Meme-NETTR Bête Noire, and the Far Superior NEOTR

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Starting a number of months ago, I started interacting with the idea that we should have “no enemies to the right” (NETTR). I did this in a few blog posts here and there, and I was responding to activities in what might be called the world of Meme-NETTR—the concept as it was floating around in various right wing online circles, and landing in different places with varying applications, some of them pretty gnarly. I will be citing some of those blog posts of mine in a little bit.

Then on March 2, I sent out a Tweet thread calling for a truce between the Ogden guys and Allie Beth Stuckey. In the last of those tweets I said, “I propose a new acronym. No Enemies to the Reasonable Right and No Enemies to the Immediate Left Either. NETTRRANETTILE. 7/7” Charles Haywood thought my take was “terrible” and said so, and referred to an article he had written on the NETTR principle. Then a few days later, Charles had an exchange on X with our own Wade Stotts, and I joined in their back and forth. By the end of all this, I had discovered that Charles had in effect coined the phrase, and had written a lengthy defense/explanation of what he meant by it. I had been entirely unaware of that, and so I went and read the article. I appreciated it a great deal, and can at least say that I agree with the general thrust of it. We will get to my remaining concerns in just a bit.

So who was I resisting then? Well, a lot of it had to do with how a principle like this gets applied, and by whom. Although he should generally not be quoted with approval, John Dewey once said, “Lord, deliver me from my disciples.” If someone hates everything Charles Haywood stands for, and ignores all his distinctions, the result will be gross misrepresentation by an enemy. And if someone thinks he loves everything Charlies is fighting for, and also ignores all his distinctions, the result can be every bit as gross. And, jumping ahead to a point to be made later, every bit as damaging to the war effort.

Basic Agreement With Haywood

So let me begin with my central agreements with what Charles argued for. There are three main areas.

The driving rationale of his argument is that the progressive left represents an existential threat, and they simply must be defeated. Everything else takes a back seat to that. If we are in a war with alien invaders from Mars, we must give our entire attention to that. Once we have achieved victory there, we can turn our attention to the neighborhood racoon who keeps getting into the garbage. In this conflict, we must not forget our priorities. The fact that someone on your side is wrong about something is no reason to be damaging the war effort with internecine strife. This is something I emphasized repeatedly in my various posts on the subject.

“But none of this alters the fact that we must be at war with the left, and all it represents.”

Christendom and Christendumber, January 2024

The second area of strong agreement is that Charles repeatedly states something that I have repeatedly stated regarding our motives for dealing with some problem on our side. Nothing, absolutely nothing, should be said or done because the left has denounced something going on within our ranks. They are not in charge of the standards. I want us to police our own ranks for any number of reasons, mostly having to do with God, but never because the left demands it.

This is an important one because the conservative movement has for decades been steered by the left because all the left has to do is raise the question, or raise the allegation, and we start scurrying around, trying to get our troops ready for their inspection. But this makes absolutely no sense. Why muster your troops for the opposing general to come and review them?

Many conservatives have a built-in flinch that makes them want to go prove something. The problem is that they always want to prove it to people who are utterly unreasonable, and who will never accept your bona fides. But if you grovel enough, they might be kind enough to pretend to put you on probation. “Try to be better going forward.” What Charles Haywood’s NEOTR amounts to is a declaration of independence. We don’t care what you think.

The way I have expressed my agreement with this principle is that I taught (for years) that a minister of Christ who is not routinely accused of racism and misogyny is a minister who is not really doing his job. One of his qualifications is that he gets accused this way. A parallel qualification is that it must be a false accusation. Before God, it must be false. This is because, while we don’t care what the left thinks, we do care what God thinks. The accusation will not be false as far as the left is concerned because they believe they have a double-0 rating when it comes to accusations of racism and misogyny. Let them continue to think that, for we don’t care.

And third, the most valuable thing I gleaned from Charles’ article was his preferred formulation, which is “No enemies on the right” (NEOTR). In my view, this is much better than the NETTR formulation for this basic reason. NETTR lends itself to the political sectarianism and the ideological splintering that political activists are ever prone to. NEOTR is politically catholic and ecumenical. “No enemies to the right” implies that there are no enemies to the right of the speaker, whoever he is. And if he lives in a bamboo hut on stilts out in the fever glades, and he has no enemies to his right, we might be talking about a band of three. Not a formidable force to be fighting the existential battle of our time. But if we begin with the question “who is on the right?” the answer to that question covers a lot of territory.

So NETTR makes my current position, whatever it is, the standard or baseline, along with anybody who managed to get to my right, which might be hard to do. No enemies to (my) right. But NEOTR assumes a large body of generally like-minded people, all of them opposed in various ways to the leftist revolution. And some of those people opposed to the revolution are undeniably on the right, while at the same time being on my left. In fact, a lot of them are.

Parents fighting trannies in the government school bathrooms are on the right, but they are to my left—because they haven’t given up on the government schools yet. Allie Beth Stuckey is not to my right, but she is most certainly on the right, which is why I didn’t want to have anything to do with a conflict with her. My tweet that said no enemies to the “reasonable right” and no enemies to the “immediate left either” is actually my application of Charles’ more nuanced form, NEOTR.

I think the reason Charles objected to this as “terrible” is because it has been the consistent pattern of moderate conservatives to allow progressives to define for them what “reasonable” means. But when I say “reasonable,” I am not talking about those kennel-fed house “conservatives” who are able to get published in The Atlantic.

If you start with “reasonable as defined by the left” as your default setting, the leftists are going to consistently adjust the settings on you, and before you know it, you are David French writing for The New York Times. The next step down in that particular disintegration, ten minutes later, is David French writing piffle for the NYT, as witness his recent piece urging Haley voters to go over to Biden.

Quick Review

The way we became extremists here in Moscow is that we were moderates who never moved. As the revolution accelerated, we stayed put. Moreover, we have been insistent on our right to be the fighting moderates—we are willing to fight for our right to stay put. So the way we have formulated some of our stands may differ with the formulations of the radicalized and red-pilled, but believe me. We are conservative through and through. We hold to the most extreme positions imaginable. Don’t believe me? If Sally is a little girl, she should stay that way.

In this section, I simply want quote from my previous posts on this topic. These quotes should demonstrate that I hear what those on the right are saying. After this, in the next to last section, I will walk through the particular circumstance that set this whole thing off, hopefully demonstrating how real life can be more complicated than the surface of an online controversy. And then we will look at what all of this means for the next seven months, and the activity that is still trying to resemble a normal presidential election.

So in the next to last section of this post, I advanced my initial disagreement with Meme-NETTR. In the course of that post, I said this:

“For some among the red-pilled, if anyone ever ‘punches right,’ it is said they are doing it because they want to oppose the left without losing the admiration of the left. They do this because they want to be right-of-center, in a most moderate way, and still be reckoned among the cool kids. When the GigaChads sneer at these softies, it has to be said that the targets of their sneers frequently deserve it. The point frequently lands.”

The Kind of Election We Are Not Going to Have, August 2023

My next installment was a few months ago, and can be found here.

“The true principle should actually be this one—and, I know, I am ever the one to bring in the nuance—NETTRJBLDI. This stands for, naturally, no enemies to the right just because the left demands it.

Christendom and Christendumber, January 2024

But I do believe that there are exceptions, even with the NEOTR formulation. Are there ever any enemies on the right? Sure. The FBI guys, for starters.

“And if God thinks that there are jokers to my right, then so should I. But I am not doing this because I am in any way responding to the shrill demands of the clowns.”

Christendom and Christendumber, January 2024

But because it is easy to say that you are doing what you are doing “because God,” but actually be responding to the censures of the left, we must police our own hearts before we police our own ranks.

“We must police our own ranks. What we must not do is surreptitiously borrow the “ethical” standards of the progressives as the rule book we use in order to do that policing. We do need to call our own fouls. But we must not call our own fouls with their definition of fouls.”

Christendom and Christendumber, January 2024

Whatever we do must be principled, and done coram Deo, in the presence of God. It must never be done because of that internal flinch or twitch that you were catechized in during your early days in the conservative movement.

“But I did grant a measure of wisdom to the NETTR impulse. We must not denounce anyone to our right simply because we are feeling emotional pressure from the screechers on the left, those who never cease demanding that we do so. They will not be mollified in any case, and so it is important never to try.”

Fighting Moderates, February 2024

And with this last one, it is my formulation of keeping peace on the right, which would include people to my left.

“We should look at all the players, and ask ourselves which direction they will break when the moment of truth comes. We cannot say absolutely because we cannot see the future, but the thought experiment is still useful. If we believe that they are going to break in the right direction, then we should do our level best to stay out of fights with them in the amphibious landing craft.”

Neil Shenvi Sets Up the Experiment Poorly, March 2024

Cancel Culture on the Right?

At the same time, there are still some parts of Charles’ argument that I think are inadequate to the circumstances on the ground. These are issues we need to pursue at some point, so why don’t we pursue them now?

The thing that set the whole thing off was the Thomas Achord affair. This is where Charles began his article.

“Last December, one evening, I made a throwaway comment on Twitter. It was a response to Rod Dreher, who was yet again viciously publicly trying to destroy the life of someone on the Right (that day, a young father and schoolteacher whose private statements had offended Dreher). My comment was ‘Who cares? No enemies to the Right!’”

On the Principle “No Enemies to the Right”

We have an immediate challenge. The young father here was Thomas Achord, who was obviously on the right. The person attacking him was Rod Dreher, also on the right. Despite having written some fine books, Dreher is an example of someone on the right who had that internal flinch that required him to police the ranks of the right at the behest of the left. He wouldn’t put it that way, of course, but that didn’t keep it from happening. Dreher had attempted to do the same thing to us here in Moscow a few years before, using his column to circulate slanders against us. So for us, this was nothing new, and Charles was right about him. But everybody involved in this—Dreher, Achord, Haywood—was on the right.

And so we need to begin by making some careful distinctions. The statements that Achord had made were not private, but rather public and anonymous, which is quite a different thing. And the problem was not that they had offended Dreher, but rather that they were pretty dank statements that Achord had published in a time of despair, and which he was ashamed of. Consequently, when the accusation that he was the source of those quotes was made against him, he initially denied it, and he lied to the people who were rallying to his defense, including me. And then the full truth came out.

The problem was therefore a very different one than a conservative being outed as a conservative in the world of Big Corp, and having to go visit HR because it was discovered that he had donated $10 once to some anti-LGBTQ+ campaign. That is going after someone’s livelihood simply because he has the temerity to disagree with the current orthodoxy. But serving as the headmaster of a classical Christian school brings with it certain responsibilities that are an essential part of your qualifications for the job. Having a dark avatar online, and lying to hide who it is from your friends, would be a disqualifying move, whether or not anybody else is using it politically.

Let me make up an example. Say that we here in Moscow are under attack because of our opposition to some tranny measure that is being proposed. We are consequently in the middle of a firefight. Let us say that someone in our leadership team is outed as having had some significant problem in his past that he had not disclosed to us, and in fact had lied about it. Some investigative reporter uncovers it, and throws it into the middle of the melee. Now we have two things going on. We have the melee and we have the personnel problem. If we remove that guy from his position, it may look as though we are participating in cancel culture. But who cares how it looks? We should still do the right thing.

The Left’s Strategy in the Coming Election

The Dark Brandon thing didn’t seem like it was going to work out very well—you know, Biden speaking in front of a dark crimson set that looked like it had been staged by Leni Riefenstahl. So instead of that, they have pivoted to the idea that they should turn Trump into the Dark Brandon, and tag everyone who has even thought about voting for him as a rabid Christian Nationalist. Their messaging on this is going to deliver—to the front door of every conservative voter—their fruit of the month club selection, with all the cherries.

What I mean is that they are going to pull out all the stops to weld the name Christian Nationalism to every rancid and/or idiotic ideology they can find, while at the same time welding that same CN label to every potential Trump voter.

Now unfortunately, even if we have decided that there will be no enemies on the right, this does not preclude the existence of dumb asses on the right. Any ethnic slur or misogynistic slam that the FBI bots forget to include will be thoughtfully contributed by Elias One Tooth, YouTubing live from the capitol of his Republic of the Ozarks, which happens to be a double wide on ten acres with a satellite dish from the eighties, a dish the size of the north end of the double wide.

So while I quite agree that we should not scramble to denounce whenever the leftists tell us to scramble, their upcoming strategy is so stinking obvious that we need to have a plan. That plan should be a combination of ignoring the true outliers, fighting with the overtly wicked ones, making our own personnel decisions, and standing by the vast majority who are tired of living in clown world, whether or not we agree with them on everything.

And why? Because this battle is an existential threat. NEOTR.