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Friday, February 22, 2019

The soul of the Intellectual Dark Web

In March 2018 the magazine GQ published an article on one of the activities of the "intellectual dark web": free speech grifting.

The article doesn't use the term "Intellectual Dark Web" but then it was published two months before the Bari Weiss piece popularized the term. But it is full of those "renegades" mentioned in the Weiss article: Milo Yiannapoulos, David Rubin, Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson and especially Christina Hoff Sommers.

The article points out that these self-styled free speech defender are strangely silent about free speech threats from the right:
Serwer theorizes that fixation on liberal college students persists because it involves the environs of scholarly elites, gives elders the opportunity to "sneer at a younger generation," and is politically expedient for conservatives. According to FIRE, an individual-rights organization with ties to the Koch brothers, from 2000 to 2017, there were anywhere from six to 35 self-reported disinvitation attempts annually and 40 percent of them came from the right, while Heterodox Academy, an organization devoted to increasing viewpoint diversity, finds that the majority of successful disinvites came from the right, not the left. Still, libertarian website Quillette summarized these outbursts as "the psychology of progressive hostility." Pundits like to characterize online outrage and an aversion to idea diversity as a phenomenon unique to the left, largely ignoring the death threats directed at the teen Parkland survivors for speaking out against a powerful gun lobby or the conservative dictates of Sinclair Broadcasting and Fox News. Given the myopic focus on liberals, it would seem that Free Speech Grifters are not actually interested in the free exchange of ideas, per se; they are interested in liberal caricature for clicks, social-media followings, and monetization.

The most chilling part of the article is this snapshot of the compromised & corrupt soul of Christina Hoff Sommers:
At Lewis & Clark Law School, Sommers found what seems to be her favorite kind of audience: a disruptive one. Prior to the speech, activists handed out flyers labeling her "a fascist," among other hyperbolic charges familiar to anyone who has spent time on a college campus. When she attempted to give her talk, a handful of students, led by a blonde ringleader in a black "Stay Woke" jacket, disrupted it with chanting about comrades while holding up a cardboard sign that read "No Platform for Fascists." It was a Ben Shapiro wet dream. As the ringleader yelled, "Black lives matter," Sommers turned to the camera euphorically grinning from ear to ear. Here it was: the money shot.