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Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents (Rod Dreher)

A disease is going around. No, not the Wuhan Plague. This malady only affects the Right, and I name it Scrutonism. The symptoms of Scrutonism are a razor-sharp ability to identify one’s enemies and to understand their plans to destroy us, combined with a complete inability to imagine any way in which those enemies can be defeated. For a sufferer of this disease, his headspace is occupied by nostalgia and fear, in varying proportions—mostly the former in the late Roger Scruton’s case, mostly the latter in Rod Dreher’s case. Scrutonism’s harm is that it makes sufferers ignore the only question that matters for the Right today: what are you willing to do, given that your enemies are utterly committed to destroying you and yours?

I used to be a Dreher fanboy, until he lost the plot with the Wuhan Plague and, more generally, descended into constant unmanly maundering. I’m still a fan, however (to steal a line from Aaron Renn, though he was talking about Tim Keller, not Dreher). And Live Not by Lies has partially restored my opinion of Rod Dreher as a pillar of today’s Right. It is an outstanding book, tightly written and tightly focused. That does not mean it is complete, for reasons I will lay out today, but it is good for what it is—the sharp diagnosis of the ways, means, and ends of our enemies.

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The outline of the book is simple. Dreher shows how life in America (and more broadly much of the West, though America is his focus) is swiftly becoming indistinguishable from life under totalitarian Communism, in its essence, if not yet all its externals. The Left, now as then, will do anything to impose its evil will across all society. (This is obvious on its face and established in detail in many of my other writings, and also at enormous length on Dreher’s blog at The American Conservative.) The Left’s political vision is wholly illusory while at the same time utterly destructive. A necessary part of their plan, again now as then, is suppression of all dissent, especially religious dissent, through controlling all aspects of every citizen’s life. This plan is already largely implemented for many sectors of American society, although Dreher claims this is a “soft” totalitarianism, different in degree from the “hard” totalitarianism of Communism at its height.

He talks of Czesław Miłosz and the pill of Murti-Bing, of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, of Hanna Arendt. He deftly draws parallels between the rise of Communism in Europe and our present situation. He identifies the appeal of the Left, and of its totalitarian ideology. He talks of progressivism as religion and of the cult of social justice. He talks of woke capitalism and the surveillance state built by the Lords of Tech. He talks of the oppressive social credit system in China (under the funny heading, “The Mark of the East.”) These chapters are uniformly excellent and I strongly recommend them to anyone not already familiar with these truths. But my purpose here today is not to summarize what is happening now. Many others have summarized this book well. And to be clear, as with most of my book reviews, I am not actually reviewing Dreher’s book. Rather, I am delivering my own thoughts. If you don’t like that, well, you’re in the wrong place.

A crucial internal ambiguity pervades this entire book. Dreher’s frame is totalitarianism. He channels men and women who suffered under the most evil regimes the world has ever known. He paints a picture that offers gruesome tales of torture as a regular instrument of state control. The epigraph he uses, from Solzhenitsyn, says such evil “is possible everywhere on earth,” and Solzhenitsyn was not talking about a social credit system, but real torture and death. Yet Dreher disclaims, repeatedly, that this might happen here. Instead, he suggests a Huxley-ite future, or Murti-Bing, or Shoshana Zuboff-ite/PRC-type consumerist monitoring. At the same time, though, he talks about ever-growing state and, more, private corporate actions that are not yet physical torture, yet are meant as severe punishment, such as job loss and social ostracism. The reader is confused. What, precisely, is the future Dreher is predicting, and why? The question remains unanswered.

Dreher does, however, offer a type of solution. In the face of these poisonous headwinds he prescribes spiritually-centered private organizing, in essence his famous Benedict Option. “[The Christian dissident] needs to draw close to authentic spiritual leadership—clerical, lay, or both—and form small cells of fellow believers with whom [he] can pray, sing, study Scripture, and read other books important to their mission.” He must be prepared to suffer, because in the new dispensation, he will suffer, if he refuses to worship the new gods. Dreher, in short, recommends the “parallel polis,” with a strong religious component.

He has discussed this before. I have also discussed this before, more than once, and that it will not be allowed, because our enemies have learned from their earlier defeats, and as Dreher himself repeatedly says, they have vastly more powerful tools than their Communist forbears did. Thus, for example, he is correct that families are resistance cells—but our enemies see this too, which is why families will not be allowed to be resistance cells, but will be forcibly broken up if parents dare to instruct their children aright. No, the parallel polis will be of short duration, if indeed it can be set up at all, and the Benedict Option, without an armed wing, is dead on arrival.

Dreher does not offer any non-passive mechanism for success (but I will—just wait a few minutes). Dreher recommends Christian witness such as that of Václav Benda and his family. He recommends retaining cultural memory, and accepting suffering. But nothing succeeds like success. We know about the Bendas because Communism fell. And Communism fell both because of its internal contradictions and because it faced massive external pressure put on it by the West. Dreher is unclear as to what exactly he expects the future to bring to people of today situated like the Bendas. In essence, his argument seems to be that it ultimately worked out for dissidents under Communism, so it will, someday and in a manner yet to be shown, work for us. Maybe. Or maybe not. In other words, Dreher seems to think that the parallel polis is self-executing, as long as strong religious faith is kept.

Moreover, whether Dreher sees it or not, we are indeed heading to hard totalitarianism, not merely soft totalitarianism. To our enemies, justice delayed is justice denied. That inescapable inner logic, combined with Girardian scapegoating, means soft totalitarianism will never be enough for them. We already have soft totalitarianism, for any white collar worker, and anybody can see that the demands for compliance are accelerating, not slowing down. The reader sees no reason at all we’re not heading to “prison camps and the executioner’s bullet,” because Dreher doesn’t give one, while at the same time talking a great deal about the Gulag, the Rumanian torture camp at Pitesti, and so on, continually recurring to such history. Then he says “American culture is far more individualistic than Chinese culture, so that political resistance will almost certainly prevent Chinese-style hard totalitarianism from gaining a foothold here.” This is whistling past the graveyard—how has this supposed individualism slowed down our enemies even a whit? Soft totalitarianism may lie on the far side of hard totalitarianism (as it was with late Communism), but it will get worse long before it gets better. The reader gets the impression Dreher is pulling his punches, afraid of being seen as too extreme, too “out there,” in our controlled political discourse.

Hope is not a plan. Dreher should see that; he even quotes a Slovak dissident, “If they had come at us in the seventies, they might have succeeded. But we always remembered that the goal was to turn our small numbers into a number so big they could not stop us.” Dreher doesn’t acknowledge that getting those big numbers is crucial to success, along with a will to action (used in later Communism for mass demonstrations), and he has no plan for getting them. “Only in solidarity with others can we find the spiritual and communal strength to resist.” True enough—but what is “solidarity” here? Is it meeting in the catacombs to pray for a better day? Or meeting to plan action? Apparently only the former.

Yes, Dreher offers some legislative solutions. They make sense. But, as Bismarck said, politics is the art of the possible. He meant compromise is necessary, but if your enemies have all the power and no need to compromise to get everything they want, what is possible of what you want, is nothing. Nobody with actual power will even associate his name in public with Dreher’s legislative proposals, because they are cowards, and they refuse to be seen opposing globohomo. Political proposals in the current frame will not come to fruition; they will die like the seeds in the Parable of the Sower, either among the brambles, or fallen on rocky ground. Legislative proposals are not a mechanism for success.

Scrutonism, of which as you can see Dreher has a bad case, is a call to be a beautiful loser. But you can’t inspire anyone with a program that offers being a loser. People cowering under fire want a plan; they want a leader to point not only to what Christ would do, but how that will help them, and more importantly their children, come out the other side, cleansed and victorious. What Dreher offers instead is a call to martyrdom. This is theologically sound, but not politically. And unlike Communism, the modern Left, globohomo, faces no external pressure. This is a strategic question, of passivity versus aggression. When I think of 1453, I think not only of the priest, celebrating the Divine Liturgy as the Turks tore into the Hagia Sophia, turning to the eastern wall and walking into it, from whence it is said he will return when the Turks are expelled (which will hopefully be soon). I think also of Constantine XI Palaeologus, the last Emperor, cutting off his imperial ornaments and rushing out to die with the common soldiers. How about some of that?

Dreher talks very often of the Bolsheviks. He never mentions the Whites, who after all could easily have won, or other heroes who actually did defeat Communism, such as Francisco Franco or Augusto Pinochet. My point is not that we need to encourage violence, though I am not opposed in the least to violence in the right circumstances—quite the opposite. My point is that people need positive, active heroes, not just heroic sufferers. No man is an island, in the John Donne cliché, but that means that very few have the internal resources to passively suffer. They need inspiration about how the future will be better, both in this world and the next. Dreher does not offer it. He instead offers a variation on The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, a book I read (said to be second only in popularity to the Bible), and thought was depressingly passive and navel-gazing. People like me may go to the back of St. Peter’s line—or maybe not, since we did not take what we were given and bury it in the ground of personal introspection, but rather grew it.

So, if you do not have enough people or enough power at this moment to impose precisely your vision of the world, where do you start? You form alliances with those who have similar goals. Yet Dreher never talks about alliances, except briefly in connection with Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia. As Dreher mentions, most of Charter 77’s participants weren’t Christian, and some were radical Marxists. But he suggests no equivalent for the religious Right today, alliances with those with alien views who, together with us, oppose the totalitarianism of the Left. Why? Because he has been instructed that policing one’s rightward boundary is what he must do, before anything else. (There are no possible leftward alliances for us; what are sometimes called “good faith liberals” are merely willing dupes in the Left’s totalitarian agenda, and of no use in this fight.) This policing has, for many decades, been the original flaw of the Right, for which William F. Buckley bears most of the responsibility—hobbling ourselves by permitting our enemies to dictate with whom we may ally. Dreher may not even realize it, but his enemies have crippled him before he can leave the gate.

I’ll give Dreher a short break here, for this problem is not his alone, but general. A few months ago the generally excellent Sohrab Ahmari, who is much more aggressive than Dreher, was hyperventilating, on his own initiative, that VDARE (a racially-tinged anti-immigrant front in which John Derbyshire is prominent) was absolutely, unequivocally, beyond the pale and nobody at all should have any interaction with it. (He was complaining that Trump advisor Stephen Miller had shared VDARE links years ago while at Breitbart.) His support for this was, I kid you not, an article from the far-left Guardian newspaper, a British paper, extensively quoting the odious so-called Southern Poverty Law Center, a noted hate group. This shows that, still now, even the dissident Right of men such as Ahmari voluntarily debilitates itself by letting the Left set limits for it on what is acceptable discourse and what are acceptable alliances. This is no way to win. Utterly smashing the SPLC is the way to win. Does that mean I think we should ally with racists and the like? Yes. Yes, it does. Absolutely. Six days a week and twice on Sunday. We should ally with anyone who will help us win.

I resisted this obvious conclusion for a long time, but it’s true. Who then should be sought, now, not tomorrow, as allies? First, the neopagan Right, exemplified today by Bronze Age Pervert, a movement of great appeal to many young men, who are the backbone of any winning radical political movement. Second, the racialist right. The Left is explicitly and totally openly racist today, whipping up anti-white hatred everywhere, and it’s just dumb to pretend this isn’t obvious. They abandoned the colorblind ideal long ago, yet demand we pretend they are not racist to the core. Racism may be a sin (although it is no special sin, merely one of innumerable examples of the cardinal sin, pride, and far from the worst of those). But I’m happy to ally with all sorts of sinners, and so is every politically-minded Christian, if he is being honest. The violent. Those who dishonor their parents. Adulterers. Homosexuals. In fact, it may surprise you to know, I myself am a sinner! I may not want some sinners in my inner circle, or around my family and children, but in pursuit of common goals, worthwhile goals, why not link arms? We instinctively reject this obvious truth, because to cripple us, and gradually destroy us, the Left forbids it, and we, since the late, unlamented Buckley, have let them so dictate, to our destruction. No more, if we have any sense. The Titans must throw off the chains forged by their enemies, and that means working hand-in-glove with all the people the Right has traditionally excluded on ideological grounds.

Of course, neither the neopagan Right nor the racialist Right, nor other subcurrents on the right (integralists and anarcho-libertarians, for example) have any relevant power or influence today. The idea is not that allying with open racists will be the key to power (although it might well be in the future, if the Left continues fomenting racial hatred, and white people finally react defensively). It is that doing exactly what benefits us, and making decisions on that basis only, defangs the Left. We must ignore their demands that we spend enormous energy policing our rightward boundary, while they never, ever, for a single second, police their leftward boundary. I see no point in allying with clowns, men like Richard Spencer—because they are ineffective and incompetent, not because of their views. I have no interest in working to implement fantasies of ethnostates. But if the white nationalists or the anti-Semites want to work with me to destroy the Left, let’s go.

That doesn’t mean all alliances are simultaneously possible, or that they will be necessarily permanent. I think that black people and other ethnic minorities should overthrow the grifters whom they let speak for them, and I’d be happy to then ally with them to destroy the Left, if enough of them wanted to do so. Still, even if that were to happen, I doubt that a durable coalition of the general dissident Right (e.g., Ahmari), white nationalists, and based black people would be possible. Too much divergence in worldview would likely make such a coalition untenable except on narrow issues, or against powerful outside enemies. On the other hand, historically speaking, all tribal and ethnic groups had contempt for each other, as is human nature, yet managed not infrequently to work together—the Ottoman Empire is one such example. But they were not infected with modern ideologies. More broadly, I doubt if a modern country, with modern communications, can be successful at all if the people within it have too little in common; the United States tried, with the melting pot, but that was probably a special moment with special circumstances that can never be recaptured. Probably the future is a fractured United States with some degree of ethnic sorting, and within those new states, ongoing alliances of various types to ensure the Left never rises again.

But those are problems for Future Charles! Let me be positive for a moment. Unlike Dreher, I see a path to victory against the totalitarianism of the Left. First, in every Warsaw Bloc country, what sustained the Left in power was not the guns of the government, but the guns of the Soviet government. We don’t have that problem, and in fact we have guns ourselves, a lot of them. Unless we let them take the guns, we can only lose so much power, if we have the will to resist. Second, under Communism, it appeared that dissidents were only a tiny fraction of the population. This was a deliberate lie, and the same lie is told here. Globohomo only seems triumphant, because our enemies propagandize us, using their total control of modern media, that it is triumphant. I don’t think globohomo is like the German government in the times of Franz Jägerstätter, of whom Dreher often talks (an Austrian Catholic executed by the National Socialists, and the subject of a 2019 film by Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life). Jägerstätter faced something that actually was unstoppable—not only a strong and determined ideological government, but one supported by the vast majority of the population (as José Ortega y Gasset wrote, force follows public opinion), that was fighting an existential war, and run by Germans, not by low-IQ fat trannies with butch-cut green hair. I think our current ideological opponents appear strong, but are weaker than they appear, probably far weaker.

Third, regardless of power balance, unreality cannot continue forever. What ended Communism in Eastern Europe was not a wish for blue jeans, or liberal democracy, but a wish to return to ordered, Christian liberty. Because what the Left offers can never satisfy (most of all it cannot satisfy the young—they will not tolerate endless being fed porn in their pods), the wish for reality that satisfies will always rise again. Dreher quotes a Slovak dissident, “[This soft tyranny] will end. The truth has power to end every tyranny.” He notes that no dissident leaders under Communism, in the 1970s and 1980s, expected Communism to fall in their lifetimes, and they were completely wrong. Yes, hope is not a plan, but being on the side of reality is an asset.

What specific mechanism, then? Some, including Dreher in some moods, argue that we can go on as we are at this moment forever, that we will get semi-competent digital totalitarianism as far as the eye can see, offering Murti-Bing along with Ryszard Legutko’s coercion to freedom. This is false. Perhaps the most important truth to recognize is that our society is so very, very fragile, as the Wuhan Plague has exposed. Even Dreher seems to recognize that collapse is more than possible, it is probable. “It only takes a catalyst like war, economic depression, plague, or some other severe and prolonged crisis that brings the legitimacy of the liberal democratic system into question.” True, his conclusion is typically pessimistic: that the Left will use the crisis to end any freedoms remaining. That’s silly. We’re going to get, and we should welcome despite the likely hardship and cost to ourselves, a hard reset, which is coming whether we want it or not. Whatever it is (most likely economic collapse), a great many people will be very, very unhappy and desperate as a result. There lies opportunity, which we must seize. Yes, one possible short-term result is that our current rulers see their thrones of power shaken, and respond by assigning people like us the role of scapegoat. (Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World proceeds somewhat in this vein, though presumably we can ignore the eschaton for the current analysis.) This is where guns come in. The other possible short-term result is that those prepared to throw our rulers from their thrones, and bring about a new order of things, can use such a fracture to restore the world.

I am perfectly well aware that this sounds insane to those on the Left, who really believe that they are on the right side of inevitable history, and that I am spinning a lurid fantasy of doom followed by victory to comfort myself at their certain triumph, which they know, they just know, will bring the secular eschaton, any day now. But I have history on my side, not them; if one thing characterizes today’s left, other than evil, it is lack of historical knowledge. Someone is Pollyanna, but it is not me.

Naturally, given the likely future, we should be preparing. There is a great deal good with Dreher’s recommendations of spiritual preparation, and it dovetails well with the creation, now, of networks of those who will adopt a more aggressive, active, coordinated role upon the onset of a societal fracture. If those networks are not formed now, they will be difficult to form later, when the time comes. (If the time never comes, that is just the way it is, but that seems unlikely.) What those are, I don’t really know yet, though I have some inkling. What I do know is that, despite attempts at censorship, modern technology allows those potentially involved to find each other, and we should be doing that—in secret, at least in part, to blunt the inevitable attacks.

After the reset, what we’ll get is new politics. Dreher says, “As far as we can tell, there is no new political religion brewing in beer halls or coffeehouses.” He’s wrong there; whatever it will be already exists, although it is unlikely to be wholly new. It just lacks the right leaders and the right fertile ground, and those will arrive. I do worry, though, that even a reality-based, reborn, yet still rich, society will find fresh new ways to be stupid. I imagine a society that can be great, the High Middle Ages with rockets, but what is the evidence that, given human nature, that society can ever exist? Maybe human nature just won’t permit it; maybe people want comfort and vice, if they can afford it, not great things, and always will. But that is also a problem for Future Charles! Or, more likely, his great-grandchildren.

And when, after the fire, we have won? Dreher quotes dissidents who are very proud that Christians did not seek vengeance after the fall of Communism. That’s very nice of them. But what it ignores is that neither did they seek justice, the reification of which is often indistinguishable from vengeance, the difference lying only the in the heart of the punisher. This was a gross error. Once the Left is broken, and their nasty ideology permanently discredited, whatever the mechanism, meting out justice and ensuring that ideology never rises again are both essential. The best historical example of a process along those lines is post-World War II denazification, but not one cut short by new geopolitical reality as that one was, rather a permanent one. Yes, there will have to be rigorous punishments for some on the Left, just as there were at Nuremberg. Mostly, though, it will have to be permanent denial of civil rights, such as public political participation, or the ability to teach, and denial of the ability to cause trouble or influence others, such as forbidding all access to media and the internet. Is that itself a modest type of “soft totalitarianism”? Yup. Someone must rule; classical liberalism, where the ideas of John Stuart Mill underpin society, doesn’t work. Dreher, in another one of his confusions, calls for a return to classical liberalism, which he fails to see inevitably led to where we are today, and only ever tolerated men like him on sufferance. No thanks. I’m fine with doing to the Left, forever, what Dreher accurately complains they now do to us. If they don’t like it, they can find a new country. Let’s get on with it.

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  1. spotted eagle says

    The destruction of our institutions has not been gradual at all, and I think it shocked a lot of people when it happened. Special interests took them over and convinced vulnerable people that they deserved power even though they didn’t actually want it. There was no network of competence to push back against the mediocrity. The newly installed “leaders” of course failed, and in their confusion, they doubled down and blamed the few people who voiced their concerns about the corporate takeover. Since then, there has been a parallel track of academics who continued to innovate. They are more respectable in the public’s eye because they never compromised themselves with loyalty tests, and their research syncs up with top experts in other fields. Morality might have previously required them to dissociate from the institutions, but at this point, I think it is worth re-engaging. Universities, especially, have lost all credibility, so political leaders can safely flex any power they might have to get the right people in charge. I don’t know about the other groups you mention. It makes sense to take any vote you can get, but it also makes sense to disavow groups that would dissuade other groups from voting for you. I agree with the socialistic measures to constrain individual freedom. The ability of individuals to self-govern seems like the end result if a society is run well. You can’t get there by snapping your fingers and skipping the discipline, which is necessary to guide us toward it.

  2. Most formal political power is already under the turgid control of the right (more-or-less stable hegemony of state governments, much of the judiciary at its higher levels, and the federal government for most of the years since the end of the Cold War). The left’s informal power comes through tending their sacred fires high in the hills of cultural hegemony. Economic power may be controlled by individuals in sympathy with the left social project, but they hold their own counsel when it comes to how this power is used. These modern elites’ pathologically antisocial goals have been both corrosive and idiosyncratic whenever their desires are translated into political or social power.

    If the right has already captured formal political institutions without winning fights of consequence on social issues, then either the decisionmakers on the right are squandering their formal power and need reconfiguration, or the institutions of formal politics as they’re set up are insufficient for the task. If it’s the latter, then our institutions need massive overhaul in a heretofore unspecified way, or formal politics as a category aren’t suitable vehicles for the task of achieving the goals of the social right. Any social problem that could have been solved with another round of free trade agreements, tax cuts, and Rube Goldberg deregulation schemes would have already been solved. If anything, these appear to be part of the problem.

    The right wing needs to convert formal political power into social currency, or create cultural institutions which can directly create social currency, if they want to fix any social problems instead of just kvetching about them. Outside of religion, no institution has been successful at generating said cultural currency for the right — not the fedora-wearing libertarian dweebs, not the sweaty Breitbart acolytes, not the MAGA crowd. There is other no viable political model on offer which is worth instantiating, given that none propose to change the current admixture of political, social, and economic power – a fact especially well-demonstrated by the complete lack of results provided by alt-right politics of recent vintage. Unless I’ve missed some stirring examples of regimes bucking global trends, Rod’s is the only political praxis on offer oriented towards a structural solution. The rest are just protest politics in drag, and haven’t even come close to understanding that increases in formal politics are essentially pointless when it comes to items of pressing urgency. (Though I’m suppose that to the National Review crowd, would mobilizing even more corvee labor for Mark Zuckerberg’s next tax cut is always the item of pressing urgency.)

    If the Benedict Option is viable, then its promise of creating a long-lasting mass movement akin to the workers’ movement of the 19th and 20th centuries is worth realizing — which happened only when disconnected workers were organized occupationally into bands that could negotiate for what their members wanted in the short-term and small scale, and which eventually scaled up into something that could effect aspirational change. You may quibble, but by arguing that Rod soft-peddles the peril, you fundamentally accept Rod’s thesis. Indeed, if you’re correct that Rod is soft-peddling the peril, his logic becomes even more inescapable — if in fact dominance of conventional politics have done nothing to slow progress towards an apocalyptic scenario.

    In any case, conventional formal politics should be plainly subordinated either to this strategy, or an even more viable alternative — and I would include political coalition building, political violence, and secession movements under formal politics, since none of them builds social currency or institutions to anything approaching mass support to even the level of a committed minority. What other forms of political praxis do you think are more viable than something like the Benedict Option?

    • Charles says

      I don’t it’s even remotely true that “most formal pollical power” is under the control of the Right. Yes, a majority of state governments are Republican. But (a) they have almost zero real power to push back against the Left’s national hegemony and (b) they don’t want to, because they are not Right, but Republican. See, e.g., Mike Pence’s disgraceful knuckling under to the homosexual agenda when he was governor. No power there.

      The Left has everything, informal and formal. Media. Education. Corporations. The Supreme Court (on everything that matters). You name it, they control it. True, there is occasionally a conflict between the desires for extracting money and more ideological leftism; both can easily be satisfied. See, e.g., the hundreds of millions pumped this summer into the racist terror organization BLM.

      Whether the Right has power or not, the massive overhaul is necessary to achieve Right goals. The way isn’t unspecified; it’s just the detail that remain to be worked out.

      Culture is downstream of power. QED.

      I certainly accept Dreher’s thesis. My objection is that he is playing chess and looking one move ahead. That’s not going to work out.

      War as political praxis is far more viable than the Benedict Option, but the two are compatible. War is, in fact, a possible praxis of the Benedict Option.

  3. Uncompliant says


    Another gr8 post. From my extensive perusing, the whole Right is getting more awake about the need to prepare for action. It remains

    On a personal note, thanks for the welcome and the proffered hand in alliance (or whatever it might be). I am one of those “sinners” you mention. I have rejected the Left and no going back. I will get no reprieve from the Left’s death camps. I have begun to despair that any Rightist would accept what little I might have to offer.

    if you have not been reading Anonymous Conservative’s blog, it is a very “strong recommend.” (Maybe you already follow or already have an inkling of the surveillance network).

    With A/C, skip the cover (r/K selection theory) — not needed right now. Get to his posts laying bare the surveillance network. This is the one I started with:

    Sorta blew my mind and then I began to see it too. Here is the most recent (with links to other articles);

    His view: If you are going to take “group action,” the surveillance network has to be neutralized first (at least in your specific area of operation). The network will ID everyone before groups can begin forming. Who runs the network? Unclear. He says it’s big — 4-10% of the population.

    Here’s is a flavor from the comments on Oct 3rd:

    ” [Dear AC] — I have been reading your blog since late 2018.

    This last spring, I was reading the blog and you had a post going into some detail about how the cabal monitoring works as far as low level intel gatherers. I had never talked about your site to my wife before but after reading that post I mentioned it to her explaining what you had said.

    We regularly go for an evening walk on a bike path that parallels the main road into our neighborhood.

    On that evening as we started walking to the west a small Cessna airplane began flying a pattern. They’d fly toward the road, turn parallel to the road, then fly some distance to the northwest then west and loop back. Every time on the return leg, the plane reached the road at the point adjacent where we were on the bike path. This continued for several miles until we reached the end of the path. Normally we stop there and admire the sun setting behind the mountains. When we stopped this time the plane no longer continued moving to the west but looped so that when it reached the road it was consistently across from where we were standing. Then as we started back home the plane now flew the pattern to the east, again reaching the road at the point where we were walking. Finally, I said let’s stop and see what happens. We stood there for a good 10 minutes and the plane stayed in a pattern to always reach the road where we were standing. When we started walking again, the plane again tracked us until we reached the road to our house at which point it flew away. That experience made me a believer in what you say. I think the reason they did what they did is exactly what you’ve said many times. They do it because they can. Because they get bored and because they like to mess with people. I’m not important to any one in any way so it’s not about that. It’s because, as you’ve said, they can do it so they do it for whatever reason. In this particular instance I think they happened to be monitoring our home, heard what I said, and decided to have some fun. For context we’ve lived here for several years. I have never before or since seen any planes flying patterns around here. I’m outdoors a lot because I enjoy being outside, so I know I would have noticed if flying patterns around here was a regular occurrence.”

    Oct 3rd was a particularly good day and discussion.

    A couple of more posts. There was one really eyeopening post to AC about a bicyclist. I am looking for it.

    • Charles says

      An interesting blog, which I’ll spend some time reading. That said, I don’t believe the claims about surveillance, or, in essence, a widespread coherent conspiracy. First, most of the examples given seem like a combination of the human tendency toward pattern recognition (pictures in clouds, e.g.) and seeing what you expect to see, there being no control or actual statistics. Second, I don’t think coherent large conspiracies are viable over any relevant time period; someone will always have an incentive to betray the conspiracy that is greater than any possible cost. The classic example is someone who knows he’s dying and he tries to get right with God, but there are many other examples, and what is cost to some is gain to others, always remember. I do think “autoconspiracies,” the hive mind, exist, along the lines of Moldbug’s Cathedral, or Anton’s Narrative and Megaphone. But those are a much different claim.

      I, for example, live within ten miles of a small airport, used primarily for private jets, helicopters, small planes, and the like. I’m hardly famous, but if those people existed, I am an obvious target. I have a lot of money, live on an large piece of land, and, no surprise, am an obvious subversive. I know and correspond constantly with a wide range of other subversives. I could easily convince myself that the frequent low-flying helicopters are observing me. But they’re not, I’m quite sure. It wouldn’t tell them anything, and would be silly.

      Along the same lines, I don’t think “Q” is real (not that I’ve spend any time on it). But that people think Q is real, and that the claims made are, in fact, often plausible, is all one needs to know. Either way, our hideous ruling class is unbearably corrupt and rotten, and has only one place it should go. The specifics of their malefaction, for the most part, don’t matter that much.

      • Poly Clean says

        Regarding Q – I think it’s a pysop. intended to discredit. Evidence? Deep fake videos floating around that purport to show former DNI James Clapper admitting to all the Q nuttery under some kind of interview or interrogation. The voice is a dead ringer for Clapper,. but his face is pixelated and obscured because deep fake videos haven’t crossed the uncanny valley yet. It’s put together with great skill and tradecraft. I don’t interpret it as a stunt. I think it’s a state actor’s psyop. Probably our very own state actors.

        • Charles Haywood says

          This would not at all be surprising, except that it’s probably too competent for a government op. Maybe in part, along with the usual emergent properties of crowd behavior.

  4. Uncompliant says

    Here it is (also Oct 3) quite interesting

    Ride-on says:
    October 3, 2020 at 10:14 pm

    I’ve read AC’s stuff on surveillance including showing it through Google Streetview. But I live in suburban Melbourne Australia and have never seen it here (I do a lot of cycling, especially at the moment with the way our Dictator Daniel Andrews has us in lockdown). I like simple hypotheses to test so this morning I decided to try and prove AC wrong in my allotted 2 hours of exercise.

    One of the great things about cycling is that you’re in touch with the environment around you in a way that is difficult in a car – you don’t have the background noise of an engine when moving, you’re not travelling as fast, you can sit up and look around easily. All of your senses can work unhindered. It’s one of the things I’ve always liked about cycling but also lends itself to this sort of observation. Cars going as slowly as a bicycle will stand out easily and there’s all sorts of tricks you can use to justify going slowly or stopping, forcing cars to overtake you etc.

    The method I used was to try and stick to back streets as much as possible (to avoid the normal traffic that is always there on main roads) and at every intersection or decision point where I could choose from multiple directions I’d record if there was someone in a position to observe that decision. In particular I was looking for people walking/jogging close to the intersection and cars. Note that I ignored streets that were dead-ends when counting the intersections – a lot of the housing estates I rode through had heaps of short courts that didn’t seem necessary to monitor since they didn’t lead anywhere. I took a pretty cruisy pace – usually only 15km/h so I could focus on my surroundings.

    I rode a total of 38km and counted 208 decision points. Of those 208, I was able to detect there was someone who could observe my choice at 144 of them (69%). It was a Sunday morning so a lot of people are out walking/mowing the lawn etc and on its own this number doesn’t prove/disprove anything. I also probably made a few mistakes as I was keeping track in my head.

    The thing that got me (and I noticed VERY quickly) was how few people I observed walking were on the long stretches between intersections – it appeared that almost everyone was walking within a short distance of intersections that were a decision point. I began to focus more on riding along streets that weren’t feeder streets to observe what was happening and it became quite clear that the location of people walking was strongly biased to within a short distance of intersections that were decision points.

    I also observed a lot of cars exiting their driveways as I came along. Nothing out of the ordinary here… but possibly because that’s what I’ve always seen and it appears normal, even if statistically abnormal! One time I tried a mini experiment when I noticed a path running between two streets. I went down the path but stopped at a point where there was only one house that could observe my location and then sat there for about 2 minutes. No cars went down either street during that time. I then took a bet with myself what was the chance that there would be a car pulling out of a driveway/starting up as I came onto the street. Sure enough, someone backed out of their driveway as I pulled onto that street. Proves nothing on its own, but adds to my suspicions!

    Another time I had a car coming behind me as I approached a T intersection. I pulled over so they would have to go first. They turned right and I slowly followed them, but stopped on the side of the road. They came to a halt in the middle of the road about 150-200m down the road and sat there for about half a minute. It was getting weird as they hadn’t even pulled to the side – just stopped in the middle of the road with no plausible reason. Eventually a car in the house they were stopped in front of started backing out and as it came in site, they left. Over the next little while I felt like this scene from The Truman Show with cars coming from everywhere. I’m only talking about 5 cars or so, but it seemed way out of proportion! In addition, a couple of ladies came along delivering junk mail and stood at the corner across the road from me for a minute or so discussion where to go next. They had came along the street I’d just come from and I didn’t notice them. I wish I had a video camera to go back and see if I had passed them earlier!

    In the 5 minutes or so I sat at that spot, I saw about 4 cars pull into or out of houses in one short section (where that first car stopped in the middle of the road). It really makes we wonder if there’s something special about that location!

    It would be really interesting to do a statistical analysis of where people are walking. When you regularly go along back streets that are 500-800m long and don’t see anyone walking along the sections away from the end intersections (or only rarely) and then consistently find people within 20-50m of the intersection, you have to wonder what the odds of it are as I’m pretty sure it’s way outside what you’d expect to see!

    I’m probably doomed to always notice this now – thanks AC!”

  5. Simple Sailor says

    Thank you for this review; thank you for this website! I forwarded this review to a pastoral friend with whom I’ve shared myriad “Ben Op” discussions. We often circle back to Dreher’s strengths, which oddly seem to merely highlight his biggest weakness – emotive, handwringing logorrhea. Odd how one can be “fanboy” (I’ll put myself in that camp) yet come away from nearly every essay/book with a sense of non-satiation. All that to say – you’ve completed Dreher’s book for him with this essay, and have helped round out the Ben Op principles with other reviews which I’ve just read. And now my muddled thoughts have been crystallized, and I find it has a name – Foundationalism.

    Hope your readership is growing. My friend gave you the superlative of superlatives – “A Francis Schaeffer for our time.” Keep the faith, and thanks for sharing your thoughts/knowledge.

  6. It’s still a mistake to tolerate the racist right. Neo-pagans, fascists, monarchists, fine. But racialism should remain the third rail. Morality aside, it’s bad coalition building.

    How many committed white nationalists are there? Not that many. How many non-white Americans are there? 30-40% of the population, depending on how you count white(r) Hispanics. These non-white Americans tend to be more culturally conservative (Hispanics, blacks) and/or pragmatic (Asians), and are an ideal constituency for a reactionary, authoritarian government. If you alienate them, your constituency is reduced to a minority of an ever-decreasing white population. Maybe you can build a Foundationalist state in the lily-white mountains and plains, but how will it secure its independence against the behemoths to the East and West?

    The election results show minorities – Hispanics in particular, but also blacks – gradually moving away from the Left. If you seize the reins of the state tomorrow and declare the end of American democracy, you will face a disproportionate response from minorities at first. But if you build a stable and productive order that openly includes them, most will come around to you.

    But what if your new order gives an open place to white racialists? All it takes is one advocate of genocide, ethnic cleansing, or new segregation laws to permanently poison your movement for 40% of the American population. I’ve spent far too much time talking with these people, and many are obsessed with race to the point of making it a religion. These ones will go out of their way to poison the movement for that very reason, as all goals are secondary to creating a pure white homeland. Whether from the point of view of a moral Christians or a purely pragmatic Western reactionary, this outcome should be avoided.

    And yes, my reasoning here is somewhat motivated. But the logic holds. My family can pass as white, and may very well prefer peace under a racialist right to Left totalitarianism. They would still have the same values even if their skin were a few shades darker… but would they have any choice, if they saw Red Caesar allying with people who wanted them exiled, or dead, or demoted to second-class citizens? Even if there’s very little chance of the white nationalists getting their way, there’s some things that you can’t expect human beings to get over. If I’m a Christian in the late Ottoman Empire, and I see the sultan putting a known pogromist in his government, I’m not going to be convinced by protestations of religious tolerance. He’s signaled very clearly whose support he values more. So why wouldn’t I support the Empire’s enemies?

    • Charles says

      1) Thank you for your detailed thoughts! I think this may be the most important topic of the decade, or longer, so I appreciate the opportunity to think further and expand on these matters.

      My response is that this largely posits a false dichotomy. You are correct (and I noted in my review) that what passes for organized “white nationalists,” or whatever the term du jour is, is a tiny fraction of the population, and they are clowns. Thus, allying with existing such groups is dumb. It is dumb because it gains us nothing, any more than allying with, say, flat-earthers. But is it dumb because it drives away non-whites?

      2) Part of the false dichotomy is in accepting the premise, the “linguistic kill shot” in Scott Adams’s term, of the Left that any white person who organizes as white, broadly speaking “racialist,” wants to feed all non-white people into ovens. That’s obviously untrue. Such people should be avoided like the plague, of course—not because of their focus on white people, though, but because of their focus on ovens. Genocidal maniacs are never part of a stable coalition. Your assumption seems to be, having absorbed the strictures of the Left, that all, or at least most, white-focused people are “advocate[s] of genocide, ethnic cleansing, or new segregation.” Or that they want non-whites “exiled, or dead, or demoted to second-class citizens.” Wrong, and I think obviously so.

      We assume that any type of organizing as white drives away, or in your words, “alienates,” non-whites. Does it? Impossible to tell. We are told that it does, but we have absorbed seventy years of lectures on the topic.

      3) One part of the answer, the short-term answer, is that alliances of convenience should not be rejected out of hand. I discuss this at more length in my review of George Hawley’s excellent Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism. but let’s say there was a competent group focused on the supremacy of white people—actual “white supremacy,” not simply white identity politics, analogous to the identity politics today celebrated for all other groups but whites. Let’s say that the political issue at hand is preventing government confiscation of firearms (or any other non-racial matter, such as abortion). It may be that non-white people would refuse to work with a pro-firearms group that was completely indifferent to racial matters, simply because they cooperated with the white group. If so, though, that’s because all of us have absorbed the indoctrination that it’s not allowed, not for any objectively sensible reason. We’ve been so indoctrinated in order to cripple us, both by reducing power and by making us waste our time policing our boundaries.

      4) Thus, in the short term, perhaps these assumptions of non-alliance should be re-examined, and tested in practice, and attacked if necessary. Of course, there are no non-clownish white-focused groups, so it’s a theoretical question. White people simply don’t organize as white people to any relevant degree.

      5) But they will, and they probably should. I don’t like that, as a Christian, as you know. Neither Jew nor Greek, etc. However, the simple reality is that a substantial fraction of political activity of late is organized around anti-white racism, combined with identity politics for anybody but white people. That’s obviously not sustainable. Or rather, it’s sustainable as long as the silent majority of white people are willing to put up with it, which will be for as long as (a) they regard the risks of speaking up as higher than being silent and (b) they are economically secure, so they can pretend it’s not happening. (This is why the media suppressed the innumerable videos of extreme anti-white violence occurring this summer.) The first of those will reverse at some point on the current arc. The second will reverse when there is an economic downturn or collapse.

      6) At that point, what will arise, whether we like it or not, is a charismatic leader who explicitly addresses the entirely legitimate grievances of white people, and makes no apologies for it. Such as person is not a “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.” He’s inevitable, and he will be wildly popular. His rise will be the fault of those who created the toxic racial atmosphere we have now, and nobody else’s. I’ll be more than happy to cooperate with this type of movement. I won’t work directly for such a man, necessarily, for religious reasons. But it’s politically the correct thing to do.

      6) Will this movement alienate non-whites? Not necessarily. Again as I (briefly) adverted to in the review, there is plenty of historical precedent for distinct groups to cooperate while still viewing each other as separate, or even viewing each other with contempt. To each his own in his own sphere, with cooperation on larger goals. We are instructed this is impossible, or rather that the only permissible thing is for non-whites to have contempt for whites. The reality is that both can have some level of contempt for each other (the origin of many so-called racist jokes), and get along fine, both socially and politically. In fact, this is human nature, and entirely practical and normal. It’s not always entirely stable, and I suspect that modern ideology makes it harder to execute. (If, for example, a “pogromist” is welcomed into the government, you are correct that is a bad signal for other groups.) I’d like a color-blind society, too. But to say that white people have to pretend that “whiteness” is a fiction, while everyone else celebrates their “color” all day long, is never going to work in the long term.

      I suspect that Hispanics and Asians will find little trouble cooperating in this fashion. Black people, understandably given American history, would find it a lot more difficult. But, frankly, the actions of black people in allowing hate-filled cretins to speak for them are the problem right now. Black people need to reject BLM and other black terrorist groups; if they don’t, it is no surprise that white people see a threat to themselves, because there is a threat, of physical harm, to themselves. White people today don’t need to do anything at all to placate black people in America, other than treat them with respect and even-handedness. The burden today, after this summer, is on black people to pour oil on the trouble racial waters they allowed their so-called leaders to trouble.

      7) That said, I would certainly prefer the future where based people of whatever background and color all cooperate together to crush the Left, ignoring racial differences except for occasional jokes about the others’ cultural food preferences and ability to dance. I’m not in favor of ethnic fracture. The election does point to some degree in this direction. If, for example, a new disciplined Trumpian figure were to combine a focus on the working-class, with what passes to Chamber of Commerce Republicans for “left-wing economics,” with social conservatism, that would be an extremely powerful combination. And if he were to destroy the power of the Left, it would destroy their power to continue their identity politics and racial grifting. But they won’t go down without a fight, and a, perhaps the, major weapon is to whip up racial hatred. Simply giving in to their demands, by spending resources to police the Right, is setting ourselves up to lose. We should simply work for that man and make sure the oven-lovers are kept out, which is quite easy.

      8) Put most simply, I think there is a future where the Man of Destiny crushes the Left without any racial component to his message—but that an important part of his support will likely be white people organized as a racial bloc, just like other minorities form racial blocs. And that this will, soon enough, seem normal. Over time, thereafter, hopefully, racial differences will fade away. That, and the challenges associated, is a management problem that I intend to address in a soon-upcoming review.

  7. Gramophone says

    Interesting thoughts on Dreher’s stance. One thing to add, though: I realized recently is that the right-leaning person is shackled not only by policing his allegiances to the right, as you say, but by a fundamental issue of moral intuition (and as Haidt says, moral speech is elucidation and justification for moral intuitions. Change the intuition, start changing people’s mindsets).

    We know, and the center-right person knows in some way or another, that the Left is something from mistaken to insane and divorced from reality to outright evil. The center-right person knows, on some level, that conservative values agree more with reality. But when they start thinking about them, there’s a defensiveness. Church, family, so on and so forth. Good things. But there’s an unmistakable feeling of an old closet, of dust and mothballs. There’s no simple, honest, alive pride in these things. Excuses and explanations, yes. But lively conviction is harder. Why is it?

    Yoram Hazony’s “What is conservatism?” clicked the missing puzzle piece for me.

    Namely, how often do we hear the term “right-liberal”? Often, even if the person thinks of themselves as conservative. This, to underline an appreciation of a tolerant atmosphere of a lot of liberty for people. But there is the mothball-trap. Hazony’s long article goes to outline the history of English constitutionalist conservatism and contrasts it with liberalism. The specifics are not important, the contrast is.

    Right-liberalism feels like mothballs because liberalism is the wrong freedom and toleration for conservatism. Liberalism is French Revolutionary, inherently history-deprecating, progressivist, rationalist take on freedom. “We reason this, and this is what shall be advanced.” There is a flair of Mill around it, a freedom of maximum optionality, where the only moral act is to defy the norms.

    Now take a social order built around a people who’ve lived in a place, their faith and God-given creed, a patchwork of law and tradition built over time to contain insights on how to live well in that specific place. This strong foundation would let people live with a large degree of liberty, but the liberty was the effect, not the motivating force.

    Now do an underhanded switcheroo and insert Revolutionarist, Millian liberty into the religious-conservative matrix. You couldn’t design a more perfect poison if you tried. There’s nothing threatening, liberty is still liberty. But am I the only one smelling mothballs?

    Millian liberty inevitably relegates hierarchy, tradition and religion to the dustbin because they make demands on a person – freedom from all, but freedom FOR what? Rarely gets asked.

    If we imagine this mismatched moral intuition, and take out the mismatched Lego block, insert a freedom the upstanding master of the house extends to his guests in its place, and the construction hums to life in our mind. It can have a vitality to it, even if it might not be the way of the future. But it affords the center-right person a way to find a spark again, something to stand FOR, not merely contra leftists. “Liberty, yes. But I am NOT a liberal.” This is a key switch, because it rebuilds a grounded rightist intuition that knows where it wants to go, one that stands proud.

  8. John Nikiphoros says

    Honestly, I couldn’t even read this post because the past year made me lose all respect for Rod. I read TBO, and I wholeheartedly agree with the outline of the book. However, it seems Mr. Dreher has entirely failed to live by the principles he wrote about in the book. He has absconded to Europe, leaving his family behind, so he can live out Bobo fantasies. Look, I want to have respect for the man, but he entirely failed to set up a Benedict Option household and in fact has gotten a pitiful divorce. I know men who are strong and virtuous, and they act nothing like this “eclectic, Europhile” vagabond. As Orthodox Christians especially, we cannot be so permissive with ‘no-fault’ divorce; there is fault. Rod Dreher neglected his duties as a father and husband. He should be left to repent quietly, but instead he trumpets the impending doom of the Family, whilst his own is in shambles. He is not a worthy representative for the revival of a virtuous West. Every man- myself foremost- must correct our own lives before delivering yammering jeremiads.

  9. Your (Hayward’s) bravado is comical. Because you fetishize the 2nd Amendment means you win your megalomaniacal, fantastical, future ideological and political bloodlust feud? Being liberal or conservative has nothing to do with winning or not winning a war. It is just that liberals would be much less likely to start one. Get over yourself.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Is your Twitter account ( a parody account? I hope so, or you need mental help. It’s Haywood, not Hayward. The Left always starts the wars. We will end it.

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