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Whatever became of the IDW, 4/16
Cats don't herd themselves, either
I think of the core of the Intellectual Dark Web as Jordan Peterson, Bret Weinstein, Eric Weinstein, Dave Rubin, and Joe Rogan. You can find a longer list here, and I will add some more names later in this essay.
Their intellectual posture is to plant their flags firmly in the pro-free-speech camp. In fact, they see the assault on free speech as an existential threat to an America with liberal values.
They are anti-partisan. Nowadays, the intellectuals on college campuses and the Democratic Party are joined at the hip, to the detriment of both. The IDW harkens back to a time when intellectuals thought that partisan politics was crass and intellectually demeaning.
They are in the dark in the sense that their presence in legacy media is small. They are much more effective in Internet media.
They do not defer to generally-recognized experts and establishment figures. Quite the contrary. They seem to be very low on the psychometric trait known as agreeableness.
They are a web in the sense that they are connected to one another. You can find YouTube videos where they appear on one another’s shows.
Given that description, I might eliminate some of the names on the list at the site that I linked. For example, Ben Shapiro is too partisan.
I would add Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss. Robert Wright checks most of the boxes, except that his connections with the IDW superstars are not so strong.
The tightness of the inner circle of the IDW seems like a weakness. Without fresh faces, they have become a bit stale.
The core members depend heavily on podcasts and Twitter. Substack seems to have passed them by. Taibbi, Weiss, and Glenn Loury have thrived on Substack, and I think of them as having overtaken the core group. Because I do not keep up with Twitter, I may not appreciate the extent to which the core IDW members remain superstars. For me, the stars of the Fantasy Intellectual Teams who are Substack are more stimulating than the core IDW.
If you think of the battle against Woke dogma as a relay race, then the IDW ran the first leg. But the baton has since been taken up by more skilled political operatives, including Christopher Rufo and Governor Ron DeSantis.
The current politics of Woke to me rhymes with the Republican politics of 1964. In that year, the rebellious conservatives of the Southwest took over the Republican Party, and the Eastern Establishment was powerless to stop them. The rebels delivered the Presidential nomination to Barry Goldwater, who lost in a landslide, taking many Republican Congressmen with him.
The Democratic Party seems to be in a similar predicament today. The extreme progressives are positioning the party in ways that appear guaranteed to drive away many voters. The moderates seem powerless to stop them.
But the IDW was after something other than a boost for the Republican Party. They were out to reform or overthrow the cultural institutions that have become stupid and corrupt under Woke tyranny. That project is not going as well. The prospects for recovering a culture of liberal values and merit in higher education, journalism, and corporate America appear to be even more remote now than when the IDW first coalesced.