The Stupid Objections to Reaction
One significant step on the road to Reaction for me, and in my experience many Reactionaries, is an attitude of intellectual humility. All of us were some variety of Liberal at some point, but in the face of new knowledge we began to suspect that we may be wrong about our Liberal view of the world, and began to investigate Right-wing ideas. With this in mind, I’m prepared to admit that my current positions may be wrong, and will freely admit that intelligent objections to Reactionary philosophy exist, and I am aware of difficulties that I’m not really sure how to answer.
Now, Rightward progress is often, though not always, a gradual process because the Right is so foreign to the contemporary mindset. Pre-Liberal writers, like Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, or St. Robert Bellarmine, can be challenging because they carry a completely different set of assumptions than those from the so-called Enlightenment onward, but their fundamentally anti-Liberal ideas can be written off to some extent because they wrote at a time before we’d “progressed” to Liberalism, and so it’s easy to take what accords to modern assumptions shake one’s head at the rest.
More difficult are those who directly challenge Liberalism. One can’t say that, for example, Joseph de Maistre, Julius Evola, or one of the various Reactionary bloggers just don’t know better. Typically, they’re just ignored, but those who try to engage with their work must first get over an initial bafflement at not treating liberty or equality as the highest goods, among other things. As a result, a Liberal’s initial objections to Reaction tend to be wide of the mark, attacking straw men or peripheral issues rather than the heart of an argument. This isn’t an indictment of the genuinely open-minded Liberal, of course, because again, we’ve all been there. My reservations about the Right when I was still a Libertarian were of this same mostly-irrelevant variety.
Now, though I cast no stones at the honest Liberal, there are a handful of objections to Reaction that stem not from good-natured disagreement, but from either malice or stupidity. I’ve collected the most common and pernicious ones here even though this is, I’ll admit, low-hanging fruit and may, therefore, only be of interest to a few people, in the hope that the genuinely open-minded of the Left can read them and move on to more substantial arguments, rather than wasting their time and everyone else’s rebutting misconceptions, lies, and stupidities. The key point here is that if you come across anyone making any of these arguments, you’re looking at someone who has not spent any appreciable amount of time around Reactionaries, has made no genuine attempt at understanding the Right, and can safely be ignored. If you yourself have made any of these arguments, well, don’t beat yourself up too much - these are fairly common and passed around on social media quite often. Just take this as a learning experience and take the opportunity to begin engaging with the Right in a meaningful way. Even if you aren’t convinced of the truth of Reaction, you’ll at least become a more able partisan for your side because you’ll be able to make significant, on-the-point arguments against us.
So, with that out of the way, let’s get on to the list, the stupid arguments against Reaction:
You All Think That You’ll be the New Nobles!
Variations of this objection are most often directed against monarchists, but since the Right in general favours hierarchy, it’s also commonly used when condemning pretty much any non-egalitarian. A mere moment’s thought reveals why this objection is so spectacularly moronic: the entire point of monarchism is to remove political power from everyone except the monarch. Reactionaries, being included in the class “everyone,” are thus also included in the class to be removed from political power. Those Reactionaries who aren’t monarchists, but prefer something like an aristocratic republic or “sovereign corporation,” like many Southern Reactionaries or Neoreactionaries, don’t want to disenfranchise quite everyone, but still most people which, naturally, would include themselves.
Polemicists who aren’t utter morons, but merely midwits, sometimes alter this objection to saying that we don’t envision ourselves as kings but as advisors to the kings. There may be a grain of truth to this in that we do hope that our ideas are taken seriously by a future sovereign, but if all we wanted was influence and status, then we could get it by going into the press, academia, or any number of Washington, D.C. think tanks. You know, the institutions that carry a great deal of influence now, and not theoretical institutions that may or may not have influence in a hypothetical future. Occasionally, this is pointed out and “rebutted” with a further accusation, that we’re incapable of entering these existing institutions due to incompetence or some personal failing, but this is an obvious attempt to side-step a substantive argument by resorting to personal insults.
I should note that I have not met every Reactionary, and so must admit that somewhere, there may be some delusional person who does believe this. However, I’ve been around the dissident Right for about seven years now, and I’ve never seen anyone express this attitude. The accusation is meant as a generalisation, and as a generalisation it’s completely, stupidly, wrong. The rare crank does not make the generalisation correct.
You’re so Hateful (or Fearful)!
This accusation carries weight if and only if the accuser is a psychic. Otherwise, the only ones who know a man’s interior disposition are himself and God. Even coming from a psychic Liberal, though, this accusation is ultimately a distraction, because a man’s motivations do not affect whether his arguments are true. Most often, this accusation comes during discussions of issues related to sodomy or mass immigration (“homophobia,” “xenophobia,” etc.), and serve to avoid dealing with the Reactionary’s arguments of why these things are harmful.
Again, I have not met every Reactionary, and in this case, I actually will grant that there are a handful of cranks and genuinely bitter people on our side. I, and other serious Reactionaries I know, generally try to keep them at arm’s-length. However, the clear majority of people on the Right are not motivated by hate or fear at all, but quite the opposite. Many are family men concerned about their children’s future, or patriots who want what’s best for their people. At worst, they’re people who care more about the truth than what might hurt someone’s feelings.
This objection is closely related to the accusation that Reactionaries are frustrated young (or old) men, but this is plainly false and either an assumption or a projection. Many of the authors at The Orthosphere and Social Matter, for example, are married. That’s why I specifically mention “family men” above. Even those who aren’t yet married are often taking steps to rectify that and are concerned with self-improvement. Far from being pathetic, most Reactionaries I’ve met are healthy, intelligent, and socially well-adjusted.
It’s the Current Year!
All of us do, in fact, have access to a calendar, and are quite aware of what year it is. Funnily enough, this argument from novelty is very old. G. K. Chesterton addressed it in his book Orthodoxy, published in 1915:
An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays. You might as well say of a view of the cosmos that it was suitable to half-past three, but not suitable to half-past four. What a man can believe depends upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or the century. If a man believes in unalterable natural law, he cannot believe in any miracle in any age. If a man believes in a will behind law, he can believe in any miracle in any age. Suppose, for the sake of argument, we are concerned with a case of thaumaturgic healing. A materialist of the twelfth century could not believe it any more than a materialist of the twentieth century. But a Christian Scientist of the twentieth century can believe it as much as a Christian of the twelfth century. It is simply a matter of a man’s theory of things. Therefore in dealing with any historical answer, the point is not whether it was given in our time, but whether it was given in answer to our question. And the more I thought about when and how Christianity had come into the world, the more I felt that it had actually come to answer this question.
The main point here is that whether an idea is true has no necessary relationship to how new or old it is. Old ideas have stood the test of time, new ideas can build upon old ones. Each must be evaluated on its own merits, not upon reference to the date of its invention.
The Clock Can’t be Turned Back!
This is true. As far as I’m aware, no Reactionary possesses a flux capacitor, so we can’t go back in time. That’s blazingly obvious, and I’ve never seen a Reactionary propose it, so the idea must have originated on the Left. What one does hear from the Right is the idea that at some point in the past we took a wrong turn, or even more often, a series of wrong turns over a period of many years. Often someone will point a single event as particularly catastrophic, such as the First World War or the French Revolution, but it’s generally understood that even these disasters did not appear out of nowhere, but had causes going back much earlier.
Expressions of nostalgia are fairly common. We do love our oil paintings of past glories, and giving the occasional shout of “Deus vult!” on Twitter. This does, I’ll admit, drift into kitsch sometimes. However, joking around on social media is not an argument. If one takes the effort to engage with these people, they’ll tell you quite openly that there’s never been a golden age. No era has been perfect, or even very close to it, though some ages have been better than others, and setting aside technological comforts, many have been better than ours.
Of course, to get these full arguments, one can’t just look at a random meme and make assumptions and projections. One must engage with the other side.
First published on 11 May 2017.