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The Atlantic: What Is Neoreaction?

Friday, February 10, 2017 12:41
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Rosie Gray writes in The Atlantic:

“White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has been in contact via intermediaries with Curtis Yarvin, Politico Magazine reported this week. Yarvin, a software engineer and blogger, writes under the name Mencius Moldbug. His anti-egalitarian arguments have formed the basis for a movement called “neoreaction.”

The main thrust of Yarvin’s thinking is that democracy is a bust; rule by the people doesn’t work, and doesn’t lead to good governance. He has described it as an “ineffective and destructive” form of government, which he associates with “war, tyranny, destruction and poverty.” Yarvin’s ideas, along with those of the English philosopher Nick Land, have provided a structure of political theory for parts of the white-nationalist movement calling itself the alt-right. The alt-right can be seen as a political movement; neoreaction, which adherents refer to as NRx, is a philosophy. At the core of that philosophy is a rejection of democracy and an embrace of autocratic rule.

The fact that Bannon reportedly reads and has been in contact with Yarvin is another sign of the extent to which the Trump era has brought previously fringe right-wing ideologies into the spotlight. It has brought new energy into a right that is questioning and actively trying to dismantle existing orthodoxies—even ones as foundational as democracy. The alt-right, at this point, is well-known, while NRx has remained obscure. But with one of the top people in the White House paying attention, it seems unlikely to remain obscure for long. …”

I’m sympathetic, but still unfamiliar, with Neoreaction.

As I said in the Evola article, I have been influenced mainly by the Greeks and Romans and the Southern antebellum tradition. I’ve read Thomas Carlyle, George Fitzhugh, Plato, Aristotle, Alasdair MacIntyre, etc. It seems to me that there is such a thing as Paleoreaction.

Paleoreaction was what Professor Louis Hartz called “The Reactionary Enlightenment” of the 1850s. Southerners have a long history of uniquely blending nationalism, populism, and reactionary ideas. The Confederacy, for example, was anti-statist while being ethnonationalist. Secession was a great popular movement against liberalism which was decried as “Black Republicanism.”

The War Between the States was a war for Cavalier Liberation:

“The planters celebrated slavery because it ensured the stability and perpetuation of a republican aristocracy. “The planters are a genuine aristocracy, who cultivate themselves in a leisure founded on slavery,” London Times correspondent William Russell reported from South Carolina on the eve of war. “The admiration for monarchical institutions on the English model, for privileged classes and for a landed aristocracy is undisguised and apparently genuine.” One planter told Russell: “If we could only get one of the Royal race of England to rule over us, we should be content.” Many others expressed regret for the revolution, noting they “would go back tomorrow if they could.”

The planters’ loathing of Yankees startled outsiders, “South Carolina, I am told, was founded by gentlemen, [not by] witch burning Puritans, by cruel persecuting fanatics implanted in the north … [and her] newly born colonies all the ferocity, bloodthirstiness, and rabid intolerance of the Inquisition,” Russell reported. “There is nothing in all the dark caves of human passion so cruel and deadly as the hatred the South Carolinians profess for the Yankees,” he continued. “New England is to [them] the incarnation of moral and political wickedness and social corruption … the source of everything which South Carolina hates.” Another planter told him that if the Mayflower had sunk, “we should have never been driven to these extremes.” …

As the conflict with the Yankees loomed, there was renewed interest in the old Tidewater theory that racial differences were to blame. In wartime propaganda, the Deep Southern elite was explicitly included in the allegedly superior Norman/Cavalier race in an effort to increase the bonds between the regions, with the (decidedly un-Norman) Appalachian districts often embraced for good measure. For Tidewater in particular, casting the conflict as a war for Norman liberation from Anglo-Saxon tyranny neatly sidestepped the more problematic slavery issue. The Southern Literary Messenger, Tidewater’s leading journal, conceded in 1861 that “the Roundheads” may gain many victories in view of their superior strength and their better condition” but assured “they will lose the last battle and then sink down to their normal position of relative inferiority.” The journal argued the Confederate aim was to create “a sort of Patrician Republic” ruled by people “superior to all other races on this continent.”

This propaganda was embraced in the Deep South as well. In an 1862 speech, Jefferson Davis told Mississippi legislators that their enemies were “a traditionless and homeless race … gathered by Cromwell from the bogs and fens of the north of Ireland and of England” to be “disturbers of peace in the world.”

The war, DeBow’s Review declared, was a struggle to reverse the ill-conceived American Revolution, which had been contrary to “the natural reverence of the Cavalier for the authority of established forms over mere speculative ideas.” By throwing off monarchy, slaveholders endangered the wondrous “domestic institution” that rested “on the principle of inequality and subordination, and favored a public policy embodying the ideas of social status.” Democracy “threw political influence into the hands of inorganic masses” and caused “the subjection of the Cavalier to the intellectual thralldom of the Puritan.” Other Tidewater and Deep Southern thinkers came to agree that the struggle was really between respect for established aristocratic order and the dangerous Puritan notion that “the individual man was … of higher worth than any system of polity.” As Fitzhugh put it, it was a war “between conservatives and revolutionists; between Christians and infidels … the chaste and the libidinous, between marriage and free-love.” Some even championed the dubious notion that the Confederacy was fighting a Huguenot-Anglican counterreformation against Puritan excess. Slavery was not the issue, they argued – defeating democracy was.”

This is amazing stuff.

This is how the Deep South and Tidewater intelligentsia saw the “Civil War” in their own journals. It has been buried under mountains of “New Birth of Freedom” claptrap.

Note: In the 21st century, they are still the “disturbers of peace in the world.” 150 years after the demise of slavery, it is amazing how little has changed.


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