The future of amateur reactionaries in the Orthosphere

My impression is that the anti-liberal blogging community has changed dramatically in the past five years.  When I started Throne and Altar in 2009, it felt like I was adding a unique perspective just by explicitly adopting an authoritarian, continental counter-revolutionary position and trying to elaborate it systematically.  No doubt this was an illusion borne of my lack of knowledge of the others laboring in this field–although I really did try to seek them out.  However, even Mark Richardson, who has followed these things much longer than I have, said several times at Oz Conservative that there is a much larger online community (please excuse my using the phrase) willing to question liberalism at a fundamental level than there used to be.  Also, the two most important antiliberal online movements today, Neoreation and Integralist Catholicism, are both self-consciously young.  These two movements have profoundly affected the environment in which the Orthosphere works.

The neoreactionaries are, of course, a diverse bunch, but it’s remarkable how many enthusiastic young men have been so quickly attracted to openly anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian opinions.  They have also done a great deal to establish dialog between different factions of Reaction.

The Integralists have had an even more profound effect on my sense of place in the blogosphere, because they’re staking out  Orthosphere-ish positions, but with benefit of deep knowledge of philosophy and the Catholic intellectual tradition (at least much deeper than I would pretend to have).  It is interesting indeed that such a promising movement of Catholic intellectual liberation (from liberalism and conciliar fads) should arise at such a bleak moment in the history of the Church.  If, as Kristor senses, First Things itself is shifting in this same direction, that would be an even more notable influx of intellectual allies.

So what is the role of the amateur in this new environment?  After all, every contributor to the Orthosphere except Professor Bertonneau, JMSmith, and DrBill (did I miss anyone?) is writing as an amateur.  I suppose the answer is that it depends on what one wants to accomplish by blogging.  Are you writing for yourself, to clarify your own thoughts?  Are you writing for the reactionary community, to contribute to its repository of knowledge?  Are you trying to win converts to the cause or (better yet) to the Church?  What serves one purpose probably no longer serves others.

For example, my most recent long essay, an exposition of Catholicism, is my personal favorite of my writings.  No doubt it was good for me, helping me to intellectually appropriate my own faith by putting it in my own words and organization.  It probably wasn’t so useful to others because I really have no relevant expertise, and thankfully there are now men and women of great erudition and profundity writing on the faith, so that not being in the grip of the “everything before Vatican II was crap” craze doesn’t give me a unique perspective.  (To be clear, I really, really wouldn’t want it to.)  The same thing goes for all my grand statements of principles essays. They were more fun and educational to write than they probably are to read.

If the goal is to make converts, then you must find a way of reaching the unconverted.  Commenting on more mainstream blogs is probably a good start.  I don’t really know, because I’ve never really attempted online evangelization.  I think of this blog more as a service to those who have already decided to make the break with modernity.

If the goal is to contribute to the reactionary community, then at this point you’ve got to be able to contribute something everybody doesn’t already know.  It means real research, careful argument, and perhaps some degree of specialization.  This sounds like hard work for an unpaid, anonymous hobby.  On the other hand, if you are inspired to it, there is finally a community of anti-liberals able to receive such work.

Update

JMSmith writes “I’d say that we already have all the theorists that we need. What we need are more reactionaries writing revisionist history and satire…” and I reply:

I agree. Unfortunately, satire requires cleverness and history requires one to actually know something, so again it seems like there’s need only for the pros. I doubt I could do either well on this blog. I’m thinking of going back to just writing book reviews, but really I’m not sure what purpose this blog serves anymore. I wonder if other bloggers are having the same thoughts.

17 Responses

  1. […] The future of amateur reactionaries in the Orthosphere […]

  2. Definitely agree with what you present here. The entire Reactosphere continues to see more traffic month by month, although we do have a retention problem it seems, in terms of people who actually write material. The loss of Bryce’s monolithic amount of work, for example, is tragic. And many of the blogs that churned out some very good material do not update regularly at all leading me to believe some of them have just been forgotten about.

    I try to go all throughout the Reactosphere, all different branches of Spandrell’s Trike, and provide commentary from what I’m sure the left would refer to as the ‘Christian Taliban perspective’. Hey, the label’s not bad. One example is Nick Land’s blog. In addition to a wide commenting ‘net’ being cast, I have submitted an article to Social Matter due to be published soon. If the Orthosphere is the centerpoint of Christian Reactionary conglomeration, then Social Matter is its access to the grater Reactosphere, where all the forces meet so to speak. It’s important to remember that our audience is not just those still enthralled to Modernity, but to those who have rejected it we are the representatives of the altar aspect of Tradition. Just as it is the HBD people’s responsibility to argue for race realism, so is it ours to argue for the sacred spiritual component that any calls to Reaction are so hollow without.

  3. Bonald,

    When did you become a reactionary? I thought the trads thought the reactionaries beneath them.

  4. I’d say that we already have all the theorists that we need. What we need are more reactionaries writing revisionist history and satire. Of course revisionist history and satire embody theory in the Platonic sense of seeing things as they really are, but social and political “theory,” in the modern sense, is essentially a leftist device for overcoming reality and framing imaginary worlds. The left needs theory because it works against nature, or the order of being, or whatever you care to call it. The right has nature on its side, and so has less need for theory. Authority is something that occurs naturally unless there is a powerful anarchist “theory” in place to oppose it. The human mind is naturally religious, and only irreligious under the influence of atheistic “theory.” Think of it this way. The left wants to go upstream, against a strong current, and so needs a big outboard motor to move its boat. The right wants to go downstream, and so can get by with a paddle.

    We may suppose that right-wing opinions are natural because most humans throughout history have held right-wing opinions. Because these opinions are natural, we may suppose that they continue to sprout up in the consciousness of ordinary people. And because we live under a leftist ideology, we may suppose that good-thinking people immediately uproot these sprouts. Our aim should be to give them permission to let these sprouts mature, and that is where revisionist history and satire come in. Revisionist history shows that life before liberalism was not a universal hell hole, but was instead imbued with qualities that we can admire. Satire simply encourages people to laugh at the absurdities of the reigning dogmas of our times. The eighteenth-century attack on the church was nine parts mockery, four parts revisionist history, and one part theology.

  5. > I’d say that we already have all the theorists that we need. What we need are more reactionaries writing revisionist history and satire.

    I agree. Unfortunately, satire requires cleverness and history requires one to actually know something, so again it seems like there’s need only for the pros. I doubt I could do either well on this blog. I’m thinking of going back to just writing book reviews, but really I’m not sure what purpose this blog serves anymore. I wonder if other bloggers are having the same thoughts.

  6. > When did you become a reactionary?

    Hello Slumlord,

    I haven’t changed, but I think the word “reactionary” has come to have a new meaning over the past five years or so. (Notice my earliest essay is “In Defense of Conservatism”, since that was at the time the only word in general use for critics of liberalism.) It used to be a pejorative term for an extreme conservative, usually implying that the person “reacts” unthinkingly against liberal reforms. Now I see it used as a blanket term for everyone who disagrees with the ideas behind the American revolution, and traditionalists would be a subset of this. (I’ve never liked the name “traditionalist” by the way, but I use what I’m stuck with.) For instance, my last post was linked on “Reaction Times” under the category “Religious Reaction”. Of course, religious reactionaries still think their subgroup is the most correct.

  7. The Left is always coming up with new evils.

    There’s a need for people to explain why these are evil without resorting to “because it’s against freedom” as the right-liberals do.

    Also, if we were to become an organized movement, I don’t think we have enough professionals to rely on them.

  8. I noticed that Front Porch Republic linked to the Orthosphere the other day. FPR is not exactly mainstream in the grand scheme of things but compared to the Orthosphere it is. I could see First Things linking to us at some point.

    I haven’t changed, but I think the word “reactionary” has come to have a new meaning over the past five years or so.

    Perhaps we could re-brand ourselves Integralists now?

  9. I haven’t changed

    Still repudiating Roissy’s insights?

  10. > Perhaps we could re-brand ourselves Integralists now?

    If we could coin a word for the followers, the students, of the Integralists, that would be a good word to describe me. The way the Integralists define themselves, taking inspiration from pre-conciliar neo-Thomism etc, I don’t think I’m qualified to be one now, and I may not be able to become qualified without learning a couple other languages first. I totally agree with their program, though.

  11. I read these blogs hoping someone will say something that will helps me fill in the missing pieces. E.g. I recently read something that purported to explain “not a bone of His shall be broken.” The exegesis was interesting, and if correct, it helps me to understand Jesus better.
    The same blogger also points out that at least two of the apostles were armed at the last supper. I find that intriguing.
    Discovering interesting ideas is not only edifying, it’s enjoyable. I read these blogs for the same reason that I read (and re-read) authors like Chesterton, Knox, Newman, Von Hildebrandt, etc. I’m hunting treasure.

  12. Also, you guys say the things my N.O. priest doesn’t, at least not in public. You said racism broadens the mind. Where else can I find a thought like that one?

  13. “Commenting on more mainstream blogs is probably a good start.” I discovered Steve Sailer when he started commenting on Megan McArdle’s blog over at the Atlantic (back when she blogged there). My other reading at the time was Andrew Sulivan, Will Wilkinson, and Bryan Caplan. So this offhand comment of yours is actually a very important point. There are probably plenty of other guys much like I was: hopelessly lost, but ripe for quick conversion. The blogs hardly need even be especially right-wing (McArdle and Wilkinson are the most tepid, P.C. sort of libertarians and Sullivan is… Sullivan.) Why was Sailer commenting there? Probably just pure stubbornness and restlessness on his part. Hard to believe he would have seen it as a brilliant marketing strategy. Who would expect to get converts in that environment? But it worked (on me anyway).

  14. […] reactionaries in the Orthosphere. Related: An orthogonal turn at First […]

  15. I don’t really know, because I’ve never really attempted online evangelization.

    It’s funny that you’d mention this, Bonald. Neither have I ever attempted it. It happened anyway. The traditionalists who have “made it” (by whatever definition… intact happy family, meaningful religious experience, stoic sanity in the face of cultural rot, whatever) possess something that the vast majority of alt-rightists, independent of particular metaphysical priors, very much see as attractive.

  16. […] kicks it off with some meta on the Orthosphere and the alt-right milieu in which it operates: The future of amateur reactionaries in the Orthosphere. As he sees it, “[T]he two most important antiliberal online movements today, Neoreation and […]

  17. Satire and mainstream fiction are exactly what counterrevolutionaries need, especially if designed for the consumption of liberals and modernists (unlike blogs such as these). I have always had a distaste for hamfisted “message fiction”, but incorporating monarchist, traditionalist and/or anti-materialist-naturalist elements into an independently good story every once in a while wouldn’t hurt. Heck, just about every book I read has some kind of liberal shibboleth incorporated somewhere. At the very least it would knock a few people out of the complacent bubble of consensus that they wallow in.

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