The Lesbian Rule of Sheriff Andy Taylor

Not long ago, I was given a parking ticket.  And in giving me that ticket, the minion of our campus parking authority was, strictly speaking, correct.  I was not blocking a fire lane, or a dumpster, or the valet parking outside the football team’s massage parlor, but neither was I occupying what a parking lot precisian would recognize as a space. “Dead to rights” just about sums it up how they had me.

Just about, but not entirely. Continue reading

A Dishonest Church Disguised as a Nation

You have almost certainly read G. K. Chesterton quoted as saying that America is “a nation with the soul of a church” (1).  The line is a favorite among belletristic conservatives who are themselves apostles in the Church of America, and who would not mind leaving their readers with the impression that they and the Sage of Common Sense have said that America is essentially Christian.

Like so many of the impressions with which belletristic conservatives would not mind leaving their readers, this one would be more than a little false. Continue reading

The Fate of a Jonathan

In my moniker JMSmith, the J stands for Jonathan. It is a name that has served me well, although my mother tells me that, when I was a child, shouting it sometimes failed to engage my attention. But a man who also bears the surname Smith will have a connection to all of his names that is, I daresay, somewhat less proud and proprietorial than a man whose last name is Murgatroyd, Pecksniff, or Abercrombie. And in my case, the sense of ordinariness was enforced by the fact that, until I reached adulthood, everyone called me Jon.

As a child raised on Bible stories and Sunday School lessons, I could not, however, escape the feeling that being named Jonathan placed me in some sort of occult relation to the son of Saul and friend of David. I therefore found myself wondering if there might be some onomastic qualia, some essential Jonathan-ness that was shared by every boy who bore that name. It was not easy for me to answer this question inductively, since there were not many Jonathans among my classmates (unlike Smiths), and these Jonathans were mostly Jews (which strangely made them seem irrelevant to my inquiry).

So I was thrown back on pondering the character in the Bible story, and the more I pondered, the less thrilled I was with my name. Continue reading

“Putting Out the Lights”: A Scrap from the Ashes

The Protestant Reformation looms large in neo-reactionary thought.  This is because it saw the birth of the Spirit of Jacobinism, and because Neo-reaction is, on my understanding, reaction against this Spirit.  Unlike the Paleo-reactionaries of long ago, today’s Neo-reactionaries are, however, embarrassed by the absence of legitimate authorities to defend.  The Spirit of Jacobinism has now carried all before it, and one cannot really stand up for Throne and Altar after Lenin has taken the Crown and Danton has taken the Crozier.

This is why neo-reactionary thinkers spend so much time poking through the ashes, trying to understand what happened; and it is why our project is, at bottom, an exercise in historical demonology. Continue reading

Ressentiment or Catharsis?

Plato had a name for popular culture. He called it “theatrocracy,” which is to say rule by the theater (Laws 3.701). Or, more exactly, it is to say rule of the theater by the theatron, this being the ancient name of the seating area for spectators. We have a theatrocracy whenever the performance is governed by the applause, or the laughs, or (hitting closer to home) the student evaluations.

And Plato said theatrocracy was a very bad sort of rule because it was an inversion of authority. In a world that was properly ordered, the stage dictated to the theatron, not the theatron to the stage. Continue reading

Is Peer Review Mostly Butt Sniffing?

The outfit worn by an American teenager has been subjected to rigorous “peer review.” Likewise his hairstyle, his lingo, and what he passes off as his opinions. In fact, we might say that he is, in toto, the product of the “peer review process.”  Or what anxious sociologists used to call “peer pressure.”

Academic peer review is engineered somewhat differently, but its purpose and effect is the same. It produces conformity, or what we are told to call, with intonations of reverence, scientific consensus. Continue reading

A Patriotic Cosmopolitan

The cosmopolitan outlook is said to have begun when the Stoic philosopher Zeno announced that he was a “citizen of the world.”  By “the world,” Zeno really meant the cosmos, as we recognize in the term cosmopolitan, and by cosmos he really meant the divine order, universal reason, or logos that stands behind everything (1).  In saying he was a “citizen of the world,” or a “cosmopolitan,” Zeno was therefore declaring himself a loyal subject of this higher law, and at the same time renouncing his allegiance to the lesser laws and loyalties that bind citizens of a mere city-state. Continue reading

A Dolorous Rationalist

Isegoria has posted an excerpt from Razib Kahn’s review of Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now. Kahn, like Pinker, is a true believer in what he calls the “enlightenment project,” which he conceives as the use of “critical rationalism” to liberate men from “tribal visions” and resettle them in the promised land of truth and righteousness. Continue reading

The Power of the Eunuchs

With an eye to updating one of my lectures, I have been reading the Travels of Ludovico di Varthema, an Italian who disguised himself as a Muslim and made the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1503.  From there, he pressed on to India and the Spice Islands, only turning back when he had seen the famous clove trees of Ternaté.  While ashore on Java, he notes that his companion purchased . . . Continue reading