This post was originally published on the now-defunct Theden.tv.
In a post entitled “Islamic Vortex (Note-4)” Nick Land expressed his awe and deep academic admiration for ISIS style barbarism. This whole line of thought connects to Land’s theory of Abstract Horror, as articulated in another post entitled “Reactionary Horror”. Land here identifies two streams of reactionary thought, one (Traditionalism) being “mild and nostalgic”, and the other (Horrorism) being focused on “dissociating ‘the good’ and ‘the future’.” In both of these posts, Land uses the fictional character of Colonel Kurtz as a central metaphor for the Horrorism of the Dark Enlightenment. Kurtz, introduced by Joseph Conrad in “Heart of Darkness” and adapted by Coppola in “Apocalypse Now”, represents an “opportunity for an exploration of Hell.”
The whole Kurtz/Apocalypse Now analysis is based on a misconception: that the U.S. lost the Vietnam War because a liberal democracy is incapable of using sufficiently brutal tactics. To advance that view is to engage in vast oversimplification, which is disappointing from people who pride themselves on supposedly deep, penetrating analysis.
This is actually a misconception in two parts. First, the U.S. was certainly capable of savagery, having razed dozens of entire Japanese cities in WWII with firebombs, and two cities with nuclear bombs. In Vietnam, however, America was politically ambivalent to victory from the beginning. Due to the cold war environment — that is, the constant fear of military action escalating into a nuclear war — Vietnam was fought instead as a political war, which is to say, it was not fought. Politicians ignored military advise, desiring a “conflict” rather than a war. America refused to confront China, which was supplying arms to North Vietnam, and did not want to pursue the insurgency into Cambodia. It also propped up a series of weak and unpopular governments in South Vietnam. If fought with real political resolve, given the superiority of American resources, the North certainly could have been subdued, occupied, and perhaps pacified without resorting to the savage tactics of the Viet Cong that Land refers to. The problem was that political America never even really tried.
The second part of the misconception involves Kurtz’s plaint that he could have turned Vietnam around with “ten divisions” of men as barbaric as the Viet Cong. For liberals, accepting this as truth conveniently excused America’s failure by making victory seem impossible. To win, we’d have to be like *them*. From there, it requires only one more step in the dialectic for Land to argue that the embrace of precisely this barbarity is necessary to overcome the weakness of liberalism. However, the military utility of Kurtz-style barbarism, e.g. the mutilation of children, is not at all clear. Hanoi could certainly have been occupied without the intentional rape and torture of civilians.
It’s interesting to note that one of the first things that the government of unified Vietnam did was purge (execute) the Viet Cong terrorists whom Kurtz/Land laud, who were, in part, responsible for its victory. Even the communists had enough civilizational intelligence to realize that their country could not safely be rebuilt until they had put down the mad dogs that they had created to commit atrocities on their behalf. This is a fact that Land should be quite familiar with, having been alive during the conflict, and also being a “post-Marxist” (the “undefeatable guerrilla” myth was a major part of communist anti-imperialist propaganda).
Apocalypse Now hit American theaters in 1979, part of the process of a national reconstruction of the Vietnam narrative. A few years had passed since the war’s end, and there was a sense that the public was ready to process their emotions surrounding the whole debacle. How had the greatest nation on Earth, the victor of two world wars, suffered such humiliation? How could we still see ourselves as the good guys? Coppola’s film is part of a dialectic, and as dialectics tend to do, it absorbed the ideas of the war’s opposition, including Marxist propaganda about unbeatable guerrillas. In the minds of many Americans, that meme thus became part of the justification for the U.S.’s failure. Serious political analysts, however, probably ought not learn either the history of the Vietnam war — nor lessons in morality — from Hollywood movies.
Taking all of this together, something surprising becomes suddenly clear: Land has used a liberal trope, absorbed from Marxist propaganda, to establish a supposedly central tenet of Neoreaction, and nobody seems to have noticed. The Overton window had evidently not moved very much.
It cannot be said too clearly: Horrorism, other than representing atrociously poor taste, is also philosophically absurd and a heresy for the religious. One must wonder how much horror young Neoreactionaries, who advance its efficacy, have personally experienced. The greatest weapon we have in the war of reaction vs progressivism is our innate capacity to restore and develop our conscience, not horror.
Progressivism is the hollowing out of conscience and its replacement with political correctness, conformity, and welfare. In other words, false conscience. Once conscience has been replaced with false conscience individuals are free to indulge in any manner of personal degeneration without guilt. This freedom to indulge one’s self in any manner w/o guilt while also judging others is one of the principal attractions of progressivism. To attempt to revolt against progressivism and political correctness (aka false conscience) by destroying conscience altogether through an exploration of the ‘dark side’ or nihilism, and generally to advocate an amoral rejection of prog norms, is to unknowingly reinforce progressivism’s initial impulse. Out of the fry pan and into…hell?
The answer to liberal progressivism’s moralistic false conscience isn’t the amoral rejection of conscience but the restoration of original conscience. How can we do that? Well, that’s a topic for another post, my friends.