May 10, 2018


It happens intermittently, without warning, on no fixed schedule. First: eerie wails in the distance. Then comes the rustle of terrified feet, soon growing into the low roar of a stampede. The faces of the tormented show a mixture of hostility, disbelief, and confusion. Thomas Pynchon captured the mood in his famous description of the V-2 rocket attacks on London, at the start of Gravity’s Rainbow: “A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.” This week the screaming across the skies of the Internet could mean only one thing: Another Bari Weiss column had arrived.

Some right-leaning writers are provocateurs, but Weiss, a New York Times columnist and editor, is not Kevin Williamson or Ben Shapiro. She writes reasonable, even-tempered essays from a commonsense perspective. In her latest, “Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web,” a profile of a loosely affiliated group of public intellectuals from left and right who don’t share much in common except for a belief that ideas should be freely discussed, you’d be hard-pressed to identify a single point that’s outrageous or even controversial.

Unless you peddle in leftist identity/outrage politics, of course. Responding to a Morning Joe segment on Weiss’s “Dark Web” column, Shapiro writes, “This MSNBC Guest Just Showed Why The Intellectual Dark Web Exists:

Instead of acknowledging that identity politics is not a mere synonym for justice — and it certainly isn’t, given that identity politics insists that people be identified by their racial, ethnic, or sexual group rather than as free-thinking individuals — [Eddie Glaude Jr., chair at the Center for African-American Studies at Princeton] suggests that those who oppose identity politics are merely covering for their secret racism. That’s nasty, and it’s why the IDW exists. More importantly, it’s why intellectually honest people of the Left like Sam are now engaging with people with whom they disagree politically. If we can’t have discussions without throwing out buzzwords meant to end those discussions, discussions won’t take place.

And that’s the whole goal of identity politics; it’s “An Enemy of Reason and Enlightenment Values,” Steven Pinker writes.

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