What does it mean to be iconoclastic?

I found this passage (for some reason I am unable to find the original link to his blog) attributed to Scott regarding dissent, to be interesting:

Western society has been moving gradually further to the left for the past several hundred years at least. It went from divine right of kings to constutitional monarchy to libertarian democracy to federal democracy to New Deal democracy through the civil rights movement to social democracy to ???. If you catch up to society as it’s pushing leftward and say “Hey guys, I think we should go leftward even faster! Two times faster! No, fifty times faster!”, society will call you a bold revolutionary iconoclast and give you a professorship.


If you start suggesting maybe it should switch directions and move the direction opposite the one the engine is pointed, then you might have a bad time.


Try it. Mention that you think we should undo something that’s been done over the past century or two. Maybe reverse women’s right to vote. Go back to sterilizing the disabled and feeble-minded. If you really need convincing, suggest re-implementing segregation, or how about slavery? See how far freedom of speech gets you.

Prima facie this seems true, but upon closer inspection, it’s not like, at least in America, that dissent against progress is that uncommon, nor is it verboten. Yeah, it can get you fired , no doubt, but all over the internet and as shown by the massive popularity of avowedly anti-PC pundits Michelle Malkin and Tucker Carlson, possible to make a living, a damn good one at that opposing progress. There is no shortage of Holocaust denial material. Even professor Kevin MacDonald built such a career out it, as have many others on the dissident-right. Look how immensely popular the alternative news site unz.com is, which gets more comments per article than even the New York Times. Think the Holocaust didn’t happen? Great, join the 10,000 other people online who also agree, as well as presumably thousands offline also. Same goes for other sacred cows.

Opposition to progress is not that uncommon nor is revolutionary nor is it that taboo. It logically follows that if society is increasingly moving along the x-direction that some will wish to slow down this progress or reverse it. Yeah, you may lose some friends and job opportunities and it may make for some awkward holiday gatherings, but this is not iconoclastic in the sense of challenging universally held belief, but rather challenging a political view or depiction of an event. That is better than nothing but still not quite there.

To answer the title of the post, an example could be extreme selfishness. I think Ayn Rand was very iconoclastic in this regard because even both progressives and reactionaries are at odds with radical, atomistic individualism. For the ‘right,’ the family and religious institutions take precedence over the individual; for the left, it’s civic and communal institutions–in neither case is it the individual per say. Same for historical figures such as Martin Luther. The idea that Christianity could be decentralized and independent from Rome was at the time heretical and bind-blowing. Saying that you don’t care about issues at all, and being nihilistic or indifferent in regard to the world and events around you, is another, because forces from both sides are pulling you in their respective directions, but veering off in a perpendicular direction or leaping off into the third by saying “no” to it all, is much more in going against the grain than taking even a politically incorrect side.

For example, the Hong Kong protests have been going on now for four or so months and have now embroiled the NBA and a major US computer game company, yet I don’t care what happens, for either side, because there are no innocent parties in this dispute, which is why i have yet to cover it on this blog. I see this as sort of moral failing on my part because this is a high-stakes issue and you’re supposed to care a lot, but my overall bias is in favor in China and the NBA are a bunch of hypocrites.