Henry Farrell has an interesting take on the
Intellectual Dark Web. He argues that their sense of resentment is in some ways justified, because they actually have been displaced from the respect and appreciation their views might once have had. In other words, their shitty opinions no longer get the old beard-stroking regard they would have 10 or 20 years ago.
The traditional safe spaces for pseudoscientific speculation have been taken over, almost literally. The New Republic — which Ta-Nehisi Coates has asserted had perhaps two black staff writers or editors in its heyday and was certainly overwhelmingly white — is now being edited by the leftist multicultural barbarians. Slate has moved away from reflex contrarianism toward a more robust liberalism. And William Saletan, to his genuine credit, has written a serious mea culpa for his previous flirtations with race-IQ theorizing.
Today, contrarianism on race and gender is liable to get fierce pushback in the publications of mainstream liberalism. Intellectual ties to the right can win you toleration if you are David Frum, Ross Douthat, or David Brooks. You may be recognized as a member of a minority that needs to be acknowledged, and as a possibly unreliable ally against Donald Trump Republicanism. However, you are unlikely to enjoy real love or deep acceptance.
In absolute terms, dark web intellectuals enjoy far more access to the mainstream than genuine leftists. But in relative terms, they have far lower status than their intellectual forebears of 20 or even 10 years ago. They are not driving the conversation, and sometimes are being driven from it. This loss of relative social status helps explain the anger and resentment that Weiss describes and to some extent herself embodies. It’s hard for erstwhile hegemons to feel happy about their fall.
There is also an irritating but genuine grain of truth deep beneath the layers of whining. Campus leftists and their allies in the media are often no more open to alternative perspectives than the New Republic white male elite of two decades ago; they can behave badly too. But where dark web intellectuals veer from analysis of that phenomenon into self-pity is in their consistent tendency to treat all skeptical criticism of their purported commitment to truth-seeking as further symptoms of political correctness gone mad.
In that sense, it’s kind of a promising development that they now have to get their photos taken while lurking in the bushes at dusk. The flip side, though, is that while the intelligent, educated people have had enough of their bullshit and are willing to rip into them when they open their ignorant mouths, that gives them an additional cachet with the ignorant…and there’s more of them than there are of us. Hence, all the buckets of money being poured over them.