The Reactionary Instinct

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

So I ran into a guy who gave a partial defense of Islamic Extremism. In particular, Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. Want to take a bet on what his politics were (hint: he was a white guy)? What was his defense of what can properly be termed 8th-century barbarians? Well, you see, the West is encroaching upon the Muslim world in the form of colonialism/imperialism, you see. For that, we should expect elements of Muslim society to respond in such a reactionary manner. Now he made it rather clear that he didn’t approve of the violence committed.

The problem becomes; if colonialism or imperialism (is there a difference at this point?) is so abhorrent and evil, then how are we to keep the standard of non-violence? Gandhi admitted that violence was better than cowardice. Gandhi himself relied on the non-violent traditions of Hinduism, but that wasn’t enough to stop another Hindu nationalist from assasinating him. IN the end, if you are fighting evil, the justification to use violence becomes all the more tempting.

So are al-Qaeda and Co. bad. Well, duh. But let’s go deeper because I have a word quota, and Thomas gets angry if I don’t meet it. You don’t want to see him when he gets angry. Al-Qaeda in Arabic means roughly ‘the way.’ Taliban translates to ‘students.’ Boko Haram translates to ‘Western education is forbidden.’ I’m sure you see the thread. All of them have to do with conforming to the original (circa 8th century) ways of Islam. They are referring to and modeling themselves off an older, purer form of the religion they follow. One that is a purely closed moral system that must repel, expel, and exterminate any corrupting influences. Islam means submission after all. Now, of course, I have to (almost legally at this point methinks) give the disclaimer; not all Muslims, not all Islam. So am I giving a PSA on why Islamist terror groups are bad? Well, in part, I guess, at least for that one guy.

Beyond that, I want to address the problem of reactionaries. The term reactionary is something that if you ever listen to a Marxist or variant thereof you will hear near constantly. The reactionary, the counterrevolutionary, compradorial forces; all terms for the forces aligned (apparently) against the revolution. To be sure, the reactionary is a true being. You see it every time something you love and cherish is challenged. On the small scale, it’s the person who seemingly becomes more strident and stubborn about their beliefs. On the large scale, it’s the Taliban. It’s the natural conservative instinct to fight foreign disease. To hunker down and double down. It makes sense. If you don’t find firm footing (what’s more firm than 8th-century tradition?) then you will be swept away.

It should be obvious, however, that the reactionary is not always the good guy. The Taliban are currently forcing 12-year-old girls, little girls, to marry. Child rape. This isn’t saying we should go back. As one of the only sensible things (not to mention understandable things) our current president has said, we can’t fix all of the world’s problems. Moving beyond this, however, we should still know exactly who the Taliban are. They will protect women’s rights, and human rights more broadly, but you are really not going to like the way they do it. So why would somebody defend such a group? Enter the revolutionary reactionary (copyright).

Who is this person? This is the person who is ostensibly on the far-far left. To this person, the capitalist West is the origin of all evil. To them, if America was a university, the Devil would be an undergrad. Because America is the focal point of evil, then anybody who is against her is not only an ally but also righteous. You see, the Taliban only look extreme because the West has backed them into a corner. Just as MLK once said that riots are the language of the unheard so are suicide bombers, beheadings, and sexual enslavement for the anti-imperialist forces. Can you say “America made me do it?”

To this particular brand of reactionary, every action for each and every group is only morally good or bad depending on where they are on the hierarchy of power. The Iraqi militants had to resort to terrorism because they could not hope to stand up to the West. The Taliban are just freedom fighters, to roughly quote one Marxist troglodyte (I apologize for comparing troglodytes to Marxists. I will be sure to donate to a troglodyte charity.) once stated about Rep. Dan Crenshaw, “didn’t he lose his eye to a Mujahideen, an actual brave soldier?” The Japanese Empire is exempt from most critical scrutiny by this group for the reason that they are non-Western, but when the United States firebombs and nukes them to end the Second World War, “the United States is the world’s greatest terrorist country,” to quote the same person. This is besides the fact that about 17 million Chinese were slaughtered by the Japanese before and during the war.

The problem of being a reactionary is that it is fundamentally framed around your opposition. Anything is permissible, as long as you are fighting the good fight. Any action is justified and dismissed as either being a helpless victim or just doing what needs to be done. “My son would never do that” on a national scale. I don’t like many aspects of the West right now. But I can pretty safely say throwing gays off roofs, forcing women to marry their rapists, and hunting down religious minorities is a bad thing.


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