David French: The authoritarian left should be worried about the Intellectual Dark Web

Over at National Review, David French reflects on the furious outrage over that recent Bari Weiss column introducing members of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web to the NY Times left-wing audience. As French sees it, the reaction is proving the need for the IDW which he describes as a “breath of fresh air” for Americans who feel stifled by the authoritarian tendencies of the left.

It’s been interesting to watch and read the many critics of Bari Weiss’s instantly controversial piece on the leaders of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web. Rarely have more people more contemptuously missed the point. Rarely have more people inadvertently confirmed the need for a movement of intellectual free-thinkers…

There are millions of Americans who are deeply frustrated with an educational system that walls out their point of view, a corporate culture that’s increasingly indistinguishable (particularly on social issues) from a faculty lounge, and a legacy media — including Hollywood — that’s influenced by and pays homage to these same ideas and institutions. Yes, you can make an anonymous account on Twitter to engage in social-media combat, but if you live and work in these immense and powerful American institutions, you speak your mind at your own risk.

In those circumstances, a Ben Shapiro podcast or a Jordan Peterson YouTube video is a breath of fresh air. There — right there — fearlessly and eloquently stated is the other side of the story. It’s inspiring (not everyone is afraid), it’s informative (it frequently introduces facts not widely discussed in progressive circles), and it’s often wildly entertaining. The members of the Intellectual Dark Web are just flat-out good at what they do.

That’s the bottom line. A lot of this content isn’t just contrary to left-wing dictates, though that would be bad enough from their point of view. The real problem is that this material is often entertaining and deeply interesting, even if you don’t agree with all of it. While the mainstream media soundbite is down to a handful of seconds, people like Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan are putting out 1-2 hour shows and hundreds of thousands of people are eagerly devouring all of it.

Rubin is the host of the Rubin Report which started out as a show associated with the progressive YouTube effort known as The Young Turks. But over time, he’s gradually become one of the leading talkers in the IDW. Last year, Prager U released a video essay by Rubin titled simply “Why I Left the Left.” He says in part:

Do you believe in free speech?

Do you believe that people should be judged by their character, not their skin color?

Do you believe in freedom of religion?

If you believe these things, you’re probably not a progressive. You might think you’re a progressive. I used to think I was…

Progressives used to say, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.” Not anymore.

Banning speakers whose opinions you don’t agree with from college campuses – that’s not progressive. Prohibiting any words not approved of as “politically correct” – that’s not progressive. Putting “Trigger Warnings” on books, movies, music, anything that might offend people – that’s not progressive either.

This clip is a good example of why people on the left have been freaking out over that Bari Weiss column introducing various members of the so-called IDW to a mostly left-wing audience. Rubin isn’t screaming. He isn’t angry. He’s telling his story and calmly explaining why people who think they’re progressives might want to reconsider. I don’t know how long the IDW boom will last but the rate at which it is producing, rational, intriguing, thought-provoking content should give the authoritarian left the shivers.