It’s ironic that an appearance in The New York Times still feels like a win for a group based on outsiders retreating to the Internet to broadcast themselves. But it shows you that reputation and respectability still matter, even when anybody can publish.
Bari Weiss, the New York-based hack behind the account, calls the intellectual dark web ‘an alliance of heretics […] making an end run around the mainstream – and finding enormous new audiences thirsty to discuss subjects that have become taboo.’
I have listened to some of these heretics for years, including the new atheist Sam Harris, comedian Joe Rogan, and the journalist Douglas Murray. Before it was cool, I even read The Righteous Mind by psychologist Jonathan Haidt – a book on how our moral instincts separate us – shortly after it was published in hardback in 2012.
Weiss’s piece has a slight ‘explorer unearths foreign culture’ tone to it, and suggests more cohesion and cooperation within the intellectual dark web than exists. But at the centre it captures the story that the Internet has opened an escape door to many trapped by institutional bias.
Though political correctness has made certain facts and opinions unwelcome in certain places, the Internet has made gatekeepers increasingly irrelevant. Far from resorting to a ‘dark web’, intellectuals can easily express their ideas without navigating the closed systems of formal education or the mainstream media.
Thus the wonderful thing about the ‘intellectual dark web’ is not that it endorses unorthodox views, a fact that can be deduced simply from the variety of a label that contains both Harris and the author Jordan Peterson, who cannot even agree a definition of ‘truth’. It is that a lack of gatekeepers allows you to read a genuine diversity of views, and agree or disagree.
Almost as if the Internet was designed for it.
Even in these times where the well-heeled and well-certified are happy to bemoan how the oiks vote, it is rare for somebody to openly advance new means of restricting the franchise. But it has happened.
Will Tanner, a former deputy head of policy for Theresa May, told a gathering of policy wonks in London on Tuesday night that Jeremy Corbyn was able to turn the election by becoming the ‘candidate who represented change.’
The director of Onward, a new Tory think tank, said that early on he believed May was seen as a change candidate, but this flipped during the campaign. ‘Clearly we made mistakes in that campaign which means we ended it in that position [of having to form a minority government],’ he said.
Tanner was speaking at the launch of The New Working Class, a book aimed at getting politicians to recognise that the traditional working class of miners and dockers has shrunk, to be replaced by a more diverse group.
The author Claire Ainsley, executive director of the anti-poverty Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: ‘Any political party who wants to win a majority needs to understand the new working class.’ She estimates it at half the UK’s population.
‘I don’t think mainstream politics has listened well enough to the concerns of low to middle income voters for a very long time,’ she said. Arguing that politicians should better stand for what the public want, rather than imposing elite views, she added: ‘It’s clearly not the case that just because you come up with a bunch of policies the votes flow.’
Matthew Goodwin, professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent, said that both Labour and the Tories’ respective members had been polarised by recent political events, and their attitudes did not align with those of the wider public.
‘That’s going to make it much harder for those parties to get back to the centre ground,’ he said. The New Working Class also cites research suggesting that richer people are more likely to join political parties than the poor.
Art by John Servante and words by Jimmy Nicholls
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Amber Rudd’s exit from the Home Office, the fining of Count Dankula for training his dog to salute like a Nazi, an apparent end to the cold Korean War, and lumps of crap blocking London’s sewers are the four topics this week.
Joining us is a delicious strawberry-flavoured protein shake, which will block our bogs this afternoon.
Update: Sajid Javid has been appointed as home secretary, replacing Rudd.
Image based on Fatberg, February 2018 by Seeing Sanitation