The Asymmetry of Activism vs. Content Creation

I saw this article by Moldbug Letter to a young “white supremacist”

Moldbug sorta seems like a right-wing version of Fredrik deBoer in that they both make the same sort of argument against performative activism. I fully understand the Moldbug incrementalism approach. The problem is, it’s not going to work for people who have high time preference and want results now, even counterproductive ones.

Cynically, the way you win is to have a successful Substack from which to safely wage the culture war (the so-called ‘Substack army’). 4chan anons and shoot-’em-up wannabees are not going to just be able to transition to writing 1,000-word Substack articles, and even if they could, there is no assurance they can make a living at it or go viral. The market for ‘contrarian political philosophy’ is pretty saturated now, and the people who can do it well are talented, which by definition precludes normies, who tend to not excel at anything. These young people are not like William F. Buckley of William Safire. They are not going to make a living with words or ideas. Either they will need a good job to keep them busy, which generations ago would have been manufacturing, or extremism or ‘rage posting’ is the only way out.

Low-status white men are probably the most neglected and maligned demographic today, particularly men with IQs between 90-110. Smarter men can graduate from college and find good employment, putting the extremism stuff aside as they build wealth and maybe a family (and as increasingly hard as this is becoming, it’s generally easier if you make more money). Minorities, of all incomes, have solidarity and generally more cohesion, as well favoritism in college admissions and employment. A smart black kid with an IQ of 110 will get more opportunities than a white kid with the same IQ. But average-IQ whites are most likely to fall between the cracks. For these men, anonymous online communities provide the cohesion and belonging that society otherwise cannot provide.

But also, this is part of a broader trend that is not unique to whites. The issue of boys being drugged and disciplined into conformity at schools, affects blacks as much as whites, possibly even more so. Same for the ‘crisis of masculinity,’ and how teachers and institutions have become wholly anti-male. These are issues that are invariant of race.

The alt/dissident-right finds itself in sorta a bind. As I argue in the post YouTube and podcasts will not save us, content creation/production, whether it’s podcasts, YouTube, or probably even Substack, will not affect meaningful change politically, even if said content is very popular. The example of Rush Limbaugh being useless against the left despite being on the air for three decades until his death in 2021 and having a large audience, comes to mind. Change will have to come from other means, perhaps entryism (which despite having a negative connotations, can be used against the left too), political or legal activism, or trolling/memetic warfare.

But 3-hour podcasts or 3,000-word articles are probably not going to do it. The potential audience is not big enough, but not just that, influencers who may be receptive to such a message are way outnumbered. Peter Theil got nowhere despite being influenced by neoreactionary writings and briefly in 2016-2017 having Trump’s ear. He played a role in the appointment of Bannon, who was gone by August 2017, leaving no mark on anything. There was so much excitement at the time that these outsider reformers would change ‘politics as usual,’ but the status quo won.

He writes:

Especially when there is no obvious high-quality dissident narrative, the villainous narrative is often the most compelling and obtainable counternarrative around. It also includes large quantities of DNA from the winning narrative—right-wing terror is always a historical response to left-wing terror and tends to borrow its methods. In the war between Hitler and Stalin, Hitler is the student and Stalin is the master. This hybridization of heel rhetoric and the bizarre worship of revolutionary violence is the germ…

This doesn’t seem correct. Hitler came to power in 1932, Stalin in 1929. The first Nazi concentration camp was in 1933, so likely they both arrived at the same methods independently.

But the bind is that this very activism and and political ambition, which is necessary for change, from an individual standpoint is unenticing. The asymmetry of risk vs. reward heavily skews in the favor of the content creator vs. the activist. By every metric being a content creator is superior: more pay (such as having thousands of subs, which is easily equal to that of a even a FAANG job, plus the value of the platform/brand itself, which is also worth millions of dollars), more visibility (from having content which goes viral, is picked up by the media and other content creators), getting credit (by being described as an important political influencer and building one’s brand off that), etc. Meanwhile, the activist is just another face in the crowd of other activists, risks jail/prison for his actions, and makes little to no money.

Political and legal activism could also work, such as being a federal judge, which has fewer risks and better pay compared to lower-level activism, but this requires low time preference and a lot of patience and credentials to rise up the ranks. Top judges and politicians tend to be old or middle-aged for this reason. Also, the ego has to be detached from your work, unlike content creation, which is very much an extension of one’s identity. It’s not like you can be a judge and then endorse the Great Replacement theory. Important legal work is done in the background and is often painstakingly slow. A competitive LSAT score is also needed, which confers an IQ of at least 125-130, which is only 2-5% of the general population.

Even being an important judge or a politician does not have the autonomy and branding that content creation does, and probably does not pay as much either. There has never been a better , more lucrative time for content creation than now in terms of pay, status, audience size, and autonomy. People are making solid six figures writing articles every other week, without having to worry about heavy-handed editorial oversight or being relegated to some op-ed section along with other columnists, without a way distinguish oneself brand-wise. But like many things in life, there are barriers to entry, that being intelligence as discussed above.

Look what happened to the Jan 6th protestors. Many were arrested and got nothing in return, and aside from a few famous names, the only mention of them are on affidavits. Sure, they left an indelible impact on society collectively, but individually, it sure sucked for most of them.

Continuing on…

Meanwhile, the power of the Anglo-American narrative is so strong that it can even compel its enemy—to the point where said enemy carries out an enormous project that without advantage to its war effort will blacken its name for literally millennia, seemingly only out of a psychological compulsion to assume the image of liberalism’s devil. To fit the dominant story is to be on stage—and everyone wants to be on stage.

But they [the left] are going to assume the worst anyway, no matter what. Failing live up to the left’s conception of evil does not change the reality that whites, by in large, have been branded irredeemably evil (or at least guilty of some collective sin), to being with.

It would seem more like this is a letter he wrote to himself than something that could persuade an extremist. He makes some good points but I don’t see it working. One thing you learn quickly when reading about economics is that incentives matter a lot…you get more of what is incentivized, and less of what is disincentivized. I think as long as content creation continues to be so lucrative compared to activism or other alternatives, making the necessary inroads into the actual institutions will prove much more difficult.