I was just talking about nerd politics, and lo and behold, we have a fresh spasm of geek outrage to examine. Strange Loop, a hip technical conference, invited Curtis Yarvin (the real-word persona of Mencius Moldbug, the inventor of neoreaction) to give a talk on his Urbit system. Then, quite rapidly they rescinded the invitation when his political writings came to their attention, causing a fairly major internet fracas. It gave the right a chance to complain about censorship and the puritanical minds of SJWs, and they never pass one of those up.
But they really have no grounds for complaint, because freedom of speech is a liberal value, and Moldbug is quintessentially anti-liberal. From the neoreactionary viewpoint, there is no public sphere, not the streetcorner (which belongs to the monarch) and certainly not a private conference. The owners get to decide what is done with their property and the outrage of the offended non-owners carries no weight at all. And in this case, the owners of the conference decided they didn՚t want to be associated with a purveyor of flagrant racism.
I was kind of on the fence about it myself. On the one hand, I like robust freedom of speech; I dislike the new oversensitivity; and having technical presentations censored because of not-obviously-related political opinions of the presenter seemed like a really bad precedent.
On the other hand, Moldbug՚s opinions really ought to be beyond the pale of polite society. While I wouldn՚t interfere with his rights to post them on his own site, I don՚t think Strange Loop has an obligation to be open to all. Their argument is that hate is different from political opinion, they have a duty and obligation to keep their community friendly, and having Nazi-level crap in the mix might interfere with that job.
On the other other hand, to pretend that there is some categorical difference between hate and politics seems a trifle disingenuous. Hate is pretty fundamental; ideologies or groups in general define themselves in terms of what they hold sacred and its opposite. Moldbug isn՚t any more hateful than the rest of us, he just doesn՚t hate the right things. In the world we live in, hating racism is OK (required even), but hating a race is not.
Some claim he is not a racist, which is ridiculous if you՚ve read any of his stuff. What might be true is that he isn՚t fundamentally motivated by race hatred. If you take him at his word, what he really hates is disorder. Singapore is his ideal, a strong state with clean streets and no messy dissent. This is what makes neoreaction primarily a nerdy antipolitics, whose ideals are more abstract than the more typical loyalties and resentments of the mainstream.
But, while he may not be primarily motivated by race-hatred, he's just perfectly willing to allow racial oppression in the service of maintaining order. That may not be classical racist hate, but it's close enough. One of the Nazi՚s main justifications for their crimes against Jews was order and purity.
On the tactical level, Moldbug has scored a huge win for himself, and Strange Loop shot itself in the foot. He՚s got way more publicity, for both his technical and political work, than if he had given his talk. And now the conference has got a lot of unwelcome attention and associations. It would have been smarter to let him come and publish a disclaimer in the program or something.
Certainly I have been forced again to re-examine my assumptions, to look anew at my own ideas and values and how I defend them against challenges. Moldbug is good medicine for genuine progressives, who more than most have an obligation to think through their beliefs. It՚s strong and possibly toxic medicine, but having your thought congeal into mindless ideology is even more toxic.
[update: someone pointed out that al3x (linked above) is not officially associated with StrangeLoop, and linked a response from one of the actual organizers.]