‘Intellectual Dark Web’. Have you heard of it?

I hadn’t either until an article by Bari Weiss was published in the NYT.

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.”

I was meeting with Sam Harris, a neuroscientist; Eric Weinstein, a mathematician and managing director of Thiel Capital; the commentator and comedian Dave Rubin; and their spouses in a Los Angeles restaurant to talk about how they were turned into heretics. A decade ago, they argued, when Donald Trump was still hosting “The Apprentice,” none of these observations would have been considered taboo.

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.

The Intellectual Dark Web is not just a website that holds individuals like Christina Hoff Sommers, Ben Shapiro, and Jordan Peterson in high esteem, the IDW (as we’ll call it for convenience’s sake) believes itself to be at the forefront of a revolution of ideas, one evolved beyond the internet’s current cesspool of striated discourse.

But what is it exactly? The site describes itself as:

I wanted there to be a place where people who are looking for real discussions could be directed to start their journey.

The traditional media is only offering soundbites, conformity and ideologies. There is very little room for partisanship or truth between warring factions.

All true. Political and cultural conversation on Big Internet has become hyperpolarized. Few care to listen, most just want to holler about why so and so is wrong. Nuance has been cast aside and blanket judgments reign. Forget stepping outside of a partisan boundary to earnestly explore an idea across the political aisle. Humanity and the search for common ground has been traded for mass objectification. No side is blameless.

And these are the problems the IDW hopes to change, or so it seems.

For years, conservatives have suggested politics is downstream of culture. Andrew Breitbart said the same. So what makes the IDW so special?

I’m not entirely sure.

The IDW roster is a good one. They’re all movers and shakers in their own way. Many are driving conversations, prompting people to think outside of the box, triggering youngsters, and getting yelled at in the process. They’re all part of the cannon people my age follow with regularity.

Peterson, Shapiro, and Sommers (to randomly pick a few) are well educated, well informed, as are their ideas, thoughts, and lectures. They are willing to civilly debate without immediately descending into name calling and wide sweeping generalizations while allowing their challengers to be heard. Maybe it’s just as simple as that. Good ideas, absolute truth (backed by actual science), and civility.

It may be a simple formula, but it’s desperately needed. Other sites and voices like NRO (who I still love and adore) espouse similar ideas but are typecast as Republican loyal (mostly) in a time when Americans are fleeing from party affiliations in droves.

Speaking of NRO, Jonah Goldberg has his own evaluation of the IDW here. He explores the functional side and isn’t convinced it’s anything new, groundbreaking, or different than movements and waves before.

“I learned a lot from the essay, and some of the issues raised by Weiss and her subjects — the need for gatekeeping, line-drawing, and resisting being captured by an audience — are important topics. But they are also issues that conservative institutions — magazines, journals, think tanks, foundations, etc. — have been grappling with for decades. This is an interesting new chapter, but, again, I’m not sure it’s a new story,” he wrote.

Much like the political layout has shifted dramatically these last few years, so has the landscape of ideas. The status quo has wrought the deep cultural divides that threaten to destroy the foundations of western civilization.

It’s far too early to tell if the IDW will prove an effective antivenom to our cultural ailments, but I’m hopeful. Any sphere that is planted in truth and actively engages others is a step in the right direction.