Thought Outlaws

When thoughts are outlawed, only outlaws will have thoughts.

–Abraham Lincoln

The bad girl woman of the New York Times, Bari Weiss, did a meet and greet of the “renegades of the intellectual dark web.” They ranged from the thoughtful to the banal, and even those too far toward the edge for Weiss to include in the intellectual club, and she let it be known that they were unworthy of membership. What they had in common was ideas that were unacceptable to . . . someone.

Here are some things that you will hear when you sit down to dinner with the vanguard of the Intellectual Dark Web: There are fundamental biological differences between men and women. Free speech is under siege. Identity politics is a toxic ideology that is tearing American society apart. And we’re in a dangerous place if these ideas are considered “dark.”

These are but a few of the notions that are wedged into the intellectual dark web, which Weiss abbreviates to I.D.W.

What is the I.D.W. and who is a member of it? It’s hard to explain, which is both its beauty and its danger.

Most simply, it is a collection of iconoclastic thinkers, academic renegades and media personalities who are having a rolling conversation — on podcasts, YouTube and Twitter, and in sold-out auditoriums — that sound unlike anything else happening, at least publicly, in the culture right now. Feeling largely locked out of legacy outlets, they are rapidly building their own mass media channels.

What this reveals may be less a matter of thinkers being renegades than Weiss’ being stuck in a bubble. Granted, she’s a columnist for the New York Times, which is itself either a neo-Nazi mouthpiece or the Paper of Progressive Record, according to whom you ask.

In certain niches, academia, Hollywood, the Upper West Side of Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the ideas of such diverse people as Christina Hoff Summers and Bret Weinstein are anathema. But are these really outlaw thoughts?

Today, people like them who dare venture into this “There Be Dragons” territory on the intellectual map have met with outrage and derision — even, or perhaps especially, from people who pride themselves on openness.

It’s a pattern that has become common in our new era of That Which Cannot Be Said. And it is the reason the Intellectual Dark Web, a term coined half-jokingly by Mr. Weinstein, came to exist.

There are, of course, students who claim they are traumatized by being within a thousand feet of people who “assault” them with unpleasant thoughts, requiring weeks and months of trauma care and Play-Doh, but aside from head-shaking and wonder as to what the future holds, are these kids the bar for intelligent thought?

If Weiss’ point is to make ideas deemed offensive to social justice ideology, third-wave feminists, the wokiest-woke person, for the purpose of making them sexier, more dangerous, then it’s unclear who she’s trying to convince. Her Times readers already hate these people, their ideas, and have no interest in considering the possibility that anything they already believe may not be absolutely true. True, that is, in the sense of “their truth,” not factual truth.

If Weiss’ point is to make us feel sorry for these thinkers, save the provocateurs who bring derision upon themselves because they’ve gone beyond Weiss’ sensibilities, then to what end? If they engage in wrongthink, they deserve whatever they get. No one forces them to be hatemongers who are shunned by the self-proclaimed intelligentsia of social justice.

But outside the bubble, off instagram and the stage of the old Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, these aren’t outlaw ideas at all. There are millions upon millions of Americans who go to work in the morning, worry about feeding the kids and making the car payments, who don’t obsess over Donald Trump’s burp du jour or the certainty that some random person on twitter will start shrieking “racist” and “sexist” at you.

It’s not that Weiss’ point, that within that cohort of orthodox pseudo-intellectuals, these thinkers are pariahs to be reviled, but these are modestly ordinary ideas for the vast majority of Americans. Even if you don’t agree with some or all of them, they remain anodyne thought, provided one isn’t an adherent of a religion that rejects all heresy.

Is there an Intellectual Dark Web? Should there be? Should anyone outside of the bubble accept the view that unapproved thought is somehow on the outside of the mainstream of social justice ideology? Perhaps it’s a matter of where one stands, what one accepts as the tail and the dog, but these are ideas that were wholly uncontroversial just a few years ago, and remain uncontroversial to a vast array of Americans.

So the SJWs lose their shit over these ideas and the people who espouse them? Who cares? Outside of the bubble, they don’t dictate thought. I refuse to allow them to control mine. If there is an intellectual dark web, then the sides are flipped. I reject the premise that rational thought be characterized as the outlier.

24 comments on “Thought Outlaws

  1. Richard Kopf

    SHG,

    Since I try to be helpful, I have devised a sure fire way to determine whether a thinker is inside or outside the bubble to which you refer and Bari discovered and reported as if it was a significant revelation. It turns on the answer to a single question, so it is easy to apply

    Here it is: If you believe that having a long gun rack in the back window of a 4×4 pickup demarks the driver as a Neo-Nazi or some other sort of miscreant, then, my dear, you are buried in the bubble.

    Perhaps Bari will find my test helpful. That assumes of course that she understands what a pickup is.

    All the best.

    RGK

    1. SHG Post author

      While every vehicle owned by a denizen of the Upper West Side is a 4X4, they are all SUVs. Mostly Porsche Cayennes and Range Rovers, which are very useful to travel to the Hamptons. Gun racks, however, are rare below 125th Street.

    2. wilbur

      The late Justin WIlson, Cajun raconteur, used to refer to them as “Pick-em-up trucks”, the gun in back as a “double-barrel shootgun”.

      Hoo, I gah-ron-tee.

  2. Hunting Guy

    Heinlein quote from The Notebooks of Lazarus Long.

    “Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend.”

    Of course the woke consider Heinlein a misogynistic racist so they ignore his works.

  3. Rigelsen

    “So the SJWs lose their shit over these ideas and the people who espouse them? Who cares? Outside of the bubble, they don’t dictate thought. I refuse to allow them to control mine. If there is an intellectual dark web, then the sides are flipped. I reject the premise that rational thought be characterized as the outlier.”

    Of course, your correct. However, some of those people, like Weinstein, Damore, and Chrisakis, have lost their jobs as a result of the SJWs losing their shit, or more precisely corporate and academy leadership going along with SJWs losing their shit. So, there are real consequences to the bubble. Indeed, if I were still working in my chosen profession, I would have to censor myself if I wished to have a future in it.

    1. SHG Post author

      In each case, they existed within a particular bubble. Nobody at a meatpacking plant in Kansas has been fired as far as I’m aware.

  4. Jake

    I don’t know how Sam Harris feels about being lumped into a group with Kantye West, but I’d pay to watch them debate the latter’s new position on slavery.

    1. Rigelsen

      I’d guess that, if Sam Harris is a reasonable gent, he can engage Kanye on what he meant instead of playing gotcha games with his particular lexical and metaphorical choices. Remind me: Has Sam Harris ever owned up to being “triggered” by someone else’s words?

  5. Jake

    “Nothing is promised in life, except death. So live your life as though your every act were to become a universal law.” -Kantye West

      1. Fubar

        Reply button — mandated by law.
        Nasty, brutish and short, tooth and claw,
        Would be our sad fate,
        But for that mandate.
        Behold it. Click on it with awe!

  6. David Meyer-Lindenberg

    @Fubar St.Tom says for law to be just,
    a just purpose ranks as a must.
    So I’m not complying
    with rules on replying,
    ’cause laws that ain’t just are a bust.†

    †Specifically, SHG’s reply rules are motivated by vanitas. See Summa Theologica I-II q. 96, art. 4.

  7. Sara

    “Perhaps it’s a matter of where one stands, what one accepts as the tail and the dog, but these are ideas that were wholly uncontroversial just a few years ago, and remain uncontroversial to a vast array of Americans.”

    Why do you spend so much time writing about campus rape and Title IX? The only people it affects live in the college/academic bubble, and the only effect it has on them is an occasional suspension from the bubble.

    I mean, it’s wholly uncontroversial to believe that women are capable of speaking for themselves and actually saying no and leaving a situation that makes them uncomfortable. Saturday Night Live even did an entire sketch mocking those crazy Antioch rules requiring affirmative consent!

    What happens on campus doesn’t stay on campus (however much some if us wish it would), especially as these are aming the elite who grow up to write laws, etc.

    1. SHG Post author

      Well, this is a confusing comment. You ask a question, the answer to which seems not just abundantly obvious, but one I’ve answers numerous times, then answer it yourself, then link (despite my rules) to Cathy Young’s excellent op-ed, which mirrors things I’ve written here for years.

      So what was this comment meant to accomplish?

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