Can The “Intellectual Dark Web” Survive Becoming A Thing?

I have been wondering out loud a great deal recently about the effect of the mass proliferation of new terminology that seem to arise from the back and forth of the culture wars. Some of it seems more organic, the naming of an emergent phenomenon or interest group, some less so, like the attempt to create a desired phenomenon by naming it into existence. Very often, these terms are pejorative; one of the more effective strategies in recent years in the necessary pushback against retrograde identity politics (primarily but not exclusively from the left) has been to identify and name their tactics and patterns of delusional behaviour. Of course, the identitarian left fired the opening vernacular salvo with their attempt to being terms like “micro-aggression”, “whiteness”, “cultural appropriation” and “trigger warning” among others into common parlance, thus attempting to make the non-existent or absurd more tangible. They have certainly entered the public square but I am hoping in a context that will remain of a moment – historical terms associated with a stalled and misguided social movement. Read More…

The Old Censors Used To Be Religious Bigots Now They Flourish On Campus

Way back in 2012 I wrote a piece to mark the annual Banned Book Week. As the occasion fell on us again 6 years later, I perused it again and it was a sobering reminder of how the discourse around censorship and free speech has changed.

I wrote it at a time just prior to the intellectual suicide of campus culture and the mass-cloistering of the young that currently threatens our culture. Back then I was far more concerned about the demands made by religion, particularly but not exclusively Islam, for our right to freely express ourselves and indulge in the expression of others to be creepily curated in the name of a complete misunderstanding of “sensitivity” and “respect”. I could not have predicted at the time, that what I thought was a death rattle of the old order, a last gasp of establishment orthodoxy, would become a rallying call for youth movements purporting to be “anti-establishment”. Read More…

The Goodwill Ambassador of the Intellectual Dark Web

A quick Google search for “Intellectual Dark Web”, the term for a loose affiliation of dissident academics and public figures coined by mathematician Eric Weinstein and brought into the mainstream by Bari Weiss in a New York Times article reliably yields a torrent of angry leftist hit-pieces behind which seems to lurk some combination of rage, disdain and panic. Evidently, the guardians of hermetic orthodoxies don’t like it when the resistance against them begins to sound far too reasonable to simply label it as tacit Nazism. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from trying.

Given that the group to which the IDW refers is anything but homogenous (its heterogeneity being largely the basis of both its appeal and legitimacy), it is inevitable that some targets will be easier than others. I have noticed that many of the shrillest attempts to discredit it tend to focus on the comedian, interviewer and host of the Rubin Report, Dave Rubin. Read More…

The New Putin Worship Is Idiotic and Morally Bankrupt

Every now and then, social media conspires to produce a perfect storm of idiocy and moral bankruptcy so backward as to make one speculate about the possibility of living in some kind of surreal simulation populated by half-wits. Of course, I should know by now not to be surprised by the depths to which political discourse has sunk on social media. For the politically-minded, Facebook and Twitter can become an addictive form of torture, a sort of digital self-harming ritual. Last week, however, I saw something that makes a pretty conclusive case for the corrosive effect of social media echo chambers on both intelligence and decency. Read More…

Classics, Poetry And Art Are Not Useless. They Furnish Our Minds With Beauty

I was recently shown a clip from Question Time where the subject of education was being discussed. An audience member, sceptical of the “usefulness” (for want of a less odious term to describe art) of learning poetry in schools, challenged the panel to recite a poem they learned at school. Most, predictably, failed to do so and I suspect if they could remember one, preferred to toe the politically correct line that we should not be subjecting children to such anachronisms. The erstwhile Shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry, spouted vague and contradictory statements about how learning the names of the kings and queens of antiquity is no longer educationally relevant, but all the same it is important for children to understand history. The general mood was one of scornful disdain and transparent bias against classical education, presumably fuelled by the oh-so-well-meaning anti-elitist imperative that so animates modern British liberals. Read More…

Koyaanisqatsi: Is Technology Really So Separate From Nature?

My first exposure to Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 time-lapse masterpiece was at an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum on the ‘Post Moderns’. It featured the now universally recognisable accelerated footage of taillights pumping through the city to the rhythm of alternating traffic flows, creating an eerily arterial display. What was interesting about the use of this footage in this particular exhibition was that it was shown under the pretext of the death of futurism and the birth of dystopia, sandwiched as it was between clips of the bleak futuristic skyline of Blade Runner (which I must admit has a beguiling beauty all of its own) and chaotic images of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. While footage from Koyaanisqatsi, complete with the stark minimalist composition of Phillip Glass, did not feel out of place in this exhibition, I couldn’t shake the notion that there was more to it than merely a bleak vision of man’s conquest over the Earth. This became more apparent when I watched the film in its entirety. Read More…

We Need A Cultural Shift If We Are To Prevail In The War Against Terror

Like so many of us I have been trying for the past few days to gather my thoughts and reflections about the events in Manchester. As a political writer, the Jihadist onslaught against Western civil society over the past few years, drains the creative energy from me, replaced by anger and sorrow. I run out of new things to say about a phenomenon which is now increasingly commonplace, normalised even by some estimations. I run out of adjectives to describe the attacks and the terrorists responsible: horrifying, brutal, sadistic, evil. The English language has its limits.

That being said, something does seem to have shifted in this case. I feel a little queasy even suggesting that, as if our society didn’t get the memo a decade ago, or after one of the numerous attacks since. In just over a month, it will be twelve years to the day since the 7/7 attacks in London. Since then, the only respites we have enjoyed from the cancer of Jihadism have been granted by our security services, whose work in general has been highly praiseworthy, stopping attacks before they happen.

But still we fail. Our leaders fail us in their empty platitudes. We fail to assert the virtue of our civilisation and our corollary duty to prevail. We fail to have honest conversations about the root of the problem. We fail in our creeping normalisation of terror. Read More…

Only White People Can Be Racist? Don’t Be Absurd

As the culture war rages unabated, a war of attrition draining the mental and emotional energy of all decent sensible people with internet connections and social media accounts, we are seeing a doubling down of the most vicious and socially destructive forms of identity politics. Race, gender, sexual orientation; valid topics of discussion, to be sure, but the positions of identitarians on all sides of the political spectrum make reasonable conversation impossible by making every form of identity a zero-sum game: intersectionality on one side, bigotry on the other, no matter what the complexities of one’s views. Read More…