You can only lose the culture war
"The only possible reversal must come from strategy, rather than struggle."
The customary color-coding of the culture war is boring. Let’s get Tolkien-pilled and talk not about red and blue, but hobbits and elves. (While not forgetting the fact that for the two centuries before 1980 or so, red—the color of anger—was the color of the left.)
We know who are the hobbits and who are the elves. We know who is on top and who is on the bottom. (Of dwarves and orcs, we shall not speak.) We know what the elves want: they want to live beautiful lives. We know what the hobbits want: they want to grill and raise kids.
Dear hobbits: you can only lose the culture war. Even when elves use political power to impose elf culture on you, you cannot use political power to impose hobbit culture on elves.
I mean, sometimes (rarely) you can. It never works out well. I suppose that in theory you could massacre all the elves. You don’t seem up for that in practice. As an elf… I have to regard that as a good thing. But it leaves you, dear hobbits, in a real bind.
If there was a way to impose hobbit culture only on hobbits, there might be a case. But our country is not configured to support separate rules for elves and hobbits. If it was, it would be a different country. Maybe a better country—but it isn’t.
The only way to impose hobbit culture is to impose it on everyone—including elves. Elves do not like to be told what to do by hobbits. Even advice makes elves mad. It is outrageous and disrespectful. And when hobbits coerce elves… utterly unacceptable. Even if any such coercion is only symbolic, it is a profound violation of elven rights. Your elf will not just be mad—he will explode—wronged in every fiber of his being.
But surely this is good? At least if you’re a hobbit? Isn’t anything that makes your enemy mad inherently good? If you’re taking flak, aren’t you over the target? Here is the difference between overdog and underdog.
For the overdog, it is often useful, tactically and/or strategically, useful to make the underdog mad. For the underdog, it is almost never useful to make the overdog mad.
To hobbits, this tactic of provoking the elves seems effective because they learned it from their own enemy—for whom it is effective. Of course the natural instinct of the underdog is to copy the overdog. There are many tactics that are good for goose or gander. But there is no symmetry. Alas, many moves are made only for the goose.
For the overdog, making the underdog mad is an excellent tactic—it is a way to induce “fear biting,” a violent response to nonviolent abuse. Observed casually, this creates a superficial narrative in which the underdog looks like the instigator. Self-flattering narratives are often built out of casual self-observation. You actually believe your own victim narrative, even when you bullied the underdog into a corner; he desperately nipped at you; then you methodically tore his throat out. In fact, you’d like to file a police report… you may be suing his estate… you’re not usually one to litigate, but…
For the underdog, making the overdog mad makes the overdog more powerful and dangerous to you, the underdog. You do not want your overdog to become more powerful and dangerous. You want him to become more apathetic and unguarded.
One crucial strategic asset of any underdog effort is that, while smaller and weaker, the underdog has more energy, determination and focus. He has no room for giving his enemy such a gift. When the underdog defeats the overdog, it is by ambush with minimal warning from a position of local, temporary and opportunistic superiority.
For the overdog, who has a healthy surplus of power over the underdog, there can be plenty of tactical reasons for sacrificing some of this buffer. For the underdog, who has a deficit of power, any such spending is almost certainly improvident.
Moreover, when hobbits try to take revenge on elves at large, or even worse when they actually succeed, they are damaging a resource they do not even know they have. There may even be some elves—the dark elves—who are actually on the hobbits’ side.
Naturally, being traitors and all, these dark elves keep a low profile. But culturally, they are still totally elves and into, like, “art films” and stuff. Any attack on elves in general weakens and demoralizes this important fifth column. What are they useful for, these dark elves? See below.
And of course, if you try to impose hobbit culture and lose, you are just funny—like one of the stock bumpkins Shakespeare used to savagely mock peasants. Losing is never a good look, especially if you lose while trying to do something impertinent.
You can only lose the culture war. If you lose, you lose. If you win—you really lose.
Strategy for a battered nation
Power in America is a marriage of elves and hobbits and always will be. We all know who the wife is. Hobbits: try thinking of your culture and society as a battered wife.
Your job, when you are a battered wife, is to get out of the situation. To escape, it is sufficient to know what your job isn’t. Most people who do not escape fail to escape because they are doing some other job, which is not their job. Here are three simple lemmas which may help you get out of these kinds of false, deceptively appealing jobs.
1: If your husband hits you, your job is not to hit him back.
Winning a battle in the culture war—as in today’s Current Thing, the repeal of Roe v. Wade—is not like leaving your abusive husband. It is certainly not like finding a new husband. No—it is like hitting your husband back.
0% of domestic-violence educators recommend this strategy—at least not till it is time for Plan E and your actual murder feels imminent. In which case it will probably not work anyway. But why not try.
On the level of physical violence, your husband—a bear of a man—will always prevail. But the cops can easily hogtie him like an animal. If they want, they can make it hurt. If you are thinking like a general, not like a frightened mouse, you reason backward from the assistance of such allies.
Unfortunately, there is only one United Nations, and that one is not much help to such battered ones as we—but this is a type of idea—the strategic idea. In a situation of weakness, the only possible reversal must come from strategy rather than struggle.
Hitting your husband back is struggle. Setting a hidden camera before you talk to your husband about his drinking is strategy. Calling the cops is strategy. And in a dangerous situation, strategy is your job.
So if your husband stole something that belonged to you—do you steal it back? What if he literally stole it 50 years ago? Stealing it back is struggle, not strategy.
Since you are in the right, it is the court’s job to be on your side, and it is your job to make the court’s job as easy as possible. Stealing it back is your natural impulse and your moral right—which is exactly why it is such a dangerous trap. It is not your job. And it certainly does not make the court’s job easy.
Of course, the culture war is a sovereign conflict and there is no court to appeal to—only God’s court, in which might makes right—the ultima ratio regum.
Aggressive defense in a culture war is not a bad strategic idea because it displeases some mysterious higher power. In this case, there is no such power. Aggressive defense is a bad strategic idea for other reasons.
It is a bad strategic idea because it makes the problem harder to solve. It is a bad strategy because it is a trap and it always sucks to fall in a trap. Please do not bite at the bait and trip into the wire. Please circle back and try to get behind the trapper.
If you have limited energy and a limited number of possible wins, it is important to focus your limited energy on one kind of win: wins that make future wins easier. By definition, these are the kinds of wins that augment your power. These are real wins.
There is another kind of “win,” wins which expend your power in order to achieve some result you want. These are sometimes called “Pyrrhic victories.” Pyrrhus took the battlefield, but after the battle his chances of winning were reduced. His tactical “victory” was a strategic defeat.
Among those who believe that an unborn baby is a human life, of course, the result of preventing an abortion is saving a life. So the results of this win are lives saved.
This is a weighty argument to set against strategy—but this is war, in which such weights are often balanced, and must be. The battle is important. So is the war.
And how many such lives, really, are saved? Are there really that many American women who want to get an abortion, but can’t afford an $89 ticket to Oakland? We’ll see mobile abortion death vans lined up like taco trucks at the taxi stands outside all major California airports. A girl in trouble won’t even need a reservation… she may not even need to exit the secure area—major airlines now planning to staff their executive lounges with on-demand abortionists, also expert in Swedish massage… abortion tourism as a whole will blossom... specialized abortion spas… abortion bachelorette parties… abortion gender-reveal ceremonies… abortion with dolphins… “our constitution,” per John Adams, “was made only for a moral and religious people.” Does not Pres. Adams’ data point argue strongly for a new constitutional thinking?
2: If your husband hits you, your job is not to get him to stop hitting you.
If you husband hits you, he probably does a lot of other things wrong too. You don’t just want to focus on this one big thing.
Your job is to either (a) turn him into a different husband, (b) get a different husband, or (c) try having no husband at all. Generally speaking, (c) is easier than (b), and (b) is easier than (a).
Beating you is not the problem. Beating you is evidence of the problem. Whenever a regime abuses its subjects, the abuse is not the problem. It is evidence of the problem. The problem is whatever structural malformation in the regime causes this abuse—and how this malformation can be repaired. If it can be repaired! And often… it can’t.
The determination of the American regime to fight a culture war—to use the power of the state and the media to disrupt, rather than preserve, the longstanding historical cultural practices and preferences of the populations it is their mission to serve and protect—is evidence that the interests of power and its subjects are not well-aligned. While this alignment is never perfect, serious misalignments can be very dangerous. And even a risky strategy for restoring alignment can be the safest available strategy.
Unfortunately, since sovereignty is conserved, (c) or anarchy is not an option. Between people and state, there is no divorce—only remarriage. Therefore, if there seems to be no realistic path to (a), the only option for a battered nation is (b)—a different husband. Or at least, a new constitutional thinking.
3: If your husband hits you, your job is not to solve the problem by yourself.
In the literal battered-wife situation, you need allies—forces like cops and courts. What allies? The allies you need are, quite simply, the allies you can get—whose efforts can succeed within a strategy that works for you. Let us review the landscape.
America is a political marriage of blue-state elves and red-state hobbits. The elves are terrified of the hobbits’ pitchforks. They can only survive by ruling the hobbits with an iron hand—or at least, by inundating the hobbits’ brains with pro-elf propaganda—or better yet, both.
Any elf knows that the hobbits could indeed overthrow the elves by force tomorrow. All those guns! But that would require hobbits to be something other than hobbits.
Hobbits just want to grill. Hobbits just want to be governed sensibly, in a way that makes sense to hobbits, so that they can just grill. Hobbits have little desire for power and no great talent for it, which is what makes them so easy for the elves to rule. And hobbits are not—not in their hearts—into telling elves how to live their lives.
How does an understanding of this political geometry help us craft a strategy that works for hobbits? The problem is that elves do not want to be ruled by hobbits, and hobbits do not want to rule elves. Even if the hobbits were not hobbits and so could spontaneously organize a hobbit revolution, this contradiction would prevent victory.
(20th-century regimes that put hobbits in charge existed—these are the “populist” or even “fascist” regimes. These regimes scored some wins—let’s not forget that while an American was the first man on the moon, it was the German space program that put him there—but we cannot regard them as a success, and it is clear that their class instability would have left them with a limited lifespan. Often the hobbits got tired of ruling and simply gave power back to the elves. This path seems less promising than ever, and it never really worked.)
Hobbits do not need to be in charge. Hobbits do not want to rule the world, should not want to rule the world, and could not rule the world. Hobbits do not even need to be governed by hobbits—they just need to be governed as hobbits. Governing them as elves, though, generates significant irritation and is best regarded as hobbit abuse.
Even by taking absolute power, the hobbits cannot win—they would soon lose it. To win, hobbits have to do something harder than taking absolute power. They do need to take absolute power; but then, they need to give absolute power.
The hobbits can only win by taking power from one group of elves, then giving it to another group of elves. Let’s call these groups the high elves and the dark elves. These dark elves are the allies hobbits need to get the quality of government they deserve.
Hobbits will always be governed by elves. But they need to be governed by elves who respect hobbits (as well as elves, dwarves and orcs). Otherwise, the Valar are offended. The Valar do not approve of hobbit abuse. It’s really not good to offend the Valar.
Therefore, the best strategy for hobbits to get good government is to split the elves—to capture absolute power over the state, then give it away, delegating it to a new regime designed to govern all the hominids of Middle-Earth fairly and faithfully. The set of elves who support any pro-hobbit regime, before or after its birth, are the dark elves.
Like any conceivable regime, the new regime will be largely staffed with elves; by definition, these elves will be dark elves. (One reason to anonymously shitpost today, keeping one’s credentials the darkest of secrets, is that the same credentials which can hang you today can also prove to a future regime when you came to your senses. Earlier, obviously, is better.)
It is normal and fine for hobbits to be ruled by elves. What is not normal or fine is for hobbits to be misruled by elves. Whatever causes this epidemic of misrule, it is not a hobbit problem. It is an elf problem. Ergo, hobbits must work with elves to solve it. Together, we can forge a new constitutional thinking.
The culture war of the dark elves
Dear hobbits: the first problem you need to leave to us is the culture war. What you’re doing here isn’t working, either for you or for us. It’s making both of our jobs harder.
Not only should you not be playing aggressive defense in the culture war—arguably, you shouldn’t be playing defense at all. You should be playing offense. You are not equipped to play offense and we are. So you should support us in playing offense. Because, like, this is what an alliance means.
Before this revolution, hobbits and dark elves should have nothing to do with other. The goal of the dark elves is to win the culture war—but not with hobbit power. In fact, the less a dark elf smells like a hobbit, the better. Just let us take care of it.
The dark elves cannot win by using the coercive power of the hobbit peasant armies; and they have no coercive power of their own. Their only form of power is subversive. They fight by subverting and seducing their enemies, the high elves.
The only culture war that matters is the culture war between the dark elves and the high elves. This war is not fought with bombs and bullets, or even laws and judges. This war is fought with books and films and plays and poems. It is still a savage war!
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.
Yet even if only little saplings of darkness grow, mere shrubs and bushes of nihilism, the high elf is weakened. His conviction and energy flag. And as Napoleon said: in any battle, the moral is to the physical as ten to one.
Regimes are overthrown in two ways: by others, or by themselves. Today’s global elites are invulnerable to any external coercive power and can coerce any internal coercive power. Like the USSR, they can only overthrow themselves.
The Soviet empire was not overthrown by any centrifugal, secessionist force. Earlier rebellions in the outer provinces were suppressed easily. The Soviet empire was overthrown by its own leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who had the same job as Stalin—and by the cadre of young officials who had come up with Gorbachev.
The path to the future did not run through the workers and peasants; it ran through this small elite. Once this elite was corrupted with Western doctrines, once it lost its unswerving faith in the socialist future, it and the regime it powered were doomed.
The goal of the dark elves is to become and remain influential in narrow circles; to accumulate prestige, a secret prestige which is more tangible because it is secret; ultimately, to create cells and networks which can invisibly advance dark-elf careers—a method tested by the Freemasons in many countries and periods.
And even if none of this carbonarism exists—and if it did, would you know?—the gentle waves of new thought that wash over the high-elves’ shoes, that are starting to lick even at their silk-socked ankles, can do their own work. Gorbachev was not part of any intellectual conspiracy; nor was Louis XVI. And yet both, seduced by new and shiny philosophies, brought their own regimes down—the ultimate subversive win. Even hints of doubt weaken the state.
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 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. But nothing can make up for bad execution.
So don’t do that
Needless to say, Dobbs v. Jackson—the American Brexit, the legitimate pinnacle of what long seemed an utterly quixotic political goal—is the absolute opposite of a victory in this elven arena of memetic dominance.
Instead—by asserting power over the physical bodies of elves, who are still elves even if they happen to live in a hobbit state—Dobbs reminds them of what is most important in politics: the friend-enemy distinction. Elf together strong! Smelly hobbits must be defeated, at any cost. The only thing worse is traitorous dark elves who sympathize with nasty dirty dangerous hobbits. These traitors will be hunted, found and punished.
And that one wine aunt who would have been too blotto to vote in the midterms, and who anyway was feeling kind of blue since last month when the catalytic converter on her Lexus got a quick D&C with an angle-grinder (who would do a thing like that?)… she’ll be there—leaving her merlot in the fridge, filling out a stack of mail-in ballots down at the nursing home—boxed chardonnay is delightful every day. But the duty to protect women comes only once every year or two…
Dear hobbits: what can we dark elves do for you? We can lead you to victories which are actual victories. We can help you build a hobbit army which is ready to rule, which even feels the right to rule—which even has the right to rule. We cannot help you until are ready to stop struggling reflexively, and start fighting strategically.
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