Unless Byrce comes back from the internet dead, and objects to my republishing his work here, he will just have to contend with its continuance. I'm reprinting some of it so you can compare NRx ideas from 2013 with 2017. There are seven parts to this.
How to Look at the World Like a Neoreactionary, Part 1
Neoreaction has just entered the mainstream sooner than we’d expected, so where I thought I would have the time to think a bit longer on how to provide an introduction to neoreaction for the newly initiated making their way from MSM sources, it seems better to go ahead and try that now. I don’t want to retread the territory already gone over in my two favorite introductions, Nick Land’s Dark Enlightenment sequence and Scott Alexander’s Reactionary Philosophy in an Enormous, Planet-Sized Nutshell (I would include Nick B. Steves’ Reactionary Consensus, but it’s incomplete, so I can’t say it’s one of my favorites yet), so I will try something different. Rather than a blow-by-blow analysis of neoreactionary ideology, I think a primer on the habits of neoreactionary thought might help to overcome the initial confusion of how one is supposed to understand something such as the advocacy of kings, housewives, and ethnic community, which explains the inevitable tendency to over-emphasize and misunderstand crucial distinctions when neoreaction is given an outsider’s view.
This, then, is an introduction to the neoreactionary mind and how he sees the world.
Neoreaction bootstraps itself out of the modernist thought paradigm which dominates Western civilization through a process of dialectical reductio. It is inevitable that you were socialized into this way of thinking such that you are literally incapable of working your way out of it without someone pointing out the contradictions in the system. In fact, you just take this way of thinking as normal. So normal, you don’t even see it, like contacts.
There is a reason an introduction to neoreaction might be thought of as a red pill. When you “get it,” suddenly the illusions of society are seen for what they really are. The orthodoxy which guides the elites from Harvard to the LA Times becomes obviously suspect in light of certain insights.
To consider how radically different all societies have been before the 18th century, when Progress became a theme, is to suppose that people will believe and consider normal almost anything they are socialized into. Women waited since the dawn of civilization to change things for themselves because it took that long for women to see through the illusion that was patriarchy, and were otherwise imprisoned in a false consciousness. The obviousness of woman’s subjugation under man, the obviousness of royalty’s control, and the obviousness of the Church’s right to inform the moral instruction of children were all things people were simply indoctrinated to. You can’t realistically expect a society to bootstrap themselves to Progressive ideals, because education can be a prison as well as freedom.
The neoreactionary would ask you to accept the truth of the principles behind such an explanation of the drastically anti-Progressive nature of all societies in all ways before the 18th century, only that you turn the same scrutiny on your own society.
How is it that a society of 300 million+ manages to have a very tightly distributed range of political views? Differences in presidents appear to be merely theoretical, and there was a wider range of political candidates to choose from in earlier elections. This doesn’t seem like a change in the nature of people. Why are opinion editorials between the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times essentially interchangeable? Why are virtually all universities in perfect lockstep on how society must be diverse and tolerant? We have more people and even more reason for more competition between sociopolitical and religious traditions, yet there is such little deviation from the orthodoxy that an academic who insists merely on documenting the findings of research stands to lose his job whenever that research threatens the empirical predictions of the orthodoxy.
Consider yourself. Why do you think you’re beyond the effects of socialization? Do you think all “those others” in history didn’t think they were perfectly normal as well? “I got through public school, and I’m fine.” That may be, but consider: many also get through child abuse. By what metric do you reckon you’re fine anyhow? Because you’re educated, you have a job, you’re not a bad person? Isn’t that the metric you were taught by the system? “No, the system teaches me to buy things.” And what taught you that this is what the system is like, if not the system? It may not teach you to buy things so much as it informs you of what to buy, and even if we suppose advertising has no effect on you, you still like the taste of Coca Cola. What is Coca Cola anyway? Sugar and water. If you could be adapted to drinking a superstimulus so patently unavailable in nature, what makes you think you couldn’t be adapted to the superstimuli of democratic theater and other forms of intellectual pornography?
I’m suggesting, in other words, that living inside a reality carefully constructed through the years by elaborate conditioning rituals, cult-like indoctrination techniques, and a state of the art and well-funded program of community organization can make people think the world around them is normal, well, and good, sometimes even the best. If you’re like most who grew up in America, you spent 12 years of your life in school, you’re aware of most the same news and cultural background, and you also have remarkably similar values to registered Democrats and Republicans. At least, “remarkably similar” when you consider all the political views that have been held by reasonable people throughout history and in other countries, and especially remarkably similar if you imagine everyone reached their political views through a process of reason. The Tea Party is obviously not as urgent a problem as the KKK, and yet declaring oneself a sympathizer with the Tea Party is about as dangerous a thought crime as the white guy will allow himself in company.
Education is touted as broadening horizons, and we arguably have more education than ever before. Why, then, the tighter distribution of political views? Assuming a random distribution, then a larger territory of political philosophy that one can appropriate should entail fewer essential agreements. Education does not seem so much about learning as it is about socialization into correct forms of thought, or catechesis. Such is the program the Church used through the Middle Ages, after all, right? Having more resources in society devoted to catechesis means a greater possibility for indoctrination. And in which society is this the case; ours, or the hypothetical superstitious peasant of Medieval England?
The more certain you are that you’re okay, the better it worked. Adaptation of a view that is contrary would be very difficult just in principle. The difficulty you find in understanding how neoreactionary views are understood and justified is an example of exactly that phenomenon in action. Why do you presume that, were you born into a different era with different norms, you would even think to challenge those norms? Do you think to challenge the norms present in society? The answer is probably negative in both cases.
A neoreactionary is aware how far outside the mainstream he stands. He has ceased to participate in politics the way the average man does. You won’t persuade him by calling him a racist, a sexist, unenlightened, or uneducated. In fact, were you to do so, the neoreactionary will point out that this behavior is exactly a case in point; it never has the effect of persuading the accused, but serves to consolidate the opinion of the audience. The hit piece is an ancestor of tribal ostracism. And the neoreactionary probably wears the accusation as a badge of honor, besides.
The point of elucidating where you stand is that “getting” neoreaction is a process which begins but is never finished. To get it is to believe it, but only because actually getting it is taboo. Acknowledging realities, which is the foundational conceit of the neoreactionary understanding, by itself makes one appear much more reactionary than modernist, implying a high standard of devotion required of the true believer. Neoreaction admits that people are different, and that as such it doesn’t make sense to afford everyone the same, whether that be income, opportunity, or even mere social approval. These differences are multidimensional, and include sexual, racial, and class categories. In contrast to the modernist, egalitarian paradigm which insists on treating everyone the same regardless of actual or probable ability, the neoreactionary insists that sound policy ought to treat differently as accords their real differences. This will improve human flourishing overall; a genius deprived of a more intensive education has undeveloped potential, while an idiot given a more intensive education is only having his time wasted.
These differences, understood by society and acted upon, lead to inequalities which make even the libertarian squirm. But they are only unequal as accords their actual inequality.
The threat of justice in this case depends on a fundamental inversion which the modernist fails to appreciate. Plato and Aristotle tell us that justice is equality, and we are not disagreed on this point. However, we believe ourselves more consistent in pursuing justice, for we do not attempt to treat people the same. Equality is treating like things as like, and unlike things as unlike. From this it follows necessarily that different things shouldn’t be treated the same; it does an injustice to all who are different than the presumed “likeness” we all supposedly share.
This is as short an explanation as can be given for the views neoreactionaries hold on race, sex, intelligence, and so on. The return to treating things as though they are different, because they are different, is the essence of reaction. The “neo” is that this is all given a thorough defending via abstractive philosophical, economic, and scientific reasoning.
There is certainly more that can be said, but the purpose of this post is less explanation and more to provoke the doubt of modernity. If you believe neoreaction is wrong, and you think you believe in equality, how do you justify it? Why is that metric best? What considerations are you leaving out? If your vision is radically different than has ever existed in human history before, what makes you so confident in it despite the lack of evidence in its favor? Why do you trust your education? What would you have to see in order to change your mind?
Originally published Monday, Nov 25th, 2013