He may not have the name recognition of a Milo Yiannopoulos, but Mencius Moldbug is arguably just as important a figure in the emergence of the self-described alt-right.
Moldbug — the pen name of Curtis Yarvin, a Silicon Valley programmer — launched his blog, Unqualified Reservations, in 2007, and on it offered a full-throated, passionate rejection of democracy, decrying it as an “ineffective and destructive system of government.” In its place, he argued for a kind of corporatist dictatorship (or neo-monarchy, if you prefer) that he called "formalism" or "neocameralism,” a reference to "cameralism," the philosophy of government embraced by Frederick the Great of Prussia.
He is also a quite vocal bigot. “Although I am not a white nationalist, I am not exactly allergic to the stuff,” he once wrote. “I believe white nationalism is a very ineffective political device for solving the very real problems about which it complains." He is sympathetic to arguments for black racial inferiority, and has argued that views like these — support for racist governments, opposition to black liberation movements, etc. — are being viciously suppressed by liberal elites in the US, elites like Ivy League schools, the New York Times, and Hollywood, which he collectively refers to as "the Cathedral.”
Moldbug wound up as the leading theorist of an intellectual current known as neo-reaction (NRx) or the “dark enlightenment,” which is now the highbrow current of the alt-right, existing alongside vocal white nationalists like Richard Spencer or Jared Taylor and 4chan provocateurs like Yiannopoulos.
Yarvin is not especially vocal or active these days; he largely stopped posting on Unqualified Reservations in 2013. Instead, he’s focused on his startup, Urbit, which is reportedly backed by Trump adviser and billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel and by Balaji Srinivasan, another Silicon Valley venture capitalist whom Trump considered as a possible FDA commissioner.
So it was quite interesting when Politico’s Eliana Johnson and Eli Stokols reported on Tuesday that Moldbug was in contact with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon:
Moldbug, who does not do interviews and could not be reached for this story, has reportedly opened up a line to the White House, communicating with Bannon and his aides through an intermediary, according to a source.
This struck me as odd; Moldbug is not really hard to reach. So I reached out and asked him if he was indeed in contact with Bannon. He strenuously denied it:
The idea that I'm "communicating" with Steve Bannon through an "intermediary" is preposterous. I have never met Steve Bannon or communicated with him, directly or indirectly. You might as well accuse the Obama administration of being run by a schizophrenic homeless person in Dupont Circle, because he tapes his mimeographed screeds to light poles where Valerie Jarrett can read them.
Yarvin told me he had told the Politico reporters as much too, and sure enough, Johnson and Stokols updated their story to add, “Yarvin said he has never spoken with Bannon.”
Of course, this is Yarvin/Moldbug’s word against that of Politico’s source; presumably Bannon wouldn’t like it made public if he were talking to Yarvin, so it’s not impossible that Yarvin is covering for him. Then again, Bannon employed Milo Yiannopoulos when he ran Breitbart, and oversaw that site while it maintained an active subsection devoted to “black crime.” Molbuggian ideas are pretty out there, but not obviously more outrageous than the kind of racist nonsense Bannon has himself repeatedly and publicly embraced.
But for whatever it’s worth, the godfather of the “dark enlightenment” is on the record as saying that he’s not whispering into the ear of the president’s most trusted adviser. Reassured?