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Monday, July 17, 2023


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Hi Bill,

I'm inclined to disagree with your rejecting the term "reactionary" in favor of "counter-revolutionary" on the grounds that "He who reacts is defined by that against which he reacts."

First, wouldn't this apply equally well to a counter-revolutionary? Why isn't he also defined by the revolution he seeks to reverse?

Also, to react against a disease (which is, in effect, what we seek to do), is simply to wish to restore the body's previous good health. But although while one is battling a disease it may consume all of one's energy and attention, it strikes me as awfully narrow to say that one who seeks to reverse a disease is defined by that effort alone, rather than by all the constitutive, positive things he has always lived for, and wishes to enjoy again once he has made himself well.

Finally, revolutionaries, "counter" or no, never seem to know where to stop - whereas we "reactionaries" will happily get back to ordinary life once the evil we are reacting against has been defeated (and its altars razed to rubble and sown with salt).

So I'm perfectly happy to call myself, at least until we beat these bastards or die trying, a "reactionary". In Newtonian terms, it's the most natural way to look at it.

P.S. We should keep in mind, also, that none of this nomenclature matters in the slightest unless we succeed!

Thanks for the comments, Malcom.

Ad (1). Yes, you are technically correct. It is hard to see much 'semantic daylight' between reacting to X and being counter to X. In both cases one's oppositional position is at least in part defined by what it is opposing. But on the level of subjective as opposed to objective intension (meaning), there is a difference: 'reactionary' has the subjective connotation of someone is who is mean-spirited, negativistic, merely critical/cavilling/contrary -- someone with no positive/affirmative proposals. 'Counter-revolutionary' does not have this subjective connotation to my ear.

I take it that you and I want to persuade, rationally persuade, our political opponents. We don't just want to be right. Being right is more important than persuading people that one is right, and easier to boot, but surely our shared concern is to keep our great nation, a democratic REPUBLIC, from collapsing as it is now doing under the 'leadership' of the Dementocrats with the aid of the pseudo/pussy-cons on the Establishment Right, and the do-your-own thing-open-the-border libertarians at the other extreme.

I think that the project of persuasion is best served by avoiding semantic red-flags-before-bulls/bullshitters such as 'reactionary.'

I am not merely reacting, I am proposing a positive view that is better for everyone. I will call it 'American conservatism' until I come up with a better moniker.

As for Malcolm's second point, it too is solid. See my response to the first point.

As for the third point, I simply disagree. A counter revolutionary is not a revolutionary. You've heard me go on about alienans adjectives. I have a number of posts on this topic in my --wait for it -- ADJECTIVES category.

An example is 'decoy duck.' A decoy duck is not a duck. Similarly, a counter revolutionary is not a revolutionary.

I have heard Malcolm repeat the canard, "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc., it's a duck!" Not so! Consider a robotic duck that did all those things. Would it be a duck? No. Proof: Every living duck is an animal. Every animal is sentient. No robot is sentient. Therefore, no robotic duck is a duck. Therefore, the duck canard is false.

So, while Malcolm makes some good points in this admittedly minor intramural debate between fellows members of the coaition of the sane and reasonable, I cannot see that he has given me a good reason to change my view on the question at issue.

"Canard" - saw what you did there, Bill!

If I were intrepid enough to venture into the ring with a professional on that topic (I'm not), we could have a talk about how many of the properties normally instantiated by some type of thing would have to be instantiated by a candidate to make us conclude that it is actually an instance of the type. (That would be the "etc." in "if it walks like a duck, etc...") The given list is too short, perhaps, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, eats like a duck, has a duckbill, lays duck eggs, has duck blood (etc.), at some point you will say "OK, that's a duck".

So I'll say just this: the "walks like a duck" argument isn't always a "canard" (though to mon ami Pierre, of course, a duck always is).

I quite agree that it makes tactical sense to find a team identity that people will rally around. In that practical sense you may be right that "reactionary" has, for many people, the connotations you mention, and "counter-revolutionary" sounds more positive. To my own ear, though, it's the other way around: "counter-revolutionary" sounds rather ideological and fanatical, while "reactionary" sounds more traditional and conservative. As evidence I will say that the "Neo-reactionary" intellectual movement that got going in the "Aughts" with thinkers like Moldbug and Nick Land (and far more peripherally, yours truly) has gained a fair amount of traction. So the subjective-intension argument you make may have only a subjective appeal, about which people may very well differ. (And anyway, if a counter-revolutionary isn't a revolutionary, then what sort of thing is he? "Reactionary" seems about right.)

You wrote:

I am not merely reacting, I am proposing a positive view that is better for everyone.

Well, that's what we reactionaries are doing, too. We're arguing that we as a nation once had a better, more positive view, one that was vastly more conducive to human flourishing, and that it's time to chuck out all this woke rubbish and recover what we can from the rubble.

I will call it 'American conservatism' until I come up with a better moniker.

But isn't this at odds with what you said in your post, namely that "One can conserve only what one has, not what one has lost"?

Perhaps we should just start calling ourselves the Resistance. It's accurate, and has a positive historical flavor to it.

Joe Odegaard, man of few words here.

I consider myself a "radical," neither a reactionary nor a counter-revolutionary.

Radical: Getting to the root of the matter.

In this case, to the Truth, with a capital T, the Truth about our humanity, and how we should live if we want things to work and be more or less happy.

In the 60's the hippies were quite happy to call themselves radicals. They were on to something. I was one of them. And I have never changed from wanting to get to the root of things, which is also the engineering approach, and I have learned how better to get to the Truth as time has gone on.

To be Radical, is to step outside of politics and beat upon it with a baseball bat.

Which is what it needs.

Happy Friday to you all.


Like you, I read Buckminster Fuller back in the day and as I recall, your line is similar to his.

'Radical' from radix, root. As you may know, Karl Marx made the point that the radical goes to the root of the matter.

Malcolm writes, >> (And anyway, if a counter-revolutionary isn't a revolutionary, then what sort of thing is he? "Reactionary" seems about right.)<<

How about 'restorationist'? I took Chris Rufo to be saying that we cannot conserve what we've lost, so we need to take back what we've lost, which is to say rebuild the monuments, return to sound curricula in the schools, bring back respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, properly fund the police, reinstate cash bail, and so on.

In a word, RESTORE.

Now let's say we are trying to persuade fence-sitters (the politically uncommitted). It seems to me that we will be more successful in our appeal if we describe ourselves as the 'restorative right' rather than the 'reactionary/neo-reactionary right.'

It is ultimately an empirical question how words and phrases affect people, a question for pollsters and sociologists. My guess is that when most people hear 'reactionary' they think of 'turning back the clock' to the bad old days. But that's an hypothesis thsat needs empirical testing.

Now while I insist that language matters and that a discussion like this is more than a mere semantic quibble, I readily sympathize with anyone who finds i a faintly absurd academic debate -- given the outrages committed by leftists/wokesters on a daily basis.

"Restore" is good, but it has a backwards-in-time connotation & flirts with the "Save The (Planet, or insert your term here)" mentality; and "Save The" usually leads to depression and burnout, if not even panic. It is not a sustainable motivation.

In my experience, and humble opinion, more motivation can be had with proposing improvements to the present, phrased in such a way as the look is forward, to a common sense improvement.

"Make America Great Again" as a motto, has just this "save the..." burnout problem. MAGA encourages arguments about the past, instead of looking forward.

I don't have a better slogan myself at the moment, but I will try to come up with one.

We need cool, beautiful, and challenging projects.

"Restoration". I like that.

What's more, given that many thinkers on the Right trace a fairly direct line from the Puritanism of early New England to today's "Cathedral" and its hegemonic cryptoreligion (which, I still think, quacks very much like a duck), the term "Restoration", for the historically literate, links neatly back to the last time these damned people got their hands on the wheel.

So: five centuries later, who will be our own George Monck?

The fact that you did not let my comment pass, which took a long time to write, is a testimony to how woke you remain. You are a pseudo-apostate.


You're quite right that the past is past and can never be fully restored, and that we must try to act positively for a better future. (As Kierkegaard said, life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards!) But we have also a duty, as a link in the great chain of generations, to honor, preserve and cherish the magnificent inheritance of the West, and of the audacious American nation.

Probably the best we can hope for is to exhume the sturdy foundations still buried beneath the rubble of our fallen culture, and to build something new - drawing on the best of what we've lost, and fitted both to the timeless truths of our nature and this radically new and different world.

I can't come up with a slogan for that either, but I'll think about it too.

A. S.,

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