What do you think is the reason nerd culture has become such a hotbed for reactionaryism? Do you agree at all with my suspicion that, along with the combination toxic-masculinity/persecution-complex/thought-policing that everybody else has talked about, it may also be due to the Social Justice Left's playing "strange bedfellows" with the right in attempts to censor "nerd" media (The most prominent example being Fredrick Wertham) creating a mutual distrust between SJ & mainline nerdery?
Arthur Chu explained it perfectly last year:
I’ve known about the “neoreactionaries” a lot longer, before they were given that name—back when they were just teenagers on the Internet, like me, furious that there were people less intelligent than us who dared tell us what to do.
I never bought into the ideology fully, but I understand its appeal. The vast majority of nerds don’t take it as far as neoreactionaries and decide every single thing about the pre-modern world—hereditary aristocracy, racism, sexism, the whole shebang—needs to come back.
Mostly what you get is people who vaguely identify as “libertarians” who dislike “political correctness” and being forced to pay taxes. And the vast majority of annoying Slashdot libertarians who campaigned for Ron Paul and against Obamacare have no idea who Moldbug is, and the ones who are aware of him tend to be decent enough to get turned off once the defenses of white supremacism begin.
But every social trend has its extremist leading edge. Most libertarians I know are not racists, but libertarian icon Ron Paul certainly had more than his fair share of pandering to racists when building his political base, and the pot-smoking free-love libertarians of Silicon Valley are often unaware how reactionary their political bedfellows are…
And then there’s Justine Tunney, “co-founder of Occupy,” proud Google employee and self-declared defender of the tech elite.
Tunney does not just flirt with neoreactionary ideology, the way self-congratulatory “open-minded iconoclasts” like me did in high school and college. She goes full throttle in her embrace of it, doubles down on it, rejects every “politically correct” rejection of sexism or racism or classism that define the modern world.
She makes bold statements that IQ, law-abiding or -breaking tendencies and political alignment are all genetically determined. That Silicon Valley is moving away from capitalism toward feudalism, with tech CEOs as feudal lords, and this is a good thing. And, in the biggest headline-maker, she submitted a Change.org petition that President Obama should step down and appoint Eric Schmidt as unelected CEO of America, because Google is clearly better run than the government.
On some level, yes, this is just one individual story of crankery. Like many young activists, Tunney took on an unpaid volunteer role in a movement she thought would change the world, got burned out and upset with her fellow activists, and ended up spitefully turning on everything she once stood for. Like many outsized Internet personalities, she thrives on negative attention and is probably intentionally exaggerating her beliefs for clicks.
But Justine Tunney is not just an isolated anomaly. She’s the leading, crankish edge of a broad cultural trend. Justine Tunney is a troll, sure, and she’s not successful enough an example of her class to have lawyers and PR people to tell her to shut up. What that means is she’s willing to express, out loud and in public, what a lot of techies privately think…
Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, wrote a famous 2009 essay bemoaning women’s suffrage and saying “I no longer believe freedom and democracy are compatible.” Valley VC Tim Draper, right now, is demanding that the state of California be broken up into six states, so Silicon Valley won’t have to share a government or tax revenue with poor non-techies. And every day we hear another story about a tech company deciding rules don’t apply to them, whether it’s Airbnb and zoning rules or Apple and Google and wage-fixing rules or Aereo and FCC rules.
Nerds tend to talk a big game about standing up for the underdog but, I’m sorry to say, don’t seem to really want a leveling of society, a removal of hierarchies. They bristle against hierarchies of physical strength, of inherited capital, and of “popularity”—but only because those get in the way of a hierarchy of book smarts and technical skill, which is the right and proper hierarchy. The creepy nerd fantasy that remains alive and well in today’s Age of the Nerd Triumphant is not of making peace with the popular kids but taking their throne.
In Tunney’s case, the early warning sign was in January 2014, just before the big Twitter hijacking debacle, when she wrote a blog rant blasting fellow OccupierJustin Wedes for saying that Facebook should be paying dividends to its users—who create all of its actual content, and hence its value—and that they didn’t made them parasitic the same way financiers are on productive companies.
Calling capitalist ownership parasitism is an extreme position, perhaps, but one common enough among Occupiers. What drove Tunney nuts wasn’t the claim that capitalists were parasites but the application of this argument to tech companies. She starts with “This is a very problematic argument to make because it dismisses the labor of software engineers such as myself. Tread carefully if you go there, because you’ll be treading on my pride as a worker,” then goes on to blast Wall Street at length for being monsters and evil but in the same breath defend Mark Zuckerberg as being in a completely different category from the bad kind of capitalist.
Facebook, Google, Amazon and every other creepy company busy turning you into a data point to sell to advertisers—these are, in her words, “the greatest problem solvers in human history,” and to even compare them to those other kinds of rich people is base slander.
This solves the grand mystery, why someone who had such a closeted admiration for hierarchy and power would be a founding member of Occupy in the first place. Tunney was never against the one percent—she just thought that the one percent were the wrong people. The problem was they were tie-wearing investment banker fratboys and didn’t deserve to be on top. Just like in her view government fat cats and Hollywood celebrities and snooty academics don’t deserve to be on top. But tech geeks, with their superhuman ability to manipulate ones and zeroes, do.