The Pot-O-Gold - Edition #1
The week's most titillating thinking from across the internet + essential commentary & snark.
I’m going wild this week, mixing it up, letting ‘er rip, curating.
I’ll give you the finest magpie treatment, swooping in with only the most exquisite, beak-selected sparkling nuggets for your reading enjoyment.
I very much liked this Tablet article by Alana Newhouse: Everything is Broken
It works with my apocalyptic sensibilities and has that sweet combination of unselfconscious post-left & post-liberal & post-whatever-the-hell-this-is that makes me hopeful that more people are clued in about the all-singing, all-dancing mirage of modernity. We’ve been running on empty for about half a century, and it shows.
Here are the juiciest parts:
The tech revolution was the match—one-upping the ’70s economy by demanding more efficiency and more speed and more boundarylessness, and demanding it everywhere. They introduced not only a host of inhuman wage-suppressing tactics, like replacing full-time employees with benefits with gig workers with lower wages and no benefits, but also a whole new aesthetic that has come to dominate every aspect of our lives—a set of principles that collectively might be thought of as flatness.
Flatness is the reason the three jobs with the most projected growth in your country all earn less than $27,000 a year, and it is also the reason that all the secondary institutions that once gave structure and meaning to hundreds of millions of American lives—jobs and unions but also local newspapers, churches, Rotary Clubs, main streets—have been decimated. And flatness is the mechanism by which, over the past decade and with increasing velocity over the last three years, a single ideologically driven cohort captured the entire interlocking infrastructure of American cultural and intellectual life. It is how the Long March went from a punchline to reality, as one institution after another fell and then entire sectors, like journalism, succumbed to control by narrow bands of sneering elitists who arrogated to themselves the license to judge and control the lives of their perceived inferiors.
Flatness broke everything.
This passage is a great synopsis of the aspirations of the current “revolutionary” moment:
Today’s revolution has been defined by a set of very specific values: boundarylessness; speed; universal accessibility; an allergy to hierarchy, so much so that the weighting or preferring of some voices or products over others is seen as illegitimate; seeing one’s own words and face reflected back as part of a larger current; a commitment to gratification at the push of a button; equality of access to commodified experiences as the right of every human being on Earth; the idea that all choices can and should be made instantaneously, and that the choices made by the majority in a given moment, on a given platform represent a larger democratic choice, which is therefore both true and good—until the next moment, on the next platform.
I increasingly believe that a lot of politics is emergent and forms a feedback loop with the substrate of our lives, both the social & technological. We live an increasingly atomized, alienated, and “flattened” reality that requires the social lubricant of a never-ending fight for homogeneity. There is nothing else you’re allowed to fight for other than for everybody having access to the same quality pod. It gets your juices flowing, and it’s state-sanctioned, let ‘er rip.
Most consumers don’t know that by using internet-based (or -generated) platforms—by buying from Amazon, by staying in an Airbnb, by ordering on Grubhub, by friending people on Facebook—that they are subscribing to a life of flatness, one that can lead directly into certain politics. But they are. Seduced by convenience, we end up paying for the flattening of our own lives. It is not an accident that progressive ideas spread faster on the internet. The internet is a car that runs on flatness; progressive politics—unlike either conservatism or liberalism—are flatness.
The end is a call to adventure, a call to rebuild, to create art, to make our own institutions - I agree wholeheartedly.
The next piece I want to recommend, and is one that has driven a bit of a wedge in the DISCOURSE is Big tech has no power at all, one of the approximately 138 articles that Curtis Yarvin wrote this week.
I side with Yarvin on this one, mostly because I’ve seen the machinations of emergent power from inside a few of these machines while they were on.
We are terrible at seeing power. Or in other words: power is great at not being seen. Because power is a human universal, all thinking is within the field of some power. Thoughts that go along with the field are obvious and soar up instantly like birds. Thoughts that flow against the field are as slow and impossible as arthritic turtles.
The main pushback to this article was that it’s ridiculous to say that Mark Zuckerberg has no power, and Yarvin says it, therefore, he’s ridiculous. But Yarvin isn’t referring to professional power, in which admittedly, Zuck is a behemoth and we are fleas. He splits Zuck’s power between accountability (arguably the skin in the game of power, mostly downside) and prestige (the status game, arbitrated by the press).
You wouldn’t say that his minions have power. Not that they identify themselves—but no one blames their Facebook ban on the moderators. The power that banned you is not their power; they operate under the dominion of Zuck, the absolute monarch of Facebook. Power is always the ultimate cause of action.
So what is the cause of Zuck’s action? It must be him. He’s the boss, isn’t he? Well… there is no power over him. There is no one who gives the mighty Zuck commands.
There are two kinds of oligarchical power: formal power, which is decided by process, and informal power, which is decided by prestige. The two formal processes to which the CEO of a company is accountable are the board of directors and the courts.
Zuck’s magic shares give him control over his own board—not much accountability there—but he can no more flout a court order than some homeless guy under a bridge. Actually the homeless guy stands a better chance.
As for the informal power of prestige—well, of course, the answer is obvious, isn’t it? How did it take this many words to understand what’s going on?
I recommend reading the whole thing, it’s in the layered, sequential Moldbuggian style, and I believe makes a necessary point about emergent power at this stage of our post-great-man-of-history age.
This Week’s DISCOURSE
One of my favorite things this week was this.
Many things going on here, very contentious. Essentially it’s “Comparatively young-ish woman is startled by explicit age preference from an unabashed older Matt.”
This is one of those parallax view things that typically make you instantly pick a side. But it opens up some really thorny issues about dating - “what are this gentleman’s intentions?”, age - “what are this lady’s intentions?” and the fact that yes, women approaching 30 (and even more so, beyond) are a particular case. SCW says it well:
Another thing that gripped my attention this week is the continuing conversation on Pornhub and the wild west of porn in general.
After my conversion from gentle live and let live libertarianism to my current “Oh, hell no” paleocon energy, I began to notice the ravages of ubiquitous, commoditized, and completely lawless porn everywhere - both on the producers & consumers. Call me a prude (yep, please do - or whorephobe, a personal favorite) I don’t think universally accessible supernormal stimuli for your most base drives are a social good. A world where Timmy stumbles onto footage of mommy dp may not be the kind of society we want, just a thought.
Aimee is back and as skewery as ever. She’s a feisty Aussie battle wench and she sure brings the pain to “her side”. I wouldn’t want to be on the left with her around, so, dodged a bullet there.
And there’s also me going off on my usual shtick of people being sold their own lives in more and more baroque iterations, for a cut. I, too, am the DISCOURSE.
In matters audio/video, there's a new episode of the Subversive Podcast out this week and it features my friend and recently unpersoned Twitter great, Indian Bronson. You can find the audio here.
We talk about the dying gasps of the Republican Party, Voice vs. Exit, his work facilitating remote work and other exit opportunities, and the state of love & dating in the era of hyper-liberalism. IB is both extremely eloquent and dark-redpilled on the practical matters of navigating life, so definitely worth a listen.
You can also find the next episode, featuring Geoff Shullenberger - on Postmodernism and the politics of Covid - on my Patreon. I’m releasing all future episodes one week early there, so if you’re in the market for world premieres of conversations with the world’s most savory thinkers, could be a good cause to contribute to.