In February last year, Spectator Life ran an article by Douglas Murray on the arrival of a new group of unorthodox thinkers who were challenging the dogmas of the authoritarian left. People who maintained, among other things, that there are fundamental biological differences between men and women, that free speech is under siege on campus and elsewhere, and that some aspects of western civilisation — in particular, the values of the Enlightenment — are worth defending.
Murray’s list included Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, Sam Harris, Christina Hoff Sommers: all members of what they jokingly referred to as the ‘intellectual dark web’ (IDW). When the New York Times’s Bari Weiss used the same moniker in an article about these thinkers a few months later, it entered the mainstream lexicon. The IDW went global.
Needless to say, this oddball collection of writers and broadcasters were immediately dismissed by the defenders of progressive orthodoxy as beyond the pale. A piece in the Guardian described the IDW as ‘the thinking wing of the alt-right’. Other left-wing commentators have said much the same, pointing out that most of its members are middle-aged white men — proof, apparently, that they want to withhold power from women and minorities. Peterson’s defence of the patriarchy is often cited as Exhibit A in the case for the prosecution. (To read more, click here.)