This is an altogether a fine movie, filled with political insight. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Dominic Cummings, the architect of the victorious leave vote. The credits say that some portions of the movie are fictional, leaving one to infer that most of it is just how it happened. The portion I am sure is fictional is a scene near the end between Dominic Cummings and the head organizer of the Remain campaign, a Tory working for Prime Minister Campbell. They are in a pub after a long day’s work. It is becoming clear to the Stay side that they are losing and they are surprised and outraged. They would stay that way for four more years. The Tory political professional running the Stay campaign accuses Cummings of undermining the rule of experts and of opening up political life in England to a set of forces that will be impossible to control.
Broadly speaking, the accusation is true. What kept politics manageable for the ruling classes was a consensus that experts in fact knew more than most people and that their rule was legitimate. This is under challenge in the English-speaking democracies.
Curtis Yarvin, of Mencius Moldbug fame, explains this as the rule of the Cathedral. It is a vitally important concept, and Brexit the movie touches upon it in the exchange between Dominic Cummings and the lead organizer for the Stay campaign.
“The mystery of the cathedral is that all the modern world’s legitimate and prestigious intellectual institutions, even though they have no central organizational connection, behave in many ways as if they were a single organizational structure.
Most notably, this pseudo-structure is synoptic: it has one clear doctrine or perspective. It always agrees with itself. Still more puzzlingly, its doctrine is not static; it evolves; this doctrine has a predictable direction of evolution, and the whole structure moves together.”
I am uncertain whether the term “the Cathedral” has to be conceived as Yarvin does. Yet it is stands as a useful metaphor for the collective inertia of received ideas that dominate political discourse these days.
Watch the Brexit movie. It will get you to the core of the issues. As the referendum approached, there was a telling scene during a focus group being held by the Remain side where some frizzy blonde-haired working class woman entirely loses it, and starts screaming that she is absolutely fed up with being told she is a racist for having a dim view of current rates of immigration, and that she has been fed up with this state of repression for the past twenty years. The meeting descends into chaos. At that point the chief organizer for the Remain side knows for sure that he is going to lose.
I wonder when that point will be reached in Canada.