Them things you don’t show, I can see
Them things you don’t say, speak to me
Them things you hide ain’t hiding
No firm ground but we ain’t sliding
– Kae Tempest, “The Beigeness”
I would like to begin by stressing how deeply miserable I am to be back on this beat. I was happy writing about the occult history of British comics, gods damn you. It didn’t involve horrible abyss gaze. It didn’t involve fashy trolls in my Twitter mentions. It was nice. But fine. Since people seem to love pointing out tht Neoreaction a Basilisk does not actually talk about Scott Siskind, aka Scott Alexander, here’s another goddamn essay. Are you sitting comfortably? Well fuck you.
For anyone not aware, Siskind is the blogger behind Slate Star Codex and whatever the hell he’s calling his Substack these days. He’s a major figure in the LessWrong diaspora—a post-Yudkowsky “rationalist” whose work was just the subject of an extremely anodyne and diffident New York Times profile that his defenders decried as a hit piece because it mentioned the fact that he’s rather more receptive to neo-nazi rhetoric about “the science of race” than one might expect a respected person to be. I was quoted in the article as a source because obviously, a major rationalist blogger who keeps taking neoreactionaries seriously is the sort of thing I’d be aware of after writing Neoreaction a Basilisk. But Siskind was only ever a minor figure in Neoreaction a Basilisk—I describe him in a footnote as someone “who flirts with neoreaction like a horny teenager befuddled by a bra.”
I am not going to discuss the aforementioned fumbling about the hook clasps of human biodiversity at any great length, mostly because it’s too straightforward to actually occupy that kind of time. This is someone who repeatedly speaks admiringly of Charles Murray, puts Nick Land, Razib Khan, and various other fashy types on his blogroll, and openly advocates eugenics. The Reddit community around his work is the sort of place where posting the fourteen words gets dozens of upvotes and complaining about that gets you banned. Those adamant about defending him will point out—at astonishing length—that he penned an essay called “The Anti-Reactionary FAQ,” but it’s revealing that this consists of a tedious Gish gallop working its way through a host of minor claims, whereas his corresponding essay “Reactionary Philosophy in an Enormous, Planet-Sized Nutshell” offers a credulous account of the high level claims of neoreaction, a disparity that does not exactly amount to refutation. The claim that he’s troublingly invested in racist bullshit is straightforward and, frankly, uninteresting; anyone trying to dispute it has a disingenuous agenda most likely involving racist bullshit.
Instead I want to talk about (or at least I’m going to talk about) a question I never really addressed in Neoreaction a Basilisk, namely the mechanics of a certain genre of writing that Siskind exemplifies. Let’s discuss one of his best regarded essays, then and look at how it functions.…