The Impoverishment of a Politicized Life

While waiting for my copy of Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson's End of Discussion to arrive from Amazon, I stumbled upon a piece over at Slate about a guy who got booted from a tech conference because he thinks the wrong things. The wrong-thinker in question is the famed neoreactionary Mencius Moldbug (real name: Curtis Yarvin); you can read David Auerbach's piece to see just how wrong his wrong-thoughts are. I'm not terribly interested in all that. What I would like to highlight is a brief portion of Auerbach's piece in which describes how the politicized life impoverishes us all. Here's Auerbach:

Yarvin’s canceled presentation centered on Urbit, an idiosyncratic software platform he created, and an associated virtual machine called Nock. I’ve read the specifications, and Yarvin’s project is an intriguing attempt to create an entirely new, universal computation framework based around a virtual machine that is truly distributed from the ground up, so that even tiny amounts of computation can be apportioned across multiple machines. It may, as I suspect, be utterly impractical, but it’s undoubtedly different and a worthy experiment. I would attend a talk on it. But I wouldn’t be able to at Strange Loop now, thanks to a strange figure named Mencius Moldbug.

Auerbach goes on to note that banning Moldbug for his wrong-thinking on the grounds that his mere presence there would be a distraction sets up a perverse incentive. South Park has explained this cleverly and succinctly: when you set a precedent that complaining loud enough will result in censorship, you open the floodgates as to what will be censored. This is all well and good and true.

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What I find more fascinating, though, is the self-inflicted ignorance, the decision that punishing Moldbug's wrong-thinking is more important than exposing oneself to new, entirely unrelated, ideas. It's the "entirely unrelated" that matters here. I get it: lots of people have no interest in attending a conference on neoreactionary thought. That's totally understandable. What isn't is the argument that this guy's wrong-thinking is so extensive it means nothing else he works on—even things entirely unrelated to neoreactionary bad think—can be tolerated.

Honestly, it saddens me a bit—just as it saddens me when someone says they won't listen to a musician because he supports the wrong party or watch a movie because the actor or director or writer votes for the wrong candidate or read a novelist's work because he supports a different political sensibility. Forbearance is a virtue, folks. And, frankly, not a terribly difficult one to integrate into your life.