Tips on being a good reactionary–cross-post

Perhaps some of you are new reactionaries?  Like anything worth doing, Reaction is worth doing well.  But where can you get guidance?  Chances are, none of your friends or family would want anything to do with your “extremist” beliefs.  Well, I’m no expert, but I’ve been at this for a while, and I have some tips for you.


1) How to not be a sellout

Conservatives are all obsessed with “sellouts”.  These are people who used to be conservatives but switched sides, thereby acquiring an enormous boost in social prestige.  Now they make their livings attacking us with spectacularly ignorant and simplistic accusations which they say should be taken seriously because of their insider expertise.  You know, dirtbags like Frank Schaeffer, who’s making a career out of shitting on his father’s memory.   Or Christopher Buckley, who’s doing basically the same thing, but whose filial impiety is a bit less egregious.  Or Damon Linker, who found a perfect career path in getting a start with First Things and then stabbing Father Neuhaus in the back to become a lackey for the establishment.  We conservatives hate sellouts, and we are prone to imputing low motives–cowardice, a desire for status or money–to their defection.  Liberals listening in would think us oddly fixated on what goes on at “cocktail parties” and “faculty lounges”.

So, how do you avoid selling out?  Of course, only the God Who sees the hearts of men knows what caused the above cases, but I can tell you what I think is a common path.  You don’t do it by avoiding all contact with liberal arguments for fear of being converted.  Don’t worry–there’s no danger of that happening.  Not following liberal ideas just makes you an ineffectual reactionary.  No, what usually leads people to sell out, assuming they were ever true reactionaries to begin with, is the attitude you take to your fellow conservatives.

At some point, you will be surrounded by intelligent liberals whose esteem you crave, and they will start talking about some idiotic thing a television personality on Fox News said.  You may think to yourself, “These people say they hate conservatives, but maybe it’s just that they’ve only been exposed to Fox ignoramuses.  They don’t really hate me.  I’m not like that.  If I could just show them that there are thoughtful, articulate reactionaries like me…”  Don’t kid yourself.  The liberals really do hate you.  They may hate Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, but they hate you–a principled patriarchist and monarchist–far, far more.  They have no respect for what you consider to be your sophistication.  Being able to invoke Aquinas and Hegel won’t impress them.  To a liberal, you are as ignorant as Beck and the rest.

(Liberals, if you haven’t noticed, use the word “ignorance” in a funny way.  Ignorance means disagreeing with liberalism, regardless of how knowledgeable one is.  So, for example, if a person believes that women should stay home with their young children, that means he is “ignorant”, although the one making this accusation doesn’t have to point to any particular fact that the person with the objectionable opinion doesn’t know.  Glenn Beck may be “ignorant”, but Pope Benedict is super-ignorant, etc.)

Anyway, the moment you start separating yourself from other non-liberals in the hope of winning the esteem of liberals is the moment you start on the road to selloutdom.  Sometimes the people liberals hate really are boorish morons.  Certainly you shouldn’t defend every idiot who calls himself a conservative; they’re mostly classical liberals and libertarians anyway.  Just don’t ever let yourself think that it’s just “those people” that the liberals hate, and that you could get a hearing from them if you could prove how different you are.  No, what the liberals hate is you and what you cherish.  Don’t ever forget that.

2) Humility

You are a convert to Reaction; we all are.  Let this experience be a source of humility for you, rather than pride.  Until the day before yesterday, you were spouting nonsense thinking it was self-evident truth.  The modern world has gotten into you deeply, as it has gotten into us all.  Your theoretical rejection of liberalism is the beginning of an intellectual journey, not its termination.  Most likely you, and for that matter I, still have many opinions that are shaped by pernicious liberal prejudices.  In fact, all of your opinions about the world that you haven’t rigorously examined are probably of this sort.  That doesn’t mean they’re wrong.  Liberals believe that the sun rises in the East, and it just so happens that it does.  On the other hand, you now know that the media and schools are committed to a false view of the world, and these have been your only source of information outside your immediate experience.

Suddenly, you realize that you don’t know nearly as much as you thought you did.  For example, is the Taliban really evil?  A week ago, you might have thought to yourself “Well, everybody knows that the Taliban is evil.  If both sides are forced to condemn something, than it must be bad in a pretty unambiguous way.  In this case, MSNBC and Fox both agree on the verdict, so it must be true.”  Now you know not to think of the different factions of liberals as “both sides”.

Well, but what about the accusations?  The Taliban are religious fundamentalists.  They’re intolerant.  They hate women and want to keep them in the home.  They’re against education.  Wait a minute!  Those are the exact same things they say about us!  Imagine for a second that you were a middle class Afghan reading his morning newspaper about this horrible faction of Americans called “the Orthosphere”.  They hate women!  They hate learning and freedom!  “What an awful group of people,” you would think to yourself.  So, if the Taliban were exactly like us–the good guys, I hope you’ll agree–we would be hearing exactly the same sorts of accusations from the liberal media that we actually hear.

So, does that mean that the Taliban is good?  Should we send an ambassador to work out an alliance?  No, they might be every bit as rotten as the media says they are.  Unless you have been to Afghanistan or have serious scholarly knowledge about that country, you have no idea.  When the newspapers report isolated facts:  such-and-such number of Afghani civilians were killed in such-and-such a way, this is usually true.  It’s the metanarratives that the media use to situate these facts that we know is untrustworthy, is in fact malignant.  So, if the newspapers report a Taliban atrocity (funny that I can’t remember much of that), we can chalk it up against them.  On the other hand, we should keep scanning the papers to see if our Afghan allies are doing things just as bad.  If the papers regard one sides atrocities as regrettable lapses and another’s as an indication of intrinsic wickedness, we are to discard this interpretation unless it matches our own.

Liberalism has infused a number of bigotries regarding various cultures and various historical epochs.  You must now test them all.  Reject Whiggery.  The fact that side A ended up winning out over side B is no guarantee that side A was right.  Is civilization always better than tribalism?  Should we prefer Athens or Sparta?  Who was right–the barons or King John?  Was replacing feudalism with capitalism a good thing?  Did the American colonists have just reason to rebel?  Did the Confederates?  Was the Risorgimento laudable progress or inexcusable Piedmontese aggression?  You no longer know.  You must reevaluate each case on the basis of your new principles.

Your conversion to Reaction is imperfect, as is mine.  We have turned our intellects against liberalism, but it will take a lifetime to acquire the sensibility of a man informed by tradition.  Therefore, your ancestors, who didn’t suffer from this mental handicap, should receive a benefit of doubt.  If you agree with your generation on some matter against all past generations, suspect–suspect strongly–that you are wrong.  If you think that the belief of all prior generations across many cultures is silly or crazy, you can be certain that you have misunderstood it.

3) What you need to learn about liberals

You must understand liberalism, but you needn’t subject yourself to all their vulgar editorials, television harangues, blog posts, and  protest signs.  There, you won’t find your views challenged, just insulted.  You should rather seek out academic presentations of the liberal position and read the classics of the liberal tradition (Locke, Mill, etc.).  In addition to giving you the highest and most coherent presentation of liberalism, these works are markedly less polemical and insulting than what you’ll find at the lower levels.  You don’t have to put up with your enemies speculating about your mental illness or sexual frustration.

4) A proper pessimism

If you think there is a silent majority of conservative Americans or orthodox Christians, you are setting yourself up for a painful disillusionment.  Let me give it to you now:  the atheist Left has won the allegiance of the vast, the overwhelming, majority of people in the Western world.  The group that rejects liberalism in any principled way is probably less than one percent.  Not only is there no silent majority, I doubt there is even a “hard core” of appreciable size that isn’t crumbling before the liberal onslaught.  We are headed to battle, but not to victory.  We will not be remembered with gratitude and respect by future generations.  There will be no statues to honor conservative heroes.  We will be cursed by our grandchildren–the fate of all vanquished.

We must fight, although victory is humanly impossible.  At best, we will preserve our integrity.  At best, God will through our faithfulness save our children and a few strangers.  Even if not, truth and duty need not offer us any motive but themselves.

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