Goodbye, Old Friend

I was sitting in the parking lot of my church on Ash Wednesday, just about to go inside to get my ashes, when the radio told me that Rush Limbaugh had died. With him passes both an era in politics, and an era in my own life.

If you’re a showman – and Rush was that above all else – they say that it’s best to go out on top. And he did, just at the moment when it became apparent that the approach to politics that he championed his whole life won’t be enough to save us; that superior arguments won’t win the day and that we’re not going to vote our way out of this. That he left the stage at precisely the right point so it could honestly be said that he never became irrelevant is perhaps the one small consolation that can be found within this. The future will always be able to look back on him and say: “He was a man of his time”. Yes, his time has passed, as it does for all men. But if we are to look back now and evaluate what he meant, it can only fairly be in the context of those times.

Those who think that the current censorship against the right is anything new don’t remember the days when a cartel of three television networks (CBS, NBC, ABC) and two newspapers (the New York Times and the Washington Post) had a monopoly on both news and entertainment, and controlled everything that anyone heard about about any issue at all. What we’re seeing now is merely a return to that status quo, with a new cartel (Twitter, Facebook, Google) in place of the old one. The censorship in those days was in many ways worse; it was just less obvious and more deniable because of higher barriers to entry. It doesn’t seem terribly oppressive to tell someone that their television script is rejected or that you’re not going to give them a weekly column in your newspaper – the opportunities there are few just by the nature of things, and if everyone who does get one of them turns out to be of (or at least acceptable to) the left, that can be easily enough written off as coincidence. To ban someone from Twitter when they had more followers than the old newspaper had subscribers looks different, but it really isn’t. The effect is the same: one message gets out, and the other doesn’t.

This was the situation in the 80s and early 90s, when Rush appeared on the scene. AM radio was a dying format, desperate enough to give literally anything a try if it had any chance of saving them from extinction. And putting him on the air was a very great risk; too many modern Dissident Rightists have no idea just how genuinely edgy and radical Rush and his ideas seemed back in those days, and how much the “respectable” Establishment recoiled against them. They are either too young or too lost in the current-day situation to remember that even the Boomercon civnattery that seems so dated now was once considered far, far beyond the pale, and that if Rush hadn’t been out there fighting for that, we wouldn’t be in any position to go beyond it. Pioneers still deserve respect, even if the trails they blazed are well-worn now.

A common sentiment heard from callers in the early days of Rush’s show was that before they found him, they had no idea that anyone out there thought the same way they did. This shows how powerful the left’s stranglehold on public discourse was back then, and the importance of his having singlehandedly broken it. Causing one’s enemy to feel isolated, alone, and out-of-step with the society around them is a powerful weapon of demoralization, and breaking through that to offer a sense of community, even if only through the airwaves, is massively empowering. Beyond this, Rush brought a sense of fun to being on the right, perhaps for the first time ever. He mocked liberals at a time when it was assumed by all that this was a tool to which liberals alone had exclusive rights. He laughed at them, and his audience laughed along with him. This is a deeply underestimated strategy – people like to laugh; they like to have fun. It is something that the left has forgotten in the age of the dour, hectoring SJW. It is something that, other than at the height of the Meme Era that surrounded Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, the modern right forgets all too often as well. But it should never be overlooked, and very much of Rush’s success and his political and cultural impact relied on the fact that he didn’t. Perhaps most importantly, he never backed down from his beliefs; he never seemed ashamed of them or felt the need to qualify them with endless disclaimers explaining how he was really a good person despite them. Simply being confident and proud in those beliefs inspired millions of others to do the same.

Of course, he couldn’t ever have gone with us as far as it now seems that we’ll need to go. But this was not a symptom of any lack of courage; it was only a reflection of the hold that the America in which he was born had on him, and of how far we have fallen from it in just one lifetime. To the end, Rush was a genuine “Shining City on a Hill” believer; the kind that not only thought that America was unreservedly good at its core, but that its empire was the only thing keeping the world from falling into tyranny and chaos. That’s a belief that most of us on this end of the right, if we ever held it at all, gave up on around 2006, but that seemed manifestly true for someone who grew up in a stable, prosperous America in the years directly following World War II, and whose only frame of reference was the comparison to Nazism or Communism. Even his support for the disastrous wars of the Bush era, which continued long after it was obvious that they had been a terrible mistake (this was the only point at which I found his show unlistenable, and had to take some time away from it) were based in an unshakable faith that the American way of life was the best in the world, and that everyone would want to live that way if they were only given a chance to. There is a temptation for a man of today’s Dissident Right to sneer at this, and in a 21st century context, it might be justified, but it also must be remembered that the America that Rush had in mind was eternally a vision of the 1954 of his youth; a better place that you and I have never had the privilege to see. Had we seen it for ourselves, we might find it just as hard to let go of as he did.

Rush could understand that his country wasn’t what it used to be, but couldn’t allow himself to believe that it would never again be what it had once been. That’s a dream that can only die hard; one that anyone would hold onto for as long as they could. It only really became undeniable that it was gone for good in the very closing moments of his life, and it is perhaps for the best that he essentially died with it. In a way, I wish he hadn’t been here to see the past few months, and in a way, I’m happy he won’t be here to see what comes next. It would break his heart. It breaks mine. I would love to have personally seen the Shining City that he saw, and would love to believe that it can be restored someday. But just as he was a man of a time that I never could live in, I must be a man of a time that he cannot live in, and I must face its realities.

Before I do face forward into it, however, I’d like to take a brief moment to indulge in a personal reflection back into the time that he and I shared.

The first time I ever heard Rush was sometime in 1992, when at the beginning of my adult life I was briefly living in Orlando. John the shuttle van driver, who I saw every morning and afternoon, had dodged missiles to drop bombs on North Vietnam back in the day, but driving the van was his quiet retirement job, and he didn’t want to talk about the war while he was doing it, so he kept Rush on the radio instead. Soon, all of us who rode with him were spending our time in the van listening to the show and talking over what Rush had said amongst ourselves. Some wanted Ross Perot to win the election, some were sticking with Poppy Bush, and everyone was certain that Slick Willie could only be a disaster. All of us wondered what the future would bring, in our own lives and for the country.

For all the years thereafter, from then until now, Rush was there with me wherever I went and whatever I did. Through the long, sweet days of the 90s in Silicon Valley, when the only place out of San Francisco that would carry him was the local sports talk outfit. Through my time in Japan, carrying my little Sony pocket radio and listening over Eagle 810, the Armed Forces Network’s 50,000 watt station out of Yokota Air Force Base, which carried the first hour of the show during the evening commute time. Through my professional traveling days, over countless stations in countless cities and small towns, on clock-radios in countless hotel rooms. Through many long road trips around the country, scanning on the car radio for a new station each time the last one faded into static. Through my last years in California, carrying the now-old Sony on walks around San Francisco and Berkeley and a vastly-changed Silicon Valley. Through all of my tribulations after I left, and into my new life in Southern Appalachia. Through my late teens and my twenties and my thirties and my forties and almost to fifty. I’ve lived a good and adventuresome life, but never a particularly stable one. People and places have come and gone. I’ve opened many doors, and closed many others. I’ve had many identities and played many roles. There have been few constants in my journey, but Rush was always one of them.

And now this constant companion will be with me no further. Whatever he may have meant to his country, and whatever he may mean to history, a measure of comfort and happiness that has meant something to me my whole adult life is gone.

I will miss you, old friend. Thank you. Farewell. Megadittoes.


The Parable Of Joy

I wouldn’t say that Joy and I are very close friends, but for a long while – from my later college years until I left California – we ran in the same social circles and saw each other fairly often. A friend of a friend, you could say; we’ve been happy enough to see each other whenever we have, but it has always been in some group activity or another rather than one-on-one. Still, we’re well enough acquainted that I was on the list to be notified when she sent out word that she’s in trouble. The circumstances are worth relating, as it occurred to me that it sheds some light on a lot that’s wrong with our Modern world.

Joy is a second-generation Chinese-American, a native of the S.F. Bay Area who grew up on the edge of Oakland’s Chinatown, and although I have enough sense to never ask a woman her age, by the length of time we’ve known each other, she must be squarely on the north side of 40. She is not married and never has been, and has no children. She is neither rich nor poor, with a job as the shipping manager of a furniture wholesaler’s warehouse, where long service has given her seniority and a salary that is respectable if not spectacular. She is careful with her money – not so much of a miser that she’ll never go for a dinner out with friends, but not luxurious in anything. She is sensible and level-headed, and at an age where that should begin to pay off in a certain degree of comfortable stability in one’s life.

But not so for Joy, it seems. That’s what I found out last week when I read her message. Joy is being kicked out of the house where she has rented a room for the past couple of years. The reason is personality conflict, or perhaps more accurately, cultural conflict. There are five or six roommates in a large house that long ago was designed for the kind of big families people used to have. Being the modern Bay Area, the roommates are all quite diverse – white, black, Latino, and Asian – in the way that we are assured is “our strength”. But Joy has found otherwise. She didn’t share the details of the particular disagreement that started things, but the situation progressively got worse and worse. And the most important reason for that was, according to Joy, that her non-Asian roommates just couldn’t understand the Asian style of conflict resolution. To her, all of them, but especially the Latina roommate who she was most directly clashing with, were extremely aggressive toward her – shockingly so, compared to the people she had grown up with. Joy said that she felt “bullied, teased, picked on, and tormented” to the point where it caused her to sink into a depression. It didn’t take long before it was obvious that the situation was unsustainable and somebody would have to leave. The homeowner made her choice, and gave Joy until the end of this month to get out of the house.

The first thing that Joy thought of was to move back in with her mother. But that was impossible; the high cost of housing, and even property taxes, in the Bay Area meant that as soon as her children had moved out, her mother had to take in boarders of her own in order to make ends meet, and they now filled every available room in the house, including the one that had once been Joy’s. It just wouldn’t be fair to evict one of them over a problem Joy was having that was no fault of their own, so that idea was rejected. Finally, with the deadline looming, Joy was considering the option of sleeping in her minivan until something better came available. There would be room enough to set up a semi-comfortable bed, the mild California weather meant there wouldn’t be any danger from freezing temperatures, and she could still shower, eat, and do laundry at her mother’s house. It would be a genteel form of homelessness, and (with any luck) only a temporary one. But it’s homelessness all the same – not a happy prospect for a woman in her 40s; a senseless humiliation for someone who has worked steadily and been frugal all her adult years. When I received the story, it was in the form of a last-minute plea for anyone in her orbit who might know of a more permanent place for her to stay to get in touch with her ASAP. And that is where the situation stands.

Of course, having left California for Southern Appalachia three years ago now, I don’t have any way to help in her search. The only thing I can do is to reflect a bit on all the ways that Modernity has failed Joy – and they are many indeed.

For one thing, while there has always been a small percentage of spinsters in our society, the phenomenon of women who are unmarried, well past prime marriage age, and in many cases are outright unmarriageable, has reached crisis levels in our society. I would by no means call Joy “unmarriageable” (that would involve factors like an extremely disagreeable and entitled personality, an excessive attachment to career over everything else, showy expressions of trendy leftist politics, a very high “notch count” springing from an extended Sex and the City phase, and perhaps single motherhood as a souvenir of it as well), but the fact that she remains unmarried at her age is proving to be a problem for herself and for those around her. Both the traditional Asian culture of her ancestors and traditional Christian Western culture understand this issue, and either of them, working through the circle of friends and family around her, would have intervened in her life 20 years ago in order to find a suitable husband for her and to pressure her into marrying him. This sounds abhorrent to the post-feminist Modern, and yet we must ask: feminism has loosed women, but from what, and into what? In her 40s, Joy deserves to have a husband and children of her own, which would give her a stable home and a large support structure around her. Instead, with the sole exception of an aging mother whose ability to help singlehandedly is limited, Joy is alone and without resources that the Modernist promise of the “independent woman who doesn’t need a man” apparently cannot actually provide her. She is left having to send out appeals to every minor acquaintance for help in avoiding homelessness.

But beyond this, even if Joy remained single her whole life, she deserves some greater measure of stability than this. She should at least be able to afford a small apartment of her own instead of having to perpetually live like a college kid, renting out a small bedroom in what amounts to a boarding house, never having real privacy or control over her fate in a place to truly call her own, well into what should be anyone’s most prosperous and secure years. There’s a lot behind why even this small measure of dignity has been denied to her, basically none of which is her own fault – she has never been a stoner or a slacker or a wastrel. One important factor is the economic squeeze on the middle class that’s been happening everywhere in the country, and most especially in California, over the past 20 years. California’s taxes, housing prices, and cost of living are legendary for all the wrong reasons, and are driving its middle class out of the state by the millions. (It is an exodus that I myself joined, in deep sadness, three years back. I could perhaps have tried holding on a bit longer – even in the face of increasingly intolerable laws and decreasing quality of life – if I’d been willing to keep living the way that Joy has been. It worked in my 20s and 30s well enough. But in my 40s, I found it harder and harder to live like that. Now, in Southern Appalachia, I have a small cottage of my own, with a workbench, a kitchen where I can cook anything I like at any hour of day, and a closet that I can stuff with a prep stash. I couldn’t go back to not having them.)

On paper, California is a fantastically rich state, but this hides the fact that it is increasingly a place with a Third World economic profile – one populated by the very rich and the very poor, with very little in between. Communists and socialists seem unable to understand that a certain amount of wealth inequality is actually the sign of a healthy economy; mainstream conservatives and libertarians seem unable to understand that too much of it is the sign of a deeply unhealthy one. In the real world, Silicon Valley money, which we are told is the envy of the globe, has been the second-worst thing (after mass immigration) to ever happen to the Bay Area. For those making six figures or more in a high-level tech job, the astronomical cost of living is an annoyance; for the established middle class that was there long before the tech boom, it has been ruinous. Beyond that, Big Tech long ago closed on its purchase of the state government, so no reforms of which they might disapprove, coming from either the left or the right, have any chance to pass. Things won’t get better for the middle class, because the ruling class – both inside and outside of the formal government – has little interest in that. No one in power wants to stand up for Joy, nor for anyone like her.

Then there is the issue of immigration and its attendant diversity. First, the former: it is of no small consequence that since Joy was born, the population of the United States has risen by 50%, and the population of California has doubled. The sheer presence of that many new people needing housing and using resources would make the cost of living skyrocket and turn the prospect of having an adequate place of one’s own on a middle class salary into a pipe dream, making life miserable, even if the curse of tech money wasn’t a factor, and even if diversity caused no problems. The fact that diversity does cause deep problems that are simultaneously ever more impossible to solve or to even talk about honestly in the open only makes things worse.

Unlike many others on the Dissident Right, I am not an absolute purist when it comes to diversity. I see nothing wrong with, say, San Francisco having a Chinatown or Miami having a Little Havana. But as with income inequality, a little diversity under the right circumstances may be healthy, but too much can only be disastrous. Even in the days before the post-1965 immigration flood, when we had diversity in more reasonable proportions, the social arrangement that made it work was based on the old ethnic neighborhood system, a form of voluntary soft segregation which created the kind of intangible-but-very-real good fences that make good neighbors (and that Chesterton warned us against dismantling). But then that system broke down; it was simultaneously overwhelmed with sheer numbers and deliberately dismantled by utopian busybodies who made it their mission to ensure that any remaining vestige of non-diversity be destroyed. What had existed before was a humane, respectful, and sustainable unspoken agreement by which ethnic neighborhoods were largely left to self-govern, so long as they caused no trouble to outsiders and passersby. Everything from anti-discrimination laws to overreach by the official organs of government put a forcible end to it. It is nothing to the busybodies and utopians that the old system created a sense of community; that it fostered informal support structures and an environment where like people could live by long-established rules that suited their unique characteristics. And it is nothing to them that its passing has led to the reality that Joy faced in a micro sense, and that we all are doomed to face in the macro sense: that diversity + proximity = conflict.

Here I should note that, despite the complaints that Joy has about her soon-to-be-former roommates, I doubt that any of them, even her Latina tormentor, is an evil person at heart. It’s more likely simply that there’s a Latin way to handle things and an East Asian way to handle things. It’s not that one is better than the other in any objective sense; that they’re different and incompatible is enough on its own to exacerbate any conflict to the point that it’s intolerable to all involved. This is an important reason why, whether it is through the mechanism of hard borders or soft fences, it is nearly always in the best interests of everyone for like to be with like. Though utopian egalitarians would be horrified by the idea, it would have been better for Joy if her search for a place to live had taken place within the soft limits of an Asian ethnic neighborhood, or even just a housing development or apartment building that was legally and socially permitted to restrict itself to accepting only like people in order to reduce conflicts such as the one that has Joy on the edge of homelessness. Perhaps that would have put some choices off-limits to her, but she would not now be facing living in a van.

Keep Joy in your prayers, as she will be in mine as well. She deserves better, and let’s hope she finds it soon. On multiple levels, she has been brought low not because she failed, but because she has been failed by Modernity and all of its unworkable promises. As have we all.

Bad MFs

Since the mid-18th century, we have been in what we are told is the “Age of Reason”, which was supposed to make the world better by banishing superstition and delusion from public life. As with basically all of the Enlightenment’s promises dealing with human nature and the proper way to order civil life, it has not delivered on that promise, and in many cases has actually made the problem it set out to solve worse. The persistence of dangerous delusions is what prompted me to write my last column, which focused on the need for dissidents to avoid them entirely. That said, dabbling in the dark arts of forbidden social science has been a specialty in this space since I founded it nearly a decade ago, and in that spirit, I’d like to go into further detail on a certain variety of delusion that the Enlightenment has empowered; one that is especially visible in the end-stage form of Enlightenment thinking that we see in the crumbling remains of Western Civilization. I call it the “Midwit Fooler”. That’s a term that needs a little explanation.

First, the concept of a “fooler” comes from the term “Grandma Fooler”, which refers to a counterfeit item designed to look like something genuine and desirable. The idea is that an unwary consumer might buy it, not really understanding the difference between it and the real thing. A good example is found in the innumerable cheap iPod knockoffs that could be found everywhere from convenience stores to magic claw machines in the ’00s and early ’10s. These were universally complete junk, and caused many a bad Christmas morning for a young member of Generation Z when he found that grandma had put one of them under the tree for him instead of a real iPod.

I’m sure you remember them.

As for the “midwit”, they are the consistently troublesome class of people who exist just to the right of the peak of the IQ bell curve – around 110 to 120 – those who are above average, but not truly brilliant. These are the bourgeois, the upper middle class, the successful businessman, manager, or white collar worker. There are two big problems with them. The first is that they are the group that has held all the real power since the Enlightenment – for all of the pretensions to helping the poor or working class of the many revolutions it birthed since 1776, all of them can best be understood as a rebellion by the bourgeois against the pre-1776 ruling class. The second is that the midwit IQ range is a notorious Dunning-Kruger trap. One effect of this is that people in this class are all too often drawn to ideas that range from harmlessly silly to insane and dangerous. And since they make up the group from which our ruling Managerial Class is drawn, when they believe nonsense, it hurts all of us.

However, it isn’t just any patently ridiculous idea that will attract them. Ones that become widespread tend to share certain elements that make them truly effective Midwit Foolers. A recent reading of Leon Festinger’s When Prophecy Fails set me onto the task of looking at few of the more prominent MFs in the world, including Classical Marxism, current-year postmodern Social Justice, New Age spirituality, and the Qanon movement, to see how many I could identify. I present these as being generally rather than universally true, however, most of these elements are shared by all of the MFs I could think to examine.

Many of these are interconnected, so please excuse a bit of repetitiveness:

•Perhaps the most important element – the one that makes it specifically a Midwit Fooler – is that it must have some kind of barrier to entry presented by being moderately intellectually challenging. However, it must strike the right balance; being just difficult enough to impart an air of intellectual exclusivity to it, while not being so difficult that it drives midwits away. I call this the “mystery novel effect”, because an optimal balance is about the same as a good murder mystery (this is why such things – from Agatha Christie to this week’s episode of NCIS – have always been popular among midwits). If the mystery is too simple, the midwit will be annoyed that there’s no challenge presented; no bragging rights to having their guess confirmed at the end (even though the story was subtly designed to gradually lead any midwit to the right conclusion). But if the mystery is too complex, then the midwit will be just as annoyed, this time because it was hard to follow and they didn’t even come close to the correct answer. Thus, an effective MF should require some real study, and be difficult enough that the midwit feels as though they’ve accomplished something by getting through it and coming to understand its conclusions (of course, as with the mystery novel, what they’ve really come to is the answer that the creator of the MF has been guiding them toward). The aspect of containing some manner of a code cracked and a riddle solved in ways not understandable to just anybody gives the midwit a warm feeling of belonging to an intellectual inner circle, quietly confirming their superiority to those outside of it.

At its core an MF always exists as a way to sell bourgeois midwits an easy, comforting answer to a complex, troubling question. But since midwits are just smart enough to know that easy, comforting answers to complex, troubling questions are invariably wrong, they must be made to seem more challenging than they really are. The midwit desperately wants to think of themselves (and be seen by others) as enlightened, but can’t understand why the Buddhist master Lin Chi once warned that “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him”!

•Speaking of this, to work, MFs rely on the concept that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. The midwit is not a complete moron, and won’t fall for just any old bullshit – it takes a deeper, more complex kind of bullshit to fool him. John Derbyshire once described pseudosciences as “elaborate, plausible, and intellectually very challenging systems that do not, in fact, have any truth content”, a thought that applies just as much to pseudophilosophy, pseudoeconomics, or pseudospirituality. And it is invariably one or more of these on which an effective MF is based. The MF relies on the midwit to be someone with knowledge that is broad, but deep only in their professional field. For anything else, they are knowledgable only to the point of having perhaps read a book or a few online articles about it, which due to Dunning-Kruger, leaves them perennially stuck at the peak of “Mt. Stupid”.

And that is the exact location where cranks, con artists, and snake-oil salesmen with an MF to tout will be waiting for them. Of course, nobody who knows the subject on which any particular MF is based in any depth would ever believe it. Genuine Buddhist masters laugh at the “Buddhism lite” sold by New Age charlatans to credulous Boomers; real-deal intel agency spooks will apply their palms to their foreheads at the mention of Qanon; anyone who has ever run a business can tell you all the ways in which Karl Marx didn’t know what the hell he was talking about when it comes to economics. But the midwit who knows a subject only casually, but not well enough to tell the “pseudo” version from the real thing, is a prime candidate to fall for an MF.

•As part of the challenge of it, a really engrossing MF should have its own unique set of lingo or jargon. This may involve unique word coinages, or proprietary definitions of existing words. Being an insider means being privy to the secret signals of the inner circle, and being an intellectual means being one of the select that know the “true” definition of a word instead of merely the common one. If use of the jargon confuses an outsider, then all the better – if they declare it mumbo-jumbo, that proves their inferiority and inability to get on the adherent’s level, and if they seem genuinely interested in understanding it, then it becomes the first mystery for the potential new initiate to tackle. Why did Qanon acolytes take joy in hours spent deciphering his cryptic quatrains? Why did Herbert Marcuse write impenetrable walls of proprietary Marxist lingo? That’s why.

•An effective MF must provide its adherents with validation; it must help them to feel as though they truly are who they see themselves as being in their idealized internal self-image. Of course, an effective MF tells people what they want to hear, and not everyone wants to hear the same thing (nor has the same idealized self-image), so a targeted message is important. But they all share the same mechanisms of validation, which are attuned to the midwit mindset, and are then customized for the political, philosophical, and spiritual specifics of the target audience. For example, just about all midwits want to see themselves as intellectuals, thus, for as much outright naivete as it often takes to believe in an MF, they are always presented with a carefully-crafted image of sophistication, and often even of rationalist skepticism. Similarly, because midwits desperately want to believe in their own virtue, there is usually some element of world-saving involved with an MF. And there are always the twin boogeymen of scoffers who the adherents can feel intellectually superior to, and enemies who they can feel morally superior to. In short, the effective MF is based on the idea that selling people the chance to believe that they really are what they wish they were will always be a very compelling product.

•The long tail of the Boomer generation in our culture means that many (though not all) MFs involve some spoken or unspoken element of (completely riskless) resistance or rebellion. Even something as seemingly innocuous as New Age has a hint of this – the motivation of many a Boomer who got into kabbalah, crystals, or Buddhism lite has deeply involved rebellion against their Jewish mothers or the nuns at the Catholic school they were forced to attend. And of course, there is the modern Social Justice Warrior, who rebels against a power structure that surrendered to their Boomer grandparents 50 years ago, a set of social arrangements that stopped being current 60 years ago, and a boogeyman who died in a bunker 75 years ago. But the post-1965 bourgeois especially has a strong tendency toward the self-image of a temporarily embarrassed revolutionary (either of the “Lexington in 1776” variety or the “Woodstock in 1969” variety, depending on political outlook), always waiting on, and agitating for, the revolution to start (And what happens when it finally does? We may find out soon, and the midwits may find that it wasn’t as much fun as they expected). They hate the idea of being a “normie” and long for the Romanticism of the Byronic rebel-hero. And of course that self-image wouldn’t be complete without the key element of the Romantic sublime: fear. This is why so many MFs contain a strong infusion of that, too – normally in the form of either an implacable enemy or an impending disaster lurking just around the corner. Fear brings people together and infuses a sense of urgency into what they’re doing, and of course, they also have the added bonus of tending to shut off critical thinking. Again, these elements of rebellion and fear are not completely universal in MFs, but are enough so that one or both are usually present in some form or another.

•An effective MF should never be afraid to ask for some sacrifice from its adherents. There are two important reasons for this. One is that having sacrificed for an idea or movement will make people feel much more invested in it. It keeps people from drifting away, because most humans can’t rationally process the concept of sunk costs – investing some makes them want to invest more, because they can’t stand the idea that what they have already invested may have been a waste. But secondly, and even more importantly, there is nothing that world-savers love more than an opportunity to virtue-signal through sacrifice and self-denial. Often this includes self-abasement to the point of what seems to be masochism, but an effective MF ensures that this is never more than a show. Just as the academic material of the MF must be somewhat challenging, but not excessively so, the opportunities for self-abasement must generally present as being painful, but not actually be so to any real degree. For example, the white Social Justice Warrior may condemn their own “whiteness” on Twitter and spand an afternoon kissing the boots of some puzzled random black person in the midst of getting a selfie to post on Instagram, but few offer to move out of their comfortable suburban houses or trendy city neighborhoods and into the black ghetto (thus the saying about them that they “Talk like MLK, but live like the KKK”). Still, comfortable moderns take any sort of sacrifice, no matter how much of a “humblebrag” it may be, as a form of martyrdom, and nobody wants to feel as if they’ve been martyred for nothing. What a sunk cost that would be!

•Finally, an effective MF must have a strong aspect of the social to it. Some MFs may actively proselyte in order to gain more members, and some may not in order to seem more exclusive, but all will strive to build some kind of community around their beliefs. This serves a couple of important functions. Of course, the utility of fellowship in building any movement – whether an MF or not – has long been recognized. Establishing an active, even fun community, drawn together by a calling to a higher purpose, makes an adherent feel not just important and validated, but valued as an individual within a group of friends. And it also increases their investment in what they’re doing; to leave the community means the loss of those friends, and perhaps even ostracization by them. This is why proper skepticism (as opposed to the proprietary definition of that term used by the left, which is simply a synonym for Reddit-style snarky atheism) requires a slight antisocial streak – that is is always necessary in order to be able to say “Plato is a friend, but the truth is a better friend”. Most people don’t have that in them, and will allow their brain to self-delude in order to stay within a social circle in which they have been accepted and found a place, even when unmistakable disconfirmation of its beliefs has presented itself. This will keep them anchored right where they are.

Of course, I would expect that my readers, who are only the most genuinely intellectual sort of people, would never fall for an MF themselves. But, the false promises of the Enlightenment aside, we are headed into a future with more superstition and delusion, more passionately believed in, than ever in our history. You’ll need a keen eye for recognizing these in all of their forms, as they will infect many of those around you. So keep an eye out for these Bad MFs as, like weeds sprouting through cracks in abandoned sidewalks, they start to grow through the fissures in our rapidly-crumbling civilization.