The Long March Away from the Institutions


Deep in the darkness of the Amazon rainforest, there is a monster known as the zombie-ant fungus. It is a parasite that infects carpenter ants and controls their behaviour for its own ends: under the fungus’ mind control, the ant leaves the safety of its nest, finds a high, humid spot on the underside of a leaf, and attaches itself there while the fungus consumes its body and scatters spores over the colony below.

Since the turn of the millennium, western institutions have likewise been infected by what Elon Musk recently called a “mind virus”, hollowing them out and transforming them into shuffling zombies with no other purpose than the propagation of their infectious ideology.

This is why politicians no longer represent the polis, instead pushing ideological policies like Build Back Better and vaccine passports even though no one asked for them and consultations are rather clear that few people want them. It is why comedy is no longer funny and movies are no longer entertaining, and why there is often such a schism between audiences and critics on sites like Rotten Tomatoes. It is why men’s shaving brand Gillette released an advert calling masculinity toxic; such adverts are no longer about selling a brand, but about serving an ideology.

Accordingly, there is a cleave between the institutions and the people they once served. Faith in the establishment is declining across the board: Edelman’s 2022 trust barometer found, for example, that two thirds of people worldwide believe that journalists purposely try to mislead people (a rise of 8% on the year before). Voter turnout has been declining in democracies around the world since as far back as the ‘60s. Even Netflix has suffered subscriber losses so stunning that it has been forced to cancel such Netflix-esque shows as Anti-Racist Baby.

Perhaps these institutions have been, as Russian dissident and former KGB spook Yuri Bezmenov put it, ideologically subverted – by a form of Marxism fostering a constant state of revolution for revolution’s sake. The end goal, according to the infamous Frankfurt School, is a deconstruction of western civilisation – ‘dismantling whiteness’, ‘smashing the patriarchy’, and the like. As per the esoteric principle of ‘solve et coagula’ (dissolve and reassemble), the old order must be taken apart before a new order can be built in its place.

This revolution has been a long time in the making. In 1972, Frankfurt School alumnus Herbert Marcus endorsed the idea of the long march through the institutions – of slowly infiltrating the establishment and “boring from within”.

Think of it like a revenge of the nerds. All of the regular kids used to hang out in a treehouse having fun; the buzz-killing geeks were not invited. Yet, over time, the nerds used the rules of the club to slowly take it over and ban frivolities while instituting mandatory Star Trek marathons and Marx reading groups.

In the case of our illustrative ‘90s sitcom, you could imagine the regular kids abandoning the treehouse and starting their own club afresh, away from the nerds. This is exactly what is happening now – in what one might call the long march away from the institutions. Under totalitarian rule in Czechoslovakia, dissidents called it the parallel polis – walking away from the system and building something new.

It started this time around, as most of these things do, on the internet. As the buzz-killing Marxists took over forums like Twitter and YouTube, promoting authoritarian philosophies like critical theory while ironically banning all criticism, the dissidents simply went elsewhere – to sites like Gab and Bitchute. The movement has since expanded into cryptocurrencies, homesteading, alternative health systems, and more.

The philosophy says, in essence:

“If the ideologues want to have the institutions, go ahead. They can have Twitter, Hollywood, and Cambridge University. We’ll just do our own thing instead.”

The institutions, for their part, don’t seem to be taking the break-up well. YouTube, for example, has taken to disabling the dislike button – the internet’s version of sticking its fingers in its ears and going, “La-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you-la-la-la.”

Elsewhere, not content to let free speech absolutists simply escape to internet ghettos like Gab, the institutions have fought so tirelessly to shut the site down that founder Andrew Torba (who, whether you agree with him or not, has broken no laws) is now banned entirely from payment processors like Visa; Gab had to create its own infrastructure from the ground up simply to survive.

Under the zombie institutions, the leftist mantra of inclusion has taken on a threatening tone: everyone is to be included, whether they like it or not.

Schools are a great example. Many parents might object to their primary school children being taught about gender fluidity and white guilt, or to their children being tested and masked to protect them from an illness that poses statistically zero threat to them. These parents might decide instead to march away from the institutions and home-school their children. Indeed, home-schooling was rising rapidly even before the lockdowns.

Clearly unable to take the hint, the institution recently announced via the Queen’s Speech that home-schoolers would have to sign a compulsory register, with penalties for those who refuse. In a consultation with 3,514 people, just 18% supported the plans – yet the institution persisted anyway, like some kind of spurned lover.

At its heart, this is a battle not between left-wing and right-wing – two wings of the same bird – but between centralisation and decentralisation. It is about the people who just want to be left alone versus the people who won’t leave us the hell alone; it is about the hard-working ants of the rainforest floor and the unhinged zombies desperate to assimilate them all.

The institutions must realise that times are a-changing, and they must grow old and let go gracefully. In an age of automation and decentralisation, it is the politicians and oligarchs who are the true ‘useless eaters’.

In short, there is little hope for the zombified institutions – but who needs them anyway?

Patrick is an applied behavioural scientist. He works part time at three London universities and runs various behavioural and data-science agencies. He was previously the lead psychologist at Cambridge Analytica.