No 6: Thoughts on Entryism and the Ego of Neoreaction
June 19, 2014
“It was further agreed that during this tour and in the future, if they should stay together, there should be a sociable form of working together, in the spirit of which they had begun. They only thought that since this was a matter of good mood and free choice, there should not in fact be any intervention on the part of a manager. It was taken as settled that among good people the republican constitutional form was the best; it was maintained that the office of manager should go round; he should be elected by everybody and a kind of small senate should be attached to him at all times. They were so enamoured of this thought that they wanted to put it into effect immediately…
“It is a mobile kingdom,” Laertes said, “at least we shan’t have any frontier disputes.”
They got down to business at once and elected Wilhelm to be the first manager. The senate was set up, the women were given seats and votes, laws were proposed, there were rejections, there were acceptances. Time passed unnoticed in the course of this game, and because they were spending the time pleasantly, they believed also that they had been doing something really useful and that had opened up a new prospect for the nation’s theatre.”
— Goethe’s Meister, Book Four, Chapter Two.
Recently controversy erupted across the Reactionary Twitter-verse, an epoch making schism surely to be remembered by historians centuries from under the designation of “#trannygate”. The increasingly unhinged Michael Anissimov over at More Right has so far posted not one but two screeds against the Anarcho Papist, Bryce Laliberte. Laliberte has been charged with a serious transgression, that of consorting with a Tranny, the slightly silly Justine Tunney, who, as far as I’m able to tell, does not herself (sorry Michael) actively identify as a Neoreactionary, or even just a regular Reactionary for that matter, but rather presents herself (again, apologies to Anissimov) as a veritable Irish stew of vague, Anarcho-Populist ideologies.
As Anissimov outlines in his second essay on #trannygate, “Reactionary thought is socially conservative,” and, as “Neoreaction is the modern rediscovery of Reaction,”(“de Maistre, Evola, and all the Reactionaries inbetween”), “neoreactionary thought is [consequently] socially conservative.”
The result of this is simple, talking to a Tranny, rather than angrily ostracizing, or completely severing any and all further contact with her at least is verboten, as decreed by the CEO of Neoreaction, Michael Anissimov. This is social conservatism. If you do not do as Anissimov has instructed, you cease to be socially conservative, and consequently, reactionary as well. Having lost the ‘Reaction’ part at this point due to your own pitiable negligence, you find yourself (or in this case, Bryce Laliberte finds himself) left only with the ‘Neo,’ and what good is that really? A ‘Neo,’ is nothing but a libertarian in Reactionary clothing. The ‘Neo,’ is junk peddler in the vibrant, ideologically pure community of Neoreaction, who, according to Anissimov, is out to get good little Neoreactionaries hooked on Progressive smack as a means of undermining the whole project. ‘Neo,’ ‘New,’ ‘Modern,’ this is simple stuff guys.
For my part I can’t say I identify as a Neoreactionary per se, or even really as a Reactionary, because here, Anissimov and his cohort, advance what seems to me an inarticulate, ahistorical and philosophically illiterate conception of “Reaction,” one which I, in good conscience, cannot bring myself to associate or identify with. If the Neoreactionaries read Nietzsche, Evola, Guénon, maybe a little Marx, a smattering of continental ‘philosophy’ etc. I guess that makes my interest in Kant, Goethe, Schiller, Hamann, and Herder a little out of place and a little Post-Reactionary if you will.
Now, before proceeding, I would like to clarify one point, re Justine Tunney: I myself unequivocally reject the epistemological claim made by all transgendered and gender “non-conforming” individuals ie their alleged knowledge of their internal, or spiritual gender “identity.” I’ve articulated my thoughts on the matter from several perspectives, here, here and here. For me, it is a matter of neither prejudice nor ideological conservatism, my rejection is on purely scientific grounds and is derived from Kant’s “Critique of Teleological Judgement.” As a result, interaction with Transgendered individuals, from my perspective, is not particularly problematic, no more so than problematic than interaction with delusive aspiring intellectual would be. No offense to my high-iq friends in Neoreaction.
Where were we? Ah, yes, Anissimov, Social Conservatism, “de Maistre, Evola, and all the Reactionaries inbetween,” and #trannygate. I don’t know if I would count on posterity placing as much significance on this recent spat as it has on lets say the Pantheism Controversy, but let’s not get too down on ourselves, things are still unfolding, perhaps the real fireworks are yet to come.
If you recall, from before, “Neoreaction is the modern rediscovery of Reaction,” according to Anissimov, and Reaction is … well, something, some sort of Social Conservatism derived from de Maistre and Evola that necessitates not tweeting @JustineTunney:
— Michael Anissimov (@MikeAnissimov) May 28, 2014
Anissimov stresses one point again and again, Reaction is the opposite of Progressivism. Reaction is about “order, stability, and security,” and Progressivism, as the antithesis of Reaction, is therefore about “war, anarchy, and crime.” “A progressive is the opposite of a reactionary. Progressives argue for things like normalizing transsexualism. Reactionaries are the opposite of that.” (There’s a feeling of circular reasoning at work here, if you haven’t noticed.) It’s unclear whether or not my own intellectual repudiation of the idea of Transgenderism would qualify me in Anissimov’s eyes to call myself not just a ‘Neo,’ but a ‘Neoreactionary’ at that. Have I earned the honor of the appellation ‘Reaction’? Something tells me no.
This essay, by the Anti-Anissimov, Bryce Laliberte himself, is, at once, typical of the somewhat embarrassing intellectual pretensions of Reaction at large, while at the same time serving to provide some insight into this strange turn Anissimov has taken with his recent #trannygate preoccupation. Neoreaction is hipster, like pitchfork media of old.
“Compare this clothing fashion division of wealth to a belief paradigm fashion division of intelligence. There are the idiots (80-110), the stupids (111-125), the smarts (126-145), and the geniuses (146+),” Laliberte muses, pontificating in his oh so profound way, in the tradition of the great masters from whom he received his instruction in bullshitting, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Deleuze, and lest we forget, the great old fat one himself, Slavoj Žižek.
If sites like reddit are for the average, or as Laliberte condescends to call them, ‘the stupids,’ and communities like Less Wrong are for the smart, then Neoreaction it would seem, is to be envisioned as a gathering of geniuses, a summit of the minds unlike any other in Modern Western history. It is a trend all too common for Neoreactionaries to echo Laliberte’s sentiment with boasts of their own high-level, or even genius-grade IQs:
The typical profile of #NRx is:99th percentile IQ,Master’s degree or higher, introverted, perhaps mildly sociopathic. Cultured, broadly read
— Anti Democracy Blog (@antidemblog) May 11, 2014
This is all a little presumptuous if you ask me, it just reeks of the worst kind of MENSA-ism, a club for the born gifted, “Who are these [Left-libertarian hyper-individualists]?” Anissimov asks with a certain urgency of existential anxiety, “Why not point them out? Just about all of them are anonymous–they never have skin the game like those real neoreactionaries who do reveal their names, or at least part of their names.” To write pseudonymously online is, to Anissimov, an invitation of suspicion, and both he and Laliberte have in common a somewhat suspicious tendency of their own to broadcast their identities, plaster images of themselves all over Reaction, and to clearly enjoy (probably a little too much) the small modicum of niche-celebrity their Reactionary postings have brought them.
Here are just some of the many selfies Laliberte has uploaded of himself. The sense of vanity motivating them is immediately apparent. The cigarettes for example, combined with habitual references to enjoying a fine glass of scotch in the evening over this or that book, suggest an eagerness to be perceived in a specific way, according to Laliberte’s own romanticiszation of the Bohemian intellectual-philosopher type. The fact that he relies so heavily on the assertion of a manufactured appearance to project this image of himself should tip us off to the underlying insecurity behind his vanity. I smoke too Bryce, but you seem particularly keen to advertise your nicotine habit, a little too keen maybe.
Laliberte, who I’m perhaps being overly hard on here (no offense Bryce) simply reminds me of the Sociology hipsters from my college days, and that’s not a group I hold in very high regard I’m sorry to say.
To return to Anissimov though: “To reiterate simply: we have to draw the line somewhere. Neoreaction is trendy and fun, and it is attracting left-libertarians who are slowly undermining the identity of the group. If we do not draw the line, it will become lost in a flood of fun-seeking left-libertarians without any socially conservative principles, and will become indistinguishable from garden variety left-libertarianism or standard liberal libertarianism.”
Is Anissimov here really so concerned with truth? With intellectual standards? With ideological purity? Or is he simply being territorial, in classic hipster fashion, “I was Neoreactionary before any of you! I started the whole Neoreactionary trend, you’re welcome.” That wasn’t authentic Anissimov, you’re right, but this is:
“In the old days (2009-2012) neoreaction was obscure. By the time people were talking about it on Twitter, most of them had marinated in Moldbug and other reactionary authors for a good period of time, perhaps a year, and had already become considerably socially conservative (especially about government) and worthy of the label “neoreactionary”. Today, however, any liberal can walk in off the street, see a fun group of intelligent people engaging in witty banter, give themselves the label, and then argue that “neoreaction” should be more liberal. It is clear that this is a process prone to cause degeneration, chaos, and many other forms of insidiousness.”
Anissimov seems very concerned as of late to keep Neoreaction hipster. Considering that Reaction is a movement that so prides itself on its intellectual courage and love of the sorts of hard truths the unwashed masses simply aren’t able to handle, considering that Reaction is about asking tough questions and rejecting easy answers, isn’t it perhaps fair to ask a tough question here of Anissimov, Laliberte and Neoreaction in general? Are high IQ scores actually enough?
“The unhappiness of his generation speaks urgently to the sensitive man, its degradation still more urgently; enthusiasm is kindled, and glowing desire strives impatiently for action in vigorous souls. But has he also asked himself whether these disorders in the moral world offend his reason, or whether they do not rather grieve his self-love? If he does not yet know the answer, he will discover it in the eagerness with which he presses for definite and rapid results.” – Schiller
So I ask what may very well be a very unpopular question: to what extent is the concern over “entryism” motivated solely by egoism? I don’t mean to disparage Neoreaction certainly, so I must apologize for what probably seems like my very harsh tone in this article, I genuinely see Neoreaction as a positive tendency, a tendency that shouldn’t simply halt all further development in favor of seeing itself as a rock band:
— Anti Democracy Blog (@antidemblog) June 19, 2014
To be fair, if Neoreaction were a band, it certainly wouldn’t be one so successful and influential as Led Zeppelin. Reaction strikes me as more of Buckinghams, or Easybeats sort of act, a one hit wonder (Moldbug) that maybe produced at most a salvageable second single (TBD).
In any event, the question remains, to what extent is Reaction here to be dominated by ego? Is Reaction to be a serious intellectual movement, a tendency of discourse? Or is to be an intellectual fashion? My girlfriend’s mother saw the recent Baffler article and knows that I associate online with some of the personalities mentioned, I was hard pressed to defend my involvement with Neoreaction however, not out of fear of being perceived as conservative, or some kind of regressive racist, those are political beliefs I’ll gladly own, no, my chief concern was being lumped in and brought down by associating with the lower level of discourse which seems to predominate currently within Reaction.
There has been concern within Reaction over Reaction degenerating into something resembling a fandom of itself, on the one hand the movement towards meta-awareness seems promising, on the other, there seems to be a palpable fear over potential ideological stagnation. Neoreaction can only ever be a container of the tendency, never the tendency itself, as long there remains room in Neoreaction for this tendency to give full expression to itself, it and Neoreaction will appear to be one in the same, as soon as there is an imposition of constraining order on the form of discourse however, the tendency will outgrow Neoreaction and shed the label, which in turn, will strip the label of all power and embarrass those seeking to profit through their control of it.
Neoreaction should be weary to follow the example of the theatre company in Wilhelm Meister, as we all remember how things turned out for Wilhelm in that example…
“I’ve been punished enough!” Wilhelm exclaimed. “Don’t remind me where I have come from and where I am going to. There’s a lot of talk about the theatre, but no one who has not himself worked there can have any notion about it. How completely these people are ignorant of themselves, how they get on with the business without thinking about what they are doing, and the unbounded nature of their demands, these are matters which other people can have no idea of. Not only does each wish to be the first, but he also wants to be the only one, each one would like to exclude all the rest and does not see that he scarcely accomplishes anything working with them together; each imagines himself to be wonderfully original and is incapable of finding anything in himself apart from routine; but at the same time there is constant restlessness in search of something new. How passionately they conflict with one another! And only the pettiest self-love and most limited selfishness have the effect of binding them together. There is no talk at all of mutually considerate behaviour; a never-ending mistrust is kept going by secret malice and shameful talk; if you don’t live in a loose way, you are just silly. Each lays claim to the most unqualified respect, each is sensitive to the slightest reproof. He already knew better about all that! And why then did he always do the opposite? Always needy and always untrusting, it seems as if they would be afraid of nothing so much as reason and good taste and would try to preserve nothing so much as the sovereign prerogative of their personal caprice.”
Wilhelm drew breath in order to continue further with his litany, when an immoderate outburst of laughter from Jarno interrupted him. “The poor actors!” he exclaimed, flung himself into a chair and went on laughing. “The poor, good actors! Do you realize my friend,” he continued after he had recovered himself to some extent, “that what you have described is not the theatre, but the world of society, and that I could find you enough characters and actions from all social classes to justify your hard brush strokes? Excuse me, I shall have to laugh again, to think that you believed that these fine qualities were only to be found among actors.”
Wilhelm took hold of himself, for Jarno’s immoderate and untimely laughter had really annoyed him. “You cannot completely conceal your misanthropy, if you maintain that these faults are general.”
“And it bears witness to your unfamiliarity with the world that you ascribe to the theatre so much responsibility for these manifestations. In truth, I can pardon the actor for every fault that derives from self-deception and the desire to please; for unless he appears as something to himself and others, he is nothing. Appearances are his vocation, he must value highly the applause of the moment, for he receives no other reward; he must attempt to be outstanding, for that is why he is there.”
“You will allow me, from my perspective at least to smile,” Wilhelm rejoined. “I should never have believed that you could be so fair and indulgent.”
“No, by God! This is my fully considered, serious view: I forgive the actor all HUMAN failings, I forgive MAN for none of the actor’s failings. Don’t let me start my lamentations on this theme, for they would likely sound more violent than your own.”