I would like to thank everyone for participating in the Reader Poll 2016.
The responses have been very helpful and have helped spur me on to make some strategic changes to the way I’ll proceed with my blogging forthwith.
First off, it’s good to know that the average “quality of posts” mark was 4.2/5, so I guess deleting my account and doing something more productive online, like mining gold on Warcraft, is premature. The “regularity of posts” marker could do with some improvements. There seems to be general satisfaction with the commenting policy, so I will largely keep to my hands off approach (apart from cracking down on some of the most egregious trolls). Otherwise, since the quality of comments are largely a function of the quality of the blog posts they are responding to – for instance, no-one would bother trolling the blog of someone like pseudoerasmus – the onus here is on me more than anyone else.
In terms of topics – geopolitics, Russia, HBD, futurism – no change is merited. Although my Russia/geopolitics fanbase is the biggest one, it is not absolutely preponderant, and besides, there are plenty of people who like the mix and match approach (e.g. Russia + futurism, geopolitics + HBD, etc). Besides, of the top 5 listed blogs that people read in addition to mine, three are HBD blogs (Sailer, GNXP, West Hunt) while The Saker is only third.
Finally, there is pretty overwhelming demand for me to start writing reviews, which is something I’m entirely happy to accomodate. As a base for future reviews here, I have created a special web page at my home website here: http://akarlin.com/library/
It contains a sortable list of most of the books I’ve (fully) read, the video games I’ve played, and some of the films I’ve watched as well as the categories they belong to, their publication dates, my ratings of them, and where available, links to my already existing reviews of them. That list will remain updated in the future.
The biggest change I will be making, however, is in regards to social media.
Zuck Walks Past His Oblivious VR Addled Peons
There are good reasons for this, which I will soon expound on, but just in case you mostly follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook, the most convenient way of continuing to do so as well as keep up with multiple other blogs is to use a feed reader. Feedly is generally acknowledged to be the best in existence today, though there are also others such as the The Old Reader which reproduce much of the functionality of the much missed Google Reader. To follow my blog in particular, just insert one of the following feeds:
- http://www.unz.com/xfeed/rss/akarlin/ (native Unz.com feed, but in my experience not very reliable)
- http://feeds.feedburner.com/RussianReaction (blog feed generated on Feedburner)
… into the search/input box on your feed reader and click to subscribe. This is an extremely convenient tool if you follow multiple blogs or even individual columnists. (Most, though not all, news websites now have separate feeds for individual categories, authors, etc).
Now back to the social media question.
The proximate (or “selfish”) reason is that the Reader Poll revealed that I do not depend near as much on social media for my audience as I had imagined. Although a third of respondents follow me on Twitter, only 11% use it as the primary way to follow my posts. A mere two respondents follow me on Facebook. Now if those figures had been inverse, at 90%, then obviously abandoning those platforms would have been unfeasible. But if I only stand to lose at most 10% of my more engaged readers – and that’s assuming none of them switch over to other ways of following my blog (see above) – then its a price worth paying for cutting my reliance on a facet of modern society that I have gradually come to view as being even so much superficial as negative value added.
Yes, that’s right. Much like Soviet factories in the early 1990s, or arguably the metastasized financial sector in the West today, my argument is that social media consumes far more useful resources than the questionable “benefits” it produces. Far from “democratizing” global discourse, as techno-utopians hoped it would in the optimistic days of the first decade of the 21st century, it has in fact privileged soundbytes over sound analysis, confounded and contaminated rather than clarified, decelerated and devalued intellectual progress, and entrenched the power of the economic and political elites.
Let’s look at these bold claims one by one.
First, social media has been heralded for increasing the amount of information at the fingertips of the “global citizen” (a creature that is just as mythical today as he was in the days of its inventor Immanuel Kant). This may be so, but the banal fact is that for a long time now, the problem has not been so much a lack of information as a surfeit of it. (In the big picture, historians only suffer from a paucity of sources as regards pre-Early Modern Europe; since at least the nineteenth century, the struggle has been over what to include and emphasize). There is still a problem of limited access to important information – the Bilderbergers don’t seem to be in any particular rush to open up the minutes of their meetings, for all that their counterparts (largely the same class of people) at Davos wax lyrical about this brave new world of openness and transparency. There has been some formidable theoretical and more importantly, practical and technological work to undermine this, spearheaded by Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and the rest of the “cypherpunk” mileau, but guess what percentage of that had anything whatsoever to do with social media. That’s right – zilch.
This hints at a related problem, a paradox even: Even though there might be a surfeit of information, there is at the same time a deficit of useful information. Nicholas Nassim Taleb, one of the few public intellectuals worthy of the title, made the brilliant observation in Black Swan that “news shared with millions gives you no real advantage,” since it is inevitably already priced into people’s models of the world. Furthermore, apart from wasting your time, there is a real risk that reading newspapers might even “decrease your knowledge of the world” insofar as the media foist upon you a narrative interpretation of reality that often has little or nothing to do with reality itself. Now if this is the case for newspapers, how much more so for Twitter? Taleb’s recommendation is to “denarrate, that is, shut down the television set, minimize time spent reading newspapers, ignore the blogs.” Very good advice, even if mercenary self-interest makes me argue for making at least a partial exception to that last part…
Second, social media has been praised for enabling “people power” and unleashing the revolutionary energies that would overthrow creaky old authoritarian regimes – a Whiggish faith in progress that approaches cult status, or technological solutionism as Evgeny Morozov called it. To be sure, it is true enough that social media has of course played a substantial role in fomenting so-called “color revolutions” across the post-Soviet and Islamic worlds – Moldova, Egypt, Ukraine, Armenia, Syria, etc. (with not inconsiderable help from “activist training programs” run by the State Department and its various affiliates-in-practice-if-not-name, Western oligarchs like George Soros, and the tech giants themselves).
The problem is that a monkey clattering away at a keyboard is still a monkey. Almost without exception, all the countries where color revolutions prevailed have proceeded to collapse in on themselves. This pattern is not surprising to anyone who has bothered to acquaint himself with the accounts of these color revolution activists, many of which are characterized by a distinctive mixture of boorishness, gratuitous profanity, parochial nationalism, and a vindictive authoritarian streak that in the case of Ukraine extended to using the #banderakaratel hashtag to organize the mass abuse of Twitter’s report function to get opposing voices banned from the platform (despite this being an egregious violation of its own TOS, it took Twitter almost two years from the time of Euromaidan to do anything about this, by which point the campaign had long ceased to be very relevant). Once in power, these Yuropean intellectuals turned their attention to renaming everything after Bandera, even as their country collapsed around them. What was prophesied to be a torch for liberty has become a bullhorn for demagoguery and destruction.
Third, and again paradoxically, the real influence of social media – at least as a means for promoting truly original ideas, as opposed to their pastiches – remains highly marginal and circumscribed. Now I realize that this will raise some hackles at a time when Alt Right shitlords on Twitter are seemingly at the forefront of a popular reaction against the elites, while SJWs and Tumblrettes have appropriated the discourse on the Left from crusty old Communists (now “tankies“) and trade unionists. But think about it: In a hundred years, assuming that the Great Filter doesn’t do us in, who of the following will be remembered, and who will be but a footnote in the history books at best? Will it be the ephemeral, half-virtual protest movements, or the writers of the Big Books?
- Thomas Piketty, or Occupy Wall Street?
- Glenn Greenwald, or… I don’t even know who.
- Charles Murray, or the Alt Right trolls whom he now wastes his own time trolling?
Look around you. Almost none of the hardcore intellectuals are on Twitter. Where is Andrew Wiles? Perelman? Shinichi Mochizuki? At best, they occasionally update their academic home page. Voluntary reclusion seems to be a constant prerequisite for getting serious intellectual work done. Who is the most prominent scientist on Twitter? Neil deGrasse Tyson. A professional publicist whose real achievements in astronomy are close to zero. The same goes for social scientists and historians. Those who are now primarily showmen are active on Twitter. Emmanuel Todd is not.
The flip side of the coin is that there are a number of potential intellectuals who instead crashed and burned on social media. The most prominent example in our parts might be Michael Anissimov, whose rather good and original ideas on neoreactionary political philosophy have been overshadowed by his misadventures on Twitter. The platform might have some marginal benefits in terms of publicity, but it carries the risk of cognitive contamination, and the ROI in terms of time does not look good. This is not something I have been immune from myself. For instance, I might have had a dopamine high from “winning” (perhaps) a debate on HBD/immigration with Leonid Bershidsky, but at the end of the day, he is a highly influential journalist with a column in Bloomberg and I am not.
The banal reality is that if you are a publicist on social media you are probably not near as witty as you think you are, probably quite superfluous, and many other people do what you do much better anyway (for instance, much of the Alt Right can quit any day, safe in the knowledge that Ricky Vaughn will continue hitting out of the ballpark). You are also, in all likelihood, just repeating yourself. My last Facebook post as of the time of writing, dated June 23, is a link to former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul’s Tweet in which he acknowledges that Putin is “not responsible” (for Brexit):
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) June 24, 2016
Come to think of it, isn’t this ironic ReTweet more or less what I have been saying since… I started blogging? And haven’t I been writing about the link between IQ and economic development since 2008, when I was less than two years out of high school? Yes I have, but in the meantime, Garett Jones has written an actual book about this, while low energy types such as myself, whom The Donald rightfully mocks, whiled away their time on frivolous activities. Shitlibs LOL. SJWs LOL. Svidomites LOL. Let’s write 140 characters on their latest inanity. It elicits a chuckle and is soon forgotten in the poorly indexed cyberwastes that are social media’s archives.
Social media has pretty much single-handedly killed off the once flourishing discourse across the blogosphere, reminiscent of the “culture of letters” in the long bygone heyday of European civilization. Here is Scholar’s Stage evocative account of what happened in the strategy sphere, though I can confirm from personal experience that exactly analogous processes were under way in the Russia watching world, and almost certainly in many other topical networks:
Many of the 200 word hot takes that would have ended up on a blog or forum in the days of yesteryear now happen on social media sites. Likewise, most commentary that would have ended up in a comments thread is now tweeted and retweeted on Twitter.
This brings me to a broader point I want to make about social media’s intersection with intellectual progress (or the lack thereof).
I was once at a futurist debate where one of the speakers was ranting some technoutopian nonsense about how high-bandwidth brain to brain communication systems would revolutionize science and allow much faster progress. I remarked, not at all facetiously, that we already have such a system: It’s called Twitter.
After all, it’s not the bandwidth or the ease of communications that’s bottlenecking anything; it’s a plain lack of the sort of very high-level intelligence that we increasingly need as the Flynn Effect grinds to a halt and we slam against the technological frontier. Social media do almost nothing to extend it. Bandwidth is already superfluous, more than our Dunbar Number brain can handle anyway, and is swamped by a low signal-to-noise ratio besides. Admittedly, social media does probably make information marginally easier to find, but I would argue that Alexandra Elbakyan’s humble academic paper sharing/piracy project Sci-Hub by itself has already achieved at least as much for global intellectual progress as Facebook and Twitter combined.
Finally, by rewiring so many first class brains from deep analytical mode to dopamine-seeking wisecrack mode – Charles Murray and even (ironically) N. N. Taleb himself might be in the early stages of that – social media might have ultimately retarded progress. This is not to even mention the considerable cognitive effort that has been expended directly to develop and maintain Facebook and its various clones and applications like Farmville, Mafia Wars, etc. as well as Twitter, Instagram, etc. It certainly pales besides the epochal misallocation of cognitive resources that is the modern financial sector, but it is probably quite considerable nonetheless.
Finally, it would be remiss in an extended critique of social media not to touch upon its increasingly cataclysmic political aspects.
In the past five years, social media have become ever more overt instruments of the globalist elites and their geopolitical and domestic agendas. Increasingly, they operate under the principle of “For my friends, everything; for my enemies, the law.” For instance, Russian nationalists who still maintain active Facebook accounts are far likelier to get hit with bans than their Ukrainian counterparts and other assorted color revolutionaries (see above). Ergo for Twitter, even though there has never been a Russian or Novorossiyan equivalent of the #banderakaratel campaign. This goes in tandem with support for pro-Western revolutionary forces across Eurasia, China, and the Islamic world. Ultimately, the major information companies are almost all US based, so it is only natural that they would seek to cater to American geopolitical interests. And needless to say, the Chinese and Russian governments use the tools they have at their disposal, such as domestic alternatives (Vkontakte, Sina Weibo, etc) and a policy of either banning foreign companies entirely (China) or making them keep their data on their own territory (Russia). It might be pointless to rail against this state of affairs, but it is outright dishonest to pretend that geopolitically, social media is some sort of global kumbaya circle.
The domestic agenda will be more familiar to Unz.com readers. Conservative and especially Alt Right voices are far likelier to get banned than their liberal and SJW opposites. When Return of Kings journalist and provocateur Matt Forney experienced a torrent of death threats from SJWs, it was his account that got banned for reporting them. Breitbart resident kebab Allum Bokhari compiled a list of five of the most egregious cases of Twitter unpersonings, which included reporting on (scrupulously documented!) instances of alleged pedophilia, fraud, and abuse on the part of SJW leaders. Meanwhile, a leading SJW and Gamergate critic who uses “set yourself on fire” as a universal comeback to any criticism of her positions has the personal ear of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
That said, these cases are atypical, if demonstrative; for the most part, the social media giants have taken a more nuanced approach to rigging the visibility game, shadowbanning politically inconvenient users (removing or reducing their visibility on search results and timelines) while promoting loyalists to the Eye of Soros. Politically inappropriate hashtags are manually suppressed from the trending lists. These processes are, if anything, even more overt at Facebook, what with the stunning recent revelations that its trending topic curators removed stories popular with conservatives and rumors that Facebook employees asked Zuckerberg if they could try to influence the elections against Trump. Although the Facebook CEO was quick to engage in damage control, his active personal support for Sorosian causes like #BlackLivesMatter and principled stand against all walls (except his own) put his company’s ultimate political neutrality under serious question.
Potentially, Facebook (Google, Twitter) are far more powerful enterprises than even the MSM and the six major corporations that own 90% of it, since they have the power to manipulate and control access to who sees what. /pol/ is always right. So is Deus Ex. We are seeing the materialization of Picus News, a globespanning media conglomerate that directly or incorrectly controls most of the world’s news, complete with shadowy globalist cabal in the background and reinforced not by elite teams of cybernetically augmented assassins but your own Likes and RTs.
Though you might get censored and banned for expressing the wrong viewpoint in the US, at least you won’t go to jail (yet). But warnings, fines, and arrests for expressions of wrongthink about the women and children who are also doctors and engineers on social networks in Europe are now a weekly occurence, and things are only going to get much worse as trans-European regulations on “hate speech” are adopted under the auspices of the EU with the active connivance of Zuckerberg and Merkel, in which “extremism” functionally translates to “anything critical of the EU’s current catastrophic immigration policy.” In practice, these policies will likely extend to the US as well, because of the multinational nature of Facebook’s moderation and its cross-Atlantic ideological unity.
The US plans to start collecting social media profiles as a condition of entry into the country. Apps are being created that scour your social media profiles for financial and political reliability, and in the not too distant future might become a condition of getting hired or taking out credit. These apps have floundered thus far, but this might not be indefinite, as technology advances and the bargaining power of labor gets further diminished by mass immigration and automation. Facebook is taking steps to stake out its territory in Virtual Reality before it has even properly emerged, buying up the Oculus Rift and immediately refocusing it on advertising.
Should we continue feeding this machine? As Zuckerberg himself once said in a private message when founding Facebook, “They “trust me.” Dumb fucks.”
Let’s listen to him.
So we have established that social media contains almost no useful information, yields marginal if not outright returns on intellectual progress, promotes the baser elements of political discourse, and is increasingly blatantly manipulated by a historyless elite that will stop at nothing (except to make a buck off selling your personal information) in pursuit of its chiliastic dreams of social justice and an end to national sovereignty. Perhaps better alternatives will come along in time – for instance, some sort of social network based on the blockchain/Ethereum? – but as of today these systems have become forces for regression across almost all spheres of human activity.
All this is why I’m announcing a permanent end to my presence on Facebook and Twitter.
I will not delete them, because this is ultimately a kneejerk response, and I will feasibly use them twice a year to make very big announcements in the future (e.g. whenever I finally get a book published). Unfortunately, it also has considerable vestigial value as a big network that many people continue to use for its purely social functions like organizing meetups.
But the period in which I made active investments into my social media presence is definitively over.
So to sum it up here are the changes I’ll be making:
1. As per above, an end to social media. Anyway, after so much talk, it’s not like I can avoid the walk.
2. I will read more books, especially Big Books. As a political economy major it is ultimately rather embarassing that I have yet to read Capital in the 21st Century.
Taleb again: “I then completely gave up reading newspapers and watching television, which freed up a considerable amount of time (say one hour or more per day, enough time to read more than a hundred additional books per year, which, after a couple of decades, starts mounting).”
3. I will resume studying math – possibly the only intellectual sphere in which BS is impossible in principle, and which is quite possibly the ultimate basis of physical reality.
Not to mention that I have long wanted to explore and understand the real nitty gritty of The g Factor.
4 y ago, I resolved to do math >90m/day. I stuck to it, diligently, except for Jun 24, 2016 w/news of stage 1 of anti-IYI revolution #Brexit
— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) June 26, 2016
Ironically, what inspired me to this was this Tweet by N. N. Taleb. Even more ironically, it is in all likelihood the last ReTweet I will ever make.
4. I will focus anew on whittling down my ridiculous backlog in planned but unwritten books.
5. As per the wisdom of the Unz.com crowd, I will write fewer short posts and shitposts, and will refocus on the longread and on reviews of books and the better sorts of video games.
The culture of letters might be dead, but perhaps it is not yet too late for individuals to continue to nurture its saplings behind walled gardens, like the Green Man in the Great Blight, in the faith that the day when the Troll-ocs and the other minions of Soros are driven out will eventually dawn.