writings. Strange Loop creator and organizer Alex Miller made this public statement regarding his decision to rescind Yarvinâ€™s invitation:
A large number of current and former speakers and attendees contacted me to say that they found Curtisâ€™s writings objectionable. I have not personally read them. … If Curtis was part of the program, his mere inclusion and/or presence would overshadow the content of his talk and become the focus.
The decision to toss Yarvin is foolish but not because itâ€™s censorship. By making the issue about Yarvin being a â€œdistraction,â€ Miller has created a perverse incentive. By that logic, anyone could get tossed from the conference if enough people object for any reason at all. Miller admits as much when he says he hasnâ€™t even read Yarvinâ€™s political writing.
NYM has occasional quoted some of the Moldbug’s good lines.
Here is a good example:
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 thatâ€™s just me. â€¦
intellectuals cluster to the left, generally adopting as a social norm the principle of pas dâ€™ennemis a gauche, pas dâ€™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 â€“ not to mention a much better record in providing responsible and effective government â€“ Pinochet receives the full-out two-minute hate, whereas the treatment of Castro tends to have, at most, a gentle and wistful disapproval. â€¦
[T]he problem is not just that our present system of government â€“ which might be described succinctly as an atheistic theocracy â€“ is accidentally similar to Puritan Massachusetts. As anatomists put it, these structures are not just analogous. They are homologous. This architecture of government â€“ theocracy secured through democratic means â€“ is a single continuous thread in American history.