When the NY Times ran a mostly positive story about the so-called Intellectual Dark Web, I wrote a post about it titled “The Thing I Like Least About The Intellectual Dark Web Is The Name ‘Intellectual Dark Web’” My basic argument was that any name which sounded like it was meant to be “cool” would quickly be used by the media to dismiss the group:
It’s just the sort of faddish news hook that will help the media (which just happens to be dominated by the left) proclaim this a passing fad as soon as they have an excuse to do so. I’d much rather see it remain something entirely apart from that celebrity buzz culture. That’s one way to ensure the ideas remain the focus long after the media gets bored with this shiny dark object.
Today, Eric Weinstein, the brother of former Evergreen State College professor Bret Weinstein and the person who coined the name, put up a video explaining why he chose it.
“What the Intellectual Dark Web actually is, is an alternative sense-making collective,” Weinstein said. “The so-called IDW will take whatever is happening in the world and will try to analyze it but very often it sounds very different than what you see in typical mainstream publications, particularly those that we on the left have depended upon for curating the interpretations of what is happening in the world.”
Weinstein continued, “The so-called commentariot, that is the people who regularly give their takes on what is happening in the world, seem to have been somewhat captured by a new network which thinks in terms that are very different to the networks that have previously lived at these organizations.
“As a result, I believe the Intellectual Dark Web is going to be perceived as rivals…We always knew that whatever name this phenomenon had it was always going to be beaten up by the commentariot.”
So the strategy was to use a name that was “born…in an anti-fragile state” “From inception, it’s a very easy thing to make fun of,” Weinstein said but in making fun of it, the media would also be spreading it.
Weinstein adds that the word “dark” in the name was meant as a sly joke. That word could either mean hidden or evil. “Part of it is a joke on the media because they don’t want to feature us as responsible and interesting commentators on events,” he said. So rather than let the media hint that maybe there was something dark about the group, strategically or morally, he just gave them that from the start to run with.
Weinstein also talks a bit about the goal of the IDW, which he says “is fundamentally…trying to point out that another network has arisen.” He continued, “And because that other network lives inside of the major media institutions of yester-year we don’t really recognize how radical the shift in perspective has been over the last, let’s say, particularly the last five years.”
“It is now not possible to cover stories that go counter-narrative to the narratives held at a place like the New York Times. So, for example, when my brother Bret Weinstein’s campus at Evergreen State College started to experience something that, at least from the outside, looks indistinguishable from a Maoist takeover, according to the videos.
“The New York Times took over three weeks in the news division to cover the story…Why was that? Why could a story that was exciting and interesting not be covered?
“Well, in fact, what was going wrong was that it was a counter-narrative nightmare. It was a story of an eruption of racism, but racism held by blacks on the campus, not by whites and the anti-racists were white and not black. Therefore the story couldn’t actually be reported.”
“The crazy name is not an accident, it’s really born out of the frustration that we know we’re going up against the people you usually have depended upon to curate your world and its interpretations,” Weinstein says. He adds a bit later, “It’s not a terrible name once you get used to it.”
Is this a convincing argument for the name? I don’t think it changes my take. In fact, it seems to me Eric Weinstein is acknowledging that the media attacks I was worried about were something he saw coming as well. The real difference is that now we know he created the name to take advantage of that media onslaught. Here’s the full clip: