Northern Reaction: The Dead-Tree Version

Those of use who’ve been around the Right for very long are well aware of that there is no shortage of blogs out there. Social Matter’s weekly reviews link to hours worth of reading material, and that just covers Neoreaction and its immediate neighbours; if you venture into the Alt Right, and especially if you include the Alt Lite, you’ll never have time for anything else if you try to keep up with everything. A lot of that material is valuable for several reasons, but unfortunately, the web logging format has some limitations. Though it works for occasional commentary or introductions to larger topics, there’s just not room to go into depth in any one subject, at least not comfortably. So, speaking for myself, the blogging format has grown rather stale. I’ll still occasionally find a new writer with some worthwhile archives, but at this point I only follow a handful of them and Social Matter’s weekly round-up.

Rather than continuing to multiply blog posts, one way forward for the Right would be to work in longer formats. A handful of people have attempted this already. Mencius Moldbug’s long series of essays are book-length and have been collected into e-books; I talked about Michael Anissimov’s A Critique of Democracy when it came out last year; beyond that, though, excluding the Alt Lite, I’m struggling to think of anything that’s currently available (note: if I’m missing anything, feel free to let me know either via Twitter or the comments section). We can, however, add one more item to that short list thanks to Bill Marchant’s Northern Reaction, recently published at the end of January. As Marchant explains, the bulk of the book collects articles from his blog, also called Northern Reaction, with a handful of additional bonus material. He’s generously offering e-book versions for free, and the physical copy is sold at cost ($5.22 at the time of writing). This sets up an easy “you get what you pay for” joke, but it is worth more than $0, and for that matter, also worth more than $5.22.

The book begins with a foreward by E. F. Silk and an introduction by the author, briefly explaining the need of a true Right in their home country of Canada, and setting out a couple of the author’s basic premises. The first of those is Hanlon’s Razor (“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”), which I think is overly generous to our ideological opponents. It’s true that many Liberals, even many political leaders, are either just conformists or don’t really know what they’re doing, but there’s a lot of genuine hostility coming from the Left. The other premise he sums up with a line from The Simpsons, “I may not know art but I know what I hate.” Marchant doesn’t offer many positive arguments, but focuses on criticising ideas and policies that don’t work. I’m far from the first to say that positive solutions are needed, but of course, a doctor can’t treat a patient until he has a good diagnosis, and we can’t start fixing social problems until we know what the cause of the problem is.

Marchant’s articles touch on a broad variety of topics, but one of the most interesting is his analysis of Canadian culture and different types of multiculturalism in Canada. The country has always been “multicultural” in that it has three different cultures co-existing, i.e., English, French, and Native. Drawing from Northrop Frye’s “Garrison Mentality,” Marchant argues that Canadians’ tolerance for each of these three groups stems from the country’s harsh winters, where it may well be necessary to rely on some member of your out-group to survive. That’s fine as far as it goes, because it’s limited to three cultures that came to share a common history with each other, essentially forming three components to a larger, more-or-less unified culture. This breaks down completely, however, when one introduces modern multiculturalism in allowing mass immigration from other nations that have nothing whatever in common with Canadian culture.

Though the book has some focus on Canada, most of the articles are broadly applicable. One theme he touches on a few times is the strategy of “No enemies to the Right, no friends to the Left.” In “Don’t Punch Right,” he says:

“Criticise anyone not exactly as right as me” is cuckservative logic and doesn’t work. “Don’t criticise anyone on the right” encourages a leftward shift as more and more “somewhat rightwing” people are accepted into what I will call the “mainstream Alt-Right” while noting the irony of that phrase. The only effective strategy, the one leftists have perfected is to not criticise anyone to the right of you. This pushes the Overton Window to the right.

Exactly so - our goal is to push the Overton Window Rightward, and one way to do that is to criticise people only for being insufficiently Rigthist. He uses Milo Yiannopoulos as an example, “So if you see someone criticise Milo because he’s gay or something, don’t defend Milo unless Milo is to the right of you and the criticism is coming from the left.” I wouldn’t consider Milo on the Right in any meaningful sense, but he is to the Right of many people in the mainstream on certain issues, so it’s important to criticise people like him for the right reasons - the Right reasons, we might say.

Though it’s very common for blogs to respond to recent controversies, the only one like that collected here is “Re-Packing the Invisible Backpack,” a response to the essay White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack by Peggy McIntosh. That’s fine because such topical articles tend not to age well, but this one is a worthwhile addition to the book because McIntosh’s arguments, such as they are, reflect common themes from the Left, and can be taken as a type as much as a specific set of claims on her part, so Marchant’s responses are valuable for that reason.

Northern Reaction isn’t all serious, though, and includes a few tongue-in-cheek articles like “Taking Rap Lyrics too Seriously.” These are welcome because Marchant also includes the pessimistic, but honestly realistic, “Inevitability,” on the near-impossibility of improving race relations in the United States.

My only criticism of the book is one that’s a bit unfair because it deals with what it could’ve been rather than what it is. This would’ve been an excellent opportunity to expand on many of these articles, and here-and-there Marchant even refers to planning to revisit some of these topics at some point. Well, it seems like this would’ve been his chance. Again, though, this criticism isn’t entirely fair, and doesn’t affect my recommendation.

So, if you’re a follower of the Northern Reaction blog you probably already know whether you’re interested in the book or not. If you’re new to it, though, then by all means get yourself a copy; whether you choose the e-book or the physical version, you’ll get much more than what you paid for.