The Dark Enlightenment
December 29, 2013 7:53 PM   Subscribe

As the term suggests, the Dark Enlightenment is an ideological analysis of modern democracy that harshly rejects the vision of the 18th century European Enlightenment—a period punctuated by the development of empirical science, the rise of humanist values and the first outburst of revolutionary democratic reform. In contrast, the Dark Enlightenment advocates an autocratic and neo-monarchical society. Its belief system is unapologetically reactionary, almost feudal.
The many bloggers who constitute the movement style themselves as “Dark Lords of the Sith,” self-described fearless truth-tellers, who—mixing their cinematic metaphors—offer Matrix-evocative “red pills” of awakening in the form of sulfurous conclusions about the state of the world. Indeed, questioning the prevailing Western narrative is typically a Dark Enlightenment writer’s modus operandi, skewering the values of the liberal establishment. posted by p3on (249 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
 
my own view is that these people are unbelievably corny to the point of self-parody
posted by p3on at 7:55 PM on December 29, 2013 [19 favorites]


I bet most of the people who advocate this imagine themselves to be part of this elite ruling class, and not serfs laboring under it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:55 PM on December 29, 2013 [77 favorites]


To be fair, revolutionaries probably don't picture themselves kissing a commissar's ass in exchange for better beet rations either.
posted by codswallop at 7:57 PM on December 29, 2013 [18 favorites]


I find it curious how many people seem to advocate for unchecked power of the strong over the weak. Anarcho-capitalists (wearing "libertarian" clothing, who seem to love words like "meritocracy"), Dark Enlightenment-ists, Quiverfull Dominionists. All laboring under the impression that in this new order that they would end up as the strong, those enjoying the glorious sunlight of their advantages unfettered, rather than among the disadvantaged, fettered masses.

An only partly-successful egalitarian society is vastly superior to one that doesn't even pretend to try anymore.
posted by chimaera at 8:00 PM on December 29, 2013 [57 favorites]


Yes, but the Romantics dressed better.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:05 PM on December 29, 2013


I'm sorry isn't this just Fascism?

I'm off to check my Paxton and Griffin brb

I asked Land the fascism question, specifically. His response was illuminating: “The Dark Enlightenment is the only cultural space promising an intelligent discussion of fascism today. Even though this discussion remains very germinal, the best fascist and anti-fascist arguments are to be found within its environs.” But he adds, “Speaking entirely personally, I think the DE is the only coherent antidote to fascist thinking presently available.” While he didn’t articulate how an anti-democratic, racially charged, anti-modern, authoritarian political movement could be, in any way, anti-fascist, he’s a bright enough guy. I’m sure he has an answer.

Oh. Well as long as he's thought about it i guess
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:05 PM on December 29, 2013 [17 favorites]


Double-down libertarians who demand non-democracy remind me of those poor white men who advocate polygamy within their traditionalist fantasies, when most wouldn't stand a statistical chance of attracting even one wife under its regime.
posted by Brian B. at 8:09 PM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


The Dark Enlightenment label covers a whole slew of über-regressive groups from monarchists to modern scientific racists to traditionalist Catholics to PUA/MRA/manosphere proponents. Basically their main identifying feature is a fervent reactionary trolling against political correctness ("cultural Marxism"). They are utopians and dystopian fetishists.
posted by Apocryphon at 8:13 PM on December 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


HEY COOL JUST WHEN I THOUGHT I COULDN'T HAVE LESS HOPE
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:14 PM on December 29, 2013 [20 favorites]


fascists gonna fascist
posted by feckless at 8:19 PM on December 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


They're not fascists. They're so beyond they think fascism is too liberal and places too much faith in the masses.
posted by Apocryphon at 8:22 PM on December 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Manosphere"?

PPFFHAHAHAHAHAHA

Sorry. "Manosphere."

Okay, I looked it up.
I stand by my first reaction.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 8:26 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


This might not be what you all want it to be. Nick Land is a rather... phantasmagorical figure, and after genius efforts such as this disappeared into China for the last n+9 years.

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.



Here be Dragons. And awoke this Dragon this has.
posted by Aurora Ex Machina at 8:28 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]




All laboring under the impression that in this new order that they would end up as the strong, those enjoying the glorious sunlight of their advantages unfettered, rather than among the disadvantaged, fettered masses.

Well, yeah, obviously. I mean the logical outcome of an unfettered libertarian society is not the computer programmers on top. It's the computer programmers being used as slaves by the kind of charismatic guys that beat them up in high school because those guys have the social skills to command a following and the willingness to use violence to put people in their places.

A bunch of my more outdoors-y/redneck-y coworkers and I actually converted our libertarian boss one night when the beer got flowing when we said, "Look, all of US know how to survive in the woods. We all know how to use guns and fix shit and build shit and kill our own food. The most you know how to do is turn on a computer. You don't even know how a generator works. You'll be begging for us to take you in, not the other way around, college boy." You could see the terror in his eyes as his smug melted away and he realized "posting on the internet" wouldn't exactly save him when a bunch of dudes who could load, aim, and shoot a rifle came knocking on his door.

Put it this way: A lot of people fetishize the zombie apocalypse or other apocalyptic scenario but nobody says to themselves "Yeah, I'm totally the guy who dies with filth spraying from every orifice because he drinks from a contaminated puddle" which is the far more likely outcome. Everyone assumes they're the badass, it's just stupid SOCIETY holding them back, not the guy who bites it in the first reel.

I've found a lot of this is curdled entitlement. A lot of these guys played by the rules. They did what their parents told them. They checked the boxes, did well in school, got useful degrees that paid well, but they never did anything interesting with themselves. They never realized there was more to life than the box-checking, though. They just think since they pushed the lever, they should get the reward. But the world doesn't work that way, so they get mad and look for someone to blame, and it can't possibly be them, it's got to be the secret feminazi cabal or whatever holding them back. It's the same excuse as "Oh, I was smart but because of my stupid parents I never learned how to apply myself and that's why I never accomplished anything."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:32 PM on December 29, 2013 [148 favorites]


still trying to suss out whether this is parody or not.

Though men on the internet feeling powerful through regressive hateful politics and feeling sexy and dangerous for challenging 'political correctness' seems like a safe and common way to blow off steam and inflate the ego in a time of disappearing personal freedom.

Oh well. This is like pick up artists+herbert spencer divided by ragnar redbeard. (with a framed photograph of ayn rand hanging on the wall watching the whole equation)
posted by Enigmark at 8:36 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


(If you need a little ~~awareness~~ training: if that's the real Nick Land, this really, really, really, really isn't about Reddit style 'Mensrights' and so on. There's a whole dark Deleuzian meta realm going on here. If he just resurfaced, it's time for *Happy Campers* to *dance*).

But hey! Sure! It's all about men, men, men, nothing to do with Capital and some hard-core majick. (*smiley face*)
posted by Aurora Ex Machina at 8:36 PM on December 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Normally I'm all over not reading the comments, but the comments to that TechCrunch article are downright surreal.
posted by immlass at 8:40 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


These people are dangerous to the extent that they can drive state failure and secession.
posted by wuwei at 8:43 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


(If you need a little ~~awareness~~ training: if that's the real Nick Land, this really, really, really, really isn't about Reddit style 'Mensrights' and so on. There's a whole dark Deleuzian meta realm going on here. If he just resurfaced, it's time for *Happy Campers* to *dance*).

I agree that it's facile to wrap this up with PUA/MRA stuff. However, I very strongly disagree that Nick Land's involvement makes this any less silly, with or without any meta/ironic/whatever level of play.

To repeat myself from another thread: Nick Land is the Nick Land we deserve.

If theory was Juno, then Nick Land would be Jason Bateman's character, and Deleuze would be Sonic Youth.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:48 PM on December 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


Meh.

Enlightenment is not only a state, but an event, and a process. As the designation for an historical episode, concentrated in northern Europe during the 18th century, it is a leading candidate for the ‘true name’ of modernity, capturing its origin and essence (‘Renaissance’ and ‘Industrial Revolution’ are others). Between ‘enlightenment’ and ‘progressive enlightenment’ there is only an elusive difference, because illumination takes time – and feeds on itself, because enlightenment is self-confirming, its revelations ‘self-evident’, and because a retrograde, or reactionary, ‘dark enlightenment’ amounts almost to intrinsic contradiction. To become enlightened, in this historical sense, is to recognize, and then to pursue, a guiding light.

There were ages of darkness, and then enlightenment came. Clearly, advance has demonstrated itself, offering not only improvement, but also a model. Furthermore, unlike a renaissance, there is no need for an enlightenment to recall what was lost, or to emphasize the attractions of return. The elementary acknowledgement of enlightenment is already Whig history in miniature.


Here.

Reasoning that the majority of humankind will not voluntarily accept qualitative population-management policies, Campbell points out that any attempt to raise the IQ of the whole human race would be tediously slow. He further points out that the general thrust of early eugenics was not so much species improvement as the prevention of decline. Campbell’s eugenics, therefore, advocates the abandonment of Homo sapiens as a ‘relic’ or ‘living fossil’ and the application of genetic technologies to intrude upon the genome, probably writing novel genes from scratch using a DNA synthesizer. Such eugenics would be practiced by elite groups, whose achievements would so quickly and radically outdistance the usual tempo of evolution that within ten generation the new groups will have advanced beyond our current form to the same degree that we transcend apes.

When seen from the bionic horizon, whatever emerges from the dialectics of racial terror remains trapped in trivialities. It’s time to move on.



Metafilter: not reading the source material, and not getting the Zeitgeist.


Hint: this is not your usual NYT link, nor is it Reddit fodder; making it into such just makes you feel safe and fuzzy and warm. *Happy Campers* feel *touches* from the *outside*.

TL;DR

This is not easily digestible material. Commenting as if it were makes you part of the problem. The OP REALLY should have known this, before attempting to graft it onto the slightgeist horrorshow of Reddit et al. That she didn't, shows intent. Bad mojo, majick style puppet-show.
posted by Aurora Ex Machina at 8:48 PM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh, so we're dealing with woo-woo fascists. OK then.
posted by feckless at 8:55 PM on December 29, 2013 [24 favorites]


Wow, Aurora Ex Machina. I think this Dark Enlighment stuff wins the Internet of Dumb.
posted by Schmucko at 8:56 PM on December 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Can someone who isn't a Vampire:Masquerade character explain what's going on here and what it has to do with paraphysics or something?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:59 PM on December 29, 2013 [75 favorites]


Oh I'm sorry Aurora Ex Machina, we're not respectful enough of your movement's bullshit philosophical meanderings? What are you going to do, send the King's Own Internet Guards after us?
posted by wuwei at 9:00 PM on December 29, 2013 [15 favorites]


Oh, so we're dealing with woo-woo fascists. OK then.


Calling Nick Land a Fascist is like calling Charlie Chaplin a circus clown. I'll make it easy for you all, and with a proviso that I'll have to contact "people" to make sure this is Land:

Land is about as far away from a Fascist that you could ever get. Hyperstition (already linked) and his Western Philosophy show this. If you need a "explain like I'm 5" version: if Land is involved, there's probably some serious meta-critique going on. (For the uninvolved: he's probably co-opting a dark strain to throw it back into the light for your paralysed society, but it's complicated. Said the woman with a bag full of Loa in her head).


Hint: He was a staunch anti-Capitalist, and was last seen in China. And that, as Indy said, was a long time ago. [Hint: this is exciting, but not for the reasons you want to project on it].
posted by Aurora Ex Machina at 9:00 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was reading the writing thread elsewhere on the front page and there's a link in that thread to a William Gibson interview, where he talks about us living in a neo-Victorian era. Worth reading.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:00 PM on December 29, 2013


Can someone who isn't a Vampire:Masquerade character explain what's going on here and what it has to do with paraphysics or something?

Libertarian tech-geeks discover the last two hundred years of politics and literature.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:04 PM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


aurora, if there is a serious meta-critique going on, what is it?
You just assume there is one?

Curtis Yarvin seems to be a real person.

the nick land in question seems to be this nick land.
posted by Enigmark at 9:04 PM on December 29, 2013


Focusing on Nick Land is like focusing on Mencius Moldbug or Roissy or Steve Sailer; it's focusing on one head of a multi-headed hydra. But all of these clowns are really symptoms of the disease afflicting modern society, and theorists alternatively proposing radical solutions and obsessing over Detroit misery porn from a race-baiting angle while praising Singapore and Dubai. They're like the extreme fringe of one possible future of conservatism: douchebag conservatism.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:09 PM on December 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


i actually encountered nick land for the first time when i (independently) stumbled onto the story he wrote that was posted here recently. i literally sent him a message on tumblr asking if his story was satire because it can easily be read as cory doctorow with a lot more self awareness making fun of neoreactionaries. then i looked at other things he had written and found something with the subheader "with augmented reality you'll always know when no really means yes" and uh
posted by p3on at 9:11 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


@Enigmark

Ho-Hum.

You know that "psychological disorder" where people walking the Temple Mount think they're the Messiah? Yeah. It happens to philosophers. We've been looking for Nick for 10+ years now. The links given had just enough spice to flush me out.


I'll do the dirty work, but the real Nick Land made someone come out of the wood-work and instantly get excited. (Hint: he's actually a real philosopher, not some Reddit 'MensRights' blogosphere crap).


Fuck, flushed by some shitty stuff I should have read closer. Bollocks.
posted by Aurora Ex Machina at 9:13 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is just a big soft target of concentrated inanity and unearned intellectual smugness. What is that genetic engineering mess of a paragraph supposed to be on about? It expresses neither any understanding of real biology (in which we are finding that together with genes there is the pattern of epigenetic expression that comes into play) or an understanding that living beings are not machines to be engineered to narrow ends--does this gene make things "better" or "worse"--what do we mean by that? And in what environment? And in combination with what other genes, etc.? We're supposed to bow down because one promulgator of this drivel is an academic, albeit a mediocre one?
posted by Schmucko at 9:18 PM on December 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Aurora, what?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:18 PM on December 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


By which I mean, so you're...an acquaintance of Nick Land? And this...isn't him in this article? Or...?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:20 PM on December 29, 2013


So, Nick Land is the Kwisatz Haderach?



Seriously, what are you talking about?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:20 PM on December 29, 2013 [12 favorites]


Is this... is this an ARG? Is there a new Deus Ex game coming out?
posted by Pyry at 9:20 PM on December 29, 2013 [52 favorites]


It is one thing to mock the subtle infrastructures of a civil society, to claim they serve no purpose, but quite another to tear them down. Only when they are gone will these clowns realize how much their safety and sanity and civic well-being depend on them.

this is a paraphrase of a particularly apt passage by Michael Moorcock that I read today
posted by infinitewindow at 9:20 PM on December 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


Nick Land and Mencius Moldbug write a lot of words (to be fair, given that the Dark Enlightenment is exclusively a blogger movement on the internet) and have a lot of psuedointellectualism, but much of the Dark Enlightenment is just made up of Thomas Carlyle-worshipping scientific racists and latter-day Ignatius Reilly's.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:21 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


flushed by some shitty stuff I should have read closer. 

You are nick land, and I claim my 0.005 BTC.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:21 PM on December 29, 2013 [19 favorites]


Wouldn't it be simpler to call it Endarkenment? At least it would be only a stupid term, instead of stupid and self-contradictory.
posted by emjaybee at 9:22 PM on December 29, 2013 [31 favorites]


If we were going to do White Wolf-style pseudomysticism in this thread, we could've at least done God Machine Chronicle, that's way more current than the 90s black trenchcoats and katanas brand.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:23 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aurora, I'm tentatively interested in what you're trying to say, but to be perfectly blunt you're not doing a very good job of communicating whatever that might be. Maybe reapproach while keeping a focus on being understood?
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 9:24 PM on December 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


@pyry
this is an arg where white men feel empowered through retrograde racist philosophy and know their lack of personal power is because of the weak and impure being too touchy feely and creating a touchy feel cabal to silence them.

When the game ends "be sure to drink your ovaltine" will be spelled out in a new currency featuring Thomas Carlyle wearing papal tiara


(warning, this new currency cannot be used to purchase ovaltine)
posted by Enigmark at 9:26 PM on December 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


I tried to read a couple of the posts in the TechCrunch article, but they all just read like my crazy uncle's rants after too many drinks.
posted by KGMoney at 9:26 PM on December 29, 2013


Also, I never would have thought this possible- but apparently, this is what happens when you somehow read Deleuze without reading Foucault, Lacan, Nietzsche, or Kant.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:27 PM on December 29, 2013 [17 favorites]


I figured it out: Nick Land 1 is a 50 year old philosopher connected to speculative realism who blogged a lot when that was a thing. He went to China and doesn't blog anymore. Aurora showed up cuz he has a Google Alert on his name or something and tried to defend him before he saw the picture of this Nick Land 2, and realized this is just some tech world dingus wannabe Leo Strauss with a bachelors degree in Comp Lit so now he's outta here. Derail over, back to the facekicks.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:28 PM on December 29, 2013 [32 favorites]


I'm so so confused.
posted by kmz at 9:29 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


This comment thread has been waylaid by Audorka Whateva's blathering about Nick Land's fancy semiotics or whatever, just as TechCrunch's thread focused on monarchy and Moldbuggery. Dark Enlightenment should be seen as a coalition of many disparate and distasteful ideologies, amusing to examine and debate with. But ultimately, the important question should be why are these movements arising in the first place? What social phenomena cause people to want to have really edggggyyyy opinions?
posted by Apocryphon at 9:29 PM on December 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nice try, J.J. Abrams.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:30 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is just viral marketing for the next Twilight novel, right? Right?
posted by adamrice at 9:34 PM on December 29, 2013


The real Nick Land inhabits the realms of I am Legend, not Dune. But, really. If you'all wanna have some fun, outside of this silly link, try: The REAL Nick Land: Hyperstition. (Spoilers: heavy messing stuff).

Translation: the OP seriously excited a ((tiny)) part of the (philosophy) world. Land is... "How to I say this in a fabulous but non-pejoratively effeminate way??!?!" -- He. Fucking. Rocked. You haven't heard his name? Methinks you don't do Continental Philosophy.

@You all.

TL'DR:

Loa realm entity spotted, perchance? Need more info: SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! Disappointment, failure; no links spotted. *Happy Campers* ~ Orz *frumple* Foucault, Lacan, Nietzsche, Kant - all digested, shall we *dance*? Serious Loa effect; they want him, they want it all.


p.s.


This was all much more exciting than the retrograde pointless scummy bollocks that was actually in the OP's link. *Frumple*
posted by Aurora Ex Machina at 9:34 PM on December 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


Fascism is a bad comparison. Fascism doesn't really exist without ultranationalism, for one thing, let alone its own (reactionary) modernism. If anything, I'd give a point to the Dark Enlightenment folks for pushing back against the idea that anything that is not "liberal progressive" must be fascist.

...

We're supposed to bow down because one promulgator of this drivel is an academic, albeit a mediocre one?

No, but you see, he's an anti-Capitalist who's been to China! Isn't that remarkable!

Nick Land actually used to be very smart and a lot of fun, but the past is another country, and the world is full of smart and fun people who also have shoddy, ill-informed opinions. Nick Land nowadays should serve as a warning to anyone who following somebody just because they're clever and they seem like they know what they're talking about.

...

Also, I never would have thought this possible- but apparently, this is what happens when you somehow read Deleuze without reading Foucault, Lacan, Nietzsche, or Kant.

I am sure that Land has read all of the above and much, much more. Let us reflect on where he has nonetheless wound up, intellectually speaking.

...

What causes people to want to have really edggggyyyy opinions?

Attention, plus lots of "THIS ISN'T EASILY DIGESTIBLE BY COMMON LAY-APES, IT'S A SHAME THAT YOU ONLY CRITICIZE IT BECAUSE YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND IT, AND BESIDES, IT'S 'MANGA', NOT 'ANIME', AND YOU'RE NOT EVEN MY REAL DAD, STEVE".
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:34 PM on December 29, 2013 [16 favorites]


Wouldn't it be simpler to call it Endarkenment?



Probably a little too close to "Endorkenment."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:36 PM on December 29, 2013 [13 favorites]


It doesn't matter how smart they think they are. With such movements, the theorists at the start don't often meet happy ends. Just ask Giovanni Gentile or the Strassers.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:37 PM on December 29, 2013


I am sure that Land has read all of the above and much, much more. Let us reflect on where he has nonetheless wound up, intellectually speaking.


~Yeah, no.


Do I have to pull out my super-secret security clearance on the next-gen Drone tech to rub your face into how silly this sounds?

p.s. It's not that exciting, but they don't hit your local wedding / terrorist gathering without the chips they get from China.

(Yeah - totally true. *Happy Campers*)
posted by Aurora Ex Machina at 9:37 PM on December 29, 2013


This is the best christmas present ever
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:39 PM on December 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


~Yeah, no.

Are you saying that Nick Land has not actually read Lacan, et al.? If not, then what, precisely, are you saying?

Do I have to pull out my super-secret security clearance on the next-gen Drone tech to rub your face into how silly this sounds?

I can't tell if you're commenting or edging.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:41 PM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm currently re-reading Foucault's Pendulum and this thread is just killing me.
posted by hototogisu at 9:41 PM on December 29, 2013 [12 favorites]


Is this the gibberish workshop? Sorry I'm late, parking was murder.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:42 PM on December 29, 2013 [64 favorites]


To be clear: what they identify with (whether they realize it or not) is not the Middle Ages.

What they identify with is the middle ages as understood by Enlightenment-era thinkers, both revolutionary and reactionary. The dream of pre-modernity dreamt by modernity.
posted by edheil at 9:43 PM on December 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


Someone stole a lot of Magic the Gathering artwork for that article.
posted by Neale at 9:44 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]



So I gave the article a read, took a look at some links and read quite a bit of the comments.

I got lost or perhaps purposely lost myself with the reocurring phrase 'traditional cultures' or 'traditional societies' which seems to be used in the context that democracy and other modern day isms are bad because they broke 'tradition cultures' and dismantled 'traditional societies' and that's bad.

Are there actual explanations of what the heck is meant by traditional cultures, because well....yeah...historically thiere never has been some sort of overarching traditions.

I have the feeling I know what is being generally referenced and as a member of female part of this species I'm really not so fussed about the idea of living in a whole heck of lot of historically traditional cultures. Thanks but no thanks.
posted by Jalliah at 9:44 PM on December 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


Someone stole a lot of Magic the Gathering artwork for that article.

Yeah, and it was totally worth it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:44 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this the gibberish workshop? Sorry I'm late, parking was murder.


I would have gone with "My troika was pursued by wolves."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:45 PM on December 29, 2013 [30 favorites]


Sticherbeast: this is the nick land from the article. How can it be the same nick land as the one linked to on Wikipedia, who is 52? Methinks Wikipedia is conflating them based on similar names.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:48 PM on December 29, 2013


Aurora, mate... Your asterisk enrobed esoterica is just kind of... I don't know, *fnord*-ian, for lack of a better term? Nothing wrong with that in the right context, but methinks it doesn't exactly scream "does Continental philosophy".
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 9:48 PM on December 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


   such campers

very loa

     much majick

wow
posted by emmtee at 9:49 PM on December 29, 2013 [110 favorites]


Great, just what the world needs now is a whole social movement of computer programmers who saw Star Wars when they were young enough to swallow its aristocratic fantasy whole and found Nietzsche when they were too old to grow out of him later.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 9:49 PM on December 29, 2013 [13 favorites]


Oh my god what does any of this mean?

No wait I actually don't care.
posted by azarbayejani at 9:50 PM on December 29, 2013 [16 favorites]


This is not easily digestible material. Commenting as if it were makes you part of the problem. The OP REALLY should have known this, before attempting to graft it onto the slightgeist horrorshow of Reddit et al. That she didn't, shows intent. Bad mojo, majick style puppet-show.

dog im sorry but i understand the fundamental underpinnings of the philosophy but i dont think neo-feudalists are going to get a lot of traction in mainstream politics??? these dudes are fucking nuts and they're total outliers, they're a joke and i didnt try to 'graft' it onto anything
posted by p3on at 9:50 PM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sticherbeast: this is the nick land from the article. How can it be the same nick land as the one linked to on Wikipedia, who is 52? Methinks Wikipedia is conflating them based on similar names.

Blast! Well, at least I can continue to enjoy Thirst for Annihilation without shame.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:50 PM on December 29, 2013



Now that I've read a bit more perhaps this stuff is just beyond my intellectual capacity to understand it fully.

I shall now remove myself and sit in the kitchen.
posted by Jalliah at 9:50 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


oh wait youre a literal fascist i apologize for taking you seriously lmao
posted by p3on at 9:52 PM on December 29, 2013


Wait, no, it is the same Nick Land! See here and here.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:53 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


wow that dude literally joined this site to comment on this post, i'm putting 90% on it being nick land
posted by p3on at 9:54 PM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Great, just what the world needs now is a whole social movement of computer programmers who saw Star Wars when they were young enough to swallow its aristocratic fantasy whole

I assume you mean they're young enough to grow up watching the prequels, with the fall of its decadent do-nothing republic, and not the originals, which was all about reviving a republic by overthrowing a tyrannical empire.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:54 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


wow that dude literally joined this site to comment on this post, i'm putting 90% on it being nick land


Should I start swooning now?
posted by Jalliah at 9:55 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


It helps that whenever I see a mention of this crap I always, always parse it as Dark Carnival, and I'm like oh yeah, that's the thing where Juggalos want to bring back feudalism.
posted by emmtee at 9:56 PM on December 29, 2013 [52 favorites]


wow that dude literally joined this site to comment on this post, i'm putting 90% on it being nick land

Nick Land has commented as himself on websites before. I don't see why he'd use a sock puppet to talk himself up. Then again, I don't see why anyone would sign their name to Dark Enlightenment material, so who knows.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:58 PM on December 29, 2013


[anyone else from the Barbelith Mefite contingent up in this thread yet? I'm getting some guiltily pleasurable "shutting down the connectors!!1!" vibes from Aurora.]
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:00 PM on December 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


So like, now I'm even more confused. Nick land, a respected theorist and current china scholar has become nick land, cryptofascist? And de-aged apparently 10 years? I give up. God save the queen. Pip pip Cheerios or whatever we're supposed to say as Vicky gentlemen.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:00 PM on December 29, 2013


It helps that whenever I see a mention of this crap I always, always parse it as Dark Carnival, and I'm like oh yeah, that's the thing where Juggalos want to bring back feudalism.

I PLEDGE MY SWORD TO BLOOD-KING SHAGGY 2 DOPE
posted by Itaxpica at 10:01 PM on December 29, 2013 [32 favorites]


Actually, I fully appreciate these people's efforts to bring about The Diamond Age.


To that end, I am totally basing my new geographically non-specific, composite society on Italy in the late '50s- more specifically on a single photo of Fausto Coppi walking through downtown San Remo, surrounded by his admirers.


Either that, or the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. I haven't decided which, yet, but I really should let my wig-maker know, one way or the other.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:04 PM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thank you all for this thread, particularly you Aurora. It's been so long since someone scratched my "Usenet Kook" itch that I'd forgotten what it felt like! Oh the memories! We haven't forgotten you, Plutonium. Nor you, McElwaine! You are missed.
posted by Justinian at 10:07 PM on December 29, 2013 [27 favorites]


And Aurora's account is disabled. That was... interesting?
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:08 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is getting strange. Aurora Ex Machina joined today, made 7 comments (all on this thread) and then closed the account.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:09 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


*hippo campus*
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:09 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


God I hate teenagers.
posted by Artw at 10:13 PM on December 29, 2013 [13 favorites]


and not the originals, which was all about reviving a republic by overthrowing a tyrannical empire.

Or, alternatively, about a tyrannical empire being overthrown and replaced by the fragments of a largely hereditary warrior caste who believe they derive their authority from the very will of the cosmos. (Here's the classic David Brin piece on this, anyway)

From the Techcrunch article:

Speaking of which, neoreactionaries are obsessed with a concept called “human biodiversity” (HBD) — what used to be called “scientific racism.” Specifically, they believe that IQ is one of — if not the — most important personal traits, and that it’s predominately genetic. Neoreactionaries would replace, or supplement, the “divine right” of kings and the aristocracy with the “genetic right” of elites.

Midichlorians!
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 10:13 PM on December 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm not convinced these people are all that far from mainstream thought, to be perfectly honest. Sure, they're extreme, but their foundational convictions that modernity and liberalism were naïve mistakes, and that they should be devolved (through violent revanchism, if necessary) to rule by bare, legitimacy-agnostic power, are widely sympathetic to many people. Their critique, their vision of goodness and their agenda seems to fit fairly well within the mainstream GOP, for instance, though it's an especially unapologetic and shamelessly amoral distillation.
posted by clockzero at 10:14 PM on December 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


A theory: a bunch of transhuman singularity fan bois loved this nick guy for his unsuccessful but persuasive performance art philosophy. When he shows up they all get excited, but turns out he's moved on to being a grumpy old racist instead. Basically what happened to Wittgenstein except in reverse sort of. Anyway Aurora wanted to blow our minds 1994 BBS style and did so but mostly by misunderstanding various facts and bearing false witness (aka 1994 BBS style).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:18 PM on December 29, 2013 [14 favorites]


I love Fnord re-creation enthusiasts. And I think The Fall's "New Face in Hell" is a perfect accompaniment to this thread. I look forward to Horora Flex Mocachino's re-activiation.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:20 PM on December 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


"I'm not convinced these people are all that far from mainstream thought, to be perfectly honest."

I think it's just the dark side of human nature. People who have a lot (or think they have a lot), are always going to be worried that someone else will take it away from them. People who perceive themselves to be on top almost always start to think they deserve to be there, and view any broadening of the political franchise or enrichment of those with less than them as an attack on their status. It's a human trait that hides in a multitude of belief systems and political creeds.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:26 PM on December 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


They did a "Metafilter:" joke, it must have been an old user reactivating. So I hope they come back too! Confusion is just dessert to a hardcore enlightenment tool like me.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:27 PM on December 29, 2013


I guess the last "philosopher" to cite the Matrix pill speech was David Icke and he believes all his shif so we shouldn't make assumptions.
posted by Artw at 10:29 PM on December 29, 2013


I have spent the day reading (current) White Wolf books (or Onyx Path, whatever) and indulging in my own nostalgia, so it was a totally enjoyable trip to come on here and see some vintage Usenet black trenchcoat "Let me blow your MIND, sheeple!" posting mixed with "Look to the stars!" weirdness. Now to go to alt.alien.vampire.flonk.flonk.flonk and see what's going on.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:41 PM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


If programmers are behind this, then wouldn't it just end up as rule by Project Manager Kings?

Cancel my deliverables for the Resurrection.....
posted by thelonius at 10:42 PM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Whoa, Usenet flashbacks.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:46 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this what Julian Assange was talking about!? Yeah... no. I'm out.
posted by axiom at 10:48 PM on December 29, 2013


Metafilter: bad mojo, majick style puppet-show.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:51 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it's just the dark side of human nature.

This specific line of thinking is not so nomothetic, it seems. They're called reactionaries in part because they see themselves as reacting to historical particularities, which they describe and define. They're not merely evincing common human traits, are they?

People who have a lot (or think they have a lot), are always going to be worried that someone else will take it away from them.

I think this is incorrect; there's a big difference between being aware of prosperity's contingency and advocating for a neo-fascist social devolution and attendant abandonment of modern society as we know it, right? Also, I don't see how it follows that wealthy people and delusional people would obviously have the exact same orientation in this regard.

People who perceive themselves to be on top almost always start to think they deserve to be there, and view any broadening of the political franchise or enrichment of those with less than them as an attack on their status.

Again, I think this is just empirically untrue, especially the second half. This analysis improperly rejects the possibility that there could be substantial differences between how that broadening occurs in different contexts. After all, if that conviction on the part of the wealthy and powerful were as invariably instantiated as you suggest, how would we account for things like revolutions? Clearly the reactionary position's power to decide actual outcomes waxes and wanes considerably according to specific historical context.

It's a human trait that hides in a multitude of belief systems and political creeds.

So in this conception, belief systems and political creeds are constructed without reference to human traits, and then some lucky traits are able to hide in them? I don't really understand the unstated premises of this assertion.
posted by clockzero at 10:53 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


In contrast, the Dark Enlightenment advocates an autocratic and neo-monarchical society. Its belief system is unapologetically reactionary, almost feudal.

They advocate the status quo? Whatever for?
posted by 3.2.3 at 10:58 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fucking nephandi.
posted by benzenedream at 11:01 PM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


The most irritating thing about this is that Aurora's bizarre dreamspeak has dredged up a phrase I must have come across a long time ago but that I can't for the life of me remember where from:

Now you are all HAPPY CAMPERS.

Like most tip of the tongue moments, its got some very clear associated context. Its from a book or short story. It's spoken by someone mysterious, maybe not even human. An AI, an alien, maybe some NSA spook. And it's coming in textually, through a teletype or old school computer display? And it's got a similarly coded quality, like the messenger is communicating in ciphers or being translated from another language. And there's a weird emphasis on the "HAPPY CAMPERS," it's definitely in all caps or asterisks or something. I thought maybe it was from that first contact scene from Sphere, but Google Books shows nothing. The commonness of the phrase doesn't help.

Argh, it's so frustrating. Is this my secret code word? Have I been activated to kidnap the Prime Minister of Malaysia? I've got work tomorrow, guys, c'mon.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:04 PM on December 29, 2013 [21 favorites]


Or, alternatively, about a tyrannical empire being overthrown and replaced by the fragments of a largely hereditary warrior caste who believe they derive their authority from the very will of the cosmos.

But neither Luke nor Leia evinces any desire to rule, and they're trying to establish a republic.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:08 PM on December 29, 2013


Anyway Aurora wanted to blow our minds 1994 BBS style and did so but mostly by misunderstanding various facts and bearing false witness (aka 1994 BBS style).

And they used Star Control 2 references too, for that period feel.

(Rhaomi, that's probably what you're thinking of.)
posted by asterix at 11:08 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I believe this is the reference.
posted by NMcCoy at 11:08 PM on December 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


"So in this conception, belief systems and political creeds are constructed without reference to human traits, and then some lucky traits are able to hide in them? I don't really understand the unstated premises of this assertion."

Humans have instincts like any other animal. We don't have to follow them, but we often do, and that isn't always a bad thing. Human behavior is a complex blend of rationality, whimsy and instinct. It's how we're made.

Beliefs, religions, philosophies, sciences, and the like are constructions of reason. They're supposed to make sense if you accept the underlying assumptions, but quite often they exist as justifications for things we instinctively believe. Not all the time, but it happens. That's why error correction and things like peer review are so important.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:09 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, I thought all of the graphics in the first link were making fun of these guys, but there's some web site out there where people pay to be named "Heroes of the Dark Enlightenment" and have stuff about themselves pasted onto images of Magic cards.

I guess the HBD stuff is so they don't have to explain why all of the places in Africa with a "President for Life" aren't booming futuristic utopias?
posted by XMLicious at 11:09 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


My theory is that Aurora is Scott Adams.
posted by Schmucko at 11:10 PM on December 29, 2013 [34 favorites]


And I'm trying to visualize a Julie Taymor production of "Turn Off the Dark Enlightenment".
posted by Schmucko at 11:11 PM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


It can seem scary at first to see someone articulate well a really loathsome ideology. But it's hard, after struggling through a couple of Moldbug's 5,000 word introductions to a pet topic of his, walk away for a decade, come back and find he's still going strong... it's hard not to view them as just completely self-marginalizing. It's not just that they have loathsome, nutty opinions that most quickly recognize as leading to "and then we put all the people with that skin color into camps", but they set the effort bar for meaningfully engaging those opinions so unbelievably high that even people who want to follow them get dispirited and give up. And if you give up yourself and fuck off to China, leaving people like Aurora to sniff out any hint of you and show up and scatter pomo riddles about, well, you just hit the reset button on your own early adopters.

In a way, the Internet is a great thing, because absent a medium in which to go on endlessly about your proposed dystopia, they might have to actually do something about it, and someone might get hurt.
posted by fatbird at 11:14 PM on December 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


So has Shia LaBeouf announced that his plagiarism thing was art yet?
posted by Artw at 11:14 PM on December 29, 2013


YES. Thank you, asterix and NMcCoy. The link to Star Control was spookily accurate, but I was worried it was a red herring since I didn't play that game as a kid. Then I remembered learning about it via a MeFi post from blahbkahblah entitled... "You are now *Happy Campers*". I guess it stuck in my mind because I'd always meant to revisit that post and try out the game at some point, and the title, out of context, was weirdly memorable, much like Aurora's comments.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:17 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I got the sense that they don't see themselves so much as rejecting the whole Enlightenment, just the more humanist bits, and assuming that science has proven blacks and women inferior and so on.

I have to admit I'm somewhat of a monarchist I guess, like when I visit Canada I feel more comfortable knowing there's a Queen in charge of the realm I'm in. I think that's worth something.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:25 PM on December 29, 2013


We have a Queen, but she's not in charge of anything but her corgis. (And maybe the Royal Family.) The position is... ceremonial. If history had turned out differently the corgi's picture might have ended up on our money. Dogecoin a hundred years early!
posted by Kevin Street at 11:33 PM on December 29, 2013 [14 favorites]


Wouldn't it be simpler to call it Endarkenment?

Probably a little too close to "Endorkenment."
The "Dork Entitlement".
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 11:46 PM on December 29, 2013 [13 favorites]


I wondered if/when this would show up here. When I read the techcrunch article a couple weeks ago I alternated between giggling helplessly and wondering if I should actually be afraid, be very afraid; now that I've read the thread, I will continue to giggle.
posted by rtha at 12:00 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who is John Galt NICK LAND!?
posted by jnnla at 12:10 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


warm1
1. Nick Land - Meltdown

The story goes like this: Earth is captured by a technocapital singularity as renaissance rationalitization and oceanic navigation lock into commoditization take-off. Logistically accelerating techno-economic interactivity crumbles social order in auto-sophisticating machine runaway. As markets learn to manufacture intelligence, politics modernizes, upgrades paranoia, and tries to get a grip.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:32 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Emmtee definitely won the thread with the Doge philosophy comment.

Outlaw Pope indeed, it's been a while since I've actually read a sentence and had absolutely no idea what it was supposed to mean
posted by vuron at 12:32 AM on December 30, 2013


You could see the terror in his eyes as his smug melted away and he realized "posting on the internet" wouldn't exactly save him when a bunch of dudes who could load, aim, and shoot a rifle came knocking on his door.

And in the age of Nuclear/Terror/Chemical/Surveillance catastrophe/revolution, you'll probably be one of the few extremely-lucky ones to even have enough warning to be able to go load your rifle and escape to the woods.

You're right though, the Libertarian nerds think that the same meritocracy they succeeded in will exist without a big strong, inefficient government, and that's why it's pretty easy to dismiss Libertarianism as the naivete that it really is without getting into the arguments.

The gun-nut Red Dawn style fantasy is just about as realistic, though. How long do husky, untrained citizens with guns last against well trained soldiers of a modern military? My bet is: a few minutes longer than citizens that don't.
posted by hellslinger at 12:36 AM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


To be fair, revolutionaries probably don't picture themselves kissing a commissar's ass in exchange for better beet rations either.

That's true, but if revolutionaries are delusional theirs is at least a consistent delusion: they picture themselves as fighting for more beets for everybody - if their stated program succeeds, they will be better off than before.

With these guys, you also need the unstated assumption you will get to be one of the philosopher-kings in the new order of things. Otherwise you are fighting to set up a system explicitly designed to oppress you.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:01 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are these people like, twelve years old?

I admit I'm still sniggering at the name "Mencius Moldbug".
posted by Segundus at 1:10 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re Nick Land as Neoreactionary, "craner" at Dissensus offers a handy précis:

Pitching extreme right and lining up alongside monarchists and racists is an ignominious turn in Nick Land's career. I suspect he is looking for another flock, as well as taking his ultra-libertarianism to its logical conclusion. Not only that, but he has been eclipsed by one former pupil on the Marxist left, which must be annoying.

[...]

He left Warwick at the end of the century and moved to Shanghai. There was a period of radio silence(I think, maybe not) and then he reappeared with other ex-Ccru members on the blog Hyperstition, which had some relation to the more estoteric late-Ccru scribblings. Around this time he was in touch with Reza Negarestani, of Cyclonopedia fame, who was built into the Hyperstition axis, as was K-punk. This was also the era of Cold Rationalism, but in the life-time of the Hyperstition blog, K-punk took a Leninist-Bolshevik turn, inspired by Zizek and Badiou, and Nick Land started reading National Review and Spengler and quoting (with approval) the neoconservative World War 4 thesis but (typically) in even harsher, more extreme, 'hyperstitional' terms. He since seems to have ditched the neoconservatism and absorbed libertarian writers like Hayek and Hans-Hermann Hoppe into his Deleuze & Guattari-derived pro-capitalism, and (typically) taken this in an even harsher, more extreme direction, attacking democracy with some ferocity and delving into biological determinism. He has found a theoretical space on the extreme libertarian right, building a platform alongside racists and anti-semites. There is always a danger of this when you are locked in a world of ideas.

posted by FrauMaschine at 1:15 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


What is HBD? Human biodiversity is the rejection of the “blank state” of human nature. Creepily obsessed with statistics that demonstrate IQ differences between the races, the darkly enlightened see social hierarchies as determined not by culture or opportunity but by the cold, hard destiny embedded in DNA. One blogger calls it “The Voldemort View” (adding Harry Potter to the Star Wars/Matrix mix), claiming that, “mean differences in group IQs are the most likely explanation for the academic achievement gap in racial and SES [socioeconomic status] groups.”

Yeah, this is one of many things that drove me far away from libertarianism. If you assume the world is a meritocracy it's a short jaunt to out and out racism.
posted by brundlefly at 1:17 AM on December 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


No, guys, the IQ idea makes perfect sense. Of course, this naturally-intelligent segment of the population must be structured to serve society as a separate "monk" class, forbidden personal belongings lest they be tempted to use their gifts against their fellows. Best to castrate them too after harvesting genetic material, to prevent family bias. All okay with that? [/humour]
posted by alasdair at 1:48 AM on December 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


the darkly enlightened

Can we call them "darkies"?
posted by Segundus at 2:28 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I, for one, welcome our new fedora-wearing overlords and their glorious fan fiction inspired philosophies.
posted by young_son at 2:43 AM on December 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


ah, postmodernism - one takes what one likes from cultural memes and historical tropes and mushes them all together until one has a worldview that seems like it might be a good reality to strive for

it's funny how a bunch of pre-enlightenment, monarchial and/or city/state adherents end up being a product of their times despite themselves

there is probably much that could be done to critique and change what they call "the cathedral", as our system does seem to be approaching a crisis point - but misunderstood structures of the past aren't a solution - if they were, they would have survived

as several people have pointed out, their place in the world that they envision isn't going to be a pleasant one
posted by pyramid termite at 3:02 AM on December 30, 2013


I'm sorry, but reading aurora's comments and Land's manifesto of sorts reminded me of nothing quite so much as this.

In one sense, it's the apex of continental philosophy's tendency to stick its head up its own arse. Yes, okay, fine, we get that you're having fun goofing around with ideas and aren't necessarily attempting to put forward a coherent, constructive model for thought and society. There's a place for that. Goofing around with ideas is good fun and, when done well, can shed some valuable insights on the human condition. But what Land et al seem to be doing here isn't that at all. The best continental philosophers are deeply well-read and the value (and dare I say joy?) of their work comes directly from their ability to interact with and put a new spin on existing philosophical and cultural conversations. What Land seems to be doing is just taking a bunch of terms and throwing them around like so much word salad. The connection to others' work and words is tenuous at best.

On the other hand, the idea that this could ever constitute something like a serious political movement comes straight out of Stephensonian techno-utopian fantasies. News flash! Blogs and internet forums do not constitute a serious and important part of civil society! The fact that everyone can read what you're writing does not mean that anyone does! Say what you like about mainstream media, millions of people read/watch that stuff, unlike your crap-ass blog.
posted by valkyryn at 3:15 AM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Okay, so, I woke up, started reading this thread, hadn't slept nearly enough, nearly convinced myself that I was obviously dreaming this word salad and that this was going to turn into a lucid dream any moment now. I am more disappointed than I expected to be.

What concerns me about the whole "the nerds will be subjugated like everybody else if this happens" is that there is nothing in particular stopping the nerds in question from arming themselves, and I think that just makes everything messier. Honestly, the part I think they really need to learn is that there is always more disruptive innovation. There is no way to secure yourself at the top and deny privileges to others that someone will not eventually break. If you build a society where life's pretty great even if you're at the bottom, then everybody becomes free to innovate, and more than that, you secure the fact that you and your children are going to continue to be comfortable even if it turns out your next big investment is in buggy whips.

Playing King of the Mountain is only fun if everybody gets to push each other off a hill for awhile and then go home and have supper. But, then, even children, who know this, spend their time on top posturing.
posted by Sequence at 3:18 AM on December 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Charlie Stross had a blog post referencing the neoreactionaries last month: Trotskyite singularitarians for Monarchism!.
posted by kandinski at 3:19 AM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


I totally wouldn't mind being an old skool surf... just have the obligation to work for a few hours a day in exchange for a roof over my head, bit of my own land to grow veg on, a few chickens etc, a bit of a field to grow corn, spend a big chunk of the day whittling or something, getting drunk, singing and general merry making. Well may be with a bit better health care.

However modern surfdome isn't quite like that.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:38 AM on December 30, 2013


What they identify with is the middle ages as understood by Enlightenment-era thinkers, both revolutionary and reactionary. The dream of pre-modernity dreamt by modernity.

Well, duh. That's the curse of modernity; very hard to get back into a proper, pre-modern, pre-enlightenment mindset. At best you get somebody like G. K. Chesterton or the pre-Raphaelites, at worst the sort of bad roleplaying these Dork Enlightenment clowns are engaging in.

In other words, this sort of thing is as old as modernity or enlightenment itself and it's right not to confuse it with fascism, even if it springs from the same sort of impulses as fascism. Fascism always was just as anti-establishment, anti-religion as the communists, the revolt of the petit bourgeois.

This particular incarnation is neither very coherent nor interesting; as we've learned in the real world, translating a "blogging movement" into political power is almost impossible, as the experiences of rightwing warbloggers and the liberal blogging movement in the US have shown this past decade. Both talked the talk, but in the end just turned out to be bottom feeders in the Beltway ecosystem, useful for individual talking heads to get themselves known, but only for a limited period.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:51 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


If programmers are behind this, then wouldn't it just end up as rule by Project Manager Kings?

With a priest caste of software testers to tell the programmer peons where they went wrong, again.

Doesn't mean I should be celibate, does it?
posted by MartinWisse at 3:57 AM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


The story goes like this: Earth is captured by a technocapital singularity as renaissance rationalitization and oceanic navigation lock into commoditization take-off. Logistically accelerating techno-economic interactivity crumbles social order in auto-sophisticating machine runaway. As markets learn to manufacture intelligence, politics modernizes, upgrades paranoia, and tries to get a grip.

Somebody has read The Communist Manifesto:
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:07 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, in shorthand, a bunch of scrawny white dudes who find common ground in praising MRAs and a belief that bitcoin is the herald of a revolutionary future?
posted by modernnomad at 4:10 AM on December 30, 2013


Fascism always was just as anti-establishment, anti-religion as the communists, the revolt of the petit bourgeois.

Except that if you were to describe any Fascist regime without using the word "fascist", the next candidate would be "ultra-conservative Catholic". This holds for Mussolini's Italy (who gave the Vatican its ersatz statehood via the Lateran Treaty, as well as social control of the population), Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, even Pinochet's Nixon-backed Libertarian Fascism.

Nazi Germany is somewhat of an outlier, but Nazism was always a weird ideology.
posted by acb at 4:31 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


My theory is that Aurora is Scott Adams.

Now that you mention it, his latest strips have been kind of weird.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:55 AM on December 30, 2013 [16 favorites]


You know, having read Plato's Republic it doesn't sound like a super fun place to me, unless you're one of the philosopher kings. And frankly as someone who would have a reasonably decent shot a being one of those philosopher kings in such a regime, still sounds like arse to me that would last about all of a week before everyone else decided that those beardy know-it-alls could go stuff themselves and the whole thing fell in a heap. And let's not get on to the shortcomings of his historiography.

I guess what I'm saying is that some grumpy old Greek dude had similar ideas some 2500 or so years ago, and they haven't exactly been taken up and run with in a successful manner. I am in a strange way already missing Aurora's word salad though.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:03 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why did this post make me fire up Ingress on my phone? Yay Enlightened. Boo Resistance.
posted by snwod at 5:07 AM on December 30, 2013


I like the idea of Monarchy but only in the Commonwealth way of, "Can't come up with a budget? You are the weakest link, goodbye!"

One person at the top sufficiently drowned in money and pleasure to be removed from profit and power gain with their only power being invested with the ability to say, "No, no, you've done it wrong again, do it right or you can all go find new employment".
posted by Slackermagee at 5:26 AM on December 30, 2013


Oh man, HBD. That's madness. You can't have just the genome without bothering about the epigenome or the transcriptome. Its like saying that the person with the "best" ideas should be made ruler despite lacking the methods or hardware to effect those ideas. Wait a minute...
posted by Slackermagee at 5:43 AM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Except that if you were to describe any Fascist regime without using the word "fascist", the next candidate would be "ultra-conservative Catholic"

True dat, though of course the original fascists in Italy were much more anti-catholic, much more futurist than what Mussolini ended up creating, while Salazar and Franco were only fascist because they were sponsored by Italy/Germany.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:10 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suppose I might take this more seriously if the leading philosophers of this movement weren't presented on Magic: The Gathering cards.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 6:17 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suppose I might take this more seriously if the leading philosophers of this movement weren't presented on Magic: The Gathering cards.

But what about Urza‽
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:18 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Loa realm entity spotted, perchance? Need more info: SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! Disappointment, failure; no links spotted. *Happy Campers* ~ Orz *frumple* Foucault, Lacan, Nietzsche, Kant - all digested, shall we *dance*? Serious Loa effect; they want him, they want it all.

Wow, the script for the new Bioshock game needs some work.
posted by spaltavian at 6:20 AM on December 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Charlie Stross had a blog post referencing the neoreactionaries last month: Trotskyite singularitarians for Monarchism!.

That's a real gem of a short essay, thanks for inserting it.
posted by gimonca at 6:22 AM on December 30, 2013


Yeah but that essay just confuses the issue further! according to Stross some Dark Enlightenment folks (Nick Land?) apparently really are acting as a far left agent provocateurs by accelerating the worst aspects of Capitalism in order to bring about the singularity where we shall become one big hive brain. Which makes the whole thing even weirder than simply a bunch of racist twerps! Aurora was right about one thing, this shit is a lot deeper than reddit fedora douches.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:33 AM on December 30, 2013


fedoras all the way down
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:41 AM on December 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


The light flared in the north but a moment, then was snuffed as quickly as it came to life; and for that brief pause, we were all educated stupid.
posted by trunk muffins at 6:44 AM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wish these Counter-Enlightenment Techno-Utopians would spend more time working on the post-scarcity side of things, and less time arguing about who gets to wear the fancy hats.



I admit I'm still sniggering at the name "Mencius Moldbug".


Didn't he teach Defense Against the Dark Arts for a semester at Hogwarts?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:57 AM on December 30, 2013 [22 favorites]


Mencius Moldbug, previously.
posted by ndfine at 7:05 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


"What do they believe? Post-red pill awakening, liberal progressivism is seen as a state religion, an unquestioned humanist ideology that determines all outcomes and silences dissenters through dismissal."

+

"”HBD, broadly conceived, is simply a fact. It is roughly as questionable, on intellectual grounds, as biological evolution or the heliocentric model of the solar system. No one who takes the trouble to educate themselves on the subject with even a minimum of intellectual integrity can doubt that.”

=

Shot own foot.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 7:11 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


God I hate teenagers.

How much of a teenager can anyone making incessant Star Control 2 references be?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:19 AM on December 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


or the heliocentric model of the solar system

I'm always amused by the metaphors people use to describe what they see as unalterable truths.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:31 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


These assholes have taken fedoras from us, don't let them take Star Control 2, too!

*frumple*
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:47 AM on December 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm not versed in philosophies behind this, but as a layman it scares me, and I see echoes of it throughout tech culture. The pride from efficiency, the hatred of red tape, the belief that techno philanthropist efforts can save the world, and of course, most importantly, that cognitive talent is king, and if you have it, nothing should get in the way of you executing a design.
posted by Halogenhat at 7:59 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


TL; too much nonsense; DR

But reading some of the comments here: I think there are plenty of people in plenty of workforces who aren't Fascists or Feudalists or Male Supremacists any of those other terms that appear here whenever the MeFi faithful don't agree with something, who would love to see a system of meritocracy in place in a lot of places. My own Dad, most liberal guy I ever knew, fired by GW Bush's first admin for political reasons, was apoplectic at the inability of the Federal workforce to police itself or get rid of incompetent, destructive, hostile, useless employees. He said it cost the taxpayers millions. He himself could only get fired cause he was an appointee. Many teachers I know (whose union seems to fight tooth and nail against any sort of merit being involved in continued employment) feel the same way. I don't think all of these people are closet racists waiting to fire the brown people. But you simply cannot tell someone who outright sucks these days and should be fired that they suck and should be fired and fire them.

And plenty of people suck and should be fired. I don't give a shit what their social circumstance is. Do your f'n job or go home. You don't want to go home? Do your f'n job. So, regardless of this fantasy feudal crap nonsense in the post, railing against good performance being considered as a metric because --it discriminates against people who suck?-- seems like a net loss for civilization.
posted by umberto at 8:08 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can we go Godwin yet?

Fascism always was just as anti-establishment, anti-religion as the communists, the revolt of the petit bourgeois.

This is, at the very least, a misleading way to say this. It's true that the image of fascism (in its many forms) is always presented as "anti-establishment" and "anti-elitist". It is, after all, a type of populism (Eco refers to it as "selective populism"). But the big difference between fascist and communist populism is that the former is supported by the ruling elites, the latter vigorously opposed. Hitler and Mussolini both would have just been small time ranters if they hadn't been backed by wealthy industrialists and aristocrats in the hope that they'd form a bulwark against radical wealth redistribution--or worse (pitchforks, torches, and guillotines).

The 1% of any era always looks around for something to fend off the 99%, and in the end they always realize they need their own "populist brand" to do it. In today's US we're playing with a couple of promising fascist brands--the Tea Party, Libertarianism, Christian Dominionism, etc. Will one win out? Or will they simply be satellite brands in a larger rightist holding company?

I'm writing this all as a roundabout way of saying that we can have our fun with these DE dorks now. I'm sure they'll remain a great source of entertainment, just like the religious right has been. But the fun will only last until they form think tanks heavily bankrolled by the likes of the Koch bros, and their spokespersons start showing up on Meet the Press.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:11 AM on December 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


whose union seems to fight tooth and nail against any sort of merit being involved in continued employment

railing against good performance being considered as a metric because --it discriminates against people who suck?

Wait, was this at all discussed anywhere in these articles or this thread, or did you just really want to get a jab in at teacher's unions?
posted by ndfine at 8:13 AM on December 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


And plenty of people suck and should be fired.

I'll play your game only if we start at the top, confiscating ill-gotten gains and handing out jail time as we go.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:13 AM on December 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


Wait a minute, isn't this the same worldview that drove the main character from A Confederacy of Dunces?
posted by Itaxpica at 8:17 AM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


But the big difference between fascist and communist populism is that the former is supported by the ruling elites, the latter vigorously opposed. Hitler and Mussolini both would have just been small time ranters if they hadn't been backed by wealthy industrialists and aristocrats in the hope that they'd form a bulwark against radical wealth redistribution--or worse (pitchforks, torches, and guillotines).

Yes and no: While it's true that the "old elites" never made coalitions with the communists as they did with the fascists, they often did so as a last resort. Hitler was invited to become Chancellor in early 1933 only as a last resort, with the (misguided) belief that he would be easy to control. The traditional ruling class remained wary of him until (at least) the Night of the Long Knives in summer 1934, when he killed off many of the economically "radical" leaders of the Brownshirts.
posted by dhens at 8:18 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think I'll found an opposing school of thought called quietism, where I will live my credo by deleting my blog.
posted by fatbird at 8:32 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait a minute, isn't this the same worldview that drove the main character from A Confederacy of Dunces?

It literally is. And it's especially pronounced in the Catholic traditionalist segment within the movement, who are relatively less malignant than the other groups and come off as merely quixotic in comparison. They're almost like the doomed Carlists of the Spanish Civil War, surrounded by godless HBD proponents and libertine PUA whoremongers who would turn on them like that for subscribing to Colossians 3:11.
posted by Apocryphon at 8:34 AM on December 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


While it's true that the "old elites" never made coalitions with the communists as they did with the fascists, they often did so as a last resort.

The nuance is appreciated, dhens. But I don't think this is all that different than saying that the Cosa Nostra only puts out contracts on people as a last resort. People running the show never prefer outright conflict--it's too disruptive to the cash flow. But sometimes, people just need killin'. And sometimes a good old-fashioned war is just what this country needs.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:35 AM on December 30, 2013


Possibly tangential, but, in the name of the kind of philosophy that might actually be good (for life, I mean, not for its vaunted image of itself): I would, in place of Sadie Plant and Nick Land (good god, who made up those names?), formerly of Warwick, (and not so much driven out as taking their toys and playing elsewhere) give you Regenia Gagnier and John Dupre, currently at Exeter.

The thing about critical thinking is that it can only do so much (but it must do that). When someone like Nick Land (not Cave, not Cave, not Cave) thinks he and his buddies can come up with a world view, he's probably making terrible errors.

And that's true any time a few people who are very much alike try to design the Good Society, from Plato on: some will be better, and some will be worse, but they will be incomplete. ETA: and often harmful.
posted by allthinky at 8:48 AM on December 30, 2013


Um... Ok... I... What?
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:04 AM on December 30, 2013


But I don't think this is all that different than saying that the Cosa Nostra only puts out contracts on people as a last resort. People running the show never prefer outright conflict--it's too disruptive to the cash flow. But sometimes, people just need killin'. And sometimes a good old-fashioned war is just what this country needs.

I agree with the gist of what you're saying, but it's important to remember that the Conservatives were nonetheless distinct from the Nazis, and that not all of the elites supported the Nazis, even if their distaste was mostly just out of speculative self-interest. Also, remember that the Night of the Long Knives, purged all manner of rebellious elements, from within and without, from the so-called left and from the so-called right.

In other words, fascism was not entirely sympathetic to all parts of the 1%. Fascists loved (the images of) captains of industry, union strongmen, military heroes, etc., but they had no patience for the certain kinds of moneymakers, such as their image of the craven, moneylending Jew. Also, terms like left and right, liberal and conservative, these don't really work when applied across historical and cultural contexts, especially to movements like fascism, which was an ideological dog's breakfast even for the time.

Sidenote: compare fascism's relationship with socialism with the Klan's relationship to capital-P Progressivism. I say this not to condemn socialism or Progressivism, but rather to point out how our ideas of "left" and "right" are amorphous and constantly changing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:10 AM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


University of Exeter, you say? Home of the Centre for the Study of Esotericism. Where students can get this sort of thing:
Hereward Tilton, B.A., Ph.D. (Queensland)
Course lecturer in Alchemy, Rosicrucianism and Kabbalah ... a specialist in the history of esotericism in early modern Germany ... hav[ing] published on early Rosicrucianism, alchemy and magic ... Current research interests include the history of magic in early modern warfare, the psychology of angelic communication, and the relation of psychoanalysis to the Western esoteric traditions.
*frumple*
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:11 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


In other words, fascism was not entirely sympathetic to all parts of the 1%.

No question that this is true. It's takes all kinds, not all rich people are bad, etc., etc. Fascism is just one particularly virulent solution strategy to the "problem" of social inequality. The New Deal another.

It's interesting, though, that the bankrolling classes that do support fascism always seem to see it as a "necessary evil" on the way to reinforcing what is, in the end, an aristocratic social vision. These DE thinkers, to their credit, are very clear about this ultimate aim. I don't think they'd be beyond passing through a "stage" of fascism to get there.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:23 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rick Searle at the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies has penned a superb essay analyzing the movement as a sign of the times:

Thus, ironically, the problem for both the right and the left is the same one- that governments today are too weak. The right needs an at least temporarily strong government to effect the dismantling of the state, whereas the left needs a strong government not merely to respond to the grinding conditions of the economic “recovery”, but to overturn previous policies, put in new protections and find some alternative to the current political and economic order. Dark enlightenment types and progressives are confronting the same frustration while having diametrically opposed goals. It is not so much that Washington is too powerful as it is that the power it has is embedded in a system, which, as Mark Leibovich portrays brilliantly, is feckless and corrupt.

posted by Apocryphon at 9:24 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I seriously doubt the sum total of incompetent low-level bureaucrats or teachers cost the taxpayers more than a single week of your average military boondoggle, or than corporations or billionaires are dodging in taxes.

Neither Old Grumpy Bob in the back office of the Agriculture Commission, or a burned-out biology teacher marking time till retirement in an Iowa high school, is anything but the teeniest tiniest of blips next to the bloated, money-sucking mess that is the military-industrial-spying-corporate welfare complex.
posted by emjaybee at 9:31 AM on December 30, 2013 [20 favorites]


The mention above about the use of the word "tradition" in the article and the frequent mention of fascism reminds me of the Traditionalist school which has Julius Evola floating around. He was a fascist but most of the other people associated with this school of thought were not. Is there something like this behind the thought described in the article?
posted by njohnson23 at 10:13 AM on December 30, 2013


Small update... Somebody seems to think so... Traditionalism.
posted by njohnson23 at 10:22 AM on December 30, 2013


box, I hadn't thought about Barbelith for years! Just wandered over and pinged my account there.

It does have a certain Morrison-y feel, though.
posted by tavella at 10:23 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I seriously doubt the sum total of incompetent low-level bureaucrats or teachers cost the taxpayers more than a single week of your average military boondoggle, or than corporations or billionaires are dodging in taxes.

In all fairness, that's probably not true. The US spends a total of about $1 trillion a year on education alone, most of which consists of salaries/benefits/pensions, and most of which comes from state and local governments. And that's just education. Throw in another $272 billion for police and prisons, and $184 for "general government," and the total for "education and low-level bureaucrats" is right around $1.5 trillion.

By comparison, the Pentagon spends about $832 billion. That's only about half of what we're spending on education, police, and "general government."

But that ignores the elephant in the room, i.e, entitlement spending, which actually makes up about $150 billion of the Pentagon's budget in the form of VA benefits. But the vast majority of entitlement spending isn't included in any of the above figures. Conservative observers tend to overestimate "foreign aid" (which is a rounding error compared to the totality of the federal budget) and lefty observers tend to overestimate how much we spend on the military (which is legitimately quite a lot of money, just not as much as people think). The actual figure for entitlement spending is right around $3 trillion.

You're talking as if the US is a military that happens to be attached to a civil government. It's not really like that.
posted by valkyryn at 10:34 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I could see a possibility for the formation of a wider accelerationist movement composed of apocolyptic extremists of all sorts - leftist, reactionist, ecological conservationist, survivalist, possibly even religious. Heck, there already seems to be an accelerationist element in mainstream Republican politics.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:43 AM on December 30, 2013


> But the fun will only last until they form think tanks heavily bankrolled by the likes of the Koch bros, and their spokespersons start showing up on Meet the Press.

I don't know why Reason magazine isn't on the social network diagram but they are backed by Koch dough. One of the elements on there (Lesswrong) is heavily funded by PayPal rich dude Peter Thiel. In order to get on Meet the Press they need to pull ratings. What they need is not funding; they have plenty of funding. What they need is a charismatic political leader. Think Sarah Palin except with brains.
posted by bukvich at 10:55 AM on December 30, 2013


Valkyryn: the Pentagon can't account for $8.5 trillion in spending since 1996 (http://www.reuters.com/investigates/pentagon/#article/part3)
posted by Freen at 10:56 AM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


mondo dentro: It's interesting, though, that the bankrolling classes that do support fascism always seem to see it as a "necessary evil" on the way to reinforcing what is, in the end, an aristocratic social vision

I think it's important to note that, at least in the case of Germany, it was really an example of reaping the whirlwind. Amonng the traditional right, none wanted a world war, those that wanted a continental war were looking only east, and essentialy none were thinking of anything like the Holocaust.

They got rolled by Hitler; and in many cases lined up behind him out of self-preservation rather than out of a willingness to accept a "fascist stage" to achieve their own ends.
posted by spaltavian at 10:57 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are other views of US military spending as a portion of the total budget. (I'm honestly not sure whether or how biased this analysis is - I'm just offering it as contrast.)
posted by sneebler at 10:58 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


valkyryn, the stated issue had nothing to do with the size of the various budgetary pie slices, but with how much of it was being wasted. It's really a reaction to the fact that our political discourse has been steered so that we only focus on welfare state structures, and people relatively low on the food chain, as sources of "waste, fraud, and abuse". I stand with emjaybee in doubting that the parasitic losses caused by stereotypical "incompetent" english teachers or welfare queens can even hold a candle to the economic destruction caused by the financial elites and the crony capitalists sucking on the military-security-state tit.

And this sort of bottom-line spreadsheet statement doesn't even begin to talk about the relative social value of an "education system" versus, say, a "prison-surveillance system". I mean, you say that the military budget is "only" $800 million--as if it has equal economic value to the same amount spent on other things. Given that we spend more on our military than the next ten or so nation states, it's quite likely that, say, at least half of that entire budget is waste by any reasonable definition. Is 50% of our education budget waste? Will it not be waste if that same money is syphoned through politically-connected for-profit educational corporations first?
posted by mondo dentro at 11:00 AM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sticherbeast: Sidenote: compare fascism's relationship with socialism with the Klan's relationship to capital-P Progressivism. I say this not to condemn socialism or Progressivism, but rather to point out how our ideas of "left" and "right" are amorphous and constantly changing.

What's interesting here is how fascism just wasn't all that doctrinaire on economic issues. In the center-right and center-left countries of Europe and North America, these are the main differences; so these differences seem all-important. That leads to a tendency of the modern observer trying to pin down 20th-century fascists on economics in a way that just cannot be done.

This, I suspect, is why we see people on the Left frequently misinterpret the term "corporatism" to argue fascists were laissez-faire plutocrats; while simultaneously the Right's talking heads bluster about the "socialism" in National Socialism.

This sort of analyisis fails not just of the obvious reasons, but because it really doesn't understand what facism was reacting to. They did not quibble with small economic issues, they were reacting to much deeper and older political developments. The Nazis actually explained this pretty well with one of their slogans: "1789 is abolished".
posted by spaltavian at 11:14 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


followed one of the links in the thread to David Brin: “Neo-Reactionaries” drop all pretense: End democracy and bring back lords!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:23 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Loa realm entity spotted, perchance? Need more info: SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! Disappointment, failure; no links spotted. *Happy Campers* ~ Orz *frumple* Foucault, Lacan, Nietzsche, Kant - all digested, shall we *dance*? Serious Loa effect; they want him, they want it all.

Half-Life 3 confirmed!
posted by Windopaene at 11:37 AM on December 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


> Someone stole a lot of Magic the Gathering artwork for that article.

I'm pretty sure I've got a couple of "Summon Bevets" cards squirrelled away against need, that not even v[]cativ dares to put into play.
posted by jfuller at 12:39 PM on December 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


> In other words, this sort of thing is as old as modernity or enlightenment itself and it's right not to confuse it with fascism, even if it springs from the same sort of impulses as fascism.

Exactly right. If you want to compare it to any actually important historic social philosophy, look at people like de Maistre. Read your Isaiah Berlin!
posted by languagehat at 12:43 PM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


[anyone else from the Barbelith Mefite contingent up in this thread yet? I'm getting some guiltily pleasurable "shutting down the connectors!!1!" vibes from Aurora.]
I miss Barbelith so much sometimes. And also being an excitable counterculturey teenager.
posted by byanyothername at 12:48 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I sense some similarity to Balzac's thinking.

Balzac's Beliefs:
Family:
§ "The viaticum of married life is resignation and self-sacrifice; the bonds of habit, he [Balzac] says, are better than love any day, while society substitutes a lasting sentiment for the mere passing frenzy of nature and creates the family as the foundation of all organized society. In short, in marriage the woman inspires, and the man must do the work, the woman must sacrifice her will, the man his selfishness."

Aristocracy:
§ He [Balzac] believed in a constitutional monarchy and an aristocracy of the feudal type; aristocracy, he said, was the intellect of the social system. He wrote a pamphlet in favor of primogeniture, and he did not believe in 'the rights of man,' human equality, or the ability of the masses of the people to govern themselves. One man should have the power to make laws."

The Catholic Church:
§ It is "a complete system for the repression of the depraved tendancies of mankind," much better, he added, than "the cold negations of Protestantism."3
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:17 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


So basically, these are classic science authors?

Seriously, there's been a weird strain of admiration for monarchies among SciFi writers. You never hear of Galactic Democracies, it's always Galactic Emperors. Start with the skepticism of democracy that Heinlein had, toss in the Romanticism of Poul Anderson, and roll up Asimov's Empire, and you have a collection of writers who evidently believe the natural government for humankind was monarchy, and who didn't notice the inherent contradiction between technological advancement and personal freedom, vs feudalism.

These are writers I must note who were heavily influential on the current collection of geeks in the technology fields- the same area the NeoReactionaries draw from. Toss in the genetic destiny strain that's also from classic SF and you pretty much have the NeoReactionaries.

You have the same element in games as well- most fantasy crpgs involve monarchies or similar ruling elites, tabletop rpgs like Traveller and Warhammer 40K are aggressively anti-democratic. Even D&D promotes the myth of the deserving being the ones with absolute power.

I'm not saying that the NeoReactionaries are all directly based on SF, or that SF is a hotbed of NeoReactionary sentiment. But I suspect that of you look at the bookshelves of NeoReactionary bloggers you'll see quite a few classic SF volumes.
posted by happyroach at 1:47 PM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


In the dark enlightenment of the future there is only Nick Land. ~chuckle~
posted by octobersurprise at 1:50 PM on December 30, 2013


I'm reading this thread while watching Fast & Furious 6.



That is all I wanted to say.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:11 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks Languagehat. I had forgotten de Maistre.

What I think is interesting is that the modern liberal tradition has absorbed de Maistre's critique and more or less co-opted it. de Maistre thought that the supporters of the French Revolution were ignoring the savage reality of nature in favour of an idealised vision based on logic.

Nowadays - and looking from the inside - I would say that liberalism and left-wing philosophies accept that mankind is fundamentally savage, violent and dangerous. It is for that reason that they do not accept the Conservative belief that if you just tell people what is right and wrong then people will do what they ought to - or, if you cannot intimidate them into it, you can just accept a certain number of lower-class people being punished in some kind of prison industry. Instead, the liberal says "if we accept that humans are fundamentally flawed, venal, greedy and nasty, what do we need to do to society to minimise crime and maximise opportunities? what actually works, as opposed to utopian speculations about God or the free market?" And then, in theory, they go with that. Liberalism is cynical, disillusioned, responds to humans as they are - Conservatism is utopian, fanciful, thinks that people are going to become perfect if you just do something like...

... obey the proper magical divine authority (God, the right Church - see Balzac, above)
... allow the "market" free reign - whatever the "market" might actually be
... remove all the restrictions and regulations that prevent humans from reclaiming their natural potential (some varieties of libertarianism)
... restore traditional* societies (as these neo-reactionary, dark-enlightenment types want)
... take away social security or otherwise prevent people from acting together through the government (because then people will somehow become more dynamic and responsible, supposedly)

All these beliefs seem, from the outside, like magical thinking passing itself off as "common sense" and not troubling to check facts or evidence.

So, de Maistre might have been right when he accused Robespierre and Rousseau of utopianism. Certainly, I think Rousseau is terrible, based on having read quite a few of his works - a sexual fantasist with a deluded view of early humanity and a dangerous concept called the "General Will". But modern liberalism is actually centrist philosophy that, if anything, has more in common with de Maistre's vision of life than do, say, the dark enlightenment thinkers. Hence all the comments in this thread to the effect that these wimpy neo-reactionary geeks wouldn't last five minutes in a real traditional society.

Odd how times change.

In any case, this "dark enlightenment" is exactly what fascism actually looks like. A political movement all sensible people would gladly have seen dead and buried is actually well and truly back. Sigh.

*"Traditional" in the endarkenment writings seems to mean an idealised view of European monarchy, rather than, say, Chinese Confucian bureaucracy, primitive communism, Mongol militarism, Islamic mercantilism, Sumerian temple structures... Funny that. And how strange that these people who think they are entitled to say how the whole of society should be run also seem to be terribly ignorant, inept thinkers with only a Cliff's Notes awareness of human history, anthropology and law.

In any case, I think the cynical, "dark" and accurate view of these people is simply this: conservatism is intellectually dead at the moment. A statement like that would take time to justify, and this post is already long enough, but I think a serious and honest consideration of modern conservative intellectual activity would not find any prominent, compelling conservative intellectual movements out there. These dark enlightenment types are thriving because they at least offer white men a naked and unashamed embrace of certain weaknesses - authoritarianism, racism, sexism, self-importance - that have always been the dark underbelly of many political movements.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:19 PM on December 30, 2013 [18 favorites]


So OK, there's these wackos with dangerously stupid ideas. But how much of a real-world threat are they? How many of them are there, roughly, do they have any political/economic backers, do they have any traction in society? Or are they just a flavor-of-the-month band of Usenet retreads spouting impenetrable jargon into the void?
posted by scalefree at 2:21 PM on December 30, 2013


Serfing the Internet: you're spelling it wrong...
posted by Devonian at 4:00 PM on December 30, 2013


Seriously, there's been a weird strain of admiration for monarchies among SciFi writers.

I like sci-fi and fantasy genres, but there are lots of weird strains among some writers. One day I suddenly realized how many times I've encountered something that's actually a description of pedophilia or statutory rape, without any apparent acknowledgement of this by the author or the characters in the book.
posted by XMLicious at 5:57 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


But how much of a real-world threat are they?

As I've been trying to point out in the thread, they have no political power, though some of their ideas/vocabulary may propagate into the body politic (while PUA/Game and this aren't completely overlapping, witness how pop psych has begun to divide people into alpha/beta categories). But while Dark Enlightenment itself is irrelevant, the conditions that created their movement, and similarly regressive ones such as the New Right, are not and should be examined.

Has anyone even read the IEET article?
posted by Apocryphon at 6:20 PM on December 30, 2013


So, I tried taking The Dark Enlightenment seriously as a thought experiment. They completely lost me here:

The formalization of political powers, thirdly, allows for the possibility of effective government. Once the universe of democratic corruption is converted into a (freely transferable) shareholding in gov-corp. the owners of the state can initiate rational corporate governance, beginning with the appointment of a CEO. As with any business, the interests of the state are now precisely formalized as the maximization of long-term shareholder value. There is no longer any need for residents (clients) to take any interest in politics whatsoever. In fact, to do so would be to exhibit semi-criminal proclivities. If gov-corp doesn’t deliver acceptable value for its taxes (sovereign rent), they can notify its customer service function, and if necessary take their custom elsewhere. Gov-corp would concentrate upon running an efficient, attractive, vital, clean, and secure country, of a kind that is able to draw customers. No voice, free exit.

What?

How can they ignore so many simple, well known facts about Capitalism and Monarchy in one paragraph? I'm not even sure where to begin unwinding all of the absurdities. Corporations without oversight seek the stability that comes from holding a monopoly on some resource. When you are the resource, why would you think they would let you leave?
posted by quillbreaker at 7:30 PM on December 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Because, libertarian magic, quillbreaker! If you invoke the great gods Rand and von Mises, people will never exploit each other as they have for thousands of years under previous regimes. Or something.
posted by tavella at 7:40 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The trick is to just take the stuff you like from it without worrying about whether any of the rest makes sense. Changing the law so that companies are mandated by law to maximize value for the people who they rent things to and other consumers of their products, instead of for their shareholders, sounds like a great idea, even if it's a detail that gives away what he's saying as completely incoherent.
posted by XMLicious at 7:43 PM on December 30, 2013


Seriously, there's been a weird strain of admiration for monarchies among SciFi writers.

Amusingly, this extends even to the big progressive science fiction series of our time, Banks' Culture books. The Culture, despite being basically a progressive utopia in all other ways, is not a democracy at all. It's a benevolent oligarchy run by the Minds, where humans have near-infinite personal freedom, but no actual political power. Indeed, the sense I get from the books is that the idea of a majority of people getting to pass laws that constrain everyone would strike the Culture as barbaric and evil. For them, even democracy is too oppressive. In the real world, progressives have similar anti-democratic beliefs sometimes, like in the context of public referendums against gay marriage vs. unelected judges who rule it constitutional.

It's a good illustration of the difference between democracy and autonomy, and it made me realize that what I actually value is autonomy. For me, the right to vote is not a terminal value; it's not something I desire in and of itself. What I actually value a lot is freedom from scarcity, a chance to decide what kind of work I do, where I live, who I spend time with, and so on. Getting to vote for my representatives, I could honestly take or leave.

So voting and personal autonomy are separate things, but maybe they're related? According to one school of thought, the only way guard our autonomy is by electing the president and legislators by popular vote, so that they're accountable to the people. If that's true, then democracy is valuable, if only as a means rather than an end. The Dark Enlightenment thesis on this is the opposite -- basically that democracy is actually very harmful to ordinary, mundane personal freedom and well-being: a voter gets a tiny sliver of power in exchange for a deeply dysfunctional government that is strong enough to endlessly fuck with everyone's life but too weak to actually fix anything important. They would rather give up that tiny, symbolic slice of power, hand all the power and therefore all the responsibility to an ultra-competent technocrat CEO type (our closest approximation to a Culture Mind), confident that he will use it, if not perfectly, then at least better than our wonderful Three Branches have so far.

Some parts of reactionary thought are repulsive and stupid, but, I don't know, some days that part of it has some appeal for me.
posted by officer_fred at 8:29 PM on December 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


So voting and personal autonomy are separate things, but maybe they're related?

I would say that voting is one method of democracy, with major flaws in mass implementation. Voting comes in many styles, but it doesn't need to happen at all. A pollster could do it on a weekend. Democracy could be a random selection of citizens chosen to make the laws, or elect the president. It could be that a computer matches the best candidate to fit everyone's economic and personal preference profile. A sanity program could filter voters to allow the count from only those deemed sane after taking a test for their common sense. They are all safer than leaving it up to Ohio every year.
posted by Brian B. at 9:19 PM on December 30, 2013


this thread is awesome!
posted by serif at 9:36 PM on December 30, 2013


Amusingly, this extends even to the big progressive science fiction series of our time, Banks' Culture books. The Culture, despite being basically a progressive utopia in all other ways, is not a democracy at all. It's a benevolent oligarchy run by the Minds, where humans have near-infinite personal freedom, but no actual political power.

I've only read the first few books but it doesn't seem to me that the humans are entirely without political power. According to Wikipedia, most of the novels depict members of Contact; and Contact is sort of the equivalent to the military. In The Player of Games, which initially takes place in the "civilian" world of one of the Orbital ring habitats, it's mentioned that it's humans who are designing and directing the Mind to construct the new continents/plates of the habitat.

So definitely not a democracy but humans can get on the equivalent of the town planning board in settlements comprising billions of people, so I'd think maybe the average Culture citizen doesn't really have less political power than a citizen of a real-world democracy, who as you point out only have a tiny sliver of power, it's just that no human will become anything like the chief executive.

Or become the monarch: so many non-Culture monarchies are portrayed as dwelling in misery and then failing catastrophically that I think it's hard to say the series is admiring of monarchies.
posted by XMLicious at 10:05 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


They would rather give up that tiny, symbolic slice of power, hand all the power and therefore all the responsibility to an ultra-competent technocrat CEO type (our closest approximation to a Culture Mind), confident that he will use it, if not perfectly, then at least better than our wonderful Three Branches have so far.

Which works great, maybe, for the first ruler. And maybe even for the second, and if it doesn't work great for everyone, well it works great for his supporters and sycophants, who are really the only important people anyway.

And then something like THIS happens.

And you are FUCKED.
posted by happyroach at 11:38 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Inbreeding helps with that too. These Dark Enlightenment people would be perfect royals! They've probably gotten that part out of the way first.
posted by XMLicious at 11:48 PM on December 30, 2013


Come back, Aurochs Machinima! The thread is getting low on vaguely sinister pronouncements!
posted by salix at 12:42 AM on December 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


hand all the power and therefore all the responsibility to an ultra-competent technocrat CEO type

So, the solution to the problem of selecting good leaders is to find a competent, benevolent leader?

Apart from obviously begging the question, the problem is that technocrats can tell you _how_ to do things efficiently, they can't tell you _what_ to do (doubly so for computers, expert systems and other such mystic oracles of non-participatory political wisdom). The solution to any problem must start from some first principles and aim at some goal: the job of a technocrat is to figure out what goes in between. Obscuring the true nature of these things and putting some magical technocrat CEO to the front is a good way of screwing people over and convincing them it's for their own good.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:43 AM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Monarchy isn't really a unified goal for these guys, though. It seems like some of them, including Nick Land, favor a world of a patchwork of city-states of varying levels of libertarianism and racial exclusion. Which is dumb at any rate because a world of Singapores and Hong Kongs doesn't even work all of these city-states depend on outside patrons.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:37 AM on December 31, 2013


Maybe the city-state could have far-flung satellite communities that produced its food and harvested raw material and manufactured things. You could call them, I dunno, "districts". You could number them, like from one to twelve, perhaps.
posted by XMLicious at 1:46 AM on December 31, 2013 [14 favorites]


Before you pile on to these nerds, remember that democracy is the system whereby someone who believes that Global Warming is a scam cooked up by Al Gore gets the same say on environmental policy (and therefore on your family's future) as a qualified climate scientist.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 4:27 AM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hey, that's exactly what I was thinking.
posted by sneebler at 4:51 AM on December 31, 2013


L.P. Hatecraft: Before you pile on to these nerds, remember that democracy is the system whereby someone who believes that Global Warming is a scam cooked up by Al Gore gets the same say on environmental policy (and therefore on your family's future) as a qualified climate scientist.

Democracy is the system where nutjobs get a vote. Other systems are where nutjobs can get a throne.
posted by spaltavian at 5:57 AM on December 31, 2013 [22 favorites]


so many non-Culture monarchies are portrayed as dwelling in misery and then failing catastrophically that I think it's hard to say the series is admiring of monarchies

You know, it's easy to think of the Warhammer 40k universe as glorifying monarchy, but man do they ever go out of their way to make that world an awful, awful place. Look a little bit into the mythology and it's hard to say it glorifies anything about itself, really.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:00 AM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean, I feel like 40k glorifies monarchy in a similar fashion to how Judge Dredd glorifies fascism.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:26 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, with both of those there's always the risk of people taking black humor seriously and as a thing to be emulated, not matter how dark and ridiculous you make it.
posted by Artw at 7:29 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Discworld is another good example of reactionary propaganda that is, ironically, beloved by nerdy progressives. That's what the reactionaries are going for: not Kim's North Korea, but Vetinari's Ankh-Morpork.
posted by officer_fred at 8:04 AM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Before you pile on to these nerds, remember that democracy is the system whereby someone who believes that Global Warming is a scam cooked up by Al Gore gets the same say on environmental policy (and therefore on your family's future) as a qualified climate scientist.

If a majority of your population thinks Global Warming is a scam cooked up by Al Gore, having a political system where they don't get to voice this opinion won't help much with your more pressing problems, such as baseline scientific illiteracy and a failed public education system.

Unless of course you are comfortable with broad groups of your population being unsuitable for anything other than manual labor and/or in a state of constant religious fanaticism, only kept in check by the power of the state - in which case how is your darkly enlightened nerdocracy any different from any other good old-fashioned autocratic regime?
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:51 AM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


It'll have robots!
posted by Artw at 9:03 AM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Related thread.
posted by homunculus at 9:09 AM on December 31, 2013


they never did anything interesting with themselves

urbit!

re: spengler, he seems to be pretty high on china right now too (except for the check kiting?) -- with a nod to BGI -- esp wrt The Decay of American Political Institutions
...interest groups, having lost their pre-Pendleton Act ability to directly corrupt legislatures through bribery and the feeding of clientelistic machines, have found new, perfectly legal means of capturing and controlling legislators. These interest groups distort both taxes and spending, and raise overall deficit levels through their ability to manipulate the budget in their favor. They use the courts sometimes to achieve this and other rentier advantages, but they also undermine the quality of public administration through the multiple and often contradictory mandates they induce Congress to support—and a relatively weak Executive Branch is usually in a poor position to stop them.

All of this has led to a crisis of representation. Ordinary people feel that their supposedly democratic government no longer reflects their interests but instead caters to those of a variety of shadowy elites...
i wonder what he/land thinks of abe's nationalism?

I stand with emjaybee in doubting that the parasitic losses caused by stereotypical "incompetent" english teachers or welfare queens can even hold a candle to the economic destruction caused by the financial elites and the crony capitalists sucking on the military-security-state tit.

-In No One We Trust
-Cooperation or Competition?
-Mixed Thinking about Markets
-Democracy, Redistribution and Inequality
-The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted?
-How the DC game has changed: The transition from power or money to power and money

speaking of the confluence of wealth, power and ideology (or plough, sword and book in gellner's conception) and the attempt to wield control over such, i was just thinking about the standard narratives -- like where one comes down on cowboys vs. settlers (or 'great men' vs. circumstance, etc.; never mind _both_?) -- and people like pierre omidyar* who is funding glenn greenwald but also for-profit schools in kenya with the idea that: "The for-profit model forces each school to contain costs, and May says it makes Bridge accountable to its paying customers: the parents." like in regard to amassing vast fortunes and influence to run a philanthropy (like a VC if not a super PAC) where gov't is failing or, in some cases, to help make gov't work better... providing of course that one knows, and for who!

Even D&D promotes the myth of the deserving being the ones with absolute power.

and apparently the bible! (reading about ignatius reilly, boethius & the consolation of philosophy ;)

oh and re: "the risk of people taking black humor seriously," also see stone's _wall street_ or lewis' _liar's poker_ and i guess scorsese's _wolf of wall street_ now (sort of like not being able to make a war or gangster movie that doesn't 'glamorize' its subject matter) as we're living in the age of the spectacle?

---
*another "PayPal rich dude" (along with elon musk) "working on the post-scarcity side of things," cf. andy rubin, viz. schaft :P
posted by kliuless at 9:22 AM on December 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh, another relevant detail about the Culture novels that occurs to me: IIRC it's explained in Consider Phlebas that during the Idiran-Culture War a significant minority of pacifist citizens and Minds chose to simply separate from the Culture rather than accede to the war. So while it's not a Galactic Democracy it's a significantly different thing from the usual autocratic Galactic Empire trope in SF.
posted by XMLicious at 12:23 PM on December 31, 2013


It's simpler to write about autocratic systems of government in fantasy and sci-fi, because then huge things can happen in a world with just the few people who happen to be your characters. Autocratic systems make the personal political. Sibling or romantic rivalry is unlikely to bring down a President (or if it does, won't generally change policy), but could very well start a war or bring about a new dynasty in a monarchy. It's cheap heat.

Inoffensive centrist democracy is boring. This is why Star Trek is bland, and why fascists always have the best uniforms. It's also why these dorks fantasize about Plato's Republic: The Gathering.
posted by spaltavian at 1:03 PM on December 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


Before you pile on to these nerds, remember that democracy is the system whereby someone who believes that Global Warming is a scam cooked up by Al Gore gets the same say on environmental policy (and therefore on your family's future) as a qualified climate scientist.

No, go ahead; pile on these nerds despite the flaws of democracy. Because the alternatives aren't democracy with all of it's flaws or an enlightened philosopher king, it's either of those or a brutal (and possibly incompetent) petrocrat.

Representative democracies have thrived over the last few hundred years not because people are so good, but because people are fuck-ups who will tyrannize their neighbors at the drop of a hat and the diffusion of power(s) in a representative democracy has tended to mitigate and restrain that. The neo-authoritarians would need to demonstrate that they could secure something better than what we currently know as our constitutional rights more effectively than democracy does before escaping the pile-on.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:19 PM on December 31, 2013 [11 favorites]


"Inoffensive centrist democracy is boring. This is why Star Trek is bland, and why fascists always have the best uniforms. It's also why these dorks fantasize about Plato's Republic: The Gathering."

Not sure I'd agree about Star Trek being boring, but I agree with the rest of your post. Democracies are stable, and stable predictability makes it hard to tell cool stories, which is why so much Sci Fi is set on the frontier where law and order breaks down, or in future versions of historical empires.

As for The Culture, they're probably not undemocratic. It's just that the Minds really are the best qualified individuals to run things. No human or group of humans can match the Minds in terms of sheer brainpower, so humans leave important matters to them. To do otherwise is just foolish, from their perspective.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:52 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


We haven't forgotten you, Plutonium. Nor you, McElwaine!

Aurora sounds a lot like Uncle Al, who also fills me with nostalgia for the impenetrable, clipped Markov-speak of the Kibo's .signature era Usenet Entity.
posted by mubba at 4:23 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


	      ___  |\
	   __| . \_| \
	  /              \
	/'               .\---PERTH
	\       .          |
	 \.      _.       /
	  |__---' \_._/
posted by Justinian at 6:07 PM on December 31, 2013


As for The Culture, they're probably not undemocratic. It's just that the Minds really are the best qualified individuals to run things.

The books to allude to big votes on stuff.

...
Politics in the Culture consists of referenda on issues whenever they are raised; generally, anyone may propose a ballot on any issue at any time; all citizens have one vote. Where issues concern some sub-division or part of a total habitat, all those - human and machine - who may reasonably claim to be affected by the outcome of a poll may cast a vote. Opinions are expressed and positions on issues outlined mostly via the information network (freely available, naturally), and it is here that an individual may exercise the most personal influence, given that the decisions reached as a result of those votes are usually implemented and monitored through a Hub or other supervisory machine, with humans acting (usually on a rota basis) more as liaison officers than in any sort of decision-making executive capacity; one of the few rules the Culture adheres to with any exactitude at all is that a person's access to power should be in inverse proportion to their desire for it. The sad fact for the aspiring politico in the Culture is that the levers of power are extremely widely distributed, and very short (see entry on megalomaniacs, above). The intellectual-structural cohesion of a starship of course limits the sort of viable votes possible on such vessels, though as a rule even the most arrogant craft at least pretend to listen when their guests suggest - say - making a detour to watch a supernova, or increasing the area of parkland on-board.
...


-"Notes on the Culture" - Iain M. Banks
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:37 AM on January 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


The Culture is patently anarchist, and the Minds are essentially hyperintelligent babysitter-executives hardcoded for maximum benevolence. I always got the impression that their activities in meatspace occupied less than 1% of their actual thought life, if that - they have their own thing going on, and humanity's well-being is just a sideshow they perform simply because they were built that way.

That said, as far as external power projection goes it's cast as a fairly expansionist/imperialist society bent on spreading self-determination, possibly by force and irony be damned. One could almost imagine the whole society kicking off with a last dying monarch issuing his final order: go forth and minimize suffering for all sentient beings... by any means necessary.
posted by Ryvar at 3:12 AM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


For those interested in the actual "Enlightenment" (a terrible term, but we seem to be stuck with it; in my opinion, "Age of Cosmopolitanism" would be better), I recommend Colin Kidd's LRB review (paywalled, sorry; if you want to read the whole thing, MeMail me) of The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters by Anthony Pagden. (Basic message: Pagden has written a good book—"His emphasis on the classical foundations of the Enlightenment carries conviction"—but is so preoccupied with the importance of atheism that he neglects the fact "that there were two distinct Enlightenments, one radical, which favoured variations on deism, pantheism and atheism, the other moderate and inclined towards a rationalised Christianity.") Here's the paragraph I thought was particularly relevant to this discussion:
The religious Enlightenment is not the only missing ingredient in Pagden’s account. In somewhat Panglossian mode, he seems to assume an exclusive line of transmission between the 18th-century party of light and progressive opinion in this century. But what about the appropriation of the Enlightenment by the new right? Some branches of conservatism posture – plausibly enough – as custodians of Enlightenment principles. Hume and Adam Smith are celebrated as pointing the way for Hayek, Friedman and public-choice theorists. But conservative flirtation with the Enlightenment takes a decidedly odd turn in the US, where the leaders of the American Enlightenment are separated from their historical context as champions of an intellectual avant-garde. Instead, they are known as Founding Fathers and seen as patriarchal repositories of wisdom, men of massive intellectual heft, but not as theologically liberal sophisticates who might frighten the heartland. The Founders’ deism and lukewarm scepticism are written out of the conservative version of America’s origins, along with Thomas Jefferson’s probing criticism of the Platonised mythologies which disfigured the message of Socrates’ true successor as moral teacher, the man Jesus.
And here's the final two paragraphs:
Among the features of the 18th century which distance it from our present concerns, and make Pagden’s argument for the continuing relevance of the Enlightenment so hard to carry off, are these disconcerting questions of tone and register. Robert Darnton, the most arresting historian in this field, has brought to life an Enlightenment that confounds our categories and conventions, one in which, for example, pornographic accounts of ‘lascivious monks, ruttish nuns, impotent bishops … and lesbian abbesses’ occupied a central place in philosophical literature, and a disenchanted elite flocked to experience the baquet, rods and invisible ethereal fluid of Mesmerism in the hope of a renewed vitality. This was a world where chemistry was yet to be emancipated from the theory of phlogiston, the notion that a fire-like element existed in substances and was released on combustion. Oxygen, whose discovery led ultimately to the unravelling of the phlogiston theory, was hailed at first as dephlogisticated air.

Only a portion of the Enlightenment can be salvaged for use in the present. The rest falls – necessarily – from Pagden’s view. But the Enlightenment has more to offer the present than a much needed ethic for global citizenship. Humans have other wants, less elevated, but just as vital; and our own times lack the rococo charm and whimsy of Uncle Toby and Dr Slop, or Voltaire’s tribe of Amerindian cannibals who – with fastidious quaintness – ate only Jesuits.
Come for the Enlightenment, stay for the ruttish nuns and lesbian abbesses!
posted by languagehat at 8:26 AM on January 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


Dumb question probably but this:

pornographic accounts of ‘lascivious monks, ruttish nuns, impotent bishops … and lesbian abbesses’ occupied a central place in philosophical literature

is not enlightening to me. I'm guessing Rabelais or de Sade, but they are not in my edition of the Penguin Portable Enlightenment Reader. Are there well-known passages about this in Adam Smith or David Hume or Voltaire?
posted by bukvich at 9:10 AM on January 1, 2014


I suspect that part of the misbehaving monks/nuns thing is the critique of (mainly Catholic) religious orders by skeptical philosophers. In a lot of early English Gothic novels, monks are typical bad guys - because the writers knew that their audience were primed to suspect the worst of such "superstitious" figures.

As far as Pratchett is concerned - I think Vetinari is more a fantasy of omni-competence, sort of what every teenage nerd with a political or lawyerly streak wishes he could be, than a "reactionary" fantasy that seriously proposes society would be better with an enlightened ruler. I could be wrong, but I always thought that one of the main points Pratchett was making with Carrot and the Guards books was that although some people really do have the kind of charisma that makes them natural leaders, we still shouldn't be tempted to put one person in charge. Vetinari is a lot of fun, but I don't think he is a serious proposal for a political system.

As for resurrecting the Enlightenment - no philosophical and cultural movement from the past can ever be resurrected wholesale. And yet, people are always trying. The Victorians attempted to learn from Rome and Greece; religious Americans constantly seem to come out with oddball interpretations of Jesus and early Christianity that apply its methods to modern problems; the new Atheists seem to want some inspiration or sanction from the precedent set by the Enlightenment; and most artists since Wordsworth and Shelley have worked in an essentially Romantic paradigm (even - no, especially - the modernists - who substituted machines for big rocks and trees, but did not get away from individual genius).

I suspect this is because all these past movements retain a core of truth or interest, some animating spark that can inspire something new in the present. You can't bring back the whole complex context in which they arose, but there is no reason not to take their more positive qualities forward, I would suggest.
posted by lucien_reeve at 12:02 PM on January 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm also a little disappointed that nobody seems to have engaged with the point I made, that perhaps the dark enlightenment is thriving because there are no other alternative new philosophies in conservatism. I know that Metafilter is not generally a conservative space, but I also know that quite a few people either know something about the right or are from there.

Let us leave aside the tempting belief that conservative intellectuals, although they pride themselves on their independent intelligence, are really little more than messengers passing on the latest talking points to emerge from the think-tank-complex. That would be a pleasing paradox - and indeed those quickest to decry the "herd of independent minds" do seem to have created a much more robust, socialised industry for producing knowledge than their colleagues on the left side of the aisle. But even if were true, it isn't much fun.

In the spirit of a DM in Dungeons and Dragons constructing variations on existing monsters to scare the pants off his players, how about the following new species of conservatism, which I made up out of my own head?:

- eco-conservatives - the point of conservatism is to conserve. That means not rampantly destroying the natural world, and not ditching older ways of life just because some flashy management consultant waves a spreadsheet around and smiles a lot. This species of conservatism grounds itself in Chesterton and Tolkein, and tries to avoid wrecking the countryside, which it supports over the city (and the financial sector). In England, I believe this is sometimes known as "crunchy" conservatism. It can be Christian (like those two writers) or more pagan - something like Druidry.

- knight errant conservatives - the aristocrat of the spirit, following an older moral code. Every culture in the world has an ideal of "wisdom" - and an ideal "gentleman" or "lady" - and those ideals are often fairly similar. Perhaps you could start with CS Lewis's comments on the Tao in The Abolition of Man. Also, principles are so much stronger and deeper than trivial fundamentalism - taking just that one rule about the gays out of the old law that Christ supposedly replaced is really silly, when you think about it - it's so trivial, so human in its specificity, as if a single piece of ritual magic could command the creator of the universe. Instead, redeem the fallen world by living like a gentleman. Maybe fusty is good?

- technocrat conservatives - ditch the libertarian rubbish, that jig is up - it never produced growth and only served the interests of a small number of plunderers - and anyway, selfish individualism with no thought for duty is just so... liberal. Instead, let's have a breed of conservatives for whom economic growth - genuine economic success - is paramount. They could learn from anyone - Clinton, Keynes - in order to peel off more right-wing liberals and create a new movement whose motto is - "whatever works!"

- arete* - classical glory seekers - in ancient societies like Greece, Rome and the old North, the paramount thing for a man was not wealth but a great and deathless name. Why not have a political movement that rejects money in favour of honour - and accords the highest degree of honour to excellence of any kind - physical/sporting, artistic, mathematical/scientific, generosity/kindness etc. - any kind of greatness (though not money - anyone can get money by accident, that is no occasion for pride). We are not all created equal - perhaps those of us who are truly superior should pursue something priceless - a legend, a reputation for excellence?

The problem with all these, of course, is that they are not "a superior justification for selfishness". They do not flatter the rich and powerful. They do not say to the psychopath "it is right for you to trample on others". They do not help crooks to hide.

Shame. They would all be authentic, interesting political movements with at least some moral and intellectual legitimacy - and each is utterly anti-democratic and far more "conservative" than anything nowadays that bears the name (including this dark enlightenment silliness).

* A peculiar ancient Greek word that means "excellence" of any kind. It does some interesting intellectual work in e.g. Plato's Republic.
posted by lucien_reeve at 12:26 PM on January 1, 2014 [16 favorites]


technocrat conservatives

We already have these: they've successfully co-opted the Democratic party and now sit in the White House.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:49 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm also a little disappointed that nobody seems to have engaged with the point I made, that perhaps the dark enlightenment is thriving because there are no other alternative new philosophies in conservatism.

I think that conservatism is generally a psychology, meaning that it can be explained by interpreting why someone would go against their interests or go out of their way to force issues on others. The first stop in that toolkit is cognitive dissonance, where someone is going around pushing an economic program that worked for someone else, but already failed them (such as getting rich); in this case their effort falls under lucky charm, not politics. Another angle is best framed as Freudian, where some people support absolute libertarian causes believing it leads to more freedom for themselves (though they have it already) because they are repressed. Finally, there is the nagging suspicion that conservatism suffers from a persistent mode of thinking, black and white thinking, lazy thinking, and attracts least intelligence to a simplified and structured worldview (all separate studies). The bottom line is that in any given political scenario, the conservative is least practical and most stubborn.
posted by Brian B. at 2:42 PM on January 1, 2014


Damn, lucien_reeve. If those were ongoing schools of conservative thought, it would be a much better world!
posted by Kevin Street at 2:43 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think conservatives such as Lucien describes could exist, many probably already do. Unfortunately, the use of reason itself has been declared liberal and evil, leaving tribal warfare the only allowable road for the American Republican party.

It doesn't seem at all sustainable, but it is hard to see an easy way for American Republicans to move to better things.

(I strongly oppose a chivalrous, gender-differences conservatism, because obsession with gender roles is a huge part if what currently cripples their politics. I think they are going to have to give that up entirely to have any claim to rational thought, because it is inherently irrational).
posted by emjaybee at 3:50 PM on January 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


inoffensive centrist democracy

This made me wonder for the first time in ages how my NationStates country was getting on.
posted by salix at 9:56 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


You have an actual not-a-nerd-fantasy fascist political ideology waiting in the wings in the formof the neocons, who didn't magically disappear in 2008, I'd worry more about them than these losers TBH.
posted by Artw at 10:19 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


neocons, who didn't magically disappear in 2008, I'd worry more about them than these losers TBH.

Let me answer this quote with another quote:

We already have these: they've successfully co-opted the Democratic party and now sit in the White House.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:57 AM on January 2, 2014


salix: inoffensive centrist democracy

This made me wonder for the first time in ages how my NationStates country was getting on.


Ha! It didn't occur to me when I wrote that, but I'm pretty sure that's where I got that turn of phrase.

Apocryphon: neocons, who didn't magically disappear in 2008, I'd worry more about them than these losers TBH.

Let me answer this quote with another quote:

We already have these: they've successfully co-opted the Democratic party and now sit in the White House.


Have to disagree with that. The foreign policy ascendent in the Democratic party is a self-interested realpolitik, closer to the Big Stick than anything in the Neo-Conservative mold. The Neo-Cons believe in a transformative mission for American military; not simply hard-nosed self-interest. They don't share the view that military action should be used when other methods fail; they think military action is a goal in of itself as they think it secures America as the "indispensable nation".
posted by spaltavian at 5:18 AM on January 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


yea, you don't have to (re)invent (neo)conservatism -- altho i think it's a useful exercise and something conservatives themselves are thinking about at least in terms of a tactical 'pivot' if not long-term strategy -- or look too far afield, but i'd look a bit farther too to, for e.g.

-shinzo abe (if not xi jinping [1,2,3])
-enrique peña nieto [1,2,3]
-angela merkel

(leaving out fellow anglos cameron, harper & abbott ;)

like for any (reactionary) conservative you could start with a focus emphasis on the family, for some value of 'family', and skepticism of gov't (if not a retreat from actively making it worse...) and then if you want to tack on something about market functionality and/or 'national greatness' (gov't functionality?) be my guest :P

so you have the pope (ascending), along with 'conservative intellectuals' like andrew sullivan, tyler cowen, walter russell mead, francis fukuyama and paul romer (speaking of NationStates; cf. devolution, the new robocop movie, covert operations and exodus, viz. keeping in mind the US!)

also btw on the founding fathers and oxygen, steven johnson's biography of joseph priestly -- the invention of air -- i thought was pretty great; (de-)enlightenment types might also want to consider oren harman' biography of george price -- the price of altruism!
posted by kliuless at 8:11 AM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Since I read this post I've been noticing more anti-democratic sentiment in web comments. See EdwardLeane here.

Yes, I am aware that I am linking to an article about confirmation bias in order to document a phenomenon that I am noticing due to confirmation bias.
posted by brundlefly at 10:11 AM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


One has to wonder whether the "philosopher" in question is actually John Norman, since it seems to be the Enlightenment... of GOR!
posted by ignatzmous at 11:45 AM on January 2, 2014 [2 favorites]




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