A while back, I spent some time talking about the study purporting to show that conservatives are stupid. Now my Throne and Altar pal Drieu has sent along some other studies claiming to show that we are also more likely to use pornography, have abortions, and have children out of wedlock than our enlightened brethren who don’t think those things are sins. Weird, and let’s say I’m a bit suspicious. But, still, it might be true.
I’m hard to scandalize, because my expectation is that of course we religious conservatives are an inferior segment of the population, inferior by every measure. We are nonconformists, and nonconformists are, as a group, always defectives. If a group of people doesn’t back the established dogma, there must be something wrong with them. A truly rare person might see the error in some established belief, but in general if official propaganda doesn’t take, it’s because the subject has some sort of intellectual or social defect. Conformity to the group is human nature, and the more intelligent, sociable, and industrious the person, the better he will be able to conform. Today, atheist utilitarianism is established belief. One would expect dissenters to have lower intelligence, less self-control, less empathy, less social acumen, and less maturity. They always do.
I don’t except myself. Why should I imagine that I am not an average deviant? I am probably significantly less intelligent, moral, and friendly than average. A more socially conscious person would find it agonizing to belong to a group (even in secret) that his colleagues hate passionately, but being an introvert with few friends, it doesn’t bother me much. I’ve said before that being unattractive to women during adolescence probably helped spur along my socially conservative sensibilities. Stubbornness, mental inflexibility, unfounded arrogance, and an antisocial contrarianism have no doubt helped to confirm me in my deviancy.
Why, then, do I persist? Why not give in to the wisdom of my admitted betters? Because raw personality and intellectual gifts are mostly used to conform, not to approach truth. We can all think of historical examples where elite opinion turned out to be worse than uneducated common sense No doubt, we would choose different examples, but the fact that elite consensus from one era contradicts elite consensus from the next proves that it’s not always right.
Knowing your enemies are smarter and have less embarrassing crime stats than you is not a reason for doubt, but it should affect your strategy. For example, I’m quite sure that my enemies are wrong and I’m right, but I would never agree to a debate with any of them. Debates measure quickness of wit, not accuracy of belief. I’m significantly less smart than the average Jew or atheist; they’d make mincemeat of me. Another strategic decision for the less gifted is to avoid overextension. A wise ruler with a small army won’t occupy more territory than he can hold. A blogger shouldn’t have more opinions than he can competently defend, and that number depends strongly on IQ. Readers probably noticed that Throne and Altar was a very focused blog–nobody knows Bonald’s opinion on gun control, nuclear nonproliferation, capital gains taxes, and a bunch of other things. Partly that’s because my interests really are limited, but it’s also a way of dealing with limited intellectual firepower.
Move now from my case to the movement in general. You will have noticed that most strategies for “retaking the culture” involve being able to outclass our opponents in brains, creativity, or character. How many times have you heard this: “The way to win back people to Christianity is by living truly Christian lives. People will be so impressed by our kindness, integrity, and inner peace that they’ll want to know how to share it.” Of course, living a good Christian life is always to be encouraged, but given that we’re not the elite, we should expect to come up short on any statistical measure of morality and psychological adjustment. We’ll never succeed in selling Christ by selling ourselves. Then there’s this: “The way to retake the culture is to have conservatives write great novels, produce great movies, and paint great paintings that illustrate our worldview.” As if we had an unlimited fund of creativity to bring to bear. Most people with real talent are given an extra dose of brainwashing at elite schools and never find their way into our camp.
The encouragement to outclass our enemies is still a good one; it’s something to strive for. A reactionary movement that always tries to have better arguments and behavior may not succeed, but it will argue and behave better than it would if it weren’t trying.