When thoughts are outlawed, only outlaws will have thoughts.
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.