Archive for January, 2015

Free Speech

China has no interest in your free speech nonsense:

China’s state news agency, Xinhua, ran a commentary by its Paris bureau chief in which he said: “Unfettered and unprincipled satire, humiliation and free speech are not acceptable.”

A commentary posted on the Xinhua website also warns that we now live in “a reality that demands basic respect and prudence be exercised in mass communication so as to reduce inter-culture and inter-religion misunderstanding and distrust, which can easily be exploited by terrorists.”

Good governance and peaceful domestic relations are two things neoreactionaries are supposed to value. So what is the neoreactionary theory of free speech?

It seems to me like a binary choice, at least in terms of sound policy. Either a society embraces free speech for all (as a principle) or it rejects free speech for all. Either might work. In contrast, a speech policy based on positionality rather than principle is bound to create more resentment than one in which anyone is allowed to say anything without legal or fiscal consequence. Unfortunately, this is precisely the policy in the West: whether or not something “can be said” depends on the positions of the people speaking and of the people being spoken about. Chris Hedges and others have pointed this out. In most of Europe, it is perfectly legal to mock Mohammed but illegal to deny the Holocaust or to write Nazi tracts. I would not lose my academic job for writing about high IQs in East Asia, but I could very well lose it for writing about low IQs in Africa.

There can be no denying that the Chinese are partially right. If, as a matter of free speech, one group of people is allowed to mock and humiliate another group of people, domestic relations are assured to be turbulent, perhaps even violent. If, on the other hand, no one is allowed to mock or humiliate anyone else, on pain of imprisonment, then people will keep their opinions behind closed doors and play nice in public, thereby ensuring general domestic tranquility.

Of course, any NRx theory of free speech must take into consideration the historical contingency of this Western, secular value. Expecting all non-Western immigrants to immediately and eagerly accept this value is an exercise in progressive retardation, and it is a lesson that, unfortunately, the French writers of Charlie Hebdo had to learn the hard way.

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Volver, or Christianity and the Degenerative Ratchet

“Christianity is dead” is an extreme categorical statement with which one can quibble, but one cannot deny that Christianity has lost whatever power it once possessed to guide civilization. As a political force, it is non-existent. It is even less powerful than that ancient gathering of a few dissident Jews in Palestine. At least they had potential force.

Reactionaries who think they can “revive” the religion of their ancestors, who think they can “restore” their throne and altar, are forgetting the core neoreactionary insight: the degenerative ratchet. Once something embarks on leftward movement (as Christianity has done since, at least, the Reformation), there can be no stopping its leftward movement. One cannot go back along the same leftward path. The way out of the degenerative ratchet cannot be the way in.

Ultimately, those who use the language of  “return” or “regeneration” or “restoration” seek only one thing: to turn back the clock on Christianity. Back to the 1950s. Back to the 1850s. Back before that drunken German monk ruined everything. It doesn’t matter when. Volver. The idea is to move backward along the leftward path, to move rightward once again, to return, to go back to some point in the past before the leftward movement became so extreme. The idea is to get out the way we came in. Which is impossible. 

The only way to stop the leftward movement—the degenerative ratchet—of Christianity is  . . . catastrophe.

A degenerative ratchet can only progress, until it cannot go on, and it stops. What happens next is something else—it’s Outside. Moldbug calls it a reboot.  History can tell us to expect it, but not what we are to expect.

. . . This is why NRx is dark. The only way out of a degenerative ratchet is catastrophe.

Does the Bible itself not bear this out? God does not return His people peacefully to Eden. God reboots. God resets. Catastrophically. When He saw that all of mankind had fallen into utter degeneracy, he sent a world-destroying Flood, rebooted the earth, and began a completely new covenant with Noah. Whenever Israel misbehaves in the Bible, God scatters it. And what else is Jesus’ Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection but the complete turning-on-its-head of everything Israel had expected? What else is the Gospel but a complete reset of the “kingly” Messianic expectation? God does not return things to a golden age of the past. He lets things fester until He decides they can’t fester any longer, then He washes everything clean in a divine catastrophe.

There can be no “return” for Christianity. There can be no “restoration” of some imagined pagan past. The degenerative ratchet has done its work, and we can’t look behind us down that already-traveled road. Better to look forward to the generative catastrophe ahead.