The Atlantic

Behind the Internet's Anti-Democracy Movement

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is reportedly a reader of neoreactionary political theory. A tour through the pro-authoritarian philosophy gaining visibility on the right.
Source: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has been in contact via intermediaries with Curtis Yarvin, Politico Magazine reported this week. Yarvin, a software engineer and blogger, writes under the name Mencius Moldbug. His anti-egalitarian arguments have formed the basis for a movement called “neoreaction.”

The main thrust of Yarvin’s thinking is that democracy is a bust; rule by the people doesn’t work, and doesn’t lead to good governance. He has described it as an “ineffective and destructive” form of government, which he associates with “war, tyranny, destruction and poverty.” Yarvin’s ideas, along with those of the English philosopher Nick Land, have provided a structure of political theory for parts of the white-nationalist movement calling itself the alt-right. The alt-right can be seen as a political movement; neoreaction, which adherents refer to as NRx, is a philosophy. At the core of that philosophy is a rejection of democracy and an embrace of autocratic rule.

The fact that Bannon reportedly reads and has been in contact with Yarvin is another sign of the extent to which the Trump era has brought previously fringe right-wing ideologies into the spotlight. It has brought new energy into a right that is questioning and actively trying to dismantle existing orthodoxies—even ones as foundational as democracy. The alt-right, at this point, is well-known, while NRx has remained obscure. But with one of the top people in the White House paying attention, it seems unlikely to remain obscure for long.

Yarvin’s posts on history, race, and governance are written in a style that is detached and edgy, to say the least. “What's so bad about the Nazis?” he asked

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
The Most Dangerous Moment of the Trump Presidency
Not so long ago, a devastating attack on Saudi oil supplies would almost certainly have elicited an American military response.
The Atlantic7 min read
The Google Feature Magnifying Disinformation
Google’s knowledge panels contain helpful facts and tidbits. But sometimes they surface bad information, too.
The Atlantic6 min readPsychology
Can Three Numbers Stem the Tide of American Suicides?
A simple phone-line change is poised to put millions more people in touch with sympathetic strangers.