Category Archive 'Mencius Moldbug'

12 Jun 2015

Mencius Moldbug Booted From Programming Conference

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Moldbug
Curtis Yarvon aka Mencius Moldbug

The true extent of left-wing censorship in American society today can be perceived by the fact that über-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 September’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.

Yarvin’s canceled presentation centered on Urbit, an idiosyncratic software platform he created, and an associated virtual machine called Nock. I’ve read the specifications, and Yarvin’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 it’s undoubtedly different and a worthy experiment. I would attend a talk on it. But I wouldn’t be able to at Strange Loop now, thanks to a strange figure named Mencius Moldbug.

That’s the nom de Web under which Yarvin writes mind-numbing political tracts. Yarvin/Moldbug is a self-proclaimed “neoreactionary,” an unabashed elitist and inegalitarian in the tradition of Thomas Carlyle, one of his heroes. (He fits neatly into the “Natural-Order Conservative” 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 “human biodiversity”—as in the “science” of racial differences, à la The Bell Curve—is real, valid, and very important. Neoreactionary thinking is far more complicated and far more verbose than this—which is in part a deliberate attempt to keep the great unwashed from paying too much attention to such Important Thought. If you’re curious, the tireless Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex has written extensive rebuttals of neoreactionary theory, which go to prove Brandolini’s Law: “The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.” 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.
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Normally I would have no cause to write about neoreactionary politics—it is eminently inconsequential—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 Yarvin’s invitation:

    A large number of current and former speakers and attendees contacted me to say that they found Curtis’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 it’s censorship. By making the issue about Yarvin being a “distraction,” 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 hasn’t even read Yarvin’s political writing.

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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 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.

22 Jun 2013

Moldbug: Stop Whining!

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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

“Noam Chomsky Killed Aaron Swartz”

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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

The Puritan Theocracy Rules On

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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

Who is Mencius Moldbug?

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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.

A sample:

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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