Converting Falsehoods into Truth:
Notes on Science, History, & Postmodern Strategies of Control, Part I
Part I of III (Part II here)
My last article received some critical feedback from a rather dedicated individual commenter. From what I could tell, his key concern was that any Right-wing intellectual movement was not worth the label if it could not normatively recognize that the intellectual work of postmodernist and critical theorists is lazy, unidimensional, and degenerate. A related concern seemed to be that, by virtue of Right and Left perspectives being what they most fundamentally and meaningfully are, there is simply no value that the Right could derive from using tools that were built from the ground up to weaponize and forcibly assert a Leftist worldview. Unless, of course, that purportedly “Right -wing” intellectual movement absorbed so much of the Left that it started doing the latter’s work for it.
In response, I am inclined to recall a criticism from a historian colleague of what has been called the “ontological turn” in anthropology. The ontological turn refers specifically to a disciplinary move that ascribed metaphysical weight to what was previously a family of epistemological critiques of Western anthropological accounts of tribal peoples. Despite targeting this particular intellectual shift, my colleague’s criticism applies as readily to all aspects of the “radical” milieu that has gripped the humanities disciplines since the 1960s to gnaw at the Western body politic like a bacterial colony embedded in a brainstem. He contended that disciplines like anthropology have tended to propose analytical models and theories that are altogether more radical, and laden with more metaphysical baggage, than they need to be to produce the accounts and narratives that they do.
If one braves a publication that actually tries to apply the “radical” theories of Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Adorno, or any of their myriad ideological allies and organs, one will notice a difference between such works and those that explicitly exposited the analytical theories being applied. Indeed, the work applying the theories tends to read like any standard work in the humanities or “social sciences.” They provide pieces of evidence that are presented as factual, group them into categories, and propose explanations for why the evidence and categories should fit together as they have been arranged. This is as true of the non-theoretical work of Bruno Latour as it is of Eric Hobsbawm, or indeed any other “critical” scholar of human history and society. Now, one may not agree with how such authors choose to fit their evidence together. However, the explicit “fitting” work tends to only constitute a small portion of what is actually written. The remaining content consists of potentially useful bodies of collected evidence, provided one is sufficiently alive to the implicit framing which determined how that evidence was arranged.
With respect to that framing, my colleague from the field of history asserted something that we would all do well to remember on the Dissident Right. He stated that everything humans believe or act on is “historical all the way down,” just as every product of human activity may also be said to have a “philosophy,” either implicit or explicit. How far “down” one goes in writing one’s history, and whether that depth includes one’s recognition of the “history” or “philosophy” of the analytical frame one applies, is essentially the only difference between “postmodern” and “traditional” scholarship that has any practical import. Bearing this in mind, I intend for this article to offer an account of the origins and basic structure of a particular Leftist framing technique surrounding the word “invention.” This will serve as the first of a several part article series in which I intend to also:
- Explore the impact of this framing technique on Western accounts of history, scientific and otherwise.
- Explain why the framework has convinced so many and describe the powerful impact that it has had on forming the core intuitions from which white Westerners, particularly those controlling Western institutions, moralize and act.
I hope it will be apparent to all that the “postmodern” strategies discussed by this article, and the ones which will follow, needn’t necessarily have that label applied. They could just as easily be described as simply exhibiting a self-awareness that is sufficient to step out of an ideological opponent’s preferred framing, in order to then construct and reinforce one’s own. Hopefully this will disenthrall anyone of the fear that being less “traditional” in the Right’s intellectual work will render the core truths around which the Dissident Right tends to find common ground unrecognizable.
“Invention” as rhetoric
Inventing Homer, Inventing Western civilization, Founding Gods: Inventing Nations, The Invention of the White Race, Inventing the Way of the Samurai, Inventing Ancient Culture – all these titles refer to academic manuscripts, edited collections, or active academic research projects, and are but a miniscule sample of the ocean of academic work concerning “who invented X” or “the invention of Y.” What is happening here? Why is it so important to some academics that things like “The White Race,” “Western civilization,” or Homer should be “invented” things?
At one level, the discourse of “invention” is intended to disabuse a self-understood people of the notion that they exist, which makes them unable to articulate any way to act in their own interests, or even preserve themselves from extinction. No prizes for guessing which family of peoples this discourse was first aimed toward. While this rhetorical objective is usually well concealed, sometimes the mask is ignored in the interests of getting straight to the point. An article in Quartz entitled “European culture is an invented tradition” is one such example. “The invention of the white race” is another. It is quite remarkable how, despite European culture(s), European people(s), and “the white race” not existing or having any meaningful histories to own and protect, they still have histories that are recognizable and particular enough for “progressive” historiography to associate them with so many cases of “injustice,” “oppression,” and “exclusion.” Such purported injustices range from the expansion of European empires to the unacceptably high proportion of Europeans occurring in the depictions of “Western civilization” that are produced either by European cultures or by societies full of European-descended people. All this despite neither European people(s), European culture(s), nor “Western civilization” even existing. Truly remarkable.
Writing for American Renaissance, Gregory Hood made the insightful observation that “Defining Western Civilization into nonexistence or defining it in universal terms amount to the same thing. It robs whites of their past, a prelude to robbing them of their future.” Mr. Hood’s reasoning is sound. On the one hand, people(s) of European descent are informed by Leftist narratives that they have no particular history from which to derive a legitimate identity or shared future. Yet those same narratives actively prevent people of European descent from disassociating themselves from an ancestral history that is particular to them, and real enough to make them inheritors of privilege, power, and wealth, of which they must be constantly aware, and for which they must sometimes be willing to pay reparations. That these contradictions share no consistent logic except for always resulting in a negative outcome for white people makes it understandable that some have chosen to stop talking about “Leftist” narratives and instead just call them “anti-white.” However, I think that we can look even deeper into these narratives, and that it is useful to do so such that we might rearticulate the Leftist worldview on an axis that is even more counterproductive for their cause. To this end, let us return to the discourse of “invention.”
Crucially, if something is “invented,” then its existence is not contingent on a preceding continuum connecting the past to the present. Rather, to situate an “invented” thing is to describe an object in atemporal terms as something whose causal origin lies in the act of a conscious agent that intervenes on an otherwise stable temporal and causal trajectory. The causal frame of something “invented” is thus atemporal for two reasons. Firstly, because the cause of its existence is isolated to a particular “present,” even if it is a “present” situated in the past. The double-meaning of Nell Painter’s book title, The History of White People, is clearly wordplay exploiting this principle. On the surface, the title indicates a broad historical account telling us the entire history of white people, but when her argument is properly understood, the title should reveal itself to have also meant a targeted historical account telling us the local history that resulted in the historical category “white people.” She hopes the more discerning reader will be led to ask, “What’s the difference?”
The second reason that something “invented” is atemporal is because it requires the intentional act of an inventor. Such an act is only meaningful as a causally independent and thus ahistorical event, otherwise the purported agency would not be a genuine intervention, or a cause, but merely an effect that could only be causally explained as the product of a larger historical continuance. If the existence of an “invented” account of history is caused by history, it ceases to be an “invention,” at least for the purposes of those claiming that it is. Those purposes are complex. As Mr. Hood noted, situating a view of the “past” within a “present” is seen as valuable by certain academics because they believe it to frame any notion of historical continuity, such that a people might share a history and imagine a shared future, as “irrational,” “imaginary,” or “mythical.” However, these framings constitute more than simply arguing that something is “not real.”
An important question to ask regarding the rhetorical value of the Leftist historiographic focus on “invention” is why something having been “invented” necessarily implies that it doesn’t exist. Such is clearly the intention of authors like Eric Hobsbawm when claiming that nations are “invented” as part of his argument that they are not “primordial,” and thus “the opposite of what nationalist mythology supposes them to be.” However, anything social or cultural, including the morality of Cultural Marxism, could be meaningfully said to have been “invented” by humans. My mobile phone is “invented” by humans, as is the computer I am writing this article on, and yet most would view it as absurd to claim that such things don’t exist in any meaningful way. It would be equally absurd to claim that such things cannot recognizably move, and be traced, through time.
Indeed, the historical category of “the oppressed” is as “invented” as the categories of “European culture” or “Western civilization” ever were. The same is true of the worldview which necessitates perpetual “deconstruction.” The moral imperative of “inclusion” and the belief that all self-defined human communities must be universalized into unrecognizable oblivion, or always have been, are both “invented.” None of these things would have existed without human intervention, yet the Left comfortably relies on them as being historical truths. How is it, then, that the Left is so comfortable – and largely correct – in presuming that if they can provide evidence that something is “invented,” such will lead most Westerners to believe that it doesn’t exist, and thus conclude that it couldn’t have any value, and that anyone who may wish to preserve it is either insane or deluded?
The present as the ratio of history
To a certain degree, the reliability of using the word “invented” to imply that a category moving through time does not exist in any meaningful way reflects the Left’s manipulation of a broader conceit of modernity. However, moderns only own this conceit in the way that a child might own a toy created for him by his grandfather, which he could never create himself. Over two thousand years ago, the Roman poet Lucretius penned the poem De rerum Natura. With a degree of epistemological self-awareness that is far too absent in modern science, Lucretius’ account of the “nature of things” drew a categorical distinction which cleft man’s consciousness of his world and of himself into two parts. Lucretius contended that the default human mind, that which is uninitiated in the craft of pursuing truth with Lucretius’ particular technique, presumes there to be only one class of thing: that which exists. However, to the mind initiated in truth-seeking, Lucretius tells us that it should be evident that there exist two classes of thing, which exist in different ways. These classes of thing are the ratio (ra-tee-o) and the species (speck-ee-ays). The category of species, or “appearances,” encapsulates those things we experience and those things that we believe we know. The ratio encapsulates that which causes the species, as well as everything else.
Both of these classes of thing “exist” physically in nature, as Lucretius argued that even our beliefs and sensations amount to a particular coalescence of the physical properties that constitute our mind and its phenomenological states. They thus “exist” as meaningfully and physically as anything else, making both categories a type of reality or truth. However, one of these categories is the apparent truth of reality and the other is the hidden truth of reality. This is because the ratio causes the species, and exists independently of it, but such is not true vice versa. Furthermore, the species by itself can only tell us only of itself, while the ratio can tell us the truth of both itself and of how it caused the species. This imposes a hierarchy of knowledge. All humans know their species, but only some can come to know the ratio, if they apply the technique taught by the atomistic philosophy espoused by Lucretius.
Regardless of how one may or may not view Lucretius (I am generally partial to the atomists), it is the Left’s exploitation of the general modern adherence to Lucretius’ dichotomy of knowledge that explains the success of the “invention” discourse. Invariably, where the Left calls a historical account or historical category “invented,” the core argument will not be that the facts in support of the account or category are false per se. Instead, the author’s case will be that the facts are used to support the “invented” historical account or category, and that only those Leftist authors pointing this out know the true reasons why. Those reasons will conform to the vocabulary of purported pathologies created by the Left, ranging from “tribalism” to “supremacism,” “xenophobia” or “racism.” The purported presence of such pathologies will be taken as sufficient evidence that the image of history that has been “invented” is different to the state of historical reality that must have existed prior to being acted on by whichever historian, or indeed whichever society, did the “inventing.” This discourse provides Leftist academia and journalism with the license to class whatever account of history with which they might take moral exception to be simply an image or “myth,” the cause of which is not history as it truly was, but rather those hidden forces of “racism” or “xenophobia” whose presence and narrative action only Leftist historical practices have the power to reveal. The Left often doesn’t even feel the need to provide a coherent counter-narrative of history to replace the one they have “deconstructed,” as their revelation of what was “really” going on is taken to have sufficiently discredited the target.
Thus, any argument whose premise frames a historical account as “invented” implies itself to have privileged knowledge of a hidden truth (ratio) which explains the deeper truth of the invented image (species) that it is discrediting. This should be distinguished from the Western scholarly tradition of identifying a prior argument, stating that the author’s view was X, that your view is Y, and then supporting your view with evidence. This is a dialogue, and as such, is a discourse that occurs in good faith. Telling us who “invented” what begs the question concerning the illegitimacy of the argument being attacked, by presuming its falsehood by virtue of being an invented “myth” or species. Both critical theory and postmodernism have presumed and advanced this historiographic tradition of “invention,” but it also echoes intellectual currents that predate both. These older currents have attracted the attention of sensible Western observers for some time. In response to the limitations that present-centric Leftist interventions implied for philosophical and religious truth, G. K. Chesterton once dropped the following pearl of wisdom:
An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but it is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays. You might as well say of a view of the Cosmos that it was suitable to half-past three, but not suitable to half-past four. What a man can believe depends upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or century.
Chesterton’s last sentence is particularly prescient, because it recognizes that using historical context to “deconstruct” away a philosophy or belief cannot occur without presuming one’s own philosophy and its accompanying beliefs. This is important to note, because according to the logic used to deconstruct self-defined peoples out of existence, objective historical accounts cannot exist. Thus, a Leftist narrative of history could not have privileged access to the ratio that it presumes to have when it discredits the narratives that white people have written about themselves as white people. This should be relentlessly pointed out to destabilize the settled “facts” that the dominant Left now uses to claim that certain groups were “invented” or don’t have their own particular histories. The “facts” to be destabilized should make themselves apparent if the Dissident Right recognizes that wherever the discourse of “invention” occurs, it is intended to discredit your belief that a particular past is the cause of a particular present, and to situate your opponent’s preferred “present” as the cause of your preferred past. Your target should be whatever facts your opponent purports to obtain of the “present” into which they situate your narrative of the past.
 Theodore Allen, The Invention of the White Race: Racial Oppression and Social Control, vol. 1, (Verso: 1944)
 Edward Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin 1977), p. 349.
 Nell Painter, The History of White People (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011).
 Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality, (Cambridge University Press: 2012), p. 54.
 Eva Thury, “Lucretius’ Poem as a Simulacrum of the Rerum Natura,” The American Journal of Philology 108, no. 2 (1987): pp. 270-294.
 David Glidden, “’Sensus’ and Sense Perception in the ‘De Rerum Natura’,” California Studies in Classical Antiquity 12 (1979): pp. 156-157.
 G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: John Lane Company, 1909), p. 135.