Sub-Cathedral Media

Journalism doesn’t occupy the sovereign position within the classic (Moldbuggian) NRx analysis of the Cathedral. It is downstream of the academic clerisy, who establish doctrine, and then perform high-level indoctrination, with journalism schools as a relatively subservient node on the conveyor. Only the quantitative propaganda function of the media, as the terminal relay to the masses, produces the impression that it effectively rules. Media apparatchiks have negligible intellectual productivity. They serve the Zeitgeist, by trying to remember what their professors taught them.

Still, as the question goes:

If, when journalists and politicians conflict, the politicians always go down in flames and the journalists always walk away without a scratch, who exactly is wearing the pants in this place?

Disconcerting then, to read this story, in which the pants aren’t at all where they might be expected:

The emails were obtained by Gawker as part of a large Freedom of Information Act request it made back in 2012. They show a 2009 exchange between Marc Ambinder, then-politics editor of The Atlantic, and Philippe Reines, a close assistant and adviser to Clinton during her days as Secretary of State. […] Ambinder asked Reines for an advance copy of a speech Clinton was scheduled to give at the Council on Foreign Relations. Rather than simply say yes or no, Reines cut a deal with Ambinder, turning over the speech provided Ambinder agreed to three conditions:
1) You in your own voice describe [the speech] as “muscular”
2) You note that a look at the CFR seating plan shows that all the envoys — from [Richard] Holbrooke to [George] Mitchell to [Dennis] Ross — will be arrayed in front of her, which in your own clever way you can say certainly not a coincidence and meant to convey something
3) You don’t say you were blackmailed!

Number three is especially cynical: Don’t, of course, admit to the truth.

Ambinder does what he’s told. He doesn’t even seem to be trying to pretend otherwise:

“Since I can’t remember the exact exchange I can’t really muster up a defense of the art, and frankly, I don’t really want to,” Ambinder told Gawker.

At times, clearly, the Cathedral concept gives these degenerate propaganda serfs way too much credit. They’ve got it all, and they still cheat.

It would be a mistake to head back to the drawing-board, nevertheless. The Cathedral isn’t dysfunctional because its corrupt, but even — and most dangerously — when it isn’t. Structural feedback pathology is the problem, with semi-criminal hackery as a distraction.

Marx dismissed capitalist cheating — such as adulteration of goods — as an ultimate irrelevance, that only confused the principal line of his critique. NRx should hold to the same approach in its critique of the Cathedral, insofar as it aims for theoretical resilience (rather than anecdotal sniping). It has still to be admitted that the Ambinder-types don’t help.

February 11, 2016admin 32 Comments »


32 Responses to this entry

  • 4candles Says:


    If you’re still awake: the original UF blog had an audio link to a talk you did in Shanghai on architecture and time (accuracy of clocks etc) … now being relatively planck equivalent of something something. Any chance you still have the link? Thanks.


    Child Reply:

    Sounds like something from Calendric Dominion?


    admin Reply:

    Original blog is lost, but I think it has to be this.


    4candles Reply:

    That’s the one, cheers.


    Posted on February 11th, 2016 at 6:46 pm Reply | Quote
  • Sub-Cathedral Media | Neoreactive Says:

    […] Sub-Cathedral Media […]

    Posted on February 11th, 2016 at 6:52 pm Reply | Quote
  • Paul Ennis Says:


    Augustus Pugin Reply:

    Not surprised by the Ethereum bubble at all. Everything I’ve seen of it has led me to believe even the founders are overrating its ability to be the solution to all our problems by turning every societal interaction into a mediated algorithmically generated cryptographic exchange. I love the idea of stuff like Augur coming out of it, but I’d say a vast majority of the Ethereum ecosystem is people chasing a fantasy. For them, stuff like decentralisation and distributed platforms are the end not the means, and basically the computer science equivalent of ‘Democracy’, which, hey, is always good, right?


    michael Reply:

    hey isnt capitalism just like democracy too


    Anomaly UK Reply:

    Well, bitcoin is, at root, a voting system. It has the stabilizing feature that you get rewarded for voting for the winner, and penalised for voting for the loser, so it’s less vulnerable to being undermined by zealots than conventional voting systems. That is workable where the social value of being predictable is greater than the social value of being “right” in some external sense–as is arguably the case for sharing a transaction leger.

    Note (slightly more relevantly to the post), very corrupt democracies can slightly resemble the reward/punishment stabilisation of bitcoin.


    Posted on February 11th, 2016 at 7:02 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alrenous Says:

    Ambinder and Philippe weren’t conflicting at the time. Philippe was likely blustering and Ambinder goes along to get along. Probably this got published because they now are conflicting. Note Ambinder doesn’t even try to hide the fact he was toadying – it clearly isn’t a threat to him or his career. It’s probably a threat to Philippe’s though. In other words I wonder how much juicy corruption Gawker gets their hands on and doesn’t publish, and I’m betting it’s more often withheld than not.

    Also both Philippe and Ambinder’s name show up in media. They are minor functionaries. The kind of people who can actually get Ambinder in hot water wanted Clinton played up at that time, and Ambinder knew it. Now? Turns out their efforts of obfuscation are not without fruit, so I don’t know.


    Posted on February 11th, 2016 at 7:14 pm Reply | Quote
  • Jefferson Says:

    My understanding was that actual elected officials are more a part of the media than of government. Ideas originate in academia, are disseminated in the media, and implemented by the permanent bureaucracy. Anyone whose name is well known can be thought of as a media icon.


    Posted on February 11th, 2016 at 7:41 pm Reply | Quote
  • Frog Do Says:

    This seems like a weird perspective for Xenosystems to make. Surely the central feature of the Cathedral is that is doesn’t act as a hierarchical conspiracy, instead reeling drunkenly from action to incetivized action in a thousand directions. There is no “boss”, not the journalists, not the ivory tower. The point of Moldbug’s quote was hyperbole, illustating that official rank is not actual power (if he’s making a factual statment, it’s clearly wrong). It’s fantastic if this Hillary thing is true, because it would mean some sort of hierarchy is being imposed on the Cathedral, and who cares what it is so long as it shelters from chaos. Isn’t that why this blog supports a Clinton presidency, to begin with?


    Mark Citadel Reply:

    It’s hard to have a boss when your religious framework is undergoing constant puritanical revolution. This is what’s rather scary about being a Progressive, you don’t know what might be fine to say today, but be heresy tomorrow. No text to consult, it’s all a matter of interest jockeying at the top level.


    Frog Do Reply:

    Exactly my point, the Cathedral doesn’t have a sovereign, or even anything more than a rough hierarchy, that’s the whole point of Moldbug. That’s why I am confused, has Xenosystems changed the definition in some way I haven’t noticed?


    admin Reply:

    The Cathedral is the sovereign. That doesn’t mean it lacks an internal gradient of power. It’s a church. If not as hierarchically formalized as the Roman Church, it’s far more so than — say — pentacostalism.

    Pseudo-chrysostom Reply:

    >This seems like a weird perspective for Xenosystems to make.

    As a member of the grey tribe the host can’t help the compulsion to oppose a red tribe member, but it is laudable that he can occasionally overcome this disabillity to deliver some sense.


    admin Reply:

    Which “red tribe member”?


    Posted on February 11th, 2016 at 8:38 pm Reply | Quote
  • Sub-Cathedral Media | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on February 11th, 2016 at 11:34 pm Reply | Quote
  • Cassander Says:

    The media politician relationship is symbiotic. Both need the other, the politician to make himself known to the masses, the journalist to get the access, briefings, and leaks he needs to advance in his profession. To talk of either controlling the other as a class is absurd. It’s not class on class, it’s a million tiny conspiracies, each two people plotting to advance their own interests at the expense of everyone else.


    Posted on February 11th, 2016 at 11:36 pm Reply | Quote
  • vxxc2014 Says:

    The Clinton’s are an institutional power bloc and National Level Machine politicians at the center of a web of corruption and cronyism that is International and has been since his first term. So naturally she is the heir presumptive. It’s simply Power that is to say Politics.

    To consider a web of people in politics to have no power brokers but instead being subject to Moldbuggian or any other Laws of Political Thermodynamics is positively Marxist in it’s staggering presumption. Also error.

    In the Catholic religion when it was in power it mattered who was Pope. In the Progressive Cathedral it matters who are the top level masters of Power. Hillary being the heir presumptive is the normal course of human politics and if anything stops her it’s democracy, hilariously social democrats. It many ways of course it’s a contest between the forces of social democracy and the Dominate heir presumptive. Obama 08 is a social democrat as is Sanders.

    Politics is people not systems. The groups of people are the system.


    Posted on February 12th, 2016 at 3:21 am Reply | Quote
  • E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Says:

    Don’t forget that much of the breakdown in order came from squabbles such as these: supposedly subservient nodes with a fair amount of power flexing their muscles. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!


    Posted on February 12th, 2016 at 5:28 am Reply | Quote
  • Anomaly UK Says:

    From the British perspective, that email is astonishing. Under the lobby system, the trade of control of reporting for early access is so institutionalised that it would never, ever, need to be spelled out in such an incriminating way.

    This sort of thing makes democracy a little less democratic, and usually a little saner. It is declining, not increasing. (In the past, political parties owned newspapers, and newspaper owners selected candidates). I suspect that in the past, as in Britain, the quid pro quo would never have had to be set out as in this story.

    To put it bluntly, _That we heard of this story is evidence it doesn’t happen much_ (There is an obvious falsification problem with this, admittedly).

    A random piece (only skimmed) on the decline of the lobby system in the UK.


    Anomaly UK Reply:

    Having now read that paper, I strongly recommend it for background on the relationship between politicians and the press. The detail is UK, but it seems reasonable that similar forces were and are at work in other democracies.

    Correction/clarification: by “falsification problem” I meant “falsifiability problem”


    Posted on February 12th, 2016 at 8:24 am Reply | Quote
  • TheDividualist Says:

    I have seen people in certain European countries argue “we lost the election because we don’t own enough of the media”, assuming precisely this, that journalists are the mouthpieces of politicians, so they would not really accept the Cathedral concept. But I think it is perfectly possible that when journos write about generic values like homophobia is bad that they are doing that semi-autonomously, based on what they have learn in college, and when they are writing about more specific politics like politician X is super cool because she slammed homophobia, they are taking orders from there.

    Since we have the Internet the Achilles heel of the media is money. They can’t sell that much paper copies, people don’t like paywalls, advertising revenue is too many mouths and not enough food type of thing. Citizen Kane sounds weird today, right? That it used to be so lucrative?

    And they are not going to get the money from the professors. Hence?


    D. Reply:

    Hence “social media” replaces the older media, but fulfilling the same functions.


    Posted on February 12th, 2016 at 9:29 am Reply | Quote
  • little hans Says:

    The originator is not the universities: in any subject but the social sciences there is very little exposure to ‘left’ academics.

    If you look at the output of universities, the ratio of hard cathedral members to the general graduate population is much less than 1:10. The ratio of proto-cathedralists going into the university system is much higher than that. These proto-political engagements are generated at further, not higher education level, as means of creating identity and differentiating oneself from the herd.

    There is actually a huge drop out rate from the cathedral in undergraduate students, who begin to manipulate these identities when they leave home and collide with new influences – the percentage who take the opportunity to improve status by old-school social climbing is actually very high.

    The two factors which account for the spread of cathedralism now are the absoluteness of ‘no enemies to the left’ and the fact that no extremist view on that side is challenged; and the soft pressure of status signalling, particularly in social media. These two are the accelerative mechanism. But the idea of academic indoctrination, I don’t see.

    Two put it another way, the academic clerisy are just bobbing in the middle of a flow which originates in teenagers having the intuition that ‘I am a (super) special monkey’.


    michael Reply:

    You obviously dont have children,If you have read your childrens primary school books in the last twenty years you would understand academia dictates down to preschool.By the time a child is in third grade they are spouting off about feminism capitalism,colonialism environmentalism racism all of it is incorporated into the curriculum, it is the curriculum. Before they even got to preschool they were read childrens books, go have a look at what childrens books are like.Look at what their parents beliefs are what do you think they are told at home before they reach school, what is the Hispanic nanny teaching them.Usually at the parents request Spanish at the least.It why its a cathedral everything supports everything its actually how a culture should operatethey fact they have managed to rearrange all the arches and buttresses without yet toppling it is to be commended that its a satanic church not so much, in fairness its more in line with christianity than is the dark enligtenment.The Cathedral manages to get people to act not only against their interest but biological nature this is huge imagine what a dark cathedral could do in sync with reality the cath should be captured


    Posted on February 12th, 2016 at 11:16 am Reply | Quote
  • Different T Says:

    I once teased the infamous Larry Auster, proprietor of View from the Right – the Web’s most thoughtful hard-line conservative – that his blog should be called VFR1960, because he sides with the right in every conflict after 1960. Before 1960, however, VFR could be accurately renamed View from the Left. Larry, bless his soul, didn’t like that at all. But it still happens to be true. – Mencius Moldbug

    Considering MM has blatantly stated that he is pro-choice, what would a more accurate name for his perspective be?

    Can any MM experts link to MM discussing this stance, preferably in a comments section where another poster is asking questions?


    Seth Reply:

    The pro-life movement is leftist in its tactics (mass political mobilization) and its universalizing morality. It’s a strange accident of history, stemming from an over-zealous feminist movement, that thinking abortion should be legal but rare is anything but a right-wing viewpoint.


    Different T Reply:

    It’s a strange accident of history, stemming from an over-zealous feminist movement,

    That’s not “a strange accident of history,” it is the only logical continuation of the law if a woman has equal rights. If abortion ” should be legal but rare” in such an era of equal rights, that can only mean the pro-choice movement as it is.


    Different T Reply:


    Was it a strange accident of history that the question of “reproduction” was always a central issue in Patriarchies? Are you even disputing this? Your first sentence seems to contradict the second; or at least is just some strange, unrelated declaration.


    Posted on February 12th, 2016 at 4:08 pm Reply | Quote
  • Konkvistador Says:

    The existence of this pieces delivers a double shaking update to the normal view of the world:

    1. This is a case of a Western politician having clear power over a journalist’s message.
    2. Which we know because a different journalist or their patron has power over this politician.

    A third update. The much valued “freedom of the press” is often used as an important indicator of functional democracy. All statistical measures of this I’ve investigated seem to be bullshit. What doesn’t seem to be bullshit is observing particular strategic actors getting away or not with particular moves.

    Nominally democratic regimes around the world have actors who use similar strategic moves. The gulf between “true” and “failed” democracies when it comes to most criteria normal political theory uses to predict success or failure shrinks the closer it is investigated.

    The differences in quality of government remain. But something else is producing them. Whatever that something is, our society doesn’t understand it. Which suggests it rests on foundations of lost social technology or chance. Chance seems unlikely.


    Posted on February 12th, 2016 at 9:03 pm Reply | Quote

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