I’m rereading Mencius Moldbug from the beginning, in chronological order. This afternoon I’ve read from “A Formalist Manifesto” (2007-04-23) and just finished with “Roth, castes, chimps and Rangordnung” (2007-05-10) and yes, I got it right the first time.
I remember the time period quite well, having been an active blog reader/writer in the same general space as Moldbug and his fans. Originially quite friendly, as time went on it became harder and harder to not notice that lurking barely underneath the surface of Moldbug’s – and his fans’ – analysis was a pretty obvious agenda. One shared by one of Moldbug’s early critics, in fact, Scott Alexander at “Slate Star Codex.”
The “right” leaning Moldbug and the “left” leaning Alexander were sort of whispering to their respective audiences. You can summarize it like this: “hey guys, all the genocidal hatred you express towards the …”
Hmm, what’s the word I’m looking for here. Alexander might call this object of genocidal hatred “the red tribe” and Moldbug uses the term “Vaisyas.”
“… hey guys, all the genocidal hatred you express towards the [Red Tribe, Vaisyas] is making us look bad. You’re startling the horses. Technically speaking we’re in charge now. If you keep calling the [Red Tribe, Vaisyas] ‘Nazi-Hitler-KKK’ they might start to get the wrong idea.”
Both Alexander and Moldbug are keen to distance themselves from what Alexander calls “the Blue Tribe” and what Moldbug calls “the Brahmins.” For Alexander, this meant calling creating a brand new category that allows him to position himself into the “reasonable middle.” He’s neither blue tribe nor red tribe. He’s the Grey Tribe. Centering the political axis around youself is pretty much the oldest trick in the book, of course, so anyone to the right of you is an unreasonable extremist, and anyone to the left of you is an unreasonable extremist – and you of course are the sensible middle.
That’s about as interesting as Scott Alexander ever got, and his blog is far too boring to keep up with, unless you are actually interested in long explanations from his commenters about how modern tech-savvy religious orthodox Jews are really quite reasonable and part of the “Grey Tribe” too. Obviously, modern tech-savvy religious orthodox Jews aren’t crazy right wing Nazis, but neither are they those looney-tunes Social Justice Warrior lefties like the liberal Presbyterians supporting BDS, which is, like, WAAAAY out there.
Moldbug is working on the other side of the reuben sandwich. Later on he’s going to explain how very, very much he likes Ron Paul and is totally down with the Vaisyas – hell, he even loves those Optimates with their formal dances and classical music. But you see, voting for Ron Paul won’t do you any good, because democracy doesn’t really exist and the real rulers in America are the civil service and the media.
And the civil service is run by Brahmins and the media is run by … also Brahmins.
So Moldbug eventually gets around to the action item:
What makes a Vaisya a Vaisya is that he or she is a sensible normal person who takes an appropriate and healthy interest in his or her own life. Trying to involve these people in the disaster of democracy, in some sort of attempt to restore a Brahmin-ravaged Optimate culture that can no more be restored than Albigensian Provence or Mughal India, and which in any case was no more perfect than either of these wonderful and deceased societies, strikes me as an enormous mistake. It enrages the Brahmins and it achieves nothing
But Moldbug is reasonable. And Vaisyas are reasonable, if only the Brahmins would give them a chance. Basically, the big problem is that Vaisyas are allowed to meddle in politics and if they have to be allowed to vote it should only be to permanentaly disenfranchise their class:
If Vaisya votes are needed to help abolish our profoundly dysfunctional and moribund system of government according to proper legal procedure, fine. But let them vote once, on a proposition that is unambiguous and final, and prevents them from ever having to concern themselves with the ridiculous high-school absurdity of electoral democracy ever again.
Sort of like how Republicans only oppose illegal immigration but love legal immigrants, for Moldbug the only use for democracy is for the Vaisyas to demolish democracy, which doesn’t work anyway.
Later he’ll explain that he just loves Ron Paul and the Vaisyas who vote for him, it won’t do any good because the media will just demonize him before he ever got elected, and even worse if he somehow managed to get elected.
And of course the media is run by Brahmins.
And Brahmins are, of course, lapsed Calvinist Christians who display the wiccaphobic fury of their Puritan progenitors.
Hell, Moldbug even name-drops the Southern Poverty Law Center as an example of how the Brahmins unreasonably hate the Vaisyas. Because the people who run the Southern Poverty Law Center that hate white working and middle class Christians so much is because, um, they are just secularized Puritans.
Moldbug loves to use labels to obscure the obvious. Here is his goal:
My goal is to try, in my own small way, to remind them that they actually are the ruling caste, that their enemies basically no longer exist, that they can come down from their 20th-century insane chimp rage without getting their genitals ripped off and eaten by a lurking band of equally-enraged Optimates.
So, he wants to remind the Brahmins that their enemies, the Optimates are never actually going to pull a 1933 again and, you know, genocide the Brahmins like last time.
The timing isn’t at all coincidental either, nor is Moldbug’s special concern for Ron Paul and his movement. 2007. The Bush administration is ending in disaster. Let’s see, Antiwar.com was a major internet blog, aligned with the Ron Paul (and Pat Buchanan) factions that pointed to a specific group of people, called not “Brahmins” but “neo-conservatives,” that were responsible for Bush’s war in Iraq.
Interestingly too, Moldbug started his blog precisely one month after Mearsheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby paper was first make publically available. Mearsheimer and Walt had originally been hired by The Atlantic to write the paper, way back in 2002, but when the management of The Atlantic realized the full extent of what Mearsheimer and Walt were proposing, they dropped it like a hot potato.
Within four days of starting his blog, Andrew Sullivan linked it, bringing in a massive audience for a brand new, no-name, pseudonymous writer on a free Blogspot.com account. It’s no mark against Moldbug’s obvious intelligence and writerly skill to call that an amazing stroke of luck.
Many intelligent and skilled bloggers toil away for years before getting any mainstream attention, if they get any at all. But Moldbug hit the big time within for days of registering his Google account, by someone as high profile as Andrew Sullivan, no less.
Over the next few months, roughly from May of 2007, Moldbug is going to explain his idea that “the Cathedral” – the “Brahmin caste” and their institutions- are motivated by their post-Christian ideology, specifically their post-Calvinist ideology, to show contempt for the Vaisya caste, and that it’s this post-Calvinism that drives groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center to viciously smear Vaisyas as “Hitler-Nazi-KKKs.”
You see, the Brahmins – or as Scott Alexander calls them, “the Blue Tribe” – (think, WASP liberals) – are just like the witch-burning Puritans of old – who genocided the Indians, which is why we can’t have Thanksgiving anymore, ironically, as the “Blue Tribe” and the “Brahmins” now assert in the pages of such post-Calvinist publications like the New York Times and The Atlantic.
I mean, there is a case to be made. The Atlantic was undoubtedly once the magazine for respectable New England liberalism. The year before Moldbug started his blog, The Atlantic, moved from Boston to Washington DC, and hired progressive Brahmins like Jeffrey Goldberg – surely influenced by his post-Puritan neo-Calvinism, and the man who gave Moldbug his first big break, the impeccably White Anglo-Saxon post-Protestant neo-Calvinist progressive Andrew Sullivan.
I’m sure I have some facts here confused. Perhaps my time line is off. Perhaps I’m simply not smart enough to understand someone as clearly intelligent as Moldbug.
So I think I’ll keep reading, and keep digging, so hopefully I can understand the mysterious rise of this new movement “neo-reaction” that has become so controversial its leading proponents have been censored from all major media platforms and are relegated to the backwaters of the internet like The American Mind a “publication of the Claremont Institute.”
The Claremont Institute? With a name like “Claremont” if that isn’t a Boston-Brahmin, post-Puritan neo-Calvinist institution, what else could it possible be?