Conservatism, Frames and Windows

It seems that Mr. Brett Stevens and I are engaged in an attempt to reconcile conservatism/paleoconservatism and the Dark Enlightenment.

Over at Amerika blog, Mr. Stevens posted The history of thought leading up to New Right, neoreaction, and dark enlightenment. which I perceived as an attempt to minimize the DE as paleoconservatism. Though I am not a high theorist of Neoreaction like Bryce Laliberte, Henry Dampier or Aimless Gromar, I humbly attempted to clarify some concepts in my response. Mr. Stevens has now replied with a clarification of conservatism, that Conservatism is Realism, in a good faith attempt to reconcile the underlying forces of conservatism and the DE.

In my opinion, paleoconservatism and the DE do share an underlying factor which could very likely be called ‘realism’ or simply truth. The left is engaged in utopian social engineering, hell-bent on spreading the feel-good religion of Progressivism, which is based on a single lie: Egalitarianism. Thus, they come to the happy conclusion that all the ills of the world can be cured and everyone rendered equal, if we simply tear down all inequalities wherever we find them. Of course, if you’re on the right, you understand that human civilization is built on hierarchies, and that hierarchies are by definition organized on inequality, being an attempt to organize inequalities efficiently. This is the meritocracy that Mr. Stevens evokes, writing ‘we need to pick those with the best self-control and advance them above others’. This is indeed how civilizations are built, and the end goal of all reaction is human flourishing, found in the form of civilization.

Mr. Stevens marshals the defense that conservatism is based in realism and pragmatism:

A conservative finds society as it is, and instead of looking for a different path, just begins clearing and grading the old until it is improved to the point of optimum. Hence a conservative tendency to look for “the good, the beautiful and the true” by applying methods related to improvement, such as conservation and optimization.

That line ‘A conservative finds society as it is’ caught my eye, because it is so true. This is exactly the point that I would like to elaborate on. Here is the nub of it.

The pickup artists understand the idea of a ‘frame’. Heartiste, in response to a query by HBDChick,  shows us how Jason Richwine could have reframed the media attacks against him, how he could have used game to seduce the media. Why is this possible? Because when dealing with humans, and a society is simply a group of humans, nothing is as it is. Sure reality is still reality, but humans do not necessarily deal with reality, they deal with their perception of reality. In the human mind, everything is only as it is perceived to be. A conservative will tend to find society as it is, meaning take the frame that has been handed to him and respond within that frame. Understanding how to manipulate  opinion, both at the population and individual levels, is essential to moving forward. Conservatives have traditionally not dedicated much time to the study of human behavior, with an eye to the goal of manipulating that behavior to achieve desired outcomes. They need to learn some game.

A window is a frame. The window frames what we can see, masking the rest of the scene. In political theory, we have the notion of the Overton window, which is the narrow range of ideas that are palatable to the public and within which an official must remain if he wishes to gain or keep public office. This definition itself is not really correct, because the public opinion is manipulated or manufactured. So the window is controlled by intellectual elites who manufacture the consent of the public.

The Overton window can be manipulated, it can be moved. Here is an article of how Jimmy ‘the rent is too damn high’ McMillan, a radical left fringe, shifted the Overton window. The Overton window is shifted by a radical fringe. A conservative will find society as it is, but the members of the DE are intent on shifting the Overton window to the right in order to push society where is should go.

This is a problem with conservatism, it does not seem to be aware of the frame which surrounds it, that the frame is dictated by the left. This is what I meant when I wrote that ‘Conservatism enunciates a set of values that it feels at a gut level, but which it cannot intellectually defend because it can only think in leftist ideological terms‘. Conservatism must come to understand the ideological theory that under-girds the left, and begin to dismantle it. If the conservative ‘just begins clearing and grading the old until it is improved to the point of optimum’, then he is building upon the ground of the left, unaware that this ground he has graded and improved lies within the frame of the left.

The Dark Enlightenment and NRx are an opportunity for conservatives. Conservatives should point at the DE and its ‘radical’ notions. When conservatives talk about the DE, rather than attempt to paint the DE as another flavor of conservatism, it should point to the ideological ground on which the Dark Enlightenment is built, to the land that lays outside the frame, to the space to the right of the window that remains unseen. The more conservatives can bring discussions of the DE into the mainstream, even if only to say: this is what right-wing radicalism looks like, let me contrast this with my more moderate views, the more the Overton window can move. Dear conservatives, do not attempt to bring us into the fold. The DE is the radical right fringe that conservatives need to move that window, if only conservatives can learn a little more game and how to reframe.

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