Left-wing reaction

The tweet below struck me as neo-reactionary, as an indictment of America’s puritan cultural bedrock, despite being composed by someone who is otherwise left-wing:

Is left-wing reaction possible? To some extant, I think so. Left-wing reaction is congruent to the so-called rationalist-left and the high-IQ left [1], as opposed to the mainstream-left and the social-justice and activist-left. Generally, it is assumed that the right is more opposed to modernity than the left, but I think there is evidence of push-back against modernity and liberal democracy by the left, too. Here are some characteristics and similarities with right-wing reaction:

-Critical of Protestant–particularly American–cultural ideals and institutions, such as the so-called ‘Protestant worth ethic,’ which locks people into a rat race of careerism and the acquisition of material wealth at the cost of things that are immaterial but also important, such as ‘community’ (the left’s equivalent of ‘family’) and ‘spirituality,’ which the left’s equivalent of ‘god’ and ‘religion’.

-Critical of democracy and majoritarianism systems, such as public schools, which lump everyone together regardless of aptitude and intelligence. Same for voting. Democracy tends to elevate the most shrill, angriest, and ignorant of voices, whether it’s someone like AOC on one extreme, or even Trump on the other. This also makes it a shared narrative, as both the high-IQ left and the high-IQ right are in agreement.

-Critical of reductionist discourse and how politicians and the media gravitate to simple but wrong or incomplete solutions and explanations to complex social problems, and rejection of dichotomous/binary good vs evil narratives. They tend to be very critical of the media, including the left-wing media.

In 2016, the liberal media was shocked and appalled after Trump won, because all the polls showed Hillary would win by a large margin, and of course, because they wanted Trump to lose. Same for Brexit, which also came as a surprise. Unlike the mainstream and social-justice left, rather than responding with disbelief and emotion, the rationalist-left however saw it as both a learning experience to try to understand how and why Trump won and what his victory says about the state of America, but they also admonished the mainstream media for being so certain about Hillary winning and positioning Hillary as being ‘inevitable’ when obviously she wasn’t, and also the media’s portrayal of Trump supporters as being bigoted and ignorant, which may have backfired.

From the post The Trump ‘Coming Together’ Moment:

But regardless of whether you voted for Trump or not, the aftermath of his win has seen the greatest ‘coming together’ movement in decades, as millions of people take to Reddit and social media to debate and discuss how and why their ‘side’ won/lost. And these debates are productive and civil. Many Hillary voters are conceding that, yes, their candidate wasn’t very good and that the media’s tendency to paint all alt-right and Trump supporters as ‘racist’ and ‘extremist’ was not only an abdication of journalistic integrity, but may have also backfired. Not even in office yet, Trump has brought both sides to the table to at least see eye to eye, which Obama in all his eight years couldn’t do. Hell, it even made Ann Coulter favorably tweet a liberal.

I would add to the ‘right’ column, ‘bootstrap-ism’, the belief or idealization that one can pull themselves out of poverty or some other bad predicament by willpower alone, which is related to the Protestant work ethic. The recent huge popularity of Dr. Jordan Peterson–who despite being critical of the left also agrees that the tendency of mainstream conservatives to blame poverty on laziness is counterproductive because factors such as IQ mean that some people are predestined due to genes to fall behind in an increasingly competitive and technologically complex society–is evidence of that more and more people are pushing back against the mainstream political and media tendency of reducing complicated and long-standing problems such as poverty into simple, nicely-wrapped narratives that ignore factors such as IQ.

From Jordan Peterson – IQ and The Job Market:

The video itself is mostly correct. Peterson is correct that a significant number of people (about 15%) are unemployable due to having an IQ below 85. He says automation will hurt low-skilled employees–particularly men–resulting in more drug abuse and disability, and that politicians, both on the ‘left’ and the ‘right’, fail to provide practical solutions to this problem.

-As critical, if not more so, of the ‘in-group’ as they are of ‘out-group’. For example, recent articles about Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren reportedly exploiting campaign workers went viral after being shared by leftists and published by left-wing websites such has Vox. Another example is the 2017 article Planet of Cops by Freddie deBoer, which went hugely viral and is shared narrative because both the ‘high-IQ left’ and the ‘high-IQ right’ can agree that the puritanical tendency judge and seek conformity is not unique to the ‘right’, but is just as prevalent within the social-justice/activist-left, too. As evidence of the cross-ideological appeal of the article and the shared narrative concept, Rod Dreher of The American Conservative in 2019 praised the article, although he disagreed with the equivalence between left-wing and right-wing authoritarianism. ‘Smart’ conservatives also agree that the moralizing by the religious-right can be tiresome at times. People are tired of being told what to do and what to believe, whether it’s social-shaming from ‘left’ or religious moralizing from the ‘right’.

To be clear, de Boer also trashed conservatives as being part of Cop Planet. Conservatives are by no means immune to this kind of thing — the religious-right stalwart American Family Association’s stupid online jihad against the conservative Evangelical writer David French for criticizing Franklin Graham’s double standards is a recent example. Still, I believe that equivalence is false. The most meaningful attacks are coming from the militant progressives, because they are the faction with real and growing influence within elite circles.

-That society is fundamentally and irreparably broken or irredeemable on an economic, social, or spiritual level. This is why there is an overlap with ‘collapse culture’. This makes solutions such as activism and politics unworkable, because the system is intrinsically broken, as opposed to activist-left and the political-left, who view politics and civic participation as a way to improve society. Politics just paints over the problem or exacerbates it and gives false hope. Others believe that America is so dysfunctional and divided that democracy cannot work.

-Deterministic worldview; rejection of blank slate. This is also consistent with being critical of democracy and politics, and related to above about how society is broken and cannot be repaired. Political solutions are predicated an optimism that man is malleable, and that problems can be fixed with good intentions and money. That’s not to say that government programs can’t help, but that politicians are overly optimistic about the viability of such programs to affect meaningful change, whether it’s free college or the push for better public schools. ‘Free college,’ for example, makes problem of credentialism worse, and many people by virtue of IQ do not stand to benefit from more education.

A notable exception is support for a UBI, because a UBI does not try to change human behavior, force society to conform to a certain ideal, or force people to learn skills or get more education when they may not be smart or determined enough to so, but rather it accepts that technological and societal change will create winners and losers, and that programs needs to be in place to helps the latter.

-Composed of academics, journalists, knowledge workers, and other individuals that are smart and have large social networks and influence, but not politicians and activists. Generally, it is indifferent or opposed to politics and activism for the above reasons. It seeks to spread it message through academic means such as literary journals, online literary magazines, and op-eds, but also on Twitter among popular profiles such as Megan McArdle, Noah Smith, Jesse Singal, Matthew Yglesias, Josh Barrow, and others who form a clique of centrists and left-of-center moderates.

-A general media trend of articles that push back against modernity, but from a left-wing or secular perspective. Such articles rail against helicopter parenting, careerism, the ugliness of contemporary architecture, consumerism, too much self-improvement, too much competitiveness in society, credentialism, loss of privacy, anti-depressant use etc. that are considered ‘ills of modernity’ that both the reactionary-right and the the ‘smart left’ can agree on. Issues such as the epidemic of loneliness in America and Japan are very important, as well as the opioid epidemic in the Midwest. Both the ‘high-IQ left’ and the ‘high-IQ right’ agree that modernity may be a contributing factor for why so many people are lonely, and also in agreement about how technology creates as many problems as it solves. Technology can solve practical problems but it introduces unforeseen social ones. For example, the 2019 article Alone: The decline of the family has unleashed an epidemic of loneliness, by Kay Hymowitz of “Where have all the good men gone” fame, went hugely viral. Same for the 2015 article by The New York Times The Lonely Death of George Bell. The famous 1995 essay “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putnam is heavily cited as an influence.

However, the rationalist-left are not making a normative judgment that people should be more gregarious or that people should abandon modernity [the rationalist-left, unlike the social-justice and activist-left does not seek to impose values on individuals or society], but rather are studying it in much the same way a sociologist or economist tries to understand an emerging trend, that being the sudden rise of loneliness in the developed world.

-Similar to neoreaction, left-wing reaction has a sort of fondness or nostalgia for past ways of life that can be described as idiosyncratic, and as discussed above, a skepticism of modernity. But the similarities end there. They are still socially liberal despite not buying into the hype of modernity. Similar to the reactionary-right, they are aware/cognizant of the problem of modernity but don’t seek to restore society to an earlier state. They are stuck in a sort of state of cognitive dissonance of both supporting modernity as as it pertains to social progress but then regretting or opposing some of the consequences of it, but always choosing progress nonetheless.

[1] Although they share many similarities as discussed above, there are a few key differences between the rationalist-left and the reactionary-left. The latter tend to be more moralistic and and have strong emphasis on virtue, whereas the former are more amoral and nihilistic. The former tends to look at society through the lens of a Darwinistic and economic framework of humans competing for social status/capital and resources, whereas the latter is more idealistic.