Run-Amok-PC Sends Open Discourse Underground

Run-Amok-PC Sends Open Discourse Underground
Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant via AP
Run-Amok-PC Sends Open Discourse Underground
Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant via AP
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Millennials interested in the world of ideas are on a quest for the types of open conversations often lacking in their college classes or in the media. One possible solution is a new rogue movement still sorting out its manners and mores. It’s called the Intellectual Dark Web, and it may prove to be the best thing that’s happened to civil discourse since the Internet began.

Coined by economist Eric Weinstein, the name describes a group of American thinkers spanning the political spectrum who are pushing back against the divisive rhetoric and constricted ideological parameters of the cultural mainstream. Intellectual Dark Web members include University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson, religion critic Sam Harris, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, and Rubin Report host Dave Rubin.

“It is an eclectic mix of people,” Rubin explains in a YouTube video, “who are figuring out ways to have the important and often dangerous conversations that are being ignored by the mainstream.”

Another way of explaining it is that contentious topics are typically discussed in academia, Hollywood, and the media through an increasingly narrowed ideological lens that constrains genuine exchanges of views – or even openness to ideas that don’t conform to reigning orthodoxies.

A dispiriting contretemps involving Ben Shapiro and Mark Duplass last month is a case in point. When liberal actor and film producer Duplass committed the heresy of expressing his respect for conservative commentator Shapiro “as a genuine person” on Twitter, the social media censors quickly went to work. Although Duplass had qualified his praise for Shapiro by saying, “I don’t agree with him on much,” the pitchforks were brandished anyway.

Less than 24 hours later, Duplass deleted his tweet, apologized for making it, and replaced it another one, dutifully assuring his fans that he doesn’t endorse racism, homophobia, etc.

Many young people don’t blame Duplass for apologizing. They figure he hasn’t really changed his mind and had to kowtow to the social media hall monitors in order to remain viable in his industry.

This mob mentality isn’t confined to leftists, either. After Roseanne Barr was quickly dumped from her own show by ABC over a nasty, racist tweet, right-wing critics of the media scoured social media for examples of a double standard when it came to Hollywood liberals. It didn’t take them long. Alt-right activist Mike Cernovich found some highly tasteless Twitter jokes passed along by Hollywood producer James Gunn – and demanded his firing. The Walt Disney Co., ABC’s parent, promptly cut its ties to Gunn.

To many millennials and others, the lesson here isn’t that life can be tit-for-tat. It’s that extremists and organizations actively discourage diversity of thought – and large corporations all too often acquiesce to suppressing freedom of speech. The Intellectual Dark Web is hardly the entire answer to this problem, but it’s a place to start in a world where 50 angry people on Twitter venting over a decades-old politically-incorrect statements or off-color jokes can induce a big corporation to curtail free expression.

The Intellectual Dark Web offers a different path. On college campuses, the latest fad is to suppress speech under the guise of protecting “safe spaces” for students. Well, this is a safe space where a network of independent thinkers and intellectuals can take conversation and debate in their own direction.

This was always the promise of the Internet, but one that has been hijacked by a media establishment that can’t tell the difference between a thoughtful conservative such as Ben Shapiro and alt-right performance artists like Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos.

On podcasts such as The Rubin Report, intellectuals from all sides come together to talk, discuss, and disagree civilly. They converse at length about politics, religion and philosophy. Harris, an outspoken atheist, has civil conservations with Shapiro, a practicing Jew. Professor Peterson inspires young people to live better and shoot higher, while Eric Weinstein discusses how progressive thought can morph into regressive actions.

You can’t find the Intellectual Dark Web in one place, it’s a bit too obscure for that, but you can sift through the participants’ various podcasts and YouTube clips. Follow Shapiro’s podcast here and Harris’ here. Past debates like this one can be watched on YouTube. Rubin and Peterson are even touring the country doing shows. Follow them here. For more information on the participants, see this fan-made website.

It’s a bit sad, but also hopeful, that the public must go to such lengths just to hear well-rounded discourse. But when they aren’t getting it in the classroom, from the media, or from politicians, they turn to the underground.

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