Posted on | January 10, 2014 | 56 Comments
My young Nietzschean friend Richard Spencer was at Duke University during the lacrosse debacle, and it is therefore easy to understand why he long ago abandoned hope in Politics As We Know It.
Spencer founded the Alternative Right in 2010, and there are a few other familiar names — Vox Day, Steve Sailer, John Derbyshire — in a chart illustrating the “Dark Enlightenment” movement in a recent trend-feature article by Matt Sigl:
Blossoming on the Internet like a fetid rose, a mysterious new political movement has generated a serious and not un-terrifying critique of modern society. Its members are loud and growing in number, and they demand nothing less than the elimination of the democratic system. Mostly white, male and angry, they lie in wait for the imminent collapse of civilization.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Dark Enlightenment. The Empire is striking back. . . .
Don’t be so tediously alarmist, Matt. The best descriptor of this “Dark Enlightenment” movement might be neo-paleoconservative, with an edge of philosophical radicalism among those who have forsaken hope of reversing modern decadence. They are mostly Young Paleocons of one sort or another. As radical as their ideas may be, they are intellectuals, not advocates of violence. Social criticism is ultimately just social criticism, and if the “Dark Enlightenment” perspective seems unmoored by any inclination to defer to popular opinion or political correctness, this is because it exists outside politics.
If your idea of politics begins and ends with the Official Conservative Movement, if you are gripped with concern about Chris Christie and the Great Bridge Controversy, this “Dark Enlightenment” thing is going to be entirely alien to your worldview.
Basically, they begin with the premise that we’re doomed, and proceed thence to contemplate the consequences of doom:
According to [Nick] Land and Moldbug [the alias of Curtis Yarvin], the Cathedral is a complex ideology network built atop the university system, the media (run and operated by graduates of the former) and employees of the bureaucracy, all of whom grow ever more dependent on the perpetuation of the Cathedral. The leveling mechanisms of democracy — with its race-to-the-bottom vote begging (buying) and illusions of social empowerment — remove any possibility of inventive political solutions, or, eventually, rational analysis. Inside the Cathedral, any questioning of democracy’s legitimacy is sacrilege. Before long, apostates will find penance by buying indulgences (like, say, Obamacare), whether they like it or not.
What this mainly is, of course, is James Burnham’s critique of the managerial elite, with a good bit of Richard Weaver and Oswald Spengler thrown in for good measure. And then there’s this:
Human biodiversity is the rejection of the “blank state” of human nature. Creepily obsessed with statistics that demonstrate IQ differences between the races, the darkly enlightened see social hierarchies as determined not by culture or opportunity but by the cold, hard destiny embedded in DNA. . . .
Cue the adherents of The Bell Curve, eugenics enthusiasts, believers in white supremacy and sympathizers of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. In the Dark Enlightenment, we seem to have stumbled across a place where pseudo-intellectually grounded racism is flourishing in a way it hasn’t since before World War II.
Meh. Again with the alarmism, Matt? It’s important to remind the reader that as radical as these people are in their ideas, there is nothing like an actual political movement involved. There is no legion of brownshirts marching to overthrow democracy and replace it with the Charismatic Leader’s blood-and-soil regime.
What we are looking at is a lot of bright young men who contemplate the cultural status quo and reject it as unworthy. They are temperamentally averse to compromise, and thus ill-suited for the game of politics. As such, they are marginalized, existing within an obscure fringe that neither influences nor intersects with Politics As We Know It.
They are deliberately aloof, and who can blame them? If being “political” in 2014 means caring about Fat Boy’s Bridge Scandal, then I guess I’m pretty apolitical, too.
Mortimer e-mailed me Sigl’s article and I don’t know if this is the reaction he expected. While I certainly understand the fundamental pessimism — you’d have to be a blind fool to be an optimist nowadays — my preference is for human-sized solutions. Instead of trying to reorganize the cosmos, just do your best to fix what is within reach, and let the universe take care of itself.