Can You Handle It?

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.

Master Spandrell says:

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:

  1. Prescription and Strategy – What to do, how to change things, ‘how do we get out?’
  2. 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?
  3. Analysis and Diagnosis – What is the nature of the problem, ‘how did we get here?’
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

As Peter A. Taylor wrote:

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:

  1. It’s the easy way out, and neither of us will learn anything or do any actual thinking.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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23 Responses to Can You Handle It?

  1. totalesturns says:

    He bought property in an “up and coming” neighborhood and couldn’t help noticing things.

  2. I can see your frustration over the fact that I focused entirely on 1 and 2.

    • Handle says:

      Not frustrated at all. Pleasantly surprised actually. But what has come out so far is just an incomplete beginning and shouldn’t be the end of the story, and I’d like to steer the requisite sequels in the most promising direction.

  3. Orthodox says:

    I expect even if NR is not successful in any meaningful sense as a political movement, in 10-20 years time, everyone who calls themselves a conservative or libertarian who leans conservative (as opposed to the liberaltarians) will agree with the critiques. The causes that are making people turn “hard right” are not going away, they are in fact getting worse and NR/DE has the explanation for why this is happening. Right or wrong, as things get worse, more people on the mainstream right will adopt these ideas or otherwise “move” to the left as the center of politics shifts right.

    • Your point is a good one, but I don’t see NR as a political movement at this point. It is an intellectual movement that may provide a framework for small associations and groupings, then small communities within the larger State, and eventually functioning independent traditional societies on the city-state scale.
      That’s my personal best-case.

  4. I made my proto-conversion to NR the day my daughter was born.

    My wife through family connections got hooked into having the best Ob/Gyn practice in the city handling her pregnancy. It was through a teaching hospital that was ghetto adjacent. This was they type of practice that the Mayor’s wife would go to, but in our case we did not have the mojo to get seen by the star doctors, instead we got to see whichever doctor in the practice was available that day.

    1) 2 plus weeks before due date, an exam finds that my wife’s embryonic fluid has pretty much evaporated. Time for imminent delivery. I get the call, and then show up to the office waiting room that is filled with black teen baby mommas accompanied by their mothers. All being seen and hand held by the best Ob/Gyn practice in the city. (Which is fair enough, but any last vestige of the argument that the poor don’t have access to quality health care flew out the window at that point).

    2) The Ob/Gyn that was on call that night was a female black doctor. Even though my 2 weeks premature impending daughter had a 50/50 chance of going straight to the NICU after delivery, she chose to define being “on call” as occasionally checking in on the phone and letting the med students on shift handle her duties. My wife’s progression towards delivery stalled, and the doctor ran down the clock for a full 10 hours until the new Ob/Gyn came on shift in the morning. He (a Korean doctor) quickly assessed the situation and hurried my wife into a speedy C-section. My belief that affirmative action was basically harmless went out the window at that point.

    3) I slept on a couch in my wife’s room while she recovered. (Healthy and hale baby with no worries, BTW). On various trips to fetch ice and real food from the truck vendors out on the street, I discovered that the only other “family” on the recovery ward was an Asian (grad student?) couple. The other half-dozen women on the ward were all “baby-mommas” who where occasionally visited by their rather awkward teen “baby daddies”. All in a moment it became very clear who was showing up for the future, and the kinds of people who would wind up being the peers of my daughter as she went through the stages of her life.

    After that, I paid more attention to Sailer, internalized The Bell Curve, embraced La Griffe du Lion, found Moldbug, LOLed at Roissy, and found it profoundly satisfying when Nick Land eventually got around to dubbing all the badthink as the “Dark Enlightenment”. At last I was home, and that there were others who could SEE. It is incredibly liberating to know that others are out there, and that more are putting on the red pill glasses every day.

    Handle, you can SEE, the specifics of how that came to happen in your circumstance are irrelevant.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      For our last child, our hospital had suddenly somehow become a trailer park, ghetto combo. We were the only married people on the floor (I’d bet). We were certainly the only ones without tattoos. The time before it had been pretty laissez-faire. Now the snack cabinets were locked up. Because people kept looting them, a nurse told us. My wife was scared to be left alone. We pressured the hospital admin to get us a private room, which they were pretty quick to do.

      In a just a few shorts years, some kind of tipping point had been reached.

  5. Pingback: Origins, Brief Version | Neoreaction in The Diamond Age

  6. Jack Crassus says:

    That “Sick Journey” post from Moldbug is incredible. I haven’t read it before.

    Damn it Handle, you have me reading Moldbug at 2AM on a Saturday night!

  7. Pingback: Moldbug’s Hierarchy of Politics | Post Libertarian

  8. Dan says:

    There were a couple of things that showed me that neoreaction is *the* thing, but here is one:

    I was an advocate for traditional marriage for the last few years (you must be either shaking your head or laughing). Not long ago, the concept of gay marriage was unheard of. Needless to say, the awesome power of what I now understand as the Cathedral was apparent here. The media’s 20 year focus on re-programming Americans until every American knew ten times as many gay characters on TV as in real life and Americans polled by Gallup in 2011 thought that 25% of the population is gay was stunning. The sudden and total acceptance of the ‘born-that-way’ meme even as startlets switched sides with dizzying regularity was sort of funny. The ignoring by politicians and judges of the law was breathtaking. The vicious slandering by Democratic politicians of good Americans over the Defense of Marriage act, which was signed just a few years before by those selfsame Democrats was impressive. The failure by the media to report the year ago million-strong, weeks-long rallies for man-woman marriage in supposedly liberal Paris, the largest rallies in the history of that city was depressing. The willingness and desire of mayors in Boston, Chicago, San Franscisco and D.C. to unconstitutionally outlaw a chicken sandwich restaurant over the beliefs of a shareholder which were basically mainstream Christianity was a sick joke.

    Now as a reactionary, I am able to step out a bit and hope things get better from here. A coherent message on marriage is important demographically and for the functioning of civilization. For many years, it was difficult for ordinary messages about the importance of marriage to even reach young people, since the gay issue dominated everything in the media related to marriage. That may change. I am also able to see that number gay ‘marriages’ in all jurisdictions is still zero and that number is not going to change because the law cannot make up for the fact that these unions lack many essential elements of marriage. But I can’t respect a goverment for which the underlying reality doesn’t even enter into the conversation.

    I think my biggest opposition to gay ‘marriage’ came not from religious dogma but from my scientific sense. As a biological union, it is an ecological error and a malfunction of evolutionary and biological directive number one. No hate. Just a corollary of evolution. That was totally apparent to most Americans until the Cathedral got to work, and then it was just hate and bigotry.

    At that point, it was a question of, what else has the Cathedral done to reprogram reality? And make no mistake that this is the work of the Cathedral. The 1.2 billion strong nation of India, full of young people no less, in 2014 recriminalized homosexuality in its Supreme Court and the residents there are hardly noticing. I was just there for three weeks. Their Cathedral is focused on different things, or else it is *far* smaller, or both.

  9. SkepticalCynical says:

    Primary hypothesis: Handle had a kid.

    Children lower the time preference of most sane people. You have a good reason to care more about the future society your child will live in, and the role your child will play in it. For many ex-libertarians, this seems to have been the trigger that made them realize that liberty wasn’t the only quality they desired in that future society.

    Secondary hypothesis: libertarianism is a gateway drug.

    For people emerging from their mandatory decades of Cathedral indoctrination, it’s pretty much the only not-totally-stigmatized political philosophy that takes notice of some of the obvious failures of modern social democracies. Any libertarian can accurately describe many of the problems of the welfare state, for example. So it’s an obvious attractor for people who are inclined to be skeptical of Official Truth. But you know, a little crimethink here, a little crimethink there, and pretty soon …

    I’d be fascinated to read Gurri’s or Alexander’s answers to your questions.

    • Handle says:

      Gurri has told me he doesn’t intend to take up the challenge, which is too bad.

      I’d guess that Scott Alexander would make an almost ideal submission, being a pretty good chess-player seeing several steps ahead at this kind of thing. But I don’t know if Scott even knows I exist.

  10. Pingback: Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » Umlaut

  11. Lesser Bull says:

    My guess is that some political issue you were interested in failed miserably, and in the wreckage you started asking some fundamental questions: were the cheats and misinformation that wrecked this cause just bad luck, or was it something systemic? Was there ever any hope of implementing our program, or was it all delusion, and if it was delusion, why is it impossible to implement something that addresses an obvious problem and is farily sensible? And, finally, but most fundamental–asking yourself if your program would have worked even if you had implemented it, or if the real solutions were things that you and everyone else had tacitly agreed were off-limits.

    Or, even worse, the cause you worked for succeeded and then proceeded to do jacksquat and get frittered away in lawsuits, dithering, and completely inexplicable compromise.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      In the last few years (probably since Romney lost in 2012), large portions of the Right in general have gone from Stage 5 to 4–NRx is just a subset of that trend, the difference being that NRx goes farther and is more intellectual. See here, for instance–

      Even earlier, the tea party movement reflects an inchoate sense that a revolutionary reboot is needed and normal political opposition would not be enough.

  12. Jefferson says:

    Stray thoughts: 1) Just about every comment in this thread seems right to me. The major forces for NRx conversion seem to be a) libertarianism mugged by reality, b) becoming a parent and having time-preference shifted, c) watching the insanity that was SSM, d) the failings of “conservative” recent causes, and e) HBD.

    2) It seems as though many of the folks who engage with NRx but don’t assimilate get fixated on semantics. Debating institutions vs. culture vs. whatever is an intellectual framework of limited utility, and as mentioned, floats up to the less solid workings of NRx (the 1 and 2 of Handle’s hierarchy of cohesion). Further, there is no NRx consensus once you move past #5 because there are major differences between ex libertarians (and their various flavors) and tradcons.

    3)…some stuff about NRxers being either outsiders in high school and not understanding community or being hard-liners in a community that’s dying and not understanding why it’s dying that I haven’t worked all the way through. We need some non-nerdy/non-pariah voices if we’re ever going to build a working ark, though.

  13. Epiphyte says:

    I’ll be your huckleberry! I used to be a libertarian as well. Then, like yourself, I stepped away and also found it to be quite superior.

    Here’s where it gets interesting. We’re really not standing in the same location. Like, you’re way over there…and I’m way over here. You’re in NR land and I’m in PG land. Yet, here I am reading your blog. It’s because I’m a pretty open minded fellow. There’s always room for improvement. Except, I have yet to see how NR represents an improvement.

    NR is all exit, no voice. PG is all exit, all entry, all voice, no eject. Errrr…what? You correctly identified that there’s something wrong with our current system…but you took a leap without enough looking. So yes, in that sense, you are tilting at windmills. That’s what happens when you don’t do enough digging.

    The only thing wrong with our government is the visible hand. That’s it. That’s the only thing wrong. The solution is simply to replace the visible hand with the invisible hand. Let’s work backwards.

    Right now we have the invisible hand in the private sector. What would happen to private goods if we replaced it with the visible hand?

    Variety? Plummet
    Quality? Plummet
    Cost? Skyrocket

    Right now we have the visible hand in the public sector. What would happen to public goods if we replaced it with the invisible hand?

    Variety? Skyrocket
    Quality? Skyrocket
    Cost? Plummet

    PG is economically consistent libertarianism. My comment is too long (apologies) so I’ll have to end it here and see if you’re curious enough to google “economically consistent libertarianism”.

  14. Bob dobalina says:

    Man those last two steps are the hard ones

    Anyway its funny that so many people have catalyzing events in their transformation. For me it was just a slow understanding of three concepts and bothering to think in the counterfactual.

    1. History is written by the victors.
    2. Entryists are everywhere.
    3. People believe what they want to be true.

    From these, almost everything about the world is explainable.

    • Bob dobalina says:

      Anyway that is how one gets to step 3. Hard to get to “burn it to the ground” stage when you have two little boys. You know the world is becoming hostile to who they will become– so you want to act!– but they’re too fragile at this age to safely make it out of Thumderdome. The right time was earlier or is later.

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