Moldbug Summary Part 3: the structure, origin, and goals of the Cathedral

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JuliusBranson

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PDF here: https://juliusbranson.net/static/media/MoldbugPt3.ce16b55cde814c25dd7c.pdf

It's too long to post in its entirety but it's a summary of the Open Letters and the content from 6 months before them. It covers the Cathedral, its origins, structure, what it wants, as well as Moldbug's ideas for reformalization. I will excerpt my critique:

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I wanted to comment critically on a few of the ideas presented here. Specifically, I find Moldbug’s idea that the ruling class are college professors and that they are spontaneously coordinated to be flimsy and suspicious. His theory is empirically weak and seems to be motivated by his goal, reformalization. It makes sense to use the employees as a scapegoat, because Moldbug is probably right that they exploit power leaks. This exploitation is probably troubling for the true ruling class, and it is a security concern for them, but it’s not responsible for anywhere near the majority of what happens in the West.

Consider that Moldbug said in his Formalist Manifesto that he wants to figure out who has power in the US and assign shares in the new SovCorp proportionately. How does that jive with him saying he wants to retire the Cathedral, who is supposedly the ruling class? Well, in the Formalist Manifesto, when he says assign shares to the NYT, he specifically means the owner:

Whether we’re talking about the US, Baltimore, or your wallet, a formalist is only happy when ownership and control are one and the same. To reformalize, therefore, we need to figure out who has actual power in the US, and assign shares in such a way as to reproduce this distribution as closely as possible. Of course, if you believe in the mystical horseradish, you’ll probably say that every citizen should get one share. But this is a rather starry-eyed view of the US’s actual power structure. Remember, our goal is not to figure out who should have what, but to figure out who does have what. For example, if the New York Times was to endorse our reformalization plan, it would be much more likely to happen. This suggests that the New York Times has quite a bit of power, and therefore that it should get quite a few shares. But wait. We haven’t answered the question. What is the purpose of the US? Suppose, solely for illustration, we give all the shares to the New York Times. What will “Punch” Sulzberger do with his shiny new country?

So when he’s remarking positively about who has real power, it’s the ownership class (which is who, in fact, has real power, according to my own analysis so far). When he’s talking about destroying those who have real power, it’s the journalists, teachers, and professors, people who, by my estimation, obviously just work for those like the Sulzbergers.

The bottom line is that I don’t see how the Cathedral maintains its power, because I don’t see them as really having the capability to do so on their own. They’re a paper tiger, because their science is fake. Moldbug alludes to them predicting more than the ownership class but the evidence says the PMC’s predictions are essentially random (see TLAU and the Alt Hype Reader by Ryan Faulk). As an amateur scholar of genetics and human behavior, I am also convinced that the Cathedral is flat out deceptive and wrong about quite a few very important subjects in those domains. What gives them that license? These are people who can’t allocate themselves billions of dollars if they desire. Meanwhile, the ownership class is composed of people who successfully allocated themselves billions of dollars. Who is more capable at maintaining and building power, people who can acquire billions of what essentially amount to power-units which make people obey you, along with the ownership of vast economic resources, which in a word just means making people do what you want with regards to those resources, or some college professors and journalists who I think aren't right about important social science, probably half because they’re scared of getting canceled. Who are they getting canceled by? Other college professors and journalists who are scared of getting canceled? Or are they all ultimately scared of some owners with billions of obedience points who can deprive them of their jobs and income and access to the private media directly?

Moldbug never really provides any evidence beyond some guy saying that FDR was influenced by “experts”. Historians often miss the influence of the ownership class and mistake results of their desires for causes, so this isn’t really evidence at all. Besides that, he just haughtily asserts that it’s supposedly obvious that the buck stops at literal employees like journalists. I have examined this claim directly in my essay “Centralization and Coordination” and needless to say I found it lacking. Among the evidence I examined is a letter of resignation from a Murdoch that alludes to the top-down control the Board of Directors asserts onto the journalists they employ. Another piece of evidence was the Sinclair script, which was a script written for local corporate newscasters that preached support for Hillary Clinton. Recently, Tucker Carlson reported observing the same phenomenon on 1/6/2022 with regards to the socalled “insurrection.”

Moldbug’s claim about spontaneous coordination is also flimsly. He provides basically no evidence for it. He just asserts that it fits or something. He probably pushes this idea because he’s afraid of being thought of as a conspiracy theorist and because it paints the Cathedral in an innocent light. The idea, of course, has to do with framing their motivation and low-brained and poorly thought out. They are excused from responsibility, in other words, and theories that assert malice are discarded if “spontaneous coordination” is true. The progressives are not run by a group that meets up and consciously discusses policy strategy, noting all of the implications and predicted downstream effects of their positions; instead, things are done by animalistic agents only thinking of themselves. They just out there tryna survive, man. All of the downstream effects are just accidents, they really only want money and power, and their actual motivations are, of course, lofty. As such, they should be retired with benefits, not punished for their malice.

Two final things. First, this document is about 10,000 words. Part 5 of his Open Letter, meanwhile, is 16,000 words. This summary covers every Open Letter as well as 6 months of content preceding it, so we’re doing pretty good. Second, that huge word reduction is not a problem because Moldbug is as unconcise as ever. In particular, he has started to repeat himself. He goes back over the American Malvern, says the same thing about SovCorps about a dozen times in this time period, and repeats a lot of what is summarized above multiple times within the time period covered. The 6 month period before the Open Letter, in fact, is mostly a watered down version of the Open Letter. If you want to read Moldbug directly, but don’t want to read literally every post, right now I firmly recommend just reading the major series, i.e. How Dawkins got Pwned and the Open Letter, along with the formalist manifesto. If you really want to, maybe add in the first month of UR. The rest is more or less watered down repetition. He coins 5 or 6 names for things, for instance. E.g. the Cathedral, the extended civil service, the Iron Polygon, WashOrg-4, WashCorp, the Brahmins. Or Universalism, ultra-Calvinism, progressivism, democratic centrism, the Synopsis. Each of these names gets a whole essay (or more) basically saying the same things as the essays for all the other names. Some versions are better than others. He admits this saying, “Well, first the problem. This is a blog, after all. We can’t really expect everyone to have read all the back issues. Repetition is a necessity, and a virtue as well. A true space lieutenant, surprised by the Slime Beast of Vega, has his acid blaster on full-auto and is pumping a massive drug bolus into its sticky green hide before he even knows what’s happening. His reaction is not thought, but drill—the apotheosis of practice.” https://www.unqualified-reservations.org/2008/07/olxiv-rules-forreactionaries/ I see this, of course, as just more evidence that Moldbug isn’t really interested in scholarship or truth. Rather, he’s interested in “persuasion,” which would be okay if he had some sort of scholarly substance to what he’s popularizing. Bill Nye explaining general relativity is one thing, Bill Nye explaining why the Earth is flat is another. The latter happens when you decide that you want to be persuasive and that you don’t need any sort of empirical basis for your product. Sadly, I believe that most of what Moldbug says is a result of that phenomenon.