Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Strange trip into the arcane world of Dark Enlightenment

Just in case this political movement goes anywhere, I want to document for posterity (OK, for my small readership) the existence of a strange subculture in conservatism. Here's how it started: I followed up on the usage of the term "the Cathedral" in a comment from a hopeless conservative troll on Bernstein's blog.

The inventor of the term is an off-putting, wordy blogger, Moldbug. (I'm not sure what to make of that name.) The Cathedral is a term of derision for a bureaucracy that is greedy for control over ever larger portions of people's lives. It's coined by an atheist who hates both Church and modern liberal State.

The term strikes me as an apt comparison, so it's not a surprise that other people have taken it up. The points of similarity include propaganda, collecting tithes or taxes to support a large clerical class, complex tenets, censorship of ideas not conforming to those tenets, control of large academic and educational arms, and probably some I've missed. The term "Cathedral" refers specifically to the nexus of academia, the elite press, policy think tanks, and their influence/control over education, voting blocks, the legislative agenda, and public opinion.

Derbyshire, (yes, himapplauds the Moldbug concept of the world. It turns out that he is an adherent of a peculiar strain of political thought called dark enlightenment. Here is just a taste of their tenets:
- A realization that liberty is incompatible with democracy, and that democracy leads to mediocrity.
- A concern with bio-politics, oriented to a particular people’s biological and demographic imperatives.
- A rejection of egalitarianism.
With tenets like that, this political group has limited growth possibilities. It seems to me to be an offshoot of conservativism that has gone extreme--to a complete black/white, good/evil view of politics. And in the good/evil balance, democracy is evil. Also evil: the American revolutionaries, the Declaration of Independence, our separation from Great Britain, the acceptance of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis, and the acceptance of human equality.

The thesis is a marvel of logic and logical jumps. I've only skimmed much of it, but I've noted a few flaws:

  • Toryism is good, and Whigs (the democratic impulse) is bad. 
  • Toryism leads to order, which is preferable to chaos, which is the outcome from democracy. 
  • Problem: Does Toryism always lead to order? Does democracy always lead to chaos? 
  • Problem: Is something good always 100% good? Not in my experience. 
  • Problem: Can anything good come from something labeled evil? Strangely (or not), yes.

The author seems aware of the possibility of faulty reasoning, so he states that his assignment of 'order' as 'good' is a preference. However, he seems unaware of the problems of black/white reasoning. Nonetheless, his discussion of the influence of academia and the other side of the American revolution are definitely worth reading, or at least skimming. And luckily, it is not dry droning. Metaphors are taken from Star Trek and The Matrix movie. Do you want the red pill or the blue pill?

As I said before, I see no way that these ideas will catch on in a big way. I've seen the term 'Cathedral' used several times, so do look for it. It will be extremely ironic if 'Cathedral' catches on considering the other baggage the term carries. If I ever hear Sarah Palin use it, or a member of Congress, I'll have a special private chuckle.

Next time you vote, savor it. Moldbug and Derbyshire (and this teacher) don't believe you should vote unless you're white, Anglo-Saxon, and own an estate.

The T-shirts for the good side are ready

Extras. Moldbug's manifesto is in four parts that are poorly linked. Use Google to find all four. Finally, some fun. A list of terms that they make fun of.


Dangerous said...

This is an interesting post, although I'm too busy to waste my time following the links to read the ramblings -- no matter how entertaining -- of fools.

What so many of these kinds of political theorists miss is that human being are sentient, even if they are prone to brainwashing from an early age. In a society steeped in 1st Amendment and other civil rights protections, the notion that democracy -- when taken to the extreme of majoritarianism -- is a joke. Sure, the impulse of a powerful majority is to convert or cajole or regiment its precepts and defend them from those who disagree. I don't need a lecture or a cautionary tale to understand that. There's plenty of social science fiction for that.

ModeratePoli said...

"I'm too busy to waste my time following the links to read the ramblings... of fools."

That's why I did it for you. However, I don't think these people are fools. They've put a lot of thought into their positions, and they've faced up to some tough corollaries, like the American rebellion was wrong. However, there are still a large number of logical leaps and also blind adherence to what they believe without acknowledgement of its problems.

I think you're right that (most) people in this country are inculcated with respect for the first amendment and individual rights, so I don't think this movement will increase substantially. However, I do hear anti-democratic rumblings: "this is a republic, not a democracy," calls to return to state legislatures appointing the state's senators, an end to birthright citizenship. I hope proposals for poll taxes and other significant stumbling blocks to voting aren't on the way.

Dangerous said...

The USA is s Republic with guaranteed civil liberties and regularly scheduled elections. That doesn't mean both of these individual safeguards don't require diligence and might go away. It just makes it harder for majoritarianism run amok to suspend them.

The public dialog in democratic, and becoming more so all the time with new mass-communication technologies. But the notion that the American revolution to achieve independence from a distant monarch was wrong? While it's true, as Mel Gibson's character states in The Patriot, "Why should I trade one monarch 3000 miles away for 3000 monarchs one mile away?" It's a fair question, but that's not really the trade, is it?

I could now go off and talk semi-intelligently about how it is the natural state of humans to seek to enslave other humans for the enslaver's benefit, and that impulse is just as dangerous (and more likely) than majorities doing the same thing. Recall that the "majority" in a democratic system is not of one mind like the Borg, seeking to assimilate other civilizations to serve them and achieve a level of perfection. (I'm guessing that might be one of their Star Trek references.) There is as much if not more squabbling among the parties comprising the majority; they using reach a compromise position most can accept. A minority is free to take never-ending shots at everything since they don't feel they get their way.

Oligarchy is a far greater risk in every society. A single, powerful ruler or dynasty, backed with military force, can achieve in weeks what a majority could hardly achieve in a century.

These guys read and believe too much social science fiction.

ModeratePoli said...


I sense in Dark Enlightenment the idea that they are naturally superior, and resent the energy it takes now to show it. Also the lack of accolades, and lack of certainty that they will end up on top. Basically, they'd like to cut down on competition, but they cloak it in more palatable justifications. Oh, they do hate the rabble, and the money spent on them.

I suspect that, like Derbyshire, they haven't spent much time in a mixed workplace. You learn a lot about the difference between test-smart and ability to work and problem-solve in that kind of workplace.

Dangerous said...

As the saying goes, if one moves so far to the left or right politically one usually comes out the other side. I guess these people disprove that maxim. One can always go deeper.

ModeratePoli said...

@Dangerous, I was just reflecting the DE adherents want to suppress or oppress the ordinary folks. If they were to get their wish, they would deserve to be shot when the revolution happens. This is the flip side of Marxism, which teaches that you have to eliminate the aristocracy, who have oppressed you and would do it again given the chance.

Anonymous said...

The DE is growing. Democracy has failed. It will eventually replace the existing system but not until the zombie gives up the ghost. That will take 50 to 100 years.

You can enjoy it in the meantime.

ModeratePoli said...

@anon, what system will replace democracy? You forgot to say. What a pathetic, meaningless comment--akin to a whiny "we'll win, just you wait." It's just your assertion, lacking any argument. Not a superior argument especially for one who would loathe being one of the common sort.

Anonymous said...

What system will replace democracy? Monarchy. Nothing has changed since Aristotle. There are only 3 kinds of government and monarchy is the best.

Dethrone Washington DC; restore the Stuarts.

Charles I said: "For the people. And truly I desire their Liberty and Freedom as much as any Body whomsoever. But I must tell you, That their Liberty and Freedom, consists in having of Government; those Laws, by which their Life and their Gods may be most their own. It is not for having share in government (Sir) that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a soveraign are clean different things, and therefore until they do that, I mean, that you do put the people in that liberty as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves."

ModeratePoli said...

@mukatsuku, your assertion that monarchy is better is simply your opinion, not backed up by careful research or a single, solitary fact.

Please reread my rules for commenting. Note this: "... make sure there is substance to your remarks."

Your comment is a FAIL. You are a failure as an advocate for dark enlightenment. I hope you're reading this.

Neoreactionary said...

I suspect that, like Derbyshire, they haven't spent much time in a mixed workplace.

I'd say that a good many of us found DE precisely because we have seen first-hand the failures and (worse) mediocrities of egalitarianism in a multicultural environment. I'm from Los Angeles, as is Sailer. Derbyshire lives in NYC. Very few of us are unacquainted with mixed workplaces or neighborhoods. And you do know that Derbyshire's wife is Chinese, yes?

Anyway, you seem to be implying white supremacy here, which isn't true, at least not across the board in DE circles. I think Jim Goad said it best: "Of course I'm not a white supremacist. Everyone knows that Jews and chinks are smarter than whites."

ModeratePoli said...

@neoreactionary, a forced multicultural environment is probably not the best way to get to know people from other ethnic groups. Academia is particularly a terrible environment, with its petty rivalries and subjective measures of greatness and high number of people who don't really want to be there. However, when you work longterm in a team with a clear goal, that is ideal for finding the merits of your coworkers. That's the workplace I had, and from which I draw my conclusions. You also need a significant number of people, so you don't draw conclusions from one or two blacks, one or two Jews etc.

At the different workplace, the Jews, Anglos, and Indians all held their own with the East Asians. The only black didn't do so well. The next place, the technical leader was black, and he was damn good. Conclusions? You need broader experience to test your assumptions.

So, can you actually refute anything that I said? Can you tell me about the workplaces Derbyshire has had, or you had?

Anonymous said...

I disagree, these people are not Manichean in the way Centrist Americans are.

If anything they are more relativist, bordering on the amoral. They aren't they ones having hissy fits about R2P, Saddam, the national shame (slavery), Saints MLK and Mandela

ModeratePoli said...

@Anon, did I say the DE folks are Manicheans, seeing a struggle between good and evil? Looking back, I guess I did, and the evil is The Cathedral. Well, DE does treat them as quite evil, or terribly bad for society. Was I wrong to see it this way? Also, I'm not sure in what way you see centrist Americans as Manichean. Who is good and who is evil in the view of centrist Americans?

I agree that DE seems amoral, in the way that Nietzsche thought the great in society didn't need to follow the rules.

As to hissy fits, DE just has them on other topics. Do they not have fits over all sorts of issues in education? That argument is a FAIL. said...

However, when you work longterm in a team with a clear goal, that is ideal for finding the merits of your coworkers. That's the workplace I had, and from which I draw my conclusions.

I assumed at first that you were in one of the armed services, probably active duty.

I guess there are good forced-multicultural environments, and bad forced-multicultural environments, depending on whether they're blowing stuff up or not.

ModeratePoli said...

@davis--no, not the military. As I say in my introduction to my blog, I was a liberal, so not too likely to have gone into the military. Very few of my cohort went into the military.

No, I've had the multi-cultural experience in healthcare.