It’s not personal, it’s business

When drafting the beginning of the previous entry, I wrote, then regretfully deleted because didn’t fit in the context, this:

I haven’t read the WWWW thread because (1) I can’t believe that once again I have become a personal object of attack and controversy, and (2) I don’t want to get more deeply involved in that controversy, which would inevitably involve my defending myself from attacks, and thus stirring up the controversy further. I would have thought that by now people would be thoroughly sick of the subject of me and my objectionable personality

However, on second thought, I realize that that’s not what the Burton-led attack on me at WWWW is about. For once, here is a controversy that cannot even wrongheadedly be dismissed as “Auster getting into another personal squabble.” This is about certain “conservatives” attacking me and seeking to discredit me because for years I have been telling deeply unpleasant and unsettling truths about some of their favorite “conservative” icons.

- end of initial entry -

Mencius Moldbug writes:

Oh, it’s business all right. I have a simpler explanation: you raise donations from readers. They either work, have worked, or might vaguely like to work, for intellectual institutions that are afraid of the powers that be. You are content with the distribution you have; they would like to ascend on the democratic pole.

Or more charitably, they would like to be part of a real movement, whereas you are more concerned with speaking the truth. They are concerned with speaking the truth as well, of course, but they are willing to make what they consider small omissions and compromises in the name of the greater good.

So it’s like the difference between an indie-label artist and a major-label artist. You’re free to talk about “black savages” and they’re not, and deep down inside they’re always going to hate you for that, for it is a privilege you have and they don’t. Your sensitive moral antennae are picking up this hate and condescension—which is almost unavoidable for s person in the position I describe, certainly not a morally compromised one, but a hard position nonetheless—and radiating it back.

You’ll note that in the music industry, the future does not belong to the major labels.

LA replies:

But you’re applying the same kind of “status” argument that Steve Sailer would use. You’re saying that certain conservatives have a sort of jealousy of me because of my putatively higher “status” as a person who can speak my mind because I’m outside the system, and that’s why they attack me. You are, in other words, seeing them as entities determined by (presumably evolutionary) competitive drives, so that what they think are their motive (indignation at my bad behavior) is not really their motive.

I see it very differently. I think Burton admires people like Steyn and P. Hitchens, and he believes conservatives are all or ought to be all in the same boat, and so he cannot conceive of a legitimate reason why one conservative would relentlessly criticize another. As a result, my criticisms of Steyn make no sense to him and he concludes they are driven by a perverse, nasty need for status, not by my reason and my perception of what is true.

In my view, unless there are persuasive reasons to think otherwise (and there often are, don’t get me wrong), we ought to take at face value people’s statements of why they believe what they believe. But material reductionists such as yourself (and with your embrace of Dawkins’s meme theory you surely are one) refuse to do that. And yet, as I pointed out in another entry, notwithstanding your view that Burton is acting on the basis of jealousy and resentment, i.e., on the basis of unconscious status drives determined by delusional parasitic memes, you make a huge exception for me, you somehow believe that I am motivated by idealism and a belief in truth.

What I am suggesting is that you ought to give to Burton the same fundamental respect that you give to me, of treating him as a person motivated by a belief in truth—which, unfortunately, is in his case distorted (as all true things can be distorted) by negative factors, namely: (1) his narrow, orthodox concept of conservatism, which prevents him from grasping the large differences between, say, Steyn and me; and (2) his evident inability to understand my arguments about Steyn and the others. And this distorted but sincere mental process leads him to (3) his nasty theory of me, that the only thing that can explain my criticisms of Steyn is that I am a person driven by unappeasable egotism to attack the people who most agree with me; the more they agree with me, the more I attack them. Meaning that all my careful analysis of Steyn and the others is so much trash. Ironically, then, Burton is applying to me the same kind of reductive analysis that you are applying to him.

In conclusion, I look at Burton in a moral framework: I see him as a being constructed for rational, moral life who in this case has gone astray and can be criticized for it.

You see Burton as a machine controlled by status drives and jealousy, and therefore his actions are morally meaningless.

Mencius writes:

We are rapidly degenerating into philosophy, but yes—surely your way of seeing the issue is as valid as mine. I just feel it’s possible to do both—you can take beliefs at face value, and try to explain where they come from. Certainly my beliefs are inseparable from my personal experience and interests, and yet I also happen to believe them.

So, for example, like you I have no desire to be part of the conservative movement, so it is easy for me to sympathize more with your independent and uncompromising stance. On this point I understand where you’re coming from viscerally, whereas to understand where Burton is coming from requires a small act of sympathy—which could be taken as either condescending or dehumanizing, but which I don’t intend that way. If life had taken me to a point where I did want to be part of the conservative movement, I assume that I would understand Burton viscerally and have to work to appreciate your point of view.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 15, 2009 01:11 PM | Send

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