In September 2015 I commented on the increasing political polarization of Europe, and the extent to which any middle ground was increasingly excluded. A longish auto-quote:
… [T]he entire continuum of political opinion on the question of immigration and and of the ethnic and religious composition of European nations has now been reduced, editorially, to a binary, Manichaean choice: either you signal, proudly and loudly, that you believe these questions should be of no importance to any right-thinking person, or you are, not to put too fine a point on it, a Nazi.
It needn’t have come to this. Had Europe followed a less aggressively xenophilic and oikophobic immigration policy over the past several decades — even along the same lines, but tempered by sensible and cautious moderation — moral virtue might still have been signaled at acceptable levels by the ethnomasochistic and culturally self-abnegating Left, while reactionary elements would have had nothing much to feed on. But the accelerating displacement of European ethnies by Muslim migrants had already got to the point where even ordinary people had started to have misgivings, and nativism had already begun to exert a gathering political influence throughout the Continent — and so this latest wave of “refugees” falls upon a European polity already awakened to its existential peril, and concerned enough to react.
The Cathedral, correctly sensing the threat to its hegemony, responded in precisely the way we should expect a secularized Protestant cryptotheocracy to behave:
Naturally, this reaction now provokes a counter-reaction by those in charge, using what has been their weapon of choice since the dawn of the Puritan era: public shaming (supported, in modern Europe, by whatever thoughtcrime and “hate-speech” statutes they can bring to bear). But shaming is only effective when the offender feels himself to be one against many; it is most effective of all when the would-be heretic has so internalized the social Panopticon that his heresy is snuffed out before it even rises to the level of speech. All it takes for the system to collapse, though, is for enough people to say what multitudes of others are thinking (and, in many cases, have been thinking for years), and that is exactly what is happening now in Europe.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and so we see what would, in earlier times, have been an appeal to God. The impulse to invoke the transcendent remains intact, however, and so the clerisy reaches for the through-the-looking-glass version of supernatural Good that serves the purpose nowadays: worldly but equally infinite Evil.
As this tension reaches a crisis, we should naturally expect the shaming-weapon, in desperation, to be switched from “Stun” to “Kill” — and so dissent is now made equal to Nazism, or infinite evil. (Hitler occupies an interesting position in the West’s modern, secular religion: there is no longer any God or Christ to represent infinite Good, but in a roundabout, apophatic way we can still have our sense of the transcendent by using the infinitely evil Hitler as something resembling Christ’s antiparticle.)
Heresy is still heresy, same as it ever was. All that has changed is that before religion went undercover, the heretic was accused of rejecting God — while now, with God out of the picture, the heretic’s crime is now orientation toward the opposite pole: the tangible and worldly Hitler, a Satan for our times.
Adolf Hitler did very bad things, on the grandest possible scale. (The Nazis wiped out, for example, most of my mother-in-law’s family.) He clearly deserves prominent inclusion in any anti-pantheon (“pandemonium”?). But history is chockablock with extremely bad actors — a couple of whom were even Hitler’s contemporaries, and killed, just as mercilessly, even more millions of people. So why was it, then, when the puff of white smoke appeared in the Cathedral’s chimney, was it Hitler, and not, say, Stalin (who was by any measure every bit as malignant and murderous as Hitler) who emerged as the new antipontiff?
It’s a fair question, I think, and an interesting one, and I believe I could go a long way toward answering it (though I won’t do so here). Just to cross one thing off the list, though: to say that Hitler’s crimes were the worst of all because they were racist puts the cart before the horse: the elevation of European identitarianism to the direst of available sins is a postwar reaction to Hitler’s crimes. Hitler isn’t the postwar era’s secular Antichrist because he was racist. Racism, rather, is now the darkest of possible sins because it’s what Hitler did.
(If you think I’m wrong about this, go and read some mainstream prewar Progressive literature. You might start with Lothrop Stoddard’s The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under Man. Or you might try this one: The Rising Tide of Color Against White-World Supremacy.
If you’ve never heard of these books, and you’re a relatively normal, well-educated Westerner of the 21st century, you probably can’t even read these titles without a shudder of aversion — and yet Lothrop Stoddard was no extremist: he was a highly regarded public intellectual of his day, a respected, forward-thinking Progressive. His books were popular and highly influential. If NPR had been around in the 1920’s, he’d have been a regular. As far as the evolution of mainstream opinion is concerned, to get from that era of Progressivism to what it is today is a change on a par with the Cretaceous extinction — and yet it’s within living memory.)
So: as very, very bad as he surely was, the question remains: exactly how, given the tremendously stiff competition, did Hitler edge out all the others, and become the one and only Anti-God, the apex of transcendent evil? If you were born after World War Two, you probably haven’t asked yourself this question. No need — it’s something you just know. More than that, it’s a question you aren’t supposed to ask. (If you think I’m wrong about that, well, next time you’re at a party, try asking it. Or ask yourself this, readers: don’t you already feel that I’m getting a little “outside the pale” myself, right now? I’m feeling it too, enough to want to make clear that I’m not — hey, seriously! — a Nazi. That’s how potent, how fraught with religiosity, this is. In the old days, when they they encountered heresy, people worried about the fate of their immortal souls. Are you worried now, just a bit, about my soul?)
Well, asking this question is exactly what Mencius Moldbug did, in Part 1 of his essay An open letter to open-minded progressives. He understood that asking the question would bring out implicit assumptions, and internal inconsistencies, that might help us to understand the operating-system the Western world runs on nowadays. So he asked it: “What’s so bad about the Nazis?”
The framing is provocatively blunt. But if you read on, the question is a serious one: what was it about the Nazis that makes us see them as uniquely evil, given that others, such as Stalin, were arguably even more monstrous?
But to read on, after an opener like that, would be to flirt with the darkest of heresies. A quarantine is needed. And so we have, for example, this article in MacLean’s, entitled Steve Bannon’s Dangerous Reading List. We read:
Those who have tried to draw a line from Bannon to Curtis Yarvin, the computer programmer who blogs under the name Mencius Moldbug (Yarvin denies any links), have focused on a 2008 post in which the self-described neo-reactionary asks “What’s so bad about the Nazis?” aside, that is, from that Holocaust thing.
Bannon’s critics are attempting, of course, to firmly situate him on the wrong side of a very bright red line, with Moldbug’s comment itself dismissed as an instance of a favourite alt-right tactic—uttering provocations simply so the speaker can be amused by the outraged reactions.
But there is an actual link in thought, if not in person, here between Bannon’s interest in traditional and authoritarian ethno-nationalism and the alt-right’s admiring reappraisal of pre-genocide Nazis.
In other words: Get thee behind me, Satan! The analysis really goes no deeper than that, I’m afraid. Regarding the MacLean’s article itself, a little meta-analysis is possible, though:
Progressives are fond of quoting Martin Luther King’s remark about the “moral arc of the Universe”. If the moral universe really is the sort of reference-framework that admits of curvature, then Nazism, in postwar moral astrophysics, is a place where it bends itself right out of existence: a singularity. If Dr. King was a shining star in this moral firmament, then Adolf Hitler is Cygnus X-1. A merciful Nature, itself abhorring such a negative moral infinity, modestly shrouds it with an “event horizon” (at a distance with a fittingly German name: the Schwarzschild radius). For the protection of your soul, you can’t even look at the singularity itself: anything that gets too close is swallowed up by mere proximity to such evil, and vanishes forever.
And so: what to do about that Steve Bannon? Properly understood, the article says this:
“He is obviously already within the gravity well of the Hitlerian Singularity, and getting tantalizingly close to the event horizon.
All it should take is a little push…”
A perfect plan! — until you remember that business about parallel universes.