I’m still somewhat amazed – and certainly amused – that our little NR/DE ideegemeinschaft has generated even the small amount of attention and coverage that it has. Of course, much of it is simply awful, inaccurate, and banal libel (e.g. Kuznicki, Bartlett, Shea) but that’s to be expected.
What is more surprising is that some genuine talents have spent some considerable amounts of their scarce time exploring the subject with fairness and at least a certain amount of open-mindedness (e.g. Alexander, Gurri, and Bloom). I can’t quite come to believe that today’s shrinking attention spans and news-cycles don’t force all this to blow over soon, but I was wrong before, and so one can only hope that future writing looks more like the work of the latter group than the former.
But the work of these authors is not done, and I want them to take another go at it, and to do it from a different angle.
In a way this reminds me of a similar issue in the altright movement. We are the enemies of leftism, and at the present stage most of us writers and thinkers are mainly engaged in the analysis of the leftist hegemony. The Cathedral’s rule is so pervasive that rather than think “how do we get out?”, many of us are still mostly concerned with the “how did we get here?”
And there’s been enough introductory-level ‘neoreaction 101’ reporting. Anyone can write a ‘What is X-ism’ article. But to take it seriously means to ask ‘Why is X-ism now a thing? Why do people go there?’ and to engage earnestly with those root motivations and experiences.
Why is this important? Because NR – like any young political scene – presently has no ‘catechism’ and is conflicted, schismatic, and evolving in an ongoing process of deveopment. Writing to report that there is something new out there and about what ‘it’ is well and good, but as Gurri stated, one can’t do justice to that mission when there isn’t yet a solid core ‘it’ to cover. But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t some common thread.
It should come as no surprise that the better journalists are Libertarian-ish, and I hope they are reading this post, because it is to them that I am addressing it.
Here is my view of things in order of increasing NR/DE consensus / commonality:
- Prescription and Strategy – What to do, how to change things, ‘how do we get out?’
- Goals – What do we want? What is the vision of the better society, and how can it be made to function to produce the intended results?
- Analysis and Diagnosis – What is the nature of the problem, ‘how did we get here?’
- Presentation of Symptoms and Social Critique – The list of things that people think are going seriously wrong and an awareness that the doctrinaire remedies and ideas upon which we were taught to rely are ineffective to arrest the disease.
- Libertarian and/or Traditionalist Right Ideological Back-Story.
That back-story (or ‘sick journey‘, and see also) isn’t universal of course, but it’s common enough especially among the most prominent writers that I think it deserves special attention. Foseti is very fond of asking new members to the fold, “Where did you come from and what brought you here?” The answers tend to have a lot in common, and I think that says more about what’s really happening here than our struggle to intellectually address the higher order problems.
The “neo” prefix flags me as a busted libertarian, or at least, a busted something else. I am not a native-born reactionary. I am an ideological refugee or squatter, someone who undertook a Moldbug-like “sick journey”, if not from Mises to Carlyle, then at least from David Friedman to Henry Sumner Maine.
The back-story occasionally goes further (in a way that I think is more common for the older cohort of bloggers) to a progressive and/or mainstream religious rearing before a sociopolitical / ideological awakening to step 5, and I’d include myself amongst that number.
So, in the spirit of Harris’ Moral Landscap Challenge (to which there were 424 submissions), and borrowing Bryan Caplan’s concept of an ideological Turing Test, here is my challenge to the Libertarian-sympathetic NR-covering journalists out there:
Explain how you imagine Handle went from stage 5 to 4.
I don’t claim to be representative at all, but I use myself instead of the group of ‘neoreactionaries’ as a whole because it provides both a clearer target (I’ve left a bit of a comments trail that’s not hard to trace) and makes it easier for me to evaluate your efforts. I promise I’ll be fair and honest. If you don’t trust me, you can try to simulate Handlesprechweise and my fellows can grade how close to the mark they think you’ve hit.
And … hold on just a second. We all know where this is going, right?
Well, obviously Handle is some evil, stupid, ignorant, creepy, racist, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, hateful, extremist, neo-Nazi, anti-Semite oppressor who is probably an unemployed, broke, fat, ugly, socially awkward and involuntarily celibate failure in life.
He is a geek shut-in who plays games all day because he cannot function in the real world, except when he attends nerdy costume conventions, and who blogs from his mother’s basement.
He is bitter, angry, and frustrated at the world’s failure to recognize his (nonexistent) ‘genius’ and so tilts Quixotically at windmills, grossly exaggerates social problems or concocts delusional apocalyptic scenarios that are entirely imaginary, and dreams about fantasy-fascism with his other loser-cult buddies. Ha Ha! If he’s not an X, then it’s only because he couldn’t hack it, or they kicked him out!
You get the point. Believe me, I’ve heard it all before.
Well, I plead not guilty down the line of the charge-sheet, which you can choose to believe or not of course. After all, if you’ve never met me, I’m just some random pseudonymous person on the internet, hardly a bastion of trustworthiness.
But besides being wrong, I’d encourage you to avoid this false name-calling for three reasons:
- It’s the easy way out, and neither of us will learn anything or do any actual thinking.
- This is precisely what more mainstream folks say about you – just more of the relatively stronger tribe ‘punching down’ to the the even more outnumbered – and it’s just as erroneous.
- It is rude. It indulges your prejudices, and to overcome those disrespectful biases you should, like Arnold Kling, try to take ‘the most charitable view of those who disagree’.
So, imagine Handle is a person just like you, who once thought almost exactly as you presently think, but then … something … – actually many things – and he decided he no longer wished to remain within the fold and identify with it as he once did, and that is was pointless to try and nudge it from within. He took a step away, found it to be superior, and began a journey that led him to where he is today. All exit, no voice.
If you’re an educated conservative-ish or libertarian-ish individual, that probably means he knows your beliefs, how you came to them, and the arguments you use to justify them, much better than you know him.
But, maybe not! We shall see! Take a shot a what you think those ‘somethings’ were, and if you believe in those somethings too, then why they haven’t led to your own exit.