The following is part of a series of blogposts in which I discuss my design decisions when making the PoliTree: an attempted political-compass killer which has been way too long in the making. To find out more, visit the introduction.
As the test has gone through multiple redesigns and myself a lot of development over the years, the contents of this post may or may not apply to the test in its modern form or my current views on its design.
I have just finished up the Identitarian page for the Political Dichotomy Assessment and I think this is a good time to discuss my reasoning behind the selection of information to include on the site.
I’m not going to hide behind any pretenses of neutrality here, I fully believe these types of nationalists are morons to the highest degree. And it seems quite a few of you agree:
Fascists are anti-intellectual by nature. Intellectualizing the anti-intellectual is an exercise in futility that is most likely to be capitalized on by said fascists.
This is common feedback I hear from people regarding the site. I think the topic itself is worth discussing, and as it is a bridge we’re going to have to eventually cross, I figured it’d be best to discuss my reasons for including far-right literature in the project.
One of the main goals I outlined in the project introduction was the focus on filtering out “trash politics” in order to create a much more constructive learning environment. So before we discuss the relation between ideology and quality control, it’s important we establish what my bar is for “quality”.
I define quality content as content that encourages further learning as opposed to acting as a substitute for it.
To determine the quality of a reference, I judge it by the following metrics:
- Length: Is this book long enough to make a thorough argument while still being at a readable length?
- Reputation: Does the author have the background of a professional or one of a celebrity? How has the piece aged? How do those familiar with the topics regard the book?
- Topic: Is the topic clear and specific enough? Does it overlap with any other references included? Is the topic something an intrigued/new learner could grasp without preliminary reading?
- Standpoint: Does the book encourage or discourage exploration into the subject? Is it written by a member of said ideological current? Was the author witness to any important historical moments?
YouTube talking-heads and celebrity books tend to not pass this bar for the following reasons:
– Their content tends to be incredibly abstracted from primary sources, often times quoting out of context or heavily paraphrasing.\
– The product is not the content itself, but rather the personality behind the content; this promotes reliance on the personality as the sole source of information and a shifting of discussion away from ideas and onto personal character instead.
– Content is not made with the intention of academic scrutiny, meaning that there’s less emphasis on backing and creating a piece that’s able to generate discussion.
There is undeniably a lot of this in far-right circles, due to the hero-worship, distrust of reason, and general manipulative character; if you’d like to read further on why this is such an issue, I’d highly reccomend Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism.
This sort of manipulation is why I’ve taken extra care to avoid shallow works like Mein Kampf and literally anything by Richard Spencer; it’s difficult to take the majority of this at face value, so a lot of cross-referencing and structural analysis is necessary.
You might notice me refer to fascism specifically a lot here, and that’s because it remains the most well-documented form of modern hyper-nationalism. While other far-right sects may have their gripes regarding fascism, they still hold a significant amount in common; hence why people like Marinetti and Evola still supported Mussolini despite the magnitude of their disagreements.
One of these similarities is in how the ideology is structured; other movements usually operate on the assumption that the masses and leaders are on the same page, that there’s a level of transparency involved.
It’s more complicated with the far right; the intellectuals, the demagogues, and the masses all hold differing (often times conflicting) motivations, positions, and levels of understanding.
- The demagogue operates on a principle of power; their goal is to accumulate and project strength at all costs; their actions all work towards building themselves up as a personality. Because of this, works by fascist leaders/heroes tend to often be deceptive and self-serving.
- I think the best word to describe the masses during these periods of reaction is paranoid. There’s this overwhelming and emotionally-rooted sense of fear/distrust that the demagogue is able to exploit, both by sowing distrust of all other authorities and by creating a sense of fraternity between all those who share this paranoia. Because the feelings remain abstract and emotional, the ideas don’t get further explored, relying on vagueness and hearsay to defend themselves against academic refutations.
- And then we have the intellectuals, and I think this is where it gets interesting. The intellectuals typically hold some sense of esoteric elitism, which quickly comes into conflict with the reactionary and populist sentiments of the demagogue. Both Rosenberg and Marinetti found their stances on traditional religion to be in conflict with their respective states’ usage of the Church, stances which remained fundamental to their thought. In the case of Marinetti, he was forced to integrate Catholicism to remain politically relevant, and in the case of Rosenberg, his hardline paganism was the only thing that kept himself politically distanced from the NSDAP.
Dealing With The Problem
So, yes, I would say this topic would require some caution. Anti-intellectualism can prove dangerous not just for society, but also for the integrity of debate. Often times the tactics employed by anti-intellectuals are often underhanded and encourages the selective ignoring of facts and ideas that contradict one’s worldview.
A milder example of this would be Duane Gish, who often would exploit the format of a debate to make his opponent look bad rather than honestly conveying ideas. His tactics would later be dubbed the Gish Gallop. Was it obvious he was playing dirty? Of course, but it didn’t matter because he was playing to people’s confirmation bias rather than arguing anything of integrity.
Sure, arguing for YEC is harmless enough, but this same cherry-picking of facts gets increasingly dangerous once we veer into the territory of Holocaust deniers and racial conspiracy theorists. This same relationship between the demagogue’s thirst for mass appeal and the public’s wanting to have their beliefs reinforced creates an atmosphere of ignorance that can be used to rationalize nearly anything.
However, I do think there’s an opening, namely being with the far-right intellectuals. These books attempt to lay out a clear, consistent case for the beliefs and in the process give up the demagogue’s greatest weapon, the shield of ambiguity. This is precisely why there’s such a strong tension between intellectuals and demagogues. Often times, they threaten each others’ existence: the leader’s absolute dogmatism and the intellectual’s absolute skepticism are diametrically opposed.
The demagogue may give lip-service to this or that writer, maybe pepper in an out-of-context quote, but ultimately engaging with their thought in full will only reveal things that serve to question his legitimacy. You’ll see this often: reactionaries equivocating hard on what they do/don’t believe, because they know if they’re forced into specifics, they’re going to be held up to much more scrutiny. By forcing engagement with the specific theory as a primary source, what we end up doing is creating terrain in which it is a lot easier to pin down contradictions and inaccuracies with the fog of ambiguity gone.
Regarding the Exclusion of National Socialism
Gonna throw a quick addendum on National Socialism because often times there seems to be questions regarding how to approach it; my stance follows as such:
National Socialism in and of itself is too vaguely defined, baseless, and self-contradictory to the point that it remains more akin to a personality-cult moreso than anything that can be concretely examined. The exclusion of National Socialism from the test is a choice based on its lack of qualitative merit, specificity, and distinctiveness.
Evangelical Christian, Marxist, and a bit of a Luddite. I run this blog as a way to compile my various theories and arguments spanning a wide variety of subjects from technology to politics.