Snake melons are a phenotype (and possibly a viable race) whose human ecological niche is the priesthood, in whatever form that takes. In the 19th and 20th centuries, for example, the ideological priesthood took the form of politicians and corporate executives. Now that the secular era has been replaced wholesale by postmodern New Ageism, we can expect a more fragmented priesthood representing many new religious sects rediscovering intuitive mythical archetypes while claiming the prestige of scientific realism. Insulated as a group and left to their own devices, they will become snake cultists, worshiping a metaphorical projection of their inner selves.
The phenotypal priest’s method is to observe his audience’s Noble Lie, the central conceit which historically enabled the emergence of whatever heightened level of trust exists in their society, and archetype spiral into the most compelling avatar of that collective unconscious that his skills can afford. This type of central conceit typically takes the form of a virtue with which the audience has a complicated, paradoxical relationship. The key to identifying the snake melon’s chosen conceit is to look for where he appeals to the virtue by name but his logical usage entails that he must be referring to the virtue’s signal. In practice, the signal is preferred at the virtue’s expense because at scale no one spending effort on true expression of the virtue can compete with someone going all-in on the (much cheaper) signal. (Incidentally, this is also why ruderals, with their absolute dedication to individual-level intragroup competition, always eventually out-compete competitors in the absence of male group-level selection, despite their lower general fitness.)
In a highly simplified example, we can look at personal wealth as a signal of IQ. In the meritocratic West, this has historically been a reliable signal. A snake melon will observe this relationship and go all-in to become the richest person in society, then use this accomplishment to claim he’s the smartest man alive. He will appeal to the virtue of “intelligence” in sentences where the word “wealth” would have been more logically correct, and “IQ” where the word “money” should have been used, and in practice prefer the latter over the former whenever there is a conflict. When he is challenged on this by the truly smartest man alive, he will appeal to the signal as an undeniable proof of the virtue (because it is what his low-average-virtue audience understands). Typically being narcissistic, he will then escalate until he has destroyed the smarter man’s reputation.
In a hypothetical leftist example, we can examine the complicated relationship progressives have with political activism and predict the sort of snake melon could be found among them. Progressives profess a sort of works-based salvation model, where there is supposedly no line separating political speech and political action, but their observed behavior shows a comfort with hypocrisy that can be alarming. If I’m a snake melon, I’m going to home in on this conceited like a heat-seeking missile. I’ll observe that “action” is the virtue and “talk” is the signal, and thus refer to my talks as “activism” while putting in the bare minimum effort to make it technically true and plausible to my intended audience. Having then compiled a long resume of “activism”, when the fanatics come for me I can say “Show me the list of your political actions, and I’ll show you mine, and we’ll see which is longer.” When they get upset about the methodology, I can accuse them of butthurt, destroy their reputations, and have them thrown out of the political movements they founded.
A historical example is the clash of interests between industrialists and bankers, both presumably being avatars of the capitalist ideology.
You will note that the financiers proposed to cure by lending money and not by bettering methods. They did not suggest putting in an engineer; they wanted to put in a treasurer.
And that is the danger of having bankers in business. They think solely in terms of money. They think of a factory as making money, not goods. They want to watch the money, not the efficiency of production. They cannot comprehend that a business never stands still, it must go forward or go back. They regard a reduction in prices as a throwing away of profit instead of as a building of business.
Bankers play far too great a part in the conduct of industry. Most business men will privately admit that fact. They will seldom publicly admit it because they are afraid of their bankers. It required less skill to make a fortune dealing in money than dealing in production. The average successful banker is by no means so intelligent and resourceful a man as is the average successful business man. Yet the banker through his control of credit practically controls the average business man.
There has been a great reaching out by bankers in the last fifteen or twenty years—and especially since the war—and the Federal Reserve System for a time put into their hands an almost limitless supply of credit. The banker is, as I have noted, by training and because of his position, totally unsuited to the conduct of industry. If, therefore, the controllers of credit have lately acquired this very large power, is it not to be taken as a sign that there is something wrong with the financial system that gives to finance instead of to service the predominant power in industry? It was not the industrial acumen of the bankers that brought them into the management of industry. Everyone will admit that. They were pushed there, willy-nilly, by the system itself. Therefore, I personally want to discover whether we are operating under the best financial system.
Now, let me say at once that my objection to bankers has nothing to do with personalities. I am not against bankers as such. We stand very much in need of thoughtful men, skilled in finance. The world cannot go on without banking facilities. We have to have money. We have to have credit. Otherwise the fruits of production could not be exchanged. We have to have capital. Without it there could be no production. But whether we have based our banking and our credit on the right foundation is quite another matter.
My Life and Work
To confirm that you’ve correctly identified a snake melon’s target for purity spiraling optimization, there are two tests.
1. Challenge them to distinguish between the signal and the virtue. If they are ideologically opposed to the very idea of doing this and, furthermore, become enraged at the suggestion, then they are either a vampire or a “thrall” (as Patrick and I have begun to call them).
2. Present them with an inescapable dilemma where the signal and the virtue are opposed. A mere thrall will retain their emotional connection to the virtue itself and feel pulled toward it. They will A) be unable to understand that the dilemma is possible and try unsuccessfully to have both, B) choose the virtue, or C) become conflicted. But a proper vampire will choose the signal immediately (because they are rational actors in the economic sense), double-down on the identity of the signal with the virtue to explain their behavior, then preemptively attack anyone who might use their hypocrisy to make them look bad to their audience.
Also please note that Goodhart’s Law means that there is a cycle of destruction built into any religion or ideology where a virtue is targeted for virtue signalling optimization in this way:
Goodhart’s law states that when a proxy of success is used as a target for optimization, the proxy ceases to correlate with success.
-Zero HP Lovecraft
Therefore, any virtue which is used for purity spiraling (e.g. education for g) produces a bubble and then a collapse, without fail.
In religion, just as in politics or philosophy or any other institutional mental effort, heresy is taking one idea from an organic plurality of ideas and elevating it to supreme preeminence, so that other ideas are justified by their agreement with the master idea, or rejected by the master idea. What makes heresies illogical — all heresies, not just religious ones — is that the master idea has no innate preeminence over other ideas in the institutional mental effort equally as old or foundational or well-attested.
-John C. Wright
On the Character of Heresy