Thursday, February 20, 2014

Anissimov and "NRx"

My prediction is that Michael Anissimov will be the first person purged from the neoreactionary inner circle.

Why? Because he is the only one among them who is pointing to a historical form of government--monarchy--and saying, "Hey, that could work." The rest are certain that they can come up with something better and altogether new.

Neoreactionaries are up in arms about "entryism" and are manning the blockades against libertarian participation. They should be worried about ossification and hubris.

Instead, they're conversing in philosophese and congratulating themselves on how smart they all are. "Yes, boys, that genius political structure is right around the corner. What we need to think about right now, though, is how to keep the rubes out of our clubhouse."

What I'm getting at is that I read a lot about how great neoreaction is going to be but not much neoreactionary thought.

I'm starting to think that neoreaction is quickly becoming neo-Objectivism. Both believe themselves to be philosophical revolutions. Both realign our principles of government towards natural winners rather than natural losers. Objectivism was simply the arguments of Marxism turned upside-down. Neoreaction wishes to shade Objectivism with race and aristocrats and "black is black in that 'blackness' qua 'blackness' is..."

It's no wonder the press runs like frightened rabbits at the thought of them--what is neoreaction doing other than trotting out old Social Darwinist arguments and racial taxonomy and dressing it with Mondo 2000 and Wittgenstein Cliff's Notes?

Anissimov is trying to pull neoreaction into reality, emphasizing the "reaction." He wants to reconfigure old, stable structures for our age. The neoreactionary movement in general emphasizes the "neo." They wish to create a new structure from old ideas.

I think Anissimov, like the title of his site, is more right than his compatriots. We have a lot to learn from powerful monarchies. After all, the end of absolute monarchism didn't come because it failed but because eventually the monarchs themselves became liberal democrats. 


  1. > Why? Because he is the only one among them who is pointing to a historical form of government--monarchy--and saying, "Hey, that could work."

    If Anissimov ends up purged, no, it will not be for that reason.

    It will be because he is insanely self-aggrandizing, offers few new insights, is trying to bootstrap HIMSELF to be some sort of monarch, and is acting as if he is already one by telling Bryce and others who they are and are not allowed to talk to.

    Nick B Steves sums it up well:

    he slippery path of attempting by private and public admonitions to get people to not be friends or talk with someone because he happens to be friends or talk with someone you don’t like, you have gone beyond a pale which separates serious adult men from 13 year-old girls (with apologies to 13 year old girls). I’m sorry, but such an action is not worthy of any man, much less a reactionary man, much much less a reactionary man who seeks to be worthy of leadership over other capable men.

    Tell yourself all you want that Anissimov is being read out of serious Nrx because he's a monarchist, but it's not true. He's become a laughing stock and is being progressively excluded not for his thoughts but for his juvenile king-of-the-sandhill drama.

  2. Thanks for your comment.

    I hope you noticed that this was written back in February, long before Trannygate.

    You're right that Anissimov is excessively self-important and I don't doubt that much of his attack was seizing upon what he believed was an opportunity to take down his rival, Laliberte. But he's no master strategist; it appears that Laliberte is very cozy with a lot of the leading lights of neoreaction while Anissimov has routinely picked fights with them. A bad move for someone seeking status.

    My broader argument in this piece is that Anissimov at least comes to conclusions about the issues that neoreaction discusses. I'm no monarchist but at least he's taken a position from which we can talk about practical matters. Neoreaction seems to be allergic to settling on answers or even coming close.

    In the current controversy, Anissimov--for whatever personal reasons--raised the long-dormant issue of where neoreaction stands on social conservatism. The only conclusion that's emerged is that it's okay to talk to people who violate your personal principles and that it's not okay to tell people who they can talk to. I don't believe that this was the question that was raised.

    I think that this whole situation indicates that neoreaction is going nowhere. In- and out-grouping is more important than anything, with oaths and societies. Just the other day, Laliberte spoke very condescendingly toward members of the Dark Enlightenment subreddit and said something like, "Only rubes think that the real discussion takes place on Twitter."

    What's been apparent for a while is that neoreactionaries are more interested in forming a club of scholarly-prose writers and contrarians than in assembling a platform. The recent work a few months ago to settle on some premises was a step in the right direction.

    As I've said before, my attraction to this part of the Web was because I thought it really was about coming to conclusions. We've had 70 years of full-bore anti-racism and it isn't working. We've had 40 years of full-bore feminism and there's only more hysteria. The list of progressive experiments goes on and on with very little success. I realized that our model of the self, society and government was wrong. I was happy to find others who saw that the underlying philosophies of our age were the problem, not any particular issue.

    But keep in mind that these objections are not new but, in the past, critics were each attacking one single tentacle of the Leviathan. Mencken got me thinking about the failures of democracy. Bork got me thinking about the problems of social liberty. Burke got me thinking about revolution. The Dark Enlightenment seemed to realize that all of these errors came from the same source.

    I didn't realize that neoreaction was the cult of Moldbug. I consider him an excellent synthesizer of objections to modernity, not the originator of those objections. I also didn't realize that the interest in discussing contrary ideas was a pose for social jockeying. But here we are, with neoreaction faced with the choice between discussing an idea or damning an outcast. What choice have they made, again?

  3. This prediction turned out to be remarkably prescient, even if the predicted reasons for it were totally wrong.