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11. Techno-Libertarianism

Linking up online with the Silicon Valley entrepreneur Curtis Yarvin, creator of the Urbit computing platform, Nick Land helped develope the doctrine of “neoreaction,” or NRx, essentially an argument that democracy had outlived its usefulness. The NRx subculture started amongst the Bay Area technolibertarians, particularly including the transhumanists. In 2007 and 2008, Yarvin, writing under the nom de plume Mencius Moldbug, articulated what would develop into Dark Enlightenment thinking. NRx, or the Dark Enlightenment as it is also called, is an anti-democratic and reactionary movement that broadly rejects egalitarianism and also draws influence from philosophers such as Thomas Carlyle and Julius Evola.[103] “The label blends together straight-up white supremacists, nationalists who think conservatives have sold out to globalization, and nativists who fear immigration will spur civil disarray. But at its core,” says Dylan Matthews of Vox of the alt-right, “are the ideas of a movement known as neoreaction, and neoreaction (NRx for short) is a rejection of democracy.”[104] According to Land:

NRx doesn’t think the Alt-Right (in America) is very serious. It’s an essentially Anti-Anglo-American philosophy, in its (Duginist) core, which puts a firm ceiling on its potential. But then, the NRx analysis is that the age of the masses is virtually over. Riled-up populist movements are part of what is passing, rather than of what is slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.[105]

In September 2021, Yarvin appeared on “Tucker Carlson Today,” where he discussed the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and his concept of the “Cathedral,” which he claims to be the aggregation of political power and influential institutions.[106] Yarvin says that real political power in the United States is held by something he calls “the Cathedral,” an amalgam of universities and the mainstream press. According to him, a so-called “Brahmin” social class dominates American society, preaching progressive values to the masses. Yarvin and the Dark Enlightenment movement assert that the cathedral’s commitment to equality and justice erodes social order. The movement favors a return to older societal constructs and forms of government, including support for monarchism and traditional gender roles, coupled with a libertarian or otherwise conservative approach to economics. The general goal of the neoreactionaries is the restoration of all culturally European countries to their pre-liberal, pre-democratic, pre-feminist, pre-multicultural state, effectively, to the state of Europe prior to the enlightenment.[107]

Neoreactionaries want to see a captain of industry installed as a de facto king of America, often identifying Thiel or Elon Musk as that most appropriate person. Recently they have also taken to voicing support for Presidential candidate Donald Trump. As MrAnon for The Daily Kos explained: “A lone billionaire seizing the power of the executive branch for himself, and proceeding to run the government like they would a private corporation is the embodiment of their goal.”[108] Yarvin had reportedly opened up a line to the White House, communicating with Bannon and his aides through an intermediary, Politico reported.[109] Bannon reportedly read neoreactionary literature, and Peter Thiel’s fund supported Yarvin’s tech startup Urbit. In emails to alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos obtained by Buzzfeed, Yarvin claimed to be “coaching Thiel,” telling Yiannopoulos that he “watched the [2016] election at [Thiel’s] house ... He’s fully enlightened.”[110]

The network of political philosophers who have shaped Bannon’s thinking and who subsequently exercised influence in the White House, included Yarvin, as well was Lebanese-American author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and conservative intellectual Michael Anton.[111] Many political onlookers described Trump’s election as a “black swan” event, in reference to Taleb’s book by the same name. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable focuses on the extreme impact of certain kinds of rare and unpredictable events (outliers) and people’s tendency to find simplistic explanations for these events retrospectively. The term was popularized by Taleb, the best-selling 2014 book Antifragile, which has been read and circulated by Bannon and his aides. “Antifragility,” explains Taleb, is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”[112] “They look like the incarnation of ‘antifragile’ people,” Taleb said of the new administration.[113]



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