Gage Skidmore / Flickr Donald Trump...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Having finally interviewed every last Trump voter in America, apparently, the New York Times turns its attention to flattering whoever it can find that is even worse. The new effort comes to us via conservative opinionite Bari Weiss, with a hagiography of a collection of very well-to-do public assholes whose only common link appears to be a mutual pretense that they are together being terribly persecuted by other Americans for expressing their garbage opinions out loud. How you inflate this into a new make-believe movement is a mystery, but Weiss appears to believe in the ancient power of making it up as you go.

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 […]

All right, let’s stop right there. What follows is a long, vaguely premised and largely self-refuting look at a collection of “renegades” Bari Weiss personally wants to make Americans more aware of. Even the name itself is publicity-friendly hokum peddled to give an air of rebellious, paranoid conspiracy; the supposed “Intellectual Dark Web” is neither made up of intellectuals nor hidden—as in, at all—but the invokers would very much like you to think so, in the same way that a bad comedian whose routine continually bombs might indignantly declare themselves too smart for every room. Of course you don’t get me. I wouldn’t expect someone like you to grasp the intricacies of my joke-saying, they will explain to each and every critic.

The entire notion of the piece is that this collection of highly successful malcontents, people who are making money hand over fist for their “edgy” political opinions and getting interviewed by the New York Goddamn Times complete with their very own photo shoots, are suffering because the media doesn’t pay enough attention to them. They get plenty, it seems. They just want more.

Mr. Rubin said his show makes at least $30,000 a month on Patreon. And Mr. Peterson says he pulls in some $80,000 in fan donations each month. […]

“I’ve figured out how to monetize social justice warriors,” Mr. Peterson said in January on Joe Rogan’s podcast. On his Twitter feed, he called the writer Pankaj Mishra, who’d written an essay in The New York Review of Books attacking him, a “sanctimonious prick” and said he’d happily slap him.

That’s right. They’re pulling in five figures a month and getting the attention of the New York Review of Books, but still consider themselves oppressed because they’re not getting their own late-night television shows or the like. It’s a skit come to life.

But what Weiss calls an “intellectual dark web” is not terribly new, and is certainly not a recent innovation. It represents the long-established dalliance of would-be respectable voices as “mainstreamers” of bigotry, misogyny, or general anti-social contrarianism, and the long-established routine of claiming injury after the general public rebuffs those ideas. It is the John Birch Society revisited, or a Ron Paul newsletter, or a Lyndon LaRouche flier warning that the Queen of England is kingpin of her own secret drug cartel. Where these new figures make their mark in the discourse is in peddling the work of shadier figures peddling shadier ideas under the banner of broadening the discourse. In practice, they want both the attention given to racists and conspiracy theorists and the respect given to more staid media figures.

Go a click in one direction and the group is enhanced by intellectuals with tony affiliations like Steven Pinker at Harvard. But go a click in another and you’ll find alt-right figures like Stefan Molyneux and Milo Yiannopoulos and conspiracy theorists like Mike Cernovich (the #PizzaGate huckster) and Alex Jones (the Sandy Hook shooting denier). […]

But is a statement of principles necessary to make a judgment call about people like Mr. Cernovich, Mr. Molyneux and Mr. Yiannopoulos? Mr. Rubin has hosted all three on his show. And he appeared on a typically unhinged episode of Mr. Jones’s radio show, “Infowars.” Mr. Rogan regularly lets Abby Martin — a former 9/11 Truther who is strangely sympathetic to the regimes in Syria and Venezuela — rant on his podcast. He also encouraged Mr. Jones to spout off about the moon landing being fake during Mr. Jones’s nearly four-hour appearance on his show. When asked why he hosts people like Mr. Jones, Mr. Rogan has insisted that he’s not an interviewer or a journalist. “I talk to people. And I record it. That’s it,” he has said.

Short version: Give me attention. Don’t care how I get it. Look, I am broadening the discourze.

There’s no reason to go through the article for any finer detail than that; there isn’t much. The reason it was written is to provide gratis advertising to a laundry list of individuals that Bari Weiss herself wishes to mainstream, under the pretext of claiming that you not already knowing their names is evidence they are being suppressed. It is goofy, and stupid, and par for the course in the Times opinion pages these days, now that they have decided to abandon the pretext of being “intellectual” themselves and installed a series of science deniers and professional fibbers to balance out the snobbish types who disapprove of those things.

But when you’re writing an entire long-form essay arguing that the likes of the omnifuckingpresent Ben Shapiro isn’t getting enough attention, you may have lost the plot.

Whatever. It’s an advertising campaign. We get it. That’s what conservative opinion-writers do: they write long pieces for the top newspapers and magazines in the nation complaining that they are oppressed because they are not getting more attention in the top magazines and newspapers of the nation. They bleat about how a truly free country would value stupid ideas and non-stupid ones equally, and grouse about the elitism of pointing out that some ideas are genuinely Not Good. It’s a schtick.

And it will never, ever end.


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  1. It saddens me to see how far the previous paper-of-record has fallen. They won’t even allow me to comment anymore- The Washington Post has taken up some of the slack. I also find that I have more agreement with Jennifer Rubin- from the right side- a previous Republican than with the DNC or DCCC. I wrote to her and asked why a Progressive like myself finds myself in agreement with her. She said that we were on the same boat trying to save Democracy.


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