Persecution and the Art of the Alt

essay politics governance observation

The internet is a ghoulish cauldron, made of stainless steel and fueled by alchemy; it overflows with swirling ideas in their many forms. The digital entities of today that pour their ephemeral ideas from small glass flasks into the cauldron are descended from flesh-and-blood entities of the past.

Before the internet, there was a fountain, hewn of marble and fueled by sweat; it was filled with printed and written words. The flesh-and-blood entities of this era painstakingly scrawled their thoughts onto papyrus, slate, and 20 lb paper, then placed them gently, wistfully into the fountain.

The fountain and the cauldron come from the same place - they were created by the same species. Still, they differ.

The flesh-and-blood entities of the fountain era each represented a human being. Upon release, the ideas that these humans had birthed became immediately attached to their flesh-and-blood entities. There was no escape. The word of the entity was the word of the human. Pseudonyms were uncommon, and the famous examples of successful pseudonymous writing are mere aberrations in the vast desert of time. Authors that wished for their ideas and books not to be burned, buried, or besmirched by the ruling regimes of their day had to operate within the confines of those regimes’ Overton windows. For the majority of history, Overton windows were quite small. Because they could not say what they meant, they had to conceal their true ideas and heretically heterodox thoughts between the lines of their works.

Such is the subject of Strauss’ Persecution and the Art of Writing:

An exoteric book contains then two teachings: a popular teaching of an edifying character, which is in the foreground; and a philosophic teaching concerning the most important subject, which is indicated only between the lines.

. . .

It has all the advantages of private communication without having its greatest disadvantage - that it reaches only the writer’s acquaintances. It has all the advantages of public communication without having its greatest disadvantage - capital punishment for the author.

We thank these venerable authors of the past for their forfeiture of clarity in exchange for longevity. If Anaxagoras, Protagoras, Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Avicenna, Averroes, Maimonides, Grotius, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Bayle, Wolff, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Lessing and Kant had not intentionally mired themselves in the muck of obscurantism, their ideas would not have survived to the modern era. Times have changed, though. Moloch’s granite cocks have sprung from the surface of the Earth in abundance, from George Washington’s of yore to Marc Benioff’s of today. The cauldron has been cast. The anonymous has arisen.

When the internet user of today signs into their favored social media platform, they sip on the filthy slime that has collected on the surface of the cauldron’s brew. The nourishing ideas, essays from the deep, have all sunk to the bottom - they are more difficult to retrieve. The alternative identities and anonymous accounts in the age of the cauldron provide the prominent and powerful a place to avoid the public punishment that would threaten to destroy their validity within the societal game they so deftly play. The naked muses of the best and brightest hide among the alts. Their ideas are judged on their own merit. The contest is pure.

Unlike the fountain, the cauldron is apolitical, unbiased, and welcoming. Any who so desire may empty their flasks into it. Any who so desire may sample the brew.

Seek, and ye shall find.