On C. Bradley Thompson and Harry V. Jaffa.
The Online Right and Natural Right
Vitalist conservatism has more to offer than its critics let on.
The recent essay by C. Bradley Thompson entitled scores many points against what he calls “neo-reactionary ideologues.” But Bradley misses the key aspect of the modern American regime: the fact that we are living through its decline.
The old arguments packaged in the same way cannot communicate persuasively to a post-literate populace. The American people know the modern academy, for instance, is not just “dying”: it’s . How these large institutions adapt to the digital age will determine if they are to be saved. Most will fail.
Thompson is essentially correct that the regime has been destroyed by historicist influences. Over the last 170 years historicism, which knows no partisan boundaries, has undermined the principles of the American Founding.
But conservatives who deplore the decadence of our major institutions lose sight of the fact that they themselves abandoned those institutions to die long ago. Is it any wonder that a new generation of thinkers do not want to defend a regime abandoned by those who screech feebly that it deserves defense? These “normies” feigned real concern for the founding and yet accepted the canard that equality meant not rights bounded by nature but egalitarianism.
I would submit for deliberative consideration that while there is much to reject in the likes of Bronze Age Pervert (BAP) and other online reactionaries, there is also much opportunity in the fertile digital soil where no fences and no boundaries exist. What grows from this soil may be surprisingly salutary.
If there is anything we ought to take away from BAP, Yarvin, Second City Bureacrat, and their followers, it is that the globalists and the cultish Left created the conditions for such people to thrive and flourish. According to one online conservative——“There are millions of alienated young men in America who are online looking for solidarity and social acceptance. A basic sense of social belonging they’ve been denied by degradation and depravity of neoliberalism, austerity, opioids, and financialisation that enrich the coasts.” It is counterintuitive perhaps to the uninitiated, but the combination of globalism and the rise of the digital age encourage the coincidental rise of tribalism.
All over the internet, diverse sets of men are finding solace in sub-communities where free speech and deliberation are still possible. Who can blame them for wanting respite from a mainstream culture that despises them?
As Leo Strauss pointed out in Natural Right & History, men have a “natural inclination” to congregate together, and that sociability is the “foundation of natural right.” Nature is too stubborn to be denied for long.
Most who oppose the political phenomenon that BAP represents label it “alt-Right.” But that is slander, and it reveals a political agenda of its own. A more honest and accurate description of the movement under discussion would be something like “vitalist Right” or “dissident Right.” As it pertains to the current political situation, this dissidence is akin to a samizdat movement, a , or a Cedar Revolution. These insurgents want something, not nothing.
Symbolism is everything, especially in a time when the democratic functions of the republic are an illusion. “If you think Pepe the Frog is the symbol of the alt-right and that the alt-right exists as an ideology in the same way that symbols and ideologies worked under the 20th Century models of Broadcast media (e.g., like Uncle Sam and America or the Swastika and Nazism), then you are missing something unspeakably important,” writes Jordan Hall, channeling Marshall McLuhan. “For the Insurgency, what matters is not the symbol or the ideology; what matters is who produces symbols and ideologies and how they hold them.”
Hall captures what feels so fresh, and so terrifying to those invested in the old world order, about the dissident Right: they are speaking a different language, a language all their own. In his response to Michael Anton’s review of his book (Bronze Age Mindset, or BAM), BAP wrote that his style is designed to “promote precisely those virtues or tendencies of spirit that are most lacking in one’s own time, and even exaggerate them in the reader.”
This is a self-consciously and intentionally counter-cultural way of thinking and talking about the world. Those looking for a well-constructed political system in the more recherché corners of Twitter are therefore putting the cart before the proverbial horse. It’s like asking the founders to explain the 1789 Constitution before writing the Declaration. It’s all premature. There is a culture war raging, and its conclusion is far from over. We are at the beginning of the beginning.
Nature and the Bronze Age Man
It is typical to accuse the vitalist Right of engaging in some kind of regime heresy. But BAP, for one, clearly believes in some kind of nature. On page 193 of BAM, in what should be considered his chapter on founding, he states, “I believe in the right of nature.” His interest in nature and in how men should be perfected is, as Strauss noted, one of the chief concerns of Classical natural right. Unlike Nietzsche, who believes that only a superhuman man can will such things back into existence, BAP descends into the cave to encourage us to better ourselves.
If we are to believe the , Nietzsche himself could not escape the haunting of nature looming in his writings. Nietzsche’s difficulty in expelling nature does not mean that he was esoterically a modern version of the ancient political philosophers. He was famously keen to excoriate them, and so is BAP. But both are committed to realism, and realism includes a certain degree of acknowledgement that the natural world is structured in some ways and not in others.
BAP appeals to nature in that he does not promote hedonism, something to which classical natural right is also opposed. Amidst all the appeals to Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, BAP is closer to what might be called traditional morality. He once hilariously stated on his podcast in this regard: “before you even get to that level of talking about political organization or so-called political theory, you must make sure you have a society in the first place and not the jungle. If your daughter is a twerking single mom lezboid of some kind, maybe look into that first—the political or moral problems behind that—before you talk abstract constitutions.” There can be no simpler example of the Aristotelian principle that the form of government depends on the type of people you have.
BAP wants us to be a moral people of some kind—governed in liberty, not by Leviathan. His views on feminism, for example, are a reflection of the natural difference between men and women. The just society would recognize, and even celebrate, such distinctiveness. Additionally, his commentary on the role of the Church, and its corruption, makes no sense unless there was some concern for the original institution. In these examples and many others, BAP’s hyperbole that we want to be worshipped like gods is in contrast to his recognition we are an in-between being—that is, ensconced between brutes and God.
Natural right is the realization of justice in different times and in different places. But, right may mean different things at different times. And, right is not merely something legal. It also means something like right actions. That is, though nature is at all times unchangeable, how justice manifests itself can be different at different times and in different societies. What men do to live by Nature may at different times, and in different places, exhibit some variance. The guide to a healthy and happy people starts from the consideration of nature.
Knowing the best regime may not be saved, by believing in “the right of nature,” the vitalist Right is making an attempt to summon a sleeping spirit in man, to revive thumos. Again, that revival—not some systematic political philosophy—is the point.
The new Right aims for something higher or more noble than exists in our present-day political life. They want us to celebrate our human nature in all its greatness while being mindful of its fallibility. What has caused so many young men to congregate in online space? They can see that the present regime as it functions in reality is coming to take away their natural vitality—that, to a horrifying degree, it has already managed to do so. On its face, this is unjust, and represents a war against nature itself. The consequence of this war on human nature has made new communities possible to protect that which is central to human happiness.
There is more to life than having a healthy body: there is happiness. The leaders of the vitalist Right encourage their readers to be courageous and brave—virtues which make all other things possible.
Leo Strauss articulates it this way: the statesman has more satisfaction in doing good than in talking about the good. This is what Churchill reflected upon when he was offered the position of prime minister: “facts are more pleasant than dreams.” Our political future depends on good men doing the great things of statesmen.
Something approaching a pivotal moment in the regime is upon us. The Left has damned the Constitution and the founding to their cultish ideology of despotism coupled with unrestrained personal libertinism approved by their god, the State. If a new regime is in the offing, we will need politically spirited men.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.