(Before beginning, you should read the earlier part here. )
The greatest intellectual of our age, Menicus Moldbug, and his project of “reactionary enlightenment” addresses the main problem in human life:
The basic idea of formalism is just that the main problem in human affairs is violence. The goal is to design a way for humans to interact, on a planet of remarkably limited size, without violence..
Especially organized violence. Next to organized human-on-human violence, a good formalist believes, all other problems – Poverty, Global Warming, Moral Decay, etc, etc, etc – are basically insignificant. Perhaps once we get rid of violence we can worry a little about Moral Decay, but given that organized violence killed a couple of hundred million people in the last century, whereas Moral Decay gave us “American Idol,” I think the priorities are pretty clear.
One of the main reasons I started this blog is that I don’t see how the BDH-OV conflict can end until a lot more people are willing to speak frankly about what’s actually going on. Wringing our hands in a vain expression of “unity” will not do the job – especially because some of the most interesting tropes of the conflict are issues on which, in my opinion, both sides are profoundly detached from reality.
In my opinion this euphemistic approach to what pretends to be a conflict of ideas and ideals, but is in fact an ordinary and rather tawdry case of communal violence, is inseparable from the disaster of democracy. As Clausewitz observed, war and politics are a continuum. Representative democracy is a limited civil war in which the armies show up, get counted, but don’t actually fight. The BDH and OV factions refrain – mostly – from inciting or participating in outright warfare, for one reason: it is not in either’s interest. If this ever changes, they’ll be at each others’ throats like Hutus and Tutsis.
Democracy, like all conventions of limited war, is fragile. It’s hard to establish and easy to destroy. One of my main concerns is that I think the principal check that keeps the US from degenerating into actual violence is the 75-year-old informational dominance of “responsible” broadcast and newspaper journalism. This system is dying. It is being replaced by people like Amanda Marcotte and Michelle Malkin. And their followers, if not them personally, seem to have enough pure, 24-karat hate stored up for ten or fifteen really juicy civil wars.”
And that’s what happening isn’t it? The “Narrative” as Richard Fernandez calls it is busted. As the Turk said in the Godfather: “The Don, he was slipping. Could I have got to him 10 years ago?” Would Donald Trump even possible twenty years ago?
Moldbug’s claim that the Cathedral’s dominance over information was slipping has proved to be insightful and correct. For example, read the following two articles, one from the New York Times; the second from the Guardian. The articles are dripping with the kind of “formal” Orwellian speak that reactionaries diagnose and expose. See:
To me, who has now seen the (dark) light I see that the above articles demonstrate that Moldbug’s analysis has proven to be fundamentally correct by events. How? Direct democracies are unstable, prone to violence, and tyrannical; thus, indirect or party/caucus machines emerge to control the violent temper of people. However, these things shut out the Brahmin, bobo, intellectual middle-class types, never mind the fact that the caucus system is little better than direct democracy. Consequently, the Brahmin caste assert control of politics by capturing and controlling the production, distribution and supply of information: universities and the press. Thus, per Walter Lippmann, the Brahmin, progressive caste, engage in “manufacturing consent”.
They just lost their monopoly, however.
Nevertheless, and this vitally important, the fact that the Cathedral’s power is slipping should not fill anyone with joy. Why? Because it might, if not already has, usered in a Thucydidean Trap:
From the reservationist perspective, democracy is obviously the cause of democide – because the Age of Democracy is also the Age of Democide. The last major outbreak of indiscriminate mass murder in Europe was the massacre of Beziers in the Albigensian Crusade, which is easy to explain as a breakdown in military discipline, and whose memory also has suspicious links to the anticlerical Black Legend.
This was in 1209. (Possibly some nasty things also happened in the Thirty Years War. But defenestration is not democide. Nor is famine or the pest. And even if we admit that the Sack of Magdeburg was no picnic, it was again a failure of discipline – the opposite of Eichmann.)
Then, 780 years later, the association between popular government and democide opens with the French Revolution (if not with Cromwell’s plantation of Ireland), and continues to pop up everywhere. Every sovcorp which has ever committed democide has claimed to be the one true representative of the People. Black Legend notwithstanding, significant cases of monarchist mass murder are hard to find.
(Speaking of the “plantation of Ireland” you should read the following:
Could you imagine someone from the Guardian having to confront such a thing? Even if the above article is wrong in some matters, such as causes and intentions, there is no question that the phenomenon is real, the plans have been announced, and the rationale exists.
Moldbug get’s at the fundamental core of the problem:
In other words, violence equals conflict plus uncertainty.
Violence of any size makes no sense without uncertainty.
The key question is how to remove that uncertainty. To remove uncertainty, means removing politics (in the pejorative sense). To remove politics requires removing democracy: restructuring both the design (hardware) of the state (It should be designed the same way the Apple corporation is BTW, which gave us Ipads, not inquisitions); secondly, it requires eliminating, not only progressivism from control of the state, but any kind of idealism as well, for that is a source uncertainty as well.
And why would anyone want to do that? Consider what Moldbug says here:
Actually, my daughter’s preschool is literally in a ruin – that is, a (nicely renovated) space which used to be part of a Catholic church. (The preschool is the former convent. The rest of the church remains a ruin proper.) Where are the people who used to pray in this church? They fled. Why? Because they were afraid for their physical safety.
I know, I know. It’s gauche to even bring this kind of stuff up. It’s not part of our consensus reality. It’s not part of our consensus history. When it comes to actual history, however, the global decline of security in the second half of the 20th century is (I assert) the salient phenomenon of our era. Much as the fall of the Roman Empire is the salient phenomenon of 4th-century AD Europe. (Note that while our historians would desperately love to find one, just one, member of the exquisitely literate 4th-century AD European culture who would even mention that the Roman Empire was falling apart, no such luck. It’s all wall-to-wall Prudentius and Sidonius.)
Consider our alien in Alpha Centauri. His telescope is just a telescope. He no speaka the English. He is absolutely invulnerable to our most respected propaganda authorities and in particular has no way to read the great Harvard scholar Steven Pinker – truly a Prudentius for our age – who has discovered through elaborate statistical models that the 20C was not, in fact, the golden age of titanic mass murder and brazen petty crime, but the dawning of a new age of Aquarius in which all will have peace and prosperity. (Even Pinker is a piker next to the Times, which has published at least 547 stories about NYC’s miraculous conquest of its blatantly managed crime statistics, and precisely 2 about the hospital statistics which show a parallel doubling in actual assault victims. It’s always so easy to lie to those who want to be lied to – you hardly even need statistics.)
But his is an excellent telescope. So our alien can see the fact that many parts of all, and all parts of some, American cities that were thriving in 1950, have now fallen into chaos and ruin. On the other hand, he can gaze admiringly at the thriving cafes of University Avenue in Palo Alto, Ausonius’ Moselle born anew, full of beautiful young people adoring the perfectly antialiased individual subpixels of their new Retina iPads. Which of these phenomena will he find more relevant? Which is the narrative, which the distraction?
Continuing the comparison to the fall of Rome, one of the interesting features we see is that while technological competence is certainly an indicator of a successful civilization, it is also a lagging indicator. Civilization produces technology, not the other way around. When civilization falls, technology is not the first but the last thing to fall. Yes, technology does decline in the fall of Rome. No, it has not declined in our era – though its advance has certainly slowed a great deal. But the centuries of European technology decline are 400-700 AD, a point at which surely any historian would admit that the Roman polity has already been going to the dogs for two centuries minimum.
Am I too hard on Sam Altman? After all, he admits there’s a problem. He doesn’t admit this problem – but isn’t his point basically the same? That something isn’t working? My America is going to the dogs and lies in ruins all around me. His America has just turned the friction up too high on its hedonic treadmill. But it’s the same, isn’t it? Sort of?
Realizing that something in the 20th-century model of governance, as taught by the best and brightest of Harvard, Stanford, the NYT and other fine institutions of papally infallible veracity, isn’t working out quite right, is indeed a step in the right direction. Everybody’s going to have their own particular beef. Mine, as we’ve seen, is that 75 years of this rigorously scientific system of government has reduced what was once America’s fourth-largest city to a demon-haunted slum – and while extreme, this outcome is anything but an exception.
The slaughter of cities was not an accident – it was planned. See:
If the Minotaur can reduce several American cities to ruin in peacetime and convince people that it represents progress, is there any diabolical scheme that it is not capable of?