Category Archive 'Curtis Yarvin'
21 Jan 2021
Curtis Yarvin (from his peculiar personal perspective in the hyper-intellectual Alt-Right) explains why our elite institutions (which he aptly calls “the Cathedral”) are currently so truly, horribly awful, and hints darkly at what must be done to effectuate reform. Not a terribly practical program, alas! but still a fun read.
An oligarchy inherently converges on ideas that justify the use of power.
I notice more people using this label, which I coined a long long time ago, and have always had ambivalent aesthetic feelings about. I used a capital C, but I see more of the miniscule and I think it’s better.
“The cathedral” is just a short way to say “journalism plus academia”—in other words, the intellectual institutions at the center of modern society, just as the Church was the intellectual institution at the center of medieval society.
But the label is making a point. The Catholic Church is one institution—the cathedral is many institutions. Yet the label is singular. This transformation from many to one—literally, e pluribus unum—is the heart of the mystery at the heart of the modern world. Read the rest of this entry »
08 Jan 2021
I’m fond of reading Curtis Yarvin’s witty, learned, and cynical screeds. He, of course, needs an editor more than anyone who ever lived. Even I drew the line at some of the tangential riffs in this one, and edited out a few paragraphs.
He’s still worth a read.
The great coup of 2021
Borges, thou shouldst be living at this day.
I am not one to hyperbolize today’s news cycle. Actually almost nothing ever happens.
But the Great Coup of 2021 is one of the most amazing storylines in years or even decades, a kind of syzygy of news—a perfect juxtaposition of not two but three totally different narratives, each of which regards both others as dangerously insane—must present a natural feast for any historiographer of the present.
I wrote about this remarkable story the other day, while it was still happening. Today the story is what it’s done to people, which is absolutely remarkable and far greater than even I would have predicted. My wife described the attitude at her e-job as “9/12”—zero work is getting done.
Well—the present can suck to live through. But what else is there? And if you want to study bats, you have to go into the bat cave. You will get bat crap on you. My friends—today is a good day for bats. Shall we?
The three stories I’m about to highlight—which we could call the histrionic story, the hypochondriac story, and the historical story—form a kind of prism of narrative which perfectly illuminates not just the real events, but the world in which they can happen. …
The histrionic story
The histrionic story is the story of a true popular uprising crushed by a repressive regime—of course, the Trumpist narrative. The other day I took a shot at a couple paragraphs in this genre. And thought I did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself. Maybe I can get hired by TASS, Goebbels, NPR or OANN.
What’s so fascinating about the structure and content of the histrionic story is that, put under a microscope, it reveals itself as a kind of historical pastiche—a mosaic made from shards of actual, historical popular uprisings.
Pieces of our own Revolution are there; also the Bastille and even the Paris Commune. The Tea Party sits nervously next to the White Rose, thinking about whether to make a move on Sophie Scholl—alas, she has her heart set on Spartacus. The whole pageant of insurrection across the last four centuries, from the Grand Remonstrance to the Arab Spring, returns in the mosaic-chips of the broad panorama of MAGA, Trump and Q. Read the rest of this entry »
28 Dec 2020
Curtis Yarvin (aka Mencius Moldbug) clocked in this morning with his latest emailed rant. This one’s on the Coronavirus and is apparently to be the last that we subscriber readers are encouraged to share, for at least a while.
(Occasional emphasis on the really good lines added by me. JDZ)
2020, the year of everything fake
“The only question left to ask was what would happen after everything familiar collapsed.”
I keep thinking there is some German word, like Schadenfreude or Gemütlichkeit but different, for the inability to take the world you live in seriously. If so, I can’t find it. We live in the future where everything is wrong, but at least you can’t google ideas.
In some worlds, the inability to take the world seriously is a mental disorder. In other worlds, it is normal and universal. And in some, it is a sign of superb mental health.
All of us old sufferers from this old itch, certain as we were, were never quite certain that we didn’t live in that first world. As 2020 ends, there is a certain Schadenfreude in seeing tout le monde heading toward the second—a tragedy, but a hopeful tragedy.
There are probably still people who take the world seriously—or at least, take America seriously. (Since the world still takes America seriously, it’s the same thing.) Even if the tables are starting to turn, we still have a deep moral duty to berate these people. And tables rarely turn—though they often feel like they’re starting to.
2020, for America, was a disaster. For instance, 1/4 of all small businesses are dead. Now, a serious country would try to understand that disaster, the way it understands each and every airplane crash. Who loaded the live oxygen generators into the hull? Why was the passenger permitted to board with her “emotional-support viper?” Read the rest of this entry »
16 Dec 2020
I find whatever this really, really bright guy has to say worth reading, though laborious. His erudite and witty references are downright dazzling, but he hits the reader with so many of them that one feels like one has encountered the intellectual equivalent of a golf ball-sized hailstorm. It gets tiring.
He himself clearly tires of particular points he’s making. There will be a number of paragraphs filled with intellectual acrobatics, delivering rapier-sharp insights and simply showing off. His denunciation of “conservacon” losers amounts to a strong argument. But he never really seems to get around to identifying his preferred alternative. Armed revolution? A new Caesar crossing the Rubicon to end the farce that the Republic has become and to start the Empire?
The Moldbugian Revolution seems destined inevitably to bog down, unable to make progress through his prolix prose. He needs an editor in the worst way.
For those of my own readers lacking the stamina, allow me to summarize:
The Moldbug has no sympathy for us losers. Might makes right, and the democrats demonstrated their virtu, their deserving to win, by using force to steal the election.
Yes, Virginia, the election was stolen. America has a loosey-goosey, complicated, and wide-open electoral system that readily lends itself to fraud. Other countries are considerably more careful.
This election is sending some messages. The messages are: The most powerful branch of the US Government is the unelected Fourth Estate. The NYT was right: The winner of US Presidential Elections is declared by the news media. The media is far more powerful than the Supreme Court. People who voted Republican don’t matter.
Conservatives operate on the basis of an agenda dedicated to good faith operation and preservation of our institutions. Therefore, they will never win. Trump also could not possibly win.
Curtis Yarvin clearly is endorsing some form of undefined revolutionary change.
Read it for yourselves.
“Like all men in Babylon, I have been proconsul; like all, I have been a slave.”
Vae victis! If the election was indeed stolen, it was stolen fair and square. Whatever happened is as final as Bitcoin. 2020 remains a chef’s kiss from history’s meat-kitchen. You do get a year like this every few decades.
The Supreme Court has sent a clear and lovely Schmittian message. No court or other official authority will ever consider the substance of Republican allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 elections. All will be rejected on procedural grounds by the courts, and mocked with maximal hauteur in the legitimate press. Maybe some agency will even have to go through the tiresome kabuki of investigating itself.
These tactics will always work. They always do. There will never be any kind of neutral, official, systematic or forensic investigation into any real or apparent irregularities—not even one that goes as far as the comical 2016 Jill Stein recount. (Which had to stop because it found that someone, presumably Russians, had been stuffing ballot boxes (or more precisely, tabulators) in Wayne County.)
Moreover, no one should have ever expected anything else. Carl Schmitt told us that “the sovereign is he who decides the exception.” There was no exception here—so the sovereign has decided. Schmitt, a German and a gentleman (if a bit of a Nazi), would never have said: the sovereign is he who can say, “fuck you.” But he’d probably agree.
The world works this way. It has to work this way. It should work this way. We do have a few things to say—but first, you have to deal. Read the rest of this entry »
08 Nov 2020
Curtis aka Mencius Moldbug remains as brilliant, off-the-page original, and prolix as always.
One would post a quotation and a link, but he’s only sending these as emails currently, and he encourages re-posting the Whole Thing (which is the only way of sharing access).
So here are a few sample high points, followed by the whole thing.
Progressives see power as an end; conservatives see power as a means to an end. As soon as conservatives get even a sliver of power, they start trying to use this power to create good outcomes. This is irrational.
The rational way to use power is the progressive way: to make more power. Your power grows exponentially. Eventually you have all the power, and can get all the outcomes you want.
There is not one progressive idea which does not yield a power dividend. I cannot think of a conservative idea that does. If one did, the progressives would steal it. Then the conservatives would persuade themselves to oppose it, and all would be well.
This is not a coincidence. The great flaw of the American right is that, besides not being able to get any real power, they do not want any real power, and have no idea what they would do with any real power.
As I write, the path remains entirely open for Republicans, if they can operate as a coherent unit, to take all the power they want. They cannot, and they will not. Their fault is not in their stars, but themselves.
Trump and the Republicans will loseâ€”even though they could win, right now, just by marching straight forward and not stopping until Rome. Their first step would be to legally steal the election back. If they try this they will not try hard, and they will almost certainly fail. And if they succeed, their first step will be their last; and once they stop advancing, they will be rapidly destroyed.
Historians are often puzzled by these moments of inexplicable incompetence. If the Confederates, after the Battle of Bull Run, march straight forward and donâ€™t stop until they reach the Canadian border, the war is over and the Confederates win. The Union, despite superior population size and industrial power, is not yet ready to fight and has no organized forces in front of Washington. If Japan, upon Germanyâ€™s invasion of the Soviet Union, invades Siberia from the other end, the war is over and the Axis take the Old World. Instead Japan raids Hawaii, which is the worst possible move for both Japan and the Axis. Worst, it is very difficult to see why the correct decisions were not obvious at the time.
To understand the people who made those mistakes is to understand their causes. It would have been hard for those leaders, with the goals and perspectives they had, to avoid these particular errors. Nonetheless, hindsight is merciless in exposing the fact that their leaders had an obvious opportunity for total victory, and failed to take it.
We know our own side, and its reasons for failure are obvious. To win a war you need an army, a general, and a plan. Trump is always ready to fight a battle, and never ready to fight a war; the staff of his party are not soldiers, but lobbyists; and not even the biggest of our brains has anything remotely like a plan.
We cannot cross the Rubicon, then march until we reach Rome. We would not even know where we were going. We have no army, no general, not even a map. We have no idea where Rome even is. While we flatter ourselves as historical sophisticates, we are in reality political childrenâ€”not just the politicians, also the philosophers.
What stops the Republicans from ruling is that they do not feel they have a right to rule. Worse, they are right. They have no right to power, because that right is created only by the capacity to exercise power capably. It is unfortunate that the Democrats have no such right eitherâ€”arguably, they have much less right. But the Democrats will always win and always rule, because they are the ruling classâ€”and they feel that right to ruleâ€”and none of their bad outcomes will ever change their minds about that.
There is only one way to give the enemies of power the feeling that we have the right to rule: create the capacity to rule. They don’t need that capacity to win. But we do. And we would want it after we won, anyway.
Indeed, no one today can imagine how much popularity any such competence, and the confidence that would come with it, is capable of generating. Winning an election in any other way is a waste of time at best. The public is a woman. Women like nothing so much as confidence.
Instead: as none other than Newton L. Gingrich has said, â€œYou have a group of corrupt people who have absolute contempt for the American people, who believe we are so spineless, so cowardly, so unwilling to stand up for ourselves, that they can steal the presidency.â€ Newt is right. So is the group of corrupt people, unfortunately.
By March or April, America’s ruling class will feel like Hunter Biden on a Tuesday morning. Hunter reflects. He knows he left his pipe somewhere. He’s not sure where. What he knows is that this world, which as recently as mimosa brunch on Sunday was still burning with the rainbow fire of a hundred suns exploding in H-bomb supernova pornstar orgasms while galaxies collide, is an ugly, boring place. A sterile promontory. A foul and pestilent congregation of vaporsâ€¦ also, something sticky is stuck to his ass. He’ll get to it in a minute… oh, man…
For four years, the regime is stuck with a spokesmodel who combines the charisma of Leonid Brezhnev with the probity of Willie Brown. China Joe is getting no younger. His circuits already wrestle visibly with every solar flare. He did bring a backup unit, who has the charisma of Linda Blair and was once the protegÃ©e of Willie Brown. Is God supposed to hand us something better?
Read the rest of this entry »
21 Jun 2020
“These days, [Curtis] Yarvin [aka Mencius Moldbug] is best known as the founder of Urbit, a startup tech company providing, in its own words, ‘a secure peer-to-peer network of personal servers, built upon a clean slate system software stack.’ Or, perhaps more accurately, he’s best known for the astonishing levels of protest that take place whenever a tech conference invites him to speak, generally based on the accusation that he believes in reinstituting slavery and thinks that black people make especially good slaves. The reason for this is relatively simple: he believes in reinstituting slavery and thinks that black people make especially good slaves.”
— Elizabeth Sandifer, Neoreaction a Basilisk, p. 16.
His long-winded, but incredibly intellectually fertile, essays on his Unqualified Reservations blog stopped back in 2013, when Yarvin became involved in new tech projects.
This month, the announcement went out that Mencius Moldbug is returning, with a new book, titled Gray Mirror Of The Nihilist Prince, that he will be issuing in fragments, twice monthly. The first two chapters are free, kiddies. And, after you are addicted, you’ll have to pay.
The good news is: that if you subscribe, right now, before the end of June, Moldbug has promised to send you a signed and numbered limited edition copy, which will undoubtedly, ere very long, be fetching big bucks on the used book market.
I’ve subscribed myself.
2:02:26 podcast interview with Curtis Yarvin.
Update, 6/19 1:35 PM:
I’ve been listening to Curtis pontificate. Surprise! Surprise! He’s a snob who does not like Trump. He believes Trump is failing and will lose in November. Otherwise, he’s sound on the NYT and the “flexible and docile” people.
09 Oct 2019
The always intellectually provocative, and ever so prolix, Mencius Moldbug returned recently, after several years, with further doses of Dark Enlightenment.
[W]hen we think of historical Nazism, Stalinism or Maoism, we think of wartime or warlike atrocities. When we look at Czechoslovakia in the â€™60s, Germany in the â€™30s, even China today, we see far fewer atrocities. Yet we still see the same structure of hierarchical control, with one person or a small team unilaterally directing the entire state.
This structure is clearly absent in the Western democracies.
Whatever our â€œregimeâ€ may be, it has nothing remotely like the Chinese Communist Party or Chairman Xi. It has no hierarchy. It has no center. It has neither leader, nor politburo, nor cadre. Maybe itâ€™s not real democracy; itâ€™s not a monarchy or a dictatorship.
Aâ€¦distributed despotism? Is a decentralized Orwellian regime possible? If we can say no, weâ€™re done. It seems impossible. Can we show that? We canâ€™t, so letâ€™s try to design one.
Maybe there are two kinds of Orwellian regimesâ€”like two-stroke and four-stroke engines. Neither cycle is inherently better. A four-stroke leafblower is excessive; a two-stroke car, primitive.
Maybe a four-stroke regime is decentralized; a two-stroke regime, centralized. One is a reptile; the other, a mammal. One is a fish; the other, a whale. Both rule by shaping public opinion. Two-stroke regimes design their stories. Four-stroke regimes have no dictator, so they have no designer; their stories must evolve.
Generally, the two-stroke regime relies more on hard repression; the four-stroke regime relies more on soft illusion. But both, as weâ€™ll see, can and do use both stabilization tools.
The two-stroke regime is a one-story state. Everyone has to believe one narrativeâ€”one official history of the present.
This worked as well for Amenhotep as Chairman Xi. The two-stroke is an especially good fit for centralized monarchical regimes. It also fits the canonical cliche of Orwellian totalitarianism.
The one-story state is efficient, but unstable. Its chronic problem is that people hate being told what to believe. They often cause trouble even when the story is true!
Anyone whoâ€™s been to China has seen how efficiently classic totalitarianism can executeâ€¦in both senses. Not only does the PRC make all consumer goods, itâ€™s also the top destination for transplant tourism. Maybe you donâ€™t really want that Chinese two-stroke SUV, even if it does pop like a dirtbike.
Without oil in its gas, a two-stroke engine overheats. In the end it catches fire. Without active practice in hard repression, without serious enemies at home or abroad, the classic one-party state weakens. It rots from excessive success. In the end it is overthrown by little girls with flowers.
The ideal state might be a one-story state where the story was 100% true. But this is a dangerous level of idealism. (Nor would it repeal these axioms of regime stabilization.)
The four-stroke regime is a two-story state. When people hear one story, they tend to ask: is this true? When they hear two stories, they tend to ask: which one of these is true? Isnâ€™t this a neat trick? Maybe our whole world is built on it. Any point on which both poles concur is shared story: â€œuncontroversial, bipartisan consensus.â€
Shared story has root privilege. It has no natural enemies and is automatically true. Injecting ideas into it is nontrivial and hence lucrative; this profession is called â€œPR.â€
There is no reason to assume that either pole of the spectrum of conflict, or the middle, or the shared story, is any closer to reality than the single pole of the one-story state.
Dividing the narrative has not answered the old question: is any of this true? Rather, it hasâ€¦ dodged it. Stagecraft!
This is even better than supposing that, since we fought Hitler and Hitler was bad, we must be good. These very basic fallacies, or psychological exploits, are deeply embedded in our political operating systems. Like bugs in code, they are invisible until you look straight at them. Then they are obvious.
The key feature of the two-story state is much less reliance on hard repression. As in the four-stroke engine, the cost of the feature is a pile of parts and a drop in performance. The fundamental engineering problem of the two-story state is to contain the active, but innocuous, political conflict which distracts its subjects out of any real democratic power.
The modern two-story democracy contains two power cores: a civic core and a political core. The trick is: in theory, the political core is stronger than the civic core. In practice, the civic core is stronger than the political core.
A stable regime must maintain this power inversion. If stability is lost, the political core takes control. For an instant, the engine becomes a real democracyâ€”then it turns into something else, or just catches fire and explodes. Think Germany in 1933.
Yet the â€œinversionâ€ is, at bottom, a lie. The political core is presented as the ruler. The civic core is presented as the tool. The real flow of power is the opposite of the apparent flow.
Public opinion does not direct the civic core; the civic core guides public opinion. The one-story state needs continuous repression; the two-story state needs continuous stagecraft. Of course, the former can still lie, the latter still repress.
In current language, the positive label â€œdemocracyâ€ signifies the civic core. We must all defend â€œdemocracyâ€ from â€œpolitics,â€ a negative label. People really believe this newspeak. Since it is dangerous to reverse the power flow, they may even be right. …
Itâ€™s interesting to compare Western civil society to an Eastern ruling party. Both are organs outside the civil service proper. The latter is truly centralized; the former, decentralized.
Civil society has no single point of failure. Thatâ€™s cool. Yet it is impossible not to notice three disturbing facts about it. Weâ€™ll have to leave these phenomena as mysteries for now.
One: it has no arbitrary center, but its reputation system seems arbitrary, or at least static. The prestige of prestigious universities, newspapers, etc., does not seem to change. These institutions must be either impeccable, or unaccountable.
Two: some mysterious force seems to ideologically coordinate this system. All these prestigious institutions, though organizationally quite separate, seem to magically agree with each other. When they change their minds, all change together, in the same direction. We cannot say that Harvard is on one side of Yale; we can say the Harvard of 2019 is on one side of the Harvard of 1989. This force is not centralized, but works like a center. It could just be a totally sick level of collective wisdom. But is it?
Three: one tendency of this mysterious force is reinforcement of effective political formulas. Somehow civil society prefers to think thoughts that make civil society stronger. It is still a marketplace of ideas; it also prefers to think thoughts that are true. These preferences are not always aligned.
If we can explain all these phenomena, we can explain how a decentralized civil society, effectively protected from democracy, can, does, and indeed must become a distributed Orwellian despotism.
12 Jun 2015
Curtis Yarvon aka Mencius Moldbug
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.
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