Saturday, June 06, 2015

Moldbuggery

I was just talking about nerd politics, and lo and behold, we have a fresh spasm of geek outrage to examine. Strange Loop, a hip technical conference, invited Curtis Yarvin (the real-word persona of Mencius Moldbug, the inventor of neoreaction) to give a talk on his Urbit system. Then, quite rapidly they rescinded the invitation when his political writings came to their attention, causing a fairly major internet fracas. It gave the right a chance to complain about censorship and the puritanical minds of SJWs, and they never pass one of those up.

But they really have no grounds for complaint, because freedom of speech is a liberal value, and Moldbug is quintessentially anti-liberal. From the neoreactionary viewpoint, there is no public sphere, not the streetcorner (which belongs to the monarch) and certainly not a private conference. The owners get to decide what is done with their property and the outrage of the offended non-owners carries no weight at all. And in this case, the owners of the conference decided they didn՚t want to be associated with a purveyor of flagrant racism.

I was kind of on the fence about it myself. On the one hand, I like robust freedom of speech; I dislike the new oversensitivity; and having technical presentations censored because of not-obviously-related political opinions of the presenter seemed like a really bad precedent.

On the other hand, Moldbug՚s opinions really ought to be beyond the pale of polite society. While I wouldn՚t interfere with his rights to post them on his own site, I don՚t think Strange Loop has an obligation to be open to all. Their argument is that hate is different from political opinion, they have a duty and obligation to keep their community friendly, and having Nazi-level crap in the mix might interfere with that job.

On the other other hand, to pretend that there is some categorical difference between hate and politics seems a trifle disingenuous. Hate is pretty fundamental; ideologies or groups in general define themselves in terms of what they hold sacred and its opposite. Moldbug isn՚t any more hateful than the rest of us, he just doesn՚t hate the right things. In the world we live in, hating racism is OK (required even), but hating a race is not.

Some claim he is not a racist, which is ridiculous if you՚ve read any of his stuff. What might be true is that he isn՚t fundamentally motivated by race hatred. If you take him at his word, what he really hates is disorder. Singapore is his ideal, a strong state with clean streets and no messy dissent. This is what makes neoreaction primarily a nerdy antipolitics, whose ideals are more abstract than the more typical loyalties and resentments of the mainstream.

But, while he may not be primarily motivated by race-hatred, he's just perfectly willing to allow racial oppression in the service of maintaining order. That may not be classical racist hate, but it's close enough. One of the Nazi՚s main justifications for their crimes against Jews was order and purity.

On the tactical level, Moldbug has scored a huge win for himself, and Strange Loop shot itself in the foot. He՚s got way more publicity, for both his technical and political work, than if he had given his talk. And now the conference has got a lot of unwelcome attention and associations. It would have been smarter to let him come and publish a disclaimer in the program or something.

Certainly I have been forced again to re-examine my assumptions, to look anew at my own ideas and values and how I defend them against challenges. Moldbug is good medicine for genuine progressives, who more than most have an obligation to think through their beliefs. It՚s strong and possibly toxic medicine, but having your thought congeal into mindless ideology is even more toxic.

[update: someone pointed out that al3x (linked above) is not officially associated with StrangeLoop, and linked a response from one of the actual organizers.]

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

So you link to an out-of-context quote as a proof of flagrant racism?

kay schluehr said...

I think of Moldbug as a kind of demonic presence. Moldbug himself occasionally identified comically with the "Lord of the Sith" and he seemingly enjoyed it. He is an artificial character which may have lots in share C.Yarvin but it is still an author-self, created in the process of writing. My impression is that he masterfully dramatized himself intellectually and quit his role once his little theater caught wider attention which he was unwilling to manage and respond to. This is also the anti-democratic sentiment in a nutshell, one which could also be found in more famous authors like Nietzsche, another author-self who was quite explicit about his motives: he saw great art endangered. Great art and great politics is the drama of an author, not one of the crowd. Instead the crowd is the great politicians making and "order" is a state of equilibrium in which the political passions in the crowd are waning. Otherwise there might be a new author and will ...

The major difference between authors like Moldbug and Nietzsche is that Nietzsche was a German romantic, whereas Moldbug comes from libertarianism. German romanticism was a response to the much admired and abhorred French revolution. Young artistic people believed they could start an internal revolution of the sentiments and the mind, a self-transformation through the arts which would make the brutal and failed political revolution a la Francaise obsolete. They started with inner freedom, the pleasure to be an I and moved along with the fraternity and the egalitarianism of geniuses who recognize each other. Libertarianism on the other hand is the offspring of a 19-th century style optimistic evolutionary calculus of general competition, something Nietzsche openly disdained. He perceived Christianity as a victorious competitor in the race of civilizations but as a vastly inferior one compared to Greek nobility of the "tragic age". So he didn't project an unleashed, progressive competition into the future, but looked back and counted its outcomes. Not only was he aware to be on the losing side of the history but he also didn't intend to invoke the same mechanism which brought him there.

kay schluehr said...

I just realized that my characterization above fits the "strange loop" concept quite well. Not sure what the conference organizers had in mind originally, maybe nothing but a cool sounding brand which is also an homage on D.Hofstadter? Meaning is dissipating as quick as always.

Mike Travers said...

kay, nice analysis. I agree, Moldbug's self-dramatizing of his philosophy does recall Nietzsche. But it's Nietzsche for nerds, based on a very narrow set of ideas and values.

Strange Loop is definitely an homage to Hofstadter and metacircularity in general. I've never been, but it sounds great to me. Maybe I shouldn't have called it "hip" -- unlike the great many trendy technical gatherings that are about slickly making money, this one seems geared to deep ideas and actual innovation in programming. So it is genuinely hip, not merely trendy.

kay schluehr said...

Self-dramatization as an author through writing is metacircular. The mask is at play and the maker of the mask who writes through it and produces it through writing. I wouldn't claim there must be a place for him in society - a (progressive) story of emancipation - because it is genuinely "sociopathic" in Venkat's sense. But what happens when you create a place by giving it a name using a paradox figure ... ? My melancholy comes from the suspect that only nature seems to be faithful to the beauty of ideas and that's possibly because it is completely unconscious about it. If it wasn't it would try to position itself somewhere besides it.



Mike Travers said...

Self-dramatization is something we all do, in writing or otherwise. Mostly not as successfully as Moldbug, if success in drama means making a character memorable and talked about. But you probably mean specifically he used a character to dramatize abstract ideas; that is much rarer. It is interestingly circular and you have to wonder how the author and his ideas and his fictional character interact; if the latter is really a living creation and starts asserting its autonomy. And do we really want to hold the author responsible for the opinions of his character, as the Strange Loop people did?

Moldbug made a place for himself alright, but it may not be the place he wanted. That is, if he wanted to speak to the neoreactionary movement he spawned, he'd have no trouble, he'd be the most honored participant at their conference. They are just as much a part of society as Strange Loop, just not polite society.

Your last sentence is tantalizing but I'm not really sure how beauty of ideas enters into it. Moldbug's thought may have a certain formal abstract beauty to it -- as a good nerd, he tries to build everything from a minimal set of elegant principles. But it has deeply ugly consequences, which to my way of thinking means the beauty was unreal in the first place.

TGGP said...

I was surprised when I examined "Why Carlyle Matters" there were no comments from me pointing out the reason Native Americans were not deemed suitable for slavery was that disease kept killing them off.

Dain said...

Those of a broadly liberal persuasion have always claimed that the best antidote to toxic speech is more speech. In this case, that'd mean let Moldbug speak, and then perhaps field questions from conference attendees about his philosophy.

Grownups of course know that's bunk. The adults in the room are privy to what Moldbug is all about, and will shield lesser minds from hearing his venomous rhetoric.

Moldbug of all people should know this is true, and I suspect he quietly respects their generically authoritarian take on this fracas.

kay schluehr said...

"Your last sentence is tantalizing but I'm not really sure how beauty of ideas enters into it."

I was referring to the beauty of the idea of a strange loop not to Moldbug's performance.

"The adults in the room are privy to what Moldbug is all about, and will shield lesser minds from hearing his venomous rhetoric."

As far as I understood the conference organizer just feared the now typical social network shit storm during the conference because of his attendance. By no means was he scared about C.Yarvin poisoning the souls of innocent nerds. His move isn't "authoritarian" proper, only administrative.

Anonymous said...

....but blacks really are dumb, its not even a controversial sociological fact...

Anonymous said...

also, lol at racism = MURDER

ThirteenthLetter said...

"On the one hand, I like robust freedom of speech; I dislike the new oversensitivity; and having technical presentations censored because of not-obviously-related political opinions of the presenter seemed like a really bad precedent."

...But on the other hand, you thought about it a little more, and you realized that having the ability to silence and destroy people whose politics you disagree with is actually kind of awesome, so bring it on.

Mike Travers said...

Oh well, the mouthbreathers have showed up. Neoreaction's form lives up to its content, a single original autonomous mind surrounded by a mass of slavish morons.

@ThirteenthLetter, if you could read, you would see that this point is already addressed. "the ability and to silence and destroy people whose politics you disagree with" is FOUNDATIONAL to neoreaction.

Crawfurdmuir said...

mike Travers wrote: '"the ability and to silence and destroy people whose politics you disagree with" is FOUNDATIONAL to neoreaction.'

Is there any real-life instance in which neoreationaries have silenced and destroyed people with whose politics they disagreed? I'm aware of none.

On the other hand, numerous instances can be cited in which the authoritarian left has silenced and destroyed people with whose politics it disagreed.

Crawfurdmuir said...

Kay Schluehr wrote: "The major difference between authors like Moldbug and Nietzsche is that Nietzsche was a German romantic, whereas Moldbug comes from libertarianism."

Nietzsche does not seem as close a parallel to Moldbug as does Moldbug's idol Carlyle (who was indebted to the older German idealists, but not to Nietzsche), and closer still, Thomas Hobbes. The paradoxical character of an absolutist coming from libertarianism is quite reminiscent of Hobbes, who on one hand advocates placing a complete monopoly of power within a territory in the hands of the sovereign, while on the other arguing that the state is a contract between persons, that the sovereign owes his authority to the will of the governed, and that he is obligated to protect the interests of the latter by guaranteeing civil order and peace.

Mike Travers said...

Neoreactionaries have not been wielded actual power (and probably never will). However, their stated ideal is places like Singapore and apartheid South Africa, which most definitely liked to silence and destroy dissent. This shouldn't even be controversial, it's explicit in Moldbug's writings which I know you have read.

Blogospheroid said...

Rhodesia, not apartheid South Africa is a better neo-reactionary example. South Africa went for the way more demotist idea that all whites are better than all blacks. Rhodesia was better.

Crawfurdmuir said...

My recollection is that Moldbug did not so much admire South Africa's apartheid regime as he did Rhodesia under Ian Smith. And, indeed, compared to what Zimbabwe has become under Robert Mugabe, Smith's Rhodesian government was rather benign. As far as Singapore is concerned, it is economically freer than the United States (#2 on the Heritage Foundation's list, compared to the U.S. at #12). and while its criminal justice system is severe, I do not recall that it silences and destroys dissent with nearly the vigor that (say) the old Soviet Union did, or the Castro regime in Cuba still does.

Given your (Mike Travers's) enthusiasm for denying a forum to neoreactionaries who defend authoritarian governments, how do you feel about the so-called Hollywood Ten? Will you, applying the same principle, affirm that those apologists for the murderous Joseph Stalin were justly "blacklisted"? How about the actor Sean Penn, who has trumpeted his enthusiasm for the likes of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro? Should he be allowed to continue appearing in movies?

How do you feel about academics like the late Eric Hobsbawm, who, in an interview with Canadian author and politician Michael Ignatieff on British television, responded in the affirmative to the question of whether 20 million deaths may have been justified had the proposed communist future been created? This is a man who wrote in his memoirs (as recently as 2007!), "The dream of the October Revolution is still there somewhere inside me . . . I have abandoned, nay, rejected it, but it has not been obliterated. To this day, I notice myself treating the memory and tradition of the USSR with an indulgence and tenderness." Should someone who feels that 20 million deaths could be justified (whatever the reason) be allowed to hold a professorship at a prominent university, as Hobsbawm did?

If a dead communist is not for some reason to be regarded as relevant, consider a living one - Prof. Eric Foner, of Columbia University, a red-diaper baby, an anti-American 1960s radical, an unabashed apologist for the Soviet system, and noted for his efforts to rehabilitate American communism? Will you agree that such expressions are "beyond the pale of polite society" and appropriately denied a public forum?

Or will you engage in some sort of sophistry to defend access to public fora by left-wing apologists for totalitarianism while denying it to neoreactionaries?

Ryan said...

It is really all very ironic. I'm reminded of something Moldbug wrote in his Open Letter series (http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2008/05/ol4-dr-johnsons-hypothesis.html)

"To keep bad thoughts from spreading, the State uses its powers to discourage, prohibit or destroy unofficial or otherwise uncoordinated information organs. It constructs a legal environment in which direct, person-to-person transmission of bad thoughts is socially and professionally imprudent at best, actionable at worst. It may exempt dissenters from the protection of the law, or impose legal disabilities on them, or on those who tolerate them. Or, of course, it can imprison, banish or execute them.

In a successful type 1 society - there have been many - the range of good thoughts may be rich and broad. Many if not all of them can be quite sensible. It should be possible for an intelligent member of the governing classes to live a normal and successful life without once being tempted to venture off the reservation.

However, from the perspective of the security forces, it may be quite useful to have one or two questions for which the bad answer is true, and the good one is nonsense. Some people are just natural-born troublemakers. Others are naturally loyal. Separating the sheep from the goats gives the authorities a great way to focus on the latter."

So his crime is hate. The question is whether evolution can cause or has cause divergent behavioral and cognitive traits among human subgroups. The bad answer is true, the good answer is nonsense. And Moldbug of course sticks out like a sore goat. System. Working. Intended.


kay schluehr said...

"So his crime is hate."

I'm not an US citizen but I don't believe such a thing exists in your country. However the much admired multiculti Singapore has a sedition act which might apply. S. follows a broken window policy with respect to political, social and racial unrest and the last thing the CEO board needs are freelancing political thinkers, priding themselves as taboo breakers.

But you are also misinformed on other levels. In feudal orders where the nobility has little reason to argue or to be overly concerned about giving proofs someone could just fall in disgrace or disfavor. That it takes an arbitrary Twitter crowd for C.Yarvin to fall in disfavor on a programmers conference because of vague accusations against him is not an example for the malicious working of the "system", Obama or the Wallstreet but the everyday despotism of small, even anonymous minorities for which the attention thresholds have been significantly lowered.

"Protest" as a political form is still quite ineffective when Mrs. Merkel invites Obama and some other of her peers for G7. The top tier has successfully swallowed and worked around it. They are trained on protest and decided for a good strategic location in Elmau for example, but a little conference organizer executes the sedition act as good as he can and surrenders if there are the weakest signs the conference could be in trouble. He admitted that he didn't even know Moldbugs blog, so it wasn't an act of open censorship or applying his private sense of political justice, only something like the sale of a stock in expectation of the market to drop. All of this is sub-democratic i.e. there is no general will or procedure call to find a consensus: no decision making ritual is invoked, no orators and advocates-of-the-people are holding their speeches, not even corporate lobbyists are in the house. Those people often don't even understand the details of a particular petty politics of gangs and crowds, their quibbles and honor codes and possibly respond by spending some state money for social workers. But this ain't help much when those people have academic degrees, behave like a mob and hate each other for their ideas.

kay schluehr said...

A thought on voice vs exit. How often can you exit until it works in your disfavor and you become noticed, not as an avid life style experimenter or market arbitrageur who constantly seeks for the best condition for a venture, but just as a difficult person with a fractured CV? So there is an informal, petty political level of that decision as well. The theatrical ventilation of the announcement to exit is a different affair, one which basically happens in the narcissists mirror.

Ryan said...

@kay

So I think you hit on two very interesting issues.

First on Yarvin and Strange Loop. You point out "That it takes an arbitrary Twitter crowd for C.Yarvin to fall in disfavor on a programmers conference because of vague accusations against him is not an example for the malicious working of the "system", Obama or the Wallstreet but the everyday despotism of small, even anonymous minorities for which the attention thresholds have been significantly lowered."

The thing is, in Moldbuggian philosophy the "system" is what he calls "the Cathedral." Per his philosophy the Cathedral literally is juridical power shattered into the hands of myriad tiny despots (he doesn't use Foucault's terminology, but it is what he means). Strange Loop canceling his speech is simply them caving to the threats of a few drops out of very wise and reasonable fear of the flood. I guess it's maybe not irony so much as confirmation of the soundness of his world view.

On Singapore. Everything you said is spot on accurate and the general failure of people in the West to grasp the implications is conspicuous. I've seen reactionaries with no hang ups. Freedom of speech and the press are incompatible with law and order in a multicultural and multiethnic society. Freedom of the press is nice and all, but law and order is much more important, so the former is thrown under the bus.

But with everyone else it's like crimestop smashes in like a sledgehammer. The work around is pretty simple though, free speech can be "free speech" or "hate speech." A distinction which makes Eugene Voloch a very sad puppy:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/05/07/no-theres-no-hate-speech-exception-to-the-first-amendment/

I'd add that it's this distinction which makes Moldbug's writings figuratively a "crime" while say wanting to lower the minimum wage a mere political viewpoint.

mikes2653 said...

Kay Schluehr wrote: "However the much admired multiculti Singapore has a sedition act which might apply. S. follows a broken window policy with respect to political, social and racial unrest and the last thing the CEO board needs are freelancing political thinkers, priding themselves as taboo breakers."

How does the treatment of political dissenters under the government of Singapore differ from that given by supposedly democratic governments in Europe to various politically-incorrect figures? I'm unaware of a case in which Singapore has liquidated dissidents and critics of its government as, for example, Cuba has often done. Rather, the Singaporean government uses legal harassment through the civil and criminal courts. This is exactly paralleled by the actions of several European governments against (for example) Geert Wilders or Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The only concrete example given in Wikipedia's article on human rights in Singapore of its government acting to "silence and destroy dissent" is:

"A British journalist, Alan Shadrake, was convicted in Singapore in 2010 of contempt of court for scandalising the Singapore judicial system, through his published views on the country's criminal justice system, sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment and a fine of $20,000."

Compare this with the treatment of Wilders, who was twice put on trial in Holland for "hate speech" and barred from entering Great Britain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_of_Geert_Wilders

Or with that of Le Pen, who for having said "I ask myself several questions. I'm not saying the gas chambers didn't exist. I haven't seen them myself. I haven't particularly studied the question. But I believe it's just a detail in the history of World War II," was fined under the loi Gayssot in the amount of FFr. 1.2 million (€183,200) - later being deprived of parliamentary immunity as a member of the European parliament so he could be tried in a German court for similar comments.

If Singapore can be reproached for stifling dissent, it has done no worse than Holland, France, Germany, or Great Britain. Democracy is no guarantee of liberty, nor is non-democratic rule necessarily incompatible with liberty.

Dain said...

"Is there any real-life instance in which neoreationaries have silenced and destroyed people with whose politics they disagreed? I'm aware of none."

But we know they'd like to. Preventing such is simply "militant democracy" at work. It exposes the hypocrisy at the core of broadly liberal notions of tolerance, but isn't it time we grow up and allow for that?

Progressives are only now beginning to jettison their fetishizing of the Bill of Rights and its attendant Enlightenment nostrums, honed during the Bush era when they were convenient, now that they're gaining power. You might have noticed the way free speech zealotry is found almost entirely on the right now.

More on Militant Democracy: https://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/the-intellectual-origins-and-application-of-militant-democracy/

Mike Travers said...

@Crawfordmuir:

Given your (Mike Travers's) enthusiasm for denying a forum to neoreactionaries who defend authoritarian governments,

Given your inability to read what I actually wrote, kindly piss off. Or you can respond to what is there rather than your own tedious imaginings.

M.Choi said...

Frankly I'm not clear what the problem is here. Racism and hate are often useful things that reflect the truth. If anything, I believe Western societies should adopt more forms of bigotry and less equality. The whole of Western political thought is clouded by compassion for no apparent reason other than it sounds nice, that's got to go in order to make progress.

And besides, this Moldbug guy seems like a weak utilitarian trying to justify human progress with "order". His mistake was giving too much consideration for the welfare of individuals, and not the supremacy of nations through collective struggle. It's like he wants it subconsciously, but is too afraid to articulate it. He shouldn't be. What you folks are calling neoreactionism is really just an infant form of nationalism, I just wish people like Moldbug would realize this and embrace the real thing.

Crawfurdmuir said...

Mike Travers wrote, at 7:53PM:

"Given your inability to read what I actually wrote, kindly piss off. Or you can respond to what is there rather than your own tedious imaginings."

Here is what you actually wrote, in your original post:

"It gave the right a chance to complain about censorship and the puritanical minds of SJWs, and they never pass one of those up.

"But they really have no grounds for complaint, because freedom of speech is a liberal value, and Moldbug is quintessentially anti-liberal."

Is this not saying that because neorectionaries are anti-liberal, they should not complain when they are denied access to a forum - and does that not bespeak an approval - perhaps even an enthusiasm - on your part, for denying them such access?

You have elsewhere made evident your feeling that certain fora should be exempt from having to expose the tender ears of their audiences not just to neoreactionary, but to any right of centre thought, as, e.g., in your post of June 25, 2014, wherein you remarked:

"I was at a family event in Chicago recently, and so naturally had a couple of run-ins with my wing nut brother...

"Since he was in town for his step-son՚s graduation from Northwestern, I quite innocently asked him about the commencement speaker, which led us by some inexorable process to the closest current wingnut political brainworm, namely being outraged that several such speeches by Republican types had been cancelled due to the Stalinist fervor of the politically correct. Condoleeza Rice, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Christian Lagarde (head of the IMF) all have had their right to free speech gravely trampled on.

"Natually I thought this was high-order bullshit, if only because people like that have absolutely no problem getting their views into the public sphere, whether or not a particular speaking gig is interfered with..."

May one not infer, upon reading this, that you have no problem with "a particular speaking gig [being] interfered with," even if (as in some of the cases mentioned) they were at universities that are recipients of public funding?

Of course not, especially when you have made it clear that some "opinions really ought to be beyond the pale of polite society" (i.e., those with which you disagree).

Crawfurdmuir said...

Here's an interesting link about this controversy on the British Breitbart site:

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/06/15/a-tech-conference-that-bans-speakers-for-their-politics-must-be-consistent/

Salient excerpts-

'For example, Steve Klabnik, one of the attendees who pushed hardest for Moldbug’s disinvitation is a political radical who previously said he was “100% okay” with violence against his political opponents.

'“Between GamerGate, Weev, and Moldbug, it’s not even a conservative tendency [in tech], but outright fascism” wrote Klabnik in October 2014. “I’m not sure what a ‘tech antifa’ movement would look like, but it’s sorely needed.”

'One of Klabnik’s followers then pointed out that European “anti-fascist” movements tended to engage in political violence themselves.

'“Yup”, replied Klabnik. “100% okay with that, personally.”

'“The only thing fascists respond to is violence” he continued. “Ignoring them or letting them attack you doesn’t help.”

'In other words, Klabnik appears to be “100% okay” with assaulting persons he considers to be fascist. He also employs a pretty loose definition of the word, including both Moldbug (who explicitly rejects fascism), as well as GamerGate (an overwhelmingly left-libertarian movement) within the label.'

Now, Mr. Travers has not, like Mr. Klabnik, endorsed violence against his political adversaries. But he did, in his post of June 25, 2014, write:

'"Rice and Lagarde withdrew from speaking because they were faced with protests (that is, other people exercising their free speech rights).'

Those coyly described in the above as "other people exercising their free speech rights" were, of course, engaged in exercising what is more generally called the heckler's veto. The heckler's veto is a widespread leftist tactic these days; for a mob to raise a tumult for the purpose of stifling a speaker is only a step away from their use of physical violence against property and person.

For someone who makes this kind of tacit endorsement of the heckler's veto to prattle on about what is or is not acceptable in "polite society" is utterly risible.

Mike Travers said...

@Crawfordmuir:

Among what I said:

I was kind of on the fence about it myself.

It would have been smarter to let him come and publish a disclaimer in the program or something.

Does that sound like “enthusiasm for denying a forum to neoreactionaries” to you? I assume you can actually read and interpret English, so you know full well that you are spouting bullshit.

Note that I give a forum to you, despite your comments almost never being interesting or pertinent. And if you want to start your own blog where you can post whatever tedious drivel you like, I will defend your right to do so.

You said: Is this not saying that because neorectionaries are anti-liberal, they should not complain when they are denied access to a forum

Yes, anti-liberal neoreactionaries should not complain if they are treated in an illiberal fashion. They have the legal right to complain, of course, since they are still citizens of a liberal polity. But they don՚t have much a of a moral leg to stand on. And, to be fair, I haven՚t seen any complaints from Moldbug himself, just his acolytes and hangers-on.

The right seems to have appropriated the most unappealing aspects of the left -- like constantly whinging about being an unfairly treated minority. At least when the left does it, there is some logic behind it, given the strong underlying belief in the principal of equality. When rightist defenders of aristocracy wail about their unfair treatment, it's merely pathetic.

Let me ask you something: do you believe that private events and institutions have an obligation to provide a speaking platform to absolutely everybody, no matter what their beliefs? If you do, well, congratulations, you are more leftist than I am. If not, then what in the world is your point?

Crawfurdmuir said...

"do you believe that private events and institutions have an obligation to provide a speaking platform to absolutely everybody, no matter what their beliefs? If you do, well, congratulations, you are more leftist than I am. If not, then what in the world is your point?"

We see how American leftists now traduce their supposed free-speech beliefs when they are in power, as Dain observed in his post time-stamped 12:13PM:

"Progressives are only now beginning to jettison their fetishizing of the Bill of Rights and its attendant Enlightenment nostrums, honed during the Bush era when they were convenient, now that they're gaining power."

Of course, the left's appeals to liberty have never been any more than mere manipulative stratagems, directed behind the scene by agents such as Willi Münzenberg. This is evident to anyone other than a partisan or dupe upon observing how the left has ruled after attaining power in Russia, China, Cuba, Cambodia, etc.

The academy has become a hothouse for the cultivation of far-left attitudinizing, to the extent that now even comedians shun university audiences, as we've read in the news recently. The much-vaunted "diversity" so prized in those venues nowadays seems not to include diversity of opinion.

A private institution - if truly private (and most universities are not) - certainly does not have an obligation to provide a speaking platform to everybody. However, it is ungracious at the very least for any institution to invite a speaker, and then to cancel his engagement due to pressure from those who disagree with him. For the managers of a forum, private or public, to acquiesce in the exercise of the heckler's veto is especially egregious. Those who practise the heckler's veto have nothing to do with polite society, and those who condone their actions, as you appear to do, bring into question their standing to be considered a part of it.

An aristocratic society is not inherently illiberal. The Austro-Hungarian empire was an aristocratic state and had a great deal of freedom. Britain, when it was truly an aristocratic society, was even freer. Before the 1911 reform, Britain had a House of Lords that was entirely hereditary, and enjoyed unlimited power to defeat legislation advanced by the Commons. Yet, as A,J.P. Taylor observed, it was conceivable that a 19th-century Briton might go through his entire life without encountering an official of government other than his local postman or bobby. Sir Robert Peel's income tax of 1842 (applied to incomes of £150 or more) was 7d in the pound - about 3%. The yoke of the state in most supposed democracies today is not nearly so light.

kay schluehr said...

Moldbug has a new illustrious companion:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/13/tim-hunt-forced-to-resign

I kind of agree with N.N.Talebs Twitter remark that it is impossible to have an opinion when you earn a salary and he wishes the artisan back. But the becoming of an artisan may not be enough as long as the artisan is well connected.

I still wonder about the vehemence of the responses, as if a virtual civil-war-of-everyone-against-everyone has been recovered as the modus operandi of the networked society.

Ryan said...

I have two takes on the situation for Tim Hunt and also Matt Taylor (the comet guy). The first is that I am entitled to righteous indignation toward the whole lot of their detractors.

http://www.theverge.com/2014/11/13/7213819/your-bowling-shirt-is-holding-back-progress

"I don't care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing

That's one small step for man, three steps back for humankind"

No, not the onion. Even if we take them literally, they think the guy's shirt was three times more harmful than his accomplishment was helpful. But in reality they simply don't value scientific accomplishment one iota. And so when people said of Hunt, "cut the guy some slack, he's a really great scientist," no slack to be cut, because science has no value.

And doesn't that give me the right to look down on them exactly the same way I would on someone who said "landed a spaceship on a comment, sure, but is he a Christian?"

My second take is that's all arrogant nonsense and Moldbug had it right all along:

"Witch-hunting on a purely informal basis, Popehat's "social consequences," scratches the political perfectly, because of course here is actual power - the power to harm other human beings - being exercised by ordinary people who are not mysterious DC bureaucrats. Never, ever understate how fun it is to just chimp out for a minute. If you mock it, it's because you've never had a chance to be part of the mob. You can condemn it as a vile, base passion, which of course it is - and a human passion as well. We really all are Caliban."

Mike Travers said...

What's the big deal about that Matt Taylor case? He did something mildly inappropriate and mildly offensive, and was chided for it, didn't lose his job or suffer any harm other than embarrassment on the internet. Seems that was a pretty proportional response.

The Tim Hunt case is harder. Seems like an overreaction to me, but others I respect disagree.

I'd be more impressed with those who are outraged by "witch hunts" if they expressed even the slightest smidgeon of awareness that gender discrimination in the workplace is an actual problem, not something cooked up to make men feel bad.

Not quite sure what this has to do with Moldbug whose writings are orders of magnitude more offensive, but on the other hand he isn't a spokesman for any public institution that wants to fire him.

kay schluehr said...

I wouldn't conflate the pleasure to chimp out or that of harassment with the execution of actual power. Like many other cruel kids I had a lot of that kind of pleasure up to the middle of my teenage years, but it was still play i.e. reversible. If you begin to fuck up for nothing but the fun of it, plus change the course of things into actual harm, you are dangerously close to a criminal career or passing a barbarian/psychopathy threshold. We were not "wild" in the sense that we didn't understood the distinction, just like we didn't really believe, as kids, that we were real Cowboys or Zorro. In that sense Matt Taylor and Tim Hunt fall on the (kid)ding side. It isn't even "free speech" with the whole of the pathos behind it. It is self-serving but whimsical. I'm also totally against the idea of giving them a free pass because of their merits, something which just nourishes the popular nightmare of a barbarian elite.

A woman at another table in a small café I regularly visit. She, a middle aged, attractive woman, is sitting there with her husband who says nothing. Her young son is standing close and says nothing either. She talks and talks and educates and educates her son. It is in an endless telling-off about good behavior and manners, about how hurt someone else was, how bad she felt about her son then and that he wasn't really ashamed, which he should have been etc. I got the impression that she enjoyed all that, that it was a pleasure for her to build all those sentences, to feel her own adult rightness, her slightly raised voice during the re-iteration of lessons she learned as an educator of her son, including the output of countless hours of talking about those things with her woman friends. She didn't "chimp out", on the contrary, that's what her son did, her young Caliban. Hers was the pleasure of educators and administrators to be right. We might still be Calibans. We want to play and eventually upset people a bit, they do not.

kay schluehr said...

"... gender discrimination in the workplace is an actual problem"

Seemingly the problem is exploding right now. Or not?

Is the most important property of a "witch hunt" really that there are no witches or is it the refined sensory for witch-likeness, an ability which creates its own social realities if it grows on fertile grounds? Few would claim that there were no communists when they were persecuted under senator McCarthy, nor deny that communism was a dangerous, totalitarian ideology at that times, but still perceive his "witch hunt" as a social pathology. I think the reason for this judgment is that witch-likeness is random noise. It is an irrelevant pattern, a difference which doesn't make a difference, even if there were witches and the witch hunter had some true positives. The problematic issue about McCarthy's positivism wasn't that he erred to often, that there were too many false positives, that he persecuted the wrong people and should have persecuted only truly dangerous communists, but that he was a neurotic who energetically forced his perceptions and risk assessments on others.

Ryan said...

@Mike

That blog entry was very interesting. I now want to put Hunt and Taylor in totally different categories. Taylor is a nerd with poor social skills who got bullied, and a dog bit his hand, news at 11:00. But Hunt I think is an arrogant prick and the people around him couldn't wait for a chance to take him down a notch.

@Kay

When a mother lectures her son on proper manners I can buy the story that she loves him and wants him to grow into a good man. When Twitter and clickbaiters lecture Taylor about how boobs on a bowling shirt hurt astronomy by driving young women away from telescopes, I can't buy the story that they love astronomy and don't want it held back. They don't love astronomy or respect scientific accomplishments. Bullies chimping out makes much more sense.

Crawfurdmuir said...

"Not quite sure what this has to do with Moldbug whose writings are orders of magnitude more offensive..."

What is offensive about what he wrote? Not that it's obviously false and laughable. If that were so evident, you wouldn't pay it so much attention or have such a burr under your saddle about it. Rather, it's the fear that at least some of it is plausible, and might indeed be true.

This is the basis for much of what is summarized by the concept of political correctness, and the reason why it so strongly resembles a religion. One must deny the evidence of one's senses to believe the politically-correct line, and it is a thought-crime - a heresy - even to notice facts that contradict it.

kay schluehr said...

"When Twitter and clickbaiters lecture Taylor about how boobs on a bowling shirt hurt astronomy by driving young women away from telescopes, I can't buy the story that they love astronomy and don't want it held back."

It is the woman-which-is-supposed-to-be-traumatized and must be safed by her sisters, which is entirely about dealing with neurotic symptoms - though not always in a way we might think.

There was this incident on PyCon US in 2013 where two guys made jokes about forks and dongles during a talk of a woman on stage. A black feminist, A.R. was sitting right in front of them and blew them up on Twitter. All three lost their jobs. Originally A.R. explained her motives were altruistic, that the young woman on stage must be saved from sexist jokes, which would traumatize her but a year later she gave an interview where she revealed that the two white guys caused physical symptoms in her and that she felt threatened by them. Hysteria. She also gave a background story which made this behavior credible i.e. she touched her own trauma, which wasn't caused by sexist jokes of course. The most important aspect is the way she dealt with it around the time she gave that interview. She created a community of Twitter followers where she made sexist jokes about men. It gives a glimpse of a post-therapeutic world where you don't adapt to existing social realities in order to lead a "normal life" but to create your own social reality ( filter bubble ) in which your behavior and symptoms are accepted and normal. She also said she didn't find a job since then, so both realities don't fit seamlessly together.

The consensual narrative is that there are too few woman in tech and bad jokes of some guys prevent them from entering. So if a desired reality cannot be engineered quick enough social particle physics predicts witches and other evil-doers who are causing obstacles. Of course there are other far less bleak and dystopian initiatives created in a different spirit. For example PyLadies existed already in 2013 and the Python community gave itself a code of conduct. There isn't much more a civilization can do in its own mode and if this ain't shift an equilibrium not much else will do either.

Mike Travers said...

"What is offensive about what he wrote?" Well, it's the astonishing racism that is generally unacceptable, although it is his general enthusiasm for government slaughter of minorities and dissidents that would make me personally not invite him to my dinner parties.

Crawfurdmuir said...

Whether you would invite Moldbug to your dinner parties is less at issue here than why you have devoted your two most recent posts to him. It is obvious that you are still bothered by his opinions nearly a year after the last post on his blog. Much more virulent racism can be found elsewhere in the world than is asserted in what he wrote, and a great deal more enthusiasm for slaughter of minorities and dissidents (e.g., on the part of ISIS) than he has ever practiced, or indeed will ever have the chance to practice - and this has drawn no comment from you. The question is then, why is Moldbug of such particular offense to your delicate sensibilities?

As I've noted, a great deal of the censorious attitude summarized by the phrase "political correctness" seems to originate in fear that politically incorrect concepts or claims might be true.

We need only consider the reaction when Larry Summers suggested that the paucity of women in the faculties of the physical sciences at Harvard might have something to do with innate cognitive differences between the sexes, or when James Watson expressed the opinion that he felt "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa [because] all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really." Now, whatever the merit of these propositions, they are testable. In an institution devoted to scientific pursuits, should not the response be to examine the data to see whether it supports a proposition or fails to support it? Yet that is not what was done.

Rather, both men were removed from their jobs. This is a reaction appropriate to heresy, rather than to the utterance of an erroneous claim as to fact. Numerous other examples could be adduced. If a claim be false, the proper response is to disprove it. It is only when one can't do so that personal revilement and attempts to damage or destroy the utterer of the claim are deployed. This relieves those who can't show the falsehood of the claim of the need to do so by ending the discussion without a factual resolution.

As for inviting people to anything - at least the exclusionary freedom of association still (for the time being) still applies to dinner parties. Whether it does to quasi-public functions seems to depend on who's excluded and who's doing the excluding. I can only note that destruction of the exclusionary freedom of association has been a decades-long project of the political left. The associational rights of employers, hoteliers, shopkeepers, caterers, and persons offering real estate to let or for sale, among others, have since the 1950s been thoroughly breached by various civil rights acts, court decisions, executive orders, and policies. Not only has the right to associate commercially as one pleases been demolished, but even the right to do so socially has:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB124588111858449559

This sort of attack on associational rights is closely allied the left's attack on private property rights.

Is it not rank hypocrisy, then, for the left to assert exclusionary rights of association when it suits them, after having reduced or eliminated those rights for others? "Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander."

Crawfurdmuir said...

"One of the Nazi՚s [sic] main justifications for their crimes against Jews was order and purity."

I'm surprised no one has cited Godwin's law in connection with this passage from the original post.

One might just as well point out that what M. Travers has referred to as the left's "strong underlying belief in the principal [sic] of equality" was the main justification for every atrocity committed by socialist states from the time of Felix Dzerzhinsky to that of Pol Pot.

They are perfect laevo- and dextrorotary versions of the same argument.

The only noteworthy difference is that the Nazis are well and truly dead and buried - outside, perhaps, of the Middle East, where the political heirs of Hitler's old crony the Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini are now in the ascendant.

On the other hand, Marxism is alive and well in America, Europe, and all over the world. Apologists for the Soviet Union can be found on many university faculties; apologists for Nazi Germany cannot. Indeed, it would be interesting to know whether there are not more self-identifying Marxists in academia than there are people who would admit to voting Republican.

Mike Travers said...

Whether you would invite Moldbug to your dinner parties is less at issue here than why you have devoted your two most recent posts to him.

Says who?

At any rate, the earlier post was not devoted to Moldbug, but to the links between three different movements, one of which owes its origin to him.

Much more virulent racism can be found elsewhere in the world than is asserted in what he wrote

This is true, but most of that kind of racism holds no appeal for intelligent people, while neoreaction seems to be making some traction among them.

I'm really not sure why you seem to believe I have an obligation to justify to you what I choose to write about. I write about what interests me, so if you want responses, try to be more interesting.

Crawfurdmuir said...

On measuring the column inches of your penultimate post, I found that the space devoted specifically to neoreaction, which you yourself say "grew from a single blog run by a single genius" (Moldbug) exceeds that devoted either to libertarianism or what you describe as rationalism. Hence, it could correctly be said that your penultimate post was devoted to Moldbug to greater extent than it was to the other two currents of thought.

I don't believe that you have an obligation to justify what you write about - that you don't, however, might suggest to the dispassionate or sceptical reader that you can't.

Turning in conclusion to your remark, "I write about what interests me, so if you want responses, try to be more interesting" - of a total of nine comments that you've made (to date), five of them are responses to mine. I seem to be relatively successful in eliciting responses from you, considering that what I've said is so uninteresting. One might suppose that if it really were so, you'd simply ignore me. But apparently I have succeeded in becoming, in my small way, the same sort of bee in your bonnet that Moldbug is on a grander scale.

Mike Travers said...

On measuring the column inches of your penultimate post...

Damn, man, who exactly is obsessed with whom here?

But apparently I have succeeded in becoming, in my small way, the same sort of bee in your bonnet that Moldbug is on a grander scale.

If you count annoying me as a significant achievement, well, far be it for me to deny you the glory.

Crawfurdmuir said...

'"Much more virulent racism can be found elsewhere in the world than is asserted in what he wrote"

'This is true, but most of that kind of racism holds no appeal for intelligent people, while neoreaction seems to be making some traction among them.

And if so, why? Notions that are obviously and laughably false do not "make some traction" with intelligent people. Just as I suggested, the reason is that neoreaction is plausible and contains some elements of truth. This is why it is feared and why the votaries of political correctness seek to punish those that utter such thoughts.

'If you count annoying me as a significant achievement, well, far be it for me to deny you the glory.'

Always a pleasure to annoy a leftist ideologue. I know you'd do worse to me if you could.