Henry Farrell in Crooked Timber:
Jacob Hamburger has an article in the LA Review of Books on the “Intellectual Dark Web” which is really very sharp, but ends up in the wrong place.
First, what is absolutely right, and explained much better than I’ve seen it explained elsewhere, or, for that matter, been able to explain it to myself:
A common refrain on the dark web is to debunk various left-of-center critiques by arguing that what appears to be systemic inequality is actually the result of individual choices or behavior. Christina Hoff Sommers argues, for example, that the gender wage gap is a result of women’s choices to work jobs that pay less, while Ben Shapiro believes the problem of police brutality could be solved by people — presumably African Americans — simply “avoiding interactions with the cops.” On many occasions, these sorts of arguments involve uses of social science statistics that political correctness is said to ignore; on other occasions the statistics are omitted and the left’s blindness to “reality” and “facts” is simply asserted or implied. In either case, the dark web’s impulse when confronted with claims of inequality is almost always to deny or justify it. Either the left is making up injustices where they do not exist, the argument goes, or they disregard evidence that social disparities are in fact grounded in scientific reality.
This seems to me to be completely on target, and to correctly identify the organizing impulse behind the IDW. It manifestly isn’t an intellectual movement: if it were, what would unite spewers of Jungian witch-symbol gibberish like Jordan Peterson with self-professed admirers of the scientific method like Sam Harris? It’s a political one, which is largely organized around opposition to claims about structural power inequalities – especially claims that map onto categories such as race and gender. This also explains very neatly the Quillette publishing model: any old shite that supports this specific set of prejudices is acceptable so long as it annoys the right people.
But Hamburger’s organizing argument that this is inherently conservative seems wrong to me.