From: The Anti-Democracy Activist
To: Mencius Moldbug
Re: “The Cathedral”
Dear Mr. Moldbug;
Hi, Mr. Moldbug. Big fan here. And I really mean that – I’m not a leftist, so I don’t say things like that in the snarky, ironic way they do. I look forward to each of your new columns, and read them just as soon as they come out. I enjoy, and respect, the way that they’re not afraid to be long, complex, and a little bit difficult (without being pretentious or obfuscating just for the sake of it – I’ll have a lot to say about people who do that at a later date), thus rejecting demotism and egalitarianism by your columns’ very form as well as in their content. I dig it.
There’s just one small thing. It’s about your use of the term “the Cathedral” to describe the informally organized, yet ironclad, consensus among the leftist cultural elite, and the institutions which enforce its will. While it’s an important and groundbreaking concept, and deserves to be brought to light, the use of the term is troubling to me. Now that the Neo-Reaction is starting to get some mainstream attention, I’d like to take this moment – which may be the last moment possible – to try to convince you that using this term that way is a bad idea, and that you should use something else instead.
The first reason for this is relatively straightforward, and has, I’m sure, been brought to your attention by some of the more religious types of traditionalists and reactionaries before. Simply put, it’s that we really can’t quite let you repurpose that term to mean something new, since we’re actually still using it for what it was originally intended for. I know that many among the left would like to proclaim that God is Dead, and that religion as an institution is mortally wounded – I say “Not so fast”. Religion is not so dead as its enemies would like the world to think, and has more potential remaining in it than many would give it credit for. I urge you to consider the idea that appropriating one of its most important terms and repurposing it by attempting to attach it to a new meaning lends your (unintentional, I’m sure) support to the left’s contention that religion is completely irrelevant. By using that word for something new, you are, in effect, saying that its old meaning no longer has any currency. In other words: “No one important is using this word for anything important, so I might as well”. The way in which this declares the irrelevance of religion is subtle, but unmistakable. I know that you are not a man of faith yourself, but surely you realize that religious reactionaries are your natural allies, and that anything that undermines them or the basis of their principles – whether you believe in them personally or not – is counterproductive to your own goals.
This brings me to the next point, which is a practical extension of the previous one. Though the left relentlessly tries to present all “conservatives” (I’m not happy with the term either, but bear with me while I make a point) as being “squares” and conformists, the truth is that it is the left who are by far more “team cheerleaders”, while those on the right tend to be unctuous, prickly, individualistic, and far too ready to turn on each other. This is one reason why the left wins elections – they stick together – and it is also a reflection of their traits of lack of principle (as opposed to ideology), of moral bankruptcy, and susceptibility to cults of personality (Obama’s being a prime example). We on the right (and especially the non-mainstream right), on the other hand, all too often turn our backs on each other, or even attack each other outright, over differences in viewpoints or philosophy (I call this “Jonah Goldberging”, or “Pope Francising”). That may make us principled, or it may make us bad at politics (or both), but it is the way we seem to be. I contend that by using this word, you risk alienating natural allies (myself included – I’m both rather alienated by your use of this word, and consider myself a natural ally of yours) over a small point that could easily be let slide. In short, it invites trouble and discord among people who are so small in number and relatively powerless at this point (let’s all hope that changes soon) that they really need to stick together as much as they can. The word is more trouble than it’s worth.
My last reason for disliking this term is one that has its genesis in the world of marketing: brand confusion. I realize that a movement that opposes Demotism has, as a matter of course, a certain elitism about it – and believe me, I’m the last one to see elitism as a bad thing. But as the Neo-Reactionary brand (there is nothing that is not a brand these days) starts getting more recognition, there are more opportunities available to persuade others and to attract them to the cause – and this is not a bad thing. The more people who swallow the Red Pill, the better, say I. Consider, then, what an “average Joe” who might define himself as a mainstream conservative or a libertarian in the Ron Paul/Tea Party mode – but who could perhaps be persuaded to take that last leap towards the waiting Red Pill – might think when he hears the term “The Cathedral” used the way you use it. Perhaps something like: “Wait – Cathedrals? You mean, like, Catholics? So is this guy anti-Catholic? Does he think they’re secretly communists? Is he one of those Da Vinci Code types who thinks that the Vatican is full of conspirators and undercover pinkos? No way I’m listening to another religion-basher!” That may be rash and shallow of Joe, but if half-considered decisions based on branding weren’t a common phenomenon, corporations wouldn’t pour billions of dollars into advertising and the establishment of brand identities. Company names, slogans, jingles, buzzwords… huge effort is expended on finding just the right ones that send just the right message, and that do so without too much thought needing to be put into it by average Joes. Even a term like “the Dark Cathedral*”, or “the Anti-Cathedral” would go a long way towards lessening the potential brand confusion here – the addition of a simple adjective signals that this isn’t, y’know, that other kind of Cathedral.
For all these reasons, I hope to persuade you to drop the term ‘the Cathedral” now – before the Neo-Reaction starts to get bigger, and its basic terminology gets into more common usage and becomes basically impossible to change. You’ve suggested “The Matrix”, and that’s fine with me. As I said above, “the Dark Cathedral” or ‘the Anti-Cathedral” would be better. How about “The Blue Pharmacy”, or “The International”, or “The Permanent Revolution”, or, if you wanted to be a bit lighthearted, even “The Blue Meanies” (because they represent the Blue Pill, and are utter shameless bullies)? Any of these – or any number of other terms – would be way less problematic than “the Cathedral” as far as I’m concerned.
Well, Mr. Moldbug, I can only hope that you will take all of this to heart; with any luck, perhaps I can persuade you to see things my way. I remain, of course, a fan, and should we ever get the chance to meet up at The Thirsty Bear or Kate O’Brien’s out in your San Francisco stomping grounds, the first round is on me.
-The Anti-Democracy Activist
(*The term “the Dark Cathedral” does risk brand confusion with the “Dark Enlightenment” – but that’s another term I’m lukewarm about, and for similar reasons. Picture our average Joe encountering that one: “Wait – is the Dark Enlightenment like the Regular Enlightenment? So is this guy into Voltaire, or what? I hope not – I’m not a big fan of the French Revolution”.)