One of the tough things about exploring reactionary thought is to understand the memes involved. “The Cathedral” is one of the most commonly used terms among neo-reactionaries. It is introduced in Mencius Moldbug’s A Gentle Introduction to Unqualified Reservations, which I recommended you read. I borrowed some of the best metaphors from this essay and incorporated them into this one.
I will do my best to simplify and explain: the Cathedral is a neo-reactionary concept which explains how progressives have gained and held power for so long.
In a democracy or a republic, the views of the people determine the government through elections. However, the views of the people aren’t independent. While some people will seek out all possible sources of information, most do not desire to investigate every fringe theory hoping they might find something they like. Most people are happy to look at the most easily available information and go from there.
And that’s fine. However, because people will gravitate towards the easiest sources of information, those sources will be the ones that dominate the minds of population. For most people, the things that determine their political outlook flow from what they are taught in school, what they see on TV, what they read in the newspaper, or they what they ingest through some internet equivalent.
This isn’t, at first pass, a problem. It is a waste of time for most people to think entirely for themselves. Synthesizing the things they see into a world view is an effective way to understand things as quickly as possible.
There is a caveat to the statement above. If the public’s source of information comes from people with a patchwork of political views and philosophies, people can synthesize a set of political beliefs for themselves. People would be exposed to a wide range of views and they would adhere to one thing or another.
This isn’t the case. When you go to Harvard, it teaches the you the same things with the same bias as Yale and Flyover State University. TV and movie writers believe similar things. Public school curricula don’t vary greatly from district to district, even without common core. That is to say, the system which distributes information to the public is a uniformly progressive one.
This uniformity is enforced socially, where people rightly recognize that they’ll be cast from the realm of polite discussion if they reveal a ideology that isn’t progressive-approved. The exceptions like Fox News, or abstinence only sex education, get treated like a stubborn boil by progressives. Co-existence with other viewpoints is not acceptable.
When the system of distributing information to Americans is examined, a hierarchical structure is evident. Sitting at the top of the information is the American university system. Ideas come out, but ideas never come in. Every journalist, bureaucrat, businessman, lawyer and public school educator must pass through 4 years (or more) of being molded by their brand of education before being set loose to affect public opinion.
This gives universities indirect control of the main channels of information distribution in the United States. This means that, over time, they have the ability to shape political opinion in the United States without any check on their influence. This position makes the university akin to the church in a theocracy, hence the name “Cathedral”.
Substitute progressivism with Catholicism in the views of who controls our media, our education, our bureaucracy and you immediately see the problem with one viewpoint controlling the major sources of information.
If teaching in a public school meant sending your child exclusively to teachers who spent 5 years studying at a Catholic seminary that taught curricula determined by monks, would you trust your child to get a well rounded education?
If every TV show you watched was written by devout Catholics, would you dismiss it as harmless entertainment?
Would you trust the people delivering you the news to give you all the facts on stories that the Church was interested in?
You wouldn’t and you shouldn’t. No matter if the ideology is Catholicism or progressivism.
Aside: the intellectual hegemony of American universities extends outside the US, where it is even stronger because of the use of NGOs developing foreign institutions. Europe fell under their complete sway post-WW2, and with decolonization, so did much of the rest of the world.
Note that this isn’t an organized conspiracy, it’s an emergent one. It is the result of an ideology with peculiar memes that work nicely to put itself into and to maintain power.
The Cathedral concept is ultimately an attempt to accurately describe the de facto power structure in the United States, as opposed to the de jure one described in the Constitution.
Once again, if you’ve read this and found it thought-provoking, be sure to go back and read the essay that first introduced the concept.