Jordan Peterson is a Freemason

Voltaire's Heirs 2.0 or Why the Intellectual Dark Web is so fascinating

Intellectual nonconformists around Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan have rediscovered an old virtue: to have endless conversations with fearless contemporaries about controversial topics, theses and trends. Live and uncut, so unadulterated. The new format is well received.

Mozart's “Magic Flute” from 1791 is one of the most frequently performed musical theater pieces in the world - and isn't it rightly the piece of the hour? It trains your own judgment. After initiation-like tests, the good queen of the night finally turns out to be evil, while the allegedly tyrannical magician Sarastro turns out to be an enlightener and humanist. White becomes black and black becomes white. It is very similar today in the discussion about the so-called Intellectual Dark Web, which for some seems to be a refuge for evil and dangerous thinking. In fact, the new digital platform of intellectual nonconformists is more the light at the end of the tunnel than the new darkness, while the traditional apparatus of conveying meaning is increasingly stuttering.

There has never been just one place where reality is negotiated. In dark times, the exchange of ideas often took place in secret societies, such as the "Magic Flute" thematized with borrowings from Egyptian mysteries and Freemasonry. The Intellectual Dark Web, on the other hand, is a continuation of the marketplace of ideas that is visible to all and follows an increasing need to discuss controversial positions without governess-like enclosure, i.e. outside the academic, cultural and media complex.

The term, meant with a wink, was coined by the mathematician Eric Weinstein, who works for the investor and philosopher Peter Thiel. In any case, the protagonists, such as his brother Bret Weinstein, Sam Harris, Jordan B. Peterson, Joe Rogan, Ben Shapiro, Jonathan Haidt, Christina Hoff-Sommers, Ayaan Hirsi-Ali and a few more, are suitable for the enemy image, at most for those who are in feel attacked the own business basis of the discourse sovereignty.

The bad boys and girls

Any monolithic political classification in a left-right scheme is already sub-complex. Even if one can recognize a certain foundation of classical liberalism with regard to the attitude to free speech, there are shades from left to conservative to libertarian as well as differences in the matter which naturally belong among thinking people. Where there is no dispute, there is no life (and no fun).

If there is a bracket for this group at all, then this should be looked for beyond the love of free speech in the attitude that the same rules of the game should apply to everyone. Most would probably agree with the position formulated by Friedrich August von Hayek in his «Constitution of Freedom» that justice in free societies is a matter of abstract rules and principles, but must never be the result of repressive interventionism - regardless of whether it is from state intervention Side or the advocates of a public who rely on a supposed social consensus.

Jordan Peterson publicly stated that he did not want to abide by a then new Canadian law (Bill C-16) that required gender-specific addressing of trans people. Bret Weinstein opposed a “day of absence” for whites at Evergreen College, where he taught evolutionary biology, because he considers this form of symbolic “virtue signaling” itself to be a form of racism. He and his wife have since left college.

Admittedly, neither Peterson nor Weinstein are racists or even just chauvinists. Your criticism applies only to the claim to totality and the methods by which minority protection is to be enforced. The fact that the academic institutions to which they belonged did not protect themselves in front of them has since marked a fault line: the protection of people with a certain group identity from alleged discrimination is placed above the freedom of thought and speech of the teaching staff.

A new industry

The fall of man has meanwhile become not just an opportunity, but an industry: the representatives of the Intellectual Dark Web reach an audience of millions on YouTube channels such as “The Joe Rogan Experience”, “Rubin Report” or “Rebel Wisdom” and incidentally make previous assumptions upside down on spectator behavior. Many mainstream media act involuntarily supportive, giving the group even more popularity through demonization.

The “New York Times” once asked whether one should listen to these heretics, which not only gives a deep insight into the history of ideas, but also has turned a martial artist and fear factor host like Joe Rogan into one of the most influential media figures of our time. Mind you, this is due to the fact that, in the role of "Regular Joe", he conducts endless conversations with his guests without a journalistic concept or a set of questions.

The success of the web depends crucially on the nature of the discussion and the topics dealt with. Almost all thinkers show an enormous willingness to associate, holistic thinking beyond academic subject boundaries; In addition to the breadth, there is also a deep dive into topics such as identity politics and political correctness, paleo-diet, psychedelics, Bitcoin or the process of self-development at C. G. Jung.

It is no coincidence that it is often topics that are rarely dealt with in such detail in the mainstream, which shows that an ideas market is most attractive when the goods exchanged are of different types. Exchanging something similar, such as a banknote, doesn't make sense. Orthodox “debate rooms” are often designed according to this principle today, as can be seen in German-speaking countries, for example, in programs such as “Neo Magazin Royal” by Jan Böhmermann, where the talk with the guests arouses low expectations of surprises.

The Intellectual Dark Web has become the place where critical rationalism is practiced most widely today, to paraphrase Popper: “I don't know, you don't know, but together we might approach something that can be called truth or knowledge . " Gain in knowledge as a journey; Protagonists who see themselves as a rope team in an intellectual high-altitude climb and do not patronize the viewer - apparently such a format was missing in times of proportional representation and scripted reality and satisfies a longing of the audience.

When was intellectuality so sexy last? The success of the programs shows that the need for intellectual content that is reasonably well-founded and entertaining - which requires a certain sounding board in terms of classical education - is far greater than is assumed by many media makers in the broadcasting corporations. They often take the position that you shouldn't overwhelm the audience when it comes to complexity. So they pretend to be onlookers, but in truth they practice a subtle form of cynicism. For them, the audience is just a collection of small children who should (and want to) be taught.

Polarity has always been required to create something new. The networking of real debate rooms has never really succeeded in the age of the Internet, but has led to the formation of echo chambers and tribalist armies of patronizing thought. The Intellectual Dark Web feeds the hope that a new form of search for knowledge through multi-layered explanatory models could be suitable for the masses.

The integral thinker Ken Wilber even sees it as a new evolutionary stage in the exchange of ideas, one that breaks away from the ideological trench warfare and rigid thought patterns of the direct post-war era and at the same time straightens the undesirable development of egalitarian-relativistic postmodernism. Of course, it remains to be seen whether this will succeed. The worst thing that could happen to the web would be to be just a fan camp or a pool of stubborn opponents and repeat the game of “official church versus sect”.

In the history of ideas, marginalized thinkers often had to encapsulate their views that were classified as dangerous or save them to places of retreat. The historian Martin Mulsow («Precarious Knowledge») describes it as «harpocratism» when the wise man remains silent in response to attacks and withdraws. The Intellectual Dark Web is maximally anti-harpocratic, as it has shifted marginalized views from narrower debate rooms of academies or media to the broadest possible ones on the Internet, proving that censorship and deplatforming are boomerang in today's times. The new format is not a campaign for revenge by the vilified, but challenges structures and institutions that no longer fulfill their very own task: to ensure a real variety of positions.

This closes the circle to Mozart: Even the marginalized secret society of the Enlightenment in the “Magic Flute” is ultimately only about access to knowledge and instruction by example, when it says in Sarastro's aria: “In these holy halls knows one cannot get revenge. "

Milosz Matuschek is an entrepreneur, publicist and speaker. Most recently he published the books “Kryptopia” (Nicolai Publishing, 2018) and “Generation Chillstand” (dtv, 2018).