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By Jordan Jardine

In case the reader is unaware, there is an interesting phenomenon that has sprouted up in recent times in the online political universe. This phenomenon is called the “Intellectual Dark Web.” The IDW consists of people like psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson, New Atheist icon Sam Harris, outspoken lawyer and commentator Ben Shapiro, podcaster, comedian and former TV host Joe Rogan, economist Eric Weinstein and his brother, biologist Bret Weinstein, and comedian Dave Rubin. There are several problems with this concept.

First of all, it is unclear why this group would embrace (as Shapiro and Rubin certainly have) a name that conjures up images of the most vile parts of cyberspace, where illegal drugs, child pornography and other illicit merchandise are available for purchase with one click. Secondly, if this cadre of people were really confident and secure in their ideas and beliefs, they wouldn’t have to go around flaunting the label of “intellectual” all the time and throwing it in everyone’s faces like a spoiled rhubarb pie. My third problem with this group is many of them, with the exceptions of the Weinstein brothers and Joe Rogan, constantly bash left wing ideas and offer no nuance of that side of the aisle in their analyses of various policies and incidents. In other words, there is a meaningful distinction to be made, which many in the IDW ignore, between the authoritarian left and the libertarian left.

The authoritarian left is the real problem. The members of the IDW correctly point out that these people who want to censor conservative speakers on college campuses and want schools and other institutions to acknowledge 50,000 different genders are a destructive influence on American society and culture. The libertarian left, a quadrant of the political compass in which this author firmly and proudly resides, typically sees those issues as secondary or even tertiary issues that mean less to us than wealth inequality, climate change, endless war and the corrupting interests of big money and lobbyists in politics. One would be hard pressed to find any instances of any of these highly influential individuals talking about the libertarian left.

This lack of nuance and detail is one of the reasons I don’t consider a majority of these people to be intellectuals. Another reason is this; there needs to be a higher standard for intellectualism than just simply berating and bashing people on the other side of the political spectrum. It is interesting that many of the IDW pundits fancy themselves as edgy or innovative when they simply spew the same talking points that conservative radio and television hosts (ex. Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, etc.) have been espousing and promoting for the last few decades, including demonizing people on welfare, not focusing on the negatives of the capitalist system, and misrepresenting the Democratic Party on issues such as immigration, taxes and healthcare. For instance, Sean Hannity in particular has been saying on his program that Democrats want open borders because some want to abolish ICE, but he fails to mention that very few, if any, Democrats have proposed getting rid of Customs and Border Protection. Bill O’Reilly has historically called universal healthcare part of a “socialist/communist vision,” while every other modern nation – most based on democracy – has one version or another of a single-payer/universal healthcare system, according to The Atlantic.

Rubin and Shapiro, among others, have made similar arguments to O’Reilly’s on their respective programs.  Again, being a conservative does not mean one is by default an intellectual, just as being against conservatism doesn’t automatically make a person an intellectual. Intellectuals are supposed to think critically about issues, policies, and philosophies in a detailed, nuanced, objective and honest way. Many people that are a part of the IDW lack most if not all of these basic criteria. If one is an intellectual, they do not need to straw man their opponents.

Many IDW members, including Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson, have straw-manned social democrats such as Bernie Sanders as having a desire to turn the United States into Venezuela. The problem with this is that Sanders has never said he wanted to transform the United States into Venezuela. He often cites Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden as states that the US should model itself after. The simple fact is that social democracy, which calls for heavily regulated capitalism and an expanded welfare state, is actually not that far left on the political spectrums of other countries, such as those in the aforementioned Scandinavian region. Venezuela is not, nor has it ever been, a social democracy. Venezuela is a country ravaged by state capitalism, an economic system wherein capital has not been abolished, but the functions of capitalism are undertaken by the state. Bernie Sanders does not support this system and is neither a state capitalist nor or socialist in any actual sense of the term. According to Merriam-Webster, socialism is “any of various political and economic theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” Sanders, if you look at his 2016 platform for president, is not an advocate of any of these policies.

The point of all this is that the IDW does a grave disservice to its listeners/viewers due to its misrepresentation of an entire side of the political divide. The intellectual should educate, not deceive and lie by omission. It is fair to acknowledge the intelligence of people like Ben Shapiro and it is also fair to point out that Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris are forces to be reckoned with in their respective fields of psychology and neuroscience, but experience and a high degree of intellect in those fields alone does not necessarily qualify one to be an intellectual in the realm of politics and public policy. If people want to continue listening to and believing what they hear from Peterson, Shapiro, Rubin and Harris, among others, that is their prerogative. However, one must be cognizant of the deceitful tactics frequently used by these figures in order to prop up their side of the political spectrum while knowingly discrediting and misrepresenting ideas from the other side. This will only continue to worsen the political discourse and severe division that has plagued this country for the last few years.

One Reply to “The Pseudo-Intellectual Dork Web”

  1. I don’t see stating that Democrats are for open borders as a straw man argument. If you wish to abolish the enforcement mechanism, to include refusing to cooperate with the federal government on handling illegal aliens, that is allowing open borders, even if they don’t call it that. No, Bernie Sanders hasn’t said he wants Venezuela, that would be a level of political stupidity even he would not reach, but logically, many of his policies will take us on the road to Venezuela. Frankly, the libertarian left is very close to non-existent because many of the policies supported can only be accomplished with the coercive power of the government.

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