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Boundaries and anti-entryism over anti-exclusion

May 2, 2015

Reader’s of this blog are, likely, fans of political and ideological diversity: numerous co-existing and varying opinions, political systems, and schools of thought which serve as multiple parallel experiments to advance our shared knowledge. (Which may, over time, decrease diversity by increasing the number of high-certainty objective truths; but that’s another topic).

Diversity requires boundaries; not only in abstract; but existing because of local differences. Without boundaries, all mixes and becomes homogeneous (The Heat Death of Humanity). Without local differences (ie cells separated by boundaries), then all is already homogeneous. In either case, there is no diversity.

Most of the fringe groups I have known in the past were explicitly anti-exclusion – welcoming any new members – which seemed like a positive thing to me at the time after having the typical excluded nerd experience in middle & high school. It also seems like a natural policy for a small group looking to expand. Yet now I see the downside of this lack of boundaries: it decreased diversity and cohesiveness.

One of NRx’s most basic principles is “anti-entryism”: the importance of excluding those who do not fully agree with them. In the past I would have seen this as needlessly limiting their audience and growth. However, I now see it’s importance for cohesion and maintaining ideological diversity rather than being diluted by the mainstream ideas they seek to be an alternative for. So when some NRXers consider me exactly the type they wish to exclude (an “entryist”); rather than feeling butthurt by the ghosts of teenagerdom past, I now see this as a positive. I agree with some of their oddball beliefs; disagree with others; naturally a cohesive movement will exclude people such as myself.

Similarly, my natural reaction to some of their more controversial ideas is “omg, why would you say something so extreme that 95% of those who hear it will stick their fingers in their ears and run away, when you could have convinced them of some more moderate versions of your ideas?”. Yet I can see how, from the cohesion perspective, alienating potential entryists is actually a positive. The more restrictive the filter and the stronger the antipathy generated in those who only partially agree, the more cohesive the resulting movement.

Since one of NRx’s other tenets is the importance of cohesiveness over broad appeal, it is natural that they choose to prioritize the former in forming their own group. In this context, expressing their most controversial beliefs first, loudest, and in an extreme form is actually a positive. Only Gnon can judge if the anti-entryist approach is more right than the anti-exclusionary alternative.

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