The Intellectual Dark Web: A Guide to Free Speech Hypocrisy

ATTENTION ALL CLASSICAL LIBTARDS: The Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) needs your help! All they need to spread their epic message across social media websites—as they’ve been doing for over three years — is your credit card number, the three digits on the back and the expiration month and year! Hurry, before they’re forced to turn to obscure underground media outlets like The New York Times for backup support! Heck, if you choose to become a leading member yourself, maybe you’ll achieve your own economic victory royale!

In case you’re unaware, we the people have officially been drafted into a battle royale of ideas. While the modern landscape may appear normal as political disagreements devolve into typical shitposting, shit-talking and the occasional activist actions, we’re lead to believe by these IDW thought-leaders there’s a war for the future of western civilization. The key players include talk-show host Dave Rubin, podcaster Joe Rogan, and Quillette’s founding editor-in-chief Claire Lehmann who can be found sparking conversations with aligned guests in Sam Harris, Ben Shapiro, Dr. Jordan Peterson, Christina Hoff Sommers, brothers Eric and Bret Weinstein, Steven Pinker, Dennis Prager, Douglas Murray and several other “culture warriors.” 

Before you draw a sweat, however, the group’s urgent framing appears more a clickbait gimmick for the sake of revenue through relevancy rather than a genuine societal concern — which is demonstrated in these IDW icons failing to practice what they preach. These personalities rose to prominence after an article by Bari Weiss, a journalist for The Times, highlighted the “renegade thinkers” fighting against the notorious villains of the “social justice warrior” movement. We’re also meant to skip over the dynamic of fighting collectivism through a collective movement, but I digress. 

Weiss makes it clear that no one individual within the IDW is the same as their whole collective of members — which, to be fair, isn’t untrue. Rogan is a progressive liberal who sometimes mocks the IDW label as the “super best friends” of politics, Harris and the Weinsteins glibly refer to the IDW as a “joke metaphor” to highlight themselves as mainstream centrists, meanwhile, Rubin, Lehmann and other reactionary right figures seem to value their status as some vanguard of sanity reforming the modern discourse. Unfortunately, these reactionaries haunt the movement’s credibility thanks to their apologia for online censorship, refusal to reach across the aisle and collectivism used to court donors big and small.

By design, the rhetorical songs of the IDW (remembered by heart from leaders to followers) are careful to use their villains as a means to sustain audience interest without actually doing the busy work of naming their targets specifically. “The social justice position itself is often presented to the public through the voices of its critics rather than its adherents,” writes Nathan J. Robinson, editor-in-chief of Current Affairs and critics of the IDW, showcasing the storytelling advantages that come of making political targets out of straws. 

“When Jordan Peterson talks about the ‘postmodern Marxists’ we don’t really hear who they are (other than Adorno — who is dead),” Robinson continues. “When David Brooks or Scott Alexander have written about the silly ideas of racial justice progressives, they have done it by imagining what the activists would say, or paraphrasing. Pinker’s Enlightenment Now strongly criticizes ‘social justice warriors’ for their notions, but while he explains their beliefs he doesn’t really tell us who in particular he’s talking about. The ‘SJWs’ often come across as an amorphous, irrational, angry blob, which is undoubtedly how many of their critics see them. For the most part, they don’t seem to have names.”

This is no mistake, of course. Last month, Dave Rubin hosted an “ask me anything” live stream to celebrate the deletion of his Patreon — framing the event as this victorious stand for freedom of speech after the crowdfunding site’s questionable censorship against notorious anti-political correctness commentator Sargon Of Akkad. During the stream, Rubin began reading a $100 YouTube SuperChat asking if he “heard about the SJW nonsense on the Maj…” before Rubin began to stammer, refusing to read any further and quickly switching topics. It’s surely unusual of Rubin, a known “free speech absolutist,” to censor a high-value question without a paramount reason — which makes those forbidden words all the more ironic. 

The message was simply asking whether Rubin would finally be debating left-wing radio host Sam Seder, the host of The Majority Report and a frequent critic of Rubin, whose requests for a “free exchange of ideas” on air has continually been left unaddressed. The very mention of his so-called SJW critic caused the man to freeze and purposefully mumble his words — which resulted in a violation of SuperChat standards that, when disputed by the original user @L0g1c9uY, lead to the YouTube platform issuing a full refund. 

For a supposed outcast, Rubin has a unique way of receiving similar debate requests from Ana Kasparian, a leftist political pundit and Rubin’s former colleague at The Young Turks, as well as his revoked guest Joshua Turner, the former neo-Nazi turned left-wing counter-extremist from Saved By Reason who’s taken issue with false equivalencies between left-wing counter-protestors and white supremacists which shows like The Rubin Report have pontificated over in the past. 

Neither request has ever been addressed by Rubin. When I’ve personally reached out to the free speech hero via Twitter asking about these debate offers and unrelated yet questionable anti-left narratives, he found it suit to block me without reason. Such blacklisting of the critic pool helps maintain the IDW’s central motif: the left is afraid of debate. Only through suppression of the outliers can this remain true. You can easily find videos of Rubin, Lehmann and company voicing their opinions on the opinions of their lefty constructs — just don’t count on actual individuals being invited to defend themselves as the opposition.

Rubin, Lehmann and Rogan act as the platforming conduits between the IDW’s most notorious members and the online world. There’s nothing inherently wrong with exploring the ideas of a reactionary mind, such as we’re doing here, so long as there are means for challenging ideas. As said by radio host and loose IDW affiliate Maajid Nawaz, we can no longer “democratize truth.” Facts require fact-checking, and surely IDW sympathizers understand the need for objections and inquiry when necessary, right? Well, it depends on who you ask and who would be their target. 

Rogan, admitting he’s no loyalist to any group, has criticized Rubin for proposing libertarian narratives about how deregulation of governmental postal work, construction codes and food services would be “solved by the market.” He’s criticized Peterson for his right-wing socialist proposal of “enforced monogamy” as a means of solving the incel crisis, where society should favour anti-polygamous social shaming to benefit those who can’t compete in the sexual marketplace. Engage Rogan with ideas and there’s a discussion to be had. The same can’t be said of Rubin, Lehmann, and Peterson, supposed defenders of free speech, who block and sue at the mention of criticism.

In September, TrigTent published a report covering Peterson’s numerous lawsuits seeking $1.5 million each in damages for alleged defamation. Two of the cases made against Wilfried Laurier University for their private speech, released to the public by another IDW member Lindsay Shepard, were filed through the Ontario Superior Court of Justice — amusing, considering Peterson’s main claim to fame is challenging the supposed perversions against free speech under Canada’s Bill C-16. 

The other case was made against Vox Media, an American news publication, which was accused of labeling him a “sexist” and “misogynist” for his work, despite the article being a good-faith debate on such claims. Nothing became of that case, likely due to the constitution’s free press protections. When I politely reached out to Lehmann on Twitter, seeking comments on whether she actually views Peterson as an “honest actor of free speech” following these lawsuit scandals, my personal account was blocked within two hours. 

Readers may notice my comment was a response to how the IDW and her publication are “pushing the boundaries of acceptable discourse,” at least regarding controversial topics of race and average I.Q. in statistics, political correctness, Islamism, immigration, the source of ethno-nationalist ideologies (and whether we can “blame" those that subscribe to them) and countless other dialogue trees the IDW crowd follows. Dare mention the movement’s potential bad faith actors, requesting a statement or debate on the matter, you’re suddenly considered persona non grata affecting their income. That seems to be where their boundaries lie. 

Can we blame such greed? If you’re going into the reactionary industry, the marketplace of ideas thrives off money-making political characters like Peterson who once admitted to Rogan he “found a way to monetize social justice outrage” after making $80k per month on Patreon before the deletion of his page. It’s not unreasonable to question IDW figures who use the movement as simple cross-promotion. Quillette relies on similar audience donations of $17K per month via Patreon — which is undoubtedly a decrease since members left the platform after last year’s purge.

“Truth is a casualty of unexposed hypocrisy,” writes fellow TrigTent contributor Sean Culleton. “That is why it is important to continue to point out hypocrisy wherever it arises: if hypocrisy goes unnoticed, the truth becomes irrelevant and disregard for the truth becomes tacitly accepted by society in general. The normalization of hypocrisy is a key component of corruption and authoritarian societies. Therefore, whether or not we can adequately adjudicate every potential instance of hypocrisy, we must continue to point them out.”

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