936 The Intellectual Dark Web

Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web (NYT)

By Bari Weiss

“People are starved for controversial opinions,” said Joe Rogan, an MMA color commentator and comedian who hosts one of the most popular podcasts in the country. “And they are starved for an actual conversation.”

An alliance of heretics is making an end run around the mainstream conversation, on the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW).

The IDW 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 sounds unlike anything else happening, at least publicly, in the culture right now.

Sam Harris

Photographs by Damon Winter

for a sample of an actual conversation 

symptomatic for what is happening on the IDW, 

check out Harris' podcast about the Universal Basic Income

Here are some things that you will hear when you sit down 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.” A decade ago none of these observations would have been considered taboo.

Eric Weinstein

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.(There Be Dragons, "a story about people trying to find meaning about their lives".)

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 came to exist.

Feeling largely locked out of legacy outlets, they are rapidly building their own mass media channels. (“Legacy media" is politi-speak that political conservatives use to identify long-standing ["mature"] media outlets such as the TV news networks - ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, etc., and the major print news services - New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times etc. Typically, these ostensibly "left-wing" news outlets are critical of conservative political agendas.)

The closest thing to a phone book for the IDW is a website that lists the dramatis personae of the network, including Sam Harris. But in typical dark web fashion, no one knows who put the website up.

The core members have little in common politically. But they all share three distinct qualities: 

Joe Rogan

First, they are willing to disagree ferociously, but talk civilly, about nearly every meaningful subject: religion, abortion, immigration, the nature of consciousness.

Second, in an age in which popular feelings about the way things ought to be often override facts about the way things actually are, each is determined to resist parroting what’s politically convenient.

And third, some have paid for this commitment by being purged from institutions that have become increasingly hostile to unorthodox thought - and have found receptive audiences elsewhere.