Praise which cancels itself out

(Please note: After the entry was posted, Mencius graciously apologized for his comment and changed the description of me at his website. The discussion then shifted into the general problem of how liberals describe Christians and how Darwinians describe non-Darwinians.)

From: James P.
Subject: Mencius

See this in his latest post?

Larry Auster, probably the most imaginative and interesting right-wing writer on the planet, who also happens to be a converted fundamentalist Christian and a total loon (no offense to the remarkable bird) on many or even most subjects, has a good term for this: the unprincipled exception. Briefly, an unprincipled exception is a policy that violates some absolute principle of ethics held by the policymaker, but is not openly acknowledged as such a violation.

LA replies:

I started to write this to you:

I love it when people, prior to praising me, first have to smear me as a crazy sicko.

But then I noticed that you said this is from Mencius Moldbug’s site.

Did Mencius say such an insulting thing about me? After he’s posted many times at VFR and had long exchanges with me and been treated respectfully by me? Then the heck with him.

You haven’t given me the link to this, so please send.

James P. replies:

It’s in this—as you know, his posts are long.

Could be a jocular reference to your post today (“Sorry about the insult to loons, which are remarkable birds, “)

LA replies:

Calling me “a total loon … on many or even most subjects” is not jocular.

And he shows himself to be so intellectually confused as to be dismissible. How can a writer be “the most imaginative and interesting right-wing writer on the planet,” and at the same time be a “total loon on most subjects”? Only a nihilist would say something like this, a person who thinks that a writer’s being interesting has nothing to do with the validity of what he is saying, because, after all, there is no truth, there are just opinions, and we sophisticated nihilists enjoy savoring interesting and imaginative opinions, even loony opinions, the loonier the better.

Thus he’s invalidated his compliment to me on two levels, first, deliberately, by combining the compliment with the statement that I’m an irrational nut; second, inadvertently, by showing himself to be so unsound that nothing he says is worth attending to.

James P. replies:

Well, he is burning a lot of mental oil describing an “ideal” system of government (“neocameralism”) that will never, never be implemented in the real world in a million years, so the question of just who is “imaginative and interesting but a total loon” remains open in my view.

Mencius Moldbug writes:


I must apologize for calling you a “total loon.” My intent was indeed jocular—I certainly don’t get offended when people call me a “total loon.” It was also intended to signal to the notional reader of the series, the imaginary “open-minded progressive,” that VFR is not a site designed to cater to him, and that the link is not intended to endorse your views on the specific views for which he has been taught to hate you and your kind, such as your opposition to Darwinism and homosexuality.

I especially need to apologize for “many, even most,” which is simply a slip of the brain, or perhaps even a moment of crypto-liberal cowardice. I disagree with many of your opinions. But I agree with most of them.

I took the liberty of editing my post to read:

Larry Auster, probably the most imaginative and interesting right-wing writer on the planet, who also happens to be a converted fundamentalist Christian with all the theopolitical baggage that you, dear open-minded progressive, would expect from such a person,

I hope you’ll agree that this is fair.


LA replies:


Thank you very much for the correction. I’ll post this.

But now I am in the embarrassing position of having received an extravagant compliment that was not instantly canceled out; so to that, I’ll just say thank you.

P.S. One other correction: I am not a “fundamentalist Christian,” and I don’t know where you would have gotten that idea, unless you are under the impression that anyone who professes belief in Jesus Christ is a “fundamentist” Christian, in which case all Christians are fundamentalist Christians.

I was baptized in an Episcopal church, more precisely an Anglo-Catholic church, the high-liturgical, traditionalist wing of Anglicanism, which uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

Larry Auster

Mencius replies:

Thanks for your generous acceptance. I really did mean the compliment. Apart from Steve Sailer, who is not really in the business of propounding a general-purpose worldview, you are pretty much the only paleoconservative I find worth listening to these days. Okay, maybe Paul Gottfried, but he has spent too much time with the Taki’s and LRC crowd. (It is really shocking how liberalism has crept back in through the antiwar gateway.) And moreover, you always, always, always think for yourself. I am so done with these armies of parrots.

“Fundamentalist” is unfortunately the only term that is meaningful to liberals (who, as I’ve argued elsewhere, are fanatical Christians themselves and don’t know it—specifically, if you compare liberalism to Quakerism, you get an almost perfect match). I believe you prefer “traditionalist” and I prefer it as well, but to the NPR listener it means little.

LA replies

Thanks again, that’s very kind of you.

You write:

“Fundamentalist” is unfortunately the only term that is meaningful to liberals.

That is funny, but that is where it’s at now, isn’t it? Liberals only describe conservative or Christians in loaded, tendentious terms, never in accurate terms that lend themselves to rational discussion.

In exactly the same way, the only term for critics of Darwinism that is meaningful to Darwinists is the tendentious and inaccurate label, “creationist.” I was pretty astounded when Ian Jobling at Inverted World attacked me as a creationist. A creationist is someone who bases his view of evolution on the Bible. Now I believe in God, and I believe the Bible is a revelation of God, but I’ve never based my thinking about Darwinism and evolution on the Biblical account of the creation. My original influences in this area many years ago, apart from reading Darwin, and thinking, and a general theistic or “spiritual” world view, were: Arthur Koestler (Janus), Francis Hitching (The Neck of the Giraffe), and Norman Macbeth (Darwin Retried). These are all writers who examined the inherent flaws of Darwinism, they were not pushing religion in any way. Also, I literally never read anything by creationists until very recently, when someone sent me Marvin Lubenow’s Bones of Contention, and I followed that up by reading a bit at a creationist website. I think young earth creationism is crackpottery. (The killer was the creationist website’s frank admission of the problem they have explaining how, if the universe is 10,000 years old, we’re receiving light from stars millions of light years away.)

Yet Jobling called me a creationist. Why? Because if you don’t believe in Darwin, and you believe in God, you’re a creationist.

Thus we see the takeover of thinking by ideology, leaving liberals and Darwinists, including even a right-wing Darwinist like Jobling, unable and unwilling even to formulate accurate descriptions of their opponents’ positions.

LA continues:

And what do I mean here by ideology? An ideology is a view of reality that states that it is the only possible true view of reality and that everything outside itself is irrational or evil. Thus President Bush, as an ideologist of universal democracy, thinks that people who resist his view are (if they are Muslims) extremists, terrorists, and “dead-enders,” or (if they are Westerners), “racist” and “condescending.” He cannot conceive that Islam is an actual belief system that has its own integrity apart from democratism; and he cannot conceive that any American who opposes democratism is rational and acting in good faith. Similarly, liberals think that anyone who opposes (say) homosexual marriage is acting from mean, vicious, insincere, “divisive” motives; the liberals cannot cannot allow that people may have rational, good faith reasons for opposing homosexual marriage. Similarly, ideologists of scientism believe that all people who say or infer or remotely imply or leave open the slightest hint of a possiblilty that matter is not the only reality are crazed, mentally defective followers of the rankest superstition.

The appropriation of all light and truth to the ideology, and the consignment of everything outside of or opposed to the ideology to a realm of darkness and evil, seem to be general characteristics of ideology.

Mencius replies:

You’re certainly right about “fundamentalist.” I should probably stick to my guns and say “traditionalist.” I don’t like pejorative or congratulatory nicknames, for friend or foe. But every position should have a name—would you be willing to call yourself an “anti-Darwinist?” That certainly sounds neutral to me? [LA replies: “Anti-Darwinist” is an accurate, neutral description of my position.]

BTW, the terms “fundamentalist” and “progressive” would be recognized instantly as opposite labels in the intra-Protestant religious disputes of the early 20th century. Ever read RJ Rushdoony’s The Millennial Nature of American Education? Fascinating bits of history which have gone down the memory hole.

LA continues:
In reply to another e-mail by Mencius which I haven’t posted, I want to qualify that of course “ideology” has two distinct meanings. One is in the neighborhood of what I described above—a theoretical and practical formula for the transformation of society, such as Nazism, Communism, liberalism, democratism, and so on. But ideology also has the more ordinary meaning of any set of beliefs. In the first meaning of ideology, conservatism is not considered by conservatives to be an ideology. But in the second sense of the word, the varieties of conservatism are ideologies just like any other belief systems.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 29, 2008 02:13 PM | Send

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