Archive for April 2012
Yes, Something Awful, the behaviors I’m describing here are a common pattern, not limited to the left. Another common pattern is this. No one’s said I should’ve been killed at birth, but plenty of people have said that I should be killed, that my family should be killed, that ‘all you people’ should be killed, that the outgroup should be rendered unemployable, and so on. You can understand why someone who Peter Singer would have killed wouldn’t like a movement that tolerates Peter Singer, but can’t understand why someone who people on your side would have killed wouldn’t like a movement that tolerates them — and then you go on to criticize Scott Alexander for failing to apply his higher-level principles consistently.
As if cheap Googlebombing campaigns weren’t enough, Dan Savage decided to put on his New Atheist hat and do what they—and 13-year-olds on Livejournal—do best: rattle on about the Bible in the same tone of self-righteous willful ignorance as they imagine conservatives adopting on evolution. “If we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys, huh?” If Leviticus talks about shellfish, why do Christians still eat shellfish, huh?
Now, I’m not concerned here with his embarrassingly simplistic New Atheist view of theology, wherein all religion that was, is, and ever will be is fundamentally isomorphic to overliteral bookstore-Protestantism; having been raised into a thoroughly secularized version of said Protestantism (albeit one with some strange bits mixed in—I’ve put pepper on food maybe twice in my life), I’m most likely the least qualified person to talk theology out of those who are aware that there’s more to it than reading what’s in the monosyllables-only translation picked up for $5 at Walmart. (Now, now, Julius, put down that Talmud. You aren’t a rabbi; stop playing at it. You’ll poke someone’s eye out.) I’m also not going to bother with the lines he recycled from that hack Sam Harris; a ten-year-old could do that, unless the demon-virus Whiggery has already implanted itself in their knowledge of history. Even his shifty-eyed insistence that Universalism is somehow on the decline, when one would have to be delusional to think gay marriage will not be widely accepted in thirty years, will be left aside for now. My question here is a simple one:
“Pansy-ass”? Really? What are these high school students doing applauding a kindergarten line?
The answer, of course, should be obvious to anyone who has read Moldbug. One quick find-and-replace, and…
[Savage] really goes beyond smugness. Searing arrogance is more like it. I am reminded of the tone of the famous Soviet humor magazine, Krokodil, which loved to parody the buffoonish, corrupt doings of the hooligan dissidents. Alas, Krokodil is no more. But perhaps we can remember the entire trope in which the smug and powerful mock the hooligans, peasants and barbarians as crocodile humor.
Crocodile humor, from a crocodile. Notice his tone throughout the speech: raining curses with one finger raised, reveling in the worthlessness of his constructed enemy, he smirks and shakes his head at the filthy, fuck-dumb proles. I’ve seen it before: it’s the tone, the exact same tone, my professor takes when he goes colonial, starts rattling on about the backwardsness of the idiots in town, how silly they are for caring about little things like the college bringing in a crane to pluck the cross from its chapel, built on the highest point in town, or for almost electing a newcomer over an “all-around great guy” who just happens to be a
colonizer Democrat. Dan Savage wishing that the Republicans would go away sounds exactly like the professor wishing… well, that the Republicans would go away. Odd coincidence, that.
“These savages don’t have a leg to stand on!”, the crocodile cries. “Why won’t they get out of our way? After all, we know better. We are better. With actual power, just think what we could do!”
The mere existence of active opposition, no matter how powerless, is enough to set the crocodile off. The enemy must be crushed: converted if possible, raped and slaughtered if not.
(This, I suspect, is why crocodiles are so drawn to the left: a movement that advocates the mass rewriting of society will naturally draw those who want to rewrite society in their image.) Fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war; but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for the International Community is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that the rhetoric of war fits so naturally here; the main difference between caste-war and the normal kind is that the latter has an end. And once the Kernels are situated, that is when the game is afoot. The true war begins, light versus dark, good versus evil. This is a war that the forces of light are always destined to lose…
- Attempting to put in place a mirror image of the status quo is not meaningful opposition to it. One who would oppose the status quo, and is aware of the dialectic by which this mirroring occurs, must work to move beyond that dialectic. To strike meaningfully at something that is wrong, one must attack the form itself, not merely the manifestation that operates at the time.
- Meaningful opposition seeks to slow an undesirable pendulum, not merely push it to the other direction; this is the difference between serious theorists and mere advocates for a group, and the two must be kept distinct.
- That one does not hold power is no reason to operate on a different manifestation of a wrongness used by those who do hold power. Before using a particular manifestation, examine other manifestations of the same form; if some of those are wrong, the form itself merits examination.
- We will always be wrong, but our foremost goal must be to minimize the degree to which we are wrong; that we cannot be perfect is no excuse not to strive to approach it. In politics, this means that maps are to be judged by their utility at representing the territory: hand-waving, terra incognita, and invocations of deliberate malevolence must be minimized.
- No political system is entirely complete while the human factor remains unknown; and it may always remain unknown. To forget this is the most dangerous mistake.
- Every point in both theory and history is part of a line. The question is not where the point lies, but where its vector lies. Rates, not states.
- One must seek harmony between theory and practice; but, considering the above point, it is not necessarily practice that must change.
- Morality is an open question, and at its root is the open question of moral judgment. Just as no tree can grow from its absence-of-roots, no moral system can grow from an absence of agents of judgment.
- No evidently false system can draw adherents. There must be something that rings true to its followers.
- The goal is not to be a good person; the goal is to be, to as large a degree is possible, a right person. Social goodness changes over time, but, excepting real change in agents, truth does not.
- One must possess an understanding of the world in order to change it; and that change will follow naturally from the understanding, and be approximately as desirable as that understanding is accurate.
One of my classes this semester claims to be on the topic of “changing the world”: learning the methods of activism and the philosophical backings thereof in order to, as the course description puts it, “inform … decision-making about both ends and means in the struggle to change the world”. However, its actual content is concerned almost exclusively with a small subset of its possible range of topics: the behavior of the government. We are to focus not on our hideously small Overton window, but on SOPA and ACTA, to take one example: the topic of censorship is considered as the topic of state censorship.
This exclusive concern with the ‘public’ sector is a characteristic error of liberal political thought: the only power it recognizes is formal, centralized, and usually governmental. The glaring security hole should be obvious to anyone versed to any substantial degree in leftism or Moldbuggery. As Moldbug said:
A rule that tells us to “keep Mithra out of the schools” is overspecified, unless you think Mithra in specific is the great danger to impressionable young minds. If we keep Mithra out of the schools but we say nothing about Baal, Baal will outcompete Mithra and our children will grow up as Baalist bots.
Moldbug was referring to the separation of church and state—limiting the power of one kind of repeater will, at the very least, not touch the power of other kinds—but this applies equally well to forms of power. What difference is there in practice between thousands of small repeaters situated in a decentralized reinforcement mechanism such that they all send out the same packets and one large, sovereign repeater sending out the exact same packets? The same packets will be sent out either way, but the thousands will go unnoticed, and the one will not.
We can summarize this distinction easily by saying that liberalism, in many forms, is concerned solely with statecraft: the arrangement of the formal sovereign. Statecraft is a subset of politics: the arrangement of society, and the values and determiners of social standing therein. (Adjective forms: registerial, from Esperanto—any possible Latin root is already taken, and Greek would give something beginning with cyber-, which would be far too confusing—and political.)
The values and determiners of social standing thereof… We have already identified statecraft as our Mithra, the focus that brings about the security hole; could this be our Baal?
Well, who canned John Derbyshire? The state?
What was apparently important was not how mild he was but how mild-mannered he could present himself as being; the breach now, in terms of the National Review, may in the end be more one of politesse than politics.
Politesse. Civility, politeness, courtesy. Politesse fired Derbyshire. Values and determiners of social standing, in the ballroom, with a candlestick.
Note the strange liberal speech tic, the assumption that politesse and politics are mutually exclusive. It’s not a political matter, no, not at all; it’s just a matter of “being a good person”, as if such notions are utterly apolitical, outside the realm of dispute, right where liberalism wants them to be.
How, then, can activism, in the registerial sense in which it is taught, change the world? Trying to effect real change through activism is like trying to build a botnet using a hole closed back when OS/2 was the hot new thing, while there are millions of end-users running unpatched Windows installs as root who don’t know any better than to download
If you’re a fascist, say, no amount of activism will be as effective as getting the student body of Harvard into Von Thronstahl. It doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference what the government does if the Cathedral priests of the next generation rattle on about ‘honor’ and ‘degeneracy’ the way ours do about ‘justice’ and ‘racism’. (Of course, I’m not a fascist, but there aren’t any bands with my politics. Maybe I’ll start one someday. Bet I’d suck less than Von Thronstahl, or, for that matter, NOFX.) The ‘struggle’ to which my professors refer is far more ideographic than registerial, unless you support the existing ideography.
It’s not entirely ideographic, of course, but this post is long enough already.