Our funny neoreactionary friends

An exchange between Zippy and me:


I actually felt embarrassed for the neoreactionaries reading that post at newinternationaloutlook.com. Some of the better-known neoreactionaries have identified their movement with “neo-cameralism” by which they mean reconceiving government along the model of a business corporation as you describe. That is, the problem with liberalism in their view is that it hasn’t taken the desacralization of sovereignty far enough, a position that hardly makes an old-school reactionary like me want to sign up for their movement.

As for Moldbug himself, I’ve read a lot of his verbiage. All your complaints about his writing style are true (and deliberately so, since he and his followers see themselves as passing on esoteric knowledge which they would not want to debase with excessive clarity), but I often enjoy it nonetheless. I am perplexed that such a large group of bloggers regard him as their main inspiration and theoretical guide. I just don’t see it as being profound or revolutionary on that level.

Part of it, I suppose, is a difference in what I think the major questions are. The Orthosphere focuses on ethics and political philosophy. Neo-reaction does this only incidentally. Its main focus is sociology: identifying elites and how they gain and maintain power. Hence, I once said that Moldbug reminds me of Pareto.

From time to time, the neoreactionaries start arguing about the essence of their movement, and I watch from the sidelines. I am a taxonomer of the Right, remember, so I have an academic interest in these things. They’re in the middle of another bout of introspection now, by the way. They very much like to talk about themselves. These discussions never come to a satisfactory conclusion, because they have nothing to compare themselves to except Leftism and libertarianism. They don’t realize that other schools of the Right have theoretical cores worth engaging, so they have no way of saying how they differ from us. When they try, it’s just to boast that they have an intellectual system while we unsophisticated normal reactionaries presumably don’t (not that they’ll ever bother to check).


That is, the problem with liberalism in their view is that it hasn’t taken the desacralization of sovereignty far enough, a position that hardly makes an old-school reactionary like me want to sign up for their movement.

That tracks the mirror-of-Marxism idea too, when you think about it. The problem isn’t modernity, it is that we just haven’t tried the best things about modernity quite hard enough yet.

As for Moldbug himself … but I often enjoy it nonetheless.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s got some really funny zingers. I’ve just never actually made it through an entire post. And building an ‘intellectual movement’ around him seems like building an ‘intellectual movement’ around a comedian. The image I can’t escape comes from the ridiculous movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, where a future society is based entirely around the lyrics and music of a rock band started by a couple of stoners.

Unlike great rock star comedians like Brian Regan or John Pinette or Jerry Seinfeld, Moldbug just doesn’t know when to take a bow and exit. He just goes on, and on, and on, and ZZZZZZzzzzzz.


10 Responses

  1. What do you expect? As you pointed out in your last post, IQs are dropping, while the volume of written content is increasing. Guess what that does for quality. If someone like Moses or Jesus posted, he would just be ignored. I have pretty much given up writing. Modern man is too stupid to understand anything. I just read old books now.

  2. I admire Moldbug just as much as your other “funny neoreactionary friends”, but I think his use as a cornerstone of an intellectual movement is more by accident than by uncommon genius. Remember, Moldbug cites his main influences (other than Carlyle) as the arch libertarians Mises and Rothbard. Remember also that he is an atheist half-Jew Brown alumni computer programer living in San Francisco. Why did a libertarian from this background become the type that would converse nuanced points on the internet with Throne-and-altar TradCatholics? Because libertarianism qua libertarianism failed as a political movement. If RINOs like Romney and McCain can’t win, what hope is their for Rand Paul (who might be a RINO himself by the time his term is over)?

    “Neoreaction” is what happens when a bunch of these despairing libertarians come to very similar conclusions do to circumstances in the political climate. Did Moldbug create neoreaction from his genius, or was he simply there to receive it? Was anyone else, whether is mainstream or dissident right speaking to this group when Moldbug came around? Moreover, must of his major points are found in bits and pieces in non-blog related mediums (James Burnham, Pareto, Mosca, Michels, Hoppe).

    As for the writing style, I have a soft spot for pompous and unnecessary complexity. Thomas Pynchon is one of my favorite writers. I’ll readily admit that this is probably just bad taste.

  3. I remember thinking that,, to the extent that anybody was reading moldbug at all, it was going to turn into a historical discussion group based around finding old books, not political philosophy books, just interesting old books. Other than foseti, I’m not sure anybody else actually became interested in doing history (and he is seemingly only interested in cold war espionage and the civil war). Do any of these neoreactionaries even mention old books anymore? Seems to me that was one of moldbug’s big themes. As far as I can tell, most of the reason for moldbug’s status as guru is that most of these kids seem willing to take his historiography of western civilization as read. It turns out it’s a pretty shallow historiography, though its often true as far as it goes. I can still remember a time when I did not know that the Rockefeller family had been influential throughout the 20th century. Not exactly hidden, but none of my high school or college teacher happened to mention it. So thanks moldbug. He actually used to recommend some good books occasionally. I discovered E. Michael Jones via moldbug, iirc.

    At one point I assumed that this new found love of the past would lead a lot of other people to discovering the ‘discarded image’ and a long-developing Catholic conversion. It turns out this was just me.

    Then a bunch of dorks started this big self-referential (is there a more polite term that connotes the same thing as ‘circle jerk’?)..Now it all seems so childish, shallow, self-important but completely impotent. I don’t want to name names or really to say anything negative about anyone, but these guys wold have been better served to have started a men’s book club or something. I think some people are going to be embarrassed 10 years from now.

  4. Hello Bonald, first time commenter here. I apologize in advance for being so terse, I am on a tablet (laptop is down unfortunately). I hope that I will be comprehensive enough.

    The Dark enlightenment isn’t nearly as dark or enlightened as some of its adherents. A lot of them are are just edgy libertarians.

    Their whole point about about liberalism being some evolved form of Protestantism is absolutely nonsensical and silly. Liberalism probably doesn’t have a single origin. Aspects of what is called Liberalism can be found in many societies throughout history. Many of them do not seem to understand gene/culture covelution very well. Just because guilt is common in Liberalism and Christianity, doss not mean that Liberal guilt is derived from Christiann guilt. As Peter Frost and others have explained, Europeans have had a guilt culture that has been around since the Pleistocene. It is likely that Europeans have a belief module that predisposes them towards certain beliefs. The Moldbuggian caldistic analysis has dozens of other flaws too.

    The neoreactionaries ignore much of actual reactionary political thought. One example is Kevin MacDonald, who provides a much more rigorous and scientific account of modern Liberalism. Unlike Moldbug he is an actual evolutionary psychologist.

    I can think of dozens of reactionary authors, such as James Burnham, Oswald Spengler, Ernst Hunger, et cetera, that these kids have never read. I am overall not very optimistic about this movement. The hubris and status seeking behavior you see by them on Twitter, Ask.FM, and other sites is incredible. Most of them would be denounced by figures such as Carlyle and Evola if they were still around.

  5. […] Source: Throne and Altar […]

  6. The neoreactionaries have always been cocky, but the movement’s relentless self-promotion has gotten to the point that the whole thing is starting to look silly. I’m hoping neoreaction doesn’t collapse too quickly, and my investment in studying it come to so little.

  7. I’m happy for them to develop into something better, and if proving that I am wrong provides motivation to correct some basic errors that’s great. They needed some real criticism from the right; if it breaks the, um, self reference and puts them on a trajectory toward throne and altar conservatism that’s great. If it doesn’t, it is better for the people involved that the movement drops out of the place where most movements come from and gets flushed.

  8. I think some people are going to be embarrassed 10 years from now.

    That boat has already sailed. The sweet stylings of Curtis Yarvin (aka Mencius Moldbug).

    It’s interesting, though. At 25, I was acutely embarassed when recalling myself at 15. At 35, the same for 25. At 45, the same for 35. I wonder how long that goes on?

  9. “Neoreaction” is what happens when a bunch of these despairing libertarians come to very similar conclusions do to circumstances in the political climate. Did Moldbug create neoreaction from his genius, or was he simply there to receive it?

    What Moldbug peddles isn’t different from libertarianism. It is a sub-type of libertarianism. Specifically, it is a variant of corporatist anarchism. It is not a new idea. What makes him different is that he’s got a depressingly bad simulacrum of the messianic, mystical rabbi schtick layered on top of it. And the kind of bad writing that cretins think is good writing.

  10. Daniel Schmuhl

    The derivation of Liberalism from Christianity is a commonplace of the French Nouvelle Droit (who detest both)

    “Individualism was already present in the notion of individual salvation and of an intimate and privileged relation between an individual and God that surpasses any relation on earth. Egalitarianism is rooted in the idea that redemption is equally available to all mankind, since all are endowed with an individual soul whose absolute value is shared by all humanity. Progressivism is born of the idea that history has an absolute beginning and a necessary end, and that it unfolds globally according to a divine plan. Finally, universalism is the natural expression of a religion that claims to manifest a revealed truth which, valid for all men, summons them to conversion. Modern political life itself is founded on secularized theological concepts.” (Alain de Benoist and Charles Champetier)

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