I am not the first, nor the last person to have been inspired and enlightened (if you’ll excuse the turn of phrase) by the works of Curtis Yarvin. The hours spent listening to his works as presented by the ever-diligent Skeptical Waves while working on myself at the gym were something beyond eye-opening; I felt transformed by this new perspective and captivated by the authentically nerdy style in which it was written. As my gateway into neo-reactionary thought, it felt good to hear other figures whose perspectives and work I greatly admire – people like The Distributist and Auron MacIntyre for example – mention the inspirational effect that Yarvin’s work had on themselves and to see Yarvin still active within these circles. There was a very good recent video on Auron’s channel on the topic of Yarvin’s ideas and how they have held up in the last decade, though you will get more out of it if you have already read his work. This is my own contribution to that conversation.
On July 10, 2022, Yarvin published his ill-received piece on Substack: “You can only lose the culture war”. Many on the right strongly disliked Yarvin’s metaphor-laden warning. Yarvin himself gave a halfhearted dismissal of his own work after much consternation and gnashing of teeth from the community. However, months later, a curious change took place – people started to adopt Yarvin’s perspectives on the culture war as laid out in his piece. It is my view that neither Yarvin nor the community realized that what this essay had accomplished was the laying of the first foundational stones of the Sensible Centrist movement. This movement, if you were to ask me, is the avant-garde of the dissident community. They embrace Italian elite theory, neo-reactionary thought, and positive messaging. They seek to build community and culture in the imminent post-Liberal future.
Sounds good, right? So what was the issue? From what I read and heard, the complaints fell into two broad (and appropriately over-simplified) categories:
- “Yarvin has gone terminally black pilled”
- “Yarvin has revealed that he is not in our camp”.
Both of these categories represent a recurring issue on the Right. We have an activist vs. passivist problem. Some people believe that there is some kind of seizable initiative that we are in danger of losing, or that optics don’t matter because we are just and right. Others believe the initiative was lost before we were born. The Left has almost every strategic landmark on the battlefield bristling with institutionally strong guns and to charge into the open is asking for more than just a whiff of grapeshot.
Many people have much to lose in meatspace, and I don’t need to go into a laundry list of all those who have had their lives destroyed via the Cathedral’s responses to disorganized activism. If you want a good example of what activism has gotten the Right lately, consider that Yarvin was completely vindicated in his prediction that Dobbs v. Jackson (“The American Brexit”) would spell disaster for the right in the midterm elections. The cultural groundwork had not been done and the optics were bad. The hobbits had overplayed their hands. The elves closed ranks, and gave their supporters one of the lowest-hanging fruits of all time – that of defending women against low-class culture warriors and “extremists”. There always seems to be a group that “organically” shows up conveniently to point to as evidence of such a danger, and who always provides bad optics and a negative message. We saw this with West/Fuentes and the Christian Nationalists, we saw this with the Proud Boys, and we continue to see this with guys who just cannot help but throw a Roman salute for the camera.
As to the second category specifically, the idea that Yarvin is not in our camp is an issue of misinterpretation. As an ex-Ivy League, Silicon Valley, Californian, Jewish, atheist turbo-nerd, Yarvin communicates an identity that many on the right reflexively revile. People’s imaginations ran wild with the “elves” and “dark elves” metaphor. Allow me a bit of straw-manning –
- “Ooh, Yarvin’s said he’s an elf, that means he thinks he is better than us.”
- “Ooh, Yarvin’s said he’s a subversive dark elf, why would we want to associate with these types when we can be solar masculine Hyperboreans in broad daylight instead?”
- “Yarvin has revealed his ethnic allegiances!”
Here are our rash, young, idealistic activists again.
Is it possible to reclaim “knife-ear?”
How did people misinterpret Yarvin’s metaphor? It has to do with what elves are meant to represent in Tolkien’s work. Elves were beings of immense creative power and magic that was celestial in scale. The work that they did in past generations focused the energies of nature and heaven and left an indelible mark on all beings. Their language, their art, their craftsmanship—all regarded as masterworks of unsurpassed beauty. True elites, and a guiding star for the “lesser” beings of Middle Earth. A lofty goal to strive for!
How does this compare to real life, and who are the elves according to Yarvin? There was some room for him to expound on his ideas which I think would have helped his point. Allow me to flesh out his thoughts with some of my own.
As far as I can see, Yarvin’s elves are meant to portray a few groups of people at once:
These are people aligned with the Cathedral by accident of birth, by occupation, or by genuine conviction. What many fail to recognize here is that there are people who are elite and right-wing. This cannot be ignored. Surrendering the title of elite to the left is surrendering a key piece of ground that plays directly into the left’s drive to code us as people who are low-class.
Culture creators are on both sides of the left-right dichotomy.
These are the intellectuals, the writers, the content creators, the SubStack authors, the YouTubers, and the podcasters. This includes people who are friendly to us as well as ideological enemies. What do they have in common? They all want to live “beautiful lives” in accordance with what that means for them. Yes, by extension this means that there’s some goblinoid creature out there with money and status that thinks Drag Queen Story Hour worldwide is a beautiful life, but that doesn’t meant that there aren’t elves out there who think that The Shire or some equally idyllic blonde-waif-in-wheat-field endpoint isn’t the win condition.
This is the very ethos of the Sensible Center, that there are certain things in life that are good, normal, and appealing to everyone with a sense of right and wrong, regardless of their background. Call it a “third position” if you like, but there is common ground to be had with intelligent people who are dissatisfied with modernity and are mature enough to be capable of growth – that is, capable of listening to another point of view and changing based on what perennial truth is revealed to them.
“People on the right that aren’t part of the mainstream understand that we don’t have a seat at the table. Populism does not work; we’re not going to red-pill a bunch of people and totally shift the political formula in America, but maybe we can use ‘Trump Season 2.0’ to try and get our ideas to some elites like Tucker Carlson…the best we can hope for is to just try and get our ideas directly to the elites.”– Charlemange
Yarvin’s whole message must be understood not as being an optics cuck, not as being a Trojan horse for the Left, but as correctly identifying that the only way forward is via the actions of elites. Sure, some of those elites are fence-sitters that need seducing. He hints at this in the very title of his work “Letter to an Open-Minded Progressive”. The whole work is predicated on “seducing” or “corrupting” any elf that wants to follow the “sexiness” or “edginess” that flirting with the right brings, that transgressive feeling of doing something you’re not supposed to be doing.
“The first job of the dark elves is to seduce the high elves—to sow acorns of dark doubt in their high golden minds. Once these seeds become trees, the elf becomes a dark elf. This is obviously the optimal outcome of the seduction process…As a dissident, winning the culture war means establishing cultural dominance, which means becoming fashionable. Culture is still downstream from power, but your hobbit coup will go way better if you have a beefy fifth column within the Elf ruling class—and a hidden cadre of dark elves who can emerge to rule the future. To make dissident ideas more fashionable, it is not necessary to “water them down.” Just the opposite—it is necessary to make them more daring, more frightening and beautiful, more audacious and transgressive, more surprising and delightful. The strategy of the dark elf is to seduce the ruling high elves into losing faith in their own prestigious institutions—by showing them something that attracts them more—by painting a picture of an amazing and totally different future as a work of art. Fashionable transgression, not bombs or bullets or even laws, is an offense in the culture war. By overreaching with all this crazy stuff, by mainstreaming the chic ideas of 1972 in 2022, the high elves have left themselves extraordinarily vulnerable to an offensive.”– Curtis Yarvin
He envisions the scenario of a small-town Christian boy entering the mosh pit in his bowtie and highwaters and exiting wearing a battle jacket and corpse paint. This is peak 90s nerd culture – going against the grain to do something intellectually stimulating and spiritually fulfilling. Just like all those kids who were told they were going to hell for playing Dungeons and Dragons and Pokemon, there’s almost certainly a slew of young leftists out there who, when told they’re literally Hitler for doing so, will devour any and all right-wing thought and, in doing so, wake up from the Matrix. The hope, the prayer, is that the people doing so will be both young and in positions of power, either by birth or by opportunity. The future white Harvard grad who is sick of being villainized for his ethnicity and gender. The daughter of the investment banker who wants to annoy her father by becoming a trad wife instead of becoming a girl boss like she’s “supposed to”. This is the next generation that Yarvin wants to reach.
This was how many of us got our start! We cannot forget that!
What is to be done?
The Left is in control of the optics, which is extraordinarily vital to engage in proper activism, so the strategy must be different, and the young and angry wing of the Right has to redirect their energies to something more productive. I won’t retread ground which has been tread non-stop in the last six months, but the way forward is through the creation of high culture, and through a positive message! We must realize that we, too, are Elves! We are more than capable of creating new and beautiful things without being plugged into the same networks and frameworks of die-hard Leftists.
A fellow frog called “Somethingelse” wrote on this topic, and put it very well:
“Hold the following frame to be true in your every public utterance:
- We are doing brilliant things.
- We are spawning new ideas.
- Our ideas and our works are the true Current Thing.
- To be educated is to be versed in our canon.
- To be relevant is to be in conversation with our movement.
- The progressive mainstream is doing tired, derivative things.
- Their intellectual energies are being wasted in apologia for old and tired ideas.
- Their culture and academy are pacifying sideshows for children.
- Their “education” consists of emplacing superstitious barriers against new insight.
- The esteemed among them are those who are best at crimestop and self-deception.
- Create, be beautiful, behave nobly, accumulate wealth, and forever and always aggressively hold that frame.”
The Left certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on interesting, transgressive, and seductive ideas. Let’s get over ourselves, let our hair down, and allow ourselves to be Elves. Instead of our movement being about taking to the street with torches and pitchforks, instead of chanting slogans and focusing on inherently destructive means, why don’t we ignore the Cathedral? Remember the line from the movie War Games? The only winning move isn’t just not to play, but to make a new game, with a new playing field.
Here is my call to action:
- Take some time to write your thoughts down, with the goal of sharing them with like-minded friends.
- If you don’t have like-minded friends, consider starting a blog, or becoming involved in Basket Weaving.
- Explore your passions in a creative way, be it in writing, painting, or making music. There is room for those whose talents lie in computer programming, filmmaking, and construction. Anything works!
Maybe, if this all works out in the end, we can give Curtis Yarvin a Tolkien of our appreciation.