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Fascinating Reading and a Kickstarter well worth backing – Neoreaction A Basilisk - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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May 26th, 2016

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03:35 am - Fascinating Reading and a Kickstarter well worth backing – Neoreaction A Basilisk
amberite recently suggested that I take a look at a kickstarter for a book by Phil Sandifer – Neoreaction A Basilisk. Note: The Kickstarter currently has 5 days left, act soon.

I backed it after looking it over and then discovered that backing it entitled me to a pre-release PDF, and despite having a fair amount of work to get done, I sent the next several hours immersed in reading a whole lot of delightfully wonderful geeky prose about some deeply odd and disturbing individuals and ideas.

The book is essentially about the alt-right, and more specifically about three internet figures associated with it libertarian transhumanist Eliezer Yudkowsky, right-libertarian turned fascist-racist Curtis Guy Yarvin (who writes as Mencius Moldbug), and radical leftist/nihilist philosopher turned horrifiying neocreationary Nick Land. In some ways, Yudkowsky is an odd choice to include, except that Moldbug got his start on Yudkowsky's websites and perhaps more importantly, Yudkowsky's efforts are largely funded by Peter Thiel, a horrifyingly libertarian fascist who is became a billionaire as a result of helping to found Paypal.

The book is primarily about a gloriously and often hilariously detailed analysis of these individuals' ideas from the perspective of someone who thinks all of their ideas are seriously off. In addition to discussing all this by way of digressions relating to Paradise Lost, China Miéville's writing, Bryan Fuller's Hannibal and a host of subjects far more palatable than the basic ideas being discussed, Sandifer also delivers some truly delicious and hilarious prose, like the following two examples discussing arch crank Mencius Moldbug:

“Cthulhu may swim slowly,” he finally proclaims, “but he only swims left.”
Two things are striking here. The first is that Moldbug just rewrote Martin
Luther King’s “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” as Lovecraft fanfic. This is without question one of the most brazenly funny moves in the entire history of Western philosophy. The second is that Moldbug does not actually seem to realize that he’s done this.
“And yet at every turn in Moldbug’s argument, Marxism seems to lurk, indeed, haunt the text. Every argument he makes about the Cathedral’s insidious suppression of the obviously preferable alternative has, to an even vaguely Marxist-familiar reader, an immediate counterpart pointing inexorably to the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is tempting to suggest that Moldbug is a failed Marxist in the sense that Jupiter is a failed star, its mass falling tantalizingly short of the tipping point whereby nuclear fusion begins. Over and over again, Moldbug asks questions much like those that Marx asked, and his answers begin with many of the same initial observations. But inevitably, a few steps in, he makes some ridiculously broad generalization or fails to consider some obvious alternative possibility, and the train of thought fizzles into characteristic idiocy.
If this looks like it's as much your sort of thing as it is mine (despite or perhaps because of my being an ardent transhumanist of a very different sort), back it, at this point you'll also get essays on Trump, Gamergate, and as Sandifer so awesomely puts it "TERFs: A look at Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, the adamant leftists who are strangely indistinguishable from Gamergate."

One a somewhat related note, in addition to the often-mentioned idea that Yudkowsky's deeply idiosyncratic brand of transhumanist thought has managed to perfectly reconstruct Christian eschatology & millennialism from a transhumanist/atheist (sort of) PoV, my good friend Ben Lehman pointed out that this same strand of transhumanist thought also manages to recreate a version of young-earth creationism via belief in the simulation hypothesis - chalk up another point for the hegemony of Christian thought in most of Euro-american culture and thought.

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