A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations (part 9d)
In this chapter, we’re going to step boldly forward in the Procedure and look at how to capture America.
This essay should be of interest to anyone seeking instructions for any kind of fascist coup. However, this coup design (which is not fascist, but reactionary) depends on the information weapon we’ve just designed—the Antiversity. If you don’t have an Antiversity or anything like it, I’m afraid you’ll need a different recipe.
Note that no one now has an Antiversity or anything like it, and they don’t exactly grow on trees. So, if you’d rather not have a fascist coup at all, there is no need to fear. Really!
That said, I will take the liberty of speaking of the First Step in the past tense. In the First Step, we built the Antiversity—a new intellectual power supply for USG. In the Second Step, patriotic Americans peacefully exercise their democratic rights to disconnect the present power supply, the University, and plug in the Antiversity. Once the Antiversity holds full sovereignty, it continues the Procedure, dissolving USG and replacing it with a New Structure of its own design. America under the New Structure is the Third Step—to be considered later.
First, let’s tackle this interesting word: patriotic. Can a patriotic American support a reactionary coup whose ultimate goal is to terminate democracy? Absolutely! He is patriotic because he genuinely loves America, his great country, and its good people.
He is patriotic not because he attaches his unreasoning affection to any particular acronym, rulebook, or personnel force. Or to any name, flag, slogan, or religion. He takes those things as he finds them. He need not find them good. If he has to choose between America and USG, he will always choose America. In short: he is a patriot, not a moron.
Can democracy terminate democracy? Isn’t this a contradiction in terms? Not at all. Here is one straightforward way by which Americans can terminate democracy: elect a President who has promised to cancel the Constitution. Once he is inaugurated, he can cancel the Constitution. Of course, the military must also support this autogolpe. This given, the operation is trivial and entirely safe. Self-coups are the best, safest and most reliable kind. Unfortunately, they are not always the most practical, but they at least set the standard we must strive for.
The basic question facing any potential supporter of a coup is: do you prefer this government, or would you rather take your chances with that government? Do you want to stick with the serviceable old Modern Structure, or go wild with the high-tech New Structure? Since sovereignty is irreversible, this is never an easy decision. The New Structure is designed to last forever. Of course, so was the Modern Structure. Do you think it will? That would be pretty good for 1789. Or even 1933.
You support a coup if you would like to see this change, assuming it can be made instantly and nonviolently. This is a much lower bar than joining a coup, which is something you should do only if you think it actually will succeed. Otherwise, your efforts are a waste of time—at best. Governments don’t like to be existentially threatened.
The coup planner faces three basic tasks. First, he must design the new regime—yes, before the coup. (Poor attention to this task is perhaps the most common cause of coups gone wrong.) Second, he must recruit enough supporters to complete the operation. Third, he must coordinate his supporters to perform it.
In the Internet era, coups—especially democratic coups—are much easier. Why? Because, once enough people have stopped supporting the present government, a coup is simply a matter of communication and coordination. The Internet is very good at these things.
Still, without the Antiversity, I’m just not sure it can be done. The problem, in a coup, is not getting people to oppose their present government. There is never any shortage of potential supporters. The coup planner’s problem is getting people to support his coup. This, as so often here on UR, is a coordination problem. The Left is spontaneously coordinated; the Right, alas, must coordinate itself. (If there is one reason why the Left tends to win, this is it.)
This coordination problem, along with many of the coup planner’s other tasks, is no longer solvable by an individual—or even a conspiracy. The job can be done only by an institution—such as the Antiversity. Again, for an individual or conspiracy, you need a different recipe. Sorry. Also, no one can use this formula now, because there is no Antiversity. Sorry if I repeat myself—I would just hate to scare anyone out there in the viewing audience.
To begin the Second Step, the First Step must be complete. When the First Step is complete, the Antiversity exists, and it is not a baby, either. It has come together as a genuine institution. It is a substantial institution—perhaps not with as many contributors as Wikipedia has today, but in that ballpark. It is a prestigious institution, widely respected for the excellence of its collective judgment—if not always agreed with. And it has some central decision-making body which can make it act, more or less, as a unit. I would be shocked if any such thing existed before 2019.
That said, 2019 will happen sooner or later, and so will 2029. The future exists—it is just uncertain. And history is by no means over! So let’s take this bad boy out for a spin and see what she can do.
First, the Antiversity challenges USG by just existing. The University is a comprehensive Ministry of Truth. It provides a complete and accurate official truth service. So who are these asshats, who claim to have their own truth? Some bureaucrat, charged to look into it, finds that the asshats do have their own truth. He grows disheartened. He does not complete his report.
Simply put, the Antiversity is the root of a belief system which is to USG as Protestantism is to the Catholic Church. Everyone who has even heard of it knows it is possible to stop believing in the University, and this alone is a serious problem. USG is not a military despotism. It is a democratic government. It is and will always be existentially dependent on popular support. Since USG is guided by the University, if you don’t believe in the University, you don’t believe in USG. You think the Pope is just some guy in a funny hat. You’re a problem, buddy.
But the Antiversity is not just limited to just existing. It can attack. It should attack. It will attack. How does it attack? The Antiversity attacks USG by studying it.
USG has never received anything like an independent historical audit, let alone the brutal proctoscopy to which the Antiversity will subject it. USG is, of course, part of history; the Antiversity cannot study history without it. So it will eventually be asking the questions: what the hell happened? And why? How, for instance, did Washington take over the world? And why?
At least in the first volume, the Antiversity’s consensus is likely to pay a heavy debt to the 19th-century British perspective—such as that of Lecky. Up through the middle of the 20th century, the London view tends to produce the most independent, learned, and distanced interpretations of America: for obvious reasons. Duh. Therefore, if you have to start somewhere, start with the Victorians. Today’s Americans are entirely innocent of the Victorian narrative—and especially innocent of what that bad boy looks like when projected forward to 2009. Kimbo Slice is in the cage, wearing full lawn-tennis attire.
But history is only a start. Most Americans do not care about history—except recent history, which they call “the present.” One can regard the study of USG present as a case of history, but this approaches the pedantic. It probably deserves its own department: Washingtology.
Washingtology is an applied discipline, like archaeology. Its mission is simply to study the real Washington. This mission requires no engagement with any of USG’s PR arms. Washingtology is not journalism. It is the study of what Washington is and does—never what it says. Unless that speech is in some sense an action.
(One of the few systematic mendacities that I see across the entire spectrum of American punditry is the convention of writing as if political actors personally wrote, or believed, their lines. Of course, all these pundits know that the speeches are composed by teams of professional writers. Nonetheless, they invariably report these speeches as if they were actually personal productions. When the President speaks, they never say: “Today in St. Louis, President Obama read a White House speech which called for…” or “Today in St. Louis, the White House called for…” They say: “Today in St. Louis, President Obama called for…” This is a classic Orwellian abuse of English. The Founders would have considered the institution of professional speechwriting, and the resulting cardboard television presidents, one of the stranger and more contemptible features of our contemptible and very strange Modern Structure, which somehow masquerades as their own invention.)
What does the Antiversity do when it proctoscopes USG? For every agency, unit, or acronym within USG, it creates a knowledge base. It knows, more or less, what the acronym does, who works for it, what its budget is, etc. It understands the acronym’s bureaucratic purpose, decodes its public emissions, identifies its friends in Congress, etc., etc., etc.
More daringly, the Antiversity can (within the bounds of law) develop a way to verify the identity of USG employees. This allows Washingtologists to develop secure, reliable and anonymous inside sources within the Beltway. It can even create communities for them—for instance, host a conversation in which employees of agency X, and agency X alone, can communicate safely and anonymously. Not only does this compromise the loyalty of the agency X, it ensures that the Antiversity can understand it better than its own management. (More on these custom communities later…)
Moreover, the Antiversity is not at all limited to the study of USG proper. It can study the entire Extended USG—University, Press, NGOs, contractors, and all others controlling or controlled by USG. This opens up a remarkable number of tempting targets. For instance, every working journalist and every working professor deserves his or her own dossier at the Antiversity. No, this is not even slightly creepy. When you accept the responsibility of informing the public, you accept the public’s right to study you and your work.
USG is a huge creature. Almost no one knows anything about it. Washingtology is a vast task of collecting, assimilating, and selecting information about this beast. As always in history, the end product is a story: what is it? What is it doing? What has it done in the past? What is it likely to do in the future?
I actually know something about seeing governments in this way, because my father was a Foreign Service officer, and he used to let me proofread his (unclassified) cables. Essentially, Washingtologists will study USG the way USG studies its satellites. Since the assessments in State Department reporting are not meant for public consumption, they are reports on the reality of the satellite government—with which Foggy Bottom (purportedly) concerns itself. This reporting style is not generally available to the public, and no one reports on Washington itself this way. At least not since Dupuy de Lôme. Nonetheless, it can be done.
Comparing Washingtology with journalism is like comparing a discussion of some issue in the cable traffic from US Embassy Lisbon, to the same issue on the front page of the Jornal de Notícias. It’s not just that the two are written in a different language, although there is that too. It is not even that the former has more facts, though perhaps it does. It’s that one is designed to inform the natives, and the other is designed to inform the desk officer.
America—and America alone—has no desk officer. But the truth is out there. The Antiversity must thirst like a viper for this unknown knowledge, and extract it from the sand’s very dew.
There is a little bit of Washingtology in the world today. The British site fakecharities.org is an excellent bit of work on the other side of the pond.1 Righty-o, chaps! David Horowitz has produced a decent prosopography of the broader Left at discoverthenetworks.org. Most amusingly, the Washington Post itself has come forward with the hilariously named, and hilariously peppy, whorunsgov.com. I cannot avoid rhyming the first syllable with “door.” Compare this site with the Post itself; see the difference between Washingtology and journalism.
Once the Washingtologists understand Washington, they can report on it. I.e., write short narratives describing its latest doings. This, too, is not journalism. At least, it is qualitatively distinct from the present profession. Perhaps the word should just be retired. “Blogging” sounds a lot better.
(Under the New Structure, having been a Modern Structure journalist will be a nontrivial point of personal ignominy—like having worked as an officer in the Wehrmacht, or a DP for Girls Gone Wild, or a trader for Madoff. Not something you want on your resume. Solution: learn to surf, then claim you were surfing. To get your name off the public list, you’ll also need to file a full disclosure, and sign some forms. Really not a big deal. Certainly nothing like some other right-wing coups I could imagine. Why fly with the rest? If you need to fly, fly with the best.)
The Antiversity, of course, is not a propaganda device. It is a truth machine. Its efforts are devoted to obtaining the truth for itself, not spreading the good news to others. The latter is a relatively trivial task given the former, and confusing the two greatly interferes with the former.
Nonetheless, once the Antiversity learns the truth, anyone can blog about it. Or produce an audio segment. Or a video segment. Certainly, by 2019, the Antiversity will have no trouble in communicating its truths to the People, through any medium which can stimulate their senses.
Public communication, originating entirely outside the Antiversity, cannot and should not be controlled. However, outlets within the general idea sphere of the Antiversity, and responsible to it rather than the University, can easily identify themselves as such. If they do not, or if their communications are inaccurate, it is obviously not the Antiversity’s fault.
The trick with public communication is to move down the IQ ladder very cautiously and steadily. It’s important that distorted versions of the Antiversity’s vision not circulate among morons, as of course they will. However, the effect must be minimized. When propagandizing on behalf of the truth, always try to bring the audience up to your level; never descend to its.
As this slowly descending inverse waterline creeps down to the meat of the bell curve, that population—accustomed to seeing USG, including of course its local arms, through authorized eyes—will suddenly have the chance to see it through unauthorized eyes. Unauthorized and very critical eyes, with no interest whatsoever in illusions. The reality of USG needs no exaggeration.
But it is not that difficult to persuade Americans to despise USG. Americans already despise USG, although they don’t generally put it that way. As an institution of propaganda, the Antiversity can whip them into a white rage with the artfully-presented truth. (Did I say a white rage? Sorry—poetic diction. A diverse rage, surely. Just white with righteous justification.) They are already remarkably annoyed and disappointed, however.
And they do nothing. Politically, the Americans are the victim of a vicious cycle: they are apathetic because they are powerless, and powerless because they are apathetic. The political apathy of the modern American voter would amaze and terrify his great-grandfathers.
Have you ever seen a contemporary description, perhaps by a European observer, of a 19th-century American election? It’s like a college football game. Human madness unleashed upon the earth. Indeed, the fundamental human passion for tribal conflict has been transferred largely to harmless megasports—one of the real political achievements of the 20th century. (And indeed one bound to last. Which will outlast the other? Ohio State proper, or the Buckeyes?)
This change can be reversed. The gene pool has not changed much at all. Real political lightning is surely still hidden in the American heart—indeed the human heart. If not the chimp heart. If the hominid does not struggle for power, it can only be that he is powerless. Take your foot off him, and he springs up! But he is the opposite of a spring; the more he is compressed, the less he presses. He knows how to submit, as well as how to challenge and rule. This creature has quite a hunk of brain on the top of its spine. He didn’t evolve yesterday.
This, for instance, is why there were few rebellions against the Soviet Union: the State had pressed its people to the floor. In general, weakness is the cause of all rebellion. Strength is the cure for all rebellion. You have heard the opposite, but you have heard wrong. Sorry.
Multiple-equilibrium games work like this. They are hyperbolic. They exhibit a Matthew effect. They have—if I can bear to cite Malcolm Gladwell—tipping points. Populists and conservatives—i.e., enemies of socialism—have been largely barred from the levers of power in USG since the Hoover administration. The longer they remain out of power, the more their power decreases. Thus, the level to which an actual grass-roots movement (such as the tea parties) can influence public policy is almost zero.
Conventional democratic politics can stall public policy, but cannot change its direction. The mob is notoriously absent-minded; it forgets itself, and worries about something else; the policy goes through. This is the natural result of civil service reform. Either the People control the government, or they don’t. If they control the government, they can fire the bureaucrats. If they can’t fire the bureaucrats, they don’t control the government. It really is that simple.
But our plan is not a plan to elect a political party, or to implement some policy, or to stall some policy, or etc. It is a plan for a democratic coup—a complete regime change. This cannot be done without actually capturing the government. Clearly, it is anything but a case of conventional democratic politics. However, until the regime change, it works entirely by lawful methods. After the regime change, of course, its word is law. The coup is a political singularity.
For instance, the rule in conventional democratic politics—followed rigorously for centuries—is to be as broad and vague about your ideals and desires as possible, so as to attract the largest possible base. Consider the tea parties. What were they about? Their namesake—a thoroughly left-wing phenomenon, a mob of vandals who masked their faces like Hamas to ransack a private business whose only crime was obeying the law? A mood, a feeling, a thought? Maybe an agenda, if a negative agenda counts? No to healthcare reform? But not just no to healthcare reform…
It was, and is, nowhere near clear. No surprise. The more people you get, the more powerful you feel. Unfortunately, if those people are milling about randomly in a “big tent” the size of Nebraska, you have accomplished very little in terms of coordinating support. You have not coordinated anything. All you have is a feeling. If you could get a million people behind some defined objective, you might be able to get that objective to happen.
But if the tea parties were promoting an actual manifesto, they would have had a much harder time recruiting. This would just have been weird. When you involve yourself in something like a tea party, you feel that you are contributing your thoughts, your ideas, your dreams, to a collective movement. This is the experience of conventional democratic politics. The last thing a democratic party wants to do is to crush those dreams, brutally, with its own.
Thus, conventional democratic politics cannot bring about a coup. No big surprise there. Only unconventional democratic politics can succeed. An unconventional party can only be organized along lines that will be familiar to any student of the revolutionary movements of the early 20th century, including both parties of the Right and Left. We can describe this as an existential party; it demands a fundamental and complete change of government. Such a party cannot, of course, be anything but upfront about this goal. It cannot mind being called anti-democratic. It is anti-democratic.
Power is what works; it can be used for good or evil. All significant existential movements, from the Bolsheviks to the Nazis, the Sandinistas to the Legion of the Archangel Michael, share these five design features:
One, the Party is exclusive, rather than inclusive. A democratic party is like a church: anyone can walk in, sit down, and listen to the sermon. An anti-democratic party is like a club: if you want to be a member, you have to apply. Moreover, if you want to stay a member, you have to keep paying your dues. Both metaphorically and financially.
Two, the Party enforces an ideological standard. The Party leadership decides on the Party line. You are, of course, free to have your own opinions. You are just not free to confuse them with the Party’s opinions. As a Party member, you know the Party line and can spout it like a tape recorder. You can also rant on your own account. And you know the difference—that’s all. The Party is most certainly not a soul-enslaving totalitarian cult.
Three, the Party proposes a concrete program. If you vote to transfer power to the Party, you know exactly what you’re voting for. You are not voting for the box labeled “Surprise.” If everyone else puts their votes in that same box, you know exactly what’s going to happen.
Four, the Party eschews and despises partial authority. The question of what a responsible statesman would do with an existing pseudo-executive position under the Modern Structure—mayor, governor, even President—is only theoretically interesting. A responsible statesman would never accept any such position. His work would be sabotaged by those who retain the rest of said authority. Therefore, it would visibly appear to have failed. Moreover, even if it managed to succeed, it might well be reported otherwise. Better to hold back. The Party is organized to transcend democracy, not to repair it.
Fifth, the Party is inherently a shadow government. It is perfectly possible for the Party to build the new government under the laws of the old government. It just can’t be activated (no, not even a little bit!) under the laws of the old government. (It can give demos, however.)
This mechanism is not known to the American political tradition. What do I mean by a shadow government? As so often at UR, we’ll use as our example… National Socialism. Remember, a Nazi pistol is just a pistol.
The distinguished Australian historian Stephen Roberts, who lived in Nazi Germany between 1935 and 1937 and produced the essential prewar source The House That Hitler Built, wrote:
The machine, it is true, carried much dead weight, and organization in certain provinces was notoriously lax; but, on the whole, the Party came to provide a definite shadow State.
When I was admitted to the Party archives at Munich and shown some of the earliest documents, I was struck by the breadth of the point of view behind the system, even in the infancy of the Party. Here were no hasty pencillings and fugitive scraps of paper. Even when the Party had but a single stenographer, its files were handled as if they were the archives of a great nation, and the most insignificant details of meetings were minuted and checked and counter-checked. They were treated as State papers, and it is quite clear from the documents themselves that there has been no retrospective building up of a system that did not exist at a time. It is beyond doubt that the men who organized the Secretariat of the Party in the first few years acted as if they were managing a nation. The inculcation of such an outlook over a decade made the ultimate transference of power much easier than it otherwise would have been.
Lenin’s thugs, of course, played it the same way. Does this shock you? You knew we were talking about seizing power. Power, of course, can be used for good or for evil. By the Nazis, by the Communists, or by you and me.
You see the process of seizing power the anti-democratic way. First, you build a government outside the government. That government already has a mind: the Antiversity. All it needs is a body. The Party. The Party! Embrace it. Embrace the vision. Embrace the edge.
And all one must do, to join that Party, is switch one’s intellectual allegiance—from the University, to the Antiversity. The convert must follow the latter as he once followed the former: absolutely and unconditionally. The client submission module is already in place. We’re just changing the server address. Moreover, the doctrines of the Antiversity, because they actually make sense, are much more compact—they consume fewer neurons and demand far less background processing. Your very skull will sigh with relief.
You start to see the difference between this and the Nazis. For the Nazis, the equivalent of the Antiversity was… Hitler. Have you read Hitler? I have. (The Table Talk is the Hitler to read.) Frankly, Hitler reads a lot like me, if I lost 25 IQ points from drinking lead soda, and also had a nasty case of tertiary syphilis. I may have some of Hitler’s talents—I will be the first to admit it. But I have no intention of applying for his job.
I would never be able to do it, anyway. I don’t think anyone could. Again, a true collective intelligence is essential. The Antiversity must not only be much smarter than me, but also much wiser. (And better at answering its email.)
So, beyond the mere spreading of seditious truths—which is really First Step material—let’s look at how the Antiversity organizes a coup. In the First Step, the Antiversity assembled itself. In the Second Step, the Antiversity has three action items:
First, the Antiversity must design a Program. The Program says: if we receive formal sovereign authority, this is what we expect to do with it. The Program includes both a decision architecture for the New Structure, and a policy roadmap for the transitional administration.
I see no point in discussing the policies of the Program. Again, I am not Hitler. The Antiversity must be built first, and that will take at least ten years. Who knows what the world will be like in ten years? Cogitation on the Third Step should be left to one’s own private heart. Frankly, I have been rash in even mentioning these matters.
However, it’s clear how the Program starts: the Party seizes power, and executes its policy roadmap. Or… actually, no. This is not how the Program starts. This is how Brand X starts. This, for instance, is how Hitler started. And how Mussolini started. Needless to say, the Program has to be much more subtle, elegant and advanced.
There are many differences between the Program and the Nazi path to power. They both have one thing in common, of course: they produce an absolute dictatorship. However, this shocking resemblance can easily overshadow some critical engineering changes—notably the following.
The key safety change is that the Party is designed to seize power, but not hold power. The typical revolutionary party becomes an appendage of the revolutionary state—a permanent placenta. The placenta is a specialized organ for a specialized environment: the womb. Once the baby is born, it’s useless. She’d never learn to crawl with this beef pancake hanging on her belly. If the Party must be preserved after its victory, it must at least be severed from power.
So here is how the Program starts: the Party holds power for only as long as it takes to hire a qualified administrator—an experienced corporate CEO, perhaps. It then presents that administrator with (a) a conflict-free responsibility structure; and (b) absolute sovereign authority.
The entire transition should be complete within a year. After this, the Party has no more reason to exist; and, indeed, it should dissolve. Its central structure disbands. It continues to exist in a certain sense as a social network, but its organizational life is over. The Party is a temporary organism—designed to win and die. Its career is its larval stage.
Thus, though UR is completely attached to the theory that not only does power corrupt, but potential power corrupts, the Party can become as corrupt as it wants. Because it will never exercise actual authority in government—unlike the Nazis and the Bolsheviks.
Second, given this clever design, the Antiversity must actually organize the Party. Without actually prejudging the design, let us call the set of patriotic and responsible citizens who support the Program the Plinth.
The Plinth must (a) obey the principles of existential politics as described above; (b) conduct all operations in a perfectly democratic, transparent and responsible way; and (c) place its absolute confidence in the Antiversity and the Program.
As with any existential party, the goal of the Plinth is to capture absolute sovereign authority. If Americans do not have the power to entirely oust and replace their government by entirely democratic means, whatever proportion of the population they need to do so, they are simply the autocratic servants of those parts of state that they cannot so oust. Popular government is a corpse; that corpse, by its own principles, must be discarded by any means necessary. So it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. If you can’t have the Plinth—you need the Plinth.
And indeed, although the Plinth is not an inherently covert organization, it is certainly designed to operate covertly if for some ridiculous reason this ever becomes necessary. In much the same way that an A320 is designed for a water landing. Even in covert mode, the Plinth is not designed to commit any actual crime or injustice; but unjust laws can prevent it from operating at all, if it is required to operate according to these laws. Because it is designed along basically Leninist lines, it has at least the theoretical option of going underground.
Third, the Antiversity must continue to exist, so that it can advise the Plinth and its successor, the New Structure. It is intended to be a permanent design—which means it is intended to be a nonsovereign design. This one-time event should be its only brush with power. For the rest of the future, it produces advice. Which the advised are quite free to disregard. This is the honest relationship of a legitimate consultant—not the creepy hypnotic grip of an intellectual Svengali.
At this premature date, I feel this is about as far as a coup design can be sketched. Certainly the first and third parts above can stand little examination. The Plinth, however, is another matter. It is the thing that has to be built. But how can it possibly be built? Let us delve deeper.
First, I want to examine two trends that I think will advance over the next decade, making it easier to both assemble and install the Plinth. Here at UR, we skate to where the puck will be. Second, I want to look at two processes: the process of assembling the Plinth, and the process of seizing power once it is built.
The first trend is spontaneous deprogramming. Here is the problem: the Modern Structure is complete. The ancien régime is no more. Therefore, it is simply impossible for the progressive movement to generate anything like the energy it generated in the ’60s. The whole Obama experience, in particular, is a major downer. But this apathy would be growing anyway. It is just increasingly obvious that the ’60s will never be repeated. The logs it burned are ash.
What this means in practice: in practice, for a young person, it is very hard to squeeze any power or status out of the Left. All the institutions of the Left are bureaucratically stable. If you join them, you join them as an intern. If you want to achieve any status through them, you have to suck your way up a very long, greasy pole. It is just not exciting to be a mainstream left-wing activist. The lifestyle is grim and boring. You can be an extreme left-wing activist, like an Earth Firster, which is a little more exciting, but still exudes an ugly flavor of desire and futility.
Young people seek power and status. This is natural. It will always be the case. However, they are young; so they seek not the things that will bring them power now, but the things that will bring them power when they are of age to rule. Not, of course, that this is a conscious strategy; it is more a matter of evolutionary biology. But it still works. The number of former ’60s radicals in positions of power today is remarkable.
Thus, it is better to say that young people seek potential power and status. If an elite is open to new talent, they will seek it in that elite. If an elite is not open to new talent, or if the process of entering it excludes much of that talent…
In this case, we see a prerevolutionary condition. The classic case is late 19th-century Russia. Young elites, instead of being attracted to careers in the administrative or clerical arms of the Czarist state, were attracted to revolutionary activism—plotting to replace that regime. They seek a different path to power—not an existing path, but a potential and hypothetical path.
Why? I imagine that, to work and rise in the late Czarist bureaucracy, one had to both swallow and regurgitate some rather stale bagels of the mind. Certainly the literature of the period gives one that impression. Also, Jews were disliked. Rather actively disliked, as a matter of fact. Some of my ancestors left Imperial Russia on account of this nonsense.
The alternative? Communism. Out of the fire, into the frying pan. Or rather—out of the sauna, into the crematorium. Nonetheless, a prerevolutionary condition is a prerevolutionary condition. Better the good should take advantage of it, than the evil.
Let me show you a tiny, microscopic, little prerevolutionary condition, right here in 2009. This is the hot new phenomenon of Tweed Rides. Look at the gallery. What’s going on here, Mr. Jones? Who in the bloody hell are these bloody chaps?
More to the point: why are ultra-British Victorian and Edwardian fashions fashionable, suddenly, in 2009? Does it have anything to do with Barack Obama? And will it last? Who the hell knows. I am anything but a trendologist. Here, however, is my theory.
My theory is that these eras are in fashion because they are edgy. They are dangerous. Every man and woman in the pictures you see is under 40 and went to an American or European college. In this so-called place of education, they were instructed that the eras which produced these clothing styles were evil.
Moreover, the most evil people in this era were rich white people—the people who wore tweed. People such as Edward VII. That’s quite a difference, n’est-ce pas? Barack Obama, and Edward VII? Nobody thinks this, I’m sure. The subconscious is quite sufficient.
Thus, the tweed craze is that most commonplace of youth phenomena—symbolic rebellion. Tweed culture is a lot like the swing movement in Nazi Germany—a relatively subtle denial of authority, delivered as a coded fashion message. Just as there could not possibly be any respect between the Hitler Youth thug and the Swing Kid, there cannot possibly be any respect between the Tweed Rider and the granola-munching hippie with whitey dreads. Culturally, this is war.
Of course, tweed is a harmless fashion statement. But you know: if a neighbor has spent his entire Saturday trying to look like Sir Henry Maine, dress like Sir Henry Maine, talk like Sir Henry Maine, and act like Sir Henry Maine, how hard can it be to get him to read Sir Henry Maine? That’s what I’m saying: a prerevolutionary condition. (Or rather, a prereactionary one.)
There’s no reason at all that reactionary ideology can’t hitch a ride on reactionary fashion. The two should flourish for exactly the same reasons, under exactly the same conditions, in exactly the same kinds of minds.
Moreover, if I am correct in my somewhat optimistic reading of this microtrend, with its obvious potential to be as ephemeral as any other fad, it will not be ephemeral (though it may evolve). My reasoning: if the tweed life is a subtle protest, it is an exercise of collective power. If it is an exercise of collective power, this fashion statement in some form is likely to be enduring, for the same reason that ghetto thugs will never stop wearing baggy clothes: you can hide a piece under them. When fashion confers power, fashion sticks around. On the other hand, this whole Tweed Movement could be complete bullshit—the thing could disappear in a few months. UR does not make financial recommendations or confer fashion advice.
The second trend is what, for lack of a better word, I call recorporatization. Unfortunately, this requires using the word corporation in its unusual second meaning—that of corporatism. Someone needs to invent a catchier locution. Unfortunately, I am fresh out today.
America was once renowned for its voluntary and independent community organizations. Tocqueville expends countless pages on lavish praise for the American passion of voluntarism. For various reasons, these were almost entirely atomized in the 20th century. For a modern American, your tribe is your employer, your university, or perhaps your church. Perhaps you volunteer at one of the many official charities. (Any charity which accepts grants is an official charity.) These are extremely cold, impersonal, and soulless forms of engagement. This is by no means a coincidence; basically, you are interacting with others through the Post Office.
Reactionaries adore the natural corporative structures of society, and diagnose a sick society by their disappearance and/or coordination. All 20th-century regimes destroyed or suborned the voluntary structures in their societies, producing the usual gray, totalitarian anomie. Why? To any inherently unstable regime, such as a democracy, guilds and orders and brotherhoods and lodges and the like are dangerous institutions; they are easily assembled into threatening combinations. The simple, atomized state of mere individuals is much safer.
The trend that we are seeing is the reconstruction, thanks to teh Internets, of private voluntary peer communities. A good example is Sermo, a private discussion board only for doctors. What do doctors talk about on Sermo? I have no idea. I’m not a doctor. I can’t read the board.
However, I discovered Sermo because I read some news story that mentioned this press release. See this document. Frankly: crap like this is the reason society was decorporatized in the first place. Who the hell do these people think they are? The AMA? The AMA supports President Obama’s health-care reform. Now there’s the legitimate voice of American medicine.
Well… no. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point Sermo just assimilates the AMA, more or less the way the Soviet Union assimilated Latvia. What is the AMA? A bunch of guys in an office with a fancy name. What is Sermo? Actual, legitimate democratic power. Or more precisely, aristocratic power. Or even more precisely: corporative power.
For instance: there’s really nothing stopping someone from recreating Sermo for… the police. Or… the military. In fact, if you read the comments on police blogs, you’ll see another prereactionary condition! And this is in public! (Albeit anonymously. Verified anonymity, as in “anonymous Marine captain in Texas,” is an especially potent device.)
This is the art of the reactionary agitator. He is always persuading the little chips of uranium to cuddle up and get more comfortable with each other. Society has more than enough uranium for a Reaction. It is not shaped like a Reaction, but it is getting more so. Atomized, the doctors are nothing. Organized…
Another interesting and important class of corporative institutions is local institutions. For example: Sermo for San Francisco homeowners. If San Francisco homeowners develop a collective consciousness, their relationship to the government of San Francisco is not unlike Sermo’s relationship to the AMA. Hm.
If homeowners think X, and supervisors do Y, how do homeowners respond? Homeowners think: this is our city. This is our government. We’re the ones that pay for it. And it’s slapping us in the face every day. This is simply unacceptable. (Check out the comments on that last link—including the votes. Votes like 500 to 3—for the reactionary position. In San Francisco.) Now, if we can have a meeting of the minds with Sermo for San Francisco policemen…
Once corporative institutions exist, they can think as communities. They can publish manifestos, like the Sermo appeal. They can develop party lines. They can liaise with other communities. They can perform all kinds of incredibly powerful and dangerous political stunts. No, there was very much a reason why 20th-century liberalism was so anticorporatist—just like the Nazis and the Bolsheviks. The corporatives must be assimilated, coordinated or destroyed. “As you wish, Lord Vader.”
Worst of all, corporatives can consider and disseminate alternative narratives of anything—or everything. They can be infiltrated. The Antiversity is a dream and the Plinth is a dream squared; but it’s never too soon to start infiltrating. (In fact, just the fact that you’re reading this pretty much makes you a sleeper agent. Perhaps I should consider disseminating some sort of patches or cards, like Steve Zissou.)
It is the combination of rebellious reactionary exuberance, driven by the irresistible energy of youth and talent, combined with the rise of new voluntary community structures, that over the next ten or twenty years will begin to create a general prereactionary condition. But how do we exploit that condition?
All right. We’re in 2019. Even given deprogramming and recorporatization, given an Antiversity—how do we do it? How do we build the Party? The modern world, in 2019, will still be the modern world. How, in the modern world, do you recruit a Leninist party of pure Carlylean reaction, dedicated implacably to the downfall of the Constitution and its replacement with an iron-hard corporate dictatorship?
Actually, history has a precise example of what needs to happen to America. America needs to be colonized. It needs to be reorganized under imperial rule. Unfortunately, America is the world’s greatest country already—no one is available to colonize it. Therefore, Americans will have to do the job themselves.
For instance, the acknowledged master of colonial government is Lord Cromer, who found Egypt in chaos and bankruptcy and instituted a European standard of government. We, too, would like a European standard of government. To achieve this goal, we have joined our efforts in the Colonialist Party.
Or possibly the Imperialist Party. Or, perhaps not now but at some more daring day, the Racist Party. (Whose platform could only demand absolutely race-blind government.) Many other names of this general valence, utterly defiant yet somehow nonthreatening, completely serious but vaguely ironic, are available.
But let us eschew all these big, flashy banners, and continue calling the project by its internal codename. This is what cool people who know it will actually call it. As we’ve seen, it’s an unusual word, of no particular metaphorical definition: the Plinth. Again, I want to emphasize the fact that not only does the Plinth not exist, it cannot exist until the Antiversity exists; and the Antiversity does not exist.
The Plinth, quite simply, is the existential party of responsible thought. It appeals to responsible and intelligent people—parents, homeowners, schoolteachers. Doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Students at top-level universities. Republicans and Democrats, of course. Ice People, Chinamen, Hindoos; Boers, steers, and queers; mulattos, Hispanics, and Jews. Everyone intelligent, mature and open-minded, regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual preference. Of course, in practice everyone will be white, just like at Burning Man.
The Plinth can recruit new members in only one way: educating them. To join the Plinth, you need to educate yourself at least superficially in the doctrines of the Plinth. These simple instructional materials, prepared of course by the Antiversity, contain a brief general reorientation, and a short overview of actual history, economics, and political science. Basically, you need to read a little book and take a little test. It’s like getting your political driver’s license. Not difficult at all.
How is the Plinth structured? Much like any revolutionary party of the early 20th century. All instructions come to you from the headquarters—Reaction Control. This is a small office of professional reactionaries, whose role is entirely administrative (not ideological) in nature. The Antiversity dreams its dreams; it floats its castles in the air; Reaction Control executes them.
Is this at all creepy? Let’s stop, for a moment, and consider whether what we’re proposing is creepy. I hold that it is not, in fact, creepy. And here is why.
To the extent that Reaction Control is the administrative creation of the Antiversity, it is indeed the case that the Antiversity is plotting to take over the world. If the Antiversity is plotting to take over the world, it can and will be corrupted by power in just the same way as the University. It might even be worse—before it achieves power. And after that, it will degrade quite rapidly. So, yes, this would be creepy.
Let’s look at the safety interlocks on this baby. First, as we saw earlier, the Antiversity creates Reaction Control, but Reaction Control is not in any way responsible to or governed by the Antiversity. At least formally, this missile is fire-and-forget.
Once Reaction Control is born, the administrative tie is severed; the relationship is advisory alone. Thus, the Antiversity is not intellectually contaminated by the activism and raw power lust of the Plinth. Or at least, it is contaminated temporarily and as little as possible. Moreover, the fact that the Plinth can only win by speaking the truth is a major barrier to any kind of power distortion.
And then, of course, there is another Morgul-condom:2 once the Plinth wins, it forms the New Structure and ceases to exist. Furthermore, it is a conflict of interest to hold or have held any formal responsibility in of any two of these organizations: Antiversity, Plinth, New Structure. At every step, the people have to change. Otherwise, we could expect contamination. There will surely be some bad eggs anyway, but there’s no reason to invite them.
And please don’t misunderstand: this is not a James Bond operation. Until it actually seizes power, everything the Plinth does is legal. The Plinth is not a violent existential party. I.e., it is not a terrorist organization. Quite the converse! The Plinth is a nonviolent existential party. It is merely conducting a campaign of information warfare. This is not just legal—it’s encouraged. Plinthers are merely activists. (In fact, volunteering for the Plinth next summer would look great on your college application. It’s not like we don’t have a plan to end world poverty.)
Reaction Control does three things. One: it assigns Plinthers to cells. Two: it publishes the Update. Three: it coordinates any distributed actions.
The general pattern of 20th-century revolutionary parties is a cellular structure. While this was originally designed for illegal, underground activity, in which the Plinth does not engage, it is also a perfect way to use the Internet to organize a social network.
Simply put: here’s how you join the Plinth. Either (a) you are recruited by a friend, who is already in a cell; you study the Short Course, pass the test, join your friend’s cell. Or (b) you find the Plinth on the Internet, study the Short Course, pass the test, and are assigned to a local cell by Reaction Control. Either way, you spend three months as a candidate member, than are confirmed or rejected by the cell. If confirmed, you are a full member and must pay dues.
Cells meet—in person—at least once a month to maintain their active status. At a cell meeting, members can be expected to discuss the latest issue or issues of the Update, which is issued once a week and tells Plinthers what happened this week. There may also be reading assignments, etc. It’s easy to assign reading when you’re not particularly interested in reading anything post 1922. The fundamental goal of a cell is to maintain the Plinth as a social network with a well-informed, reactionary collective consciousness—this requires intellectual awareness. Note that this is more or less how the CPUSA, for instance, operated in its heyday.
(And note what Reaction Control, in practice, does for your life. It goes out and finds you like-minded friends. It creates a social life. Many, of course, already have a perfectly adequate social life—but not all. This effect has been of tremendous advantage to revolutionary parties of the past.)
Cells also elect leaders, and these leaders form cells of their own. This is the traditional structure of a revolutionary party—why mess with what works? At the top is Reaction Control, whose leaders (while initially appointed by the Antiversity) are of course elected by the Plinth.
The Plinth, proper, is not designed to contain an electoral majority of citizens. Even once they had achieved power, the revolutionary parties of the early 20th century never made members of all citizens. The Party was designed to be a revolutionary elite, and an elite it remained, even in power. (The Plinth, of course, is dissolved once it wins—as noted above, it is a sort of political placenta, not at all useful to the actual New Structure.)
Therefore, the Plinth will not prevail through the mere votes of Plinthers. It needs to recruit an outer core of sympathizers—supporters, but not members. To do so, it must propagate its message outside the actual Plinth. There are several ways to do so.
One is mass public action—demonstrations. These, of course, must be (a) entirely legal; and (b) extremely successful and impressive. Any demonstration of less than 100 people is a failure by definition. Also, all demonstrations must include fiery public speeches, preferably not by Hitler impersonators. Tweed or some other stylish, quasi-formal uniform is highly recommended. Colored shirts are most definitely out. Ties are good—cravats and bowties are better. Red, yellow, gold or orange are always good colors for male neckwear.
Two is Gramscian infiltration. Everything that can be infiltrated should be infiltrated, of course, but reactionaries should focus especially on the least politicized and least official networks in society—the workplace, and the new voluntary institutions. (Including, of course, Facebook.)
One simple, fun infiltration game is a subtle dress code, to recognize fellow reactionaries at work or play. For example, if your acquaintance or coworker wears orange, gold, or yellow shirts only on prime-numbered days of the month, he or she is almost certainly a reactionary. These are attractive colors on prime days, but very unattractive on non-prime days. If you note a coworker following this pattern, you may have a comrade in the office. Approach in private and give the password: “Pumpkins.” If the answer is “Carlyle,” the connection is made. You can watch each other’s back in work and play. Teams or groups of reactionaries may exhibit a visually striking, yet plausibly deniable, appearance.
Obviously, as the Plinth and Antiversity gain prominence and legitimacy, these tricks become less necessary. But they are still fun. Frankly, Americans have simply never experienced the excitement of political organization. This is because they have no meaningful politics. The idea that they could organize democratically to seize power is entirely foreign to them, simply because nothing of the sort has been practical for quite some time. It is teh Internets, of course, that have changed the rules.
What is the end of all this? The end is power. Let’s end our discussion by looking at how to seize power. The Plinth, after all this organizing and stuff, is going to have to seize power. D’oh!
There are two ways for an existential party to seize power in a democracy. One is the direct way: it can create new institutions of government, to which the people and/or security forces spontaneously redirect their allegiance. This was the method chosen by the Founders in 1787. The Constitutional Convention was authorized by the Congress of the Confederation, but it never returned to that Congress for approval. Rather, it solicited direct approval from the states.
The direct coup is harder and more dangerous. It really is technically illegal. It is essential to ensure the complete and undivided loyalty of the security forces. Nonetheless, once done, it’s done. The obvious rule of power applies: the Plinth never fails. If it would fail, it doesn’t try. If it opts for civil disobedience—i.e., nonviolent lawbreaking—it does it once, for the stake of full sovereignty. And when it dares, it wins.
In the direct coup, the body that requests the loyalty of the security forces must represent the public opinion of responsible society. It is Sermo for all responsible people. It says, without shame or bashfulness: for responsible government, the responsible must rule. The rights of the irresponsible must be respected, but not their voices. The existing regime is irresponsible because it was selected by irresponsible people acting through irresponsible institutions. It supposedly exists to serve our purposes; it is not serving them. It had sat long enough.
An indirect or self-coup, in which a democratically-elected executive tears up the lawbook and instead executes the Program, is much safer and more straightforward. It requires a real majority, however, which is hard—and can be made arbitrarily harder by the Modern Structure, which is intent on securing itself by importing an arbitrary number of new citizens. This, like many of its other tricks, is quite familiar to the student of the late Roman Republic.
Finally, it’s important to note that either of these paths can be practiced at any political level. The ideal level is the national level—the Program is a national plan. The Antiversity can also develop Programs for states and even cities that wish to secede and become sovereign, however. Any coastal or border state or city should find this relatively straightforward.
One of the things you learn when you read about 19th-century USG is that its 20th-century successor simply does not exhibit the same level of political cohesion. Apathy again. The 19th-century American was an incredibly politicized, democratically engaged, and—not least—macho and violent creature. It is not surprising that in 1861, when a bunch of states tried to secede, the rest broke out in a paroxysm of enthusiasm for a war to save the Union. (It was certainly not a war to free the slaves—not in 1861, anyway.) If you were teleported into that mania, you would speak the language, but you would feel no other cultural connection to the people. You’d feel more or less as if you’d been sent to an insane asylum.
In 2009, or at any later date, what will happen if a state government tries to secede? So long as it has strong internal public support and the support of the state security forces, it will—secede. Nothing at all will happen. The state will simply become an independent country. Washington simply does not have anything like the political energy to coerce a seceding state. It barely has the political energy to coerce a seceding city. Americans simply are not going to shoot at other Americans for this reason. If this assertion is true, as I believe it is, state police with shotguns can easily thwart the entire US military in a secession situation. The latter simply won’t attack. They will not be ordered to. The hate just isn’t there.
The idea that any national force could prevent a state from seceding strikes me as rather like the idea that the US will guarantee Israel against Iran’s nuclear weapons, by promising nuclear retaliation against Iran if Iran nukes Tel Aviv. Frankly, I don’t think the America of today—the America that prohibits its own soldiers from shooting back at the Taliban, if the Taliban are shooting from a house—has the stones to nuke Russia if Russia nukes America (not that it will). The proposition that Washington could or would incinerate millions of Iranians, whatever the Iranian government did to Israel, is ridiculous. It is simply reverse presentism—anachronistic translation of past assumptions to the present. Washington once had an ideology that allowed it to nuke cities for reasons of state, but not now.
Similarly, Washington once had an ideology that allowed it to coerce states, or combinations of states, or even cities, that wanted to be independent. But not now. I would not say the thing is trivial, but any state, or even major coastal city, can almost certainly succeed if it plays its cards right.
In short: the only proposition on which the Reaction depends is the proposition that history is not over. Historically, the political problem faced by the Antiversity and Plinth seems relatively solvable. It seems impossible in terms of conventional American politics, but the whole point of the Reaction is a return to historical standards.
By historical standards, there is arguably no meaningful democratic politics in America today. There is certainly no meaningful democratic politics in most of Europe. Thus the Plinth is doing what any dissidents in a totalitarian state must: working to restore democracy, in a state whose constitutional belief is that it already is a democracy. The Plinth differs only in that it does not believe pure democracy is a valid description of any stable sovereign decision structure—and therefore proposes its own structure, which is designed to be stable, responsible, and effective, but emphatically not democratic. In short, the Plinth is just like an anti-Communist dissident organization, such as Solidarity, except that it sees democracy as a means, not an end. To reach that end, it may be necessary to restore democracy. It cannot be necessary to retain democracy.
The fundamental question is: can it be done? Most, I’m sure, would say no. Most might well be right. For another answer to the question, however, I leave you with Hilaire Belloc:
There is a triumph of influence which all of us have known and against which many of us have struggled. It is certainly not a force which one can resist, still less is it effected by (though it often accompanies) the success of armies.
It is the pressure and at last the conquest of ideas when they have this three-fold power: first, that they are novel and attack those parts of the mind still sensitive; secondly, that they are expounded with conviction (conviction necessary to the conveyance of doctrine); and, thirdly, that they form a system and are final.
Obviously, this profile fits UR to a T. In particular, observe the importance of focus. The tea parties, as a right-wing imitation of a left-wing phenomenon, are completely without focus; they are diffuse and distributed, as any leftist movement must be if it wishes to remain leftist. Therefore, they are weak despite their large numbers—they cannot think or act collectively. They will certainly never out-left the Left!
The essence of Right is effective structural and intellectual coordination. Operating a right-wing movement by left-wing techniques is an excellent way to fail. The Left spontaneously coordinates itself; the Right must be coordinated by actual leadership. In the Reaction, structural and intellectual leadership are supplied by the Plinth and the Antiversity, respectively. In the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, they were supplied by Hitler and Goebbels, respectively. Hopefully the difference will be easy to observe.
Actually, Belloc (who was a bit of a Nazi himself) is not writing about the Nazis. He is writing (in 1906) about 7th-century Islam. With a century more hindsight, I’d actually venture to disagree with him on one point: I think armies are pretty effective in effecting the conquest of ideas. Nonetheless, his analysis is excellent and not at all restricted to the soldiers of Allah.
History buffs will note that contemporary commenters on the rise of National Socialism also often compared Hitler to Muhammad and Nazism to Islam. They were liberals, of course, not neocons, and they meant real 7th-century Islam, not its modern imitation. (Our “Islamism” is just another strain of Third World nationalism, a bug that has been kicking around the planet for at least a century. It is best seen as an opportunistic infection of democracy.)
Therefore, my own designs are inspired by the experience of Hitler, Muhammad, and Jesus. As well as Octavian, Franco, and William I. Also important to my thinking are Frederick the Great, Mussolini, and Napoleon. And we can’t forget a few American luminaries, such as Ben Hill, J. Edgar Hoover, and Harry Hopkins. History is largely the study of political force, which is an extension of military force. Generals must study generalship by studying battles—any battles, all battles, without regard to the character or merits of the participants. Those who aim to design any system of political force must likewise learn from any and all parties, leaders and movements of the past, American or foreign, vicious or virtuous.
(And specifically, if the question is whether patriotic Americans are allowed to learn from the Nazis, I think that question was more or less answered when NASA shipped the German ICBM program to Alabama. When SS-Sturmbannführer von Braun’s spaceship landed on the moon, did patriotic Americans applaud? Or did they shout: “Boo! Hiss! Nazis!” Apollo 11, of course, was not made in underground caves by starving slave laborers. Therefore, it seems that one can copy the things the Nazis did right, and discard the things they did wrong. One can fail in this; one can fail in anything.)
Above all, then, the Reaction depends on one question. Will good people undertake it? No—will great people undertake it? If so, it will happen, and I think succeed. The most important thing about this entire project: at every step, in every thing it does, it must attract the best, it must repel, defeat or confine the worst, and it must be entirely and in the deepest sense of the word fun. If it is not possible to achieve these qualities, it is probably impossible to implement the Reaction. And of course, it may be impossible anyway. The required effort and achievement may just exceed human powers—even with the full power of teh Internets.
If so, there is no reason to despair. History has been a lot worse. It is getting worse; but not, by historical standards, that fast. (Unless you have the misfortune to live in South Africa.) And even if barbarism does steepen its pace, the consolations of Boethius remain available.
Better Boethius than Claudian, I say. Better truth in a cage than lies in purple. Truth will not remain in a cage, nor lies in purple. Not gently does this inversion revert. The force is not ours; the force is Clio’s. Heck—God’s. But
Mencius MoldbugSan Francisco; November 2009