Exiting the Culture War

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  • Collective Presencing w/ Ria Baeck and Co-Hosts. Every Second Friday @ 12:00 PM ET. RSVP here. 90 mins.

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July 18th, 2021

I am called to do something new, and it is wise to let go of something old when something new is ahead.

Jordan Hall had a clip on his YouTube channel about the culture war, which is worth the watch. To paraphrase, he essentially said this… 

Many people are addicted to fighting the culture war. If you are addicted to something it is probably not healthy, so find a way to stop doing that. For most people, tuning out of the culture war and turning one’s attention to building the new thing is the right thing to do. We are all building the new thing. We are all a part of building the spiritual kingdom. 

This deeply resonated with me, as words from the sensemaking general often do. I do not know how people see me in the meta space, but for a while I did feel like I was the “culture war guy,” as even Jordan tweeted before: Peter tracks the culture war (and culture dance) at the top of the game. David Fuller wanted to do a culture war report with me on Rebel Wisdom, but it never felt aligned with the daemon. I am done writing about culture war stuff actually, and I want to shake off being the culture war guy, even if this shaking just needs to happen in my mind.

It all started with my first foray into the hyperconversation, The Memetic Tribes of Culture War 2.0, which I wrote with Conor Barnes back in September 2018. The piece went viral, and still gets buzz today. I am happy with how it has held up. A lot of our predictions came true, and the speculative proposals we presented are being explored in many places.

I wanted that piece to be psychoactive, and both the terms we presented, “memetic tribes” and “culture war 2.0” are meant to be perspectival shifts, that once seen cannot be unseen, and it was probably the spreadsheet of all the memetic tribes that really blew a lot of people’s minds. It was also a confidence boost. I was always intellectually minded, and felt like I had useful things to share, but I did not have confidence in my writing abilities, nor belief in my intellectual capacities more generally.

Seeing the effect of the white paper did quiet down my intellectual insecurities, especially hearing really smart people I deeply respect speak highly about the paper. Other cool things that happened: finding out that University professors and high school teachers put the paper on their class curriculums, seeing it being cited in academic papers, being mentioned in a monograph designed to influence military policy, and being used in a project from the Open Intelligence Lab, an academic collective based in Amsterdam.

All of this was very cool to see, and it basically promoted this thought with me: okay, I can make a valuable contribution with my thoughts. Given this feedback, and being the guy who can go meta on the culture war better than most, I self-adopted the “culture war guy” identity. Conor and I wrote two follow-up pieces: Hippocratic Oath for the Culture War for Areo and What Our Politics Needs Now: Anti-Debates for Emerge. It is not talked about often enough how a memetic artifact like a public writing can serve as a beacon for finding the others. It really is a great way to netplay.

For example, Helen Pluckrose sent the Hippocratic oath piece to the brothers who run the platform Letter, which led me to become an ambassador for the platform for a while. I have become friends with the brothers, and even flew out to California to have a team meeting during Letter’s Y Combinator interview. This led to us eating a big tub of ice cream together after getting an email saying Letter did not get accepted. The anti-debate piece also helped me netplay, as it connected me with Jonathan Rowson, the founder of Perspectiva, one of the main metamodern platforms. Perspectiva is now running with projects that are meant to create a robust anti-debate modality.

Since I am going to put my culture war phase behind me after this entry, I might as well mention my other culture war writings: Memetic Mediation: The Hard Problem of the Culture War, for Adam Robbert’s The Side View, The Cancel God for High Existence, created with my good friend Lubomir Arsov, and Chapel Perilous, also for Emerge, created with Rebecca Fox.

I have also written about the culture war in these journals. I quite enjoyed writing about the culture war battlefronts, which included woke versus anti-woke, institutional knowledge versus stigmatized knowledge, normies versus weirdos, and the current vaccine battlefront, which I’d say is a facet of the institutional knowledge versus stigmatized knowledge battlefront.

I playfully did a few entries on “culture war consultancy,” aka “Overton window dressing” and “tasting the thought soup,” which I think can be useful skills to learn. Lastly, and probably most importantly, are my musings on the “culture dance.” I would say that this culture dance is a part of “building the new thing” that Jordan was talking about, and for this to happen we will need a “reality tunnel dance hall.”

I sense The Stoa is a place that can quietly be in service to teaching people how to culture dance, but I do not think it should be a place where culture war conversations happen, or even a place that talks about it from a meta-perspective anymore. The session we had with Jeff Salzman this week, How the Culture War Creates Integral Consciousness, will be the last meta-conversation we will have on the culture war. 

Transparency Tube, a website that tracks culture war happenings via YouTube, lists The Stoa as “center,” which seems like a rare listing on the site, as most other platforms either have some label like “woke” or “anti-woke” slapped on them. For example, fairly or unfairly, our friends at Rebel Wisdom and Future Thinkers are listed as anti-woke. I do not want us to be listed as—or have this place give off the felt-sense impression of being—either woke or anti-woke. We are neither, and despite what memetic tribes on the woke versus anti-woke battlefront want you to believe, you can be neither.

So far I have been carefully stewarding this place, and my reading of the culture war has afforded The Stoa to maintain this position. The daemon is telling me to back off from doing anything culture war now, especially things that get broadcasted on the YouTube channel.

I hope I am wrong, but I sense attempting to “hold the meta” in the hyperconversation is going to be really difficult from here on out. I see increasing fragmentation on all sides, coupled with the “long night” algo being enacted on tech platforms. Perhaps it will be important to attempt to hold the meta in the clearnet, but this is not the piece The Stoa nor myself are meant to hold.

I am also not addicted to Twitter anymore, thanks to recently getting into a better relationship with the internet, and I only go on once a week for about 10 minutes. When I go on I quickly become disheartened. To put it frankly, most people are bad at all three of the epistemics, and really bad at having all three epistemics in relationship with one another.

It is possible to engage in good faith in the hyperconversation, but as Luke Raskopf argued in his recent talk at The Stoa, social media platforms bend you. There is so much cocksureness out there, it is painful to see actually. If you want to see the Dunning-Kruger effect on full display then go to a culture war battlefront and bask in the overabundance of miscalibration in epistemic confidence.

We have 20k followers on The Stoa’s YouTube now. My clout chasing desires have been processed, and I no longer have them. I am happy to stay relevantly unknown, pleased even. We can still keep our cool kids vibe, and continue to be the highest signal-to-noise space on the clearnet. No more culture war shit though. The Stoa is still going to steer clear from all culture war battlefronts, and now we’ll stop doing meta musings on the culture war as well.

I am still going to privately track the culture war though, as maintaining a culture war literacy is a wise thing to do. My strategy to stay up-to-date is going to become more sophisticated, and less addictively haphazard. The marketing world has good tech around what they call “social listening,” aka monitoring social media to see what is being said about one’s company. I can repurpose this tech towards monitoring culture war happenings. Tech from open-source intelligence (OSINT) can also be repurposed for this.

The memetic operations from legacy media are an obvious way to quickly sense what “consensus trances” are at play. On the left the perceived existential threats legacy media covers are white supremacy and conspiracy theories, while cancel culture and Critical Race Theory are the focus of the same kind of media on the right.

If this is all the “Sensemaking Web” is going to be reacting to, then they are going to be missing so many memetic bubblings elsewhere. For instance, a fascinating occurrence is happening with memetic tribal expats from both the alt-right and manosphere: they are rushing to traditionalist Christianity. Roosh V’s recent conversion to the Russian Orthodox Church is one example, as is his newly coined “Orthosphere,” or Milo Yiannopoulos recently claiming he is ex-gay and now promoting conversion therapy.

If Roosh is right in his recent “The Rise Of The Orthosphere” piece, and many are converting to traditional Christianity, they will bring with them views far outside the Blue Church’s Overton window, and will memetically shape those religions from within. For example, many on the alt-right and manosphere would self-identify as “Jew pilled,” meaning they claim awareness of what they view as undue Jewish and Zionist influence on the world. Will established worldwide religious institutions start getting censored by Big Tech because of this?

Another way to sense into what is on the horizon is having a sense of what is currently fringe philosophically, that may soon be culturally relevant, such as the philosophy of a “dissident of the gender-sex binary system” Paul B. Preciado, or the accelerationist influenced “Xenofeminism” of Helen Hester. Many of the postgender conversations will continue to dovetail quite nicely with the posthumanism discussed in transhumanist circles. It will be interesting when the post-human versus pro-human battlefront of the culture war emerges.

All of this being said, I am not interested in putting too much work into maintaining my culture war literacy. I sense socially listening to the culture war, perhaps once a month for an hour or so is all that is needed. My skill set is at such a level where I can grok the landscape pretty quickly to inform myself of what terms not to use when discussing certain issues.

I also sense it wise to stay away from political conversations. Eliezer Yudkowsky's words are good to heed: “politics is the mind-killer.” No more “Future of the Left” type events at The Stoa. I am not saying these are not important to have, they are just not what is important to have at The Stoa anymore. Instead, the focus will be exploring both the praxis and theoria of the three life transformative paths mentioned in the previous entries: wisdom, awakening, and love, with a bias towards the Path of Wisdom.

So that’s it fam, I am done. I have exited the culture war. I was never a culture warrior, but I was a culture war observer, witnessing memetic violence with my meta binoculars from an obscure hill in the noosphere. It was fun, but now it is time to do something new. Now it is time to help build the new thing.


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