The Secret Door

Two writers at Politico think they know who's influenced Steve Bannon's thinking. "If Bannon has been the driving force behind the frenzy of activity in the White House, less attention has been paid to the network of political philosophers who have shaped his thinking and who now enjoy a direct line to the White House."

They are not mainstream thinkers, but their writings help to explain the commotion that has defined the Trump administration’s early days. They include a Lebanese-American author known for his theories about hard-to-predict events; an obscure Silicon Valley computer scientist whose online political tracts herald a “Dark Enlightenment”; and a former Wall Street executive who urged Donald Trump’s election in anonymous manifestos by likening the trajectory of the country to that of a hijacked airplane—and who now works for the National Security Council.

Meet Naseem Taleb, Curtis Yarvin (AKA Mencius Moldbug) and Michael Anton. The Politico article has a hard time categorizing them other than observing that Yarvin may have vague Nazi tendencies, despite being Jewish on his father's side. On the whole they are depicted as figures out of the mainstream and therefore unknown quantities. Indeed, to many on the liberal side of the aisle, used to reading Paul Krugman or Cass Sunstein, the existence of such people will come as a surprise. The punch of the article lies in the acknowledgement that an iconoclastic intellectual universe populated by the likes of Peter Thiel, Yarvin, Taleb and Anton exists.

It's like Professor Challenger stumbling on a Lost World filled with menacing and unknown species. What are these creatures? Well, a few things can be safely conjectured. The Politico list contains individuals both numerate and literate, with a grounding in history, religion, mathematics, politics and science which at first glance seem to represent a type -- who can say whether  good or bad -- but a type nevertheless, peculiar to the early 21st century, in contrast to the 19th and mid-20th century public intellectuals that have predominated till now.

Where did these beasts come from? The truth is they've been there for years. Since September 11, from the Golden Age of blogging through the Tea Party days, right on past the "populist upheaval", outsiders have written extensively in parallel with the mainstream media about all the issues of the day. They've written about God, politics, history, the philosophy of science, strategy and military affairs.

If their very name is news, that is because till now their very existence and legitimacy have been minimized by the "Mainstream Media" and the intellectual elites. You may have read some of them: Glenn Reynolds, Spengler, the writers at Breitbart,  etc. -- the people never invited to talk shows or get book advances but with inexplicably large followings. To some extent, the media has always known this intellectual universe existed, which is precisely why they've only now been discovered.