An Open Letter to the IDW: Unite to Save Us
“Our awareness seems to shrink in direct ratio as communications expand; the world is open to us as never before, and we walk about as prisoners, each in his private portable cage.”
- Arthur Koestler, January 1944, The Nightmare That is a Reality
Dear Members of the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW),
I think you can save us. Please hear me out.
You may not know that I am talking to you because you never consciously chose to join a group called the IDW. There have been no newsletters, certificates, or meetings. The IDW is a makeshift label that, as of now, is the best description I have to address you all. That is the problem.
I’ll list a few of the people I mean to address, but this is by no means comprehensive: Bari Weiss, Douglas Murray, Sam Harris, Ben Shapiro, Maajid Nawaz, Eric Weinstein, Bret Weinstein, Heather Heying, Caitlin Flanagan, Coleman Hughes, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Ayishat Akanbi, Freddie Sayers, Matt Taibbi, Andrew Sullivan, Jordan Peterson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Niall Ferguson, Jonathan Haidt, Greg Lukianoff, Tamler Sommers, Christina Hoff Sommers, James Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, Abigail Shrier, Matthew Crawford, Gad Saad, Malcolm Gladwell, most the signers of the Harper’s Letter, and many others like you.
It must seem odd to lump you all into a group that you did not join. After all, many of you are intellectual and political rivals. But we are at a time where people like Jonathan Haidt, Sam Harris, Maajid Nawaz, Jordan Peterson, and Ben Shapiro - whose political beliefs and life work make them natural critics of one another - are suddenly finding themselves on the same side of all the most prescient issues. As my father, Dr. Griffin Trotter, said to me recently, “I miss disagreeing with Sam Harris. Now he’s one of the few voices making any sense.”
Indeed, sense-making seems to be the challenge of a world gone mad. A world where every side claims different facts, seeking a color-blind society is racist, the president tweets about the ratings for his Covid news briefings, Maajid Nawaz was simultaneously listed as a Muslim terrorist by Thomson Reuters World Check and an anti-Muslim extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and where social media accounts are suspended for trying to create a bi-partisan Unity presidential ticket.
Right now the majority of intelligent, thoughtful, citizens struggle to discern truth from falsehood. We don’t trust the dominant media, we don’t like the current cultural trajectory, and we are disturbed by our political options. But at least the politicians acknowledge a legitimate path to control, as opposed to the Tech Giants who have facilitated this frenzy of outrage. Companies like Google have consistently gone over the heads of our government to invade and colonize every part of our lives. You, of course, know this better than we do.
What unites you unlikely allies is simple:
you have the integrity and courage to put the pursuit of truth over reputation;
you have the intellectual capacity to bring insight and nuance to complex issues;
you understand history and can apply lessons from multiple contexts;
and through that understanding you have come to believe that, while enlightenment principles yield imperfect solutions, they are the best tools we have for running a productive society.
Society can only progress by engaging in an honest dialectic. You are among the few who have both the wisdom and platform to make a dent against this insanity.
But, unfortunately, despite your individual success, your voices are not breaking into the mainstream narrative. Joe Rogan may have 190 million downloads per month, but the only time mainstream America hears about him is when someone tries to cancel him. Coleman Hughes, Thomas Chatterton Williams, John McWhorter, Ayishat Akanbi, and many other brilliant black people are voices of character, clarity, and common sense, but their profound message is entirely disregarded in the mainstream conversation about race. Even McWhorter talks about the challenge of helping his black children transcend the self-defeating indoctrination they will get at school. How are us mortals to do it?
I worry most about the children growing up in this time, who have no experience in a world where friends can voice opposing political views. Today’s youth come to adolescence presented with only one viable, non-reputation shattering idea set. As Douglas Murray explains it in his most recent book, The Madness of Crowds, “... these wars are not being fought aimlessly. They are consistently being fought in a particular direction. And that direction has a purpose that is vast. The purpose - unknowing in some people, deliberate in others - is to embed a new metaphysics into our societies: a new religion, if you will.”
Despite the large followings and individual success that most of you have attained, honest, good faith dialogue in pursuit of truth is poised to lose to this new religion. Even if you could all triple your audience size, the mainstream narrative would remain and people like Bret Weinstein will continue to find their Twitter and Facebook accounts mysteriously suspended whenever they collide with the dominant agenda.
Bret’s brother, Eric, who coined the term Intellectual Dark Web, calls this mainstream agenda the Gated Institutional Narrative (GIN), which maintains its monopoly on publicly acceptable thought through what he calls the Distributed Idea Suppression Complex (DISC). Sexy acronyms aside, there is a mainstream sense-making establishment that facilitates these new dogmas and ensures that more nuanced, principle-driven voices appear as quaint periphery elements. Even when your views resonate with the majority, they are presented as an opposing view to conventional wisdom - a last gasp of the archaic order - the musings of the, as yet, unwoke. A quick list of this mainstream sense-making establishment includes. (Note: This is not an exhaustive list):
The New York Times
CNN and Viacom’s large portfolio of screen media channels
The Hollywood Academy
The University System (with few exceptions these subscribe to and have helped create the new ideology)
The College Board
Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon (who are beginning to exert control greater than most governments and whose suggestions and omissions shape perception and dictate what topics the broader world should be concerned with)
Many of these institutions hold sway because they were once great. But they have taken on new controllers who use brand legacy to legitimize their extremism. Their dominant messaging leaves us with an increasingly narrow belief set that is acceptable to discuss at work or even amongst friends. Many employers now explicitly dictate this shrinking Overton window.
It should also be noted that there are many other news sources whose agenda runs counter to this mainstream narrative, some at the other extreme who spout their own nonsense. They have only grown in incoherence and popularity in response to the mainstream narrative. But still they hold very little sway in our institutions or intellectual sphere. To be considered a legitimate source in mainstream society today you must adopt the narrative of our sense-making establishment.
To exacerbate this issue even more, those wonderful moderating voices at places like the New York Times are now fleeing. People like Andrew Sullivan and Bari Weiss are leaving their positions in the news establishment to flee the new dogma. Weiss explains why in her New York Times resignation letter:
“If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.
Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired. If a piece is perceived as likely to inspire backlash internally or on social media, the editor or writer avoids pitching it. If she feels strongly enough to suggest it, she is quickly steered to safer ground. And if, every now and then, she succeeds in getting a piece published that does not explicitly promote progressive causes, it happens only after every line is carefully massaged, negotiated and caveated….
The paper of record is, more and more, the record of those living in a distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives of most people. This is a galaxy in which, to choose just a few recent examples, the Soviet space program is lauded for its “diversity”; the doxxing of teenagers in the name of justice is condoned; and the worst caste systems in human history includes the United States alongside Nazi Germany.
Even now, I am confident that most people at The Times do not hold these views. Yet they are cowed by those who do. “
Weiss is a phenomenal writer who will continue to make a great living through books and the opportunities made possible by new media. New media with its blogs, podcasts, and Youtube channels was supposed to balance this mainstream sense-making establishment, but in some ways it has done the opposite. YouTube and podcasting have given some of us access to a deeper conversation, but what is the net effect of all our best voices leaving mainstream establishments to make it on their own? The mainstream outlets still control the narrative and they have fewer people within their ranks willing to fight for truth or nuance. The effect is a clickbait loving public who is increasingly fed the narrative that the social justice ideology is a set of settled truths.
In this time of misinformation, devolving civic competency, dissolving social cohesion, and extreme rhetoric, we need more than a bunch of brilliant individuals, like you, speaking to each other on their own channels. We need a new institution that has enough talent and credibility to defend against the mainstream narrative. We need you to unite and create a new, trustworthy media institution dedicated to honest, complex dialogue. A place where disagreements are encouraged, conversations are held in good faith, and where the pursuit of truth reigns over ideology. Only by uniting and creating a large, new mainstream media institution - to rival the New York Times, etc. - can your voices become powerful enough to counter the mainstream ideology and upgrade our collective dialogue. Now more than ever, we need a trustworthy news source to help us make sense of this world so that we can become the informed citizens required for representative democracy to work.
Imagine an institution, with a name like The Dialectic (Eric Weinstein really should decide this), where you all continue to create powerful content but under one banner. The collection of such an impressive group will immediately garner attention and come to hold incredible esteem because of its integrity and insight. Your platform will grow. More people will come to find your work because it is part of a larger brand that is organized in one specific place. You can maintain your podcasts under the larger banner and strengthen each other in the process. You will be a model that pulls the rest of the news establishment back in line and attracts the best of a new generation.
Such an institution would have the power to look at a situation like the 2020 election and create belief in something like the Unity 2020 ticket. It would allow creative solutions to resonate with more people. Most importantly, it would help citizens make sense of an increasingly insane world and create an avenue for our schools to transcend this mainstream ideology.
For many of you, this would require an immense sacrifice of time, freedom, and even money. It isn’t fair to ask and I might be completely off base. You all are certainly more qualified to imagine whether or not this could work. But, I fear that without such an organization, there is no stopping our dystopian descent. Our children will learn a rewritten history, our laws will be constantly rewritten in the impossible pursuit of equal outcomes, and all the while the tech giants will continue to garner total control of our lives.
Thank you for you time,
As of right now, this letter stands little chance of making it to the eyes of anyone I am writing to. If you feel it is compelling please share it through the channels at your disposal.
In order to make the most targeted push possible, please tweet this article to:
and use the hashtag: #IDWUnite