Identity, IQ, and Incoherence of the Alt-Right

‘Identity’, which not limited to just politics but also includes ‘BLM’ and the ‘big is beautiful’ movement, gives its members a stake in something, as being a part of a bigger ‘system’ or ‘process’, yet at the same time individualism and autonomy are retained. Identity is a way of signalling unity, with varying degrees obviousness. When taken too far, it can appear narcissistic, vulgar, and self-absorbed, as identity gives cover and justification for anti-social behavior. This is what 3-4th wave feminism has become, especially online.

There is also a distinction between individual identity (example: individualism; identifying as belonging to a specific gender, ethnicity, and race) and collective identity (examples: nationalism; gender, ethnicity, and race as group identities and as part of political and social movements).

Neoconservatives and neoliberals tend to eschew collective identity, in favor of pragmatism and ‘concern’ (in contrast to tribalism, where consensus and loyalty, and ‘collective identity’ are more important). When taken too far, this can seem paternalist, meddlesome, and overbearing, but also emotionally detached, amoral, and disloyal. Like, why do neocons and neoliberals alike care so much about third world poverty when there is poverty in America?

1st and 2nd wave feminism has a strong element of ‘collective identity’. It’s very collectivist and activist-minded, with lots of protests, political involvement, and marches. 3-4th wave feminism is much more individualistic in the spirit of Ayn Rand, who advocated self-determination over collectivism. This includes women prostituting themselves on Instagram. Although 3-4th wave is more vulgar, 1-2nd wave is worse because of the deleterious political and social consequences of suffrage.

Jonathan Haidt, Jonathan Chait, Scott Sumner, Nicholas Kristof, Josh Barro, and Matthew Yglesias come to mind as examples of left-wing or neoliberal pundits who use reductionist narratives, but I don’t mean reductionist in the ‘low-information’ sense but rather in trying to reduce ‘social theory’ to something that is science-like, and who often advocate democracies and committees by elites (elitism) to solve problems. Unlike the far-let, it’s often anti-populist, and like neoconservatism, it’s pragmatic and consequentialist.

Among rationalists and pragmatists, these is also a tendency to scorn those in their ‘tribe’ who are ‘too extreme’ and also to argue on behalf of one’s ideological opponents by ascribing the strongest arguments to them (also known as ‘steel-manning’, in contrast to straw-manning). Playing devil’s advocate signals intellect and open-mindedness to other members of the tribe, who also value those traits, and thus the status one who exhibits those traits is boosted among like members of the tribe. There is a tendency among some in the alt-right and especially rationalists to do this – but this is common in most high-IQ communities, where accuracy and correctness is more important than unanimity. It’s almost a ‘game’ of sorts where whoever finds an inaccuracy, counterexample, omission, or logical fallacy in the article first, ‘wins’ and is awarded with status (this seems common in pro-gamergate sub-Reddits, where there is a lot of ‘concerning’ (to show concern, often excessive or unnecessary, used as a verb), but it’s hard to tell if it’s genuine concern or concern trolling). Less intelligent tribes value unanimity, and status is through seniority and strength, not intellect, correctness, or open-mindedness. In less intelligent tribes, there is a definite hierarchy, and the ‘elders’ tell the initiates what to think, and there isn’t much room for interpretation, and dissenters, no matter how correct or smart they are, are ejected, not awarded status.

Related: I Can Tolerate Anything Except Factual Inaccuracies

Steel-manning is both good and bad: it’s good because by anticipating our opponent’s best possible counter-arguments, we can formulate stronger arguments for our own positions; it’s also annoying at times because sometimes enough is enough..there is only so much charity one can ascribe to one’s opponent without turning coat. It can also come across as virtue signaling. Unless the inaccuracy or omission is really egregious, maybe it’s just best to leave it alone, for the sake expediency instead of getting bogged by minutia and hair splitting, which sometimes results in incoherence and division of the tribe. But debate is generally healthy and should be encouraged.

This dicuss comment thread is an example. Back in 2009-2010 when I used to troll Huffington Post, I recall there was a lot of cohesion (everyone was on the same ‘page’ (cons bad, libs good)), which you don’t see as much in the far-right, even before the whole NPI-debacle.

Speaking of division, a month after the whole NPI Roman salute thing, now this: Alt-Right in Civil War After Prominent Leader Disinvited From Pro-Trump ‘DeploraBall’

And from the discuss comments:

Check the comments out. People should be fucking embarrassed of themselves. Barely edgy news site commentators have the correct instincts and actually understand the basis of politics in distinguishing friend from foe. Meanwhile so many people who tout themselves as hardcore right-wingers throw a bitchfit because they were always just liberals.

This is because people who post on mainstream news sites are, in general, less intelligent those who read and post on alt-right websites and blogs, so in the former there is more unity, as I noticed on Huffington Post for the far-left. When Trump was running, the alt-right could cast aside their differences and unify behind him, but with Trump elected, now what?

This incoherence is due to three factors: the ‘right’ generally being smarter and less conformist than the ‘left’ (more willing to challenge authority, more open-minded, better-educated about history, political science, and philosophy); second, the ‘right’ being more diverse, ideologically, than the ‘left’ (Liberalism is analogous to those 8-color Crayola crayon boxes kindergartners use. Conservatism is like the 100-color deluxe box.); and third, ego, which has less to with ideology and more to do with status-seeking.

The ‘right’ is split between the age-old individualism vs. traditionalism schism, whereas the ‘left’ seem to all agree on things like ‘maximizing individual liberty’ (positive liberties) and ‘promoting equality, fairness, and opportunity'(example: John Rawls Theory of Justice, although there is a small schism between classical liberals vs. welfare and socialist liberals. The former seek equal opportunity, and the latter seek equal outcomes). The ‘right’ promotes ‘negative liberties’ and individualism (example: Anarchy, State, and Utopia, by Robert Nozick), but traditionalism says that man is part of a ‘collective’ – state, family, creed, lineage, nation, religion, etc., so it gets messy in choosing the optimal balance between the two (just compare neoconservatism with paloeconservatism with right-nationalism with libertarianism). ‘Mainstream conservatism’ balances the two, as described by Russell Kirk’s six “canons” of conservatism (which heavily influenced post-WW2 American conservatism):

A belief in a transcendent order, which Kirk described variously as based in tradition, divine revelation, or natural law;

An affection for the “variety and mystery” of human existence;

A conviction that society requires orders and classes that emphasize “natural” distinctions;

A belief that property and freedom are closely linked;

A faith in custom, convention, and prescription, and

A recognition that innovation must be tied to existing traditions and customs, which entails a respect for the political value of prudence.

Krik also opposed the separation of church and state…”that Christianity and Western Civilization are “unimaginable apart from one another”[13] and that “all culture arises out of religion. When religious faith decays, culture must decline, though often seeming to flourish for a space after the religion which has nourished it has sunk into disbelief.”[14]”

Kirk was inspired by Edmund Burke, considered to be the forefather of conservatism. Burke’s views are kinda scattershot, opposing the ‘social contract’ theory but also opposing the ‘divine right of kings’. He opposed democracy, natural law, and the French Revolution but also supported the America Revolution and believed private property as being essential to maintaining ‘social order’.

Liberalism is inherently materialistic (although it does embrace some idealism in its rejection of certain aspects of HBD), but conservatism can be both materialistic and idealistic. Part of the reason why NRx departs from Kirk is because conservatism tends to embrace natural law and puts too much emphasis on individual rights. Conservatism doesn’t hold the monarchy supreme, although Burke was sympathetic to it despite being a Whig and not a Jacobite. Materialistic-variants of conservatism put too much emphasis on economics over the divine. For the ‘right’, man should maximize his economic share through self-determination; for the far-left, the state should assume that role; in either case, it’s still through the lens of economics (Economic determinism).

Both liberalism and conservatism seeks to find a balance between individualism (and individual identity) and collectivism (and collectivist identity), which is what the study of political science and political philosophy is about. The cohesion of the alt-right before Trump’s victory and the small splintering of the alt-right afterward, is evidence political movements and ideologies need a specific ‘thing’ to rally behind (such as a person or specific tasks assigned to members), for cohesion to be possible. Just rallying ‘against liberalism’ or ‘for conservatism’ is not specific enough, because, as shown above, these terms are so broad and hard to define that cohesion is impossible for ‘smart’ ideologies like the alt-right (although it works for mainstream political parties, that have mostly average-IQ voters and supporters).