The Need For Thede

Hitler was wrong because he was a racist.

What’s that? Too pedestrian? Too commonplace? Too banal? You were expecting something more edgy and unusual out of me? Well, fear not – I don’t mean that the same way most people do.

What I mean is that Hitler’s myopic focus on racial purity was far too limited a vision to be truly useful. It left too many questions unanswered and too many issues unaddressed. It was, in fact, utopian in its own way, and the truth is that the conflict between Nazism and Communism was one of competing utopian visions. Communism believed that utopia could be brought about if we could just get everyone to believe the right set of ideas. Nazism believed that utopia could be brought about if only we could get the right people to build it. It has its own kind of logic to it: perfect people will naturally create a perfect world.

The only problem is that both visions are bollocks. Perfect people don’t and never can exist, and utopia is a fantasy that won’t ever come to pass in this world no matter who’s building it or what they believe. That doesn’t stop people from being utopians, however (hopeful delusion is one of those human flaws that we’ll never get rid of). There are lots of dead-ender Marxists still around (some of whom admit that thats what they are, and some of whom don’t). But there are also plenty of people around who believe in Hitler’s equally silly utopian scheme.

Here I do not mean to point an accusing finger at people who simply wish to exercise freedom of association in order to be around others who they perceive to be like themselves. The desire to do so is simply human nature, and after a couple of centuries worth of the disastrous failures of utopian schemes that have attempted to deny human nature, we have all hopefully had our fill of them. Neither do I wish to wage my own “war on noticing” by pretending that it is not true that certain racial groups seem to have naturally differing levels of average IQ, organizational skills, and propensity to criminality; nor by pretending to not understand why someone might want to live among a group that scores high in these areas. That is all understandable, and I have no criticisms to offer about any of it.

But myopic focus on ethnicity alone still too limited a worldview to be useful for our task of rebuilding the civilization that 250 years of leftist utopianism has utterly trashed. Consider, for example, the “Portland problem”. Portland is the whitest major city in America – but what are its politics like? And Portland is hardly an isolated outlier. There is a reason that leftism – and especially Cultural Marxism – has been referred to as “White Peoples’ Disease”. To those who fashion themselves “white nationalists” I say this: Fix white people first, then get back to me about white nationalism.

So we need something else – more than just the “Master Race”. We need to think more broadly – partly about people, partly about ideas, partly about technology (both social and scientific), partly about culture, partly about religious faith, and partly about history (both shared history, and the trajectory of future history). We need to take of these things into account as we consider how to survive what is to come, and how to begin to rebuild and create societies that recapture what was good, workable, and sustainable about the past, while adapting them so that they can continue to be robust in the future.

We need more than a Master Race; we need a Master Thede.

“A what?” you may ask. Well, to fully explain, first I must pull back a bit, so that we make take a realistic look at things the way they really currently are. So here is a no-bullshit assessment of the way things stand in the United States, and indeed virtually everywhere in the West at this point in history: If you are of the right or are even merely not a dedicated Cultural Marxist, if you are a serious Christian, if you value the traditions and culture of your people as they existed prior to World War II, and/or if you are a realist and not a fanatical utopian cultist, then the current system and every institution in it, from the government to the media to the corporate world, from the Supreme Court to the Boy Scouts to NASCAR, with only the possible exception of a handful of religious organizations, is lost to you – permanently and irreversibly. Nothing you can do will change this. There is no amount of protesting, or boycotting, or hashtag posting, or – especially – of voting that will do anything to alter this situation. Not ever. I know it, and – deep down, underneath any denials you may be tempted to offer – you know it, too.

So what do we do now?

To start, there is some good news. The current system and its institutions – everything that has been coopted by the left, and that we have lost to them – will collapse under their own weight anyway, and sooner than you might think. They are, to borrow a wonderful word that the environmentalist left taught me, unsustainable. There are many reasons for that, which include massive debt and other structural economic problems, imperial overreach, moral bankruptcy, resource depletion (and here I mean more than energy – look at California’s recent problems with not having enough water to go around), looming demographic crisis, loss of legitimacy and public trust… problems so numerous and complex that going into all of them in any detail would take me far beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say that all of the institutions that make up the Establishment as it is presently constituted are living on borrowed time: they’re going to disintegrate, and it is probably for the best that the left will end up holding the bag when they do.

Well, great – but what do we do to survive in the meantime, and how do we put ourselves in a position to rebuild a decent and sustainable society when the time is right? The first step is that you must transfer your primary loyalty away from the current system. Among other things, you are allowed to ask of it: “What have you done for me lately?” Invade Iraq? Sue my neighbor into homelessness for politely declining to bake a gay wedding cake? Propagandize and promote all manner of sexual deviancy and unwarranted guilt to me and my children? Drive the faith of my fathers out of public life? Sneer at me on Comedy Central? To hell with all that, and to hell with them. You must stop believing in them, stop being sentimental about them, stop feeling any obligation to them, stop looking to them for moral guidance, stop protecting or serving them, stop singing their songs and waving their flags, stop being their fanboy, stop wearing their logos on your t-shirts, and stop acknowledging any power that they have over you which they do not impose at gunpoint. You must be willing to break all the programming given to you by years of public school and talk radio and television and advertisement and patriotic movies. Here I do not mean to adopt a survivalist lifestyle; you need not imitate the Unabomber by moving to a cabin in the woods and subsisting on wild berries. If you need an iPhone, go ahead and buy one – but do not feel any personal loyalty to Apple. If you need a professional certification from a university, go ahead and get it – but do not think of yourself as “a proud alum of the old alma mater”. Pay your taxes and register your car, because you must – but do not think of yourself as a loyal citizen who owes any allegiance to the government.

This last one will likely be the hardest for many people. Those on the right are by nature predisposed to patriotism; it comes easily to them, and abandoning it can be a bitter pill to swallow. Of course, it is perfectly possible to love one’s native land – its people, its history, its traditions – and to hate its government. But in an nation as gigantic as the United States, is loyalty on a national scale even possible or wise? Think: if you live in, say, rural Virginia, what real loyalty do you owe to Hollywood? On what do they base their claim to your loyalty? Hollywood is full of people who hate you – who do not share your faith or your cultural values and who actively work to see them eradicated; who laugh at you and think you a rube to be manipulated; who wouldn’t live in your “flyover” town if somebody paid them a million dollars to do it. What loyalty do you owe to New York or Washington or San Francisco, either – all places full of people who feel the same way about you? Why? Because they’re “fellow Americans”? Not good enough, say I. And what of the government? What has it done to deserve your loyalty? If you hold on to the Constitution, then you hold on to nothing – that scrap of paper has been DOA for ages now, and if it had ever possessed the ability to prevent what has happened from happening, then it would have. As for the rest of the machinery of government, it makes stupid ideas official policy, and consistently acts against your interests. This may speed up or slow down a bit depending on the results of this or that election, but it will never, ever stop. To willingly give loyalty to that beast is insanity; is suicide.

No, we’re never going to get through this by giving loyalty to people who hate us. We’re all going to need something better to transfer our primary loyalty to. What, then? Family? Friends? Church? Community? Like-minded people? Sure. But how about something that includes aspects of all of those? For that, we’re going to need to establish a thede.

So what is a thede, anyway? (Neal Stephenson explored a similar idea in his novel The Diamond Age, but used the term “phyle” to describe it). The most basic definition is that a thede is a group of humans who band together under a strong shared identity. This identity is usually based on a common trait or set of traits. These traits can vary depending on the nature and scale of the specific thede, and can include anything from blood relation to a common religion, class, language, philosophy or ideology, culture and history, IQ and education level, geographical location, shared experience, or any of a long list of other traits, or any combination of them. Ethnicity is, of course, one such possible trait, and is frequently a component of thede identities, but is neither necessarily nor always a component of them. No matter what set of traits they may be based on, thedes by nature must be exclusive – those who do not share the common traits that define the thede cannot be permitted to join it (and even possessing those traits may not be a guarantee of entry). Thedes can be large or small; there can be subthedes within larger thedes; there can be similarity and overlap between different thedes, such that two thedes which differ in some ways but are alike in others can be allied with each other. Thedes can be either formally or informally organized, and can be either localized in one geographical area or distributed. It is possible (maybe unwise, but possible) for a person to belong to more than one thede at once, but only one can have their primary loyalty.

Perhaps some examples can help to solidify the concept. One good example of a thede would be the Jews. “Jewish” is a strong shared identity that is fundamental to the individual identities of the people who are a part of it. It is, at least theoretically, centered around a religious faith, yet many who are strongly atheist in their religious beliefs still consider themselves Jewish, because Jewish identity is also partially based (and perhaps primarily so, in a de facto sense) upon aspects of culture, history, and ethnicity. The Jews have, at some points in their history, had a homeland – a common geographical location to call their own – and at other times have been a distributed thede. For many Jews, “Jewish” is the primary shared identity with which they identify themselves, and represents the thede to which they give their primary loyalty. The modern state of Israel, for example, was founded by Jews from many nations, who, justifiably or not, saw being “Jewish” as the identity to which they owed their primary loyalty, which is why they left the nations in which they were born in order to fight for, an become citizens of, a new nation based on that thede identity.

Another example of a thede would be the Freemasons. Wherever he may travel, if a Freemason wears his ring and does the secret handshake, other Freemasons will recognize him as one of their own even if they have never met before. Once they do recognize each other, Freemasons are expected to come to each others’ aid in whatever way they can, whenever such aid is needed. Many is a Freemason whose job interview was a mere formality, conducted with a wink and a nod by someone who was wearing the same ring that he was. Many others have received help in times of dire need as well. (When was the last time you heard of a homeless Freemason?) This aspect of mutual aid and obligation is not a feature of every thede, but is a vital part of any serious and robust one.

One more example would be the Mormons. Mormons take their moral guidance from the elders of their church, not from a court full of political appointees in Washington. If the elders find that marriage is something that only exists between people of opposite sexes, then that, not the opinions of a distant panel of lawyers in Hogwarts costumes, is the law by which they live. Similarly, the ladies of yet another thede, the Amish, wear long dresses because that is one of their thede’s customs. If they’d like to remain part of that thede, then those customs are, effectively, law to them. Here, a Marxist insight is useful: Whoever exercises authority over you is your de facto government. If you give your primary loyalty and grant the position of legitimate moral authority to your church elders, if the commandments of your faith or the customs of your thede are what you hold to be the legitimate laws by which you are bound, and if you see the de jure government as essentially an overgrown crew of corrupt gangsters, to be politely obeyed when their enforcers are watching and discreetly ignored when they aren’t, then your thede becomes both your people and your government, and the de jure government, along with all of its formally and informally associated institutions, becomes a burdensome but manageable annoyance.

If a thede is robust and resilient; if it is not just willing, but also able, to provide effective mutual defense and mutual aid to its members; if it is based on sound and enduring principles which resonate with high-quality people and attract them into the thede; if it can offer a space that encourages and rewards pro-social behavior; if it can help people to achieve the Good Life in a spiritual sense, a material sense, or both; in short, if it can be a worthy place for worthy people to direct their primary loyalty, then it will become a Master Thede. Once built, a Master Thede will serve (in the words of the Czech anticommunist dissident Vaclav Benda) as a parallel polis – a set of parallel institutions; a parallel culture with parallel art, philosophy, laws, customs, and manners; a parallel de facto government with instruments of defense, aid, education, and internal conflict resolution. It will not seek to replace the current government nor to declare independence in a “1776” sense – at least not for the foreseeable future. It is not intended to be an instrument of revolution under any common definition of that term, and it will as much as possible seek to avoid any engagement with the current government and current institutions altogether. A Master Thede forms a means of internal exit (especially for those unable or disinclined to move to a foreign country) – both a refuge from the current system and a basis on which to rebuild after it finally collapses. It is building just such a Master Thede (or thedes), and not trying to change the hopeless, doomed current system, that should be the focus of any practical action for reactionaries and traditionalists.

Ideally, everyone would already have a thede readily available that suits them and with which they can place their primary loyalty. In the midst of our highly atomized and individualistic Modern society, however, most people do not. In practice, any thede that will expand to a useful size will almost certainly either have to grow out of an existing institution (likely a church – no other civic institution capable of incubating a traditional thede really anymore exists) or organize through the internet. Much of it will be slow networking – finding trustworthy people, working out policies, and so on. Once a Master Thede is built, it will become successful, and when it becomes successful, it will attract others to it (especially as currently-existing institutions start to crumble and general prosperity declines even further). There will be challenges. Quality control will be primary among them: a Master Thede will have to reject many – entryists, freeloaders, insincere bandwagon-jumpers – who wish to become part of it. In terms of the people involved (and in terms of basically everything else), it must always place quality over quantity. Maintaining order and avoiding Conquest’s Second Law will also be difficult. Some within the thede may seek to change certain of its policies for reasons both good and bad. Good-faith discussion of how best to proceed should be encouraged as a tool by which the best decisions can be reached. But on core issues, the thede should follow a strict FIFO policy – “Fit In or Fuck Off”. Just as the nation-state’s ultimate enforcement mechanisms are imprisonment or execution, the Master Thede’s ultimate enforcement mechanism will be expulsion – i.e. those who won’t abide by the thede’s policies can go back to taking their chances with a government and a set of institutions that hate them and that with each passing day become simultaneously more oppressive and incompetent.

Much remains to be discussed about this topic (I do plan to return to it in the future), and doubtless many mistakes will be made, and hopefully learned from, during the creation of robust and resilient thedes. It won’t be easy. But creating them, transferring your primary loyalty to them, building them up, and defending them is your only choice. The currently-existing system and its institutions are your enemy – they will not help you, they will only seek to either bring you to heel or to destroy you – and anyway do not have all that very much life left in them. Circumstances are forcing you to look elsewhere. Let us take the first tentative steps toward creating an “elsewhere” to which we can look.

FSD vs. 4GW – On Every Battlefield

For some time now, the “Fourth Generation War” (4GW) theories of military action advanced by a small circle of writers, including Martin van Creveld, William S. Lind, and John Robb, have gotten attention among high-IQ and forward-thinking people. These theories are far too complex to recount here, and what I’m going to say requires some familiarity with them, so if you aren’t familiar with them (and if you aren’t, you should take the time to make yourself so), you can start with this archive of Mr. Lind’s columns or his current work at TraditionalRight, Mr. van Creveld’s book, and Mr. Robb’s blog. Everyone interested in conflict of any sort in the 21st century should read it.

“Conflict” here is a key word, because a conflict can take the form of a war, or of a political or philosophical conflict, or of an economic conflict, or any combination of the above. The popular historian Dan Carlin once reminded his audience (which includes me) that not every revolution involves guillotines or palaces being stormed. There is a strong case to be made, for example, that the United States has had several revolutions – some violent and some not. 1776 and the ultimately unsuccessful secession movement of 1861 are the obvious, violent ones, but one could say that a revolution came with Roosevelt in 1932, and another one with the social revolution of the 1960s. The hallmark of a revolution is not so much bloodshed as a rapid transformation of a society. Even the people themselves look different on opposite ends of a revolution – look, for example, at pictures of ordinary people in 1963, and again only a decade later in 1973. They don’t look anything alike – as if they were people from two faraway countries, or from time periods a century apart.

So not every revolution involves guillotines, and not every insurrection involves AK-47s. And yet, the rules of successful struggle are defined by the zeitgeist of their times. That is, in fact, exactly what Lind et al. are getting at when they name their theory “Fourth Generation War”. It is the way of conflict in our times, and is shaped by its unique realities. Bringing these ideas together reveals an important insight – that a mildly adjusted version of 4GW theory is, in fact, applicable to any sort of modern conflict.

It is so because, on virtually every level, the zeitgeist of our time is FSD vs. 4GW – Full-Spectrum Dominance vs. Fourth Generation War. On one side are large, institutionalized powers with expensive, complex, high-tech systems that allow them to (at least theoretically) dominate a field of conflict from top to bottom on every level. FSD is the philosophy of the US military, and it is also the philosophy of the cartel of institutions that Mencius Moldbug has named “The Cathedral”. On the other side, you have 4GW: relatively small, loosely-affiliated associations of fighters who use relatively simple and widely-available tools, and who have turned their relative small size and light weight into an advantage in the face of an enemy with a powerful but clumsy and heavy-handed methodology.

The non-mainstream right in this country – and especially the new philosophical insurgents of neoreaction and the Dark Enlightenment – has developed organically into a non-militarized 4GW entity, operating on a philosophical battlefield and battling an opponent that bases its strategy on FSD. This, again, deserves more of an exploration than I can manageably give it here, but let us have a quick overview of it.

The Cathedral (I still wish for a different term to describe it, but this one seems to have caught on) is an unusual FSD opponent in that it does have some 4GW elements to it (it should tell you something about the perceived legitimacy of large established institutions that even the biggest FSD entity of them all prefers to be decentralized). It is not a traditional state, it has no formal organization to it, and its power is distributed and decentralized. It is both stateless and, in its international universalism, operates as a sort of meta-state that transcends borders. And yet its ideological rigidity, its means of idea transmission, and its enforcement methods give it many statelike qualities. Remember, whoever exercises power over you is your de facto government, because their position in your life is on all practical levels indistinguishable from that of a government. And the Cathedral is very powerful indeed – it sets policies, it manufactures public opinion, it ruthlessly punishes offenders, and it makes and breaks leaders in politics, business, and media. Some of this is done via explicit government action, and some is not. The Cathedral is a global cartel that controls multiple organs of power, and can use whichever suits it best when it needs a meme propagated, a rule (formal or not) instituted, or an enforcement action undertaken. In this way, it transcends and surpasses the state – it is even more of a Full-Spectrum Dominance entity than any mere state could ever be.

As for the alternative right as a 4GW entity: yes, much can be said about the manner in which a 4GW entity uses an FSD opponent’s size and strength against it. But perhaps it is more important, in this limited space, to emphasize a few points about the nature of 4GW entities. The first is that the alternative right’s lack of formal organization or centralization is at this point a net positive. FSD entities are very good at destroying point targets and making examples out of the leaders of meaningful opposition groups (as opposed to controlled and/or functionally powerless opposition groups, which FSD entities routinely allow to exist for show). A look at the fates of Wikileaks and its frontman Julian Assange after they ran afoul of the Full-Spectrum Dominance of the American security state should tell one all one needs to know about that. Another important point is that 4GW involves actors who don’t necessarily want to recreate the institutions that they’re fighting (for example, groups like al Quaeda that both are stateless and have no particular ambitions to become a state). It is, in fact, the primary distinguishing feature of the alternative right as a political movement that they have given up on politics as constituted in Western-style democracies. They are not going to vote, or form a political party, and no one among them is going to run for office, nor would they even if they thought they were electable in a mass democracy. Similarly, few wish to capture or take charge of the Cathedral or its branches. Part of this is the understanding that the Cathedral is something like the One Ring – too powerful and terrible to remain in human hands; something that must only be cast into the fires of Mt. Doom. But another part of it is the understanding that the radically decentralizing effects of technology – its global reach and lowering of barriers to entry – are beginning to make many of the Cathedral’s organs start to slowly melt away on their own. Just as the Iraqi insurgents realized that events would force the U.S.’s retreat eventually, so we must realize that events and technology will, or at least will provide the opportunity to, render the Cathedral obsolete. It is already possible to bypass the Cathedral and set up parallel institutions – and doing this is another signature of 4GW entities (Lind is fond of citing the example of social and charitable institutions often set up by stateless Islamic groups like Hamas). Why take over newspapers, for example, when they are going bankrupt on their own? Why take over the universities when talk of a “higher education bubble” is everywhere? Why not just get ahead of the curve and create our own parallel institutions; accept that they will, at least for some significant amount of time, be smaller, and focus on quality over quantity?

(This, incidentally, is one reason why I argue that there is only a limited amount, tactically speaking, that we can learn from reading the likes of Saul Alinsky. Leaving aside the question of whether leftist tactics would work for a rightist movement or whether we would even want to use them, there are also the truths that Alinsky was the product of, and wrote in, the pre-internet age, and also that his goal was to capture and use existing institutions while ours is not).

What this all amounts to is a few things. First, all people on the alt-right should take some time to read deeply in 4GW theory (the links above are a fine place to start). Second, contra techno-doubters like Bruce Charlton, the internet is a blessing to us that allows our 4GW struggle to continue. Third, we should remember that 4GW is, as John Robb put it, open-source war – so you should write much, read much, share the love, encourage others, don’t worry too greatly about who gets credit for what, put ideas out there even if they’re half-finished, refine half-finished ideas you find from others at will, and remember that the goal is victory.

UPDATE: Two important developments have taken place in the short time since this piece was first published.

The first is that Gamergate, which started as a sex scandal, developed into a consumer revolt against corrupt journalism, and has become, as of this writing, the latest target that the Cathedral wishes to crush, has come to provide a good early model of how to run a 4GW-style insurgency against a cultural/political FSD adversary. Whether Gamergate succeeds in its stated goals or not hardly matters – it is, in fact, unlikely that they will, as their stated goal is to force a branch of the Cathedral to reform itself, which is simply a non-starter. But their resilience and persistence in the face of heavy, sustained attack; the very fact that they’ve continued long past the point where many larger and (theoretically) better-organized targets have collapsed and surrendered, shows that they are worth paying close attention to. Certainly, some of their tactics, such as exiting compromised institutions en masse and starting up smaller parallel institutions focused on quality over quantity (specifically the exodus from 4chan and the founding of 8chan) have been exactly the sort of things that I’ve been advocating.

Again, Gamergate may not succeed in its stated goals, but, in true 4GW fashion, even if, in its failure to attain them, it wakes people up to the true nature of the Cathedral and turns more smart people against it (and it most certainly is doing that), then the Cathedral’s victory will be entirely Pyrrhic.

The second development is that Castalia House has published a handy collected edition of Mr. Lind’s writings about military strategy in a single Amazon ebook titled On War. I recommend it most highly.