Restoration: A Modest Proposal

I’m not saying I’m doing this, but if you wanted to engineer a restoration this is what you’d do. It would only take thirty to forty years.

I.

Start by looking for families which have high average levels of the kind of traits you would want in a leader. (Or a king.) Intelligence, energy, drive, discipline, focus.  No personality disorders, no history of psychiatric illness. Healthy, tall, good facial symmetry — fine, let’s just say it, ideally they would be hot — and charismatic.

Whatever national virtues or values your nation has, these families should share. (So the Anglo-Saxon love of liberty, for example is not objectively speaking a trait these families need to have, unless you happen to be American, Canadian, or British, in which case it becomes desirable.)

If the adult members of these families were already fairly accomplished, that would be a good sign; if they already have wealth, status, or some other form of power, so much the better. But the fundamental traits matter more than the accomplishments.

Make a long (long) list of suitable families. Compare notes with collaborators. Befriend the families you’ve identified (why wouldn’t you?). Monitor them. Wait.

Oh, did I mention these families should also have sons?

II.

Some of these outlier families will have sons. Some of these sons will, themselves, be outliers. These are the ones you are looking for.

It is exceptionally unlikely that any one boy will be an outlier along all of the desirable traits. So you must emphasize some traits over others. For example: in a family of astrophysicists, a son who is slightly below the average familial intelligence but far exceeds his parents in drive and discipline would probably be preferable to someone with the reverse traits. Broadly speaking, it’s for the best if these boys are more testosterone-fueled than the rest of their families.

Some traits that are undesirable in families may be acceptable (in low levels) in a son. Families with high average levels of “dark triad” personality traits, for example, are unsuitable: but if a kind-hearted family has an otherwise-promising son who is a bit of an outlier in this area, that should be fine. Likewise, you would want to screen out families where there is a pattern of megalomania, but it’s not a huge problem if the son shows a hint of it. Likewise for risk-seeking.

These young men are the raw material for a Männerbund. Now it is just a matter of watching them as they grow, weeding out the marginal candidates and focusing on those who excel. Over time, provide philosophical guidance. Don’t bother trying to red-pill them, but prepare the way for a red-pilling that will come later.

If it’s in your power, you would like to encourage their maturation. Find ways to get them the resources they need to explore their talents and interests, and reward them for pouring effort into them. Encourage healthy routines and habits. Guide them into activities where they will learn the nature of discipline.

But you’re a reactionary, not a freakin’ Shaolin monk. The training montage is optional: broadly speaking, if they need your encouragement they’re probably not suitable. Most of what you need to do is put them in touch with one another. It would be wonderful if you had real resources at your disposal by this stage in the project and could send them off to a private island to plot world domination, in the style of James Bond villains: but that is entirely unnecessary. Most likely you will only need to befriend them individually, and then introduce them to one another over lunch, or even by e-mail.

These young men will be quite unusual along a number of dimensions. Few of their peers in their hometowns will see the world they way they do. They will find it refreshing to meet one another and challenging to have a realistic rival. They will admire the accomplishments of the boys you introduce them to, and this will inspire them to pursue their own ambitions with great passion.

Not all of the candidates will befriend each after a single superficial introduction; some actual ingenuity may be required on your part! And even once they start to form lasting acquaintances, some will dislike others for idiosyncratic personal reasons. Some will find the whole experience of encountering peers with similar unusual abilities unpleasant, and will voluntarily withdraw from the experiment. Others will be drawn towards some but strongly repelled by so many others that they are eventually, as the network of friendship-dyads congeals into a whole, pushed out of the nascent Mânnerbund entirely.

Over time these ties will act as attractors: schoolmates, roommates, colleagues, co-founders, co-authors, or simply co-located best friends who play tennis twice a week and hang out on the weekends. Ultimately their mutual admiration will draw them to one another and as they start to accustom themselves to thinking together and acting together, this mutual admiration will mature into cohesion.

They now begin to function together as a powerful group — not because of the talents or resources of any one of the young men (although they are all talented and can probably amass resources steadily if they need to), but because they are beginning to act as one.

III.

Now comes the hard part. (The next part may not be easy, but if they will accept your guidance here, their acquiescence in the follow-up is implicit.) Of all of the magical and stupendous and awe-inspiring things that this group of unusually talented young men could be doing (many of which you or I would not even understand, I imagine), you will convince them to apply their mutual power to finding each other wives.

What wives, you ask? Well, you might start by handing them over that long (long) dossier of families you collected over the previous two decades. You want the wives to come from families with similar qualities. They do not need to be exceptionally bright stars among their siblings; even if they are only “average”, they may well be too smart for their own good. Hold back your misgivings about whether such wives as these will make these young men happy: probably not, but oh well. In TCY, a woman from a talented family probably does not aspire to be the wife of a talented man and mother to five talented children. She will probably have attended (or still be enrolled in) college, for example; it simply cannot be helped. So long as the girls are not human rights lawyers or “community organizers” everything will probably turn out all right, and if you catch them young enough you (or more accurately, your budding Männerbund) may be able convince them that pretty girls don’t need to go to med school or apply for internships at Goldman.

Of course, each man should actually like the young woman his fellows have ensnared for him. So she should have some loving, wifely qualities, she should be pretty, and all those nice things. But she should be pretty mainly because she comes from a family of attractive people, not because she comes from a family of feminine women and effeminate men; that would vitiate the next stage in the process.

Oh, and don’t choose sisters of the young men. In some sense these matches would be easiest to arrange, but it would create headaches down the road. Mumble mumble human leukocyte antigens mumble mumble founder effects…

IV.

So those crazy kids all get hitched and you’re invited to all the weddings, each one more rollicking than the last. Ten months later the babies start rolling out.

Your young friends will now have their hands full, between ascending to the pinnacle of human accomplishment during the day and crying infants at night. Maybe you can recommend a reliable au pair? Or maybe it is time for you to slip into the background before they remember who recommended they propose to all these women who know more about calculus and Middlemarch than baking cakes.

Slip deep into the background. Fast-forward ten or fifteen years. Now re-emerge for the second-hardest part: remind them that the whole point of making sure they all had top-notch wives was to make sure they would all have equally excellent children. Now the children are here, and it is time to marry them off to each other.

Not all at once, of course. You can let them mingle.

Then after the mingling is done it would be wise to take the path of least resistance and marry off the pairs of boys and girls who simply adore each other first. That will make the policy of arranged marriage easier to swallow, at any rate, and then when the time comes to pair off the adolescents who don’t click (yet!) there will be less kicking and screaming.

But of course, even when the Männerbund’s genius for matchmaking leads it to match a young man and young woman who have never seen eye to eye, there will not be much kicking and screaming, because these will be unusually lovely children, and their parents are planning to send them to Oahu for a week with no chaperone; so the young couple will probably be able to swallow the indignity of having to get married first. This easy submission on the part of the children to the wisdom of their elders is your reward for having so carefully limited your search to attractive families, when you started the project three or four decades ago.

The ’bund’s main concern, other than making sure their children are at least moderately likely to like their spouses, should be to make the graph of intermarriages among the ’bund’s children as close to radially-symmetric as feasible. The purpose of this is avoid clusters of men whose children are all married to each other, but not to the children of the men in the other cluster(s).

V.

When first grandkids start to arrive, it’s time to seize power.

“Oh, uh, how will they seize power?”

How would I know?

“Okay, but didn’t you say this was a plan for how to carry out a restoration?”

No.

“I’m pretty sure you did, actually.”

No, read carefully. I said this was plan for how to engineer a restoration, which is really something completely different.

“But… what’s the difference between engineering a restoration and carrying out a restoration?”

What’s the difference between setting up one of your friends with a girl and taking her out on a date yourself? When you engineer a restoration you set up the conditions under which a restoration would be possible, or even likely. It doesn’t mean you’re going to rule yourself, or even that you would know how to.

“Okay, I guess that’s… less ridiculous than I thought. But how can you know anything about the conditions under which a restoration would be possible unless you know how a restoration would be carried out?”

I’m not sure I follow. I don’t mean for you to take the going-on-a-date analogy too literally, but surely you see how I can know that going out to dinner is a good chance for my friend to get to know the girl better even if I have no idea what he’s going to say to her?

“I see what you mean, but of course we know that people can start to fall for each other after spending an hour together eating a meal, or going for a walk — or doing nearly anything, really. It happens all the time. But restorations are rare, right?”

Rarer than dates, at least.

“So how can you know that the conditions you’re describing are conditions under which a restoration would be possible, unless you can describe how the men in question would actually carry out the restoration from that point?”

Ah, I see what you mean. Well, let me see if I can frame this a bit differently. By the way: are you a formalist?

“Of course! Would you let me appear as an interlocutor on your blog if I weren’t?”

Good, that’s what I thought. The formal power/informal power distinction is a good one for these kinds of discussions. Now, if you were trying to carry out a restoration yourself, would you try to start with some sort of demand that the future sovereign, whoever he might be, must not be cruel to his subjects?

“No, of course not.”

Or that he not pass any law which does not agree with natural law, and that any unnatural law would be null and void? Or that he must in all of his actions respect the inherent dignity of man?

“No, I already told you — I’m a formalist!”

Good, I’m glad to hear it. But why not? What’s so terrible about not being cruel, or adhering to the natural law? Are you saying you’re against the natural law? Is formalism a violation of the natural law!?!

“It’s not that it’s terrible, it’s that demands like that are either superfluous (if Don’t be cruel means nothing other than: Don’t do things your subjects will hate for no reason) or tendentious (if it means Don’t cause your subjects to suffer in ways I don’t like). And if the so-called demand is implemented so that one formally designated man or body has the authority to veto cruel policies and the power to enforce its veto, that body is actually sovereign, not the body it prevents from being cruel.”

And if the demand that cruelty be abolished is not implemented with a meta-sovereign, then what?

“Okay, so if, on the other hand, the demand is implemented so that no one in particular decides what’s cruel but everyone expects that what’s cruel will be vetoed, then some informal network of people who collectively shape what the actors at the relevant veto-points think is cruel or not cruel will have informal power that undermines the sovereignty of the state.”

And what’s wrong with that?

“Well, it creates uncertainty, which leads to violence. If cruel acts will be vetoed but no one really knows for sure which acts will be called cruel and no one knows who decides which acts are called cruel, then no one really knows what the state will do, which…”

Good, good, you can stop there. I understand what you’re saying. But what about this: what if we just detailed our demand very, very carefully? Like: Don’t force your subjects to eat brussel sprouts unless they don’t have enough veggies in their dietDon’t draw and quarter traitors unless hanging doesn’t seem to be deterring them. Don’t broadcast spoilers to new mass-market young adult paperbacks over the emergency broadcast system.

“You would just be creating an infinite regress, wouldn’t you? The sovereign would have to decide when each rule applied, in which case the only reason he would follow it is that it’s a sensible rule he would be likely to respect anyway; but making it a formal limit on his sovereign powers can do nothing but sow uncertainty.”

So in other words, you have to trust that the sovereign would use his power wisely? Or at least, not idiotically?

“Precisely.”

But government official do use their powers idiotically all the time, correct? This is why we want a restoration, after all. Too many idiots at the helm. We need to curtail their powers, don’t we?

“No, that’s not quite right. Our current officials don’t have any power. They are just part of the kabuki show. Half of what they do is stupid because the they can’t accomplish anything anyway, and the other half is evil because the anarchy they create calls for violence and deception to resolve the uncertainty of demotism.”

So let me get this straight: if the situation I have described could lead to a restoration, and those young men could one day establish a sovereign order, and have equal shares in sovereignty or appoint one of their member as king, you would say (after they are sovereign, I mean) that I should trust their authority? That I shouldn’t second-guess their decisions?

“Right, agreed.”

So, for example, I shouldn’t give them a long list of instructions that they should follow on how not to be cruel, or how to respect the inherent dignity of mankind, or how to follow the natural law?

“No, you shouldn’t. Or… if you did, it would have to be as advice, not as some kind of formal instructions with official status.”

Because I don’t need them to follow the instructions I devise, correct? I have to trust that, given that their formal power is adequate to rule the state, they have no reason to behave like idiots, certainly no need to promote violence and uncertainty; they will be perfectly able to make kind, respectful, prudent decisions without any input from me?

“Yes.”

And conversely I, with no responsibility and no power and no special talents deserving of either, am actually not especially qualified even to come up with mediocre advice about how to rule?

“Yes, I guess that follows as well.”

And the same goes for everything else they will do if they become sovereign? They do not need my instructions, either as constitutional law or as private counsel, on how to balance a budget, staff a police force, put down a rebellion, repel an invasion, or any thing else like that? They will be able to maintain order just fine without my meddling?

“Naturally, yes.”

In fact, such meddling would be meaningless, because we are entirely ill-equipped, we have said, to offer this kind of practical advice to a sovereign?

“Sure, that goes along with everything else.”

So then, look back at the moment immediately before these men become sovereign — when they have the power to rule, but have not yet demanded and defended and won public recognition of their power — should I give them instructions on how to assume power? How to announce their supremacy?

“Ah, now I see where you’re going with this. No, I don’t think there would be an substantial difference between telling them how to announce their intention to rule, or how to defend it after they’ve announced it, and telling them how to defend their sovereignty after it is already firmly established.”

Good. Because of course, it’s vitally important that a sovereign maintain order; but we don’t need to instruct him on how to do so, because he knows he needs to and is better positioned to find the ways and means than we are. And likewise it’s vitally important that an incipient sovereign assume power, isn’t it?

“Yes, but… he knows this too, he knows how to do it better than we possibly could…”

Wonderful! So are we agreed that engineering a restoration is quite a different thing than showing how to carry one out?

“Wait, wait. We’re not quite agreed yet! I think what you’ve shown is that it’s logically inconsistent for a formalist to say he knows how to carry out a restoration of political order. (Unless maybe he plans to carry it out himself? That part of it confuses me, but never mind.) But I still think my original point stands. If it’s impossible (or at least senseless) for you to predict how a restoration might be carried out, how can you say that you’ve engineered the conditions for the restoration?”

Oh, well: that’s simple enough. Let’s say instead of following my plan you approached a bunch of colonels in the country you planned to restore and tried to sell them on formalism. What would happen? Let’s say that between them, the colonels control enough tanks and helicopters to manage whatever crappy little country you’re operating in.

“Well… I’m not sure what you’re getting at. There’s no way to know what would happen! They might get bored halfway through Part I of the Gentle Introduction and never embrace formalism at all. Or some might embrace it but not others. Or even if they all embraced it, some might think they didn’t have any chance of success and refuse to go along with the restoration attempt, or others might be willing to stand behind restoration but only if some of the other colonels were purged first… really, anything could happen! Who can say?”

You have perceived exactly what I was getting at. Good job. That is precisely the point: there is no reason to think ‘the colonels’ would all be of one mind, and even if they were there is no reason to think they could all work together effectively. But it’s even worse than that. Let’s say they did manage to work together and they did try to carry out a restoration and they did  manage to start rolling back whatever monstrosity Foggy Bottom had installed in their presidential palace? What would happen next?

“Well… to the victor go the spoils, right? I imagine even if they were united before they started, they would start feuding once victory was a real possibility. Because if the endpoint of the restoration is to restore sovereignty, then each colonel is going to want to be sovereign himself, or have the largest share possible if they are handing out shares in a sovcorp.”

Bingo. And then what happens with the siege of El Presidente‘s palace, once the colonels conducting the siege start feuding?

“Oh, I mean… I guess it would fall apart. At the very least El Presidente, or his international sponsors, could find some colonel who thought he was getting a raw deal, bribe him to switch sides, and then draw out the fighting.”

Right. That is the problem… lack of cohesion at the beginning when the project seems sure to fail, and lack of loyalty at the end when success is within reach.

“And the reason it seems sure to fail at the beginning is that it seems sure to fall apart at the end.”

Precisely so. One of the reasons, at least. Hard to cohere around a project which is sure to have many losers, even on the winning side. And worse: the likeliest person to win this kind of competition is exactly the kind of person who is deceptive, underhanded, treacherous…

“The kind of person all of his previous comrades would hate for having succeeded where they failed.”

The would hate him, wouldn’t they? They’d probably hate him enough to kill him, if they could find a way.

“And if he knew how much they must hate and resent the way he clawed his way to the top during the restoration, he would surely exile them. Or murder them.”

Now, now — we’re formalists, remember? If he becomes sovereign and then kills someone he suspects of lèse-majesté, that’s not murder, it’s a well-deserved execution. But the problem is that the potential targets of this particular well-deserved execution might see the writing on the wall before the restoration, and (quite reasonably) execute him before he has a chance to execute them. Well, I don’t exactly mean reasonably; because there are lots of people who might be the treacherous, deceptive rat who might execute you later, but the deceptive rat would be quite good at deception, wouldn’t he?

“He might look like he’s just some innocent reactionary colonel who wants to preemptively execute the deceptive rat who will execute all his old comrades after the restoration succeeds…”

Exactly so.

“The whole thing sounds like a mess, to be frank.”

Wouldn’t it be convenient if the colonels — or whoever you were trying to convince to carry out the restoration — didn’t actually care at all which of them was going to rule after the restoration? If they would be perfectly willing to pick a name out of a hat, and make that colonel king and the rest of them his ministers?

“Well, it would be convenient but it doesn’t sound very likely.”

Not likely, no — but is it possible? For example: what if by some bizarre coincidence, every colonel had a child married to every other colonel, so that no matter which of them became king, every colonel would have a child married into the royal family. Would that make them feel a little bit better about a royal lottery?

“Oh… okay. This is all coming together. And if all of their children were married to each other in a radially-symmetric network, then it wouldn’t really matter too much if, in the actual restoration, each man lost a little power or gained a little power against his initial expectations, because all of their children collectively constitute the new royalty, and there is no way for one man’s children to fall to a lower status than he expected unless all of their fathers-in-law have also been shut out from the new regime.”

Yes, something like that. Not impossible, but statistically unlikely. And since none of their progeny are likely to be shut out from the new regime (even if each of the fathers individually might be), there is no life-or-death urgency behind the struggle for a share in the sovereignty in the new state, no need to risk betraying one’s peers to get a slightly bigger slice of the pie. So in fact, it is quite likely that no one will be shut out in any way.

“Or if someone is shut out, it’s because they implement something wacky and idealistic like the royal lottery you suggested — because they are so confident that any of them would be a good king, and would reward the rest of them appropriately for their efforts.”

That’s possible too. They would have options. I’m not here to tell them how to rule. I’m just trying to play matchmaker.

Early Modern Statecraft (and Statecruft)

Having defended monarchism in principle, I should move right into a previously-planned post on the problems actual monarchies face. As I mentioned in my previous post, calling someone “King” doesn’t guarantee he’ll rule over a kingdom any more than calling someone “General Secretary” guarantees that he’ll make you coffee. Constitutional monarchies are a thing; pretenders and usurpers are a thing; and of course, even an actual monarch can become less-than-actual if he allows certain crucial capacities to fall into the wrong hands.

Formalists suspect that formal regimes are better than informal regimes, and that most of the grave diseases that afflict modern societies can be traced back to poorly-designed institutions. But monarchy is not formal government and formal government is not monarchy. Rather, that there is nothing bad about royal government is merely one of the most unfashionable implications of formalism, and absolute monarchy is one of the clearest illustrations of a formal power structure. This makes pro-monarchist signaling — deeply unpopular in the broader population — uniquely well-suited for use as a reactionary counter-signal (an “exosemantic gang-sign”, in Nydwracu’s memorable phrase).

But still, an informal monarchy is just as informal as informal democracy. Doesn’t matter whether you call the guy who doesn’t-really-rule “President” or “Prince” if the priestly class continues to pull the strings. So we need to look quite seriously at what can go wrong in monarchies. This isn’t simply a matter of having the know-how to set up a sturdy monarchy, or deciding whether, on the whole, we prefer an absolute monarch or an oligarchy. These nasty totalitarianism-lite “democracies” we live in have failed spectacularly, but part of the spectacle is how quickly they failed. If you want to know what could go wrong in a formal state in general, you need to look at all of the failure-modes discovered during the many centuries of royal and imperial governments.

Failure modes like the French Revolution.

Formal sovereigns – monarchs or otherwise – don’t rule by metaphysical necessity. Their rule is contingent on other people who carry out the sovereign’s will. Consider an analogy: Michael Phelps swims fast, but not by metaphysical necessity. His speed is contingent on how much pressure his muscles can exert on the water, and things like that. If you amputated his limbs, I could swim a lap faster than him.

To say a monarch has formal power doesn’t mean he doesn’t need other people’s help, it means His Majesty’s government has a functioning institutional hierarchy. All the people in that hierarchy provide a valuable service, and they each need some reason to provide that service. The king, in turn, needs to provide the reason. But in a healthy institution, that incentive won’t be a voice in government — or at least, not on a regular basis. Kings do need advisors, and “vizier” is a pretty cool job, so the king may reward some of his servants with ministerial roles.

But there is only so much advising to go around. If you make some nobody your Financial Advisor, then you aren’t going to be able to reward someone who has actually straightened out your finances with the same role. If you multiply the ministerial roles endlessly, you created confusion and gridlock — particularly if you, as king, look to consensus among your advisors as a valuable source of information, or if you want to delegate minor tasks to them.

Kings often need to appoint men who will act as Justices of the Peace. JPs function much like the chief’s lieutenants in a tribal society. The king can’t be everywhere all at once, so he needs loyal allies who can command enough respect within a given region to communicate his orders there, make sure everyone knows what’s what, and knock heads together if there is any confusion.

Even when the Justices of the Peace perform this function beautifully, dependence on JPs and (more broadly) on the small class of men who have the wherewithal to fill the position can create problems. If someone who holds such an important role can’t be replaced easily, and if the pool of potential appointees is small to begin with, the “market value” of their services might be too high for the king to routinely pay them what they’re really worth. He may instead have to rely on overlap of interests. A king should not, unless he is a figurehead, ask his subjects to certify that his decrees are in their interests; but generally, they are in his subjects’ interest. (As a rule of thumb the king is the herdsman and his banker is the butcher.) The alignment of interests is even closer when you look at the sort of local squires and landowners who might serve as JP, since they are the ones who have the most to lose from insecurity of legal titles.

This deep overlap of interests frequently exists between a king and his subjects, and in particular between a king and his lieutenants. It means that a king can often call on some local squire to play a critical local role for little more than a symbolic reward, simply because the squire also wants the job to be done, and done well. But even if such an overlap exists, a king who becomes dependent on it is skirting disaster. His hold over his lieutenants is no stronger than a tribal chieftain’s, and he must always bear in mind how a new policy affects those whom he expects to enforce it. If it is bad for them, it will be enforced lightly or not at all; if it is very bad, the same men may hold their other duties hostage to increase their bargaining power.

In some metaphorical sense, perhaps all rebellions are rebellions of JPs. But the English Civil War especially deserves this description. In the escalation of his dispute with Parliament, Charles I had so heavily alienated the gentry class that county governments were largely outside his control. How he alienated them I will touch on in the next post, but the preexisting problem was that his government relied so heavily on its local lieutenants, and in particular on their own interest in promoting royal policy, that these lieutenants had something like a formal veto on any policies that went against their interests.

I do not mean to describe the use of JPs as “the cause” of the English Civil War. It may well be Charles I had no better option. He should at least have recognized that such a vulnerability existed, and also the importance, if it existed, of keeping tabs on the working consensus among potential rebels. Indeed, that is why parliaments exist. Parliaments build centrality into the lines of communication of the unreliable class. So long as Parliament seems satisfied, would-be rebels know they won’t be able to foment a rebellion, so they have no reason to risk royal wrath by trying.

Charles I called no Parliaments between 1629 and 1640. This period of personal rule was entirely consistent with his right as sovereign — but perhaps it was not wise.

Charles I ruled without consulting Parliament for 11 years. When Louis XVI convoked an Assembly of Notables in 1787, this body had not been consulted in 163 years. When the Estates-General assembled two years later, it had not met for 175 years, and could not even settle what seating arrangements it would use before veering off into Revolution.

What is best is not to have many important lieutenants whose enforcement of royal policy is contingent on their personal approval to begin with. (Ideally a king could limit such sensitive positions to men whose opinions he would solicit anyway, in their capacity as his advisors.) When reactionaries blame the fall of such-and-such a monarchy on “the decline of the aristocracy”, they most frequently mean that the kings were relying on community leaders to administer justice on a volunteer basis as a public service, rather than finding someone who would take charge in exchange for some reward. Rewards (whether seigneurial privileges or simple awards of cash and land) are expensive, and moreover the more rewards flow to the aristocracy, the more powerful aristocrats there are to interfere with dynastic succession.

But assuming you do have little choice but to rely on many independent lieutenants who serve at their own pleasure, it is wise to know what their pleasure is. Calling regular Parliaments is one way to do this — not a law of nature, but certainly a sensible approach to a serious problem. If you are regularly consulting some body to make sure they aren’t secretly getting pissed off at you, don’t forget the “regularly” part. A parliament isn’t like some girl you picked up at the club; it’s not going to think you’re hot stuff because you never return its calls. If you don’t want to use assemblies to keep tabs on the people you rely on, don’t call assemblies. But don’t call assemblies when you think they like you, and stop calling assemblies when you’re afraid maybe they don’t like you, and then start again when your affairs are in total chaos. The whole point of the assembly is to give you a sense of how much they don’t like you.

However, a whole class of very similar problems can arise in different circumstances where the JPs, or some similar group of lieutenants, are not doing their job — indeed, where there is no longer any job for them to do. To imagine how a situation like that might arise, let’s say that your great-great-great-great grandfather, the first king of your royal line, was always at war and so never stopped campaigning. He found it useful to use one of his men as a de facto second-in-command. He had to lead the army and have final say in decisions, of course, but he couldn’t do everything by himself — so he had a right-hand man who was always at his side to oversee logistics, manage access, double-check plans, deliver orders, and that kind of thing. And since he was always right there, he probably doubled as a bodyguard, a taster and even, if necessary, as a valet.

Sounds like an important, grueling job, right? If your quadruple-great grandpa’s new dynasty gets firmly established, his Right-Hand Man is getting a big, fat barony.

And maybe the following kings retained this “Official Right-Hand Man” position when they went off to war, and continued to appoint worthy men to the position… even as the position hemorrhaged duties over the generations. The original Right-Hand Man worked hard for his peerage. The first king’s son’s and grandson’s Right-Hand Men both still had a valuable role to play (and those two probably only earned that appointment after they had already performed invaluable services that merited a peerage in their own right). So they got peerages, too.

Fast forward: now you’re the seventh of your line (long may you reign). Times have changed. Now you have a General Staff. They manage military logistics. The tradition has devolved to the point that the guy you appoint as your Right-Hand Man, is basically just your equerry. He helps you mount. And dismount. Maybe he coordinates with the grooms, too, to make sure that the horses are looking shiny.

You’re not going to give someone a peerage for helping you get on a horse. And you’re probably not going to waste the talents of a servant who does deserve a peerage by “promoting” him to full-time equerry. So it would be really, really unfortunate if this whole “Right-Hand Man” tradition had descended down to your reign in an unbroken line, peerage and all.

No one wants the insult of being the first Right-Hand Man in the history of the kingdom to not get a peerage. If you despair of filling the official Right-Hand Man position and just get some dirty peasant to help you on and off your horse, your loyal servants might not be very happy with that, either: they way they think of it is, the gentlemen of the realm collectively have the privilege of helping Your Royal Highness mount and dismount, and you should reward whichever of them does the job with a peerage.

This may seem like a silly and unlikely example. Certainly I’ve sketched out a huge disproportion between the service rendered (equerry) and the reward (peerage). But this kind of thing really does happen! Consider a more prosaic starting point, where the lieutenants start out as JPs or sheriffs. Over time other parts of the local administration takes over the duties which originally required independent leadership. Eventually this guy’s duties devolve into standing in the town square on Sunday and publicly reading new edict, as a symbolic promulgation. Or maybe he doesn’t even need to do a public reading: maybe he just needs to sign the edict.

In the past, when he was responsible for enforcing the edict on his own authority, signing the edict was a big deal. If the local JP didn’t know about the edict, it wasn’t getting enforced anyway, so his neighbors knew to treat any alleged edict he hadn’t signed with extreme suspicion. If he found it ambiguous or poorly-framed for the local situation, he could request clarification from the king and delay enforcement until he knew how to apply his instructions. If he was only pretending not to understand the edict it still wasn’t getting enforced, which amounted to the same thing. And indeed, returning the edict to the king with more-or-less frivolous concerns could be the JP’s way of escalating towards open defiance.

But once the the edict gets carried out without the JP’s participation, this link disappears. The two responsibilities belong to two different people. The signer’s opinion of the edict no longer reflects the enforcer’s, so a failure or refusal to sign contains no  information about enforcement. All that remains of the link is the salience, in the memory of the population, of the rule “No one obeys the edict until after it has been signed”.

The end-point of the process I’m describing is a cartoon version of the powers of registration of the French parlements (local judicial bodies). I say “cartoon” because I know next to nothing about the judicial system of the ancien régime, and I don’t know how much of the day-to-day operation of the Bourbon legal system actually required the enthusiastic participation of the parlementaires. But what I want to stress is that these bodies simply refused to register royal proclamations they didn’t like, and then claimed that any attempts to enforce an edict without the ceremonial registration called for by tradition were illegal, and encouraged resistance.

Calling a legal activity illegal is bad. It creates ambiguity about what is and isn’t legal, and thus also about who does and doesn’t have authority to interpret the law. Legal ambiguity fuels violence. But calling laws illegal, for so trifling a reason as the accuser’s own refusal to go through with a celebration-ritual, calls for a noose.

But more to the point, no one should be in a position where his participation is strongly associated with a successful use of royal power, but his competence and powers are unnecessary to the success itself. Such a system has many of the problems of systems of semi-autonomous lieutenants like the Justices of the Peace, but none of advantages! Once the real authority of a position has disappeared, its residual symbolic authority must be blasted from the face of the Earth as quickly as possible.

So long as these symbols remain, they create ambiguity and coordinate subversion. But worse still, the continued existence of the symbol as symbol, without any of the earlier powers that originally justified it, gives the impression that the sovereign does indeed intend for this symbolic authority to have a formal status in the legal process. Such an impression cannot be binding on the sovereign, but it can create expectations. A sovereign can change the law at will, but he is stuck (at least for a time) with expectations he has created of his own free will, so he should avoid giving rise to such expectations in the first place.

The great advantage formalism offers is predictability: everyone knows who has title to X, and who will in fact control X when all is said and done. This removes any incentive to squabble and bluster over who actually controls X. If you are certain about the outcome, there is no reason to waste energy fighting over the result, and with no one fighting his decrees the sovereign doesn’t have a lot to worry about.

But insecurity of formal titles isn’t the only way to create uncertainty, and if you create enough uncertainty about something else, then people aren’t going to act as though they consider potential conflicts to have a certain outcome. One of the easiest way to stoke uncertainty is by creating pointless ambiguity about political structure. If people believe their consent (or their allies’) is formally necessary to legal procedure, this will drastically change their predictions about conflicts, leading them to pick dangerous fights. If you allow this expectation to become entrenched and then strip it away, not only will they be disappointed and angry, but — having suddenly “lost” one of the powers they were counting on for self-protection — they will now be worried about what they might lose next, and what means they have available to defend it.

The solution is to euthanize the rancid expectation as early as possible, when it is still weak; and in the case of symbolic authority in particular, when the symbol is still primarily a direct function of independent authority.

This may be the greatest difference between conservative traditionalism in its broadest sense and the reactionary traditionalism of the cult of Gnon. Point out an institution that has outlived its original purpose and faster than you can say “Chesterton’s Fence!” the TruCon will be explaining to you that we shouldn’t second-guess the wisdom of past generations as embodied in inherited tradition. Well, in purely social matters (food, dress, family life) maybe so, but when it comes to throne and altar, things stand differently. The men who have the right to say what is just and what is holy have a unique function in society that would allow them, if they used their positions unwisely, to turn all other traditions upside-down.

If the sovereign allows these positions with symbolic authority (or even positions which create an expectation of symbolic authority) to accumulate needlessly, he is putting his entire state in danger. Change for the sake of change is no good. Old offices do gather strength from their deep roots and the almost-supernatural awe that subjects feel for them. But that same sublime aura that commands respect for the sovereign’s loyal lieutenants also commands respects for disloyal lieutenants, or indeed for ceremonial office-holders the sovereign never considered his “lieutenants” to begin with.

A traditional function with residual symbolic authority is a prehensile appendage dangling off the body politic. The TruCon says “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” but Gnon’s rule is “If it’s not serving a function, saw it off quickly before necrosis sets in.” Then cauterize the stump, just to be sure.

Recipe for Reaction

Branding and Necessity

At the end of my post on disruption I put forward four theses.  Eventually I hope to defend them all, but I intend to bracket the first three (which are about the nature of rhetoric, ideology, and civilization) while I address the fourth thesis, about the structure of the Alt-Right.

The first three theses could (at least in theory) be defended without any reference to recent events, so one could conceivably accept my general theories about rhetoric, ideology, and civilization but nonetheless hold that the AltRight which exists today is a divided movement with one (or more) major defining internal fault-lines.

I will tackle the messy quasi-empirical problem of describing the structure of the AltRight first, to forestall this type of objection.  Hopefully in the process of answering the hardest question we will discover that we’re already well on our way to answering the other three.

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Not endorsed by QL!

I say quasi-empirical intentionally.  If you read QL regularly you probably know that I’m not going to write a field guide or plot your friends onto the appropriate quadrant of a political compass (or triangle).

I’m also not going to talk about political phenomena as though they were brands that people can invent, popularize, and own.  There are people who see politics as branding, and God love ‘em.  What they do — colonizing labels, profiting off labels, chasing off people who try to misuse a label — is necessary to semantic stability, but boring (to me).

Consider a vortex, or a wave.  You can formally describe a wave or a vortex without specifying whether it is traveling through water, orange juice, or maple syrup.  Empirical features of the fluid through which a particular wave travels might affect how much energy the wave carries, or how steep it can get before it collapses.  But formal features of waves are substrate-neutral.  Indeed, what a wave is “made out of” is in constant flux; as a wave travels, its formal dynamics cause new particles to adopt the wave-structure as it ejects particles it had assimilated earlier.

d327e4464c7b57cc8e692f42e78d5f93To my way of thinking, a new political phenomenon is interesting only to the extent that it corresponds to a formal structure, like a vortex or a wave, which can be described independently of its constituent parts and which uses those parts to perpetuate and propagate itself.

Another way of phrasing my point: had events gone slightly differently, and the people and factions currently associated with the Alt-Right never coalesced, different people and different factions could have been drawn into the same structural relationship to one another and given birth to the same movement under a different name.

By the way, it may well be that no label for any political movement ever makes its mark until the self-appointed guardians of the brand have slipped up enough new users learning the term for the first time no longer know that it designates a certain set of men, but only recognize a structural pattern in the recruitment of new members.  Dick Spencer has taken credit for popularizing “Alt-Right” on the strength of founding an Alternative Right website in 2010, but I wonder if it isn’t the failure of the website that was instrumental in baptizing the larger movement!  (In other words, if Alternative Right had been successful, we would use “Alt-Right” the way we currently use “NPI”/“Radix” and some other name would have crystallized.)

What A Coincidence

The Western world has been hurtling leftward for a long time, and in a worrying way.  To quote from Resisting Assimilation:

In the last two centuries elite political consensus has moved rapidly towards the Left.  The pace is only accelerating.   Radical theories go from absurdity to orthodoxy at ever-increasing speeds.  Institutions forged to hold back the left are coopted so quickly that some of them seem to have been born pozz’d.

Within this overall trend, each institution has had its own unique trajectory, slightly different from all the others.  An important part of the overall acceleration is the trend in party politics, and one half of that story is the birth of cuckservatism, ably narrated by Paul Gottfried here.  Gottfried’s list of (actual) conservatives purged from the conservative movement also functions as a reading list of witnesses to everything the twentieth-century Right was failing to conserve. (The same essay, or rather the speech on which the essay was based, also introduces the use of the term “Alternative Right”.)

Cuckservativism is self-perpetuating because every new change in public opinion can justify a new round of purges of “unacceptable” views, which destabilizes political debate and allows public opinion to drift further left.  Once cucks start the self-destructive cycle of internal purges, organized political and ideological resistance falls apart.   

The public’s leftward ideological drift could in theory have continued indefinitely because of these self-perpetuating dynamics… if leftist ideas were good.  However, most leftist ideas are wildly inaccurate, and leftist policies which do not lead to suffering immediately either erode institutions or are open to various forms of exploitation.  As a leftist society degenerates, suffering proliferates — and the sufferers rebel.

As Americans’ views on a range of issues change, leftists enact legal and institutional reforms.  Each new round of reforms leads to massive changes in multiple social spheres.  The reforms create both winners and losers but on net losers (and over time, more and more losers).  They also increase the power of the reformers, generate rent-seeking constituencies, leave the institutional framework exposed to further reforms, and create new social problems (remember all those losers!) for reformers to try to solve.

ql_ar_socialchangecausation

The ranks of the Left’s victims start to grow exponentially; so, too, does the variety of ways in which they have been victimized.  This point is worth stressing!  Sometimes, a leftist policy is so bad that the victims of that one policy, all by themselves, are numerous enough to create a political backlash.  The Left will then suffer a setback, but it can also discard isolated catastrophic policies and adapt.

More often, the victims of a single policy are too few, too dispersed, or too indirectly affected to lead an immediate backlash.  As these hard-to-resist policies accumulate, increasing numbers of people are seriously hurt by the aggregate effects of several leftist policies on different areas of their lives.  Without having any single thread which runs through all of their personal complaints, they all develop an inchoate aversion to the left at around the same time.

What a coincidence!

Reality is Ugly

Racial issues and gender issues are probably the two most significant areas where where interlocking Leftist ideology, propaganda, and social policy channel disillusionment with specific leftist policies into self-conscious resistance to the Left.  Perhaps this is not surprising; there are extensive parallels between the two areas.

  1. In both cases, people can categorize one another at a glance on the basis of a brief inspection of superficial traits, and can make inferences about non-observed individual traits on the basis of group averages.
  2. In both cases, there are real differences between average group traits caused by genetics (in races, recent shared ancestry; in men and women, chromosomal differences).
  3. In both cases, social outcomes for the group are affected by underlying biology, and so variance in different groups’ social problems may have biological explanations.
  4. In particular: in both cases, outliers may find it inconvenient to be confused with modal group-members (see #1), and may try to find ways (political or otherwise) to encourage/force strangers not to treat them like a modal member.
  5. In both cases, the pure form of Leftist ideology denies biological differences between groups, while the more moderate forms deny that biological differences should ever matter.
  6. In both cases, the Left comes up with creative fictions to explain social problems caused by group traits; inevitably these fables slide from absolving the group of responsibility for its own problems, to blaming other groups.
  7. In both cases, when reforms based on these fables fail to solve the problems, new fables with an even broader scope are concocted to explain how the scapegoat-groups sabotaged the original solution.
  8. In both cases, the categories coordinate one’s participation in a major social sphere: people self-segregate to form ethnically homogenous (and thus culturally harmonious) communities, and they pair off to form families wherein a husband and wife can each play a specialized role suited to their talents and tastes.
  9. In both cases, bizarre and constantly changing theories about how to solve “social problems” stemming from group differences (see #7) start to interfere with human flourishing within the relevant social sphere (community-formation is impeded in one case, and family-formation in the other).
  10. In both cases, the Left attempts to gain one group as a special constituency and increasingly adopts a platform of identity politics, pushing openly negative-sum policies that help the in-group only at the expense of the out-group (and in many cases do not help the group as a whole at all, but only its leaders and/or its most politically radical elements).
  11. In particular: the distribution of jobs, offices, honors and academic admissions is no longer viewed either as a private matter or as a matter of individual merit, but as political spoils for groups to fight over.
  12. In both cases, political debate and virtue-signaling increasingly come to revolve around insults (like “racist” and “sexist”) whose purpose is to create scapegoats for a group’s problems (see #7), and in particular to demean those who confuse outlier members and modal members (#4), who admit that group differences have biological roots (#2); ultimately, these labels come to refer to anyone who notices group traits at all (#1).

“Progress” in these two areas is a major contributor to the overall feedback loop which fuels leftward acceleration.  These are probably also, out of all the Left’s issues, the ones which have ultimately caused the most suffering: partly because family formation and community formation are so central to human life, partly because so many different policies are gathered together under these two rubrics.

Indeed, progressives actively work to recategorize their pet issues under “race issues” or “gender issues” precisely because racism and sexism are so central to the Left’s rhetorical strategy.  But people hate being slandered, so the very effectiveness of the rhetorical strategy is part of what makes its politically-incorrect targets notice its use and detest its users!

What’s more, race and gender are two topics where both personal experience and basic high-school biology demonstrate the absurdity of the ideology of political correctness.  Everyone knows that the Left is lying.

All the news that’s fit to print

Once you know that the Left and its minions are lying about the big picture, you start to wonder whether they’re lying about particular stories whose political relevance hinges on the race or gender of the protagonists.  And once you start to wonder…

ql_ar_confluence

The media is a funny thing.  If you choose a guy at random and ask him how he feels about newspaper coverage of a certain topic and the topic happens to be one where he is personally well-informed, where he can rely on his own experience or expertise: he’ll probably tell you journalists are ignorant and the nonsense that ends up in their articles could only be explained by laziness or brainlessness.  But if you ask him the same question about coverage of any other topic, he’ll probably be pretty satisfied with it.

This is not to say that we should all be experts about everything, or that we should only read the sort of research that experts would find intelligent and substantial.  But it does mean:

  1. Our faith in the media can only be sustained by a certain kind of thoughtlessness (a failure to extrapolate from our judgment of the journalism we have the background knowledge to evaluate).
  2. Most people accept and even appreciate articles that they would consider lazy and brainless if they tried to verify them, so you can easily use journalism as a vehicle for dishonest propaganda.
  3. If experts in each topic agree the journalists whose work they’ve reviewed are lazy and/or brainless, all journalists are; if journalists are lazy/brainless, they will make lots of mistakes; if they make lots of mistakes, anyone who starts to poke around in his favorite newspaper or magazine will be disappointed by what he finds.

So once you start to treat every article skeptically, your digging turns up so many errors, half-truths and exaggerations that your faith in the media is irrevocably lost.  Soon you are no longer asking whether the media is reliable but rather what misconceptions it is trying to spread.

tumblr_inline_neule38qfk1svqslhThis, by the way, is why Gamergate was so important.  Yes, I know: video games, uncool!  Many would prefer not to trivialize the Alt-Right by associating it with (a) petty and (b) nerdy (thus, low-status) concerns about video-game journalism.  But I have repeatedly and without irony referred to Gamergate as the Alt-Right’s Spanish Civil War, because it recapitulated the entire social conflict between the Left and its victims on a smaller scale, and magnified some of its most important dynamics (in particular, the role of journalists).

Whether your first suspicions focused on race, on gender, or even on video games, once you start treating the media as unreliable you also move to a new understanding of how journalism works. 

Previously, when you noticed a pattern in all the articles a paper published on a certain topic, you took the pattern as evidence of an underlying empirical regularity.  Each additional report which fit the pattern was credible because it was consistent with the general rule; and our confidence in the rule grew stronger with each new report that confirmed it.  Likewise, when all the articles published in different news outlets about a single story were similar, you reasonably inferred that the articles were similar because they were all accurate reports of the same story.

When you realize the empirical regularity doesn’t exist, that raises a question about what does explain the consistent bias.  This gives rise to further research into the story that journalists are attempting to force on their readers: the Narrative.

It also raises questions about why journalists promote the Narrative at the expense of accurate reporting!  These explanations can get very complicated, but for most people the arc is the same: once you realize the editor isn’t going to fire a lying journalist if you can get just a few more people to sign your petition, you start to see the media organizations themselves as political enemies.

Originally you were only concerned about lies in one area where the lies struck you as particularly pointless and painful: maybe race or gender, maybe video games, maybe something else entirely.  Then you realized that journalism is lies.  Once you get to that point, you are on the verge of realizing that the media also tells you many non-obvious lies that haven’t harmed you very much (yet).

Then you’re in the Alt-Right.

hith-charge-of-the-light-brigade-british-attack-abLast Stand of the Anglo-Saxons

Besides lying about reality directly (in the media, in the schools, in pop culture), the Left also exerts whatever power it can to discourage expression of open opposition to leftist policies and ideology.  But of course, deception and suppression are two great tastes that taste great together; discussion of deceptive journalism is one of the most important targets to be suppressed.

There is a reason why 2016’s culture war was dubbed “The Revolt of the Comments Section”.  As the losers the Left’s policies create multiply and ordinary people become increasingly hostile to the media, any space where people are able to discuss and critique deceptive journalism is bound to explode sooner or later.  2016 was the explosion.

All of these revolts  (from those which took place in the comments sections of the individual articles, to social media, to the forums of long-established online communities) are interesting in their own right, as elements of the general struggle to spread accurate information in the face of a perpetual onslaught of deception.  But the explosion in repression (and in particular, repression of debates about the factual accuracy of the Narrative) also triggered a new dynamic which rapidly strengthened the Right.

American progressives inherited an Anglo-Saxon country.  They managed to get rid of most of the Anglo-Saxons, and many of its institutions, but only by paying lip service to at least some of the Anglo-Saxon principles.

Freedom of speech was an American principle which progressive have only recently felt free to dispense with.  Current university students often (typically?) use “free speech” to mean the type of speech that is free, in contrast to (for example) “hate speech”, which is forbidden and subject to severe consequences.  However, even a few years ago progressives still felt insecure enough that they needed to embrace the principle of free speech, even if they had to subvert it or pervert it to make it serve their ends. 

(They may even have encouraged extreme, pathological enthusiasm about free speech!  Certainly this enthusiasm was a rationale for the dissemination of obscene material.  Free-speech enthusiasm is also a symptom of the progressive strategy of forcing opponents to defend exaggeratedly rigorous/internally-consistent positions.)

Whatever the explanation for this last relic of Anglo-Saxon values may be, most American adults still care very deeply about free speech, and this created a final line of defense against deceptive propaganda.

ql_ar_catalysis1

Suppression of political discussion typically works by declaring some topics, claims and attitudes out-of-bounds: they are hateful, extremist, or whatever else.  Typically this tactic only succeeds if the community in question generally accepts that at least some of the claims targeted for suppression are, indeed, hateful/extremist/etc.  Defenders of free speech are willing to agree that certain claims are hateful, but nonetheless argue against banning hateful claims.

Principled believers in free speech may think that it is empirically or theoretically wrong to believe X, and that as a matter of politeness or ethics it would wrong to say X; but this is irrelevant to a question of principle.  The more claim X is suppressed, the more principled believers in free speech will stop discussing X and move to a meta-discussion about banning X.

Other principled friends of liberty may go further, and feel that the only way defend the right to say X is to actually say X.  They may do this simply in solidarity, to make suppression more difficult and damaging.  They may find it convenient to express their support as a public show of strength.  Where part of the argument is about the harm X does to the audience, repeating X anyway is a form of tit-for-tat to deter further restriction of speech.  One’s willingness to defend the right to say X in this way is likely related to the view that X is not all that hateful, and one may end up saying “X” simply to demonstrate that nothing bad will happen, that it’s not evil, and that you can reject belief in X without getting hung up on trying to stop people from saying X.

The ideological defense of speech and the expressive defense of speech are simply two different approaches to defending free speech.  In most communities where dissident opinions are being suppressed, there will be a large number of people who support free speech, most of whom would prefer not to repeat any claims they think are false and hateful.

However, when there is a concerted attempt to suppress discussion in a community which flagrantly ignores principled opponents, free-speech supporters abandon their spontaneous, piecemeal defenses of the dissidents and can collaborate on an overall strategy which will lead to victory.  And once ideological defenders are collaborating with expressive defenders and debating their overall strategy, they are likely to (a) befriend the expressive defenders, (b) realize that they aren’t actually saying hateful things because they are hateful people (remember the FAE!), and (c) start to respect the strategic logic of expressive defense.

Of course, just as ideological defenders and expressive defenders gain respect for one another once they are forced to cooperate and start to mingle, so too for expressive defenders and genuine dissidents.  From the point of view of leftist henchmen who ban anyone who says “X”, genuine dissidents and their expressive defenders look exactly the same.   However, once they are united by a shared fate, a shared strategy, and an equally low status in the eyes of anyone who trusts the Narrative, they are likely to befriend one another and start exchanging ideas about their situation.  Very quickly the expressive defenders, who had previously rejected X as an absurd belief, will be exposed to all sorts of new reasons to believe X (and will use many of them in their expressive defense of X); they may even change their mind!

This pattern, wherein concerted suppression of free speech causes ideological defenders to associate with expressive defenders and expressive defenders to associate with genuine dissidents, does not depend on what is being suppressed, where, or by whom.  However, if X really is unlikely or absurd (and if saying X really is hateful, or shameful in any other way), then this closer association is just as likely to force dissidents to consider objections which shake their faith, or expressive defenders to see the promise of a more respectful approach, as vice-versa.

When X is true, however, and the main reason most people rejected X to begin with is that inquiry into X was discouraged/stigmatized by low-level suppression, then intensifying the suppression to ban any debate about X has a catalytic effect.  Ideological defenders will start to feel the pull of the expressive defense as soon as they start to meet expressive defenders, and will never look back; expressive defenders will only learn more and more evidence in favor of X from genuine dissidents, whose views they will have no power to change.

Collaboration in defense of free speech also catalyzes belief in the forbidden claim “X” much more quickly if the defenders are already skeptical about leftist ideology, leftist rhetoric and leftist “facts” in light of previous experiences, unrelated to free speech.  They will be attuned to the possibility that the anti-X consensus was engineered, and open to evidence which confirms deception took place.

Of course it is also possible to be primed for catalysis by experiences which were related to free speech; and in particular, to different catalytic chains which overlap to create a larger reaction.  Ideological defenders of the right to say X may start out too uncertain, or simply too embarrassed, to defend the right to say Y; as they are catalyzed towards a belief in X, they also find themselves among people who will defend the right to say Y, or involved in a common strategy defending the right to say X and Y; and thus gradually they gain a new appreciation of the importance of Y, and the catalysis continues.

ql_ar_catalysis2

The only way to avoid this dynamic while suppressing free speech is to make sure that only a tiny number of people value free speech in the first place, or to suppress it so forcefully that resistance is obviously hopeless (or at least very costly) from the beginning, depriving your opponents of an occasion to come together to coordinate their collective strategy.

Recap: Genesis of a movement

  1. Progressive acceleration produces a huge pool of people who have been hurt in complicated ways by social degeneration, and thus have grievances against the Left.
  2. Those with grievances against the Left become skeptical about leftist claims in a certain issue area, and openly hostile to political correctness.
  3. Skeptics about one aspect of the Narrative start to meticulously doubt and fact-check media sources; their faith in the media plummets as they discover systematic inaccuracies, they try to reach a new understanding about what the media is and how it functions, and their skepticism spreads outside the original issue area.
  4. As skepticism spreads, suppression of all political discussion (particularly discussions concerning the reliability of media sources) becomes a major flashpoint; vestigial fondness for free speech leads to a backlash which catalyzes the views of the American mainstream.

19ce0a84cc435213090cc0fd8a9106f9In the next installment I will come to — well, let’s call it “the varieties of reactionary experience”.

Series: What is the Alt-Right?

  1. Part I (Disruption is Easy) 
  2. Part II (Recipe for Reaction) < You are here
  3. Projected: Part III (Reality and Rebirth)
  4. Projected: Part IV (The Political Onion)
  5. [TBD]

Disruption is Easy

150px-yoke_and_arrows-svgAfter I pointed out the relevance of the posts on political ecology and political parties to the latest doxxing (protect yourself! please!) and the resulting controversy and infighting, a friend asked me what I thought of Vox Day’s proposed division of the AltRight into the AltWhite and the AltWest. To quote Vox’s own words:

>Nevertheless, it is clear that there is an intrinsic tension within the Alt-Right, which is not necessarily a bad thing. On the one side is the Alt-White, which is pure white nationalist and predominantly pagan or atheist. This could be thought of as the NPI or Spencerian Alt-Right. On the other is the Alt-West, which is omni-nationalist and pro-Christian. I suspect Jared Taylor and RamZPaul are more of this persuasion, but I could be wrong. Regardless, it is the branch in which I would place myself.

Criticizing Vox Day… well, I hesitate because he is so often right.  He’s not only a smart guy, but original and thought-provoking as well.  His thoughts on the relationship between international trade and immigration, in particular, sent me down a path that radically changed how I think about not only trade, but economics as a whole.

Two’s company

My respect for Vox notwithstanding, the AltWhite/AltWest doctrine is misguided.  This distinction would have been not-quite-right even if Vox had only mentioned it as a hypothesis.  We all need to spitball ideas; a mistaken assertion that stimulates discussion is not itself a mistake.  “AltWhite/AltWest” only became truly unfortunate as Vox Day (and others who picked up the meme) went on to treat it as an established taxonomy of the AltRight’s factional politics.

The distinction is not entirely unwarranted.  There are valuable perspectives and useful facts lurking in the vicinity of “AltWhite/AltWest” and to the extent that Vox Day’s intention only to excavate these, it would be easier for me to defend his intention than to attack his error.  The AltRight truly is composed of a variety of factions with distinct but overlapping attitudes, principles, goals, abilities, and demographics.  Understanding the inner richness of our movement and its political ecology makes us strong.

Further, the fate of the white race in Europe and the settler nations and the fate of Western Civilization are two distinct topics — just as a projectile’s mass and its velocity are distinct topics.  The two fates are inextricable, as are the political fortunes of any factions which care about either the race or the civilization, but as phenomena they are distinct.  Avoid conflating the race and its civilization, and you will have a sharper understanding of both.

Even if Vox Day’s intention was only that his readers grope towards these insights, reducing the intricate complexity of the AltRight’s constituencies to a fundamental division into two poles with different goals was a mistake.  Whenever you have any kind of coalition assembled (even if it isn’t a particularly complex one), you do not want to take any steps to persuade the coalition that it is effectively bipolar and that each hemisphere of the coalition has its own interests.

This point may be a little slippery to grasp, so rather than doing an extremely precise dissection of what it means to persuade your coalition to think of itself as X or as Y, I want to start with a cute little example to illustrate the converse: whenever there is any kind of coalition assembled against you, do whatever you can to persuade your enemies they are two discrete groups with distinct interests!

transeThe truth about Muslims and Poz

Every so often some pundit will observe that feminism is incompatible with Islam, and then right-wingers will gripe about it.  After talking to a few people, I think I finally understand why.  The subtext: they assume that to turn two allies against each other, you have to offer one of them a better deal.  So their concern is that any rhetoric urging the incompatibility of feminism and Islam must perforce carry the implication that Christianity is compatible with feminism. 

This is a misunderstanding.  Convincing people their allies don’t have their best interests in mind tears apart alliances even when their enemies are no better.  Just as one can refute an argument by demonstrating the inconsistency of its premises even if one denies the premises in the first place, one can fracture a coalition with divisive rhetoric without embracing the principles of either side.

Consider a hypothetical society.  Its electorate is divided into three factions and needs to decide two issues.  The issues are Muslim immigration (Muslims or no Muslims) and poz (poz or no poz).  The three factions, each of which contains 1/3 of the voters, are the fascists, the anti-whites, and the degenerates.

The anti-whites do not particularly care for poz but they are fervent advocates of Muslim immigration, a combination of preferences we will abbreviate as (M, ~P).  The degenerates do not have any special desire to import Muslims, but they are eager to live in a completely pozz’d society (~M, P).  The fascists dislike both Muslims and poz (~M, ~P).

We will say that the anti-whites and the degenerates are, at the beginning of the scenario, firmly united in the PozzyMuzzy Party.  The PMP instructs its members to vote for more Muslim immigration and more poz.  The outcome (M, P) is not the real top preference of any PozzyMuzzy voter, but no matter.  When the electorate votes the anti-whites and the degenerates vote for their party’s (M, P) platform, the fascists vote for (~M, ~P), and on both issues the fascists are outvoted 2/3 to 1/3.  Thus the anti-whites get their preferred outcome on immigration and the degenerates get their preferred outcome on poz; if these are the issues they care most about, they are all satisfied and continue to remain loyal to their PMP.

But then, a few of the fascists actually talk to Muslims (unlikely that such bigots would broaden their horizons, I know! but bear with me) and discover that Muslims really hate poz.  So it’s inevitable that if Muslim immigration continues indefinitely and Muslim voters eventually reach 50% of the population, they will vote against poz and from then on (M, ~P) will always have an absolute majority. 

Now all the fascists have to do is convince the degenerates that Muslims really hate poz.  A degenerate may not believe the fascist at first, because back in college she met this really cool trans Muslim slam poet who was totally intersectional; plus she knows all fascists are liars. (Of coursh.)

But if the fascists do succeed in showing the degenerates the truth about Muslims, the degenerates are now confused about their alliance with the anti-whites.  The degenerates, who have always accepted everything their PMP told them about politics, aren’t anti-anti-white (it’s not like they’re racist or anything) but they also only really work with the anti-whites so they can enjoy their poz.  So at PMP headquarters, the degenerates go to the anti-whites, share their concern that Muslims might be a little uncool about poz, and point out that to achieve PMP’s goals they’ll either need to put a hard cap on Muslim immigration, or slow it down considerably, or freeze it immediately so they can further investigate the likely attitudes of new Muslim voters.

But the anti-whites have a symmetrical attitude towards the degenerates.  Their only interest in poz was that it kept the degenerates voting for more immigration.  Poz and Muslims are the only things either side can offer.  The anti-whites have zero interest in changing PMP’s immigration platform to ~M; if the degenerates managed to change it without their consent, they would have no further interest in voting PMP.

PozzyMuzzy polticians can try all sorts of different tricks to keep their party going, but when degenerates are truly convinced that if (M, P) continues to win in every election eventually immigration will bring about a permanent end to cooperation, and the two factions have nothing to offer each other but their votes on these two issues, the PMP is doomed.  Some of the degenerates will start voting (~M, P) immediately, irritated by the indifference of the anti-whites, and more and more will join them over time. Some anti-whites, frustrated by the “treachery” or “racism” of these defectors, will start voting (M, ~P) just to spite the degenerates, or because they can see the PMP is going to fall apart soon anyway.  Each wave of additional defections causes more retaliation and resignation, and soon PozzyMuzzy joins Guelph, Frondeur, and Whig in historical glossaries of defunct political labels.

After this cycle of defection reaches its ultimate conclusion, everyone who files into the voting booth will vote their own personal convictions.  The degenerates and the fascists outvote the anti-whites on immigration; the anti-whites and the fascists outvote the degenerates on poz; the overall electoral result is (~M, ~P).

The fascists now have absolutely everything they wanted. The anti-whites and degenerates each get their preference on one of the issues, albeit not the one they care most about.  Best of all, the fascists didn’t have to promise anything to either of the two other factions.  Nor did they have to hide their intention to vote (~M, ~P); they only had to tell the truth about Islam.

How many levels of “It’s time for some game theory” are you on?

The PozzyMuzzy Party gives us a quick-and-dirty model of a situation where two factions could cooperate, but are not necessarily able to find any way to strike a stable bargain.  Admittedly, the model involved some hand-waving.  If you are the kind of person who enjoys this stuff, there are several ways to beef up the model to formalize the results.  You could try any combination of the following:

  1. model PMP voters’ behavior as an iterated prisoner’s dilemma between the two factions, where (M, P) is equivalent to cooperate, and stipulated that the interaction ends after period k. [In an iterated prisoner’s dilemma, if both players know when the final round will be in the first round, it can be proved by backwards induction that the dominant strategy for both is to defect on the first round, and every round thereafter.]
  2. quantify the “pay-off” each of the three factions receives from each of the four overall outcomes: (M, P), (M, ~P), (~M, P) and (~M, ~P).
  3. turn each issue into a continuous variable which can range from 0 to 1, and give each faction a utility function of the form U(M, P). [A continuous outcome makes it easier for PMP members to start “shirking”, making small deviations from the PMP platform that grow in each period.]
  4. give the factions a two-period utility function where there is some probability π that the Muslims will be a majority in the second period [in which case (M, ~P) is automatically selected for the second period] if policy M is selected in the first period.
  5. give the factions intertemporal utility functions that discount future utility by a factor of ∂ per period.
  6. model additional Muslims entering the electorate after each round where M is selected (as a forth faction, or as members of a growing anti-white faction).

I leave the extensions of the model as an exercise for the reader.  I don’t want to scare people away, so I am not going to go into that kind of detail.  Any of them can be used to show that as the degenerate faction’s opinions about immigration change (how likely a Muslim takeover is, when it will happen, and what policies Muslims will implement), they lose the ability to cooperate with the anti-white faction.

For all its informality, this model demonstrates the basic point that you don’t need to make concessions to opponents or embrace their principles in order to break up their coalitions.  Politics is a war of all against all!  Arranging and sustaining cooperation is difficult.  Unity is the exception; division is the rule.  Remind one PMP faction how much its interests diverge from the other’s, and the whole rickety structure may come crashing down.

But even if you’ll overlook its informality, the simplicity of the model might create confusion on one point.  In this model, the unstable party really does have two discrete factions with opposed interests.  Even if you understand (a) why it would be ideal for PMP to find some way to strike any sort of stable deal with each other rather than succumbing to fascist rule and (b) why there is no way for them to arrange this, you might still think in some sense it isn’t “really” in the degenerates’ “true” interests to import Muslims.  You may even go further, and maintain that in some vague sense their interests are “really” more closely aligned with the fascists here.

But the nice, sharp contrast between the preferred policies of the anti-whites and the degenerates in our toy model isn’t critical to the conclusion we drew from it.  Even if a party’s platform covers many issues and each member’s personal preference overlaps with the platform on most but not all issues, cooperation can be difficult and rhetoric portraying the party as polarized can lead to actual fractures.  In fact, even if an alliance forms on a single issue, and all its members share the same position on that issue, the alliance can still suffer tensions around the members’ individual contributions to the group’s collective success.

If you want a fuller theoretical explanation of these tensions, I encourage you to read Winning and its complications, where I explained why victorious coalitions suddenly experience new tensions despite having (a) high morale and (b) spoils of war.  Any rhetoric that makes the possibility of post-victory infighting highly salient encourages allies to treat the infighting as a foregone conclusion, and start preparing for it immediately; those preparations provoke counter-preparations and the whole cycle of escalation can easily provoke low-level infighting while the conflict is still ongoing.

It is extremely undesirable for a coalition to collapse in the middle of a conflict even when it really does have two fairly discrete factions — but when it has a veritable bird’s nest of tangled, interwoven ideologies, goals and loyalties, the collapse (and subsequent defeat) would be a irredeemable nightmare for all involved.

Beyond wishful thinking

I hope I’ve convinced you that when people try to persuade members of an alliance that the alliance is bipolar and its segments have clashing goals, that has bad consequences for the alliance.  Persuading your enemies that their coalition is polarized will inhibit their unity and aid in their defeat.  Persuading your allies that your own coalition is polarized will aid in your defeat.

This may sound like I’m advocating wishful thinking or willful lying.  I’m not.  You want to understand your coalition’s internal structure accurately, so you know what problems to expect and how to react or, better yet, how to preempt them.  However, I want to propose four theses:

(a) Rhetoric and Trust.  Outside of game theory people don’t obey cute mathematical rules, so whether certain possibilities are salient may matter much more than how probable they are. (To that extent, the informal PozzyMuzzy model I sketched out above, where I stressed the salience Muslim takeover had for the degenerates, may be more accurate than the formal extensions I suggested.)  Rhetoric is like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope: each new twist makes some colorful possibilities loom large, while causing others to disappear into specks.  An objective description of an alliance can still be phrased in ways that will frame the alliance as invincible or as fragmented; it is not the structure that makes one interpretation or the other accurate, but the skill with which each side works to inspire its friends and demoralize its foes.

(b) Ideology and Partisanship.  Rhetoric can go beyond painting alliances in vibrant color, to helping permanently shape how allies think about themselves, their principles, and the projects they cooperate on.  By calling attention to some relationships and tidying away others, by emphasizing certain reliable signals and investing objects with symbolic value, rhetoric can help coordinate a group by describing patterns that it wants to call into being.  I’ve mentioned this kind of ideology before in the context of how confusing the behavior it creates can be; and I introduced the self-sustaining patterns of cooperation these ideologies can create in my post on political ecology.

(c) Race and Civilization.  Further, I maintain the ideological tendencies within the AltRight which Vox Day labelled “AltWhite” and “AltWest” aren’t usefully thought of as factions or poles within the coalition at all; and finally…

(d) The Structure of the AltRight.  …there is a great deal you can say about the internal structure of the AltRight that illuminates what it is and what its core strengths are, and this structure is not bifurcated or polar.

I will not address these topics today!  (And probably not next week either.)  But I will defend these theses in later installments of this series.  Yes!  That’s right: I tricked you into reading Part I of the series: What is the AltRight?

Series: What is the Alt-Right?

  1. Part I (Disruption is Easy) < You are here
  2. Part II (Recipe for Reaction)
  3. Projected: Part III (Reality and Rebirth)
  4. Projected: Part IV (The Political Onion)
  5. [TBD]

Loving the Sinner, part 3: Political Ecology

siena5
Political cooperation?

In Part 1 we covered guilt and punishment, but not sin.  In Part 2 we finally got to sin, but without discovering the latent meaning of sin for political cooperation.  In today’s installment we will tackle political cooperation, but the sinister influence of sin will temporarily recede into the background.  As we place the final pieces into the political-cooperation puzzle in Part 4, suddenly we will see sin lurking all around us.  Then I’ll conclude by quickly addressing miscellaneous issues in Part 5.

 

Uniformity

My mantra on political cooperation within the AltRight has always been: “Combined arms!” But the message never seems to get across.  Everywhere I turn, I see more demands for purity, demands for the Right to function as a monolithic, homogenous mass.

tumblr_ldx4twzokf1qz7lxdo1_500_largeTo some extent, I understand.  Coalitions are dynamic, for one thing, which is a delicate way of saying “unstable”.  From the perspective of an outsider, any coalition looks like a disaster in motion.  If an alliance’s different factions manage to coordinate at all the result usually looks a little strange, and if these factions’ common enemy doesn’t manage to shatter their coalition, they’ll do it themselves after the victory parade. 

So from the perspective of an insider, factions are anxiety-inducing.  The collapse of one’s coalition or its diversion in a new direction by internal politics would be equally upsetting outcomes.  Very unlucky coalitions see both in quick succession!  First internal politics steers the coalition on a course for disaster, and soon after comes the final ka-boom.  If you could only purge one or two factions the rump would have fewer disagreements, less conflict, and fewer untenable compromises.  (Or so the thinking goes.)

Sometimes there are tactical benefits to presenting yourself to the world as a monolithic front, too.  There is a time and a place for uniformity: that is what Fashy v. Twiggy was about.

But those situations are few and far between.  Please join me in the following thought experiment.  Imagine, for a moment, that you had your way.  Imagine you have your very own political movement, with whatever assets and audiences you think approximates the actual reach of the AltRight today, but run by a hard core of 100 or so operatives who are exactly like you.  These 100 clone-operatives are your eyes and ears; and hands, feet, and mouth… or if this metaphor is getting a little too Hobbesian for you, let’s say these operatives are your tools, their loyalty is your most valuable asset, and deciding how to allocate their manpower is the most important decision you face.

leviathanYour movement – let’s call it the Gr8Right – will exist in the same kind of political/cultural ecosystem that the AltRight exists in today.  For your movement to live up to its gr8 potential, you need to assign your loyal operatives to the same kinds of tasks the AltRight zealots(entryists) are working on today.  Some of them will need to go on TV. Others will lead little street protests and go face-to-face with antifa.  You might want some of you operatives to tour college campuses; some will play at e-book merchant/publicist/huckster; some will infiltrate mainstream political parties.  Would you set a few of your soldiers to work writing essays?  Recording music, podcasts, and other propaganda?  Heck, maybe the Gr8Right needs one dude who just devotes all his time to stand-up comedy.  In addition, you’ll need to assign at least a few to attend to logistics and mundane organizational details.

We’re only scratching the surface of the vibrant ecosystem that would surround the Gr8Right, and all the roles in that ecosystem you need your operatives to fill.  But we can already see a problem: you can’t do all these things.  Not because there are only 24 hours in a day (you have 100 clone-operatives, remember) but because each role calls for someone with certain skills, certain personality traits, and certain ways of thinking about the world.  No two roles are exactly the same, and some are quite different. You may be extraordinarily talented, my dear reader, but even you have limits!  If you’re good for writing essays and auditing tax returns, you’ve never been in a fight in your life.  If you’re an imposing presence in a street demonstration and an explosive, fiery speaker, maybe you don’t have the patience to be an infiltrator. 

Where does that leave the Gr8Right?  You can go back to the drawing board, start the thought experiment a second time, and stipulate that your 100 operatives are no longer just like you, but are instead exactly identical to a hero of your choice.  They still have the same problem.  Anyone you’d care to name would be lousy in many roles; for most people, there would be some role that they (quite literally) couldn’t do at all.

So much for uniformity.

Articulation

Excelsior, excelsior!  Now we’re on Gr8Right Mk. III: this time let’s imagine your operatives as just like you in their political principles, but each of them has a unique psyche, education, and personal background.  Let’s bracket, for now, the question of whether ideological uniformity in such a varied group is possible; for the sake of argument I’ll grant you that a man’s ideology is like the color of a car, and the dealer can get you any model in any color you want.  And we’ll also bracket an even more important question, namely how the Gr8Right’s operatives keep their political principles synchronized over time.  (Who will meme the memeticists?) 

qlxcomsquad
#Teamwork

Gr8Right mk III is doing much better.  We’ve given it operatives who can throw a fun party, others who can throw off a tail, and at least a few who can throw out refutations of whatever intellectual attacks the Gr8Right attracts.  These operatives aren’t nearly as dysfunctional as they were in Mk. I and Mk. II.  Allocating manpower to different tasks would be much more satisfying. 

But you still have a problem: what if different roles in the ecosystem call for different political principles, too?

Take your infiltrators as an example.  In Mk. I, I pointed out that spontaneity (or to give it a different name, impatience) might be a hindrance if you’re trying to infiltrate a rival political party.  Patience is important for an infiltrator because it’s hard to pretend to be a normie Republican or a normie Democrat if you aren’t one.  You have to remember to do all the things the normie would do, and not do anything the normie wouldn’t do, and keep doing that for years on end.

You could argue the perfect infiltrator would not be part of the Gr8Right at all, but a staunch GOP globalist or a staunch shitlib Democrat.  He can do a brilliant job infiltrating the party!  He can give all of his colleagues the impression he’s a globalist or a shitlib for years on end, totally effortlessly (because he really is one).

The only wrinkle is that once a staunch Republicrat has “infiltrated” his party and risen to a high rank, his political principles tell him to… advance the agenda of the Republicrat Party as best he can.  So maybe the Eternal Normie isn’t exactly infiltrator-material.

But that doesn’t mean that genuine sympathy with a group’s principles doesn’t make it easier to infiltrate them.  If all your operatives have identical political principles, then your patient/discreet operatives are going to have the easiest time infiltrating whichever established organization is closest to your group’s principles.  All the other orgs require more make-believe, dissimulation, and secrecy.  As they get ideologically remote from your actual principles they get increasingly hard for your team to infiltrate.  It would be a lot easier if you had a little bit of dissent in your ranks, and all your operatives had a few oddball opinions!  In that case you would just tell each infiltrator to join the org he was closest to, and which he could most easily subvert.

The pattern is clearest for infiltration (which is why I used it as an example, it’s not like we’re trying to infiltrate anyone else, haha) but the insight is general.  Each role in the Gr8Right ecosystem requires not only skills, but an operative who can easily feign certain ideological stances.  The operatives who will do the most convincing job are the ones who actually believe what they have to appear to believe. 

press-hating-trump-supporter-yells-at-journalists-at-florida-rally-via-screencap-800x430

That guy threatening the Lügenpresse with show trials will do a better job intimidating them if he actually believes in summary executions for subversives.  Whoever you send off on a campus tour to demand free speech for conservative students, well: it would be awfully convenient if he really did cherish the marketplace of ideas.

Even for tasks like video-production with fairly generic, apolitical skillsets, each producer will create videos that appeal most to viewers who share his ideas.  The more ideologically uniform your army of videographers is, the smaller their potential audience.  If you cast a wider net, you catch more fish.

What are we up to now? Mk. IV?

colorful-coral-reef-824x0_q71_crop-scalePolitical Ecosystems

Even our little “Gr8Right” thought experiment hasn’t quite captured what I mean by combined arms.  The way I described the political ecosystem in the thought experiment makes each role sound like a different slot on HR’s org-chart: different job description, different qualifications, maybe a different set of co-workers you need to get along with.  That’s not wrong, but it doesn’t sound very much like an ecosystem

What characterizes an ecosystem is feedback cycles between ecological niches.  Abstractly, think of each niche as a node in a network.  Whether a creature can survive and thrive in its niche is determined by the environmental selection pressures it experiences there. Many of these pressures are exerted by populations occupying other niches in the same ecosystem, and the occupants of the original niche exert reciprocal pressure back on these, if not directly then through their effects on nearby populations.

Take the cycles in Canadian mammal populations (allegedly) observed by the Hudson Bay Company’s fur traders as far back as the 18th century. Lynxes hunt hares.  When lynx populations are low, dumb bunnies survive and breed.  Soon there are lots of hares, which means even feeble lynxes catch a few hares.  These lynxes survive and breed, selection pressure on hares intensifies, hare population collapses, vice versa for lynxes: and we’re back to square one.

littlebluestemIn this case, reciprocal pressure between the size of predator population and the prey population keep both in check.  But if we look at the ecosystem from the grass’s point of view, it’s the hares who are the predators!  The lynx, a valuable ally, exerts an indirect selection pressure by culling the hares that nibble the grass.  Some of these alliances are so powerful one species actually evolves traits that boost the population of the other.  This coevolution can continue to the point that symbiotic pairs of organisms require one another to function.

chinese-mountains-with-poem-in-ink-brush-calligraphy-of-love-poem-peter-v-quenterIn some ecosystems the environment of each niche is so completely determined by feedback from other niches that the entire ecosystem collapses if a distortions in a few feedback relationships send the key nodes into a negative feedback loop.  Mencius observed that mountain summits which support thick forests before they have been logged become barren rock afterwards, barely able to support any plant life. Some rainforest ecosystems are fragile in the same way.  The forest canopy shelters the soil from erosion; tree roots (and those of other plants) hold soil in place; the soil in turn absorbs water, sustaining root-systems and preventing erosive runoff.  With the soil stable, the plant life it sustains create dead organic matter that microbes and fungi will decompose into new soil.  Ecosystems as vibrant as coral reefs and as unvarying as semi-arid grasslands provide examples of equally powerful feedback loops.

“Fine,” you say, “ecosystem implies, not just a variety of niches which reward different strengths, but a system of inter-reliant niches.  But what’s your point?  We’re not rabbits. We’re not rhizomes.  This has nothing to do with the political ecosystem of the Right, much less sin, unless you’re trying to suggest that we eat Cernovich’s brains or something.”

Analogies only go so far.  The nodes and networks in a coral reef might help you picture how feedback loops generated by different political niches allow their occupants to function as a team, but we don’t need to feast on each other to recycle nutrients.  Any cannibalism should remain strictly metaphorical.

Series: Loving the Sinner

  1. Part I (Introduction) 
  2. Part II (Sin)
  3. Part III (Ecology) < You are here
  4. Part IV (Parties)
  5. Part V (Postscript)

Physical Anthropology in 1950

flores(Observations on intellectual history and ideological struggle)

I recently took a look at a book which gives a standard account of what physical anthropologists thought they knew about race immediately postwar.  If this book is any indication, “naive twentieth-century racial theories” is a bolshevik slur on excellent, careful, and appropriately modest anthropological claims which closely anticipated many findings archaeogenetics has now proven conclusively.

Races: a study of the problems of race formation in man brings together chapters originally given as lectures by the authors (Coon, Carn and Birdsell).  I picked it up for three reasons: (a) To learn how physical anthropology supplements the new DNA studies. (b) To familiarize myself with the sins of naive 20th century racial theories for which 21st century race-realists are held responsible.  (c) And, as the flip side of the same concern, to see where the old physical anthropology was accurate or misleading and precisely which physical evidence (or which interpretations of it) led them off track.

This post focuses on three topics that are interesting in light how how later anthropologists and biologists portray the work from this era: how the authors connect races to species, the sophistication of their evolutionary concepts (particularly, polygenesis and atavism), and the nature of the Nordic/Alpine/Mediterranean distinction.

I. What is race? 

Race, say Coon et al., is the first identifiable step in a process of divergence between two related populations — the same sort of divergence between isolated populations that in other cases leads to speciation.  What caught my eye was the spin they put on their explicit definition of racial divergence: “when one group has become sufficiently distinct from another group so that the majority of its member are easily identifiable, we call it a race.” They immediately contrast this easy identification to the endless acrimony among scientists about higher orders of classification: “Taxonomists argue about [species, genera, and so on] but on race they agree.”

In 2016, we usually use the opposite approach to sell people on race-realism: something like, “If you believe in species – and you do believe in species, right? species are a basic biological concept – you’ll have no trouble with race, since race is just somewhere between family and species on the continuum of closely-related populations”.  However there are two ways of thinking about race: one presents species as the common ground we can agree on and race as an ambiguous extension of the concept, while the other presents race as the common ground we can agree on and species as an ambiguous extension of the concept.  These two ways offer us a trade-off between the validity of the concept and the precision with which it can be applied.  “Easy identification of the distinctive traits of two groups” does not define a precise concept, because ease itself is a fuzzy concept, so the many clear-cut cases of “an easy identification” will always be surrounded by borderline cases that are nearly as 2375702_d4a2f3d3easy (just as with “a bald man” or “a heap of stones”).  Despite this fuzziness, “easy identification of differences” is logically (and evolutionarily!) prior to whatever degree of difference marks a difference in species, so any questions about the validity or reality of racial categories are ruled out in advance.  In 2016 we have a great deal of excellent and mathematically precise data on the (genetic) traits of human populations; it’s understandable to want to disassociate race from any implications of fuzziness.  But by approaching race as the more intricate, informationally-richer classification, we give up the idea that it is the simpler, logically prior of the two.  In 1950 they couldn’t quite see/quantify the intricacies, so they automatically went for the other horn of the dilemma.

Of course, even if there is a rhetorical trade-off between the two ways to frame the relationship between race and culture, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use both.  Most people who talk about race already use a line like “What, you’re telling me you can’t tell whether someone’s black or white?” now and then, and that’s just a hop, skip and a jump away from treating race as easy-identification.  It may seem like cheating to switch back

150819225407-black-lives-matter-activist-african-america-shaun-king-lemon-ctn-00000324-large-169
Fine, maybe not always. Fuzzy concept, right?

and forth between framings as opportunity presents itself, but I’ll let you in on a secret: your fuzzy experience of easy identification is just peripheral awareness of a highly-trained perceptual heuristic which collects, processes and flags intercorrelations between clusters of related traits… the same intercorrelated clusters which we can now explicitly quantify with principle components analysis.

II. There was nothing naive about physical anthropology’s understanding of evolution in 1950.

When science is under siege for political reasons, the anti-science faction is endlessly bringing up older, imperfect versions of theories to bring their most recent versions into disrepute.  However, on at least two counts the common narrative appears to be false.

fourmodelsPolygenesis.  The bolshevik line on polygenesis: “Once upon a time, heapbad racist supremacists thought non-human hominid species spread all over the world, and in every region the populations started evolving, and in every region they evolved into a new species, but always the same new species (Homo sapiens).”  (Impossible, of course: every isolated population of an ancestral species that evolves into a new species must evolve into a different species.) “But,” the bolshevik continues, “Now We Know™ all Homo sapiens came Out-of-Africa, and very recently, and were fully behaviorally modern before the Africa/Eurasia split, and couldn’t possibly have evolved much in the last hundred millennia, anyway.”  — Not just wrong, wrong in every particular!  Evolution can happen very quickly, for one thing.  And most significantly, many modern populations have DNA from non-human hominids (Homo neanderthalensis and Homo denisova confirmed, others suspected), so even if polygenesis was as crazy as the bolsheviks say, monogenesis is also wrong.

When I’ve had to explain the new multi-hominid theory, I’ve leaned on a just-so story: once upon a time, there was a polygenesis-camp and a monogenesis-camp, and each focused on one part of the evidence, each developed a simple model that captured their insights, but ultimately the adherents of each were too rigid to see that the possibility-space for human origins is actually all of the possible linear combinations of these two pure models.  This parable seems to work pretty well (not great, to be honest), but its pox on both your houses attitude implies a false equivalence and reinforces a bolshevik smear against the polygenists.

Lifelike figure of a Neanderthal Man in the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann by Duesseldorf, Northrhine-Westphalia, Germany. Image shot 2006. Exact date unknown.
Stand proud, stand ‘thal

According to Coon et al., “polytypical theory” hypothesizes that “several primates, evolving in parallel fashion, all became men, and the living races are descended from more than one kind of subhuman primate.” (p. 85)  Note that they do not say whether or not they descend from more than one species of primate: in the 1950s at least, polygenesis took no stance on whether the parallel hominid populations were separate races, species, or what.  (Cf. the comment I quoted on the difficulty of delineating species, from the same chapter.  The footnote on Gates’ research into the “question of division into species” as a separate issue appears to emphasize this point, but I have not looked at that citation to verify.)  However, the authors do stake out a position on movement between populations: “Whichever of these theories may be true, … mixture [has] been going on from the earliest times.” (They note three different population movements into Australia, a model genetics has only recently confirmed.)  Thus some big movement out of Africa, they take take for granted; among their contemporaries, polygenesis just meant modern traits are a linear combination of traits spread by these large movements and traits that evolved locally over hundreds of thousands of years, while monogenesis denied any traits were locally evolved.  Unless the presentation in Races is atypical (yet somehow uncannily prescient!) this means the polygenetic camp’s views were always quite sophisticated and have now been vindicated.

517px-apomorphy_-_homoplasy-svgDerived/innovative.  It is one of life’s little incongruities that bolsheviks, who in the study of history and culture ruin everything they touch by projecting “progressive” and “regressive” tendencies onto wholly inappropriate objects, fling the exact same accusation back at biologists and anthropologists who study evolving species which really can be traced back to ancestral forms.  Bolshevik biologists never deny human evolution (it was always one of their pet projects to use evolution to undermine faith in revelation, and unfortunately certain fundamentalists took the bait) or denounced the concept of phylogeny, but they did accuse any and all researchers applying phylogenetic concepts to mankind of believing that evolution progressed towards some goal (!!!) and of judging whether races had “approached” or “evolved towards” this goal with inherently evaluative terms like “primitive” and “advanced”.  In other words, the bolshevik indictment of the scary nineteenth- and twentieth-century racialists was not that they cared about hominid phylogeny, but that they were hopelessly naive about it, and used naive dichotomies like primitive/advanced where any non-idiot would be thinking in terms of ancestral/derived (or conservative/innovative or homologous/apomorphic…).  This is an embarrassing accusation!  But I am even more embarrassed, because I believed the accusers long after I knew they were deeply dishonest.  The authors of Races clarify what “primitive” and “advanced” mean in evolutionary theory (on p. 87, if you’re interested), and it turns out they mean… exactly what “ancestral” and “derived” mean in 2016.  The racialists were pretty sophisticated after all.

16xPolygenesis and primitivism are only two of the alleged errors of the old science of races.  Some of these allegations, I hope, are true.  It would be pathetic if the Cathedral castrated biologists to the point that no of theory of 2016 improves over the best of evolutionary thought, pre-1950.  But in the future I will try to reserve judgments about these allegations, since the track record of the accusers is so poor. — In a loose sense Coon, Carl, and Birdsell simply fell victim to something like a euphemism treadmill (we need ever-more neoteric jargon to distinguish strict senses of words from connotations they invariably carry), which is itself a subset of changes in linguistic context which make old books opaque to us.  Those who read little find pre-war books stilted, eighteenth-century books distressingly convoluted, and everything else impossible.  But even a reader who savors an old book’s style may find the concepts opaque: or rather, he will find the substance forbidding because of the false clarity of words (“the mony of fooles”) with which he is familiar, and which he never suspects he has not understood.  The function of a significant amount of bolshevik propaganda and cultural politics is to accelerate this process, to cut potential opponents off from the arsenal of reaction.

III. Tetchy racial distinctions and the politics of early anthropology.  Whenever race realists try to assert that just maybe there might be some kind of biological differences between, say, Sub-Saharan Africans and Eurasians, bolsheviks bring up all the intra-European racial distinctions 19th and 20th century anthropologists proposed: for example, Nordic, Alpine, and Mediterranean.

The relevance of the objection is somewhat unclear, and several of its uses (possibly the main ones) have no special connection to Races.  Sometimes bolshies exaggerate how large the N/A/M differences were claimed to be while minimizing how large they actually are, to tar the whole business of racial categorization with a history of error.  This does not seem to be party line: among anthropologists and biologists not even the most radical leftists deny intra-European biological differences (indeed, many insist on it).  Sometimes they seem to be threatening some kind of slippery slope, a regress into ever-more minute racial categories, either as a half-baked reductio or simply to slander categorization.  It could be an attempt to appeal to an American audience’s misleading biases. Americans, after all, are mostly euro-mutts.  Our ethnic self-identifications reflect neither genealogy nor physical traits.  (They are a result of memetic competition between the maternal clan and the paternal clan, just like Americans’ recipes, heirlooms, and denominations.)

But the major thrust of bringing up these apparently tetchy racial distinctions has always been a sort of divide-and-conquer strategy.  “Nordics”, the (((critical theorists))) tell us, are sort of like the white race within the white race; evil white supremacist Anglo-Saxons and (shudder!) Germans, having first vented their fantasies of racial domination by imagining a white race that is superior to the black, now go on to imagine a Nordic race superior even to other Europeans.  Thus (the bolshevik seems to be implying) any racial theory at all that starts making distinctions between white and not-white is heading towards expelling the Sicilians and the Greeks into the not-white category; the Sicilians feel insulted and worried about where all this “race” business might be headed, the Englishman starts to second-guess himself (“Am I being a trifle unsporting to those swarthy chaps?”) and the bolshevik rubs his hands in glee.

640px-carleton_coon_races_after_pleistocene
White race in green (?!)

The problem is that (judging on the basis of Races, anyway) these insinuations about the N/A/M racial types are all wrong: in fact nearly backwards.  N/A/M were not part of some obsessive trend to chop races ever finer; if anything, they were the opposite, an attempt to make overly broad sub-categories.  They were not an attempt to fortify white supremacy by bringing a more-white/less-white hierarchy inside the white race itself; if anything, they were an attempt to gerrymander the populations of Europe and its periphery to downplay white Europeans as a distinct race.  Far from trying to push anyone out of being “truly white”, the only race-politics dynamic that might have been at work was an attempt to neuter the social implications of race science… and perhaps even to make sure (((certain ethnicities))) couldn’t possibly be excluded from a Europe-centered white race.  The scope of the “Mediterranean race” which Coon et al. assume says it all!  This concept includes not just Southern Europe, not just the Balkans, not just the residents of the entire littoral of the Mediterranean Sea, but even extends into Iran.  In fact, the plates in the chapter on racial typology use an Iranian man as the illustration of the typical Mediterranean characteristics.

I don’t want to delve too far into the N/A/M classification; I don’t have examples as glaring as the Iranian plate for the Nordic and Alpine races and I don’t have time right now to study 1950s physical anthropology in depth.  But it interests me because (if my suspicions are correct) the classification hints at a broader lesson about how progressives orchestrate their cultural offensives.  If you’ve heard of KMac at all you know (((Franz Boas))) and his (((students))) politicized research, faked findings, and hid inconvenient data to promote the Left’s egalitarian ideology.  Given the triumph of Boas’ descendants (and of their cousins in other academic disciplines) and the resulting demonization of their opponents, we could easily get the impression that these opponents were hard-nosed, reactionary, anti-democratic, truth-loving WASP racists.  What heroes!  The reality may be more nuanced.  Many of the physical anthropologists studying racial difference were probably progressive (or even Marxist, tendance hônnete).  Many of them were probably jewish, and would have brought the same Boasian anxiety to normalize their own ethnic status to their research.  Many were simply normal men swept up in the currents of the times, I assume, and tuned their way of thinking to the Cathedral choirs.  What are the consequences?  First, Cthulhu is guaranteed another meal, since he has sway over both sides; second, whatever leftist deformations have been introduced into the “conservative” side of the argument to advance leftist goals can now be exposed, ridiculed, and imputed to the density of the conservative mind; third, any subsequent dissidents who see past the demonization of the defeated faction will be saddled with subtle leftist memes whose creators’ subsequent demonization they take as a proof of integrity.

This memetic pandæmonium is a simple manifestation of a dynamic I referred to today in my reply to EB’s interesting question.  In reality no historical movement, faction, or tendency is all shitlib or all shitlord.  Avoid attribution error!  Coalitions recruit talent wherever they can, and a group which dominates one side may still be present, even overrepresented, on the other.  Different people have many different loyalties, including loyalty to the paycheck. Two people with identical goals may still end up on different sides due to disagreement about how to attain the goal; they may even agree to pursue a mixed strategy[pdf].  Inference from someone’s team to his underlying goals/principles/loyalties is risky, not because the team-to-goal correlation isn’t 1.0 (true of any inference) but because the contrast between the two teams can blind you to the complexity of the team’s structure.

335px-francisco_de_goya2c_saturno_devorando_a_su_hijo_281819-182329Even if you wouldn’t have phrased it exactly as I have, you probably already recognize that one major purpose of bolshevik agitprop has always been to encourage this fallacy wherever they can: to get the herd to see everything through the lens of left/right, progress/regress, us/them.  Not until I read Races did I grasp how well demonizing defeated opponents serves this rhetorical strategy.  Demonization encourages conflation of different types of opponents, and this conflation can include not only people who were your enemies for different reasons (fairly obvious) but also people who were not strictly speaking your enemies at all (that is to say, people on the other side with whom you shared some goals, to some degree).  “The Revolution, like Cronos, eats its own children” is easily the best-known of all reactionary dicta; maybe we should add that it vomits this meal back onto the pages of History to frustrate human understanding.

[Thanks for reading. If you’d like to indulge my curiosity about whether people read the whole post, please click on this 26kb portrait of Carleton Coon.]