Category Archive 'Mencius Moldbug'
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 »
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.
14 Apr 2020
Either Thomas Carlyle or Curtis Yarvon, hard to tell.
Jonathan Radclyffe discusses the latest instantiations of Moldbugism in the same delightfully learned, amusingly provocative, and ungodly prolix manner of the original, prose as dense and ultimately indigestible as a Christmas fruitcake.
Still, I do not believe that I have ever read a better prÃ©cis of Moldbugian Neo-Reactionism.
Recently something rather unexpected happened. Curtis Yarvin began writing again. A decade ago, back in the spotty youth of the internet when blogs meant something, Yarvin, a Silicon Valley computer programmer, made a cult name for himself under the nom de plume of reactionary political philosopher Mencius Moldbug. Often memed, frequently cited as an important ancestor of the â€œalt-rightâ€ (but largely left unread) and father of the online political movement known as NRx/neo-reaction (which has been declared dead endlessly since at least 2013), Moldbug may well be the only notable political philosopher wholly created by and disseminated through the internet.
In his journey from Austrian Economics to attempting to update early modern absolute monarchy for the information age, Yarvin regularly churned out tens of thousands of word screeds on his blog Unqualified Reservations (UR) about the need to privatise the state and hand it over to an efficient CEO monarch to keep progressives out, the Christian roots of progressivism, and encomia to nineteenth century Romantic Thomas Carlyle. All of this was so liberally coated in rhetorical irony and Carlylean bombast that it was often difficult to tell what was supposed to be serious and what was not. Moldbug was among the first to discover the power of reactionary post-irony, though these days of course, playing long-read rhetorical games to affect ideological change seems a rather primitive affair. The work of post-irony can now be compressed into a couple of memes very easily.
Between 2007 and 2010 Moldbug was immensely prolific. Thereafter UR petered off as Yarvin turned his efforts increasingly towards developing a blockchain-based data-storage scheme called Urbit. By 2014, when Moldbug began to become a household name across the internet as the social media platforms were increasingly politicised, Moldbug was pretty much finished writing. In April 2016 UR was wrapped up with a â€œCodaâ€ declaring that it had â€œfulfilled its purpose.â€ The same month attendees threatened to withdraw from the LambdaConf computing conference because the â€œproslaveryâ€ Yarvin would be speaking at it (Towsend 2016). To this Yarvin (2016a) wrote a reply insisting on the innocence of his Moldbuggian stage as simply a matter of curiosity about ideology. The same year in an open Q&A session about Urbit on Reddit, Yarvin (2016b) was more than happy to answer some questions about Moldbug and defend both projects as parts of a dual mission to democratise the current monopolies controlling the internet and to dedemocratise politics for the sake of enlightened monopoly.
In early 2017, following Trumpâ€™s election, rumours began to circulate that Yarvin was in communication with Steve Bannon, though nothing came of this (Matthews 2017b). Around the same time Yarvin was quoted as supporting single-payer healthcare (Matthews 2017a). News also surfaced that Yarvin was on a list of people to be thrown off Googleâ€™s premises, should he ever make a visit (Atavisionary 2018). Then, early in 2019, Yarvin (2019a) quit Urbit after seventeen years on the project, causing some to wonder whether Moldbug might now make a return. Old rumours also began to get about the place that Yarvin was behind Nietzschean Twitter reactionary Bronze Age Pervert (BAP), especially after Yarvin passed a copy of BAPâ€™s book Bronze Age Mindset to Trumpist intellectual Michael Anton (2019) with the insistence that this was what â€œthe kidsâ€ are into these days. And now Yarvin has started publishing again, under his own name, a decade on from the salad days of UR. On the 27th of September 2019 the first of a five-part essay for the conservative Claremont Instituteâ€™s The American Mind landed, titled â€œThe Clear Pill.â€
If Moldbug/Yarvin is famous for one thing, it is that heâ€™s the fellow who put the symbol of the â€œred pillâ€ into reactionary discourse. The â€œClear Pillâ€ promises to be a reset of ideology in which progressivism, constitutionalism and fascism will each receive an â€œinterventionâ€ through their own language and values to show up how â€œineffectualâ€ each is (Yarvin 2019b). Thus far this â€œclear pillâ€ sounds all rather typically Moldbuggianâ€“for Yarvin it has always been about resetting the state and the rhetoric of undoing brainwashing. Anyone passingly familiar with the oeuvre of Moldbug knows that Yarvin is more than capable of speaking all three of these political dialects reasonably well, even if, as Elizabeth Sandifer (2017) astutely notes, Moldbug is so deep in neoliberal TINA [DZ: “TINA” is slang for crystal meth.] he is unable to take Marxism seriously as a contemporary opponent at all. For Moldbug the American liberal pursuit of equality was always more â€œcommunistâ€ than the USSR, which is to say, paranoid reactionary hyperbole aside, that he only ever regarded Marxism as an early phase of progressivism.
And yet, six months on from the first part of the â€œClear Pillâ€, only a second of the promised five parts has thus far been published. Part two (Yarvin 2019c), or â€œA Theory of Pervasive Errorâ€ appeared on the 25th of November, and, so one might surmise, even the most die-hard Moldbug-fans must have found it somewhat lacking. The initial purpose of the piece seems to be to outline a theory of human desire that utilises the Platonic language of thymos (courageous spirit), but ends up sounding far closer to a Neo-Darwinian Hobbes than anything else. Human beings are petty and selfish beasts, we are encouraged to believe. The essay meanders on until it finally arrives at the simple old Moldbuggian point that because liberal â€œexpertsâ€ in governance and science have a touted monopoly on truth, they should not automatically be trusted. Thatâ€™s it. By taking such the long way around to say something so simple and banal, the result is more than a little anticlimactic. Perhaps after all these years the bounce has gone out of Yarvinâ€™s bungy; his lemonade has gone flat.
The only other piece to appear on The American Mind from Yarvin since â€œA Theory of Pervasive Errorâ€ has not been part of this â€œClear Pillâ€ series, but a stand-alone essay published on the 1st of February 2020 titled â€œThe Missionary Virusâ€. In this Yarvin argues that the recent coronavirus pandemic offers an unparallel opportunity to dismantle American â€œinternationalismâ€ and reboot a politically and culturally multi-polar world while economic globalisation continues. Imagine, Yarvin asks the reader, what it would be like if the virus did not go away and the travel bans lasted not a month, but a decade, or centuries. One thing can be said about this essay that cannot be said of the â€œClear Pillâ€ so far â€“ at very least it is entertaining. Perhaps parts three to five of the â€œClear Pillâ€ will actually say something interesting after all.
Indeed there are all sorts of questions that are still left unanswered. Will the crescendo of part five simply restate the need to privatise governance and let the market system work? Will Yarvin take some drastic new turn or even disown Moldbug? Will he finally acknowledge eccentric death-cultist Nick Land, who, for the best part of this decade has largely been the â€œkingâ€ of NRx as a political ideology? We must wait and see.
It goes on… and on… and on.
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.
22 Jun 2013
Mencius Moldbug, photo: NSA
The incredibly prolix, but always rewarding Moldbug is back with a terrific rant savaging Roger Baldwin and the ACLU, which dismisses with Olympian contempt all the faux libertarian dramatics about automated data-mining surveillance.
We live in a country in which being supposed to have the wrong opinions on equality will lose you your career (Paula Deen) and cause you to be cast right out of respectable society, and in which the heroic struggle for freedom and personal autonomy consists of defending your electronic communications from automated searches for phrases like “Durka, Durka, Mohammed Jihad” and connections with known conspirators.
[T]he American system of government [is] communism, ie, rule by the party of civil service. As Americans, we can at least be thankful that communism has done less damage here than elsewhere. It’s great to be an exporter, especially when your product is dioxin. It gives you the comforts you need to worry that someone is grepping your emails.
Thus, while I am not really one for purges, I’d be dismayed to see anyone who calls himself a real reactionary worrying at all that Obama is reading his email. Or whatever.
First of all, a reactionary is a gentleman (or a lady). A gentleman (or a lady) doesn’t whine. If he finds himself whining, it will be because his leg has been crushed by a truck and he’s in enormous fucking pain. It won’t be because some meanie is denying him his universal human right to rule the country, or his 1/10^8 share in that right, or whatever.
My son actually thinks he has human rights. It’s because he’s 2. This morning he asserted his right not to take his amoxicillin – with some success, but not much. I expect the critics of the NSA to have about the same luck. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.
For a man or for a community of men, the right to rule is a function of the might to rule. If the sound competent Midwest can get itself euchred out of its democratic right to rule by a bunch of slick Harvard men, the sound competent Midwest cannot maintain its authority and will get euchred by someone someday. If it’s not Harvard today it’ll be Yale tomorrow.
As for your right to “privacy,” as if having your emails grepped affected you in any way, it is by accident. Forget about the opponents of the government being persecuted. If they are persecuted, which is not their decision of course, (a) it will not be by means of grep, and (b) they’ll have to learn to deal with it, like men, rather than whining like little girls.
Obviously, almost all of those complaining are complaining because they are better communists than the Obama administration. A remarkable achievement, though it owes more to the complainees. Power does season a man – maybe only Nixon could go to China, but only Eric Holder could crack down on the Associated Press. (Hey guys – I know you’re big fans – don’t you like the way that red lightsaber feels in your hand? Swing it around a little. Well-balanced, isn’t it? Nice test cut you’ve taken – maybe it’s time for some real rail-splitting? Take it home, use it for a week, bring it back if you don’t like it? You’ll really enjoy working out with this little baby, I can tell you.)
But unfortunately, America is a communist country and Americans are not persecuted for being too communist. Au contraire – they are petted and lionized. They appear daring while taking no risks. It’s perfect. It’s true that there were a couple of periods where as many as ten or twelve communists suffered mild professional consequences for cavorting too openly with the Soviet mass-murder cult. Surely ten Americans a day are fired for racism. Hitler has been dead for 70 years, and the Brown Scare rolls on – at a thousand times the maximum intensity of “McCarthyism” or the Palmer Raids.
So if you’re a good communist, you have only symbolic worries about your privacy. These worries are simply a projection of your political penis envy. You react the same way to having your emails grepped as if someone said you weren’t allowed to vote in 2016. In reality, this loss would not affect you at all. Symbolically, however, it would represent a profound Freudian castration. In fact, if you fail to express your symbolic political masculinity, preferably through a Facebook update, you will feel castrated by default. But gross public outrage restores your hypothetical testosterone.
Read the whole thing.
17 Jan 2013
Aaron Swartz (November 8, 1986 â€“ 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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