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.
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.
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