The Dark Enlightenment is a group of thinkers and blogs that has aroused a fair amount of controversy in the last several years. Most people who write about them from the outside piously dismiss them as a gang of crypto- and not-so-crypto- fascists, or a sort of grunting neanderthalism dressed up in intellectual clothes. The reality, as usual, is not so simple.
I’ve been meaning to write about them for a while, and the first question I’m going to raise is whether they meaningfully present a single subject at all.
Here’s a recent version of an affinity map that has seen wide circulation. External link, might go stale; if it does, throw “dark enlightenment map” in a search engine to get something similar.
Just looking at the map, someone unfamiliar with the players would be justified in wondering if there’s really any coherence there at all. And that’s a fair question. Some of the people the map sweeps in don’t think of themselves as “Dark Enlightenment” at all. This is notably true of the light green cluster marked “Techno-Commercialists/Futurists” at the top, and the “Economists” connected to it in yellow.
If I belonged on this map, that’s where I’d be. I know Eliezer Yudkowsky; the idea that he and the Less Wrong crowd and Robin Hanson feel significant affinity with most of the rest of that map is pretty ludicrous.
Note, however, that one of only two links to the rest is “Nick Land”. This is a clue, because Nick Land is probably the single most successful booster of the “Dark Enlightenment” meme. It’s in his interest to make the movement look as big and various as he can manage, and I think this map is partly in the nature of a successful con job or dezinformatsiya.
In this, Land is abetted by people outside the movement who are well served by making it look like the Dark Enlightenment is as big and scary as possible. Some of those people lump in the techno-futurist/economist group out of dislike for that group’s broadly libertarian politics – which though very different from the reactionary ideas of the core Dark Enlightenment, is also in revolt against conventional wisdom. Others lump them in out of sheer ignorance.
So, my first contention is that Nick Land has pulled a fast one. That said, I think there is a core Dark Enlightenment – mostly identifiable with the purple “Political Philosophy” group, but with some crossover into HBD and Masculinity and (possibly) the other groups at the bottom of the map.
Additionally, maps like this can sometimes reinforce existing affinities if people on both ends notice them and take them seriously. Even in my limited and occasional investigation, I think I’ve seen some signs of convergence between “Political Philosophy” and “Masculinity”, with people in both groups adopting each others’ tropes and language more than they were doing on my first exposure to either.
It would not at all surprise me if there is something similar going on with the “Ethno-Nationalists”, a group about which I know only a little (and most of what I know is pretty nasty). I’m unqualified to write about the “Christian Traditionalists”, about which I know nothing, but I suspect this may be another spurious link. Same goes for “Femininity”.
From my reading, I think we are on firmest ground speaking of a “Dark Enlightenment” if we zero in on the middle tier of the map: “Political Philosophy”, “Secular Traditionalists”, “HBD”, and “Masculinity”. The link density of the map backs this up. Land and other Dark Enlightenment maximalists, though willing to write in spurious connections to inflate the movement, don’t seem to be wrong about these.
My original plan was to write a sort of view from high altitude of the whole congeries, but I think I’m going to have to break that up into several themed blog entries. Watch this space.