By Rosie Gray
The Atlantic (2/10/17)
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.
What’s so bad about the Nazis?
Yarvin’s posts on history, race, and governance are written in a style that is detached and edgy, to say the least. “What’s so bad about the Nazis?” he asked in a blog post in 2008, writing, “we are taught that the Nazis were bad because they committed mass murder, to wit, the Holocaust. On the other hand… (a): none of the parties fighting against the Nazis, including us, seems to have given much of a damn about the Jews or the Holocaust. (b): one of the parties on our side was the Soviet Union, whose record of mass murder was known at the time and was at least as awful as the Nazis’.”
“It should be obvious that, although I am not a white nationalist, I am not exactly allergic to the stuff,” Yarvin wrote in 2007. In a 2009 post about the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle’s defense of slavery, he argued that some races are more suited to slavery than others.
Yarvin’s blog has been mostly inactive since 2014. He now is focusing on a startup, Urbit, whose investors reportedly include Paypal co-founder and Trump backer Peter Thiel. (Thiel has himself questioned some of the fundamentals of American politics, writing in 2009, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”)
For a group of people whose writings tend towards the verbose, neoreactionaries don’t show much interest in talking to reporters. …