As most of you who follow the dissident right and especially neoreaction know, Moldbug has returned to the public spotlight in the last year with several interview podcasts as well as new writing at the American mind. I have noticed some people commenting critically about Curtis Yarvin getting very emotional and almost weeping during an in-person interview with Justin Murphy released on March 19th, 2020. The relevant part is below.
I will be the first to admit that is what some would call “bad optics.” Weeping in public is not inspiring, as it comes off as being very weak. Certainly that is the absolute last thing you want in a leader. A brotherhood of men won’t follow a man they perceive as being weak and emotional; for good reason. Although, I would note that I don’t believe Moldbug aspires to be a leader in the sense a General or a warlord would be a leader. Moldbug is obviously more of a “priestly” leader than a “warrior” leader. Or more precisely, a defector priest from the current priestly ruling class. Moldbug takes on a primarily descriptive and analytical role, a bit of excess sentimentality isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker all by itself with respect to that role. It matters more that the insights made by Moldbug are a better description of reality than the alternative descriptions of the Cathedral.
[As a side note, he also came off as a very bad public speaker here. The amount of filler words, like “you know” and “like” was even worse than in my first interview, though that can be addressed given conscious effort. But again, public speaking ability has little to do with writing ability or the truth of his insights.]
Most of the criticisms I have seen have been fairly trollish. More along the lines of “hurr durr he cry. he dumb and weak. Mogg laugh,” than coherently articulated concerns and arguments. That said, I can imagine legitimate and well-thought out arguments being made about why this really is a poor showing and is harmful, embarrassing etc. Certainly, taking up a defense of public weeping is not a hill I would be willing to die on. I fully concede that point without bothering to enter a debate about it.
However, there is an undercurrent within the commenting of not understanding how this sort of emotional reaction is even possible. To some people it seems to be truly mystifying. While the argument for it being bad optics is quite legitimate, I don’t believe there is any excuse for not understanding what appears to be happening in Moldbug’s head here, even if it is a cringe-inducing gaffe that should have been avoided. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that there are many who lack imagination. So, I will try to explain my perspective.
This would seem to be an example of sincerely felt compassion. To understand Moldbug’s reaction, we will have to explore the concept of compassion, with a short digression into compassion’s doppelganger because it is highly relevant to many dissident right critiques. Compassion is probably best explained in the most detail and nuance in Buddhism, but clearly Christianity also has a lot of similar things to say on the topic if a bit muted on elaboration.
I’ll quote Wikipedia here because this is a relatively non-controversial topic and it does an adequate job for the purposes of this post.
Karuṇā is generally translated as compassion and self-compassion.
The Pali commentaries distinguish between karuṇā and mettā in the following complementary manner: Karuna is the desire to remove harm and suffering from others; while mettā is the desire to bring about the well-being and happiness of others.
The “far enemy” of karuṇā is cruelty, a mind-state in obvious opposition. The “near enemy” (quality which superficially resembles karuṇā but is in fact more subtly in opposition to it), is (sentimental) pity: here too one wants to remove suffering, but for a partly selfish (attached) reason hence not the pure motivation. In the Pali Canon, Buddhas are also described as choosing to teach “out of compassion for beings.”
The “near enemy” of Karuna should be fairly familiar to you. The modern term used in these circles for practically the same concept is “virtue signaling,” which leads to holiness spirals and hell on Earth. [Also see This and This and This]. This faux compassion is actually a pretty big deal, and almost all of our societal problems can be linked to sincere (useful idiots) and insincere (Sociopaths) expressions of it. The ancient religions pretty much universally have a handle on it too, but it seems the idea largely goes over everyone’s heads. Will humanity ever learn? I won’t hold my breath.
All things are wearisome, more than one can describe; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a case where one can say, “Look, this is new”? It has already existed in the ages before us. Ecclesiastes 1:9
Once holiness spirals really get rolling the “far enemy” joins in on the party and that is when you get gulags and millions dead. There is no place in this world for the insufficiently holy. I addressed the concept of the “near enemy,” in different words, with respect to charity not too long ago as well. Pathological altruism, ethnomasochism, and misandromasichism are all also closely related to Compassion’s Doppelganger. All these poor actions are pursued primarily due to the “near enemy”: Virtue signaling and the desire to gain personal social status by appearing compassionate. Its all the worse when you sell out your own for the sake of immediate personal benefit.
Going back to this specific appearance by Moldbug, I think we can safely rule out virtue signaling as a motive here. For one, the actual story he is trying to describe here is legitimately tragic, and two, there is virtually no chance this action would be considered a status booster among those on the highly masculine dissident right. And since women hate weak men even more than men do, the feminized left won’t genuinely care for it either. Although they may pay some sort of lip-service. In that context, it really is a gaffe. Moldbug is, as usual, genuine. But let’s look past that and dive more into the details of the story he was somewhat unsuccessfully trying to convey.
Moldbug began talking about Freda Utley after a discussion on how people who can actually think tend to have a lot of trouble integrating into society. [Full context begins around 18:00 minutes] It starts by describing the Marxist take over of Ethiopia, and how a 15 year old started thinking too much and ended up getting shot. His parents noticed the trajectory of his actions before he was shot, and openly acknowledged that his ability to think for himself was a problem. It was THE problem and best avoided. If you want to get ahead in a fallen world, then don’t think. If you can’t help but think, at least hide your power level. Moldbug is a bit ambivalent on this, however, and gives a quote by George Bernard Shaw as the counter-point:
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
As a stand alone quote, this is reasonable enough. But Shaw was a committed socialist and this quote is clearly referring to them and their desired outcomes. His early advocacy of subversion and infiltration of institutions by socialists (the unreasonable men) has presumably been very influential considering the ripened fruits we see today. I admit I find it questionable that this quote by this person was used, but I can say that this knife probably really does cut both ways. Change of any sort, for good or ill, does depend on dissident personalities.
Justin Murphy responds to this by asking what should people who are cursed with the drive and necessity to think (i.e. dissident personalities) should do. From here we move into the story of Freda Utley. I am going to add more details than Moldbug was able to get out in that short span of time in the podcast.
Freda was born in the UK in 1898 and was raised by actively engaged socialists, and had a great deal of interaction with the above quoted Shaw and other prominent members of the UK branch of the movement as she was growing up. She was educated at private schools, and then went on to get a Masters in history from King’s college London. She then worked for the London school of Economics where she built her credibility as a socialist by writing about manufacturing issues, including with respect to growing competition from third world countries. On a related note, this was back in the days when the hard-core left tended to be very anti-immigration and economically protectionist due to the economic harm that causes for blue collar workers. In that sense, they were more honest back in those days.
Freda at this point was quite drunk on the communist kool-aid. So much so that she married a Russian man and moved to the USSR in 1930. They lived there until 1936, when Freda’s husband was disappeared into a gulag, never to be seen by her again. It was later released that her husband died by firing squad for organizing a hunger strike at his gulag in 1938, although the specifics weren’t known for many years. They were both Trotskyists, which is why he was arrested during the Stalinist purges of that group. I suppose she probably wasn’t arrested at the same time, despite sharing in everything her husband did, due to the universal instinctual nature of the pussy pass. Still, she didn’t know how long the pass would last so she had to grab her infant son and get the hell out of dodge before the Stalinist commies got her too. Then when she got back, all the UK commies who were her “friends” and/or practically helped raise her as a child basically told her to go screw herself. They were completely unwilling to help her. Their dedication to the cause (I.E. the “near enemy” of social status and virtue signaling) was greater than their love of friends and truth. Not surprising given there is no honor among thieves and degenerates.
She eventually moved to the U.S., where she became an anti-soviet activist. She even helped Joseph McCarthy and testified to congress about Soviet sympathizers in the U.S government, which she probably knew a lot about given her history and connections. More on that later.*
You could say the loss of her husband was an earned consequence, and in some sense she did earn it for being so naive and smoking too much of the left’s ideological crack, but if you set that aside for a second and zoom into just the family level consequences, what happened to her and her son really did suck. She loved her husband and he was gone forever. Her son would never know his father and wouldn’t find out the father’s exact fate until 2004, when the full details were finally released. Freda herself died in 1978 not knowing anything specific. Everyone she thought cared about her abandoned her, for the fucking USSR of all things. That’s a real kick in the teeth. It is a very tragic scenario, and compassion for her situation could be emotional if you are able to sincerely feel it, and not just pretend to (virtue signal).
Keep in mind that Moldbug read a whole book with many specific details about what was undoubtedly a series of tragic events this woman experienced. Those details, running through his mind, couldn’t really be conveyed well in a few minutes in a podcast even without the severe public speaking trouble he was having. And there was a lot of the later. So she is probably a more fleshed out personality for him to empathize with, compared to the audience’s limited knowledge. The degree to which Freda was humanized was very asymmetric between the onlookers and Moldbug, so in retrospect it isn’t surprising the audience didn’t really respond well.
Moldbug also has a wife and child of his own, and he is also a dissident that has been targeted by leftists. Given the chance, he would probably be near the front of the line for being sent to the gulag if they ever succeeded in their revolution. And given the way things have been going lately, that isn’t exactly an impossibility. He basically has a play by play example of what will happen to his own family if the leftists achieved total victory, god forbid. I have little doubt that his personal situation played an important role in choking him up. Its a legitimate concern.
The presentation of all this was without a doubt about as awful as I could imagine it being. I hope he has the wisdom to try to avoid such scenarios in the future because it is not helping his credibility. Or else he needs to spend a considerable period of time working on his public speaking ability before trying to make another public appearance. However, I won’t criticize him for being able to experience and express, however poorly and unclearly, genuine compassion in and of itself. A paucity of genuine compassion, and a surfeit of compassion’s doppelganger: virtue signaling, is substantially linked and often causal to many of the problems we currently experience. More genuine compassion is never a bad thing in my opinion. Although a lot less fake compassion would be even better. [Side-note: Genuine compassion doesn’t make having a martyrdom complex a good idea.]
The major point of this post is captured in the above paragraph, and contemplations on the true nature of compassion are always worthwhile, however we still need to close out Moldbug’s answer to the question which brought on this story in the first place: What are dissidents to do?
After describing Freda’s tragic early life, Moldbug moves on to an interaction between Edith Hamilton and Freda. Freda, according to Moldbug, was unable to understand the cruel snubbing from her former friends and so asks Edith why all her friends are stabbing her in the back. To which Moldbug paraphrases the following quote by Edith:
You should not expect the material rewards of success to come along with the spiritual rewards of telling the truth.
This whole story as well as the quote comes from Freda’s 1970 memoir “Odyssey of a liberal” The actual quote in context follows, emphasis is mine:
No doubt one gets what one wants most in life if one tries hard enough, but one cannot have everything. The cost of freedom comes high and one cannot expect to enjoy it, least of all in the world of letters, if one desires fame or security more. Of course, one always goes on hoping to enjoy both. There have been times when I railed against my fate and considered myself ill-used because the world failed to award me fame, fortune or influence and I found myself reviled for expressing my deepest convictions regardless of the consequences. On one such occasion Edith Hamilton, who died in her 94th year in full possession of her faculties, gently reproved me for feeling sorry for myself following the failure of my 1949 book. The High Cost of Vengeance to win a wide circulation. “My dear Freda,” she said, “don’t expect the material rewards of unrighteousness while engaged in the pursuit of truth.” Nevertheless I often did, continuing to yearn for the success which I occasionally glimpsed but never quite achieved. Even when one of my books was a success I went off on another quest.
That passage hits close to home, and its all true. Its a very dissident experience. It also does a pretty good job answering the original question. You aren’t going to get rich and well-liked being a thinking dissident and telling the truth. If you are going to do it anyway, you will have to make due with the spiritual rewards that come with honesty, integrity, and the genuine desire to make the world less of a farcical place built on lies. While it answers the question exceptionally well, the delivery was equally bungled.
Moldbug clearly misremembered the context of this particular quote, which appears to not have had anything to do with her friends snubbing her over her lost husband, but with the low circulation and success of The High Cost of Vengeance. Which honestly makes more sense, anyway. More on that in a second. But it kind of is related since the tragic early life story as well as this quote are both part of the same memoir. Just not in the way Moldbug portrayed it. I am going to go ahead and chalk this up to a combination of the already obvious poor public speaking ability with the difficulty of remembering in exacting detail a book he probably hasn’t read for years.
All of these details could have been worked together and delivered in a coherent way. It does make sense to give some background on Utley before delivering the quote, since most people have probably never heard of her. And it would probably only take a couple of additional details to seamlessly transition from the life story to the quote in an accurate manner. I am absolutely confident that if Moldbug was writing this as an essay, instead of fumbling through a spontaneous speech, he would have done exactly that.
Of course, to do that Moldbug would have had to also talk about the The high Cost of Vengeance. That gets to probably the biggest irony of this whole interview, which probably flew over everyone’s head, including mine before I sat down to write this and started doing some research.
At least twice during the podcast Moldbug spontaneously brought up holocaust deniers for some unknown reason because no one in the audience was pestering him about it or appeared even remotely interested in discussing it. He mentions he would happily debate them and he was quite certain he would win. One of those points is around 2 hours and 11 minutes [with fuller context beginning at 2:01]. If the debate was in the format of dueling essays, he probably could win. But if it was a live debate, he would probably still lose even if everything he said was true and everything his opponent said was false. I don’t recommend it without some serious public speaking preparation. Assuming he did prepare, and figured out how not to be an “umm” machine, a debate between Ron Unz and Moldbug would probably be interesting.
The reason his sudden interest in the pro side of the holocaust debate is ironic here is because he had just spent all that time praising Freda Utley. The same Freda Utley who has been accused of being the grandmother of holocaust denial. Not only that, but the quote he picked to address the hard choice between truth and material success which dissidents face is specifically in reference to the high cost of vengeance, which is the very same truth-delivering and unpopular book (among progs) which got her accused of being a holocaust denier!
To be fair, that accusation is probably complete bullshit and I am sure Moldbug is aware of that. It originates from that 1993 dumpster fire of prog lies and slander called Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory by Deborah Lipstadt, which is best known for slandering eminently accomplished WW2 historian David Irving.
While I haven’t had time to read the high cost of vengeance before publishing this article, from looking through reviews and summaries, the main thrust of the book was not that Germany wasn’t evil, it was that Germany wasn’t uniquely evil. The US and especially the USSR committed plenty of their own morally questionable deeds. Especially towards Germans during the post-war occupation. Freda was primarily guilty of debunking the self-flattering WW2 myths propagated by the US and USSR; as well as having the bad taste to humanize the German people. Some quotes from the book.
A thoughtful American professor, whom I met in Heidelberg, expressed the opinion that the United States military authorities on entering Germany and seeing the ghastly destruction wrought by our obliteration bombing were fearful that knowledge of it would cause a revulsion of opinion in America and might prevent the carrying out of Washington’s policy for Germany by awakening sympathy for the defeated and realization of our war crimes. This, he believes, is the reason why a whole fleet of aircraft was used by General Eisenhower to bring journalists, Congressmen, and churchmen to see the concentration camps; the idea being that the sight of Hitler’s starved victims would obliterate consciousness of our own guilt. Certainly it worked out that way…
There [is] no crime that the Nazis committed that we or our allies did not also commit ourselves…
I had referred to our obliteration bombing, the mass expropriation and expulsion from their homes of twelve million Germans on account of their race; the starving of the Germans during the first years of the occupation; the use of prisoners as slave labourers; the Russian concentration camps, and the looting perpetrated by Americans as well as Russians.
Moldbug’s weeping gaffe was a poor showing, but at least the sentiment is understandable. The contradictory introduction of holocaust pandering shortly after praising the alleged holocaust denier Freda Utley is much less so. Why does Moldbug all of a sudden care about this enough that he wants to bring it up unsolicited? Does he actually believe that championing the holocaust now is going to get him into the good graces of the cathedral? He should know better than anyone that won’t do him a damn bit of good. Especially given his own example of a dissident speaking truth to power. The usual suspects are going to continue to slander him regardless, including as a holocaust denier, no matter how much he prostrates himself before the shibboleth of the holocaust. By doing so, not only does he not earn any points from the progs, he is also annoying his potential supporters who probably have various opinions about the veracity of the holocaust, but are universally sick of hearing about it either way.
As previously mentioned, Ron Unz has a pretty good article on Holocaust denial which suggests that at the very least it is exaggerated. Starvation resulting from cut supply lines, as opposed to active malice, probably explains a larger proportion of deaths than comfortably fits the desired holocaust narrative of 24/7 gas chambers and lampshades made of human skin. A narrative no contemporary American military leader actually believed. So either those military leaders were anti-semitic Jew-hating bigots, or they were more familiar with the facts on the ground and didn’t believe the exaggerations.
There is also the Haavara agreement, signed between Hitler and Zionist Jews. It facilitated the movement of 60,000 Jews to Palestine and seeded the nascent Israel. There would be no Israel without Adolf Hitler. It should be noted that persecution of Jews in Europe was beneficial to Zionists as it gave motivation for average Jews to move and help found the Jewish state. Something they otherwise would not have done. Really makes one wonder.
There is also the fact that American newspapers were mentioning holocausts and 6 million Jews years before WW2 even started with respect to multiple unrelated contexts. That is highly suspicious to say the least.
Then there is the fact that the usual suspects who cry about the holocaust the loudest, like the ADL and the SPLC, aren’t known for their integrity or love of truth. They are a bunch of slanderous shitbags who regularly have to settle defamation lawsuits. These are the same sorts of people and organizations who regularly accuse people of being sexist, racist, homophobic, trans-phobic and seem to be working up to calling people pedo-phobic. [See also] In terms of Realpolitik, whining and nagging about the holocaust is just another example of Gaslighting white people, as objectively odd as that is to do in America since Americans were ostensibly the ones who put an end to it. That isn’t a great track record for their credibility. Assuming anything and everything committed progs say is an outrageous lie isn’t a bad heuristic. You will be correct 80-90% of the time, or probably more.
Given the depth and breadth of Cathedral lies which Moldbug himself highlighted so well, its completely understandable why so many more people have become increasingly incredulous about all these things; the holocaust included. He may even be right that resistance to it, in some cases, goes beyond the reasonable and into self-parody [starting around 2:01]. However, people are understandably getting really, really pissed about the constant, ubiquitous, and ever-escalating gaslighting we have experienced since at least the end of WW2; into which the holocaust narrative figures prominently. Its abusive and should no longer be tolerated. “Go fuck yourself” is the only sane response to holocaust gaslighters at this point.
More than anything, though, the Holocaust debate is simply tiresome. The incessant and shrill shrieking about it is tediously annoying. Most people alive today were born decades after it was already over. Irrespective of if it is true or not, or somewhere in between, its relevance to today’s actually living people continues to recede into the distance even as the usual suspects scream ever more loudly. To give some perspective, the events of the holocaust were already over and done with between 10 and 20 years before my PARENTS were even born, not to mention the many decades that lay between the end of WW2 and my own birth. Enough is enough already. Its time to move on.
Moldbug, you don’t need to bother debating anyone about the holocaust. It isn’t going to make you palatable to progs; that ship has sailed long ago. And it isn’t going to boost your credibility with the dissident right; whose ship is raising anchor and soon to leave port if this keeps up. Its a complete waste of time to even bring the holocaust up at all. Let it go.
In the same way, I think we on the right should let this admittedly non-ideal interview go as well. Genuine compassion especially, and even unwarranted holocaust nagging do not negate Moldbug’s previous brilliant contributions. While said in a different context, the following quote by @Aliceteller is very applicable here:
*You may have noticed above that I described Freda as an anti-soviet, which was very purposeful. From the brief time I spent looking into her for this post, most people describe her as anti-communist and of this I am a bit skeptical. I think she was mainly and specifically pissed at the USSR for taking the father of her child away from her. She is probably best described as an early or proto-example of a neoconservative, who are often accused of having Trotskyist roots. Which, of course, she did. Like many former Trotskists, her conservatism was in all likelihood opportunistic as that was the path of least resistance for active opposition to the Soviet Union specifically, rather than an expression of genuine conservative values. I find myself somewhat skeptical she actually gave up much of her early idealism on the course of this path. Given the fact she is also accused of being the grandmother of holocaust denial, she is obviously a complicated figure, and any strong opinions on her probably need a great deal of study of her work as primary sources. Without a doubt, though, she IS an interesting historical figure.