Memetic Lebensraum, Part 2 (Conquest)

pepegitaAn abused dog never feels at home.  Even many years after being rescued, some dogs will suddenly remember the owner whose blows and kicks they endured as a puppy at the sound of a car door slamming.  You can see it in the way they shiver, or dash out of the room, looking for somewhere to hide.

Modern culture has treated right-wingers no better.  They have endured so much gas-lighting, so many struggle sessions, hours of harangues and empty propaganda; they have, in the end, become so inured to rhetorical sleight-of-hand, to doublethink and to empty moral posturing, that many simply lose hope.  They never expect to be able to breathe free.  It has become a reflex for the abused reactionary to fear the fist lurking behind any intriguing, inspiring or powerful concept.  Spiritually, they can no longer feel at home in their own civilization.

Natives and Nationalism was written a very long time ago, so it had no “peg” to current events or to any of our ongoing debates.  I didn’t expect it to spark as many discussions as it did.  I was especially surprised that these discussions revolved around the thesis that nations are in some sense historically arbitrary or “socially constructed,” and that several readers even found support for that thesis in my post!  This skittishness, I suspect, is a symptom of abuse.

I will address the substance of nations and national loyalty in a future post.  But first I wanted to discuss more fundamental issues of conceptual strategy, and the ultimate end at which any conceptual strategy aims.


The Conceptual Arsenal of the Left

One theme that keeps recurring in debates on the Right is whether or not we should reject concepts X because X is a leftist or progressive concept.  This is a healthy instinct. The traditional cuckservative approach to deranged leftist concepts goes something like this:

  1. Leftists want to destroy the family, the church, and private property
  2. Leftists invent a word-salad concept like transexual reification and argue that only the destruction of the family, the church, and private property could possibly achieve this urgent goal.
  3. Cuckservatives boldly hypothesize that the magic of the free market will make labioplasties cheap and convenient, and that good old-fashioned family values are what a newly-snipped tranny really needs for support during transitioning difficulties, so actually when you think about it, if you’re worried about the transexual reification crisis, conservative social institutions are you best solution anyway!
  4. From here, the cucks progress very naturally to: “Free markets aren’t just more productive and less coercive, we need free markets to bring an end to transexual reification, the moral issue of our time!”
  5. And finally: “Ending transexual reification has always been a core principle for conservatives!”

At the end of this cycle, the cuckservatives may think they have won, for lo and behold, the finally passed that bill to give trannies vouchers to buy labioplasties on the private market! Much better than socialist state-mandated labioplasties, my dude.

But actually, they’ve lost – in more ways than they know.  Not because subsidizing elective castration isn’t a very conservative outcome (remember, the cucks will claim to the bitter end that George Washington signed the Emancipation Proclamation for  no other reason than that we, his posterity, might someday end transexual reification) but because they have given the Left yet another conceptual superweapon.

Once the cucks had established that the Left’s platform, “Bolshevik anarcho-tyranny will bring an end to transexual reification,” was not just undesirable but instrumentally irrational, the political logic of building and expanding an coalition pushes them to consider – maybe just as a devil’s advocate at first – more and more earnest endorsements of general position that someone who is concerned about transexual reification will vote for a conservative party.  Over time, the cuckservatives confer more and more moral authority to the phrase transexual reification and young cucks grow up who have never heard their cuck-elders voice anything but devout concern for the grievous danger transexual reification poses to American democracy.

But even as they pimp the concept out to cucks, the Left would never surrender ownership of a juicy new principle like transexual reification to the cuckservatives, oh no. The bolsheviks in the universities, the media, and the courts retain possession of the concept itself, including the right to define it… and redefine it.  So all the moral authority the cucks invest in the principle of transexual reification passes directly into the hands of committed leftists, who can then use it to tell the young cucks what to love and what to hate.  Not that they will have to use it very often: they already have racist, homophobe, white supremacist, chauvinist…

Scorched Earth Tactics (and Overreaction)

The rational reaction, after observing a few cycles of this nonsense, is to refuse to confer any moral authority authority at all, under any circumstances, to an obvious nonsense-principle like transexual reification.  Nonsense deserves only jeers and ridicule.

After standing up to resist the bolsheviks once tasting success, what next?  Now you want to go back to the previous step in the bolshevization of Western civilization, and look for other words that only name the strings on which the Left’s puppets dance.  Gay rights, for example; that looks like nonsense too.  And now that you mention gay rightsgay and its synonyms have caused nothing but problems.  Our ancestors got along fine without gay (and its implicit conceptual scheme of sexual orientations), why can’t we?  Disavow.

And rights?  Hmm….

To an energetic young reactionary, the simple strategy of refusing to acknowledge, respect, or rely on bolshevik concepts begins to look like it has boundless promise.  (And I have treated only the moral authority and informal power that these concepts convey; the greater clarity of understanding one gains after discarding the useless slime is electrifying in its own way.) But where something is boundless, there is the risk it will inspire vertigo.

The options this strategy presents begin to seem limitless.  Is a “progressive,” or “leftist concept” one taught by leftists?  That describes all of them.  Nearly all teaching jobs go to leftists.

Is it a concept created or popularized by leftists?  That only lands us in a deeper muddle.  Now we must decide which of the creators and popularizers were “progressive”.  The Left will gladly claim all of them as progressives, of course!  …or will salvage a philosopher as implicitly progressive after a suitably gruesome “charitable reading”; or barring that, will discover that an ancient concept “anticipates” or “prefigures” some robustly leftist concept from a later millennium.

(Bolsheviks do not consider furnishing elements of their ideology with counterfeit pedigrees to be a form of deception, by the way; they have a sincere conviction that it is the victim of their charitable reading who has been rescued from irrelevance and obscurity by the progressive interpretation of his life’s work.)

Is a concept “leftist” if it has been newly-minted?  Well, all concepts have histories — and in fact, one of the classic tactics of bolshevism is to smear venerable principles by establishing the low origins of the high.

Further, bolsheviks often invent new concepts specifically to discredit threats from innovations and discoveries.

  • After global anthropological research in the nineteenth century led to the first systematic theories of race, bolsheviks coined  color-prejudice and then racist as slogans in a campaign to delegitimize the reality of race.
  • After regional disturbances in the nineteenth century ended in the establishment of compact nation-states, rather than the longed-for destruction of all social order, proto-bolsheviks seized concepts like the brotherhood of manhumanism, universalism, and xenophobia which could be turned against the new obstacle.
  • Even the state was novel once, but nonetheless the enemies of order developed anarchism and a constellation of related tools to belittle and discredit the state: chipping away at it, wearing it down.

So not only will you encounter no natural stopping point once you set off on a quixotic quest to rid your conceptual arsenal of all concepts tainted by suspicious leftist associations: worse still, the rejection of one concept on the grounds that it is parvenu, unnecessary, originally devised with ulterior motives (and so on) is itself an intrinsically leftist concept, in many cases.

No one likes to get meme’d on.  But never forget that “You got meme’d on, fam” is in turn a meme itself.

Don’t Throw the Pepe Out with the Bathwater

Hang in there!

There’s no slippery slope here.  I’m not trying to call into question the strategy of resisting, ridiculing, and rejecting leftist concepts.  Rather, I want to show you a topological map of an entire theater of operations.  There are all kinds of slopes out there, as well as ridges and valleys.  Some of these features leave leftists exposed to the resist-ridicule-reject strategy.  Other features are valuable as potential bases from which to launch exactly these attacks.  No single strategy or tactic is equally well-suited to advance one’s ultimate goals in every battle, or on every part of the battlefield.

Whether concepts are modern novelties, whether they are tainted by their leftist origins, and whether they continue to be controlled by leftists certainly matters.  One simply needs to keep in mind the purpose of the scorched-earth strategy: starving the Cathedral of moral authority and damaging its informal power.  Where resist-ridicule-reject doesn’t serve either function, we would do better to seize the concept for ourselves and put it to good use.

New — I discussed the limits of the novelty heuristic in the last section of Resisting Assimilation.  Mankind has only existed for 100,000 years, if that; all old ideas were new, once; the main value of rejecting the Left’s inventions out of hand is that it stops rewarding their tireless attempts to manufacture ever-more-bizarre conceptual weapons. Hopefully once it stops working, they’ll stop trying.  But if you are leery of “leftist inventions” when you study the thought and culture of pre-modern people, you have already fallen for the leftists’ strategic assimilation of human history.

Dangerous — “Beware Greeks bearing gifts,” the saying goes, and the same caution should apply to the generosity of the Left.  If Leftists developed a concept, or at least popularized or adapted it, for their own political and ideological purposes, it’s entirely likely that it is a weapon which will only fire in one direction.  It’s also possible that it is so entangled with other leftist concepts that it could become something of a tar-baby.  For example, a certain type of egalitarian argument may be entangled with parallel arguments in leftist ideology, such that if you think a specific conception of equality is meaningful and useful and introduce it to a naive audience, you will leave them unprepared to differentiate between the true argument you presented and the many specious fallacies leftists will pair with it.  Training a naive audience to appreciate the subtle differences between entangled concepts may well be far too much work to justify their use!  Sometimes this is intentional, and leftists (or cuckservatives) craft a concept as a Trojan Horse to appeal to the Right from the very beginning.  But if you think disentangling concepts is hard work, try communicating to people in formal logic!  Gobbledygook which is free of the bolshevik taint is simply necessarily confusing rather than potentially confusing.

Enemy-controlled — For some concepts, there are armies of adjunct lecturers teaching teenagers what the concept means; there are teeming hordes of unscrupulous journalists trained to use the concept to advance the Narrative in a particular way; there may even be a professor or guru who is the “world expert” on the topic, or an institution dedicated to making sure that the concept gets used to advance the progressive agenda.  When you teach someone to use, value, and rely on a concept which the Left has fortified heavily, he will end up at the beck and call of the occupation force.  Certainly Bolshevism is bad for women (in many ways!), but so long as bolsheviks say who and what is called sexist, why would you ever encourage anyone to care about sexism? But the occupation strategy that makes concepts like sexism, racism, or my hypothetical transsexual reification so toxic simply amounts to concerted, repetitive use of the term in question.  Where we are in a position to outgun the bolsheviks, why wouldn’t we?

Conceptual Cattle-Rustling

To help frame the stakes of the strategic alternatives under consideration, let me throw out some hypotheses about how the Left and Right might interact as memeplexes.  (The second and the third models I first heard from other people: if you know who you are and want attribution, let me know.)

(a)  Imagine the Left is an ideological parasite, sort of like a virus. All the concepts arising from the ordering of social life (and that help to order it) are fundamentally right-wing, and help generate the energy (intellectual and otherwise) to perpetuate and spread ideologies of order.  The Left cannot create “its own” concepts, but it can co-opt the Right’s and mercilessly exploit them to power itself.  (We could borrow the concept of horizontal and vertical transmission to say that, in this model, the left-wing memeplex is essentially horizontal and the right-wing memeplex is essentially vertical.  Cf. deathwish values.)

(b) Imagine the Left has a systematic affinity for novelty and innovation as such.  All concepts that arise from any source and in any context are fundamentally left-wing, and all brand-new concepts contribute to the revolution and disorder that fuels the Left.  However, as the concepts give rise to new fields, new institutions, and new solutions to the problems of human life, they are domesticated and re-purposed by the Right, which can now use these co-opted concepts to resist a new wave of revolutionary leftist advances, spearheaded by even newer concepts.

(c) Imagine the Left is completely cynical, and functions with complete indifference to the content of the concepts which it assimilates; it merely absorbs what it can, and wherever the Left has incorporated a certain concept into its memeplex the Right has no choice but to embrace whatever concepts make the best weapons for resisting what the Left has become.

To flesh out these models, let us use the concept nation as an example. 

  • Model A suggests nation is a concept that grows slowly and naturally out of the organization of national life; the Left cannot make a nation or the concept of nations, but it can twist it and invest it with a special significance that makes nationality a frenzied obsession for leftists, at least for a certain period of time.
  • Model B suggests nation was created at some point as element of an arsenal of leftist innovations for a particular generation of reformers and revolutionaries, but that after that period of disorder and bloodshed the successful nationalist revolutionaries would end up bequeathing the nationalist institutions they created to heirs with zero interest in letting a new revolution disorder them.
  • Model C suggests that whether or not the Left wraps its tentacles around the concept (and whether, in turn, the Right champions nation or rejects it) is entirely contingent and could depend on chains of events and historical junctures that seem arbitrary; and quite likely, local contingencies could lead leftist ideology to take different approaches to the nation in different regions, so that reactionary thought would need vary accordingly to suit the needs of the local resistance.

I will not endorse one of these models. The point I draw from them is not empirical or historical; it is that it is very difficult to figure out precisely what it means to say that a concept is fundamentally left-wing or fundamentally right-wing.  Assigning a particular meaning to the label “fundamentally left-wing” may well serve a useful function in a certain model of ideological conflict!  But it leaves open the possibility that there are other ways in which the same concept has affinities for the right-wing memeplex which, if not “fundamental,” can nonetheless detach a concept from one memeplex as it attaches itself to another.  Getting too excited about whether a certain concept is really leftist or rightist is just another symptom of the illusion that the Left-Right polarity encompasses all of reality.  When you have a precise reason to describe a concept as aligned with the Left or the Right, the precision extends to showing you the exact limits of description.

By convention Left, by convention Right; in reality memes and meme-war.

buffalo-3Where Seldom If Ever/ Their Flickering Campfires Burn

I imagine to some readers memetic warfare seems a pale, insubstantial metaphor.  Politics as war, yes very well; but memes?  Concepts as weapons?  Concepts suffering invasion, concepts groaning under occupation?  For these doubters, let us examine more closely what the stakes of this struggle are.  Consider the following passage (from G.K. Chesterton’s biography of George Bernard Shaw):

An original man has to pause at every allusion or simile to re-explain historical parallels, to re-shape distorted words. Any ordinary leader-writer (let us say) might write swiftly and smoothly something like this: “The element of religion in the Puritan rebellion, if hostile to art, yet saved the movement from some of the evils in which the French Revolution involved morality.” Now a man like Mr. Shaw, who has his own views on everything, would be forced to make the sentence long and broken instead of swift and smooth. He would say something like: “The element of religion, as I explain religion, in the Puritan rebellion (which you wholly misunderstand) if hostile to art—that is, what I mean by art—may have saved it from some evils (remember my definition of evil) in which the French Revolution—of which I have my own opinion—involved morality, which I will define for you in a minute.” That is the worst of being a really universal sceptic and philosopher; it is such slow work. The very forest of the man’s thoughts chokes up his thoroughfare. A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.

Chesterton has in mind situations where an original thinker (e.g. Shaw) has thoughts that are wholly new and thus difficult to express unless he accepts (at least provisionally) habitual, orthodox ways of talking.  But the difficulty Chesterton’s examples illustrate applies equally to attempts to revive truly old intellectual traditions in TCY, which must perforce be expressed in TCY’s progressive jargon.

harrison_bergeron_0To some extent this burden is pure “Harrison Bergeron”: leftists howl in outrage if you call illegal immigrants “illegal immigrants” (never mind “illegals”!) and will give you no peace until you switch to something unwieldy like “temporarily undocumented migratory agricultural worker.”

Already, simply by tripling or quadrupling the length of everything that you would like to say about the traditional conceptions of borders and immigration, the leftist has limited you to a fraction of what you would have liked to say.  Worse still, he has made it nearly impossible for your audience to understand you — outright impossible, in fact, if your audience has not been marinading in the latest round of politically correct leftist babble, but difficult even if they do understand the technical meaning of all the jargon you have been forced to use.  There are cognitive limits on how long people can stay focused on a line of thought that does not seem to be reaching a natural conclusion!  The thoroughfare is choked up, but not by your own thoughts; the choking forest sprouts up from the words which your adversary has forced into your mouth.

But here we are still only talking about simple 1:1 substitutions of unwieldy jargon for simple compact names.  Conceptual homelessness cuts much deeper than that.  You may very well believe the concept society carries undesirable connotations, and feel that casual talk of societies tacitly endorses a conceptual cornerstone of socialism.  You may feel the same way about nationthe people, and many other concepts besides.  But then when you need to talk about a large group of interacting human beings, a group less cautious right-wingers would call our society or our nation, what do you do?  What circumlocution or neologism can you use to ward off unwanted bolshevik implications?

I have nothing against subtle circumlocutions and technical vocabulary, myself.  But go back and re-read Chesterton’s description of how a man like Shaw would try to talk about the English Civil War.  Isn’t it a great rhetorical handicap to be forced to introduce your ideas like that?

Isn’t it a great philosophical handicap to be forced to think about your ideas like that?

And if it seems like a heavy handicap to you, dear reader, who actively seeks out obscure reactionary bloggers, how must it seem to other people, who are sympathetic to the Right and whose support we will eventually need?

On the whole I think it would be better for leftists to feel that they cannot use certain basic concepts comfortable without admitting unwanted implications, and for us to feel quite at home with our basic conceptual vocabulary.  Likewise, leftists should fear that when they accuse an opponent of some crime, they strengthen the hand of rightists who are the ultimate arbiters of guilt and innocence.  Leftists should fret that their theories are built on quicksand, and that recognized experts who are hostile to the Left will be called upon to judge whether the way they use our concepts is learned or confused.

Now cracks a noble weeb

We’ve already seen this reconquest happen on a small scale.  Our outriders have already started to raid mainstream culture, seizing certain memes and symbols by ius raptio. Display of these symbols has become a de facto oath of allegiance to the Right, and it is the Cathedral’s altar-boys who have started to feel inhibited.

Next will come concepts, and then eventually theories, fields, and schools of thought.  Leftists already read little because study and thought do little to advance their social status, but we should look forward to the day when they actively avoid Homer, Rousseau and Darwin because they “know” that these authors are somehow implicitly fascist.  When that day arrives, even if they are forced to read them, the leftists will be too demoralized by their “knowledge” to try to understand them and use them.  The books that leftists abandon will be left open to us and our children, and we can raise families — perhaps even a whole civilization — on this newly-liberated memetic Lebensraum.

What I have called “memetic Lebensraum” may be equivalent to another German concept, Lebenswelt.  According to Edmund Husserl’s Crisis of the European Sciences,

[The] life-world – the “world for us all” – is identical with the world that can be commonly talked about.

Husserl’s concern was that as the authority and prestige of narrow academic disciplines grew, they would cut off modern European man from his roots in the soil of the life-world, leaving him “at the mercy of the fateful revolutions of our unhappy age.” After his death, Husserl’s concept was colonized by third-rate Marxists and disfigured into yet another tiresome attack on work, family, and piety.  Yet perhaps before all is said and done we will liberate Lebenswelt itself from the “culture of critique.”  One can never have too much living-space!

Series: Memetic Lebensraum

  1. Part I (Resisting Assimilation)
  2. Part II (Conquest) < You are here
  3. Projected: Part III (Envoi)

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.

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.


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…


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.


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.


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]

Memetic Lebensraum, Part 1 (Resisting Assimilation)

pepematrixInterpretation and Identification

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.

This makes us, in The Current Year, desperate to understand this irresistible force we call Leftism, Progressivism, Bolshevism, or simply Cthulhu.  To understand it means, first, to identify and describe it; or rather, to identify all of the phenomena which can be described as “leftist”, and to separate them from those that cannot.  This separation is the foundation for all our metapolitical intelligence-gathering (How does the Left work?), strategy (How and where can one attack the Left?) and hygiene (How can one avoid infection by the Left?)

The priority of identification over interpretation is really no different in any other domain of knowledge.  An entomologist must learn to spot and identify beetles before he can turn his observations into a Theory of Beetles.  Of course, a dedicated entomologist begins to get beetles on the brain.  He sees beetles in abstract geometric patterns, he sees beetles when he closes his eyes.  Sometimes he may even reflect on more abstract resemblances to beetles: while watching cable news, for example.

When identifying the essential underlying bolshevism of something, however, this hyperawareness of salient patterns poses a unique danger.  Part of the essential underlying essence of Bolshevism is the drive to assimilate everything that is non-bolshevik and absorb it into Bolshevism.

The Living and the Dead

Leftist lunatics and leftist institutions have life stories: there was a before and an after. You can over-estimate how deluded a leftist is, or how converged an institution is, but the Left’s goal in such cases is to delude or to converge an unwilling target, not to convince you, the observer, that the attempt was successful.

This is true when the target is among the living, at any rate.  There is one sure defense against conversion by leftists, namely death (or for institutions, destruction).  Death puts a man forever beyond the reach of pharisees and commissars.  The saints can no more be infected by bolshevism than by influenza.

Yet the dead are not irrelevant to Bolshevism’s broader drive to assimilate.  Their invulnerability to conversion merely forces the Left to abandon conversion-tactics.  Where conversion is still possible, forcing someone to become a man of the Left wholly eclipses creating the impression that he is of the Left.  Where it is not, they rearrange their strategic priorities.

Why, you might ask, would the bolsheviks care to create such an impression?  Could it be more than a matter of empty pride, the spiritual equivalent of We wuz kangz?  (“We wuz commissars…”)

When bolsheviks successfully convert a still-living man (or a still-operating institution) to their cause, they have a new tool.  Each new convert strengthens the Left and puts more power at its disposal.  Giving observers the impression a conversion attempt succeeded also gives them a certain impression about the collective power and unity of the Left.  (The impression that a coalition has the power to attain its ends attracts allies and calms latent tensions.)

Yet since dead leftists can no longer be used as tools, the impression that the dead were leftists creates neither power nor the illusion of power.  What purpose, then, could the assimilation of the dead serve?

I hesitate to discuss the ways in which re-baptizing the dead serves the bolshevik cause. I am not even sure the bolsheviks’ drive to assimilate the past is explained by a deliberate instrumental plan; the reverse may very well be closer to the truth.  That is, the blind drive to assimilate may be their fundamental character, and its contribution to the fitness of their memeplex a secondary fact with a teleofunctional explanation.  But the question deserves an answer, so…

6467202353_07b8df37fd_zBeyond Lawful Good and Chaotic Evil

The worldview of the Left is Manichean: Left-Right, Progressive-Regressive, Bolshevism-Fascism.  This worldview is the root of all moral authority the Left wields.  As the Left’s worldview spreads, its moral authority increases, giving leftists the power they need to propagate the worldview.

I have previously written that leftists struggle with logical thought and like to replace discussion with emotion-talk.  These are two small aspects of  an over-arching shift from evaluating someone’s beliefs and actions on the basis of his reasons, to evaluating them on the basis of his motives.  C.S. Lewis apparently called this shift Bulverism; Paul Ricœur’s “hermeneutics of suspicion” is a related but perhaps broader category.

A speaker’s motives are never irrelevant; they give his words a salience that invites closer scrutiny. Even if two speakers trust trust each other unreservedly, they will frequently find it impossible to interpret each others’ words without knowing the intention behind them.

If “I have to work tonight” can mean I will not be at the party  when someone’s intention is to satisfy your curiosity about whether he will attend, it can also mean I do not have to work, but I want you to think I do  when his intention is to give an excuse for his absence.

Someone’s concrete goal in a situation may lead us to suspect that he would say X to accomplish his goal whether or not X is true; but this only means that we should ask him to substantiate his claim.  Talk is cheap, but evidence is not.  Someone may lie about evidence, or even fabricate it, but past a certain point we become confident that (a) the difficulty of his (hypothetical) deception or (b) the risks it would pose to his reputation for honesty and good judgment outweigh what he could stands to gain from trickery.

trust-but-verify-e1389107073481Of course, this only means that when the stakes for the speaker are high or our personal ties to him are weak, we scrutinize everything he says more closely.  (Higher stakes justify the difficulty of more elaborate deceptions, and weak ties make it easier to run away from an unsavory reputation.)

Problems only arise after one shifts from assigning speakers concrete motives (skipping a party, selling a product, winning a game) towards classifying their motives as good or evil.  The peculiarity of the bolshevik’s worldview lies in this: rather than flagging the most suspicious claims and demanding further substantiation of them, a bolshevik suspects anyone who provides supporting evidence to substantiate a claim, if proving the claim frustrates the goals of Bolshevism.

In other words, in an ordinary debate if you make a claim that just seems too convenient I may doubt it, and reply: “Now where did you hear that?”  But once you reply “The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Database 2013, Table 10b,” my suspicions can only extend as far as checking Table 10b myself.  When I’ve seen it with my own eyes, you have substantiated your original claim (and shown my suspicions were unwarranted).

Anyone who has had a conversation with a progressive in the last, oh, ten years or so knows that their reactions are quite different.  “How did you know that?” they will say. “That’s exactly what I would expect a racist to say.”  The substantiation itself is proof that you are not to be trusted; the more elaborate and well-researched your substantiation, the more loudly you accuse yourself!

One way to understand the bolsheviks’ fascination with motives is that they behave as though they were at war.  In a war, all the normal considerations governing honesty and deceit are thrown out the window.

  • (a) Soldiers can only expect death and destruction if their side loses, so they are highly motivated to do their part and collectively overcome the enemy.
  • (b) They have no ties to their enemies; with their brothers-in-arms, they have bonds forged in suffering and boredom; and the civilians they are ultimately protecting are their kinsmen and their neighbors.

Far from gaining a reputation for dishonesty, a soldier who manages to deceive and slaughter his enemies will be toasted as a hero by those whom he cares about.

Bolsheviks are only keyboard commandos.  They have no trenches to defend.  They have thick social, professional and family ties to non-bolsheviks they treat as enemies. They will not be gunned down in no-man’s-land if it turns out their political rivals’ claims about crime statistics are accurate.  (In fact, more often than not everyone would benefit if either side were to base its policies on accurate beliefs about cause-and-effect.)  So neither stark differences in the fates the two sides face, nor the personal stakes of a political argument, nor a vagabond indifference to reputation can explain bolsheviks’ Manichaean bellicosity.  What does?

Leftism: slimy yet satisfying!

Let’s call the view that what something is or whether it exists may hinge on a claim’s practical relevance to a decision we face “ontological pragmatism”.  An entomologist who wishes to persuade us a certain critter is a beetle, or that the order Coleoptera must be distinguished from Hemiptera, may get a tough reception if we are starving and scavenging for food under a rotting log.  Here the practical question is What are we to eat? and the entomologist must establish his bona fides by assuring us that the entomology lesson will culminate in a delicious snack.

The progressive is certain his goal can be described as progress and any criticism of a reform he supports only matters if framed it in terms of how to make progress.  If you frame your objections correctly, the progressive will thank you, as a fellow progressive, for showing him the error of his ways!  Otherwise your feedback is only a distraction from what really matters, namely making progress.  Your indifference to progress marks you as an opponent.  Mutatis mutandis for other -isms: capitalism, racism, anti-semitism, male chauvinism, environmentalism…

Of course, if you appease the progressive and start to translate all your objections into the language of progress (or class-struggle, or anti-racism) you will only reinforce his belief that all political and social matters can be reduced to a progressive/regressive axis. Your audience will draw the same lesson.  After enough practice pitching your ideas to leftists in this way, you may start to forget that reality can’t be reduced to this axis.  You will start to feel stronger temptations to draw on the moral authority of the Left to discomfit your opponents, or to whip up public opinion against them.  The Left will lend you as much moral authority as you need, and you will pay it back with interest.

The Manichaean worldview is not a corrosive effect of lifelong allegiance to the Left.  It is the first symptom of infection.  Once someone sees all possible political stances and objectives squeezed onto a spectrum, he has already been assimilated.  He may not vote for a leftist party (maybe he never will), but he knows that some political motives are evil and some day he will simply get tired of being called a “transphobe” or a “pedophobe”…

Did you know that Mencius Moldbug once hypothesized that good and evil, as moral poles orthogonal to lawful and unlawful, are illusions?  As a claim about the way the world really is, I have reservations about this “linear model”.  (The world is a complicated place.)  As spiritual guidance, I am torn.  (Deeply complicated.)  But as a toy model for explaining what we observe in the social world, Moldbug’s linear model is very powerful.

>There are people who actively pursue evil — psychopaths — but psychopaths… act alone. Most people spend most of their time pursuing good, and all large organizations are organized around some concept of good.

>Since most of the large-scale phenomena in recent history which most of us would consider “evil” have been the result of actions of people acting within organizations, “evil” must be the result of actions which someone considered “good.”

>By conflating evil with malevolence, planarism [the illusion that law↔chaos and good↔evil are orthogonal moral dimensions -ed.] derives the logical result that evil can be extinguished by eradicating malevolence. So planarists strive everywhere and at all times to think good thoughts, and to persuade others to do the same.

>When planarists read and write history, they spend far too much time on the landscape of emotional attachments and airy mystical beliefs, and not enough on practical cause and effect. As in the case of religion, our sense of classification is being fed superfluous information which is meaningless and disorienting…

Our immediate goal is to identify leftists, leftism, and the Left so that we can study them, understand them, and defeat them.  But our ultimate goal is to escape from the Good/Evil illusion entirely.


Is politics war?  Does it need to be?  This is a complicated question.  But the political strategy of Bolshevism is to treat politics as war, to treat an enemy as someone working towards the ultimate evil, to treat a friend as someone who must be spurred on to ever greater contributions to the cause.

This technique effectively mobilizes bolsheviks in the same way an army mobilizes conscripts for war.  It helps them win victories, convert opponents, strengthen the prestige and moral authority of bolshevik principles, and infect ever-more people with the worldview which allows the mobilization.

This puts anyone on the Right in a difficult position.  Unilateral disarmament is no more an option in domestic politics than in war.  If they treat us as “the enemy,” we must respond in kind; if quasi-military tactics are making the bolshevik juggernaut unstoppable we must study these tactics and adopt them.  But the Manichaean worldview is itself the main vector for infection by leftism, and by organizing for self-defense we play exactly the role it has assigned to us.

This is why the assimilation of the dead into the Left matters so much.  From a leftist perspective, the more people see human history as a story about progress (and at least implicitly, as a struggle between progressives and their ruling-class opponents), the more whole-heartedly they conform to the Manichaean worldview and the more derisively they dismiss the thought-crimes of evil people who oppose progress, in its various forms.

To assimilate the past into Bolshevism, bolsheviks do not need to portray every historical figure as a bolshevik!  A thrilling story needs both a protagonist and an antagonist, a Beowulf and a Grendel.  The bolsheviks are writing a script where a proto-leftist saves the day (or dies trying) but they have plenty of speaking parts the “ruling class” can audition for.  Not only can they serve their goal goal by casting a historical figure as a leftist or a rightist; sometimes they can spice up the story by cutting the scenes where an awkward figure appears; and by recasting actual right-wingers as progressives, and vice-versa!  As I wrote in my post Physical Anthropology in 1950:

[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).

Peering ahead into the grim darkness of the coming decades, you may see nothing but war. So be it.  But do not let this insight about political strategy in the twenty-first century blind you to the nature of things.  In 2017 you are on duty, and you must keep an eye on your forward lines.  In 1617 you are on leave, and you are free to stretch out your muscles in a conceptual landscape unimpeded by the narrow limits which Bolshevism imposes on society reality.

This freedom extends to facts, human beings, institutions, social dynamics, identities, ideas, and events.  In the present any of these things can align along the Left/Right axis, can be controlled by leftists or rightists, can be objectively favorable to the Left or the Right.  In the past, not so.  To recognize “essential underlying bolshevism” you must first recall the slow development of the Left, and trace this process of becoming back to its birth.  Before there was a Left, there was no Left/Right axis to politics, and a Manichaean worldview was a temporary expedient in times of war.

Rehabilitating people whose legacies have been assimilated into Bolshevism is an important step towards resisting assimilation, and it has served as an instructive example because of the sharp contrast between living people (whom bolsheviks can actually convert) and the dead.  But concepts are much more important, although the sense in which they can be “converted” or “conquered” is much more abstract.  Concepts that were manufactured from scratch by bolsheviks inside institutions wholly under their control are almost certainly toxic.  But those which they have merely seized and twisted to their own ends, we can liberate.

ahistoryofviolenceA History of Progress

Bolshevism’s “long march” through American academia is only just now reaching its conclusion, as death claims the survivors of a conservative rearguard within the universities that had checked the excesses of their junior colleagues.  What the Cathedral produces in TCY is thoroughly and irredeemably pozz’d, but even twenty years ago dissident professors did not have to endure struggle sessions with their most ignorant students, and leftist professors were strongly influenced by teachers and critics who challenged their leftist views.  Much of it is valuable and even what is poz is educational wherever it fails to line up neatly with the bolshevik orthodoxies of TCY.

The contemporary Left/Right party-system was still evolving in Western countries as recently as the 1930s.  Progressivism only definitively assumed the form of Bolshevism after 1917; strictly speaking Bolshevism dates back to 1903, and was a branch of an international conspiracy which had existed in organized form only since September 18, 1864.  The First International (a.k.a. International Workingmen’s Association) was an umbrella organization for every strain of revolutionary radicalism: Owenites, anarchists, syndicalists, communists and republicans came together to plot and blaspheme.  Each strain of this sinister virus, the Left, undoubtedly imagined itself as master of all the others.  We, who know how the story ends, ought not to fall into the trap of assuming every strain of radicalism which was of the Left in the beginning possessed all the characteristic traits of the most virulent strain (Bolshevism) from the outset.

But the historical roots of the concept Left itself are ultimately rather shallow.  In 1791, the 745 members of France’s Assemblée legislative sat next to their friends and political allies: constitutionalists to the right, republicans who saw the new constitution as a temporary expedient to the left.  In 1789, in the Assemblée nationale constituante, the supporters of Louis XVI  sat to the right-hand side of the podium, and his opponents to the left.  Before that, nothing.

We cannot, of course, imagine that anyone in history who supported a king was of the Right and anyone who opposed a king was of the Left.  Nor should we scour history for those who sought to preserve republican constitutions and those who treated them as guidelines.  Kings and constitutions are not of themselves Left or Right.  Rather, it is the project of the Left in the broadest sense to mash up historical reality like cud and pass it through the eight stomachs of bolshevik ideology in order to produce something soft and malleable, something that can be forced to take on “progressive tendencies” or “regressive tendencies”.  Tens of thousands of pages of vivid history, processed down into bullshit.

ql_parallelsI don’t want to exaggerate. 1789 was not a unique event, other than with respect to the appearance of a persistent Left/Right. Trends similar to the fateful dynamics of Bourbon France were occurring and had been occurring in other countries; there, they led to parallel political crises, parallel factional rivalries, parallel resolutions. But parallels will only get you so far!  Four things can all be parallel to one another without all four of them being parallel in the same way.

If you insist on treating the English Civil War, for example, as a struggle between leftist Roundheads and right-wing Royalists, well: fine!  What can I do to stop you?  Everyone does it.  The English Civil War does greatly resemble the French Revolution… as viewed through a kaleidoscope.

(If an object looks the same to you whether viewed through a kaleidoscope or not, I have bad news for you: you may have ingested a mind-altering substance!)

But at 1618 you really must stop.  If you tell me you’re suspicious of all the anticipations and progressive tendencies you detect in the work of that arch-revolutionary propagandist, John Milton, I will not agree with you but I will humor you.  Before this date, the mere fact that an idea is new really cannot possibly have anything to do with whether or not it is a mirage fabricated by leftists.  Your conviction that it might be is itself the mirage, and when you can free yourself from the mirage and see the past as it really was, you are finally resisting assimilation.

Series: Memetic Lebensraum

  1. Part I (Resisting Assimilation) < You are here
  2. Part II (Conquest)
  3. Projected: Part III (Envoi)

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

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.



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.


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?) 


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. 


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)

Loving the Sinner, part 2: Sin


Recall one of the premises of the first installment of this essay: the main reason to care about accurately assessing guilt and innocence is the goal of punishing people whose behavior we want to deter, and only them.  This point of departure led to the conclusion that our best strategy is to deter anyone who perpetrates a crime without looking too closely at patterns in his behavior, with the corollary that the instinct to treat each crime as evidence of the perpetrator’s criminal character is healthy.  (And if the instinct is healthy, so are the punitive habits that the instinct ingrains and the juridical institutions that grow up around the habits, all of which lead to a stable system of deterrence.)

However, I would not have needed to stand in defense of the punitive instinct if there were no reason to think it might need defense.  This instinct is healthy even though it comes from a general bias to explain actions with inner attributes rather than external circumstances, even though it may generate some inconsistent or inaccurate beliefs, even though it may dissipate if someone rubs your nose in all relevant extenuating circumstances.  The formula “X, even though Y” expresses a tension between X and Y, or some sort of incongruity between asserting both at the same time.  These three even though’s represent the tension between approval of the tit-for-tat strategy of retaliation and an ironic assessment of the beliefs that go along with it. 

This tension is why a concept of sin is necessary, as distinct from related concepts like wrong, crime, and guilt.

You can think of the tension between the attribution of guilt and the ironic ambivalence about the accuracy of that attribution as producing a kind of reciprocal pressure.  If one approves of a system of deterrence undergirded by anger at the guilty, one’s anger chases off detachment whenever a question of guilt arises in the context of crime and punishment.  If this approval is bestowed with a touch of ironic contempt for one’s own beliefs about the guilty, beliefs which cannot be taken at face value but have a role to play nonetheless, then one’s ambivalence will blanche the intensity of righteous anger as soon as it’s function has been fulfilled and it has no role left to play.

In other words, this tension channels as much of the anger as possible towards meting out justice for the crime committed, and dissipates any additional anger which goes beyond that end.  

molluscum-freezing-cryotherapy1The more one’s vengeful anger is focused narrowly on the appropriate punishment for a particular crime, the more it comes to seem that it is not a person who is being punished, but rather his act: the sin.  In the first part of the essay (yesterday’s post) we took a strategic, game-theoretic view of guilt, and that helped us see that deterrence promotes law and order and retaliation deters effectively because it takes into account the (possibly malicious) strategies the perpetrator could be pursuing.  This perspective makes it easy to see punishment as directed against a person who makes decisions (the person whom tit-for-tat deters).  But from the ironic point of view, which endorses tit-for-tat not because it is the one strategy that successfully sifts the guilty from the innocent but because its approach to guilt does a better job than any alternative system, it is natural to separate out a sin which is punished from a sinner who suffers when his sins are punished, just as children with warts suffer when their warts are frozen off.


Anger which cannot be channeled towards participation in the punishment (even if only participation as a spectator), anger which goes beyond an appropriate, proportionate punishment, or anger which continues beyond the time of punishment is superfluous, even impertinent.  Play Officer Krupke, if you like!  Once the guilty have been punished you can look at the causal explanation of their criminal behavior from multiple perspectives, sine ira et studio. And to the extent you come to see the sin as the target of punishment, not he who sinned, you can feel other, milder emotions towards any aspect of the sinner other than his crime and its punishment.  If he is talented, you can admire his talents (and hate his sin).  If there are bonds of family, friendship, or citizenship between the two of you, you can love him as a brother, a bff, or a patriot (and hate his sin).

Christians say “love the sinner, hate the sin”.  Cf.  Augustine, Letter 211 (“with love for mankind and hatred for sin”) ; Jude’s Epistle, ch. 1 (“And indeed, have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; and to still others, show mercy tempered with fear, hating even the clothing stained by the flesh.” N.b., antilegomena.)

Sins deserve hatred, anger and indignation, the emotions that inspire us to resist dangers by destroying them.  Sinners deserve whatever love we would ordinarily owe them in their capacity as neighbors, cousins, mentors, and so on.  The sinner is the primate puppet whereby a particular sin is accomplished, but the sinner does not cause the sin any more than the sin causes the sinner.  The sinner is a person, a real human being with all the traits and characteristics personhood entails.  The sin is a hateful act, which has the sorts of qualities acts have.  A sin might have consisted in swinging a baseball bat, for example.  There are many innocent acts that consist in swinging a baseball bat, like hitting a home run.  A sin differs from such innocent acts both in precise details (like: swinging a bat into a man’s skull) and in its moral evaluation (like: swinging a bat in a harmful, criminal, or unnatural way).

The cause of both sins and sinners is sinfulness, a broad and nebulous category.  When the illusion that guilty acts must be explained by guilty minds (and vice versa) has been scoured away, what remains is a flexible grasp of all the possible sources of sin.  This category of causes overlaps with personal traits and aspects of actions without including any persons or acts: the sinner and the sin are the explananda, not the explanans.

Sins we can hate and punish (or institute magistrates who can punish them for us). 

Sinners we must love and cannot punish; in the first place because we are all sinners, and in the second place because a person is too complicated to punish, other than indirectly in their sins.  Deciding which sinners to punish, and how, simply is not appropriate for the capacities of human beings. 

Sinfulness we can hate, but it is an impotent, yipping hatred, since we cannot hope to destroy sinfulness.  This task, too, is beyond the powers and authority of mankind.

The reward of a properly nuanced understanding of sin is not the resolution of some minor intellectual tension or the pleasure it affords.  A proper distinction between sins, sinners, and sinfulness helps us avoid talking ourselves into labyrinths of the spirit where we cannot escape the urgent desire to punish what we have no right or ability to punish, and reform what we cannot reform.  In ordinary cases this labyrinth is populated by overbearing mothers and nosy, gossipy busybodies.  But the danger of these twisted passages is that they culminate in the attempt to construct an earthly paradise and an earthly hell.

Series: Loving the Sinner

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

Loving the Sinner, part 1

99b9df9f474b1c936a0826f6b54158e9Our itinerary is: (1) skewed interpretations of other people’s actions; (2) sin; (3) building better tactics for political cooperation.  If you understand fundamental attribution error already and know game theory backwards and forwards, you might want to skip Part 1 and go directly to Part 2. 

(If want to get straight to the fun stuff about political cooperation, you can start with Part 3.)


I mentioned the fundamental attribution error in the Physical Anthropology post.  Humans have a tendency to find patterns in all fields and phenomena, and in particular to make observations about an object and conclude that some of the observed traits explain other traits.  When we observe one another, this tendency gets stronger still, and is especially notable in a tendency to attribute the actions of other people to inner qualities (personality, moral character, values, cognitive ability, etc.) rather than situational factors and external circumstances.  For example, if you see a man wolf down his food, you’re more likely to assume that he’s a glutton or a slob than that he hasn’t eaten in two days, or has just learned his daughter is in an ambulance.  If a woman cuts you off in traffic, you’re more likely to assume she’s a bitch or a bad driver than that she had to get out of the lane to avoid a hazard, or thought she was approaching a zipper merge.  If you notice that a kid has been focused intensely on his textbook for hours at the same table in the library, you’re more likely to assume that he’s a disciplined student or a lover of learning than that he didn’t realize there was a test tomorrow and has to cram all his studying into one day, or that he made plans to go out drinking with friends and stayed in the library after they backed out.

You have surely, from time to time, gobbled food or driven aggressively yourself; and you know that in those cases there were special circumstances, that you are not a glutton or a bad driver in general; but when see other people acting in the same way, you immediately attribute their (mis)behavior to who they are, which you know is rarely how you explain your own behavior.  That is the fundamental attribution error.

This error is connected to other important defects in reasoning, notably base rate neglect and the conjunction fallacy.  Base rate neglect is basically over-eager abductive reasoning, focusing on the events most likely to produce a piece of evidence without considering how likely such an event would be in the absence of any evidence.  Nearly all obvious attribution errors involve neglect of base rates.  Let’s concede bitches are likelier than nice people to cut someone off in traffic; but if bitches are rare, most drivers who cut you off will be nice people.  For the sake of argument say that a nice person will only cut someone off in traffic on 1 trip out of 20.  In a city with 1M commuters on the road during rush hour then each day 100,000 drivers will cut someone else off during the commute, even if all 1M of the drivers are nice.  For the attribution “bitch” even to be probable, the rate at which bitches cut people off in traffic needs to be higher than the “nice” rate by a factor higher than ratio of nice drivers to bitches.

The classic conjunction fallacy experiment was done by Tversky and Kahneman (1983).  The experimental subjects read a story about a young woman getting a B.A. in philosophy and deeply concerned with social justice issues; they were then asked whether ten years later this woman was more likely to be (a) a bank teller, or (b) a bank teller who is active in the feminist movement.  Pause a moment to reflect.  For all X, “bank tellers who are X” are a subset of “bank tellers”, and a fortiori it is always more likely that someone will be a bank teller than some special kind of bank teller.  Nonetheless, Tversky and Kahneman’s subjects thought -b- was more likely: presumably this has something to do with a desire to attribute someone’s life decisions to known inner qualities (her obsession with social justice).

Fundamental attribution error, base rate neglect, and conjunction fallacy: I didn’t choose these labels, which imply that ways of thinking in question are erroneous, neglectful or fallacious.  Ways of thinking are tools, not theorems, and the most common ways of thinking are likely to be very good tools.  (They get to be common because they solve problems efficiently.)  I disavow any attempt to purge yourself of these mental habits!  Let’s just say that FAE causes errors that range from glaring (sometimes) to debatable (most of the time).  Carefully constructed experiments create artificial situations where our reasoning very clearly goes astray; the clarity of experimental models allows us to visualize a certain type of error, and thus to see how a common way of thinking might not be as simple as it appears.


An obvious corollary of FAE in general (the tendency to attribute actions to inner qualities) is a tendency to attribute guilty actions to guilty motives.  If a man is brawling: he’s a violent man, he’s aggressive, impulsive, he’s a bully.  If you catch a man in a lie: he’s a liar, dishonest, dishonorable, unscrupulous, sociopathic. 

There are two initial points we should make about these attributions.  The first (true of all FAE) is that they are always traits that would lead us to predict someone with that attribute would do the same thing again, so if the attributions are inaccurate we end up with wildly inaccurate ideas about his risk of re-offending.  The second is that they prejudge the moral culpability of the act.  Consider: you may over-generalize and label someone a “liar” or a “thief” too quickly, but you can also use the label well, and there are certainly relationships of the sort lie : liar :: theft : thief :: murder : murderer.  But what about … :: broken window : vandal ?  :: violent sex : rapist ? 

broken_windowsThe problem here is that not all broken windows are acts of vandalism.  Sometimes boys are playing baseball; sometimes you lock yourself out, and…!  Vandalism is a very salient explanation for a broken window, and sometimes it is likelier than any other (or simply likely, i.e. likelier than all other alternatives combined).  A propensity for vandalism is the sort of thing that leads people to break windows.  When you assume someone who broke a window is a vandal you appear to be drawing an inference from his action (which you’ve observed) to his character (which you haven’t), but in the process you are also tacitly upgrading the original act from “breaking a window” to “vandalism”.  This tacit move begs the question, since the difference between a mere broken window and a vandalized window can’t just be the fact that the window is broken!

We care about why something happened the first time largely because we want to understand whether it will happen again.  Knowing whether an event might recur helps us know whether to prepare for it, or try to prevent it.  We can’t ignore an event’s moral qualities because these affect how we react, too.  One driver steering abruptly into the next lane could describe a zipper merge (mandatory!) or cutting someone off (dangerous, rude!) with equal accuracy.  A ball hitting a glass pane with a certain momentum physically describes both a baseball mishap (unlucky!) and vandalism (criminal!). 

The more guilt we attribute to an action, the more we worry about the guilty party’s next crime, the more negative emotions we feel towards him, and the more we want to punish him.  We don’t want kids to stop playing baseball entirely because they’re neurotic about breaking windows; we don’t want good people who are pillars of their community to have their lives ruined over a mistake or a one-time lapse.  But actions have consequences, and if anyone is going to face consequences, the consensus is it should be the guilty: the vandals, rapists, murderers and liars of the world.

The ultimate result is that one feels very differently about questionable conduct when it is one’s own conduct (or the conduct of a close friend).  You are intimately acquainted with your own exemplary personal qualities, qualities that normally steer you away from misdeeds, as well as the key extenuating circumstances that forced your hand in any particular situation.  For strangers, you immediately jump to malice: FAE.  This extends to whether one thinks of the “questionable conduct” as a crime.  For oneself, extenuations are easy to find and the most innocent possible description of whatever happened is best.  For anyone else, their guilt is enough to prove a crime occurred.

It’s just our bringin’ upke that get us out of hand!

Of course, if we don’t want to punish people who aren’t really bad people, and when we are in possession of all the facts (like when we did the deed ourselves) we nearly always see that people aren’t nearly as bad as we had thought, then the implication is that most people’s (and perhaps our entire society’s?) attitudes towards criminals are excessively cruel.  If we understood the criminal’s side of the story, if we tried to grasp all the extenuating circumstances, if we saw that anyone would react similarly to the chain of events he faced, then chances are we wouldn’t want to punish him as severely.  If you follow out this Officer Krupke analysis to its strictest logical conclusion, maybe we wouldn’t do much punishing at all.

sustainability-04-01776-g002-1024But wait! It’s time for some…

Or maybe we have the right attitude for the wrong reason.

Crime, as a social problem, is fundamentally a question of deterrence.  Deterrence is a question of the interdependent actions resulting from the choices made by many interacting agents: and this is the subject of game theory.  Game theory is actually far more interesting and useful than anything I have to say about sin; if you aren’t familiar with the field, start with Schelling and Axelrod.  As an introduction:

  1. You can model crime and punishment, or anti-social behavior and its deterrence more generally, as two agents deciding whether to help or to hurt each other (more technically, whether to cooperate or to defect) over and over again.
  2. Helping your partner is always better for him, and worse for you. Hurting him is always better for you, and worse for him.  But switching from hurting to helping benefits your partner more than it hurts you, so both partners like it when they both cooperate better than when they both defect. (This is formal structure of the Prisoner’s Dilemma.)
  3. If you only interact with another agent once, you can be nice or not, but you’ll always do better yourself if you hurt him.  If you help him he may be grateful, but after he discovers you helped him your mutual interaction is over and you don’t benefit.
  4. However, if you’re interacting with the same partner over and over, you can influence whether he helps you in the future by what you do today.  Remember, though, you interact with him in two ways: by helping or hurting.
  5. The only tool you have available is to try to figure out whether he wants to cooperate or not and then, if he doesn’t want to cooperate, hurt him until he realizes that you’ll only stop punishing him if starts to cooperate.
  6. One small problem: hurting each other is how you try to take advantage of one another, but it’s also your only way to punish each other.  So from any one case where he hurts you, you have no way to tell whether he hurt you to punish you (trying to signal to you, “Hey! We both need to cooperate!”) or to take advantage of you.
  7. Thus the challenge of a repeated helping/hurting interaction (a.k.a. “iterated Prisoner’s dilemma”) is to try to figure out from your partner’s past history of interactions with you what his intentions are; but remember, the rules he’s following and his underlying strategy may depend on what you’re trying to do.

This is not just a thought experiment.  Political scientists, mathematicians, and other eggheads actually design programs which pick help/hurt according to fixed rules which execute that programmer’s underlying strategy, and then pit their programs against one another.  All strategies do very well when they’re going head-to-head against a few strategies, and relatively poorly against others; but in a tournament, the winner needs to perform well overall with a mix of possible opponents.  You might want to pause for a moment to think about what kind of strategy you think would do best.  The details are fascinating and you should read them.  To give away the ending: the best overall strategy, the one that encourages the most cooperation and the least retaliation, is — (drumroll) — to hurt a partner if he just hurt you in the previous round and to help him if he just helped you, tit-for-tat. 

Or to phrase it differently: if you are trying to figure out who is guilty (who is likely to hurt someone) only because you want people hurting each other as little as possible, the best solution is to treat anyone who hurts anyone else as though they were guilty, and punish them accordingly.  If you think you can come up with a more sophisticated system of punishment that will do a better job, you should try to create a strategy that does better than Tit-For-Tat at the Prisoner’s Dilemma first.

(Tip: you can’t, there’s a formal theorem and everything.  Seriously, the details are cool.)

Thus it turns out that reacting to a misdeed as though the perpetrator was inherently criminal isn’t such a stupid idea after all.  I’m not saying your belief that the guy is evil is accurate.  It probably depends on the specifics of what you believe (if there are any specifics, which is unlikely), but if you were to free-associate in an unguarded moment and write down your vague intuitions about the perpetrator’s attributes as though they were precise factual statements, it’s pretty likely we could draw out some inconsistencies or unwarranted predictions and indict you for big-league fundamental attribution error. But if we ignore the facts (such as they are) and concentrate on what happens when you act as though those facts were true, what can we criticize?  Someone defects; you learn that he has defected, and you start to adopt an attitude towards him that leads you to retaliate as though he were likely to hurt others again in the future; and the result is harmony and cooperation.

Reacting-as-though-guilty is not merely permissible but constructive, and perhaps even necessary to a healthy society.  Even if guilt-attributions are generated by thinking similar to the fundamental attribution error, that doesn’t mean there is any easy way to replace the “bias” with a coldly rational resolution to retaliate against all misdeeds, tit-for-tat.  Action requires emotion, and calm emotions that inhibit rash overreactions in normal circumstances aren’t adequate for a response to someone who violates those norms.  (I’ve discussed emotions here.)  The crime that inspires righteous anger, the attitudes towards the perpetrator, the desire to see him punished: of these three, who is to say which are the causes and which the effects, or whether they can be disentangled from one another at all?  Perhaps our inconsistent and exaggerated beliefs about the guilty party are an unavoidable consequence of the strong emotions his punishment requires.  These spurious “beliefs” could even be our inner monologue’s equivalent of trash-talk, a rhythmic patter of insults to keep the spirit fiery and the mind focused during a tense confrontation.  Far from having second thoughts because our punitive attributions of guilt resemble fundamental attribution error, we should wonder whether FAE represents the evolutionary triumph of the tit-for-tat strategy.

And when some faction tries to deaden these retaliatory emotions with flurries of facts and hair-splitting, when these people portray perfectly natural reactions to crime as dumb and embarrassing — we should wonder about that, too.

Series: Loving the Sinner

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