Thursday, 27 March 2014


by Brett Stevens

We live in an age of trends. For this reason, people are constantly inventing new "movements" which claim to be different, but are at a logical level identical to the older ones. By "at a logical level," I mean comparing the structure and function or their ideas and not their surface appearance. Appearance is always misleading and geared toward concealing the fundamental sameness of things.

Currently the roiling trend on the internet is movements like the "Dark Enlightenment," "Neo-reaction" and "red pill" as well as various "third way" movements. Each proclaims itself to be a new and untested idea, knowing that its audience craves novelty. And yet, if you dig below the level of appearance and look at the structure of the arguments of each group, you find something very far from new.

However, these groups have a lot vested in not admitting this. First, they are saturated in the media of a time that demonizes certain beliefs as ignorant and bad. Second, they would lose their novelty, and thus their reason to exist as independent profit-producing entities (generally through advertising revenues from blogs). And finally, they'd take an ego hit, and who wants to do that?

One such movement calls itself the "Dark Enlightenment" and usually overlaps with "neoreaction." It has a simple core idea: the Cathedral, or centralized order, has demanded a false elite be created through political correctness. This elite unifies itself by having "correct" opinions and thus blocking everyone else from rising. Thus the correct response is to overthrow this false elite and replace it with people power.

Sound familiar? Yes, it's the same old Revolutionary jive dressed up as a new enlightenment, which is why the Dark Enlightenment has hit stagnation. It takes vast mental work and bravery to escape from the paradigm of our time because it is so pervasive and ingrained that it seems as natural as breathing. But essentially, the Dark Enlightenment follows the liberal paradigm: find someone to blame for your own lack of power in life, claim that it's unfair, and that a vast mob of people power types can overthrow this and replace it.

In the "Dark Enlightenment" lexicon — borrowed from the Eric S. Raymond essay that was popular when the Mencius Moldbug essay that inspires many DE thinkers was written — the opposite of the Cathedral is the bazaar.
"The Cathedral is called the Cathedral for another reason: it's not the Bazaar."
I quote his words for effect. In his view, the Cathedral is the opposite of the bazaar. Where the Cathedral is based upon idealized collective issues forced into consensus and acted on by institutions, in other words a classic top-down arrangement, the bazaar is bottom-up and non-organized. It is what happens when people get together and do what makes sense to them without deference to the elites. It sounds good until you realize that a similar justification was offered for the French Revolution. The bazaar is the mob outside the Bastille.

Been there, done that.
I propose a more radical idea: the Cathedral is the result of the bazaar. In fact, the distinction between the two is nonsense. With the aristocracy, we put the best people in power and it was only because of their gentleness that they were overthrown. With the bazaar, we let individuals choose what they "think" is right, a term they conveniently interpret as meaning whatever they want to believe is true. Thus the bazaar always chooses insanity, and chooses leaders who are either insane, or who know how to manipulate the insanity and thus are heartless sociopaths who care not a whit what happens to their people. The bazaar rose up in chaotic fashion, overthrew the aristocracy, and then installed as leaders the type of person who makes up our current useless elites.

Think about Western history: we had aristocratic leaders who were so good that we prospered. Once that prosperity sank in, the lowest echelons of our society decided they, too, wanted representation despite being totally incompetent at it. When they overthrew the previous order, they recreated it in mirror form. Such that where there were once kings, there are now prole-kings, who rule not by natural ability but by appeasing, manipulating, flattering and motivating the vast herd of people out there. Democracy = Demagoguery.

But when your leaders are chosen by popularity, whether through vote or product buying or social buzz, you then have a Cathedral that is of the bazaar. The great secret — this is what the Dark Enlightenment types are morally afraid to face — is not that our elites are bad, but that our elites are bad because they were chosen by our undifferentiated majority. The herd isn't brilliant; it's stupid. Worse than stupid, it's deceptive and dishonest. The bazaar is the enemy, not the cavalry come to save us!

But enough Dark Enlightenment bashing. When we remove its drama, what do we find?
  • Recognition of inequality
  • Nationalism
  • Anti-democracy
Dark Enlightenment types will often explain their philosophy as a reversal of The Enlightenment, and a return to the darkness and Ragnar Redbeard styled "might is right" that came before the fancy do-gooder notions of the Cathedral. Then they proceed to list the three items above, all of which are found in... wait for it... paleoconservatism, and even more strongly, found in the aristocratic years before the French Revolution. On its surface, the Dark Enlightenment may be some new form of entertainment product. When you pop the hood and look at the engine, however, you'll find the shocking truth — it's conservatism rewarmed.

The Dark Enlightenment: Paleoconservatism with pop cultural references?
That had been my point all along, but it illustrates the problem with the Dark Enlightenment: they are fundamentally liberals looking for a reason to be important, or privileged like one of the victim groups to whom we assign status like minority or gender privilege, and they want a reason to put others down to raise themselves up. If they ever got a chance to implement their ideas, it would rapidly lead to the same problem we have now, which is that liberalism is egalitarianism which emphasizes disunity, not unity.

It's important to note that most of the Dark Enlightenment is an offshoot of what I call "internet libertarianism" which, like the internet's previous darling (anarchism) is a mis-interpretation of a complex problem. Libertarians tend to view government as a restriction on both economy and culture, and thus propose replacing it with markets alone; this will never be anything more than a partial solution, as it ignores the need for leadership and will rapidly result in society becoming a giant McDonald's. However, libertarians are correct in that using centrally managed economies to produce ideological results, as all liberal movements attempt to do, is in fact a path to civilizational collapse. The DE just took what parts of this were convenient for the purpose of being internet rebels.

The Dark Enlightenment became a trend. Even if its original intentions were good, it rapidly led to the same 1789/1968 philosophies that power modern liberalism. This was not the intent of its creators, but is an inevitable consequence of trying to set up a "third way": since leftism and rightism are such fundamental principles of human politics, trying to find a third way always involves the hybridization of the two, in which liberal beliefs — which are simpler, and more flattering to the individual — subsume conservative ideals.

The Cathedral created by the Bazaar.
The Orthosphere presented another promising idea, and one that still has promise because it is rooted in an old need and an old tradition, namely that of a truly reverent religion. The problem with the Orthosphere is that its architects saw it as a replacement for politics, or at least, a necessary ingredient in politics. Further, some exhibited an attitude that suggested that politics without religion was destined to failure or was somehow illegitimate, much as some Traditionalists have in the past, misstating the teachings of Evola and his guide Nietzsche. And now, as the inimitable and insightful Bruce Charlton observes, the Christian blogsophere is in decline:
"In terms of genuine growth of frequent blog viewers, in terms of an 'audience', plateau means decline, therefore this blog probably started on the down-slope a year ago.

(The shark must keep moving forward, or it dies!)

What was always a very small internet presence of traditionalist real Christian (real=not-'Liberal'), Mere Christian (cross-denominational) blogs has become even smaller; and in relative terms (as the mass media expands) even more so."
This brings me no joy, as the Christian blogosphere along with the thoughtful New Right and Alternative Right authors offer a small slice of sanity in a world that is composed of people determined to avoid personally inconvenient reality at all costs. However, what happened here — it seems to me — is that the Orthosphere was adopted as the Next Big Thing by people who are interested in reality-based civilization design, a field which overlaps Dark Enlightenment, Traditionalism, Deep Ecology, paleoconservatism, monarchism, New Right and Third Way outlooks. When the Orthosphere did not fully serve those needs, it too was dropped as a trend.

Charlton makes a good point here:
"Blogging as a traditionalist Christian is a matter of trying to inspire a few, a handful of, individuals - it is not a matter of mobilizing and energizing a mass audience, a silent majority or an army of faithful: no such mass majority army exists."
The masses are not what force change. Small dedicated groups who are able to mobilize themselves and force selective change are what prevails; the masses are generally inert and act only as a restrictive force, since they only approve drastic action when it personally flatters them or addresses an immediate fear. Instead, what we need is for the natural leaders among us — you can find them in any walk of life, but they're the people who make things happen regardless of their job titles — to start drifting closer to an understanding of what is needed.

There is no point looking for a united army of the faithful, where what is needed is a cultural shift. This is already happening. Even the mainstream media now features more articles about religion, the soul, consciousness and metaphysical questions. Our popular literature, including but not limited to stuff like Harry Potter, shifts ever closer to a metaphysicist position. And as mainstream religion drifts further toward Crowdism, the few exceptions stand out more, and more people are dropping out of those movements in favor of unmeasurable smaller churches or personal religious feelings. We do not need a great army like that which stormed the Bastille. We need this great cultural shift to occur with tiny steps so people can get comfortable with it instead of pitching head-first into radicalism.

This leads us to a broader answer. We never needed the Dark Enlightenment, or the third way. Most people who are getting anywhere in life are inherently "mostly conservativish," meaning that they apply conservative principles to their own lives. They are looking for an answer. The answer is a rightward shift away from egalitarianism (individualism) toward a sense of an objective reality, and a reverent approach to life which suggests we aim for the best outcome by having higher objective standards, not protecting the worst outcomes through subjective relativism.

As far as messages go, this one is subtle: It is non-confrontational. It demands we stop doing wrong things more than that we shift in direction toward a polar radical. Mostly, this involves abandoning the great leftist progressive crusade for Utopia through egalitarianism, and a focus instead on producing functional results.

By casting doubt on the absolute necessity of liberal ideology alone, this viewpoint shift releases the grip liberalism has had on us for centuries, portraying itself as the only way forward. In its place it puts the least offensive kind of tradition, which is sticking to what works and personal characteristics such as honor, loyalty, pride in one's work and devotion to both doing good and finding some kind of transcendent meaning in life itself. Not in the individual, as leftists would have us do.

All of these contrary movements serve — unfortunately, in the case of the Orthosphere — as a distraction from the primary goal: liberalism wrecked our society, so let's remove liberalism and rebuild.

Much like the White nationalists who insist on talking about Jews when the obvious cause of our decline is liberalism, the Dark Enlightenment, neoreactionaries et al are looking at intermediate causes and refusing to really overturn the big social taboo, which is that not everyone's viewpoint is truthful and that liberalism is the one thing blocking us from seeing that.

If I started a movement tomorrow called "Crush Idiots, Promote Thinkers" it would be essentially the same as conservatism going back to Plato, whose statement of "good to the good, bad to the bad" encapsulates conservative method in a nutshell.

The fact is that each of these movements has its root in conservative ideals and for every moment it refuses to identify with them, it separates itself from the vast body of thought which turns it from half-cocked emotional reaction into a full-fledged plan. The data is all there. All of these movements are conservatism in plain sight, once you strip away the appearance of being otherwise.

In the case of the Dark Enlightenment, the pretense of human individuals will ensure that we will spend more time kicking around these trends. Then at some point, the novelty will fade and the trends will wind down. Then the people in them will shrug, figure it was never that important, and move on to other hobbies.

Such faithlessness achieves nothing but destruction of any hope for our future. It's for this reason that they conceal their conservative origins, and also that we should call them out on this, strip them of their pretense, and bring them into the fold.

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