In 2015, almost daily, I would check Scott’s blog to see what weird, new social ‘theory’ he had devised but right now, as 2016 winds to a close, it seems things have stagnated to some extent. It’s no one’s fault, really, but even the smartest people will eventually run out of things to say, as there are no more stones to be overturned, and everything there is to say will have been said. Either you come up with new material, change course, stop, or just go in circles.
Pertaining to ‘social theory’, right now ‘intellectualism culture’ and how it ties in with millennials, economics, metanarratives, and NRx, is one of the most interesting things going on right now, and is such a small niche that no one else is writing about it, so that’s what I’m going to focus on.
For awhile it was a mystery why NRx and ‘alt right’ bloggers on Twitter and elsewhere frequently linked and cited the writings of Tyler Cowen and Bryan Caplan, two economists with left-libertarian leanings, as well as the writings of Scott Alexander, but never cite the likes of Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, or Bill O’Reilly. But NRx is ostensibly a ‘right-wing’ ideology/movement, as is the alt-right, and the aforementioned political commentators are further to the ‘right’ than Cowen or Caplan, yet they are ignored, which initially didn’t sake sense to me. After some brainstorming, I realized why, and this lead to a series of posts about ‘intellectual solvents’ and ‘shared narratives’, that argue that, for smart people, intellectual bonds may stronger than ideological ones. Intellectuals, first and foremost, are repulsed by ‘intellectual laziness’, not ideological differences. Examples of intellectual laziness, or as some call ‘low information’, include: factual inaccuracies, reductionist thinking, preaching to the choir, ‘tribal loyalty’, intuition over empirical data and analysis, and so on. Furthermore, both rationalists on the ‘left’ and reactionaries (the ‘right’) converge in rejection of ‘low information’. Hannity, Limbaugh, et al., despite being on the ‘right’, are perceived as being too ‘low information’, which is why they are excluded from the debate, whether it’s about immigration, economics, politics, or finance.
Socialists and rationalists, who are on the ‘left’, and reactionaries and the alt-right, on the ‘right’, also converge in ‘shared narratives’, with mutual agreement, despite being diametrically opposed ideologically, of how mainstream discourse and society is ‘dumbed-down’, be it the public schools, the news media, or entertainment. Both agree that they have been failed by majoritarianism, which emphasis conspicuous consumption, token acts of democracy (voting), and a ‘one size fills all’ mentality that neglects those who are talented and or don’t fit the mold. Reactionaries and rationalists both oppose democracy, as they see it as inefficient and insufficient (some in NRx call it an ‘IQ shredder’), but to achieve different ends: for the ‘right’, to promote right-wing causes; for the ‘left’, to promote left-wing ones. Tyler Cowen, like NRX, is skeptical of democracy, and Bryan Caplan even wrote an entire book denouncing democracy, The Myth of the Rational Voter, whereas many ‘mainstream conservatives’ still hold dear democracy (and the democratic process) as a way of affecting change.
Intellectualism is a universal solvent because, as we see with Cowen and Caplan, it allows entry (like a passport) into differing ideologies and groups that also value intellectualism but otherwise are ideologically opposed. Consider nydwracu, the pseudonym of an influential blogger who is at least tangentially affiliated with NRx and the ‘alt right’, who is also formidably intelligent. Not much is known about him, but I think he studied computer science in college, which in addition to his smart, circuitous style of writing, is proof of superior intellect. Let’s just assume he majored in computer science (because I don’t really know for sure)…he could tell a story of how society doesn’t appreciate intellect and computer science, about how computer scientists (and STEM people in general) are seduced and exploited by less intelligent women for their money (hypergamy), and about how democracy, the public school system, and universities neglect the best and the brightest, on any community that values intellect (be it liberal or conservative) and be welcomed with open arms…as everyone else can relate (a ‘shared narrative’). I’m not being facetious here…these are valid concerns, as there is evidence men are failing at society or being failed by society, and is why MRA and Red Pill (or more broadly, ‘the manosphere’) are such rapidly growing, important movements, by, online, bringing light to these issues that the mainstream media (that only focuses on women’s issues) is ignoring.
Related to entry, when an intellectual encounters another intellectual who may have wandered down the wrong path (a leftist intellectual who supports open borders), the tendency is to patiently and kindly try to correct him, but stonewalling is reserved for the intellectually lazy, regardless of politics, who don’t even deserve a response as it would be a waste of time for the intellectual.
Other examples include Scott Aaronson and Scott Alexander, both of whom are very smart and despite being on the ‘left’ were ingratiated by the intellectual-right. Alexander is most famous for his groundbreaking post on ingroups/outgroups, that was heavily cited by reactionaries, rationalists, as well as going viral on sites as varied as as Reddit and Hacker News, but also the articles ‘Meditations on Moloch’ and ‘Toxoplasma of Rage’, both of which explore concepts within the burgeoning online field of ‘social theory’. Aaronson is most famous not for a post but for a single comment he made in 2015 on his blog, in which he wrote about his inner-war with feminism, how men are possibly unfairly excluded from gender issues, about how men are implicitly treated as ‘predators’, and that for ‘gender equality’ to be achieved men must be included in the conversation, again relating to ‘men’s rights’, and in the aftermath received significant media coverage from major publications such as The Atlantic, which published excerpts of the comment:
“The whole time I was struggling, I was also fighting a second battle: to maintain the liberal, enlightened, feminist ideals that I had held since childhood, against a powerful current pulling me away,” he wrote.
“that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison,” he wrote. “And furthermore, that the people who did these things to me would somehow be morally right to do them—even if I couldn’t understand how.”
This also ties in with ‘shared narratives’, again, as these are problems and questions that are generally unique to smart people and that anyone who is smart can relate to Aaronson’s post, and is why it went so viral and generated important discussion that encompassed the entire political spectrum.
A third example is a post on siderea.livejournal.com about class vs. economics, which, related to post-2008 ‘great online economics debate’, also went hugely viral, and was debated heavily on both left-wing and right-wing communities, as class and economics are issues that transcend political barriers and are issues that smart people care about.
But it’s not just about STEM, gender, and the dumbing-down of society – there’s a whole list of ‘shared narratives‘ and important questions that mainstream pundits ignore or only gloss over, and this ties into how internet journalism has evolved, to a pre-2013 era dominated by chest-thumping pundits, ‘listicals’, and ‘culture war‘ issues to one now that favors shared narratives, long-form content, data visualizations, nuance, and more esoteric matters (topics such as the Fermi Paradox and Hanson’s Great Filter). Consider the issue of unemployment due to automation, which is an angle to the unemployment problem that mainstream pundits seldom discuss. Most mainstream pundits only look economics superficially, with trite, banal generalizations such as ‘we need more jobs, but greedy companies refuse to create them’ (for the ‘left’) or ‘people need to stop being lazy look harder for work’ (for the ‘right’) or ‘millennials are lazy and entitled’ (both) and refuse to consider alternative theories and ideas (such as post-scarcity, economic class v. social class, post-labor societies, social Darwinism, automation, etc.) that deviate from their narrow, pre-established, unmovable political views and biases.