Intellectual Dark Web creates space for controversial voices

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When you hear about the “dark web,” you probably think about the seedy underbelly of the internet, where anonymous individuals circulate disturbing videos and images, contract killers advertise their services, and drug dealers peddle their wares, all in exchange for cryptocurrency.

What you probably don’t think about is a bunch of prominent figures of industry and academia gathering over dinner to discuss ideas that are deemed, by today’s standards, controversial, such as the fundamental biological differences between men and women, the constriction of Free Speech, and the dangers of identity politics. These are, coincidentally, a lot of the topics that we would brand as “conservative” ideas, ones that have fallen out of favor in the face of the rising tide of liberalism.

The Intellectual Dark Web — the name first coined by managing director of Thiel Capital Eric Weinstein — helps keep those ideas alive, isolating their discourse from the mainstream where they would be met with fierce backlash and opposition. Composed of powerful individuals such as Sam Harris, Dave Rubin, and Claire Lehmann, members of the Intellectual Dark Web see themselves as vanguards in a war against the oppressive notion of political correctness, championing traditional values that continue to clash with the present.

The very fact that this splinter group exists is quite telling of the state of our politically polarized society, and it only goes to show just how divided our nation has become. However, as questionable as the Intellectual Dark Web might sound, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It’s undeniable that with the growing focus on political correctness and sensitivity towards one another, topics that were once considered fair game have been labeled as inappropriate. Whoever dares to discuss these subjects are targeted for censorship or ostracization, as we saw in the case of YouTube censoring PragerU, a conservative media outlet. Since then, other social media platforms have come under increasing pressure to take an active role in censoring their content, especially in the wake of tragedies like the Pittsburgh shooting.

The problem with this systematic elimination of controversial voices is that just because they are kicked off popular platforms does not mean they won’t go somewhere else and continue their conversation. Luckily, the Intellectual Dark Web is just a group interested in civil discourse surrounding conservative ideals, which is a lot better than platforms like Gab which allows for the blossoming of hate speech.

So how can the Intellectual Dark Web be a good thing?

The greatest benefit that comes from the dark web is that they preserve ideas that otherwise don’t come up. This is important because it keeps an active debate going, and while many may not agree with their perspectives, it’s a lot better to have a discussion of opposing values than to have one universal set of values imposed upon everyone. To do so would be a disservice to the diversity of mankind, something that we are all keen to celebrate and revel in. After all, everyone should be free to express themselves. As the old saying goes, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The broader problem is that these controversial ideas have been used by some as justifications for hate crimes and hate speech, which sometimes leads to legitimate harm. The ideas in of themselves are innocuous, but because they have become associated with domestic terrorism, they are similarly denounced as dangerous.

Continuously redefining the mainstream with successively narrower boundaries in hopes of snuffing out hate speech will never work, because practitioners of evil will always find some workaround. Instead, we need to become more precise with who and what we are blaming rather than making indiscriminate blanket statements. As the dark web proves, there are those out there who are interested in investigating controversial ideas solely for intellectual reasons.

While it’s good that the dark web continues to preserve these taboo topics, the fact that they view and brand themselves as ideological pariahs operating on the outskirts of the national conversation is not quite as commendable. Rather than working at the fringes, the dark web should find more constructive ways to discuss their ideas with the opposing side instead of playing the victim. This concept of leaving each other alone is quite un-American given how our country was founded upon the principles of collaboration for the common good.

Whether or not the Intellectual Dark Web will continue to hide in the shadows or come forward into the light is their prerogative. Regardless, it’s good to know that there are those interested in looking at conservative and controversial subjects in an intellectual capacity, and there is little cause for concern so long as they steer away from weaponizing their ideology towards ulterior motives.