So I checked the mail the other day and found this “Notice of Inclusion In a Scientific Study.” My first instinct was maybe this was one of those medical studies where you get paid to be a lab rat and test out some experimental nasal spray or something. I started thinking of all the vintage 90s apparel I could buy from PacSun with the money.
Nope. It turns out this was just a cheesy political advertisement (and a retarded one at that) from a group called Arizona Wins.” The flier goes on to say that they’re “conducting an experiment to understand which voters participate in the November 6 election.” However, this is ultimately nothing more than a lame political ad. Thoughtfully, it also provides “information you need to be a successful voter.” This information consists of basic polling location information and a comically partisan summary of the candidates’ positions which only someone with the brain of Mr. Potato Head would find persuasive.
In fact, there is nothing “scientific” about the way this information is presented. Even though it is somewhat tongue in cheek, this annoying bit of junk mail is revealing in the sense that it demonstrates how the notion of science has come to be associated with political activism and propaganda rather than a cold, objective pursuit of knowledge. It also reveals just how infantile our democracy has become, to the point where politicians and their minions openly insult the intelligence of the voters they intend to appeal to. The disturbing part is that they’re rewarded for doing so, because at the end of the day most people really are that stupid. Having worked retail for many years, I found that the vast majority of people could not even interpret a coupon correctly. A discount sign would say something like “$50 off a second pair of jeans when you buy a pair at full price.” and nearly every day customers would look at it and I’d overhear them say things such as “Oh look honey everything in the store’s 50% off!” These are the kinds of people whom society trusts to analyze and determine the fate of politicians’ policy proposals on complex issues which collectively affect our lives.
This particular political advertisement appears to have been created (or at least approved) by a local tumblrista and airhead high IQ activist. EDIT: Apparently people have received these in other states too, so it must be a nationwide thing. In any event, it is the dumbest piece of political junk mail I have ever received. It’s irrelevant who created it though, because it isn’t all that unique. It’s just the same sort of sleazy marketing tactics we’re bombarded with every day, the kind promoted by greedy companies which politicians (such as those lauded by this flier) emptily promise to keep in check. Electoral politics is retarded. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a person who can’t figure out how to use the self checkout at Target dictating what’s “best” for the country.
“The fruits of neo-imperialism may just be neo-isolationism,” Pat Buchanan once facetiously suggested in a 2003 column titled “Are Bush and Rumsfeld Closet Populists?” The crux of his argument was that the Bush administration’s neoconservative foreign policy and defiant embrace of global military interventionism was so at odds with the rest of the world that it might result in the United States being alienated from the international community altogether and forced to reluctantly adopt the kind of isolationist nationalism Buchanan prefers.
The neocons have been mostly discredited and rejected by the American people since then, yet their ideology and its zealots have wormed their way so deep into the US political and media establishment, that neoconservative influence on US foreign policy remains dominant to this day. What brought Buchanan’s obscure column to mind though is the latest ideological craze, “democratic socialism.” It’s been on the rise for quite a while now, as evident by Bernie Sanders’ near win in the 2016 presidential primary. The ascent has continued with the growing popularity of podcasts like Chapo Trap House, as well as the media’s recent gush fest over political newcomers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and (former Sex and the City actress) Cynthia Nixon. The problem with democratic socialism (in the form it’s currently being presented by enthusiasts,) is that the solutions it purports to offer can’t withstand the weight of their own contradictions. Trying to be too many things to too many people in ways which inherently conflict, may put you on the fast track for electoral success and generate a lot of fawning media coverage, but then what? Where will the people that didn’t read the fine print turn when the built-in failure mechanisms are discovered during the activation process?
How can you have a federal job guarantee *and* support practically unlimited immigration from impoverished countries? And what good does it do to implement strict emission controls if you’re going to import so many people that the result will be a net increase in pollution anyway? In contemplating questions like this, one might begin to wonder (but not really) if these DSA types are “closet neoreactionaries,” in the sense that they advocate for “socialist” policies only within contexts which would guarantee said policies’ ineffectiveness (thus subsequently driving people to reluctantly embrace neo-monarchic, corporate fiefdoms.) “Free health care and college education!” but it’s going to be available to every one of the billions of humans on the planet that can manage to simply show up here in our “borderless,” undefined country that exists in name only. Oh, and we’re not allowed to significantly limit immigration from the third world in any substantial way. No physical borders, border patrol, or substantively sovereign nation states, but presumably there will be a distinguishable collective people whom we’re assured these programs are supposed to viably and sustainably benefit.
Today’s social democracy falls apart on the contradiction between advocating nearly unlimited government largess and nearly unlimited immigration. “Abolish ICE” is a proper rallying cry for hard-core libertarians and Davos globalists, not democratic socialists or social democrats. A federal job guarantee is an intriguing idea — assuming the jobs are for some defined “us” that doesn’t include every immigrant, asylum-seeker or undocumented worker.
Trump gets this, as does the far right in Europe, which is why they attract such powerful working-class support. Want to preserve the welfare state? Build a wall — or, in Europe’s case, reinstate border controls. Want more immigrants and amnesty? Lower the minimum wage and abolish the closed shop.
But please choose. It’s one or the other.
“Socialist” ideologies which aim for the dissolution of borders and the elimination of national sovereignty in actuality weaken the federal government’s ability to administer social programs effectively. If there is no authority to differentiate between who is or isn’t a citizen (of where?) and no tangible separation of territory, just whom or what exactly is the federal government presiding over? Is it simply “residents?” One can already envision the financial insolvency and administrative nightmare of this kind of “international airport socialism,” where going to the hospital is like making a trip to a crowded, third world DMV. Such a system would be impossible to manage efficiently, due to the intrinsic lack of organization and ill-defined parameters, rendering a theoretically empowered federal government hapless and functionally impotent. Very few aspiring employees can take advantage of a $15 minimum wage if you cram so many people into a city that there are not enough jobs to go around, and the accompanying demand for housing becomes so high that skyrocketing real estate prices negate any benefits for those lucky enough to land a “living” minimum wage job. Socialists and social democrats like Bernie Sanders used to be fully aware of all this, but they are so averse to being perceived as xenophobic or anti-immigrant, that their stated positions on these issues include a lot of muddled, self-contradictory language and conflicting statements…ultimately revealing themselves to be the product of doublethink.
In such a scenario, multinational corporations become strengthened, because people will feel they have no other alternative but to sign their lives away to Yelp or Amazon or some other corporate cult, which will present as comparably functional institutions. In exchange for being granted the closest thing to stability available, they’ll be inclined to just accept shitty, high deductible health plans that can change on a whim, conditional company housing, and draconian “code of conduct” rules which dictate what employees can do, wear and say on their own time, etc.
That’s the political choice we’re essentially being presented with: overpopulated, third world international airport socialism vs. multinational corporate feudalism. It is probably already too late for any other alternatives you might have in mind. It certainly seems too late for any kind of populist nationalism or to limit mass immigration in any meaningful way at the national level, though I guess pan secessionism and balkanization are distant possibilities (perhaps even inevitabilities.)
Are “democratic socialists” closet neoreactionaries? No, of course not. Are they the useful idiots of neoreaction? That sounds a bit too harsh. One could just as easily argue that many big companies are so greedy that they are actually helping to facilitate the rise of democratic socialism. The way most multinational corporations shamelessly manipulate and exploit their employees, while simultaneously displaying outright contempt for consumers…they certainly aren’t doing themselves any PR favors. Multinational corporations are portable though, and since they have no allegiance to any particular place or country, they are highly adaptable and can remain as elusive as the Black Fortress in Krull.
Ultimately, I think democratic socialists simply represent one half in the next phase of Americans having to hold their noses and choose between systems that don’t represent their interests and which promise things they can’t deliver.
Blackstone speaks as if he were a god, “I’m Roger Blackstone. I have dedicated my life to advancing civilization and furthering human progress, from finding cures to deadly illnesses, to radical life extension, to building utopian cities. Imagine a world where you can get on a fast train in Miami and be in New York City in 30 minutes. Imagine an end to aging and illness. I have the power to re-write the human genome and end all human suffering. Imagine an end to all ecological degradation, preventing utter ecological catastrophe. I have the solutions to end our petroleum based economy, implementing high speed railway and monorail networks; vertical farms and renewable energy from unknown energy sources. I will help rebuild our suburban wastelands into magnificent walkable communities, accessible to mass transit and parklands; but most importantly true freedom. The freedom to live in the utopia you desire, whether it is a vertical garden-city, a neon-lit retro wonderland, or a European-style village. I’ve actually built these things and understand that true freedom will only occur when people can live in their very own utopia.” Noam’s mom scoffs, “Sounds like just another one of his commercials for his real estate developments, rather than an appeal from a public statesman. He wants to turn all of America into one giant theme park. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about ecology.” Blackstone continues, “Imagine no work! Robots will do all the work, and there will be a guaranteed basic income. People will no longer be slaves to dead end jobs and will be free to pursue their dreams and reach their full potential. Imagine no ugliness! I will offer economic incentives for the most attractive women to have multiple offspring and implement an immigration policy limited to only the most attractive women; the best looking European models and economic incentives for all young blonde Israeli women to immigrate to avoid military conscription. I will further human enlightenment with the legalization of LSD and DMT. I will fix our broken economy with a repudiation of all debt, home mortgages, and student loans, and an end to all interest with nationalization of the banks. Vote for me. I will make your dreams come true!” Noam’s mom interrupts, “Faux populist fascist pig! His gaudy casinos prey on the working class, his tastes are stuck in the 80s, he objectifies women, and he has done nothing to empower women and minorities! His father Alistair wrote this bizarre creepy fascist manifesto advocating for the aristocracy to enslave the proletariat, and I know Roger is influenced by that fascist shit.”
The following is a brief set of observations on Roger and Alistair Blackstone’s political agendas in Robert Stark’s novel Journey to Vapor Island. There is also an episode of the Stark Truth that covers much of the content here.
On Alistair Blackstone’s manifesto:
“Those who were born to serve.” – bears some resemblance to notions of a natural aristocracy, see: Ralph Waldo Emerson, HL Mencken. Also, this is what Marx would have called the lumpenproletariat, and the “petite bourgeois” is actually a name that some Marxists gave to the distributist movement, but at the same time there’s some evidence that Alistair is sympathetic to distributive economic philosophies, because capitalism has this negative effect or this stultifying effect on the creative class. Later on the term “aristocratic radicalism” pops up, which I think is used to describe Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy, but I don’t think Nietzsche himself came up with it.
“An immigration policy limited to only the most attractive women.” This makes humans, rather than just art and architecture, the subject of aesthetic concern.
“Conformist masses.” This is part of the idea (espoused by Crowley and others) that society is made up of loners (non-conformists) and “the herd” (conformists). Some would suggest, as per aristocratic radicalism (or Crowley’s term, “aristocratic communism”) that society ought to be geared towards empowering and emboldening those people who are naturally non-conformists, artists and intellectuals and so on, and maybe creating some more of them.
“Garden paradise.” – Environmentalism?
“A new priest class descended from a lost ancient civilization shall decide who is fit to rule.” This reminded me, although I suspect it is probably unintentional, of Roman myths about the founding of their city, i.e. there was the notion that the patrician elite were descended from the officials originally appointed by Romulus. It makes sense that this would be a concern given the references later in the book to Roman sexual mores and aesthetics.
On Roger Blackstone’s Politics:
“Advancing civilization and furthering human progress.” This implies a rejection of the NRx reading of history (inverted Whig view of history) and assumes, contra NRx, that some forms of progress are actually meaningful.
“I have the power to re-write the human genome and end all human suffering.” Reminded me of recent developments in genetics, how one could completely re-engineer the human genome to enhance human potential, etc.
“European-style village.” New urbanism and the necessity of creating aesthetically pleasant living spaces. Also possibly reflects a kind of implicit racialism since European architecture is treated as superior or at least as the default.
“Live in their very own utopia.” Relates to the idea of simple libertarianism just not being enough and how we need people to create intentional communities for every possible group both racial/ethnic and ideological.
“LSD and DMT.” Could be related to the book The Chemical Muse about the prevalence of drugs (especially entheogens) in premodern societies, e.g. Graeco-Roman societies, the importance of drug use to a lot of artists and anticonformists, etc.
If advanced civilization and a continuous expansion of our understanding of the universe are the paramount objectives we strive toward, then a barbarous third world religious populace is not compatible, period. Even the faithful of the first world represent an encumbrance in this regard (and radical traditionalists are not interested is pursuing futurism anyway.) Indeed, any religion which claims authority to create policies related to technology or promote ‘noble savage’ fetishism based on a literal interpretation of scientifically unproven (perhaps even unprovable) supernatural or metaphysical beliefs, is something we need to distance ourselves from… unless we can restrict it’s utility to that of mythological guidance as strictly fictitious metaphor. There is an aesthetic case to be made for “cultural Christianity” or nominalism for neoreactionaries who idealize the medieval frame yet are not true believers. As an escapist who once clocked in nearly 300 hours marveling at the majestic world of Elder Scrolls IV (without ever even bothering with the main quest,) I could certainly see the appeal of such a society. Hell, even that virtual environment in many ways felt superior to what exists in our current reality.
The problem with cultural Christianity though arrives when it intersects with authentic believers. True believers will never accept those who embrace their religion for “values” or utilitarian purposes. Their faith requires them to be disgusted by it and they view it as form of heresy, which is why they recoil at post rationalist attempts at inventing religious concepts like “gnon” as a necessary part of the design of a functional society. Orthodox Christians take it as an insult that one would attempt to adopt their values while denying the divine “truth” of their doctrine. You could not have one without the other, they would claim, and they would find doubly insulting the notion that their values could simply be transplanted into some new metaphysical belief system that a few reactosphere bloggers came up with over the weekend. Not that that sort of thing can’t work on it’s own. Look at the success of Scientology as a religion, the closest thing to a neoreactionary tech comm monarchy that exists today. Have fun getting militant Christian reactionaries to accept your nominalism though in the new nation. As natural busybodies, they are not known for a hands off approach toward non-believers anyway.
To the extent religions, including Christianity (in anything other than their most benign strains) can be compatible with highly advancedtechnological civilizations at all is a stretch. If you think they are able to, then you and I simply define “advanced” civilization differently. It’s been shown possible with Christianity in the 19th and 20th century, but the pathological altruism and biblical aversion to pursuing certain avenues of technology present a significant hindrance to both civilizational maintenance and technological progress (think where genetic engineering, eugenics, stem cell research and transhumanism would be right now without constant obstruction from religious puritans)
Those who favor Islamification of Europe, or radical christian traditionalism would seem to be content with a sort of “Ape City” from Planet of The Apes as their gold standard, a primitive theocracy which makes use of some modest level of technology. In actuality, the orangutans like Dr. Zaius were pretty wise aristocrats and ape city would probably be preferable to living under actual Islamic law or being governed by pervy bishops, various third world tribal chieftains and the like.
For those of us who prefer to seek out and supersede the biologically imposed limits of our understanding of the universe as organisms, without restricting ourselves to uncritical faith in currently unproven bronze age supernatural beliefs or leaning on the crutch of an imagined higher power, the future is this way. Let those who are content on the prairie, live as happy families in their familiar traditional communities. We will strive to build lunar cities, our ashes will become moon dust, a lifeless and indifferent soil to be kicked up by the boots of subsequent pioneering dreamers, marching toward their next destination.
This essay originally appeared in Force Fields, on August 13, 2015