Friday, June 6, 2014

Is Neoreaction Right-Brahmin Signaling?

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There has been some great work on As their name denotes, they show a lot of interest in classes and distinguishing markers between thedes. In The American Question, Aaron Jacob draws a distinction between the northeast liberals, whom we label Brahmins, and the working-class industrialists whom we label Vaisyas. Though, I think Theden may prefer the term Kulak.

Jacobs produces 'the cowboy' as the archetype for the Vaisyas: a strong, independent, industrious, trustworthy, pragmatic man with maybe a little dirt under his nails. I think he's right on target.

For the northeast Brahmin he gives us 'the activist' archetype. I think that this is close, but I would substitute 'the abolitionist', which is a more specific type of activist. For example, John Greenleaf Whittier, a fireside poet from Haverhill, Massachusetts. This type of man is intellectual and godly, concerned with souls and righteousness, who would probably never be caught dead with dirt under his nails or worrying about making a payroll. Of course, all his concern with righteousness is simply status signaling. I think that it is fitting that the progressive Brahmin archetype is clearly Protestant, as it is clear in Neoreactionary circles that progressivism is hyper-Protestantism, it is the memetic descendent of Protestantism.

The Divine Signal and Progressivism

Why do we use the term Brahmin? Because it signals not only high status but evokes godliness or holiness. In my opinion, the favorite game of the Progressive is "Holier Than Thou", where proggies attempt to signal status via one-upsmanship of affiliation with victim classes. I just wrote a post called #YesAllWhiteWomen about White feminists being outdone by intersectional feminists, where I assert that particular game of musical chairs is running out of seats for White women to claim victim status. Keep that in mind.

So let me clarify a distinction between Brahmin and Vaisyas: Brahmin are intellectual and holy, while Vaisyas are industrious and worldly. This is an essential element of the status signal: to be preoccupied with this world is low-brow, to be preoccupied with the spirit is high-brow. Sure you can be rich and have a high status, but if you are still preoccupied with your wealth then you are nouveau riche, the next step up in status is to signal that you are now preoccupied with your soul (or some ideological equivalent) and that is currently signaled through philanthropy. Donate the funds for a new wing of the Social Justice department at Harvard and you've sent a strong signal.

In the recent Baffler article about Mouthbreathing Machiavellis, one of Cory Pein's best lines is "Yarvin’s most toxic arguments come snugly wrapped in purple prose and coded language." Sick burn, bro. Yet, it's very true. Moldbug (yes, I'll use that name) is signalling 'anti-left' which is of course 'toxic' to Pein, but I'm more concerned with the wrapper of 'purple prose and coded language'. Why is Moldbug's prose so purple? What was the encoding process that he applied to his toxic arguments? Perhaps the Slate-star Codex can help us decode Moldbug.

Scott Alexander, who posts on Slate-star Codex  is famous in Neoreactionary orbits for mounting one of the best intellectual defenses against NRx: the Anti-Reactionary FAQ. He recently caught my attention with his assertion that The Right is the New Left and what I call the Parable of the Togas. This is an excellent analysis of status signaling between classes.
If some intellectuals no longer need to worry about being mistaken for fundies, that frees them to finally breath a sigh of relief and start making fun of Mrs. Grundy again. And that means they’ve got to become conservatives, or libertarians, or anything, anything at all, except for leftists.

So far it is just a few early adopters – the intellectual equivalent of the very trendy people who start wearing some outrageous fashion and no one knows if it is going to catch on or whether they will be soundly mocked for it.
Are you familiar with Moldbug's Open Letter to Open-Minded Progressives? This is a wonderful piece where Moldbug soars about through history and culture, splashing purple over his prose and mocking leftism. I think Alexander has nailed it. Moldbug was an early adopter who began peacocking Neoreaction, an outrageous fashion which advertised his higher status. In this letter, Moldbug mocks both Progressives and Conservatives, clearly signaling that he is standing in another location on the grid. He is elite, intellectual and concerned with the soul of society, the soul of the West.

Neoreaction Signaling

Let's take a moment to look at the signals of Neoreaction. As Moldbug is mocking leftists, he is praising good governance. He quotes Carlyle as he disparages democracy as mob rule and pines for the aristocracy. He speaks highly of civilization and kvetches about its decline, drawing a distinction between technological progress and political progress, with the former being positive for civilization and the latter being an entropic destruction of social technologies such as patriarchy. Another colorful character in Neoreaction is Bryce Laliberte, the AnarchoPapist, who wrote a book titled What is Neoreaction? References to the Pope abound in Neoreaction, this is a signal. Why does Laliberte write his Neoreactionary blog in such clinically dry language? This is a signal: it's intellectual and not intended for mass consumption. On the other hand, if you follow AnarchoPapist on Twitter, then you'll get the hip Bryce. Let me give you a quick taste:

Ok. So we have some Neoreactionary signals: anti-left, pro-civilization, pro-intellectural, pro-technological progress, pro-aristocracy, pro-Pope, pro-dressing-well, anti-talking-like-fags. The signals are quite elitist. The Neoreactionaries make no attempts to connect the proletariat, asserting that the plebes simply don't have the intellectual firepower to follow NRx.

We see a preoccupation not only with 'high class' signaling, but with divinity. There are a lot of Catholics in NRx, and this is an interesting contrast to the Protestant memetic progenitor of progressivism: still Christian but a different flavor. Pein writes, "Some are atheists, while others affect obscure orthodox beliefs [...]." I agree, Corey, there is a nebulous divine signal coming from within Neoreaction. What can it mean?

Laliberte wrote a response post to Alexander's Right is the New Left, entitled Neoreaction is Hipster. He's thinking about the signaling of Neoreaction, how it is edgy and intellectual, how they don't talk like fags. They're cool, man. Unlike 'conservatives'. Hey, Bryce, what's the difference between reaction and Neoreaction?
Reaction wasn't fashionable, but Neoreaction is fashionable. That's a signal.

Perhaps this clip will help us understand why NRx is signalling to 'open-minded progressives' aka 'cool people'. They're signaling to cool people because of Mrs. Grundy. If you don't know who Mrs. Grundy is, go back to the Right is the New Left. Do you remember Corinne from Survivor Caramoan? Well, Corinne loves her gays!

From that clip you can see that Corinne is definitely the wrong kind of white people. But she's sending the Progressive pro-gay signal loud and clear, she's obviously a SWPL, right? What gives? She treats 'the gays' as accessories, merely using them as props to signal her status. Corinne is Mrs. Grundy. She's the type of woman with whom the cool people do not want to be confused. As a quick aside, in my personal experience I am seeing intelligent gays turning against this type of person. There are more gays in Neoreaction than I expected. I suspect Corinne has something to do with this phenomenon. What to do? How is an open-minded progressive keep from being mistaken for Mrs. Grundy? Well, you have to send the right signals.

Neoreaction versus the Dark Enlightenment, White Nationalism and Conservatism

The Dark Enlightenment is basically a superset of ideas that surrounds NRx. The DE is concerned with truth, and is in some ways a reaction against the lies spun by our current society. For example, Human Biodiversity is concerned with genetic truth and the PUAs concerned with evolutionary psychology's truth (and how to use it to get laid). The concerns of the DE are mostly intellectual, which mostly keeps them fairly elite, but they do not necessarily share NRx's 'holy' or 'high class' status signaling. Much of the DE are technical Vaisyas, with a little dirt under their nails, or white tape holding their black-rimmed glasses together. They are not concerned with the soul.

Moldbug wrote "It should be obvious that, although I am not a white nationalist, I am not exactly allergic to the stuff. Maybe this doesn't need defending. But I feel the urge to defend it anyway." Why does Moldbug need to defend it? I think it's because white nationalists in the past have generally been the wrong kind of white people. Though white nationalism has been growing more intellectual, they are perceived as southern rednecks, not high-brow intellectuals. To the Brahmin, they definitely have dirt under their nails. Most of those 'rednecks' might be religious, but most Brahmin probably think they engage in peasant customs like snake handling and speaking in tongues.

I recently had a discussion with Brett Stevens from Amerika blog, about the distinction between conservatives and NRx. I think that probably the biggest difference is that 'conservatism' is for the Vaisyas. Conservatism is reaction for fogeys. It tends to attract the working and management classes, rather than elite intellectuals.

In short, the rest of the DE, white nationalism and conservatism do not share the same set of signals that NRx does, and one of the missing signals is that of divinity, godliness, holiness.

The Divine Signal and Neoreaction

Why did Moldbug address his missive to open-minded progressives? Why is he signaling to progressives? Why is his prose so purple? Why is Neoreaction so elitist, intellectual and religious? Because they are signalling to a specific group of progressives, the Brahmin. The Brahmin are intellectual and 'holy', and they are the elite. Or maybe he's signaling to the hipsters and hoping that they will get the attention of the Brahmin. Or maybe hipsters are young Brahmin who have yet to rise through the ranks of full Brahmin-hood.

In the Right is the New Left, Scott Alexander wrote "the project of creating something that is both anti-leftist enough to serve as a fashion statement but reality-based enough not to be dumb is still going on." In my opinion, that is Neoreaction in a nutshell. The Dark Enlightenment is the new reality in general, Neoreaction is the anti-left signalling to the Brahmin, being merged with the reality of the greater DE.

You see, the Brahmin are elite, intellectual and concerned with matters of the spirit, or at least appearing to be concerned with the spirit. The moral imperatives of progressivism is a defining characteristic of the modern Brahmin. Those elements of the signal must always be intact. Alexander lets us know we have some work to do: we must also engage in reality. We need a new morality which embraces reality.

The modern elite is crowded with gauche newly rich technologists, such as Peter Thiel. These elite are very much concerned with worldly affairs. There was hope that Thiel would 'get' Neoreaction. Pein's article above does a good job of explaining why. But it seems that there is a problem with Peter Thiel. What's the problem with Peter Thiel? He's a 'social idiot' who doesn't get the social signals; he's more focused on the business, too preoccupied with worldly matters. He's missed the divine signal, that's the problem with him. We need more Brahmins to start signaling this new outrageous fashion known as Neoreaction.

Thiel is intellectual and elite, but he's missing the holy signal. I think that Neoreaction is a signal to the intellectual elite that there is a new formulation of morality which is actually an old formulation. The way I read it, it is Moldbug's signal that rather than playing "Holier than Thou", the elite should be playing "Noblesse oblige".

Noblesse oblige is the idea that the elite, persons of high status, have an obligation to fulfill social responsibilities, with one such responsibility being leadership of one's people. Can you guess how the game is played? In Holier than Thou, the goal is to follow the little people into their hovels and give them a crust of bread. In Noblesse oblige, the goal is to provide a grand vision of the future and lead the lower ranks to greater heights. In the former, you show how you are not above the masses, in the latter you demonstrate how far above the masses you are.

For example, Branjelina going to Africa to stomp around in hyena dung and get bitten by tsetse flies to bring home a black-baby-fashion-accessory, that would be Holier than Thou. It does nothing to raise anyone, except for a maybe couple of children. It does not point to a solution, but instead wallows in a problem. It does nothing to build civilization, to move us into a brighter future. It is the assertion that it is noble to be poor. The paradox of Holier than Thou is that you must show that it is noble to be poor without actually being, you know, poor.

Neoreaction offers the Brahmin the ability to exchange a worn-out signal of divine status, for an older and better one: nobility.

What is nobility? Obviously it is something that the Reign of Terror and Bolshevik revolutions did their best to obliterate. Often, nobility is hereditary, and often it is divine, such as the divine right of kings. Nobility is hereditary because, as the HBDers will tell you, most all behaviors in humans are hereditary. It is divine because it is natural, it is embedded in the DNA. It is a gift from God: either you've hit the genetic jackpot or you haven't. What is the aristocracy? It is the class of the nobles who have solidified their positions. Nobility and divinity are closely related conceptually.

In Neoreaction, if you are rich then you have a responsibility to be noble. Everyone can be poor, but not everyone can be noble. Nobility signals not only an elite status but a divine one. Peter Thiel has shown that he is elite, but not that he is noble. Nobility entails obligation to lead the lower ranks, a rightist social obligation every bit as powerful as the leftist obligations such as social justice. The nobility espoused by NRx is not selfish, it is concerned with society, but not just any society: a civilized society, a high-trust society, a beautiful and flourishing society, a Western society. If you do not signal that the Brahmin should lead and improve the lives of the Vaisyas and thereby the rest of the society, then you are not signaling Neoreaction.

You don't need to be a Brahmin to be a Neoreactionary, you can be a Vaisya who just wants the Brahmin to wake up to their true moral responsibility to society, to increase civilization and human flourishing.

The Parable of the Toga and the Signal Shift

When Alexander writes that Right is the New Left, I think he means that the divine status signal of nobility, the divine status signal of the Ancien Régime, is now the replacement for the faux-pro-populist, worn out, leftist divine status signal: constant preoccupation with the poor and other victim groups. Perhaps we are at the turning of an age. Perhaps the Myth of Equality has finally worn itself threadbare and is beyond mending. Or perhaps Mrs. Grundy is simply insufferable and must be mocked.

In my #YesAllWhiteWomen post, I wonder how long white feminists will be content to ride in the back of the victim bus now that the intersectional feminists are hogging all the seats up front. What's the point of engaging in feminism when you can't score status points for it? Maybe it's time for a few of those white feminists to take off the toga pura and try on the toga praetexta. You'll look good in purple.

Recently the 29 Pitfalls of Working with White People was published. One of the pitfalls is that White people "10. Expect to be appreciated by people of color for working against racism." That's right White anti-racists: You are no longer to be awarded status points for your anti-racist activities. You are now actively mocked for being an anti-racist. I think we have a purple toga in your size.

Did Adam Corolla emit the signal? He recently wrote of the rich, "They’re better than poor people. They just are". That's right, rich White liberals, you can never be black and you don't want to be poor, but you can be noble. You can just be better. Did you know that 'corolla' means 'little crown' in Latin? Fitting. Purple toga coming your way, Mr. Corolla.

Whites are projected to be a minority in the USA by about 2040. An April 2014 Association for Psychological Science report shows that as whites learn this fact they shift more 'conservative'. Maybe fear of a brown America is playing a role here, it may be that White self-interest is a factor. It might just be getting harder to feign complete disinterest in worldly safety and security by gallantly stepping aside for third-world immigrants.

Maybe gays are getting tired of being props and accessories in progressive status displays. They are not flocking to the courthouses to get married, but that doesn't matter to proggies playing Holier than Thou pushing for 'marriage equality' because it was never about 'gay rights', it was always about status signaling. I'm sure they are aware of how detestable are people like Survivor Corinne.

Then there's The Prussian. It's obvious to all the cool kids that this fedora-wearing anti-racist white knight is terminally un-hip. He is so clearly of the faux-intellectual passe-hipster stripe. That's the kind of people you want to be associated with, dear fashionable open-minded progressives? He is Mrs. Grundy: a white-toga follower lamely attempting to signal his status. Uh, Purple toga, Mr. Alexander?

The leftist utopia has arrived and it sucks. Rich white liberals used to be able to signal status by bravely helping 'the oppressed', but now 'the oppressed' want all the attention for themselves. Even Mrs. Grundy has caught onto the game, feigning indifference to self-interest, which is far too easy to do in a generous welfare state. The system is so obviously broken. Elite capitalists are growing in wealth and have no social responsibility to lead the lower ranks, and are instead working to increase the poor, displaying a complete lack of stewardship of Western civilization... just as the progressives have taught them, after all, isn't being poor the most noble of states? Is it time to shame the elite for their lack of nobility?

Perhaps it's time for a shift in the view of what is morality. A signal that can't be so easily counterfeited. A signal that protects civilization and society, one that leads to human flourishing. It's time for a return of nobility. Plus, it is so fun to mock Mrs. Grundy.


  1. As a traditionalist, I'm using different meanings that Moldbug would. His "caste" indications are more likely "class" indicators via Tom Wolfe. But here's where it gets interesting.

    David Brooks wrote a great book called "Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There" which describes how Wolfeian status indicators have come to include the Bohemian. In short: it's no longer enough to be rich, but one must also be virtuous.

    This corresponds to your analysis of the "Brahmins" (who are not Brahmins). They need to signal that they are not just wealthy, but above the world. They have dedicated themselves to meaning, and so far they've found this in the poor.

    The point of peacocking on the NRx front is, it seems to me, to deny that "helping the poor" is what an enlightened person does. An enlightened person, says NRx, builds toward history. Way past one's own lifetime. What's more of a holy signal than that?

    As far as fashion, that is where the rebellion wing of the NRx comes in. That's why when we spend several days talking about whether it's OK to be friends with a transsexual, we look silly. Our point is to be anarchic rebels tearing down a world order -- liberal democracy -- that is now obsolete.

    If anything, that's the message of Moldbug: technology suggests that our "new" ways are in fact not going to work, and thus they join the old and calcified along with Communism, National Socialism, witch-cults etc.

    This is how we differentiate from the past: we show we are different from the old Right, that the new Left is in fact ancient and failing, and that to be a rebel these days, you need to combine BOBO above-the-world morality with a historical sense of where we're going.

    That message resonates with many of us who have watched the same types of programs produce the same results for decades, and know that we can't afford these and they won't turn out well even if done well. It's time for a change.

  2. Level 1: Leftists claim to see through the pretensions of capitalists.

    Level 2: The Dark Enlightenment claims to see through the pretensions of leftists.

    Level 3: Neoreactionaries claims to see through the pretensions of the Dark Enlightenment.

    Level 4: A currently-unnamed movement claims to see through the pretensions of neoreactionaries.

    Can we get these levels into the transfinite ordinals?

  3. Yes, Yes, YES. There is a disconnect from the Vaisya NRx and Brahmin NRx, and you've nailed it. The Brahmin NRx are signaling to the progs, to the other Brahmins their superiority. They are new and hip, as it were.

    Furthermore, and most interesting, the Brahmin of NRx are more pseudo-Brahmin. They lack the background and scenario traits common to the class, yet maintain many of the default practices and attitude.
    Such as the poor writer who is holier than thou and hipsterish. Does this make them poseurs?

    But then, who am I to talk. I eat a niche diet, write on the internet, and handroll my smokes. I'm one step away myself.