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Giving the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Its Star Turn on Video

When we consider the way video has helped fuel the movement that’s sometimes described as the Intellectual Dark Web, we often think about famous thinkers such as Jordan Peterson delivering speeches or lectures on YouTube and other social media sites. It’s a phenomenon I wrote about back in September, in a Quillette piece entitled Amidst the YouTube Junkies of MythCon, wherein I described the extraordinary popularity of video pundits collecting millions of hits with thoughtful—but often simple and low-budget—monologues delivered from their basement, bedroom or kitchen table.

But Washington, D.C.-based documentarian Rob Montz, co-founder and CEO of Good Kid Productions, takes a more ambitious approach. Montz has produced tightly narrated, inventively shot documentaries about American politics and campus life that manage to be both intellectually penetrating and surprisingly funny. One of his 2017 documentaries, published on We the Internet TV, won the 2018 Reason Video Prize. And his work has been covered in The Economist, The New York Times and the Washington Post.

In late March, I interviewed Montz for the Quillette podcast—a conversation you can listen to here. And for those looking to take a deeper dive into Montz’s work, here’s a selection of some of his most entertaining work, which tells the story of how, and why, sections of the American intelligentsia seem to have slipped into a state of febrile lunacy in recent years.

In his 2016 We the Internet documentary, Silence U: Is the University Killing Free Speech and Open Debate?, Montz returns to his alma mater, Brown University, where he finds that a $200-million diversity-and-inclusion program has, paradoxically, spurred some of the campus’ most progressive students into a state of rebellion. Amazingly, Brown activists even tried to shut down a speech by a rape victim—because she questions the idea of America as being contaminated wholesale by “rape culture.”

A 2017 sequel, What Has Yale Become?, goes deeper into the question of why some of the most wealthy and privileged young adults in America have decided that their campuses are havens for savage bigotry. Drawing on interviews with students and professors, he concludes that the problem isn’t so much ideological as institutional: The bloating of university administrations—especially their diversity departments—has created a toxic co-dependency between middle-aged careerists and teenage wokesters.

In 2018, Montz completed his trilogy with Can the University of Chicago solve the campus free speech crisis?, a documentary screened at last year’s Heterodox Academy Open Mind Conference in New York. You can watch all these videos, and surf Montz’s other work—on subjects as diverse as streetcars, mass incarceration and North Korea—at his web site.

 

Jonathan Kay is Quillette’s Canadian editor. Follow him on Twitter at @jonkay

Featured image: A scene from Rob Montz’s 2018 video, Silence U Pt. 3: Can the University of Chicago solve the campus free speech crisis?

32 Comments

  1. Saw file says

    I’ve been watching at ‘We the Internet TV’ almost since it began.
    It’s well worth checking out.

  2. E. Olson says

    Thanks for the head’s up on this channel – very well done and thoughtful videos.

  3. Joe Tundra says

    That was fantastic. Exposing radicalism on campus is what is going to change the capitulation of administrators. Parents and employers are blissfully unaware of what is going on. Students who do want to learn are bullied into silence.

    Evergreen should serve as an example. Once Bret and Heather exposed the reality there, enrollment dropped, taking money with it. Now, courses are being dropped and they are forced into making serious cutbacks.

    These institutions run on money. Cut off the cash, and the rot dies.

  4. bumble bee says

    First of all, I would like to express my gratitude that so many people are aware of this issue and are trying to address it. While it may be most prevalent on college campuses, it has grown throughout society at large and each of us have either come across it personally, or know about it’s existence. It is however a long road ahead.

    I wonder why so many administrators, professors, capitulate to this phenomenon. Why they do not have the ability to reel this in, to emphatically state that the behaviors of students are against college policy. Perhaps a mandatory class of how to listen to diverging views, how to present one’s own views respectfully needs to be introduced. What really makes me wonder, is how do these students get accepted into these colleges when they do not have the maturity, intelligence, to be there. Is it not a red flag that there needs to be safe spaces? There are no safe spaces in life. They need to be taught how to stand on their own two feet, to have self-worth regardless of what life throws at them.

    Colleges have lost control of their own schools, and are now being lead by students incapable of doing such a job. They have become rudderless ships. Why were those students who disrupted planned speakers not removed? Why were they allowed to achieve what they set out to do, by cancelling the entire event?

    If this was just a college occurrence, it would be a discreet issue. However, we find this same behavior throughout politics and society as a whole. There seems to be little people have in their social toolbox to counter this. Even today, we see how mutated the democrats have become just by looking at the current group of democratic presidential contenders. Every single one has publicly declared how they intend to upend society and the country at large. My question again is how to bring this phenomenon back down to earth, back to reality. I shutter to think what will come if ever the floodgates of their ideology was opened.

    • S. Cheung says

      BB,
      i’m part-way through Jonathan Haidt’s book that looks directly at this issue. His thesis is that this phenomenon reflects how Gen Z were parented/raised, in a safety-ism framework, unlike all previous generations before it. Gen Z begins around 1995, and it’s around 2013 when this cohort enters university, and the campus effects take hold.

      The leading edge of this cohort should now be entering the workforce, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. The college environment is “artificial” in the sense that the entire undergrad population is now almost exclusively Gen Z. THey’re everywhere, and can hold sway. And perhaps many schools looked at them as customers (ie always right) who needed to be catered to, lest they take their business elsewhere. That may explain why administrators seemingly bend over backwards to accommodate them. Of course, once they enter the real world, there will be no chance for them to hold majority status (for years to come, if ever), and hopefully the school of hard knocks will have imparted some additional wisdom by then.

      • Royce Cooliage says

        “Of course, once they enter the real world, there will be no chance for them to hold majority status (for years to come, if ever), and hopefully the school of hard knocks will have imparted some additional wisdom by then.”

        That’s what I hoped about my politically correct Gen X cohort. Some two decades later, my cohort are the parents and university administrators of these little shits. It will take 20 years for the Gen Z kids to have enough power to wreak havoc.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      @BB

      “…Perhaps a mandatory class of how to listen to diverging views, how to present one’s own views respectfully needs to be introduced…”

      How do you know such classes don’t already exist? At the campus I retired from a few years ago, everyone from undergrad to faculty member was REQUIRED to take various online courses ANNUALLY, including:

      state ethics laws [faculty and staff]
      safe driving [anyone operating a state-owned vehicle]
      research ethics [faculty, postdocs and graduate students]
      laboratory safety [faculty, postdocs, graduate students and undergrads working in a lab]
      sexual harassment [faculty, staff and probably others]
      …..and possibly other courses added since I retired*

      “…….Why were those students who disrupted planned speakers not removed?..”

      How do you know they weren’t removed? Some Middlebury College students were disciplined after the fracas there a few years ago, but thanks to mandatory federal privacy rules [FERPA], details on particular students and their punishments are not available to the public.

      *The courses were set up so the user had to give input every few minutes. That is, the course couldn’t just be played in the background on low volume while the user did something else.

    • “I wonder why so many administrators, professors, capitulate to this phenomenon.”

      Admin-Money
      Profs- Ideology in their bubble

  5. Fickle Pickle says

    As far as I know these champions of free speech on campus seldom if ever question the very cosy relationship between the Pentagon military-industrial-propaganda complex or the Pentagon world-wide death machine and the universities.

    Do they ever address or even question this very real all pervasive in-your-face power?

    Especially when you take into account the fact that the Complex and its world wide “culture” of death is easily the most powerful American institution. The death-saturated values (sic) of which permeate every minute fraction of American “culture”. Especially video games etc. And increasingly so, major sporting events.

    Search the topic the Pentagon and the universities.

    Did you know that the Pentagon has an enormous amount of skin-in-the-game in the designing and promotion of the death-saturated video games that a hugely popular with adolescent males and young men. Brainwashing all-the-way-down.

    • Craig Willms says

      @Fickle
      It’s hard to dispute what you call the American culture of death. As an American I am sick about it. I understand that violence is part of life – everywhere, but the celebration of violence with such glee is a sickness. If you are watching a police procedural TV show and don’t see guns drawn you’ve witnessed a rare event. Guns guns guns… I strongly support the 2nd amendment, but it doesn’t mean we should be seeing guns and gun violence on every Hollywood and TV drama. Sadly this ‘entertainment’ is our #1 export.

      The thing is in everyday life for most of us not involved/associated with a criminal element we almost never see guns or even mild violence. The only time I’ve ever seen a gun drawn in my everyday life was by a mentally ill man and nothing really came of it. As well, I know one person who died in a violent gun related death – he was a cab driver and that was almost 40 years ago.

      This dichotomy of what we ‘see’ in pop culture and what we actually experience is wildly out of sync.

  6. I live in a western country that in 1970 was was 99pc white. A few days ago legislation was presented by a supposedly conservative government that any white person who loves their country or harks back in favour of what might have been if we had not had the most aggressive immigration policy of any country. Up to 20pc of the population in some years. We were already a statistical minority in the 2016 census?

    Even politicians are being attacked, and possibly silenced, if their policies include anti – immigration policies ?

    We noted in silence that NZ submitted to Islam one week after the massacre, by playing the call to prayer which is also the conversion pray ?

    We are frightened to comment. Our Dark Intellectual Web continue, at least one day after? Those who bravely did told of others taken?

    Quillette Must know this and this is a story much more important than this drivel . Because of a madman in another country we have been taken over by draconian anti – speech laws even worse than the UK where I have heard you can receive police attention for publicly expressing opinions on Brexit?

    Quillette offered freedom of speech, but they can’t protect people who believed them?

    Claire, you say you’re Australian, why no talk on this issue?

    • Is Claire a globalist who doesn’t need to care what happens to her own people?

  7. I asked Claire a polite question, and I never use bad language ect I only used the word globalist, but my comment did not appear?

    Freedom of speech is a mirage, what is true is that some people can live anywhere, and some people can only live somewhere ?

    And I can only live where I live and I can no longer speak publicly?

    • Apologies to Claire it’s there now. I sincerely apologize too. I just don’t want to go to jail for being a person who happens to be born with white skin, and loves my country, and seriously can’t help but see that it used to be better. Is that still legal?

  8. Tim H says

    A few comments on Montz’s third installment about free speech at Chicago.
    First, if so many U of C students and faculty are trying to keep Steve Bannon out, it seems like the project has already failed. He may be all the things those folks say he is, but one thing he’s not is a stupid rube. He’s someone to reckon with. So why have so many students and faculty failed to even allow the engagement?
    Second, the folks at Quillette should know that one of the faculty on this video, Rachel Fulton Brown, has fairly recently been denied full professorship. You can find her story on the web. I don’t know medieval studies and I’ve only seen her side of the story but it does appear that she’s been sidelined due to her non professorial activities.
    Third, and related to my second point, I get that Montz is trying to show that even sort of low level partisan hackery is a free speech issue. And I fear the chilling affect of even that kind of speech because it makes us less human to be afraid for what we say day to day. But isn’t one of the main free speech issues at universities around a real exchange of critical ideas that move actual human knowledge forward? If Rachel Fulton Brown was denied full professorship for no reason having to do with her scholarship, but merely to shut up her opinions, to me that is the much greater shame. Yes, her work is still out there but she won’t lead the best grad students now. She won’t get the prime treatment in the academic literature. Fewer folks will follow her work and advance upon it. If there’s even a hint if this happening at Chicago, then what other bits of actual advancements in human understanding are being kept from us due to political correctness? Maybe Montz can focus here next.I know it’s not glamorous like Sean Spicer’s apparent lie or Steve Bannon hatred but this is definitely a great tragedy for us – the chilling of true academic knowledge advancement.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      @Tim H

      ‘……..Rachel Fulton Brown, has fairly recently been denied full professorship. You can find her story on the web. I don’t know medieval studies and I’ve only seen her side of the story but it does appear that she’s been sidelined due to her non professorial activities… If Rachel Fulton Brown was denied full professorship for no reason having to do with her scholarship, but merely to shut up her opinions, to me that is the much greater shame…….’

      Look, RFB has tenure, and she can re-apply for promotion to full professor in the future, after a few more books have appeared. [I assume that UChicago doesn’t have a policy that limits the number of times a promotion application can be submitted.]

      In any case, at most universities, promotion packets are treated as secret, because they typically contain candid letters from outside reviewers that are only for the eyes of the faculty who will vote on the promotion. The candidate typically doesn’t even get to know who wrote the evaluation letters. [The candidates may be allowed to nominate reviewers, however]

      Bottom Line: It is impossible for any one outside her department to know why RFB was denied a promotion. Her chairman is on record as saying that blog posts, etc., are NOT taken into account in promotion decisions.

      PS–I personally think that RFB is not helping her career with her blog Fencing Bear at Prayer. I’ve looked at some of her posts, such as ‘Feminism is Cancer,’ and they are almost inscrutable to someone who isn’t a professional Mariologist.

  9. Totally fascinating. Thanks for posting this. Discovered Quillette relatively recently, from here in Scotland (lived in Chicago and its suburbs from 2005-2016), and have found a lot of the material excellent, well-balanced, logical, reasonable, and thought-provoking. And long may it continue.

  10. the gardner says

    What is apparent is that these rabid students are incapable of forming an independent thought and utterance in reaction to speakers on campus. They chant canned, sanctioned slogans. They remind me of the Mao Chinese youth who were rounded up to ridicule and shout at intellectuals before they were sent off to reeducation camps. Sickening.

  11. whatdoyoucare? says

    Is it the way the video is edited or there are mostly young girls and women professors doing the overly emotional protests ? Not to go all sexist here but it did seem a bit hysterical at times.

  12. Fickle Pickle says

    Meanwhile I quite like this essay which gives a well written very rational assessment of the “dark web” and some of the prominent loudmouth irrational yahoos that lurk there – especially the uber-loudmouth Ben Shapiro
    http://www.currentaffairs.org/2018/05/pretty-loud-for-being-so-silenced

    Check out the essay on the dishonest tactics of some cashed up right-wing groups. It is titled
    Why Wont The Right Debate Us
    He describes how groups such as Young American For Freedom are really only interesting in deliberately stirring up divisive controversies.

    • X. Citoyen says

      My respect for Robinson took a hit reading that. He equivocates between two senses of “being silenced,” as if the fact that Weistein and Heyting became minor celebrities after being driven from their jobs at Evergreen somehow cuts against their claim to have been silenced. Peterson was facing disciplinary action at U of T for disagreeing with some students, but the university backed off when he became famous. As for him getting an interview on NBC, well, I’m not sure a heavily edited hit-piece counts as having your voice heard. Murray was attacked by a band of students—so big surprise that he wants to stay away from certain topics in on-campus debates. And so on.

      Anyway, Robinson knows all this, so it’s a shame he went down this road.

    • Maybe YAF should scream, shut down leftist speakers and and generally act like your side more. (Wink)

  13. X. Citoyen says

    I hadn’t heard of the fellow, so thanks for this. One can write a thousand carefully argued pieces backed by mountains of fact. But nothing quite captures the tragedy of it all like video.

  14. Pingback: Quillette Podcast 24 – Rob Montz talks about his YouTube videos documenting the free speech crisis - Quillette

  15. Vantine says

    If your critique of the “dark web (sic)” offers nothing but ad hominems and a link to an article itself peppered with ad hominems, I think it’s safe to discount both.

    “Cashed up right-wing groups”? Do you mean organisations which have cash backing and assets? Like the DNC? Groups and individuals of any stripe seek and require money to acquire resources, which is just basic economics, despite the attempt to give this basic fact a whiff of sulfur.

  16. Black Flag Matters says

    It’s incredible that I am only learning about Rob Montz and We The Internet now. It’s been around for 3 years. For some unknown reason, youtube excluded it from my suggestions, though it is well produced and I watch many videos of similar content.

  17. Jay Salhi says

    This is one of the more interesting articles to appear in recent weeks yet it receives very few comments. Perhaps because it does not easily lead to debates among commentators. Fickle Pickle has tried to stir things up but has had to go off topic in the process.

  18. Craig Willms says

    Watched the video. Didn’t have much to do with the IDW and therefore the title seems really misleading. The video is well done. Does a nice job of showing examples of the craziness and the crying shame campus life has become. But, there’s not much more than can be said that hasn’t been said before. It seems the university system needs a serious reformation – or a collapse.Young men are already opting out.

  19. I must have missed the connection to the IDW. I check the IDW forum now and then and may have missed this?

    Great piece, though.

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