How Dark is the 'Intellectual Dark Web?'

Jordan Peterson

The 'intellectual dark web' remains among the most misunderstood groupings of intellectuals and debaters of modern times. They are a topic of increasing cuiriousty and at times hostility from the mainstream, and efforts to keep them at arms length of the the central dialogue of the nation, remain ongoing.

Unseemly and at best, tenuous associations with the deservedly maligned 'Alt Right' are still regularly refered to in any discussion that concerns them. Sometimes, they are associated with misogny and resistance to progress, as perhaps unhelpfully the dark web consists largely of older white men, who often spend time talking to older white men, and worse still when invited (rarely) to discuss things in a public forum, are often used as the 'anti' to more progressive guests. On other occassions, such as the now infamous Cathy Newman Channel 4 interivew, Jordan Peterson found himself being directly and relentlessly attacked, ridiculed and wilfully misunderstood. His ability to respond intelligently, patiently and, most interestingly - sharply, made a lasting impression on those who watched it, and the credibility of his interviewer suffered far more than his own through the xchange.Though it remains a great credit to Channel 4 that they published the fractious debate in it's entirety online.

Another regular association is 'Gamergate' an event entirely missed by those who don't spend their life on the internet, but suffice to say it involves dissilluioned (or just unpleasant) young white men being, amongst other things, sexist and hostile towards female developers. With the benefit of hindsight, it is now marked as one of the flashpoints signalling the rise of the age of Trump. How it is associated with the Dark Web is mystery to all involved, and yet, the association will be mentioned without fail in any article concerning them.

That Dave Rubin has consistently has questionable individuals on his flagship programme (The Rubin Report), most contentiously Alex Jones, can represent an admirable commitment to including everyone with a voice in their conversation. Alternately, it can be explained as poorly judged indulgence of a snake oil salesman. Perhaps the Dark Web needs to go beyond having conversations - and make efforts more broadly to define their role and aims, with that, they may find the mainstream more open to accepting rather than avoiding them.

Despite this hostility, what's remarkable about the Dark Web is their reach: in real terms, dark web intellectuals enjoy far more support and followers than any mainstream intellectual or journalist. And yet it still feels as though they are at least two or three steps removed from the national conversation. The irony in this, is what all agree on, : their apparent appeal to the successors of the demographic group that allowed Trump to ascend to power - white men.

Much has been made of YouTube figures that skew overwhlemingly towards men, specifically younger white men. Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan and Dave Rubin draw high interest and support from that space. This is the same demographic group that is noted as feeling excluded from the mainstream narrative of America, even though they are both inseparable from its history, and seemingly can still capture the Presidency if they make a full court press.

The fear of their impending loss of status, which they interpret as a society robbing them of their birthright, has led America to a difficult pass, and mutual deaf ears remains the prevailing condition.

In a different time,these apparent realities would have resulted in the Dark Webbers as the one group of seemingly reasonable people who can appeal to that space, being invited into the mainstream. Yet this has not happened, and for that the mainstream media deserved a great deal of criticism - it represents a professional and moral failing. As Dave Rubin has said, the only place that will invite them to come and speak, if at all, is FoxNews - the nation's great divider. The circular nature of all modern discourse means the intellectual Dark Web remains heavily criticised for its apparent association with right wing news, and of course their association with unhappy white men which remains seen by and large something that is inherently sinister.

What this means is some of the most relevant thinkers, debaters and conversationists of the contemporary area, are largely excluded from the conversation. With this in mind, it's not so hard to understand why it feels like the different factions of today are speaking past each other (at best). By exluding the Dark Web, the mainstream has missed a trick in keeping itself relevant.

Instead, we get endless panel discussions with at best 60 seconds a piece from often highly intelligent, experienced individuals, reduced to existing as partisan soundbite mouthpieces.

Perhaps the format can be blamed, and discussion did die with the onset of 24 hour news, at least on TV.

The longform YouTube interviews and podcasts format which the Dark Webbers lean towards is an infinitely preferable space for the exchange of opinions, facts and reasoning, but even so what they're missing is something only CNN, PBS, MSNBC and CBS have ever had - credibility. That credibility may be waning, but there is something intangible but undeniably relevant about these organisations, and their Newsprint cousins with the Washington Post and NYTimes. They hold a place in our popular imagination, they are institutions and that can be attested to through the intensity of the venom and disdain directed towards them by their competitors. FOX may get more viewers, Breitbart more page views, but it doesn't matter - for the same reasons that most actors would rather win an Oscar than be the highest paid. This may also help resolve the greatest challenge such institutions are facing - relevance.

By exluding the Dark Webbers from these spaces, other than as mild objects of curiousity to be dismissed, their followers are excluded too. The term followers itself implies much, it has connotations with Twitter and Instagram, or with far more sinister organisations. Perhaps they should be refered to asmtheir listeners/viewers. The language used to discuss the Dark Web is laden with such seemingly minor biases, which serve to add to their dark aura and make it easier to dismiss them and those who listen to them.

We should be realistic in our expectations - inviting Jordan Peterson on 60 minutes with PBS, is not going to heal the country. But it might just help us understand things a little better, and the same can be said for the Dave Rubins and Sam Harris' of the world. CNN is never going to recapture the ratings it had, so it needs to think quite seriously if it's going to finally embrace quality over quantiy - which in reality is the only option left to it. And with that being said, the Dark Web has to meet them in the middle, not idealogically, but with an appreciation that they have a role to play in discouraging the most aggressive, disdainful and divisive instincts of those they engage with. A role, it should be said, they already play and do so seriously- what we need is the mainstream to shine a little light on that darkness and ask real questions: understanding will come

TransPacific - Coming Spring 2019
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