Hypothesis, Politics, recent

Caricaturing the Left Doesn’t Benefit the Intellectual Dark Web

Last week, I published an article in Quillette titled, “Is the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Politically Diverse?” Here, I challenged the claim by Daniel Miessler that members of the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) align almost entirely with liberals (and in opposition to conservatives) on, “the main issues that divide liberals and conservatives.” If this were true, I argued, we wouldn’t see any members—with the exception of Ben Shapiro—be welcomed by conservatives and dismissed by liberals. Yet, we do see this, with both Dave Rubin and Jordan Peterson. This presents a puzzle: why do Rubin and Peterson find themselves aligned with people with whom they ostensibly disagree on the most important issues and likewise find themselves alienated from those with whom they agree on these issues? It doesn’t make sense.

To answer this question, I drew on an analysis by Vox’s Ezra Klein suggesting that we’re in the midst of a shift in the political landscape, moving towards a divide between left and right that is different from what we’re used to. This is already observable online, especially on YouTube, where political discourse is characterised by an intense culture war between left and right. Here, issues that have previously divided left and right, such as gay marriage and abortion, are relatively unimportant. What matters is one’s attitude towards “social justice” issues, such as identity, structural oppression, and privilege. This shift is now spreading offline, amplified by commercial incentives in the news media on both sides feeding the culture war.

Seen in this light, it makes perfect sense that Rubin and Peterson find themselves welcomed by conservatives and dismissed by liberals despite having different positions on issues like gay marriage and abortion. What matters is that they have taken a clear side in the culture wars and define themselves in clear opposition to the modern left, with its increasing focus on identity, structural oppression, and privilege. Conservatives, in return, are willing to embrace them despite these policy differences in part because they’ve come to see the modern left as an existential threat. (Interestingly, on Rubin’s most recent show, he and guest Yoram Hazony have a discussion along very similar lines and talk of a “more inclusive conservatism” in response to the perceived danger from the left.)

This means that we can’t simply assume that the IDW is politically diverse because many of its members hold policy positions that have traditionally put them on the left. If they generally hold positions that place them on the right with respect to the culture war (i.e., regarding issues such as identity, structural oppression, and privilege), then they could very well lack political and ideological diversity on questions that are becoming more and more central to cultural and political discourse. They need to be more aware of this, I suggested, and figure out whether they’re genuinely interested in having cross-partisan discussions. If they are, they need to be more inclusive to people and arguments on the other side of the divide on these important issues.

*   *   *

I received lots of feedback from this article, much of it critical. While I certainly welcome criticism, it seems to me that a lot of it didn’t directly address my arguments. (Which suggests I didn’t do a good enough job of articulating them!) I think this is an important subject, though, so I’m going to make an attempt to elaborate. Fortunately, Libby Emmons—a Quillette contributor—wrote a response in The Federalist that allows me to do so from a slightly different angle. (I should note that Emmons is responding to a piece by Justin Charity in The Ringer, as well as to mine.)

Emmons’s article was shared approvingly by several members of the IDW, suggesting that it reflects their own views to some extent:

Emmons’s basic argument, as I understand it, is as follows: members of the IDW are not conservatives, they’re mostly liberals who found themselves homeless when the left took a more progressive turn; as a consequence, they’ve created their own platforms where they develop ideas that are too nuanced for today’s progressives, who are more comfortable with slogans and feeling-based position points.

Now, I see this as largely a restatement of the original argument put forward by Stephen Miessler (and often articulated by members of the IDW themselves) that my article challenged. However, Emmons does elaborate on it in ways that allow for a more detailed critique.

Perhaps the most important aspect to highlight is how Emmons describes the group’s ideology. At the beginning of the piece, she refers to the IDW as a “group of classically liberal pundits.” A few paragraphs later, though, she writes that they are “beholden to no ideology.” This is a contradiction, because classical liberalism is an ideology. You can’t have it both ways; if you’re a classical liberal you are not beholden to no ideology.

I point this out because it isn’t a simple mistake, it’s a thread that runs through the whole piece. On the one hand, Emmons says of these classical liberals (the IDW) that they “believe first and foremost in the rights of the individual and the necessity of critical thought,” that “it is the classical primacy of free speech that compels them,” that they “believe in personal responsibility, rationalism, logic, and critical thinking,” and that “individual freedom is paramount, free speech is non-negotiable, and rational, critical thought is the only reasonable way to discern anything about either the natural world or the self.” But she also writes that “political ideology has no claim to the IDW, because political perspective is not the driving thought behind the movement,” and that “the IDW is not in service to an ideology, because it questions the basis of any and all ideologies.”

In effect, Emmons is claiming that members of the IDW are classical liberals with a distinct set of beliefs (individual liberty, personal responsibility, free speech, rationalism, logic, critical thought), but also that they are essentially ideology-free (not in service to any ideology, not driven by any ideology, not proponents of any ideology, questioning the basis of all ideologies). This effectively conflates being classical liberal with being above ideology, creating the impression that classical liberalism is necessarily aligned with the pursuit of truth. The question here, of course, is what happens if classical liberalism is not aligned with the pursuit of truth? What happens if holding classically liberal beliefs is a barrier to truth, and how would they know?

This is an important question, and Emmons does in fact mention an alternative ideology to classical liberalism, namely progressivism. Why is this ideology, rather than classical liberalism, not a better path to truth, logic, and critical thought? Well, it’s difficult to know from Emmons’s piece, because she paints such a caricature of it that it barely seems like an ideology at all, and certainly not one that any serious person could hold.

Emmons writes of progressivism that “writers who dissect ideas for a living were aghast to find that the work they had been doing was now to be viewed through lenses that had nothing to do with intellectual rigor, but were entirely about emotional realities based in grievance, oppression, and identity,” that “using these theories as the exclusive basis for how to think about governance, economics, foreign affairs, social policy, and the humanities is intellectually lazy at best and veering towards malevolence at worst,” that “now the ideas of the IDW are too nuanced for the leftists, who are more comfortable shouting slogans and rattling off feelings-based position points that are often contradictory,” that “the shifting sands of progressive ideology, where morality shifts depending on the level of oppression of the person holding the moral view or the relative privilege being wielded in service to a moral perspective, does not meld with rational thought,” and that the fact that the IDW questions the basis of any and all ideology, “makes it a threat to progressivism.”

In other words, unlike classical liberalism—where individual liberty and critical thought go hand in hand—progressivism is intellectually lazy and replaces rational thought with feelings and simple slogans. Does this make sense? Let’s stop for a second and do a sanity check. Progressivism is held in some form by a significant portion of academics, including those in the sciences. Even if we assume Emmons is talking only about modern progressivism with its focus on identity and structural oppression rather than progressivism more generally (this is not entirely clear), we’re still talking about a substantial group of highly intelligent people. Does it make sense that all of these (highly educated and intelligent) people have abandoned classical liberalism, with its supposed emphasis on logic and reason, for an ideology that is intellectually lazy, based on feelings, and which doesn’t meld with rational thought?

Not so fast. Modern progressivism, with its emphasis on identity and structural oppression, has replaced classical liberalism among many people for a reason: it provides a more coherent explanation of social phenomena and clearer solutions for improving society. The majority of people who identify as progressives hold the view that beliefs and behaviour are socially constructed to a significant extent, that discourse influences/normalises behaviour, and that identity plays an important role in how people experience the world, among other things. Whether or not these axioms are always true is not really the point: they are a set of beliefs that help people make sense of the society they live in. For the people that hold these ideas they are more nuanced, not less nuanced, than classical liberal ideas.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of examples where these ideas have been taken too far to the kind of absurdity Emmons describes, but they shouldn’t detract from the bigger picture: the gradual adoption of an ideology that in many ways provides many people with a more coherent way of understanding society and addressing its problems than classical liberalism does. (Part of the problem, as I pointed out in the previous article, is that commercial incentives encourage conservative media to seek out and publish the most absurd examples of progressive-ideas-gone-crazy, presented with sufficient outrage, thus making them seem far more pervasive than they are.)

Naturally, this ideological shift carries over to activism, leading to a greater desire to regulate speech, to ensure more diversity, and to prioritise structural changes. These accompany a shift away from classical liberalism as a model of human society and behaviour.

Which brings me to my original point. The shift in the political landscape is not so much about individual policy positions as it is about ideology, a particular way of viewing society. The left has increasingly abandoned classical liberalism in favour of an ideology in which identity, structural oppression, and privilege play much larger roles. So, people who insist on holding on to a classical liberal ideology find themselves alienated from the left and welcomed on the centre-right, where that ideology still is dominant. And this is true regardless of one’s position on gay marriage or abortion.

The danger for the IDW members is to think that they’re ideology-free while holding to a very distinct classical liberal ideology, and rationalising that apparent contradiction by convincing themselves that the left, which has largely moved on from classical liberalism, has simply gone crazy. Instead, as I pointed out in my previous article, they need to ask themselves whether they want to work on ironing out their differences with conservatives and join with them in opposition to the modern left (essentially forming a centre-right think tank of sorts), or whether they truly want to build bridges across the political divide. If it is the latter, they need to acknowledge their current ideological limitations and open themselves up to some of the ideas forming on the left, rather than dismissing them as crazy and regressive based on a caricature.


Uri Harris is on Twitter @safeortrue


  1. JohnLee says

    So Many words… So Little thought.

    Guess what? I didn’t go anywhere, I voted for Obama twice, I support gay marriage, abortion, equal rights for all Americans under law. I am still classically LEFT,

    I have never supported Empire (endless war in foreign lands, neoliberal free trade, national security state).

    This country has (in my lifetime) become the least racist, the least homophobic country I can imagine- the end of Jim Crow, voting rights, more women than men in college, while becoming the most freaked out ever.

    Yes, racist people exist. Yes Bad things happen. No structural racism (laws about rights and privilege) has ended, (except for the racism against non-victim skin color -currently asian, white, or jewish-practiced in the name of affirmative action, and DIE)

    Stop trying to define progressive leftists as alt-right, or neo-nazi- The IDW is where the Progressive Left of the anti-war/free speech 60’s is.

    The modern left is the authoritarian left- Censorious, Shrill, Vicious

    I didn’t go anywhere, I got Left behind on your trip down the Fascist Rabbit Hole, that is Victim Leftism

    • JohnLee says

      Classically Left:Objective Reality exists independently from the viewer-

      Words are not Violence, Men are not Women, Feelings are not Facts.

      best part of the referenced article

      ‘Rational Thought Contradicts Today’s Progressive Dogma’

      indeed, in a nutshell.

      • Those sound more like assertions than arguments. Are you so sure this is a “reasoned” statement and not simply an ideological one on your part? Especially the “Men are not Women” claim, which is an increadibly un-nuanced version of the actual debates around sex and gender.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Galway Curiousblue

          Fine then, have it you way. It is my incredibly un-nuanced ideological assertion that parallel lines do not meet, that 2+2=4, that rocks roll downhill and that men are not women. But incredibly un-nuanced tho they may be, they have all proven to have predictive power. I notice that over and over again rocks roll downhill. So often that I just say: ‘rocks roll downhill’. I’ve not seen the utility of nuance there.

          • And I’d argue that gender is not nearly as much of a fixed category as mathematical equations and doesn’t always map to biological sex in very neat ways. Plenty of cross-cultural and psychological data to back that up.

            It sounds to me that you’re making a false claim of “reason” to avoid subjecting your own ideology about gender to scrutiny.

          • Sadie Slays says

            “That man is a woman” is the current era’s version of Orwell’s “2+2=5.”

          • Heike says

            “Do you remember,’ he went on, ‘writing in your diary, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four”?’
            ‘Yes,’ said Winston.
            O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.
            ‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’
            ‘And if the party says that it is not four but five — then how many?’”

            — George Orwell, “1984”

        • I don’t think the statement that men are not women requires nuance any more than 2+2=4. There are no actual debates about sex and gender. There is the empirically supported fact that sex is binary, with a very tiny number of accidental exceptions. There is room to debate the roles of nature and society in defining and understanding gender, but the words “man” and “woman” are identifiers of sex, not gender.

          • Asenath Waite says

            @Galway Curiousblue (@iamcuriousblue)

            “And I’d argue that gender is not nearly as much of a fixed category as mathematical equations and doesn’t always map to biological sex in very neat ways.”

            Gender, as the word is currently used, doesn’t “map” to anything. It is the most vaguely defined term imaginable and can be used to essentially mean whatever the user wants it to mean at any given time. The arguments relating to gender identity are fundamentally irrational and circular in their logic. It’s all just smoke and mirrors. Sex, on the other hand, is very concretely defined.

        • peterschaeffer says

          GC, Let me try to help you here with some Biology 101

          Humans are primates
          Primates are mammals
          Mammals have to sexes
          Human have two sexes

          Men are not women

        • Jeremy Ashford says

          Galway CuriousBlue
          Debates are not facts. And the facts are not nuanced. Here are the facts. There are biological males and biological females. Together they comprise more than 99% of the world population. The remaining <1% are anomolies. People certainly, but anomolies all the same. Now for your nuance. Gender as applied to humans is firstly a misnomer, a misuse of a word, initially estabished for financial mesons (as the foundation for a pseudoscience to support the exploitative industry of “sex-change” surgery) and more recently for politicsl reasons. Gender is a social construct. As such it can mean anything you want it to mean. There are not two genders. Speaking of the correct use of the word, in grammar, there are three genders. Beyond that, in the makeup world of the intersectionist feminists, there are not 30-whatever (Canada) or 70-whatever (NY) but an untlimited number of genders. It is essentially a meaningless concept, totally indefinable, totally indefensible, yet idiot politicians include the gibberish in statute. One day that will come apart. It could be as simple as a judicial review.

          • Jeremy Ashford says

            I do so not like being able to edit so apologies for a typo above. It shoud be clear without comment but here anyway “mesons” should read “reasons”.

          • Gender is not a “misnomer”, it’s a very real series of social constructs have varied between societies historically. Many societies in the anthropological record have had three or more genders, and I suggest you do some reading on that topic. Furthermore, there are many gender roles that have varied through history. If anything, it’s the kind of “Flintstone stone age” view that stereotypical gender roles are the natural and eternal state of human existance that’s really out of touch with current science.

            Furthermore, while humans are indeed basically sexually dimorphic (eg, one of two sexes is indeed the norm), your framing of intersex people as “anomolies” is just that – a framing, and a rather negative one. The intersex spectrum are their own sexual identies and from a more accepting point of view can be seen as valid in their own right. I suggest Alice Dreger’s writing on the subject if you wish to undertand this better.

      • doug deeper says

        The author asks whether the IDF truly wants to build bridges across the political divide?
        Exactly how does he propose to build bridges with people who do not hold the values of open and reasoned debate, who shut down dissent with violence at every turn.
        YES, classical liberals strive to be ABOVE ideology and let reason lead the way. Ideologues cannot stand fair and open debate.
        And yes, the socialist/progressive left today are strict militant ideologues, or permit their antifa brown shirts to control the opposition, so welcoming them into the IDF and allowing them to engage will always end up in their taking over the IDF or any other group who allow them in. The author ignores that they use violence when their ideas do not win the day. To avoid violence the IDF must keep the SJWs out.

    • Can you be so confident structural racism is really over, though? Even limiting the conversation to the USA, yes, legally-enshrined racism is over, but that still leaves things like a huge wealth gap with groups like African Americans and American Indians on the bottom of it and a persistant problem with police violence that disproportionately targets black Americans, and so on. In other words, one of the claims from progressivism that’s actually worth taking seriously is that legal equality does not mean immediate structural equality – far from it, actually.

      • Pizza Pete says

        Thank you for bringing to light the grand unifying Leftist shibboleth: that differences in outcomes between groups must be due to structural racism or historical injury. We could discuss how most wealth is not inherited, how Nigerian immigrants are a particularly high-earning group, how Japanese and Chinese Americans and Jews suffered grievously, etc. but none of that matters. The whole grift is: because there are differential outcomes, there must be racist behavior to blame, therefore we need diversity administrators and enforcers to punish Asians and South Asians for their academic achievement, to lead our Maoist self-criticism sessions, and to provide a sense of control and comprehension to a world that is many ways beyond our understanding.

        • Iarla says

          God, you really do like playing the victim, don’t you! Amazing how extremists on either end of the spectrum are similarly quick to have a drama attack and use the victim defence.

        • Perhaps because there’s a lot of evidence for structural inequalities in American history. Just counting the African-American experience, little things like slavery and Jim Crow created things like a wealth gap that didn’t just magically go away in 1965. That legacy, acompanyed by social ills like generational poverty, are things that later immigrant groups didn’t have to deal with, even if they experienced racism and other barriers to inclusion.

          I’ll fully acknowledge, the socio-economic data does not support the idea that it’s simply white people on top and everybody else underneath. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t groups that have long been on the very bottom in American society and that this is rooted in historical and structural issues that haven’t been fully resolved.

          • Ok, slavery, Jim Crow laws: these were structures. How long to people need to climb out of poverty? Nigerian immigrants do it in a generation. And are African-Americans really disproportionately targeted by police? Disproportionate to rates of violent crime?

          • “How long to people need to climb out of poverty?” Yes, as a matter of fact, it often takes more than a generation. For fuck’s sake, the level of callous “why don’t you just get over it?” responses on the part of right-leaning folks when confronted with the reality of the legacy of inequality is just staggering.

            But never mind. You’re just speaking from the pure light of reason, and everybody else is just an ideologue.

          • James Lee says

            By “structural” or “institutional” racism, do you mean the fact that some jobs now openly post racial hiring preferences for blacks and hispanics? Do you mean the fact that Microsoft awards bonuses to senior management on the number of “diversity hires” they make?

            Or do you mean the fact that Asian Americans are openly discriminated against in college admissions to keep their numbers down, in the exact same manner as how the Ivy League colleges discriminated against Jews a hundred years ago? We used to call that “racism”, but apparently when its applied against Asians it is something completely different.

            Or do you mean the fact that white and Asian Americans have to score substantially higher than black and hispanic Americans to gain entry to Law and Medical schools?

            Is that the “structural” and “institutional” racism you are referring to?

            Lots of concrete, empirical, verified examples to choose from.

          • Ok what ‘structural inequalities’ count for white poverty? Are there other factors outside of race that accounts for inequality? Social factors such as single headed families, something that cannot be regulated by outside forces, also factors into economic inequalities. The main problem with identity politics is that it doesn’t take into account any other personal qualities outside of racial or sex. As far as the article is concerned many members of the IDW do call themselves classical liberals, I have never once heard anyone claim that classical liberalism isn’t an ideology but what can be said is that it isn’t as rigid as progressivism. I find the assumption that those in the IDW should meet the new left where they are now very humorous since that is what they are constantly trying to do but the new left can’t listen past their own thoughts. I used to consider myself a progressive but for the past year I no longer identify as such and I’m happy to live without the narrow label of left or right. I do know however what moved me out of the left and that was”identity, structural oppression, and privilege.”

          • James says

            I’d suggest reading some of Thomas Sowell’s work if you still think this way.

          • What structural inequalities count in white poverty? Well, for starters, the fact that poverty is a structural inequality in itself, regardless of race, and that if you’re poor, especially if you’re stuck in generational poverty, there are going to be huge barriers to getting out of it.

            In terms of race, I’d say that the fact that some racial groups in the US are far more likely to live in generational poverty is an aspect of structural racism. BTW, whites less likely to be poor =/= denial that there are plenty of poor whites, which I feel compelled to point out, since a lot of folks here seem to like to diliberately misread and strawman so many of my arguments.

      • My partner is a white middle aged male. He was a minority hire. They team he works on is 70% Black female. The rest are gay men and Hispanic women. HR literally said they were looking for a white male. The AA ladies on the team love him. When he was hired their response was “thank God we have some testosterone on the team. And we can help you with your clothes”. In the real world very little racism exists in the workforce. The policies are pretty strong for a diverse workforce. I’m writing this with 20+ years in corporate. I work from home now and with many remote jobs people don’t even know who you are or what you look like. I’ve worked on 6 month projects and never once met or visually seen my clients not have they seen me. They just see my work.

      • What do you mean by “structural”? I agree that many of the problems facing aboriginal Americans are built on the structure of the reservations system, but what structures are holding back African-Americans?

        • I would say numerous bariers, generational poverty and all that goes with it being a really bit one. I think economic barriers and unofficial but still-present racism do constitute a kind of structural racism until an active effort is made to dismantle the problem.

          • Stephanie says

            Galway, that is the wishy-washiest answer I’ve ever heard. Please be precise and specific on what structural (non-individual) barriers exist.

            It is incorrect to say the wealth gap, because the most significant factor affecting wealth accrual isn’t inheritance, but frugality, and that has been shown to differ by culture and thus on average by race.

            Your vague “economic barriers” is also untrue, because adjusted for parental income, black and white girls achieve the same socioeconomic outcomes. Black boys do the same only when there are many fathers in the neighbourhood, even for boys who themselves don’t have a father.

            And of course the possible existence of racist individuals is not a structural problem.

            Please specify where you see structural racism and avoid repeating these claims until you’ve looked at them much more closely.

      • Stephanie says

        Galway, the wealth gap is attributable to culture: black and Native culture values education less that most others. No fathers in the home for a great majority of black boys results in their disproportionate engagement in crime, and thus lower socioeconomic status. Police don’t actually disproportionately target blacks, engagement is in line with their proportion among criminals. Sentencing disparities become vanishingly small when relevant factors are taken into account.

        Like the gender wage gap, the rest of the left’s supposedly valid points (in the mind of you and the author of this article) amount to little more than a superficial reading of the relevant statistics. Not that you or the author deserve all the blame on that: the leftist media tries its best to cover up facts and peddle emotion.

      • peterschaeffer says

        GC, We have certain groups in the USA (East Asians, South Asians, Jews, etc.) with incomes far above average. So is American society structurally biased in favor of South Asians, East Asians, Jews, etc.? Probably not. Yet they are highly successful anyway.

        That should make you highly suspicious of any claim that structural factors account for below average incomes for any other group. Beyond that we have other groups that have never been subject to Slavery / Jim Crow that do almost as badly as African Americans.

        • “GC, We have certain groups in the USA (East Asians, South Asians, Jews, etc.) with incomes far above average. ” I think I’ve addressed that argument up or downthread. That’s indeed true, but that actually does not at all mean that those groups who are doing way below average in most social indicators (African Americans, Native Americans, many subgroups of Latinos, etc) are not facing structural barriers. Some minority groups doing very well =/= “racism is over”.

    • Jean Levant says

      “So Many words… So Little thought.”
      I have to agree with John regarding the lack of consistency of this piece. Too many words for a too small issue. Why is there an Intellectual Dark Web? Because of the MSM that is become one army, one color, one thought. The one-thought MSM on every controversial topics which are increasingly and incredibly numerous has created its negative (hence the Dark) side to fill the increasing empty space of public thinking. Naturally, since the MSM is one-way thougt, IDW is multi-ways thought and so much more diverse. So the real dividing line is not between conservatives and liberals or, in my neck of the wood, between the left and the right, but between the politicallly correct and all that is not. Quillette’s platform is a good evidence of this if you’re not completely blind: you’ve just to read comments to realize that posters, which are still much more significant of the real divide than the IDW’ s redactors or pundits, are very diverse on the political spectrum, since it was your point.

      • Iarla says

        Hmmmm, Fox? Ummm, The Washington Post? There is an outlet for most opinions along the spectrum. He is quoting Rubin and Weinstein, who self identify as “classical liberals”, or the named author who named the IDW as CLs. He is correct in assertion that Classical Liberalism is “an ideology”.

        Do you dispute this?

        • Jean Levant says

          Certainly, Iarla.
          As it seems you speak from the US, I would rephrase your “There is an outlet for most opinions along the spectrum” in this : there is one MSM outlet, Fox, to conservatives vs all others to “progressives”, which is not what I would call fairly balanced. But in my country, it was still worse : there is not one single MSM outlet which is not strictly politically correct. And if you’re not, you’re done. Hence, my presence here.

      • optinion says

        Here’s an even simpler deduction that was never bothered with: if there is something identifiably specific being prohibited, why should it’s outlaws be diverse by necessity?

        It’s also never asked why caricature is bad. It seems to have worked wonders for the Left. Is caricature only bad when it’s directed against those who grew up worshiping The Daily Show?

    • Jillayne Holter says

      JohnLee-Agreed. I campaigned for Obama, voted for him twice. I campaigned for Sanders in the primary, and experienced how the Dem Party ran things. I’ve considered myself a liberal leftist progressive socialist social democrat (whatever label you want) for over 45 years. I’m looking at this modern left today, and I don’t recognize them. Either they left me behind, or I evolved completely away from them. I greatly appreciate Quilette and the IDW, and look forward to reading all their opinions. The worst thing to happen now would be to “caricaturize” them. Open discussion benefits all. If Uri Harris thinks the IDW is charicaturing the Left, fine. I think they are also dissecting the Lefts arguements, piece by piece.

      • Craig Willms says

        I was where you are in 1992 (for the most part) I was mugged by reality and Bill Clinton in the 90’s – and Clinton is damn near a conservative by today’s liberal standards. Almost all my contemporaries have left the left by now. Although Republican crazy is an inadequate alternative to escape actual crazy we hold our noses and vote. People like me are extremely attracted to the IDW and especially Jordan Peterson and probably account for a huge part of the audience.

    • David of Kirkland says

      Time will tell. It’s certainly not clear when a rise in global nationalism, and the advent of modern terrorism and “gripe attacks” (aka “hate” crimes). As more people define themselves as their “sectionalities,” will the culture improve or get worse.

    • scubajim says

      @johnLee, Excellent points. (on some issues I am more right of center and others left of center whatever the heck that means) I would add I think Mr. Uri. missed the Sokol Moments over the last year. (eg Rape Culture and Portland Dog Parks etc) As evidence that the “progressives” (really the far left) that suffers from lack of basic logic. Notice the rise in academia of the administrations to put forth the DIE agenda. They have become the proverbial self licking ice cream cone – sheer size means they will protect themselves from extinction. This rise in administrative costs has dramatically increased college tuition in the USA. (every year since the early 1980’s college tuition has risen faster than cost of living)

      The college admins and far left mobbing/deplatforming etc. Leave most academics silent. In whispered tones they will support people who stand up to the mobbing but they fear for their jobs and keep silent in public.

    • François St-Onge says

      Well stated. This article confirms to me that I can safely ignore any other articles by Uri Harris. He as nothing to say of interest to me. He is hell bent of accusing the IDW of being guilty of conservatism by association. So passé as an opinion. Passé and dangerous.

    • TWC says

      I am of the same mold, as are millions of others…hopefully…thankfully.

  2. estepheavfm says

    SUGGESTION: Ask Prof. Michael Rechtenwald for a reality check. I think you’ll find the situation is similar to the Weather Underground days. Superior IQ people (Marxists / neo-Marxists)in positions of influence drooling over mass incarceration, authoritarian control, ready to liquidate all those who are “incorrect” (uncorrectable). Thus, the arson plan against St Patriick’s Cathedral was, for me, expected and logical. Progress towards perfection, the ends justify the means (no matter how Khmer-Rouge like).l

    • David of Kirkland says

      Osama Bin Laden was rich and well educated.

  3. What you failed to consider is that the right has become more classically liberal on social issues while traditional liberals fear losing capitalism and free speech. People on the right that grew up in the 80s and 90s and have become more secular and religion is less important for many on the right. This next generation of conservative grew up with hip hop and the Cosby show so they aren’t shocked by minorities being wealthy celebrities or doctors or lawyers. It’s normal. They are more accepting of gay marriage as their friends were openly gay in high school and they watched Will and Grace. It’s normal now. They had Commodore 64s in their home whether they were girls or boys. As a girl in the 80s, my high school had a commuter club and I was a part of it and could write basic code. It’s not like STEM is a brand new concept. Math and science was welcoming to girls 30 years ago. On abortion, science is throwing a wrench for the secular pro-choice camp. I was pro-choice until I actually saw an ultrasound at 8 weeks. I’m uncomfortable and questioning with my pro choice stance because of science (not religion). Take a closer look at the changes on the right and try a 3rd attempt at this article.

    • Denny Sinnoh says

      You have just cut and pasted this comment from a different article.

      • peterschaeffer says

        DS, I can’t say if AK cut and pasted this comment or not. However, it seems like a pretty good one.

  4. Pizza Pete says

    This once again misses the point.

    The Left is being cannibalized by an epistemology of class hatred. The intellectual history 101 is that the moral and economic failure of Marxist central planning schemes led to a recessionary but still malevolent cultural post-Marxist post-modernism a la the Frankfurt school, Foucault, Adorno, etc. The long march through the institutions. Of course there is nihilism as none of the big socialist dreams came to pass.

    And sure, this ideology is coherent. A main drawing point of any identitarianism is that it is coherent. That victimization narratives are easy to follow and compelling do not make them valid. I liked that you’ve pointed to Ezra Klein, the purpose of whom, beyond being an apologist for the worst instincts of his generation, I cannot fathom.

    The point with all of this is that the Left has become absolutely poisonous: look at the constant demands for doublethink required of identity-politics adherents, the Corbynization of Labour, the increasingly bizarre religious trappings of the ideology, a new indifference to technocratic expertise alongside enthusiasm for any self-affirming kookiness (see: MMT). In particular, the Rebecca Lewis Data & Society smear was an outstanding example of this: there’s a confidence and brazenness in that report not needing any coherent methodology; there was no pretense that it had to be valid or empirical beyond its own ideological rightness and to suggest otherwise would be problematic.

    There are good arguments progressives can make, universalist ones spiritually and economic ones focusing on redistribution and capitalism in northern Europe ‘done right.’ There is no rationale, however, for normalizing the pathological, anti-scientific, identitarian Left in the name of ‘heterodoxy.’

    • John says

      Never mind that TV was the principal driving force behind the long march through all of the former institutions, with the “reality”-TV star Donald Trump being the proof of that.

      From a more inclusive perspective we now all live in a deracinated “culture” that is a deadly combination of both Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984.

      Such was of course also prophesized by both Marshall McLuhan, and even though TV did not exist at the time more of less predicted by Thorstein Veblen.

    • Kevin Herman says

      There are challenges in the population of this country that make aping Scandinavia almost impossible. These challenges can’t be discussed because of knee jerk calls of racism sadly. The idea that certain cohorts would magically flourish with the proper education is blank slatism the worst kind of magical thinking never mind these cohorts are at least partially responsible for the education they get bringing children into the world in the worst possible family situations and then not supporting them at all. And I’m not sure why we would want to be more like europe the average American is much wealthier. We also have a quite dodgy methodology for considering who is poor in the US many that get put in that category own homes and cars and get three meals every day. The U.S. Is the number one spot immigrants want to move to there is a reason for that and it’s actually because this is a damn fine place to live. A lot of the things the left think make this country bad are actually what makes it great.

  5. Sorry couldn’t get past your using a Vox article to back up your drivel about how the rabid freaking left is totally diverse and the IDW is not because you can’t see a damned position even existing to the right of freaking Stalin.

  6. On more point. This whole transphobia argument against the right is also very fabricated. Young SJW think that the idea of being transgender is a whole new topic, but when you look at the 80s and 90s culture it was very sexually edgy, openly homosexually an androgynous among youth. Cross dressing and gender fluidity started a long time ago. Our idols (male or female) were cross dressers like Boy George. We loved Duran Duran with all their eyeliner and heavy make up. Everyone I knew in high school watched the Crying Game. We are in our 40s and 50s now and young SJWs think that they are fighting for something new. In reality, they are just lazy without any new ideas and recycling the battles generations of the past fought for and won decades ago. The difference is that SJWs are cowards as they fight from the safety of their screens and safe spaces. We were more fun and wild and cutting edge in the 80s bs kids these days. And we started recycling clubs and fought acid rain too!

  7. Reader says

    I admit to being a tad conflicted:

    Uri’s initial article made an obvious point which had been unacknowledged, the obvious partisan implications of a figure like Rubin and how this particular argument is playing out in the political divide. I think there’s a lot to think about there, and I largely agree Rubin is a cynical actor who has just played a “frustrated anti-SJW liberal” who doesn’t seem to go much off his core persona, even when engaging with legitimately questionable figures. The political tension that exists around figures like him or Candace Owens could hide under the radar when it was the big “anti-SJW” tent, but it’s worth thinking about more clearly.

    Also thought the last article got a lot of overreaction, a lot of which was disappointing. Engage with ideas, folks.

    …that being said, Harris is taking a claim from the first article a bit further here. Harris has noted the increasing relevance of intersectional thought in politics, and how (for many leftists in particular) a failure to subscribe to intersectional oppression ideas is reducible to being a reactionary rightist. Many in the political arena – right or left – would not object to viewing that as A dividing line; less, but many others would say THE dividing line (as Klein does).

    But some don’t – that also counts for something, and I’m not sure how we go about saying who gets to make the call for saliency. Bernie Sanders was comparatively universalist and reluctant to center identity politics in his 2016 bid (and got bit for it), while Hillary Clinton utilized it – was Hillary Clinton running to Bernie’s left? For that matter, even if the terms are not quite in line with Jordan Peterson, The Intercept has criticized ‘neoliberal’ identity politics of the kind Klein would defend in their widely-recognized as left-wing magazine. In their debate, Slavoj Zizek actually agreed with Jordan Peterson on a lot of PC issues, and said leftists should not succumb to political correctness – incoherence? Is Zizek on the right, now? I do know some leftists that would say yes – but are they the final call? Joe Biden is leading America’s “left-wing” party’s primary polls despite being an old white male who has been criticized for his treatment of women – and I’d suspect the average voter would identify him broadly with the political left, even if Current Affairs doesn’t.

    I’m not even so sure this definition of the “left” is so new – in the US, there was fighting between left social democrats (at the time, the old guard) and new left academics (think post-’68 academic leftism) in the 70s, for example. I suspect many of those arguments could mirror modern day ones, as the ‘personal is political’ crowd had a lot of similarities to modern day SJWs.

    I’m pushing to the edges of the claim here a bit, but I guess that’s why I’m not sure if the claim that this is now the PRIME dividing line should be automatically assumed. I’m open to the concept the left “owns” intersectionality and that opposition is at least on some level anti-left – but as someone who is pro-single-payer, generally pro-immigration, pro-gun control, pro-choice, spent the first Obama term reading Matt Taibbi’s take on the banks, was pro-gay marriage before it was the easy tell, who believes trans identities are legitimate and have obviously appeared throughout history and who deserve the relevant civil protections, who doesn’t believe in enforcing gender roles at all (but think they do probably have influence over social outcomes that we should be able to talk about), who probably dislikes MRAs more than feminists and just wants a broad individual civil liberties approach as a first principle anyway, and who also loathes intersectional identitarianism being institutionalized, I guess I’m not quite ready to cede the point about my “true” overall lean. Besides, shouldn’t the intersectionalists believe in political self-identification? 🙂

    Finally, I also agree with an underlying point in that intersectional thought needs to be fought not just in the form of outrageous stories or wacky activist takeovers – which will ALWAYS be readily supplied by clickbaiters when made available. I’d actually like if an intersectional writer could carry on that thought – what would be their response to something like The Federalist article? I am glad Quillette provides coverage of stuff like SJWs taking over theater productions, and think those stories are relevant – but I think the IDW’s commitment about open dialogue and debate is something worth trying to get right.

    • You articulated most of my thoughts exactly. I’m very much opposed to the extremes of identity politics but I find it weird that Uri thinks I should accept my place as a conservative/republican when in pretty much every other way I support left wing policies.

      It’s strange that he only mentions abortion and gay marriage when they are a huge number of other issues that many anti-SJW lefties would disagree with conservatives. I’m also pro-universal health care, pro gun control, in favor of complete transparency on financial transactions and elimination of tax havens, pro living-wage minimum wages, pro strict regulation and breaking up of big banks, pro drug legalization and all sorts of other positions. I believe divisive identity politics actually erodes the ability of working class people and lower middle class to advocate for policies that would improve their lives by causing endless infighting.

      I’ll hold my nose and vote for Bernie despite the fact that he associates with identitarians because the other issues are important to me.

      Yet despite me holding all those views Uri would put me in the conservative camp because I criticize what I see as extremists on ‘my side’? I feel like that’s just ceding ground when instead we should be fighting back to define what the left is.

      • jakesbrain says

        “Yet despite me holding all those views Uri would put me in the conservative camp because I criticize what I see as extremists on ‘my side’? I feel like that’s just ceding ground when instead we should be fighting back to define what the left is.”

        Nobody actually moves to the Right anymore — they just get thrown in the pit with everyone else. The extremists on the Left have established an ironclad us-or-them mentality, and heaven help those Leftists who deviate in any way.

      • S.Cheung says

        well said. Center-left folk haven’t changed one bit; it’s the landscape that has shifted under them/us. And if the alt-right has taken the right extreme a notch, the regressive left has moved the left extreme 10 notches. So the current “half-way point” middle is the fairly-far-left of a couple of decades ago. It’s to the point that you can’t use “left/right” without a date stamp, or some mention of your generational tribe.

        On a separate note, perhaps you should give Andrew Yang a try. He’s congruent with most of what you listed there.

        • Ray Andrews says


          Yup. As with several posts above, I’d reframe the problem not as fighting the Left, but rather reclaiming the Left for sanity. By going insane the Left drives sane people to the Right by default. Thus is is now a commonplace that it is the Warriors who elected Donald Trump. There are times when I strongly suspect that this is a conspiracy. Don’t defeat your enemy in honest combat, put LSD in their coffee and wait for them to ‘fly’ off the tops of buildings.

      • David of Kirkland says

        Abortion and gay marriage are two interesting examples because neither was legislated by our elected representatives. These were found to exist in our existing rights. It’s too bad they didn’t do the same for slavery and voting rights. If SCOTUS had just accepted that slaves are human beings and thus citizens, and that women are human beings and thus citizens, all the equal rights already existed.

        • Stephanie says

          David, “found to exist” is a strange way of saying “legislated from the bench.” It is indeed ironic that these are the examples Uri points to, when they themselves represent a more fundamental difference between left and right: the role of each branch of government.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Tom S
        I respect the fact that you sincerely belive in those ”left-wing psotions”.
        But I think you may have been bitten by the progressive misuse of language. Doesn’t America already have universal healthcare? Tell me who it is in the US who does not have access to medical treatment? What you are really talking about is government paying for healthcare. Now there maybe a valid argument for getting the government to fund healthcare, but expressing the debate as one of whether people get healthcare at all is disingenuous and deceptive. It is the sort of rhetoric one expects from SJWs , not from serious lefties.

    • Haggis says

      “IDW’s commitment about open dialogue and debate is something worth trying to get right”, and that’s also something the author forgot. While IDW members can be characterized as classical liberals, it is the willingness to have dialogue with others that defines the movement/group better than just “classical liberal” and it is the main reason why they oppose SJWs. IDW didn’t reject dialogue with feminists, it is the intersectional feminism doesn’t believe in free speech or debating opposing viewpoints and hence demonizes IDW. Yes, you do have to have the basic ideological stance that freedom of speech is a good thing and that everyone can comment on any issue regardless of their race or gender, but beyond that core value the IDW is not really ideological or political.

      Thinking about it, this is not even really about opposition to identitarians but rather about maintaining freedom of speech. Identitarian leftists have dominated the academy for a long time, but IDW wasn’t born before there was an aggressive anti-speech movement on campuses which was often also promoted by the faculty.

    • In case Claire is polling responses again, I’m a person on the Left in the US, supportive of change that assists the disadvantaged in an effective way, AND I am definitely NOT supportive of the Far Left. I am again disappointed by the poorly considered positions of the author of this article. (A lot of other great and thoughtful articles in Quillette, though.)
      Claire, the Far Left may have a “consistent” philosophical approach, but that is very different from a “coherent” approach. The internal contradictions found within its philosophy are legion, because it absolutizes relativism, and thus every progressive position itself becomes relativistically undermined by another. This leads to a never-ending, eat-one’s-own one-up-manship (womxnship?).
      The Far Left makes up approx. 8% of the body politic- that is substantial, yes, but not “the” mainstream Left philosophy from a party percentage point of view.

  8. Gabriel says

    Great to see this magazine finally embracing truly liberal issues. Right-wing reactionaries like Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro and Tim Pool should be exposed and kicked out of the IDW, and perhaps leave more space for reasonable progressives like Ezra Klein and Uri Harris. The IDW will only be truly diverse if it recognises that structural racism, cultural identity and economic inequality are real issues.

    • John Lee says

      Censorius Much?-so the IDW will be diverse as long as they completely agree with your Identitarian Maximallist position?

      the ‘progressive left’ is a cannibalistic, envious, bitter ideology, with no positive goals to unite behind. Nihilistic rats eating each other, in a intellectual dead end.

    • And you’ll be one of the first to volunteer at the required re-education camps. Right Gabriel?

      • John Lee says

        How do you argue with someone who you view as illegitimate ? (non-POC), are you willing to be convinced, or even to change your mind at all? The IDW is willing to consider other perspectives, and change in response. that is why they can talk and persuade people of all political backgrounds.

        the ‘Progressive Left’ (or more accurately ‘Victim Left’) is not able to HEAR the words of an ‘oppressor’

        “White Man, Cis-Gendered, Sit Down and Shut Up”

        or more succinctly “Submit”

        If you can’t recognize every human as deserving your ear, then what recourse do you leave them. Uri talks about everyone having an Ideology- the problem is with ideologies there is no compromise or middle ground- only POWER, Victory or Destruction.

        Victim Leftism is a barren, brutal dead end

        • Craig Willms says


          yes sarcasm, had to read it twice… the first clue was “Great to see this magazine finally embracing truly liberal issues”

    • @Gabriel
      I am a classical liberal who finds the modern left repugnant for two reasons :
      Its intolerance and enforcement of ideological jniformity.
      Its deep racism and sexism

      The idea of ‘exposing’ and kicking out people because they have different opinions is the opposite of what i hope happens.

    • DavidT says

      There is no place for Ezra Klein or Uri Harris in the IDW as they hold ideology over rationality
      You do not seem to understand what the foundations of the IDW are

    • Rubin, Pool are left wing, Peterson is a centrist and Shapiro is right-wing. None are reactionaries of course. They should stay and continue leading the IDW because they have incredible success in defeating the anti-speech fascists that exist today. Harris and Klein haven’t really contributed anything at all and Harris’s unsupported assertion that progressivism explains anything doesn’t make much sense to me.

    • Peter from Oz says

      That was a great piece of satire.

  9. socialism and communism…zzzzz…seriously millennials? This generation really has no recollection of the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, Yugoslavia, east/west Germany etc. They have no original thoughts politically or socially. Intersectionality is new, but already failing as a concept and becoming a joke. You can’t be both special and equal at the same time. You have to chose.

    Culturally, I don’t hear much difference in today’s music vs the 90s. And the recycling and remake of movies is making me nauseous.

    Sorry for all he opinions. Really love this publication!

    • John Lee says


      ‘You can’t be both special and equal at the same time. You have to chose.’

      I am stealing that…

    • Axiom says

      “You can’t be both special and equal at the same time.”
      Sure you can. It’s just that some in the intersectional hierarchy are more equal than others…

    • David of Kirkland says

      Don’t forget North/South Korea! It’s a living example that doesn’t require any understanding of recent world history.
      Multi-culturalism is a natural good, so long as its not “white western” culture, and it’s okay for other cultures to adopt western dress, food, language and music, but not the other way around.

    • Stephanie says

      AK, I agree with everything you said but I should point out that the moral of the Marvel movies is that America, capitalism, and God must and will win out against nihilist, totalitarian death cults. Maybe not as sophisticated messaging as movies of old, but for pop culture, I thought it was noteworthy.

  10. Progressivism is not coherent. It only seems coherent because you have posted its commitments as if they are arguments that can stand on their own. But they’re not.

    Each of the committed you cited (“beliefs and behaviour are socially constructed to a significant extent,” “discourse influences/normalizes behaviour” “identity plays an important role in how people experience the world”) has to be supported with logic and fact before it can be considered coherent. And in the attempt to do just that progressivism collapses into self-refutation and stolen concepts.

    For example, take the commitment that “beliefs are socially constructed to a significant extent” – Is the belief that belief is socially constructed itself socially constructed? If so, why should we believe it? What if my society teaches me that beliefs are not socially constructed, then what? The “Yes” answer is self-refuting. Conversely, if not, how do you know its not? The “No” answer presumes that there is a methodology of reasoning available by which we can distinguish genuine belief and merely socially constructed belief. But if that is the case, it follows that we should employ the method of reasoning to sort out society’s problems – which is classical liberalism’s point.

    I could go on, but I know that for most Quillette readers, it is self-evident that progressivism is incoherent. It does not take much to see the incoherence in simultaneously believing that we must empower women and also that anyone can be any gender, or in believing we must reduce CO2 emissions by eliminating nuclear reactors. Still the incoherence of progressivism is almost perfectly fractal: Study it in any one tiny segment of knowledge, and it’s just as incoherent as the whole ideology!

    • David of Kirkland says

      Progressives who lead by example and speech are far more interesting than those who lead by coercion.

  11. I appreciate the followup article from Uri Harris, and I’m glad to see Quillette opening some of its own sacred cows up for question. I second his proposition that the “Intellectual Dark Web” should just own up to their own ideological biases rather than simply claim that they’re above ideology. Especially people like Dave Rubin, who clearly have aligned with Trump and the far right, and simply trot out a gay identity and support for abortion as a kind of shield.

    I’m of two minds about Harris’ assesment of Progressivism and its appeal for otherwise intelligent people, though. Because I happen to know many such intelligent progressives – I come out of this milieu and I hold many of the same beliefs, actually – and I can say, Progressive ideology is held to for a mix of rational and deeply irrational motives. Not unlike conservative beliefs, actually.

    And the mere fact that otherwise intelligent people adhere to this ideology is not good reason to treat its more irrational and tribal claims as worthy of respect. Worthy of engagement and patient counter-argument, yes, like any other wrong-headed beliefs, but ultimately, I don’t have any more respect for the beliefs of a tenured academic who thinks we can censor our way to a better society than a white nationalist who thinks ethnic purity is the solution. In both of these cases, I want to win people back from their worst ideas rather than just try to stamp them out, but I have no respect for the beliefs themselves.

    That said, what I think progressivism (and farther left) ideologies get right that “classical liberalism” doesn’t – classical liberalism presumes that actual structural equality and equality of opportunity inherently follows from legal equality, while Left/Progressivism will argue (rightly, IMO) that it’s not nearly that easy. (Of course, there’s much argument within that proposition, and a major left critique of identitarian progressivism is that it doesn’t take economic inequality in and of itself seriously, but only insofar as it represents racial and gender income gaps.) This is certainly a very reasonable belief, backed by both common observation and actual data, that incline people against “classical liberalism” or what might be otherwise called “neoliberalism”.

    The less well-thought out beliefs of the current Progressive left inlude a moral panic about the likelihood of fascist takeover of Western democracy, an extreme sense of white liberal guilt that prevents them from critiquing bad ideas eminating from sources like Islamism or Black nationalism, an unexamined desire to be on “the right side of history”, leading to the belief that every progressive ideology is some great truth that will be validated in time rather than rejected (inevitably accompanied by great ignorance about the actual history of left and progressive ideologies, which entail more than a few grand failures), essentialist views on racial and sexual identity that lead to the reification of some of the very cateories they claim to be the products of racism, sexism, etc, and a mistrust of free expression, often rationalized as the claim that shutting up the speech of “the powerful” will free up the voices of “the marginalized” – never mind that “the powerful” and “the marginalized” aren’t always so easy to define, and are are often defined in very partisan, self-interested ways.

    I think even intelligent people buy into ideological packages as much do to tribal identification and irrational fears. I’ve certainly spoken to my share of academics who are able to make very nuanced arguments about their own fields, but when it comes to politics, make sweeping, emotive, and frankly stupid statments that are in strong contrast to their intelligence on their specialty topics. I don’t think it’s just a lack of expertise around politics, but it’s an area those people, and most of us really, have too much emotional investment in to look at rationally.

    • Axiom says

      “That said, what I think progressivism (and farther left) ideologies get right that “classical liberalism” doesn’t – classical liberalism presumes that actual structural equality and equality of opportunity inherently follows from legal equality, while Left/Progressivism will argue (rightly, IMO) that it’s not nearly that easy.”

      There is something to your argument here, in that classical liberalism cannot perfectly instantiate structural equality and equality of opportunity; but then no political philosophy can in practice. The problem is that when we deviate from the principles of classical liberalism in favor of identitarianism, we are back to discriminating against people on the basis of immutable characteristics; something we were moving away from by adhering to classical liberal values. The road to utopia is a dead end. There are no solutions, only tradeoffs between different sets of unintended consequences. Speaking for myself, I’d rather have freedom in an imperfect society than vicious tribalism in an attempt to build an unattainable ‘perfect’ one.

      • That’s hardly a utopian argument that I’ve made, since nowhere did I assert that achievment of some kind of absolute equality is the measure of a good society. What I do argue is that structural equality does not automatically follow from legal equality, especially when it follows a long historical legacy of both legal and structural inequality, and that it follows that there’s merit to a society making an active effort to actually solve the latter. Saying that you can’t achieve structural equality in an absolute sense, so don’t bother, really doesn’t impress me as a good-faith argument.

        And, yes, that does involve trade-offs. One can take an absolutist “classical liberal” position that would say it’s always unjustified to take something like race or gender into account in hiring or promotion, even as an attempt to right an existing imbalance. An absolutust “social justice” position would be to demand quotas so that there’s equality, regardless of merit. A more nuanced position would acknowledge that this is an area where invididual rights and social equality are in conflict and look for solutions that balance both, even if one might have a preference for balancing it more in the direction of individual rights or social equality. In any event, I think this is the kind of thing I would think reasonable people could debate about.

        Where identity politics (as opposed to flat-out absolutist identitarianism) has some merit is the idea that where you’re going to fall out on such issues is to some degree influenced by your social position. So if you’re poor and/or black, the demand for social equality might carry a good deal more weight than if you’re a well-off white guy. And that’s one of the core problems with the perspectives like the IDW is that, too often, it’s well-off white guys espousing what seems to be to them “rational” views of how society should be structured that just happen to be the very structures they benefit from.

        I’d argue that a proper rationalism would maybe mean trying to look at things from outside your own perspective, and admitting bias where you can’t.

        • Jay Salhi says

          “What I do argue is that structural equality does not automatically follow from legal equality, especially when it follows a long historical legacy of both legal and structural inequality, and that it follows that there’s merit to a society making an active effort to actually solve the latter. Saying that you can’t achieve structural equality in an absolute sense, so don’t bother, really doesn’t impress me as a good-faith argument.”

          Not only can you not achieve structural equality no matter how hard you try and how much damage you do in the process, such an outcome is not desirable. A world in which everyone is equal is a prison like the Soviet Union.

        • Axiom says

          I agree that when talking about structural inequality we are dealing with a case of tension between principle and practicality. I would argue that the ‘social justice’ position not only violates the individual right of free association, but also leads to undesirable outcomes. The further our society goes in the direction of forced social equality, the worse the overall consequences. As we have seen, the contemporary emphasis on identity politics, and the standpoint epistemology it espouses, leads to moral relativism, social balkanization, and detachment from reality. I think that while legal equality cannot completely obviate the arbitrary unfairness of circumstance, it’s the best option we have for a free society.

        • Stephanie says

          “So if you’re poor and/or black, the demand for social equality might carry a good deal more weight than if you’re a well-off white guy.”

          Galway, wouldn’t it be the inverse, since a poor/black person demanding social equality can be motivated by self-interest or greed, while a rich white person is advocating policies that would require them to make personal sacrifices?

          • Clearly, you’re misreading me and bringing in a moral dimension to the argument that I’m not. By weight, I mean how someone’s position is going to affect their world view, not what moral weight they bring to an argument. Please pay attention to what I’ve actually argued, not what you imagine I’ve argued.

  12. John Lee says

    I would appreciate some clarification, from folks?

    Generally i embrace a Left Class based analysis for economic and foreign policy- I lean left socially (social democrat in the Norwegian sense of the word, Strongly Libertarian Capitalist)

    I am an isolationist, anti-war, anti imperialist when it comes to foreign policy- against all foreign wars and other adventures both overt and covert, while still recognizing that my american standard of living owes much to the fact that my currency is the reserve currency of the world, and therefore my wages DEPEND on the worlds largest military and all of it’s attendant moral decay.

    when I read the the words Neo-Liberal or Neo-Conservative I basically interpret as Pro-Corporate and Pro-Empire liberal (likes gays/women) or conservative (likes guns/cops) shorthand . I know that they both are more than happy to throw my blue collar brothers and sisters under the bus, to make a buck for the CEOs and Generals.

    When the worlds worst neo-liberal, most hawkish, banker operated woman lost the election to the orange man, I feel like the media went into hyper spin mode, to attempt to NOT talk about the essential question of our nation’s future-

    ‘What do we do at the end of Empire?’

    • Good observation; maybe we’re really talking about what replaces an exhausted empire that has gone as far it can and is clearly failing.

      The progressive’s answer appears to be soft Stalinist internationalism led by a cadre of the woke. The undifferentiated middle seems more inclined to see what can be salvaged from the remnants of the old republic.

  13. Katabole says

    Caricaturing the left is different than defining the left and if the IDW define the left and don’t exaggerate, then they have done a great service and exposed the Left for what they actually are so all can see. Dr. Jordan Peterson has defined the left very, very well.

    The left has always been a self righteous narcissistic adolescent. They want what they want and they want it now and if they don’t get it they throw tantrums like the spoiled children they are. Their ideology has always been their non-negotiable religion and no diversity of thought is tolerated. Apostates and unbelievers must be destroyed. It’s why the left finds fellowship with Islamists – they both have an all or nothing fanaticism.

    The left’s raison d’etre is rage. They always have rage against something. It’s what makes a leftist a leftist. Their rage wasn’t caused by Trump, he’s just the thing they rage about today. Yesterday it was something else and tomorrow it will something else again. Rage fills the void where the rest of us have souls. If they didn’t have rage they would be empty, void of a purpose in life. So they rally around whatever it is they rage against at any particular time and it gives them purpose, like an adolescent feeling the adrenaline of being something bigger than themselves for the first time… because that’s what they are – perpetual adolescents getting a rush off the adrenaline of thinking they’re part of a righteous cause. They are stuck in this self-righteous adolescent state with no self awareness and therefore no way to break free from their religion.

    The left fill the higher institutions of culture.
    The left control Silicon Valley.
    The left control the art world.
    The left control popular culture.
    The left witch hunt, shame & fire anyone who transgresses their identity politics.
    And yet the left still claim to be counter-culture dissidents fighting the establishment’, ‘railing against the mainstream’.
    The left are not counter-culture. The left are not dissidents.
    The left are the ultimate conformists.
    The left are the mainstream.
    The left are the establishment.

    Ecclesiastes 10:2 The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.

    • K. Dershem says

      You’re right about one thing: “Caricaturing the left is different than defining the left.” Unfortunately, you’ve done the former.

      • Heike says

        The Right knows the Left very well because it is impossible to make it through the day without being showered with their turds. On the other hand the Left regularly censors the Right and makes up facts out of ignorance (since the real positions have been removed). If one side understands the other better, and by extension probably their arguments better too, and still holds their position…that speaks to the strength of their position. Haidt has done a lot of good work in this field.

        When faced with questions such as “One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal” or “Justice is the most important requirement for a society,” liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree.


        Jonathan Haidt’s experiments ask liberals and conservatives to fill out questionnaires about their values, then to predict how someone from the opposite tribe would fill out the questionnaire. He finds that conservatives are able to predict liberals’ answers just fine and seem to have a pretty good understanding of their worldviews, but that liberals have no idea how conservatives think or what they value.


    • the gardner says

      The left caricatures itself. See nearby article about the obese queer sex therapist and defender of morbid obesity. Her claim—- her obesity is your fault (rage, as you point out) because you shame her. Her eating habits-meh. Does it get any more absurd than that? Are members of IDW supposed to try to include her, reason with her? Putting thumb screws on sounds more appealing.

      • Craig Willms says

        @the gardner

        “The left caricatures itself.”

        one word: AOC

  14. Doug F says

    You really miss the whole point of this loose affiliation. There is only one idea that brings them together – free speech. If you think that is an ideology then yes, they are ideologically homogeneous.

    I think part of your problem is that the far left refuses to play in a world where they are not allowed to shut down the conversation with shouts of various isms. They would be welcome but since they are against free speech what would be the point.

  15. Farris says

    Quoting Emmons “….these classical liberals (the IDW) that they, “believe first and foremost in the rights of the individual and the necessity of critical thought,” that, “it is the classical primacy of free speech that compels them,” that they, “believe in personal responsibility, rationalism, logic, and critical thinking,” and that, “individual freedom is paramount, free speech is non-negotiable, and rational, critical thought is the only reasonable way to discern anything about either the natural world or the self.”

    Perhaps the relevant question is why are progressives now opposed to the freedoms and responsibilities listed above? It is one thing to differ on how to best protect or implement the freedoms and responsibilities above. It is quite another to believe one’s in group no longer seeks to preserve these ideals.

    The author seems to take the position these people are really just conservatives, implying that makes it okay to dismiss them.

    “The majority of people who identify as progressives hold the view that beliefs and behaviour are socially constructed to a significant extent, that discourse influences/normalises behaviour, and that identity plays an important role in how people experience the world, among other things. Whether or not these axioms are always true is not really the point: they are a set of beliefs that help people make sense of the society they live in. For the people that hold these ideas they are more nuanced, not less nuanced than classical liberal ideas.”

    So nuanced that they recommend abandoning freedom of speech and association?
    “The left has increasingly abandoned classical liberalism in favour of an ideology in which identity, structural oppression, and privilege play much larger roles. So, people who insist on holding on to a classical liberal ideology find themselves alienated from the left and welcomed on the centre-right, where that ideology still is dominant.”

    Apparently so. The author appears to be arguing the Left has progressed beyond individual freedoms. The fact that some Leftist may rebel against this alleged progress is not surprising. What is surprising is someone could describe a retreat from individual freedoms and responsibilities progress.

    • the gardner says

      @Farris—-it’s always about getting power and maintaining it. Identity politics, victimhood status are the new ways to power. Being called a racist homophobe is worse than being called a murderer. Americans have allowed themselves to be cowed by such accusations. A few, eg, Candace Owens, are fighting back. So that’s what we need more of…pushing back against these bullies. Maybe that’s part of Trump’s popularity—- he fights back.

      • Farris says


        Perhaps Rubin, Peterson and others are simply pushing back against the zealotry that has manifest itself on the Left. Odd that the author construes this reaction as making Rubin and company conservatives. Apparently the response to zealots makes strange bedfellows.

        • Stephanie says

          Only a radical leftist with a pressing need for purity could utter the astounding claim that anyone who approves of free speech is a conservative. This unidimensional analysis is beyond simplistic, it is absurd, and I think the motivation is malevolent.

          Uri wants to blowbeat the IDW into “accepting” radical leftists, thereby destroying the whole purpose of the group and opening them up to takeover. As if dominance in virtually every media arena weren’t enough!

  16. Kencathedrus says

    ‘You can’t have it both ways; if you’re a classical liberal you’re not beholden to no ideology.’ – This is where I part ways with the author. Classical liberalism is the very antithesis of ideology.

    A classical liberal is willing to change his or her opinion on any given subject when confronted with new evidence.They are anti-authoritarian and will listen to others regardless of their background. Classical liberals have a live-and-let-live mentality. What makes them politically weak is that they are wary of collectives and group-think, but by virtue of this they are also very resistant to ideologies.

    An ideologist, on the other hand, will pretty much ‘shoot’ the messenger when presented with evidence they don’t agree with. They pretend they don’t need leaders, but are always looking for a savior to deliver them from evil. They’re also quick to ban books/films/music written by those they disagree with simply because they’re not ideologically pure enough. In this regard SJWs and Southern Baptists have very much in common despite being each other’s opposites on the Left/Right spectrum.

    ‘The danger for the IDW members is to think that they’re ideology-free while holding to a very distinct classical liberal ideology, and rationalising that apparent contradiction by convincing themselves that the left, which has largely moved on from classical liberalism, has simply gone crazy.’

    The fact that the author conflates classical liberalism with ideology strongly suggests that the author is and always has been ideologically possessed. The Left has gone crazy: when they lobby governments to pass laws that mandate toilet use, curtail free speech, promote unsavory lifestyles, refute science then yes, that is absolutely crazy in my book. You have to be so far down the rabbit-hole of totalitarian ideology not to see this. A classical liberal will never use government to force others to their way of view or pass laws on how people should think or feel.

    A classical liberal would rather be free in inequality than a slave in equality. Wanting to be free is not an ideology but a fundamental human need.

    • Good greif, Ken, there’s so many unexamined assumptions here, it’s not even funny. Where to begin?

      First, your assertion that IDW does not have an ideology. Really? What’s your definition of ideology? Last I checked, liberalism (“Classical” or otherwise) was an ideology. And while I would agree that some ideologies are more absolutist than others, whenever you have series of strongly held beliefs – opinions, ultimately – about how society should be structured, you have a social ideology, even if it’s not a grand ideology on the scale of, say, Juche or fundamentalist Christianity.

      The specifics you invoke look to me more like knee-jerk right-wing assertions that positions arrived at from the pure light of reason. Governments are passing laws to “promote unsavory lifestyles”? Really, Ken? Could you give your objective, reasoned definition of an “unsavory lifestyle”, explain what governments are doing to “promote” them, and how this infringes on your “freedom”? Also, your example of the left “mandating toilet use” – last I checked, it was the irrational right-wing that was pushing “bathroom bills”, actually.

      Your final paragraph makes a couple of assertions about being “free”, but once again, you don’t define that, you just take your own notions of freedom to be self-evident. Could it be possible that your definition of “freedom” is arguable? For starters, where is the freedom to follow what you consider to be an “unsavory lifestyle”? For those of us who aren’t traditionalists, how is there any more “freedom” in the ideology you espouse than there would be for more traditional, conservative folks under the excesses of political correctness?

      If this is really about reason for you, then perhaps these unexamined assumptions are ones you need to have a closer look at.

      • K. Dershem says

        @Galway: excellent comments, both here and above. Almost everyone (with the possible exception of self-professed postmodernists) thinks that they’re being reasonable. Some people are, many are not — logical fallacies abound in arguments made all across the political spectrum. Even when someone is being reasonable, however, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re correct. If they’re reasoning from untrue premises — e.g., that the Bible or the Qur’an is the revealed Word of God and supersedes all human claims — they’ll arrive at false conclusions.

        Everyone has an ideology (“a collection of normative beliefs and values that an individual or group holds for other than purely epistemic reasons”); assumptions and normative commitments are unavoidable. As you’ve said, however, some ideologies are more irrational and/or absolutist than others. Fundamentalists are so committed to their ideology (or blind to the fact that they’re even making assumptions) that they’re unwilling to admit the possibility that could be wrong.

        The IDW challenges the ideology of the Regressive Left, which is often (but not always) held with fundamentalist fervor. However, it’s important that members of the IDW remain self-critical, acknowledging that they, too, have ideological commitments.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @K. Dershem

          Good Morning K, and thanks. We’re smart people here, how is it that elementary mistakes in logic need to be bothered with? Yes, let us hold to the doctrine of eternal self-examination. Let us be fundamentalist rationalists. Extreme pragmatists. Unshakable compromisers.

      • Kencathedrus says

        We can quibble over the term ‘ideology’, but a good example of what I’m talking about is the news media. When I read articles on Quillette, I’m reading opinions and thoughts from a diverse array of writers. I never feel like I’m told what to think or feel, but have the freedom to make up my own mind. There are a lot of articles I disagree with here, but still enjoy reading because they’re usually well-reasoned.

        When I read Slate, Vox, WaPo, The Atlantic, CNN, I feel like I am reading ideological propaganda; I pretty much know the conclusion of each article I read there before I get to the end. They pander to their readers’ world view which is usually one of social justice and oppression. They’re the good guys and anyone who thinks differently is the bad guy.

        I used to be a lot more left-wing than I am now, although I would hesitate to call myself right-wing. I grew up with very liberal-minded people who were mostly selfish and uncaring about anything beyond their immediate concerns. They weren’t bad people, just extremely dysfunctional. I guess I equate ‘conservative’ with being functional and ‘left-wing’ as being dysfunctional. I believe age and maturity may have something to do with it too.

        As for my experiences of ‘unsavory lifestyles being promoted’, I’ve worked in both Higher and Public Education and could go on for hours about the agenda that is being pushed on to young people in the name of ‘sexual freedoms’ and ‘tolerance’. While I couldn’t care less what two or more consenting adults do to each other, I do draw the line at it being taught in schools. I also have friends in the medical field who’ve described the physical injuries that are caused by certain sexual acts and certainly wouldn’t want any students I teach to ever experience that.

        While freedom is, of course subjective, I will end my comment with this quote from Aldous Huxley written in 1947 in his preface to Brave New World:

        ‘Nor does the sexual promiscuity of Brave New World seem so very distant. There are already certain American cities in which the number of divorces is equal to the number of marriages. In a few years, no doubt, marriage licenses will be sold like dog licenses, good for a period of twelve months, with no law against changing dogs or keeping more than one animal at a time. As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensating to increase. And the dictator (unless he needs cannon fodder and families with which to colonize empty or conquered territories) will do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.’

        PS: I do appreciate your counter-arguments. I have a tendency to ramble and miss whatever point I was trying to make. I’m not sure any points I made here are well-formed either, but arguing has never really been my strong suit.

    • Ray Andrews says


      ” Classical liberalism is the very antithesis of ideology.”

      It doesn’t matter. This is an example of the following semantic non-problem:

      ‘Nothing is certain’

      ‘Ah!’ the beginner in the study of logic says: ‘but if nothing is certain, then that statement itself is uncertain, so some things might be certain, which might even include that statement!’ He has discovered internal contradiction. But in natural language we parse ‘nothing is certain’ with no difficulties. In the same way, I might have an ‘ideology’ who’s unquestioned doctrine is that there are no unquestioned doctrines. Except of course the doctrine that there are no unquestioned doctrines … and even that is open to debate.

      So go ahead and say that rationality, open mindedness, appeal to evidence, etc. are an ideology, we know what we mean. We mean that our ideology has very few doctrines other than the doctrine of holding as few doctrines as possible. It isn’t a problem.

  17. Anon says

    I would be interested in seeing serious academics defend the new progressive ideas from formidable criticism. Somehow it just doesn’t register for me how all these positions and ideae cooncide in a single mind without contradictions. I get the feeling that progressives are vageuly unified emotionally, but extremely divided on the set of specifics that they pick and choose from the progressive basket. The same can definitely be said for any group of non progressives, but progressives are the ones who are burning heretics today.

  18. Rendall says

    “If this were true, I argued, we wouldn’t see any members—with the exception of Ben Shapiro—be welcomed by conservatives and dismissed by liberals.”

    Yes, and it was the fundamental logical flaw of that article, too, and why you got such flak. For that to be valid, you must assume that groups welcome everyone who agree with them and reject everyone who disagree. Your entire article rests on this flawed premise, but you just accept it as given.

  19. Arche Lasalles says

    Given absolute truth is unattainable for us mere humans truth cannot be defined by what’s objectively true but whats MORE true.
    Like classical liberalism, capitalism is not the best system but the best we have. Some faults don’t render a system incompetent. Results count.

  20. Euan MacIsaac says

    Is simply asserting that classical liberalism is an idealogy by comparison to other ideologys enough to prove that it is?
    Were is the ideal end state inherent in liberalism that you see in Marxism or neo-liberalism for example?
    What the author is failing to see is that ideology is a lost cause outside of the careerist needs of an out of touch academia. The public realise that the practical problems facing them demand practical solutions. Endless debate about the nature of perception and the paradigms that underpin them solve nothing in the real world. That’s what’s fueling the rage against the elitism of both ”progressivisim”and neo-liberalism.

    Ideology is dead. Like a headless chicken it’s flapping and bleeding and we the public are lighting the BBQ. Bon Appattite.

  21. Muller Holk says

    I appreciate Uri Harris’ two college tries in his recent articles, but I find terribly disingenuous the argument (that apparently he borrows from Ezra Klein) that there just happened to be a “shift” in political alignments such that people who were on the left yesterday (like many of the IDW types) are now on the right. The passive voice is inappropriate–the “shift” didn’t just happen; rather, the Left has added to its list of necessary articles of faith. Nor have the old issues become irrelevant as one would expect in a genuine “shift” (it’s not as if the Left now welcomes prolifers or same-sex marriage opponents). Instead, identity politics has been added as a fundamental litmus test, in addition to all of the previous litmus tests, by which the Left defines its adherents. A “shift” doesn’t begin to describe it.

    • Joana George says

      This might just be me trying to steelman this piece, but I think he was trying to make a different argument by pointing out this alternative alignment.

      If the core values of the IDW are free speech and rationality, then being open minded and trying to bridge the divide would be engaging with opposing perspectives on these specific issues (merits of censorship and importance of feelings).

      I am not sure how such a conversation would be possible as these values relate directly to how such a conversation would take place. I’m now picturing Jordan Peterson sitting on the floor, in a circle with progressives, passing around some form of “feelings stick”, and talking about how hurtful it feels to be called a racist because of how he feels about racists.

      As ridiculous as that image is to me, I think it’s likely that he could get a lot further in reaching that crowd this way than by rationally explaining why he’s not a racist. If that’s the case, and a feelings circle could actually improve communication and give people intimidated by debate a voice, is it really that ridiculous?

      That’s not a rhetorical question. I honestly can’t figure out why it’s not ridiculous while at the same time feel that it’s obviously ridiculous.

      • BrainFireBob says

        There’s also the deplatforming issue. Won’t get intersectionalists in the IDW until they’ve been deplatformed bu something worse

    • BrainFireBob says

      They say the same thing about the parties on race in the 60s.

      Yes, the Southern Strat was a thing. Yes, Southern conservatives who were only Democrats because of Dem opposition to civil rights switched parties once they lost that fight. Does not mean that pro civil right Republicans then switched for fairness.

  22. Sydney says

    The American right is in lockstep with Islamic Sharia in its desire to impose legislation on my female body, so it alienates me. (And funny with the right, since it champions ‘individual freedom’ and ‘individual rights’ for everything else, and for men.)

    The left went full-on totalitarian on everything else, so I’m OUT of there.

    Ergo, I steer straight ahead and veer off only when necessary, and with great care. Why do we require a political or ideological home, or even to strictly define what we are at every moment?

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Sydney: I know where you’re coming from, but I think the American right sees itself as championing the rights of the unborn.

      I’m neither pro-choice, nor pro-life, but I do think abortion should be used as a last resort rather than as a convenient means of contraception.

      I’m in total agreement with you in your last paragraph. It seems like politics has taken the place of religion in governing our personal affairs.

      • Craig Willms says

        How awful, championing the rights of the unborn! My God, what monsters, all of them!

    • Steve says

      Do you believe that a woman should be able to abort a “baby/ fetus” until birth for any reason?

    • Denny Sinnoh says

      On what part of your body did they write the preamble? ?

    • Stephanie says

      Sydney, technically a fetus has its own body and is an individual human with individual rights. The right doesn’t believe that human rights can be withdrawn over a human’s age or degree of dependence. There is no basis for such discrimination.

      Thankfully for those prepared to resort to killing their offspring, it is extremely easy not to get pregnant. Individual responsibility involves taking responsibility for your actions and not killing people because they are inconvenient to you.

  23. neoteny says

    Does it make sense that all these (highly educated and intelligent) people have abandoned classical liberalism, with its supposed emphasis on logic and reason, for an ideology that is intellectually lazy, based on feelings, and which doesn’t meld with rational thought?

    Yes. For detailed discussion, see Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer.

    • Swami says

      Well said.

      I think there is a big difference between an ideology, which is a useful way of economizing thought and knowledge around a shared framework, and being an ideologue, which involves “a blindly partisan advocate or adherent of a particular ideology.”

      Yes, classical liberalism is an ideology, but it is one which specifically warns against and has institutional guards against becoming an ideologue. Progressivism is the exact opposite. It is built upon shooting the messenger, forcing conformity and promoting feelings over facts.

      This debate is the core of the IDW.

  24. Why don’t you start by naming things as they actually are. Gay marriage and abortion are not “old” issues that used to divide left and right, they are “social issues”. Left and right have always been divided partly by social issues, economics and foreign policy. Yes the salience of them waxes and wanes according to the times, clearly economic hard times pushes economics to the fore, wars push foreign policy, and tipping points in societal trends focus attention on social issues. Social issues including issues around sexual orientation and gender and abortion are just as salient now as they’ve been recently. The “modern left” is actually more focused on social issues as opposed to economics and foreign policy than it used to be. So your basic premise is just wrong.

    But even putting that aside, I think the presence of Ben Shapiro on Miessler’s list confuses things. He’s not IDW, he just a young traditional conservative, maybe a particularly smart one if you must distinguish. But he doesn’t really have anything in common with the rest of the people on that list that other conservative voices don’t as well. They are basically “classical liberals” which is a different thing that traditional conservative. The best way to think about it I think is to use the two axis political compass of left/right, authoritarian/libertarian. They are left libertarians.

    They aren’t on the right. It’s just that the left has fractured between the authoritarian left and the libertarian left. The authoritarian left, being authoritarians, seek to shut down all three other political quadrants, which causes to come together in defense of their right to speak. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. If we were in the Soviet Union, of course left liberals and traditional conservatives would unite. They’d have no choice. Same thingholds here.

  25. Serenity says

    Uri, you are right. Ideology is a very broad term. Let’s be precise.

    “Modern progressivism, with its emphasis on identity and structural oppression” is a radical ideology akin to marxism and fascism. It aims to institutionalise preferential treatment of some groups of people at the expense of the others on the individual level – antagonising, polarising society.

    “…affirmative action in practice today is racial discrimination.
    …as Thurgood Marshall once put it to fellow Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, ‘You guys have been practicing discrimination for years. Now It’s our turn.’”

    Uri Harris: “Progressivism is held in some form by a significant portion of academics, including those in the sciences… we’re … talking about a substantial group of highly intelligent people.”

    In the USSR overwhelming majority of academics supported radical marxism. Do you truly believe, Uri, that they were less intelligent than their modern progressive counterparts?

  26. Rob says

    Uri, you’ve answered your own question without knowing it.

    “The question here, of course, is what happens if classical liberalism is not aligned with the pursuit of truth?”

    Here’s the clue: “pursuit”.

    This is an active concept, ongoing, always restless, searching, inevitably questioning and self-questioning.

    As a worldview and as a political theory such an intellectual approach is necessarily antagonistic to an ideological frame of reference. They are incompatible.

    Classical liberalism must always “be aligned with the pursuit of truth” because it is based on an epistemology that asks questions always of the world in which it finds itself–and also of the self who asks the questions (Socrates had a few thoughts on that!)

    The “pursuit of truth” is a necessary condition of the classical liberal mind set.

    Ideological thinking, by contrast, involves operating within a pre-defined set of positions–something rather like your continued use of the rubric “identity, structural oppression, and privilege” throughout your article, by the way.

    These are ideological markers, not matters of fact.

    Ideological thinking is antithetical to a genuinely “liberal” point of view as to be a classical liberal is necessarily to be unconstrained by dogma. It is the fundamental epistemological premise of the liberal worldview–one to which we owe some of the greatest achievements of human civilisation.

    I think you are confusing the notion of political theory and ideology. One can have a perspective on political organisation without being driven by ideology.

    Think again, Uri.

  27. I am an up. Or maybe a down. With 48% US voters identifying as “Independent” why am I subjected to a binary choice? IDW? Depth of intellect of this article:a drying mud puddle. I perceive I would be a “classical liberal.” That doesn’t make me left or right. It indicates I am rational. Blather.

  28. DavidT says

    Yeah, your first article was crap and this one is not much better but at least you kind of acknowledge that your first article was crap.

  29. Cody Smith says

    There are a few straw-men that Uri seems hellbent on holding onto, the primary one being this idea that members of the IDW portray themselves wanting to “bridge a partisan aisle” as some universal good. Uri’s argument seems to follow this logical progression:

    1) The IDW claims to build bridges across the political divide
    2) The political divide has shifted and leftism now means identity politics
    3) The IDW must acknowledge this new leftism or else be invalid in their claims of #1

    The problem is I have a hard time finding instances of the IDW actually making claim #1. I can, on the other hand, think of multitudinal instances of members of the IDW distinctly going out of their way to describe those who are prepossessed with identity politics as not being part of the partisan zone the IDW claims to occupy or wants to reach out to. Uri’s article itself hypocritically acknowledges this in instances.

    It’s hard to not come away from this series of articles thinking anything other than Harris is a proponent of this ‘new leftism’ and wants to portray the IDW members as duplicitious. But the whole argument is hinged on a claim (wanting to bridge political divides) that I can’t remember the IDW ever making. At most, they’ve claimed they want to bridge the political divides between traditional (previous, in Uri Harris terminology) right and left wing policy positions while seeking to ostracize the ideas of the new left, and being very open about doing so.

    • Cody Smith. Well spoken. And thanks for the very useful term “prepossessed” in reference to the Far Left. It somehow crystalizes their approach in my mind and has a nice double meaning of being “possessed” by some sort of mysterious entity.

  30. Closed Range says

    Sorry Uri. It is Emmons who has understood better what is going on, and you are wrong this time. You didn’t fail to articulate your ideas properly before, it’s just that they weren’t that good to start with. You’ve written a lot of good stuff in the past on Quillette but this time it ain’t so.

    I particularly take issue with your claim that progressivism has not replaced classical liberalism because it provides a better explanation of reality, because the oppressions it decries do not exist. Progressivism today is a childish tribal nihilistic and vindictive ideology, and is frankly disgusting to most of us here.

    Instead of being a better explanation, progressivism has been successful largely by having no qualms about using a campaign of terror on any who oppose it. Lynch, violent protests, deplatformings, demands for having ones enemies fired, suspecting an enemy in every corner, attacking people instead of their ideas, fostering moral panics, creating a scapegoat of white men, whipping up tribal fervour, regular calls to violence. This is what progressive activists engage in on a daily basis. No classical liberal would engage in those tactics as it would be directly against the principles themselves.

    Secondly, you are somewhat right that a dictionary definition of ideology allows classical liberalism to be counted as one. But there’s the urban meaning of the word which would be more along the lines of a set of ideas that are formed independently of any real evidence or reason. This is what people mean by ideology in this context.
    It is in this sense that progressivism is an ideology and classical liberalism is not.

    • Closed Range says

      “progressivism has not replaced” should have been “progressivism has replaced”

  31. S.Cheung says

    Mr. Harris has essentially slapped onto it a different shade of lipstick, but the work product is still of the porcine family.

    It is reasonable to suggest that the IDW, who do seem to identify as classical liberals in general, do have a set of beliefs, such as free speech, rational thought, and individual liberty. And that those beliefs are in contradistinction to the modern progressive zeal for feeling that “discourse influences/normalises behaviour, and that identity plays an important role in how people experience the world”. It is also reasonable for those who espouse either set of beliefs to consider theirs as the “more nuanced” way to experience reality, since there is no objective metric to compare their relative “reasonableness”.

    And yet, even having restated the differences in their relative philosophies himself, Harris still faceplants with his attempted conclusion. For if one group rejects, abhors, and suppresses speech, how on earth do you communicate with them? And how would anyone “truly” bridge the gap with them in the absence of a mutual capacity for communication? This of course assumes that the IDW and folks of their “ideology” even ascribe merit and value in any such communication, even if it were possible…and I’m beginning to think they wouldn’t, because the sum total of virtue signalling, identity politicking, cognitive fragility, intersectionality, and equality of outcome, is a morass that IDW types want less of, not more.

    It is also telling that Mr. Harris only frames his pitch in terms of what the IDW need to do. But bridging a gap is a two-way street. WHat about having the regressive left losing a bit of their regressiveness?

    • Closed Range says

      Spot on Cheung. Maybe Harris could remind the regressive left to stop deplatforming people or having them fired for their beliefs. It’s important to note that Peterson was kicked out of a fellowship at Cambridge just recently after an insidious hate campaign for the usual suspects, and countless many less well known individuals have suffered far worse injustices.

      • S.Cheung says

        I believe JP had the audacity to have his picture taken with a dude rocking an “islamophobe” T-shirt in a grip-and-grin line after one of his sold-out talks in New Zealand. It falls under the “you can’t make this shit up if you tried” category.

        • Closed Range says

          Does that mean I can have all my enemies sent to room 101 if I photo bomb them with some similarly non pc t shirt?

          More seriously, the fact of the matter is that Cambridge needs people like JP more than JP needs Cambridge. From the humanities side, it is clear that the best thinkers are more and more operating outside of the universities, which is the universities loss.

          • hail to none says

            @Closed Range: I agree– the most creative thinking on broad philosophical issues is occurring outside of academia. The humanities has been calcifying due to increasingly rigid orthodoxies. How creative can you be when you have to self censor?

        • Ray Andrews says


          I’d bet anyone a beer that one might find a picture of Dr. P having his picture taken with dudes wearing T-shirts that support just about any cause imaginable. Really. Rainbow T-shirts, ‘Che’ T-shirts, Flat-earth T-shirts. Solar-Temple T-shirts. Relax folks.

        • Denny Sinnoh says

          What’s wrong with sarcasm on a t shirt?

  32. Andy Simo says

    Why try to force round pegs into square holes? Can we not proceed from a ‘tabla rasa’ state and deal with each issue separately based on the particular merits of each free from ideological labels that have little value in and of themselves? Perhaps this is the true transcendence we are groping for.

  33. Rev. Wazoo! says

    Harris again tries to remake the IDW into something it’s not so Identitarian control mechanisms can be introduced. It’s not a group of people which some are allowed to join and others excluded or even, as Harris seems to hope for, one from which people can be kicked out.

    Ironically, all Harris has to do to achieve what he demands of the IDW is to proclaim himself part of the Intellectual Dark Web and presto! There’d be someone “in the IDW” who takes far-left (faux-left?) progressivist (regressivist?) ideology seriously. I’m sure Dave Rubin would have him on to outline his ideas. He could rationally and logically explain why rationality and logic are passé. Perhaps a debate with Peterson could be arranged…

    • Chris Power says

      Rev. Wazoo!, your comment made me pause. Most of the other comments were critiques of Uri’s original and follow up essay and I suppose that might have been what he was intending when he wrote them. Perhaps these articles were a way for Uri to find holes in his arguments, so that he could build a better holistic approach to his argument, if he ever had the misfortune to run into the members of the IDW.

      As I was reading the comments I wondered why did he feel the need to write about this subject and I was struggling to find an answer. The IDW, as you state, is not an official designation. There is no secret handshake and the members don’t receive a special membership card, they are just intellectuals who are willing to share their ideas in public. They are also willing to discuss those ideas with other individuals that may not share their particular view of the world. These articles, on the other hand, are just an expression of Uri’s willingness to share his idea with the public however, I do not believe he would be able to discuss this directly with members of the IDW.

      As you stated, Uri could declare himself a member of the IDW and go sit down with Dave Rubin, JBP or Sam Harris however, I doubt he would fare well in those discussions. It seems that Uri is content to deride the members of the IDW from the comfort of his laptop rather than taking a step into the ring.

  34. Andrew Stevens says

    You mention that most critics have not directly addressed your argument. I will attempt to do so here as precisely as possible. You suggested in your previous article that if the IDW wants to be “genuinely non-partisan”, it “needs to open itself up to new left people and ideas”, characterized by “issues of identity, structural oppression, privilege” and “critiques of classical liberal notions of free speech and assembly”. The intractable problem with this conclusion is that the IDW coalesced into existence as a phenomenon specifically to fight against the new social justice left. It is a group of disparate thinkers who gravitated together by virtue of their opposition to this common enemy. They do not all share the same ideology. They do not all identify as classical liberals. They have many disagreements within the group on many issues (not all of which are political such as the major rift between Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris over religion) The one major common thread that unites them is opposition to the social justice left, which they correctly identify as a very serious threat. The fact that they share a common enemy does not make them inherently partisan. Granted, some of the members may relish in the fight itself more than others and get too caught up in the smaller twitter skirmishes, but the reality is that the fight is entirely noble and necessary. There is no reason that they should “open themselves up” to the new social justice left just to outwardly prove some adherence to the principle of bridge-building for its own sake. Their utter and total rejection of the new social justice left does not make them any less open-minded or willing to build legitimate bridges of political divides. Also, It needs to be said that they have not caricatured the new social justice left. The new social justice left needs no caricature. It truly is absolutely “crazy and regressive”. Just look at what happened to Bret Weinstein at Evergreen. That horrific incident is the natural logical conclusion of the new social justice left ideology made manifest. There is a reason that Bret responded so negatively to your original piece. He has experienced the reality of the threat of the new social justice left very literally, as this movement descended upon him, forced him and his wife out of their jobs, forced them out of their state, and even threatened him physically. As Bret Weinstein says at the end of Mike Nayna’s third installment of his brilliant Evergreen documentary, “We have to fight this!”. “This is about a breakdown in the basic logic of civilization and it’s spreading. It actually does jeopardize the ability of civilization to continue to function. These ideas are so toxic and so ill-conceived that, to the extent that they are allowed to hold as if one truth is equal to every other truth, to the extent that this idea is allowed to pervade other institutions on which civilization depends, civilization will come apart.”

    When Bret testified to Congress he said, “Evergreen’s public melt-down placed me at the eye of the storm and cast me into the spotlight. As a member of the Intellectual Dark Web, I find myself at the vanguard of an emerging non-ideological, non-partisan movement. And with the hereodox academy and Foundation for Individual Rights, we are fighting to restore civility and respect for competing perspectives”.

    The fight against the new social justice left is specifically described as a fight to “restore respect for competing perspectives”. The IDW wants real intellectual diversity and the ability to build bridges so badly that they must fight the new left simply in order to reclaim the space in which to have a basic coherent conversation about ideas. The new left does not want a conversation. Again, look at Evergreen.

    Bret goes on to say “my advice to this body is to put the nation and its core values above partisanship and join us in the center to end this cultish power grab and return us to a forward path as a nation”.

    When a congressman refers to the Evergreen mob as ‘the left’, Bret says “I want to push back on the assessment that this was “the left” because really it isn’t one left. There is an ascendent orthodoxy on the left that is very troubling. It is quite broad but not very deep. There’s a concentrated mirror image of that on the far-right and both of these things are to be feared. The problem though is that when you speak out from a perspective on the left that does not fit this orthodoxy you are immediately categorized as ‘on the right’ which makes it look as if the left is monolithic and all shares this opinion, but that’s not the case.”

    I present these quotes from a prominent member of the IDW as they refute your argument about as succinctly as anything could. I hope that you would please consider Bret’s words here and perhaps come back with the third swing on this topic.

  35. Rendall says

    The IDW is against bullying, violence, lying, passing coercive laws and censorship, to advance political ends no matter how righteous those ends appear to be. Other than that, there is no unifying political stance.

    You could be both Identitarian and IDW, if you were willing to hold to principles of free speech and open debate; if you were to reject the notion that your politics are privileged above the “marketplace of ideas”; if you were to understand that using words and strong arguments advances your cause, not somehow oppresses the marginalized.

    The reason there are no Identitarian IDW, is because they have rejected the very notion of principled debate as oppressive. The tactics remaining are suppression and mendacity.

    • One of my issues with the IDW is that with their claim of being non-ideological and representing members with a broad range of ideologies, they implicitly make a claim about what the reasonable range of debate is and that those who fall outside what the IDW is willing to debate are simply extremist and irrational. In other words, the IDW is engaging in the rhetoric of framing the debate, rather than simply asserting their position outright. It’s true that the “social justice” left does a certain amount of this too, of course, though their positions are typically more explicitly and starkly stated.

      Here’s a better example, and one that I think better illustrates the limitations of IDW – could one be both Marxist and IDW – if one adheres to the principles of free speech and open debate? I would assert that there are actually quite a few people out there that fit that definition, and I have serious doubts they’d be very welcome on the IDW. IDW folks are largely free-market libertarians, or at the most, mild social democrats like Eric Weinstein, and are simply not going to debate something as fundamental as capitalism vs. socialism or whether capitalism is ultimately compatible with a just society.

      I could be wrong, but I think that would be considered beyond the pale for most of the IDW folks, and again, that represents a limitation in what they frame as worthy for debate or consideration.

      • Jay Salhi says

        “IDW folks are largely free-market libertarians, or at the most, mild social democrats like Eric Weinstein,’

        Brett Weinstein supported Bernie 2016. Sam Harris is hardly Ayn Rand.

        And why is “free market” used like a dirty word? Free markets have freed more people from poverty than anything else in history. Anyone who professes to care about the poor but doesn’t not support free markets is not really an advocate for the poor.

        • “Free markets have freed more people from poverty than anything else in history.” Debateable, and neoliberalism has also served to keep real wages essentially flat for close to 50 years in developed countries while the economy has largely grown.

          But as I said – debatable. I’d like to see a free-marketer vs Marxist vs Keynsian debate where they all make their best case. Probably not going to happen for a variety of reasons, though.

          • Stephanie says

            Galway, Jordan Peterson debated the Marxist Zizek like 3 weeks ago.

      • peterschaeffer says

        GC, You ask a plausible question “could one be both Marxist and IDW”. I offer Brendan O’Neill (former editor of Living Marxism). Note that he is allegedly “The most hated man on UK campuses”. Note that it is the SJWs who hate him, not the Torries.

      • Rendall says

        “could one be both Marxist and IDW – if one adheres to the principles of free speech and open debate?”

        Sure, but isn’t Marxism and a commitment to free speech and open debate mutually exclusive? Seems like its adherents are more of a “by any means necessary” crowd. An IDW Marxist might find themselves criticizing the tactics of Marxists more than advocating for Marxism… rather like the IDW themselves with respect to the left, as a matter of fact.

        … And, frankly, Marxism is not really “beyond the pale” in the way that the IDW is. The IDW say reasonably Liberal things, and are ostracized by academe and the media. Marxists are not ostracized for saying Marxist things.

        But, yes, in principle there could be an IDW Marxist.

        “I would assert that there are actually quite a few people out there that fit that definition, and I have serious doubts they’d be very welcome on the IDW.”

        IDW is as IDW does. It’s not a club, any more than “adhering to Marxism” is a club.

        “The IDW is engaging in the rhetoric of framing the debate, rather than simply asserting their position outright”

        I find that assertion astonishing. The IDW is against deplatforming, doxing, violence, bullying, rhetorical logical fallacy like appeals to emotion, all of which tactics are framing the debate right now. The reason they are against that is because they have each experienced it, for “simply arguing their position outright.” So, yes, framing the debate is indeed a central concern of the IDW.

    • Ray Andrews says


      That’s the best summary of the case so far.

  36. Hugh Connor says

    This article makes me glad I stood in favour of the publication of the first one. It seems to be a welcome development of the original and to be exactly the sort of challenging piece to which I hope to be exposed in places like Quillette.

  37. dirk says

    Ohne falsche Urteile kann ein mensch nicht leben-, Nietzsche somewhere said (without prejudices one can’t live). One could as well say now: -without caricatures, it’s a difficult life-. I fear, I’m none-stop making caricatures of people and situations around I don’t like or think hypocrite. It just feels good. Even where my fiancee says I’m rather childish and not really grown up in that.

  38. This might be a little off-topic, but I think one of the most objectionable things about this kind of ideological polarization from a civil liberties point of view is that it seems to have balkanized any broad support for civil liberties, especially in the US.

    Generally speaking, objections to police violence and mass incarceration come from folks who align with Black Lives Matter, and aren’t so on fire about free speech issues, and may be dismissive about so-called “free speech absolutism’. The reverse also seems to be true – IDW and right-leaning folks who are on fire about “free speech” often don’t seem to have much to say about police violence, and might even deny there’s an actual problem there.

    Case in point – the “officer involved shooting” of Jason Washington at Portland State University last year: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/07/02/us/portland-state-police-shooting/index.html. Crickets from the IDW-aligned group around Andy Ngo and Peter Boghossian at PSU about the whole thing. And I can’t help but think that if it was a similar situation with a white 2nd Amendment activist with a concealed carry permit getting shot, it would raise hue and cry from the IDW folks and probably little sympathy from the social justice folks who came out in support of Jason Washington.

    Another case in point – the FOSTA/SESTA bill that sailed through congress last year, which basically gutted existing common carrier provisions that had protected internet free speech for the last 20 years. All based on the government’s apparently overwhelming need to keep customers from finding prostitutes. You would think the “free speech” crowd would have been alarmed by this – and to their credit, Reason was all over it. But the IDW folks? Dead silence. In fact, if anything, this was one time at least some of the “social justice” media came out better on a free speech issue.

    • peterschaeffer says

      GC, “often don’t seem to have much to say about police violence, and might even deny there’s an actual problem there.”

      I don’t speak for anyone other than myself. However, I think the myth of radicalized police violence (shootings) is a far bigger problem than the supposed realty. Take a look at the actual data.

      Check out “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force” by Roland G. Fryer. A quote should help.

      “On the most extreme use of force –officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account”

      Note that (too some degree) the BLM movement started with the shooting of Michael Brown. Quote from Wikipedia.

      “On March 4, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice reported the conclusion of its own investigation and cleared Wilson of civil rights violations in the shooting. It found forensic evidence supported the officer’s account, that witnesses who corroborated the officer’s account were credible, and that witnesses who had incriminated him were not credible, with some admitting they had not directly seen the events. The Department of Justice concluded that Wilson shot Brown in self-defense.”

      As for FOSTA/SESTA, I don’t remember much interest in it from anyone (other than perhaps Reason). For different reasons (no pun intended), prostitution isn’t that popular on the right or left.

      By contrast, the end of net neutrality produced a frenzy of mindless rhetoric on the left. Predictably, the new policy has had no noticeable impact so far.

      • “As for FOSTA/SESTA, I don’t remember much interest in it from anyone (other than perhaps Reason). For different reasons (no pun intended), prostitution isn’t that popular on the right or left.”

        And that says a lot about some people’s limited ideas of “freedom”, now doesn’t it. What the SJWs and righties have in common is that “freedom” means “freedom for people who look and think like us”. Not so much people, like sex workers, who for various reasons, both feminists and social conservatives have a lot invested in marginalizing.

        I would also suggest that “freedom” might look very different for groups that seem to inevitably end up on the wrong end of the policman’s gun or truncheon, and why some people might actually care about those civil liberties violations than campus turf wars.

    • Heike says

      So you’re inventing positions you think your enemies should hold, and then criticizing them for the positions you imagined? Can’t make this stuff up, folks.

    • Geofiz says

      1) You seemed to have neglected to mentioned one minor detail about the Portland shooting. THE GUY WAS REACHING FOR A GUN!!! Cops do not have complete information when they come upon a fight in progress. When they see someone reach for a gun, they don’t know whether he is a good guy or a bad guy. All they know is that he could present an imminent threat to them and to others! As one of those 2nd Amendment guys with a CHL I can tell you with great authority that the only discussion that would take place if the victim was white and a gun rights activist is how frigging stupid he was. The consensus would be that this was Darwin at work. You never reach for a gun when cops are at a fight scene and don’t know who’s who – EVER!!!

      2) The FOSTA/SESTA Bill passed with strong bipartisan support. Only in left-wing La La land are sex workers proud young entrepreneurs. There is no profession in which women are more cruelly treated and exploited than the sex trade. It is the only profession in which the slave trade currently exists. Women are bought and sold on a regular basis. The “Happy Hooker” is a myth invented by Penthouse Magazine and maintained by the wacko left. Reality is far far crueler. Restrictions on advertising various products (ex. Cigarettes, alcohol in specific venues etc) have existed for years and are not violations of free speech.

      3) I am sure that Quillette would have no problem if you wrote an article extolling the glories of the sex trade. I can’t wait to comment!!!!

      • For #2, it seems like you’ve bought into more than a few myths, and I get my information about sex work from actual sex worker activists, not from Penthouse, thank you very much. I also don’t get my information from the religous right/radical feminist allience that’s been trading in myths about porn and sex work since the 1980s for largely ideological reasons.

        (BTW, “it’s just leftist la-la land” doesn’t actually constitute an argument – hate to break it to you.)

        BTW, “strong bipartisan support” doesn’t mean a damn thing. As I’ve been arguing concerning the IDW, their version of conservative and liberal does not define the bounds of valid debate, and the even more limited Democrat vs Republican one has even less bearing on reality. Marijuana is largely being legalized in flat out contradiction to the “bipartisan consensus” of the War on Drugs era – there are some places where culture outpaces politics, and I think that will eventually happen with the sex trade.

        • Kencathedrus says

          @Curiousblue: the difference here is that people could freely discuss those issues you mention and not have to worry about being labeled bigots or have their articles or comments disappear. On more leftist websites even the most innocuous comments will be removed if they express the slightest doubt of a leftist idea. No matter how noble or righteous the cause, if questions and opinions are censored I will not support it.

  39. E. Olson says

    Let me simplify this whole issue.

    The Left sees an imperfect world and seeks to use any coercion necessary to make the world perfect from their point of view. They see the world as a battle between the powerful and the weak, and see coercion as necessary to overcome the structural advantages and privilege the powerful use to keep the weak down, and the reluctance of the powerful to voluntarily give up their authority and tools of oppression. Leftist perfection is defined by the current weak/oppressed taking over the reigns of power and privilege to eventually move towards perfect equality of outcomes across all comparative groups. The Left see the government as the ultimate tool and solution to fixing imperfections, largely due to its greater coercive power to mandate and enforce desired policies and outcomes.

    The Right sees an imperfect world and tries to make the best of it because they accept that nothing will ever be perfect for everyone. They are consequently resistant to change existing conventions and institutions because they believe God created them this way for a reason (religious justification), or because they are the products of thousands of years of trial and error that makes them the least imperfect, and that alternatives to current conventions and institutions are therefore likely to make current imperfections worse or create new problems (pragmatic justification). The Right sees government as ultimately as corruptible and imperfect as society as a whole, and hence is reluctant to grant it too much power and authority to “fix things”.

    Classic Liberals see an imperfect world and try to use logic, research, debate, and persuasion to move behaviors and institutions towards fairer treatment for more people than is current. Liberals also tend to be conflicted about using government to fix things, because they usually recognize the corrupting influence of absolute government power, but can also be tempted to use it when dealing with “close-minded” people who refuse to be persuaded by science, reason, and logic to voluntarily move in the more “perfect” direction.

    The current IDW membership is comprised of people on the Right and Classic Liberals, who can get along and debate because of their shared aversion to coercion and government tyranny, common recognition that the world can never be equal and fair to everyone, and common understanding that there are almost always known and unforeseen tradeoffs associated with any change to existing structures and institutions. Because they both recognize the impossibility of ever achieving perfection and the tradeoffs of change, people of the Right and Classic Liberalism can also share a common sense of happiness and contentment with the world as it is. In contrast, the Left sees government tyranny as a feature and not a bug, as long as they control the levers of power to make citizens do what is “good for them” whether they like it or not. But because the world has so far refused to ever be perfect, the Left is always in a constant state of anger and hostility, which makes them impossible to engage, debate, or have reasoned discussion.

  40. Gonout Backson says

    “… it provides a more coherent explanation of social phenomena and clearer solutions for improving society.” Of course, it does. That’s what fabricated, undisprovable ideologies – better known as “secular religions” – are fabricated for.

  41. Jimbo says

    identity politics constitutes a Karpman drama triangle with victim/savior/persecutor roles. lefties have a taboo on victim-blaming because taking responsibility for oneself and becoming an adult is how you exit the triangle. it is only those in the savior role who divide the world into oppressor/persecutor and oppressed/victim.

    here’s a TED talk about it, but a simple YouTube search reveals plenty of related content. it’s pretty easy to grasp intuitively such that one can try to improve interpersonal and political relationships.


  42. Jon says

    I think the problem with this piece and with the author’s previous essay on the topic is that they both take as given that Progressive politics is synonymous with current ideas popular within Progressive politics, such as identity and intersectionality. This leads to the need to redefine classical liberals as conservative due to their disagreement with those current popular ideas, vs. their position on political issues that typically define right vs. left (not to mention their own political identification).

    But if one instead assumes that identity/intersectionality/et al to be a set of ideas competing with other ideas to define the Left end of the political spectrum, then there is room for those who embrace these ideas and those who do not under the banner of Progressive politics. Such ideas will have to battle it out with competitors if they want to dominate one end of the spectrum (rather than just be declared the winner in advance of argument), but that’s how politics works (or is supposed to work) when it comes to moving minds through deliberation vs. declaration.

  43. Ye, ye, every direction of meta-thinking is an ideology. Let’s say we agree on that.
    Some ideologies are better than other, because they leave space for other ideologies to exist and express themselves, build influence, etc.

    What I will not agree with is the narrow-focused distinction made by Vox: the Left is not just about intersectional identity politics, it is primarily about 1. economy, and 2. how societal/political issues are solved.

    If any argument you give with regards to any issue stemming for either of the two main areas start with “The state needs to”, or “We should pass a law”, or “We need to regulate”, you are a Leftist.

    If your argument only includes questions of state/institutional-authority interference, either approving or disapproving, then you might be any other thing on the political spectrum.

    • Also, way to go with argument from authority: university professors are progressives, and university professors are intelligent, so the ideas on which progressivism is based must be… intelligent and correct?
      Here is the big secret: those ideas are just plain easy to handle, simple, cover-all, explain-all, no effort needed to apply, rotating same conclusion on very different topics over and over and over again.

      It’s easy. That is why it’s so popular.

  44. E Taph says

    If classical liberalism is an ideology, please explain what other descriptor would position you outside of the existing group ideologies(conservatism, progressivism). Because this mode of reasoning smacks of the idea that it’s impossible to be free of religious belief, as atheism for instance, is a belief about religion, rather than the default hypothesis.

    “Ah, by moving outside the ideological group, you’re making one of your own along with everyone else who also chose to”. Or it can be viewed as a refusal to politicize basic civilizational axioms and create loops of semantics how freedom of speech gets you trapped in a bubble of like-minded individuals who aren’t free enough to denounce the freedom of speech, peace being war and all that shtick we’ve been warned about by Orwell.

    • E Taph says

      “Does it make sense that all of these (highly educated and intelligent) people have abandoned classical liberalism, with its supposed emphasis on logic and reason, for an ideology that is intellectually lazy, based on feelings, and which doesn’t meld with rational thought?”

      Yes, it absolutely does, as structural oppression and ‘the bigots did done it’ is the easiest prepackaged explanation that can be made for any social phenomenon. Doesn’t require you to think much in a case-specific manner either, doesn’t require you to understand statistical analysis, just regurgitate slogans and pat yourself on the back for how you’ve just made society a couple percent better(you did not). Same as marxist theory is way easier to grasp than classical economics. All the highly educated and intelligent people are in STEM disciplines and you should probably see the relative popularity of political leanings there vs social sciences.

      The point is, social sciences already got its replication crisis, after years of accumulated public distrust and now they’ve started to realize how woefully inadequate the majority of their approaches to excavating knowledge are. They won’t be winning battles with their theorizing, as that function had already atrophied. Hence we’re dealing with theories that aren’t meant to convince anyone rational as that’s simply ineffective by this point, as much as pretend that irrationality was required all along to make the world a better place, and if logical thought doesn’t help, belief will.

      It makes perfect sense that those “highly educated” people have abandoned classical liberalism if you’re watching it from the perspective of half the academia gradually transforming itself into a diploma mill. Now the diplomas are so useless they have to start selling secular indulgences instead and the rest of the society has to be prepared as a market for their latest useless ware.

  45. Lightning Rose says

    What makes us “IDW?” The fact that we’re not getting censored by Facebook? I found this site when it was linked from Real Clear Politics; not exactly “dark” in the sense of child traffickers and international hack-ops.

    I don’t see any “intellectual laziness” here; far from it. What I DO see is a great number of people capable of clearly and thoughtfully expressing views from all over the spectrum and making each other think without devolving into flame-throwing and other juvenile emotional incontinence.

    Which makes us officially dangerous, I suppose . . .

  46. Denis Leonard says

    The duality in question is very clear once you get your head out of the weeds. The IDW is very partisan in favor of defending western civilization against the barbarians at the gate. The barbarians are the deconstructionist in the guise of SJW, socialists, post moderns, etc, etc. All the rest is smoke.

  47. lsmith76 says

    Reference Jonathan Haidt’s six pillars of morality: Care, Fairness, Liberty, Loyalty, Sanctity and Purity. Progressives & hard left types focus all their energy on “Care” or rather, misguided notions of care, compassion, empathy, etc. Conservatives and free thinkers historically have enjoyed a more balanced menu of all six pillars as the foundation of a high quality life and culture.

  48. “[W]e can’t simply assume that the IDW is politically diverse because many of its members hold policy positions that have traditionally put them on the left. If they generally hold positions that place them on the right with respect to the culture war (i.e., regarding issues such as identity, structural oppression, and privilege), then they could very well lack political and ideological diversity on questions that are becoming more and more central to cultural and political discourse.”

    IDK, maybe we can assume “the IDW is politically diverse” when defending ideological diversity is the whole point; while the core tenet of today’s Progresssives is that ideological diversity must be stamped out.

    The substance of disagreements internal to Progressivism is characterized by debating micro-aggressions based on identity-victim-group creds. The substance of internal disagreements for the IDW is, shall we say, more diverse than that.

    The IDW is (more nearly) ideologically neutral in allowing other ideologies to be professed. Requiring the IDW to profess no opinion on anything, is a joke, tight? Apparently not:

    “…Emmons is claiming that members of the IDW are classical liberals with a distinct set of beliefs (individual liberty, personal responsibility, free speech, rationalism, logic, critical thought), but also that they are essentially ideology-free (not in service to any ideology, not driven by any ideology, not proponents of any ideology, questioning the basis of all ideologies). ”

    One might say, instead, that the IDW is open to the possibility that other ideologies may have some points. The Progressives deny this possibility. One might also observe that ideology-free means allowing other ideologies, even if you disagree with them. I.e., not “driven” to impose your ideology via politics.

    “[T]his ideological shift carries over to activism, leading to a greater desire to regulate speech, to ensure more diversity, and to prioritise structural changes. These accompany a shift away from classical liberalism as a model of human society and behaviour.”

    The “ideological shift” left is not to any new ideology, it’s just the ancient totalitarian impulse being applied to First World problems. Problems created in part by Progressive ideological ridgidity applied to the Overton window. I read “activism” as supression of any mode of thinking other than Progressive, “regulate speech” as just what it says, “more diversity” as something desirable only so long as it excludes diversity of thought, and “structural change” as totalitarian.

    The central point Mr. Harris is making is a diversion, for all its false concern about IDW diversity.

  49. Can we please stop putting Dave Rubin in this grouping? He’s a lightweight. My views differ from Ben Shapiro in a range of areas but I respect his intellectual curiosity and often find him convincing. Rubin is a hack who can barely finish a sentence without some vapid self serving misrepresentation of someone he doesn’t like or some position he doesn’t understand. His only claim to fame is providing a platform for the views of some pretty terrible thinkers like Candace Owens and letting them mouth off unchecked by any real interrogation. Harris, Shapiro and Rogan are far more interesting in that regard.

    Also can we drop this idea that just because you’re pro gay pro choice you’re a liberal? Our politics are a little more complicated than that.

    • Rob says

      This is somewhat ungenerous.

      I think it doesn’t take account of the role Dave Rubin has had in pushing the boat out for people like Jordan Peterson or Bret & Eric Weinstein–and at times when they were being cold-shouldered elsewhere.

      One of the things that has been most effective about the IDW is its ability to reach beyond the usual communication channels–and people like Dave Rubin have had a significant role to play in helping this along.

      You need the 3 Cs to get challenging ideas out into the current: Creativity, Communication, Commitment.

      Big-C creative people benefit from the communication skills of others, skills they may not always have themselves–and there’s definitely a place for Rubin’s mild, easy-going approach in that role.

  50. Marcus T Anthony says

    Sooner or later we are all going to have to move beyond the left-right divide, stop identifying with either side. There’s plenty I can agree and disagree with in this article, but I won’t say much except that it doesn’t really address the concerns a lot of people like me have about the dominance of a cult-like mob of activists who are dominating far too much time and space in education, media, workspaces and public discourse, to the detriment of the open society. Still, there’s a big group of reasonable people on both sides who are redeemable, and perhaps they are the ones we should invest time into communicating with.

  51. Uri Harris seems to think the IDW should try to build a bridge to the ideas of the identity politics types. Does he not understand that many of us think their ideas are just plain wrong and need to be combatted. There is a time when you should build bridges and there is a time when you should just stand up for what you think is right. After all the SJWs were not interested in building any bridges with Bret Weinstein and others like him.

  52. Uri, you confuse political ideology with core values.

    Classical liberalism is about fundamental Enlightenment values upon which the West’s representative governments and public institutions have been built. These values allow for a political/ideological divide between Left and Right. The IDW reflects this makeup.

    Today’s Regressive/Ctrl Left is an intolerant political ideology that rests on implementing anti-liberal values. There is no political middle ground to be found in this model of group identity hierarchy; there’s only power imbalances, the root cause of victimhood and victimizers. After all, it doesn’t take a doctorate in post secondary studies to understand that hierarchy is fundamentally necessary for the ideology to work: it requires an ‘Us’ and ‘Them’.

    You can’t have a hierarchy based on only Us. Duh.

    This means there can be no mutually respected and acceptable political divide. This means there can be no fundamental equality between members of different hierarchical groups. This explains why intersectionality is all about total ranking for placement in the group-based hierarchy.

    And, to be clear, there is only one correct hierarchical political ideology allowed: group identity and assigned membership. There is no acceptable disagreement this model can tolerate and still function. That’s why it’s anti-liberal. That’s why it is totalitarian. Its values are incompatible with Western liberal secular democracies. The simple yet elusive truth of the matter is that you can’t have it both ways as a befuddled ideologue and pretend anti-liberal values and classical liberal values can function well together. One must choose. Either/Or.

    So your call for the IDW to be more inclusive with those who reject the very values necessary for inclusion in Western secular liberal democracies is truly asinine, shortsighted, and dangerously apologetic for this growing toxic totalitarian ideology that has co-opted today’s so called victim-protecting ‘Left’ under the misnomer of seeking social ‘justice’.

    • Tildeb. Thanks for this cogent explanation. Makes some of my headache regarding this topic go away. And “assigned membership” is brilliant. Scary, but brilliant.

  53. Harris switches between ideology and political ideology. Peterson and the like claim to have no political ideology, I.e. are not partisan like many conservatives and libertarians and progressives. They are the new synthesis, and far left and far right do not comprehend.

  54. Jason Cooper says

    Vapid article arguing for the dissolution of the Center through a conservative version of a Guardian hit piece.
    The fact that many people are calling this out is evidence of two things…hard conservatives are just as much a caricature as the hard Left…and most people recognize a shit show drum circle regardless of which tribe is setting the beat.
    Left wing, Right wing…nothing without the head and heart that is the Center.

    • Stephanie says

      Jason, you walked away from this article thinking Uri was a conservative? Oh boy…

  55. Roy Coleman says

    So Uri, what are ‘some of the ideas forming on the left’? Apart from the ideological triumvirate you specify, that is.

  56. xyz and such says

    Uri, how can you seriously make this statement:

    “Why is this ideology, rather than classical liberalism, not a better path to truth, logic, and critical thought?”

    Progressive ‘ideology’ flaunts its opposition to ‘logic’ and ‘critical thought’ – it’s written into its politics and adherence to ‘critical race theory’. If you are honestly making this statement at the beginning of your article, I can’t believe anything other than you’re coming from a place that is entirely disingenuous or else completely naive.

    • xyz and such says

      Ok, so you follow up with this:

      “Let’s stop for a second and do a sanity check. Progressivism is held in some form by a significant portion of academics, including those in the sciences. Even if we assume Emmons is talking only about modern progressivism with its focus on identity and structural oppression rather than progressivism more generally (this is not entirely clear), we’re still talking about a substantial group of highly intelligent people. Does it make sense that all of these (highly educated and intelligent) people have abandoned classical liberalism, with its supposed emphasis on logic and reason, for an ideology that is intellectually lazy, based on feelings, and which doesn’t meld with rational thought?”

      My comments:

      I’ve worked in academic research and have a graduate level degree – Professors and people with PhD’s are often the most narrow-minded and lack a certain kind of intelligence that enables critical thinking. Many are so focused on a very narrow subject matter and cannot think outside their own bubble-world. So, it’s not a fair assumption to make that because Professors are book smart, that they necessarily are capable of critical thinking. Just in the same way that when you evaluate clinical research, you have to understand that when there is a ‘robustness’ in one area, there is necessarily a weakness or ‘error’ in another.

      Also, being anti-identitarian does not necessitate that one doesn’t also understand how systems and power can cause harm and marginalization. It’s a logical error to conflate this. One can have this understanding of systemic abuses and fight for the rights of marginalized people(s); and also understand that the current ideological stance based in CRT is profoundly dangerous and short-sighted and does not lead ultimately to where those espousing it believe it will. One can understand the inherent inequality and abuses of ANY system, work toward ending it; and can concurrently embrace the notion of everyone’s right to speech – and actually recognize that without that ability for us to speak and discuss even ‘dangerous’ ideas, those very principles are at risk.

      • “I’ve worked in academic research and have a graduate level degree – Professors and people with PhD’s are often the most narrow-minded and lack a certain kind of intelligence that enables critical thinking. Many are so focused on a very narrow subject matter and cannot think outside their own bubble-world. So, it’s not a fair assumption to make that because Professors are book smart, that they necessarily are capable of critical thinking.”

        That’s been very much my experience as well, actually. Many academics are good at critical thinking around a narrow set of questions and too often not very good at applying it outside of that. Especially things they have a strong emotional attachement to, which how politics is for most of us. I know a prof who teaches physiology, yet gets mad at me when I put down homeopathy. I’ve never gotten a straight answer as to how that person squares their understanding of physiological and chemical process with an idea like homeopathy that seemingly totally contradicts that.

        • K. Dershem says

          I recently had an conversation with a student who believes in the efficacy of homeopathy. When I explained to her how it supposedly works, she agreed that it doesn’t make any sense — and supposed effect is almost certainty the result of a placebo effect. Nevertheless, she plans on continuing to use homeopathic treatments. Anecdotal evidence is extraordinarily powerful: it’s “worked” for her in the past, and therefore she’s convinced that it will work in the future.

  57. Joe Van Steenbergen says

    So true; “so many words, so little thought.” I had to skip the drivel and rush to the end to find the point of the article. IMO, the radical Left has gone crazy, and members of the IDW are under no obligation to find a way to bridge any gaps between themselves and the radical Left. Why should we assume they have such an obligation?

  58. François Grin says

    I’m afraid I found Harris’s piece very unconvincing. The problem is, at heart, one of methodology, and it has nothing to do with whether one holds “progressive” or “classical liberal” views. The question is whether one uses proper scientific method to analyze reality, or replace it with pure subjectivity. A classical liberal can perfectly well agree that systemic racism can objectively exist — but it has to be established scientifcally, that’s all. Any good researcher applying good, solid scientific methodology can be just as critical and progressive than any SJW — except that as a good researcher, s/he would do it in a way that makes sense and is open to falsifiability.

  59. Alex Namzoff says

    I see lots of issues with this line of thought:
    1. It concedes that the left has moved to embrace modern progressivism. I disagree. A portion of the left has embraced modern progressivism, and they are a loud and visible portion thanks to their control of academia, media and hollywood. That does not make them the majority of the left. This is a fight over who the left is, you can acknowledge there is a far left (modern progressive) element without agreeing they are now the new left.

    Just because a lot of people adopt something, doesn’t mean everyone else should grant it intellectual validity. Having professors or media pesronalities who have obtained their jobs because they agree with this ideology does not mean they deserve the respect of traditional academics or journalists. Just because you let your friends in the back door of the movie theater doesnt mean once they are inside they should be treated like paying customers.
    Modern progressivism does not provide a way for society to “address its problems”. It redefines what the problems are and what the goals are. So to suggest it is a legitimate alternate ideology is disingenuous, and to suggest everyone else needs to take it seriously and address it as an equal is dangerous because it will distract our society from it’s generally agreed upon goals.

    Mainstream conservatives suggest we keep the government limited to enable the market to create the greatest growth in prosperity possible and allow everyone the opportunity to participate.
    Mainstream (traditional) liberals / leftists suggest we use the market but keep stronger control over it through the government to minimize inequality even if that reduces prosperity growth overall.
    Modern progressives suggest we focus completely on inequality to the exclusion of considering growth and even at the risk of overall decline.

    The goal of modern progressivism is not to grow, it is to redistribute what we have, even if that means we reduce overall prosperity. It is the only approach that pits one group of people against another and is willing to hurt society as a whole in order to reach its goals. It sets in motion a downward trajectory and does not need to be given equal footing in a discussion about how to benefit society as a whole because that is not its goal. And everywhere it has been tried it has cost the lives of millions of people. To suggest this is an alternative ideology that deserves a place at the table is ignorant. If a company hires someone who then demands they function as a non profit and risk the functioning of the company as a whole you don’t put them on the board of directors, you fire them.

    People like Dave Rubin and others have been shunned by the so called modern progressives, who as I mentioned control the media, because they are heretics. So to suggest they are now conservatives because aside from fellow heretics the only people in the media that will speak to them are conservatives is also disingenuous. If they want to get their message out then the only way to do that right now is through conservative channels.

    I am surprised Quillette is publishing this nonsense, its just a lot of claims with no facts to back them up.

    • @Alex
      “A portion of the left has embraced modern progressivism”

      That portion of the Left is defining the ‘left.’ And it’s leaking into the real world where Dem Presidential candidates all pay it homage. Scary.

      Just like Trump is defining the ‘right.’ Also scary.

    • xyz and such says

      I think it’s great that they (quillette) has published it… it gives us the medium to challenge those ideas. If this was published somewhere else and anyone tried to refute it, they would be shouted down as a white supremacist or shadow-banned.

  60. Jairo Melchor says

    “Caricaturing the Left”

    You see Harris no one really does that. They do that themselves with news in every week like a recent one that you would take out of a looney cartoon like a duck candy made of chocolate named “Ugly Duck” is racist and was taken out of store due to complaints.

    What IDW and reasonable people do is just mock and shine light on the terrible flawed issues of those of the left.

    • K. Dershem says

      This is nutpicking: “the fallacious tactic of picking out and showcasing the nuttiest member(s) of a group as the best representative(s) of that group — hence, ‘picking the nut’. It’s cherry picking a poor representative of the group – almost a straw man – to use as ad hominem against the group.” Progressive websites (like Right-Wing Watch) do the exact same to conservatives, with equally unfortunate results: perpetuating the false belief that everyone on the “other side” is extreme and irrational. Red meat for true believers, and fuel for the polarization that’s making it more and more difficult to have constructive conversations.

      • E. Olson says

        K – actually no it isn’t cherry picking when the Leftist nut jobs are senators, members of congress, governors, and mayors, with some of them running for the US Presidency. Perhaps they don’t all believe in the extremist Leftist nonsense, but they are running their campaigns in support of nutty positions such as open borders, Green New Deal, BLM, wealth taxes, etc., which means they think that is where the votes are. And if that is where the votes are, then the nuts represent the majority of Democrats.

      • Heike says

        It’s not the nuttiest members of the group. It’s the whole group.

        Go ahead and speak out against this kind of thinking. We’ll wait with cameras to document the resulting carnage.

        “When it comes to conversations about social justice and oppression, objectivity is a myth.” https://everydayfeminism.com/2016/03/objectivity-can-be-oppressive/

        “Objectivity as found through rational thought is a western and masculine concept that we will challenge throughout this text.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIOX1hVRE8Y

  61. Good to see non-hysterical criticism of the IDW. Not fully convinced by this article though. I was born into and surrounded by the left, and have witnessed the shift first hand. This wasn’t an intentional assessment that found classical liberalism wanting, they just kept one upping eachother until they slipped all the way down the slope. Most really have become caricatures of themselves.

  62. Jairo Melchor says

    1.- “Does it make sense that all of these (highly educated and intelligent) people have abandoned classical liberalism”

    It seems to me that Harris is yet again using a set of people to describe things without naming the stuff that they do and the things they campaign against.

    In this case, he seems to be referring to either the assumption that someone in academia is automatically highly educated and intelligent (like some Gender Studies professor), or he’s talking about the actual intelligent people that can’t and won’t do anything against this stuff because they are inmediately silenced, mocked, unpersonned and vanished from their jobs and lives. So all they can do is “support” this stuff.

    2.- “it provides a more coherent explanation of social phenomena and clearer solutions for improving society”

    I’m sorry. What the actual fuck? I will go full retard with this and just outright say the methodology of the current left in power to “explain” and “improve” society:


    There. Simple and easy with no nuance at all. Their whole movement is based on those moral outrage and discrimination of people they don’t like. Specially against whites (and i live in SA btw).

  63. derek says

    You condemn yourself and your acolytes with one sentence, and you are so profoundly unaware that you didn’t see it.

    “Modern progressivism, with its emphasis on identity and structural oppression, has replaced classical liberalism among many people for a reason: it provides a more coherent explanation of social phenomena and clearer solutions for improving society.”

    If you think that three words describe the structure of society and the lived experiences of billions of people, you are frankly beyond hope.

    All i see in this and your other article is an intense desire to put things in tidy little boxes. That impulse coupled with power is called totalitarianism.

    I know you refuse in your self righteous zeal to recognize this but your ideas come to fruition are the definition of evil. That is why these interesting and all very different people won’t have anything to do with you or your ilk. You are right they are your enemy. There is no common ground between an ideological totalitarian and anyone else

  64. asdf says

    Modern progressives like your quoted Ezra Klein have an ideology that is false, but they push it anyway for their own ends. For instance, Ezra insists Charles Murray is wrong on IQ, and he doesn’t really have the evidence on his side. He can publish Voxplainer after Voxplainer of bad analysis on the subject, but it doesn’t change the fact that the evidence isn’t on his side. He can get lots of people with lots of authority to back him up, but it doesn’t change the fact that the evidence isn’t on his side.

    And that’s the problem. Progressivism doesn’t offer a more coherent worldview. It offers are more effective path to personal gain through weaponized ideology, and that is a path that is tempting to many people, intellectuals among them.

    The IDW simply calls it like it is.

  65. Owntown Dart Scene says

    Ever had that discussion with friends who are completely flabbergasted by the actions of the “Social Justice” enthusiasts? You know, “If they are so against the Patriarchy, how come the Hijab fetish?” And so on and so forth.

    If you’re anything like me, you’ve had that conversation so very, very many times. And comes a time when you just have to quit wrestling with the smokescreen of sophistry and defer to the obvious. It’s not about a “coherent ideology” at all, but the logic of pathology. ALL the contradictory positions can be reconciled through the lens, if you will, of virulent oikophobia (as coined by Sir Roger Scruton.) These people are simply lashing out against whatever they perceive to be typical and accepted in their own culture (accurately or not), in a pathological redramatization of adolescent struggles. How are you supposed to “bridge the divide” to that, in “good faith” no less?

    Speaking of good faith, one should never invoke the shameless operative Ezra “JournoList” Klein in the same area code. To be sure, I’m not suggesting shunning the hack. Merely that no one should waste their precious seriousness on such a character.

    • Peter from Oz says

      You are correct. It commences as an intellectual parlour game, in which a well-meaning but silly person tries to prove how intellectual he or she is by coming up with arguments contradicting an accepted truth. This develops into oikophobia, because the silly young things become fixated with differentiating themselves from the rest of us.
      However, there is a great deal of hypcrisy involved, as the oikophobe wants to be seen as better than the mass of people in his or her culture whilst somehow also being supportive of the disadvantaged and needy.
      The sophistry spouted by the SJW left becomes more and more elaborate as they continue to find themselves in philosophical cul de sacs. This means they beome more inured in the cult of progressivism and are freed from proper intellectual inquiry. We thus owe them no mercy.
      SInistra delenda est

  66. … If they generally hold positions that place them on the right with respect to the culture war (i.e., regarding issues such as identity, structural oppression, and privilege)….

    No, that merely places them somewhere to the right of the radical left. And nearly the entire political spectrum — including the moderate left — is to the right of the radical left.


    … they need to be more inclusive to people and arguments on the other side of the divide on these important issues.

    Why should they, when they consider those arguments fundamentally wrong & dangerous, and those who promulgate them illiberal authoritarians?


    While I certainly welcome criticism, it seems to me that a lot of it didn’t directly address my arguments. (Which suggests I didn’t do a good enough job of articulating them!)

    You were quite clear in drawing your arbitrary Left-Right boundary between the Identitarian Left and everyone else. Unsurprisingly, liberals, moderates, and centrists, both in the IDW and at large, reject your demarcation and your lumping in with ‘conservatives’ of everyone who’s not a regressive leftist.


    Modern progressivism, with its emphasis on identity and structural oppression, has replaced classical liberalism among many people for a reason: it provides a more coherent explanation of social phenomena and clearer solutions for improving society.

    Actually, it’s complete dogshit. Recognizing it for the incoherent, anti-science, doomed-to-fail, orwellian dogshit it is does not make one a conservative.

    This is a two-front war; Liberals and Regressive Lefts are enemies, not allies.

  67. Progressives have left classical Liberalism, but they have not moved on to something new. They have moved back to Marxism. Progressivism is actually a revival of Marxism around the old Marxist idea of structural oppression, but with different emphases reflecting the ideas around which the oppression is claimed to be organized. Rather than oppression organized along class lines, one has oppression based on ethnicity, race and gender.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Actually, they have moved on to folk-marxism

  68. Michael says

    Sorry for my lack of nuance but, as a summary of this word salad I quote noted intellectual Pewee Herman, “I know what you are, but what am I?” This is a convoluted whine-fest declaring that IDW isn’t serving the author’s “needs” for Nuancing Away anything that shows the modern progressive left for what it is – ridiculous and insane. An ever shifting silly-putty like set of “belief systems” that form a patch-work of quicksand bogs set to trap unwary travelers through their territory so as to maintain their power and control over the institutions and agencies who pay them. Most annoying is the cloying references to his fellow progressive’s “high intelligence.” And the claim that it’s impossible to imagine they could have “simply gone crazy” madly chasing the mobs in search of popularity, fortune, and higher status. Perhaps Mr. Harris might take a moment to read another Quillette piece, and reconsider his objections & claims: https://quillette.com/2019/04/27/what-i-saw-at-middlebury-college/ There is objective truth, and it requires no “ideology”, or “critical theory”, or “deconstruction”, or “social constructs” to grasp it.

  69. codadmin says

    The new divide is crystal clear. Those who hate white people and those who don’t.

    The liberals of the IDW are not anti-white racists. That’s the only thing that makes them even slightly controversial and different from the fascists who masquerade as liberals.

    Oh, and Zizek is part of the IDW too, he just doesn’t know it yet.

  70. Kencathedrus says

    I really dislike the term ‘Intellectual Dark Web’. First off, much of it is not intellectual at all – it is mostly basic common sense that disputes the bizarre narratives emanating from media and academia.

    Secondly, why it called the ‘Dark Web’? I always thought this term was used to describe parts of the internet inhabited by criminals and sexual predators. Since when is disagreement to a political narrative considered ‘dark’? And if websites like Quillette are ‘dark’ which ones are ‘light’? Facebook and Twitter? Medium?

    • dirk says

      I think, dark web is a rather clear and good expression, makes sense. Dark and black is no longer negative, as you know. the opposite of white and political correct, i’t’s high time for the dark angels, all those white, decent, correct angels, enough is enough. Even if you talk like an angel, you can be the devil in disguise, a good devil of course, but a dark one.

      • dirk says

        I’m not talking of skin colour here, that may be clear, more on the sinister side of positioning oneself, not the degenerated left, but the dark, new left, the left of “epater le bourgeois”, that PC bourgeois, you know, the hypocrites, the neat big common. Each timespan has its own dark niche to revolt, this one here is properly named, I think, the ” Intellectual Dark Web”.

        And the comments express this often more clear than the articles and official essays themselves! (just read the characterisation in the blog -Why evolution is true?-, ……..articles are generally leftwing……., yes that’s what they say there, unbelievable…..

        • Kencathedrus says

          @dirk: while the articles are interesting, I actually come here for the comments 🙂

          • dirk says

            That’s how it is with #metoo, Ken, quite often, I even start with the comments, and only where I don’t understand them enough, or where I’m particularly interested in the theme, I start to read the article also.

      • dirk says

        Nice youtube,com Alfons, never knew that Eric invented the term, and what also struck me, that he painted his hair so pitch dark , afraid of his age? But I agreed on much, “to change your mind because of the facts and reality”, I fear, from 25 yrs of age onwards, I never changed my mind or opinions, whatever facts or reality I was confronted with, how is that with other people? I sometimes ask myself!

  71. El Uro says

    I’m from a country that no longer exists – the Soviet Union. My native language is Russian. It gives me certain advantages. Russian speaking progressives are more frankly. My mentioned below opponents expressed their opinions in Russian. That’s important!
    The fact is that I have been thinking about leftists for a long time, and so far I do not see a way to stop this march of dumbheads. In the extreme case, their point of view with cannibal’s frankness is expressed by one Russian speaking Facebook dweller: “People simply do not understand the simplest thing, such as standardizing of everything and everyone in the Western World. Spare parts from Italy are suitable for Canadian products, and standards for air purification from the USA for cars are becoming standards for Europe, where they are lower. Plus Skype, plus the ability to buy by mail anywhere and anything. Plus uniform rules and traditions. Plus, the same rules of conduct and morality. And so on.”
    He is determined to deny the simplest fact: people are not spare parts! They are not standardizable and not interchangeable. A woman is not replaceable by a man and vice versa. Asian Americans and White Americans live by different rules, in the family, in a restaurant and at work. And societies is not the spare parts. They are not standardizable.
    But this public with the stubbornness of impassable idiots is trying to shove people into standard boxes, cutting off details that do not fit there. With inevitable consequences, first in the form of censorship of words, then opinions, and then people with inappropriate opinions. To my comment about the consequences of such an approach, his supporter answered bluntly: “Unfortunately, the author (Me!) is right. There are 20 percent or less, who are really impossible to standardize, and Hitler and Stalin sent them under the knife or into the camps, and modern democracies do without them” – in both cases I quote!

    • dirk says

      Small detail here Uro: the Sovjet Union never was a country, it was an empire of completely different countries with their own languages, culture and history, that now are trying to pick up and proceed (often in vain) with that history. To be compared with the Caliphate of once, or the Ottoman Empire (or the KK Habsburg empire).

      BTW, can you name the USA a country? I doubt very much. Germany, France, UK, and even Canada or Australia yes, but that USA?

  72. Andrew Miller says

    One of the more incoherent pieces Quielitte has published. For starters the ‘IDW’ is nothing more than a media label for what are quite dispirit voices who’s only connection is they all have issues with the far left and the pseudo academic ideologies that we could label ‘social justice’.
    Second the use of the term ‘progressive’ really help as it’s hard to think of more reactionary and regressive ideas than cultural appropriation theory or indeed much of the implications of critical race theory. Even the use of ‘classical liberalism’ lack coherent definition. Also lumping together serious academics like Loury, McWhorter, Weinstein with a one note media hack like Dave Rubin isn’t terribly useful.
    If all your heavy lifting is done by a few terms so poorly defined it’s little wonder the piece is such a mess.
    And really, opposing the ludicrous ideologies of the far left puts you on the ‘right’ in some so called culture war? The Ghosts of Tom Paine to Orwell to MLK scream NO a 1000x NO.

  73. Jon says

    Spectacular article! I would very much like to see deeper dives into progressivism’s ideology instead of articles and interviews baffled at loony progressive extremists.

    I follow the IDW hoping to see it bridge sides, but I know most of the time the progressives just won’t speak to IDW people so it’s not entirely the IDW’s fault if they end up being not ideologically diverse. I would like to see IDW people open to progressive ideas more though, just at least enough to have a conversation. Like if you have to ask them their pronouns and tell them yours at the start of the interview, just do it so we can communicate.

    • Stephanie says

      Jon, I think you misunderstand. The people who make up the IDW (at least the ones I follow) are “open” to progressive ideas, they have simply examined them and found them unsupported and dangerous. That is what makes them identifiable as the IDW. What you seem to be suggesting is that they destroy the only thing that unites them just to placate a movement who, perhaps not coincidentally, seeks to destroy them. This is an argument the author makes in bad faith, and why 99% of the commenters think this article is weak (among other reasons).

  74. augustine says

    This essay would have been more useful had it focused dispassionately on the relative political position of the IDW instead of proselytizing for modern progressivism. The author’s obvious bias and conflation of these subjects was unhelpful.

    Naturally, this ideological shift carries over to activism, leading to a greater desire to regulate speech, to ensure more diversity, and to prioritise structural changes.

    Please tell me what is nuanced about “ensuring more diversity”, or more repressive than “desire to regulate speech” or more ominous than “prioritising structural changes”? Why would classical liberals, conservatives and “centrists” want to build bridges to such a destructive radical programme?

    These features lead one to wonder how progressivism could have possibly evolved from liberalism in the first place. Rather than being part of an organic social development in the liberal tradition, they are theoretical and contrived emotional appeals that can only be realized by tyranny– one possible (and quite possibly desired) end point of said activism. Does that sound like a caricaturization of the Left? Maybe a better word is encapsulation.

  75. Rigelsen says

    Harris’s whole shtick seems to vaguely supported assertion. Hard to engage with because he’s talking about definitional issues where he prefers to define terms a particular way, distinct from those he would force to renounce those same terms. Why change words that have always been used a particular way and start arguing they mean something different today onwards? Just because it would be easier for you? Why not invent new terms if that’s what you want?

    And what’s with this binary thinking? There is a huge center apart from the right and left anyway, and even if certain individuals disavow “current left-wing” thoughts, it doesn’t mean they have embraced anything that has classically right-wing.

    And no, you do not assume some ideology is rationally sound just because some people you would hope would embrace rationality embrace those ideologies. Everyone has blinders, even the well-credentialed.

    I will agree with Harris that classical liberalism is not above ideology, but that wasn’t Emmon’s primary point. Her point was that the central pillars of classical liberalism, individualism, critical thinking, liberty, are compatible with entire ranges of political opinions, especially given all the social and even economic progressives who now take shelter in it.

  76. If Quillette, or the somewhat-related IDW, makes it its goal to “build bridges with the Left,” that is a waste of time, since the Left never works in good faith, and moves ever leftward. Quillette’s main deficiency is that it is too narrow (https://theworthyhouse.com/2019/04/20/on-quillette/). That does not make it worthless, quite the contrary. But it only is worthwhile if it allies with the Right (and not the #NeverTrumper right), rather than the Left. Being eaten last is not a plan.

  77. “why do Rubin and Peterson find themselves aligned with people with whom they ostensibly disagree on the most important issues”?

    Maybe Mr Harris’ idea of which are “the most important issues” should be open to question.

    Maybe there are reasonable people who believe that free inquiry & expression is the most important issue, because it’s the tool we use to advance any other issue. Maybe I have no problem “aligning” myself with anyone who supports open & well-reasoned dialogue… even if he disagrees with me with respect to particular issues that Mr Harris has declared most important.

  78. Andrew V says

    Mr Harris,

    A hypothetical: Imagine right wingers had historically always been classical liberals with sensible conservative views where as a member you’d always felt that your allegiance was non-extremist and comfortable. Suddenly a movement begins on campus through student activism supported by 20% of professors that teach classes about how; white people are superior and that students need to hit the streets to promote the superiority of the white race. Programs in education and the workplace begin to implement this world-view with actionable tenets and people working in these areas start to notice these changes as worryingly extremist.

    How should right-wingers respond to its ‘side’ suddenly going off the deep end?

    Should they (to paraphrase): “want to work on ironing out their differences with leftys and join with them in opposition to the modern right (essentially forming a centre-left think tank of sorts), or should they truly aim to build bridges across the political divide”.

    If you flip the political allegiance in your dichotomy it doesn’t actually seem to make sense. The only option for sensible right wingers is to; abandon their party to join the other, or build a bridge to extremism (fascism in this case).

    I’d actually say it’s neither. You’d hope to call this social change out for the social disintegration that it is and hopefully you’d disavow people on your side for ‘going too far’. Which is to me, exactly what the left-leaning members of the IDW are trying to do. In doing so they’re being accused of choosing one of the options in your dichotomy.

    It’s not a political divide in terms of left to right. The divide is the chasm of classical left to extremist left. This is not easily parsed when you watch The Rubin Report and it hosts Candice Owens (a right-winger with some extremist tendencies) and Brett Weinstein (classical left) in succession. This is where I believe a caricature arises, but it is the caricature of association by appearance to the right. The reality is it’s an attempt at commonality through dialog for the sake of progression (classical left).

    My passing observation on the IDW is that they are not ‘ideology free’. You rightly point out that classical liberalism is an ideology. To my eyes they are a collection of both sides of the political spectrum disavowing a worrying trend on the left by finding a commonality in liberalism. That said, not all appear to be liberal? Which makes the group further nuanced. So it’s a really loose collective trying to find commonality in non-extremism to find a way forward.

    But why aren’t they focused on the ills of the right-wing? Right wing extremism has always existed, and it rightly so has mainstream media covering it and politicians disavowing it consistently (well… not as much as you’d hope) Imagine though that it had suddenly grown to the proportions laid out in my hypothetical first paragraph? Furthermore mainstream media’s attention ignored it? What would you do as a reasonable person against extremism?

  79. Peter from Oz says

    I should point out that the UK press is dominated by right wing papers. In Australia the biggest selling papers are conservative leaning as well.
    It seems that only in the US has the right wing media fallen behind.
    But don’t judge the world by the US.

    • Closed Range says

      I think Quillette need to implement a proper letters system where they publish the best responses to articles. It is clear that both Uri Harris articles were strongly refuted by most of the readership, and much of the commentary was more publish-worthy than the articles.

  80. 17c says

    You know what model explains what we see in modern society much, much better than progressivism?

    Human biodiversity.

  81. szejler says

    The author has a point, the critic of the new progressive left shouldn’t be drawn as a caricature, or by smearing, but the popularity of IDW emerged exactly beacuse they do the opposite. Not because they are right on every point, not because they lack any contradiction, or plothole in their arguments, but because they are willing to exceed and deconstruct the existing narratives on progressiveness, liberalism.

    And yes, since most of the goals of classical liberalism(free speech, secular state) became the framework of every western society, classical liberals may feel themselves free of ideology as very few goals remain for them to aim at. One of the few is the faith in the superiority of the individual and the rejection of group identity at all.

    One of the most striking element of the progressive identity politics is the fact, their ideology is not leftist and progressive at the core. The virulent tribalist and racist agenda they pursue, is a terrifying answer to the nazi uebermensch narrative. They dont refuse that, they embrace it. They dont lie about fighting against nazi ideology, but they are willing to fight it according to Hitlers rules. The uebermensch is real, it is the white race, that dominates, and opresses the world, the one, that nearly destroyed it in the 2WW, therefore it must be controlled, it’s power should be taken away.
    That is a fundamentally wrong, and terrifingly dangerous idea, especially in a multiethnic society. The post modern dream of egalitarianism is only a framework for this tribal anti-uebermensch agenda.

    • codadmin says

      Yes, the fascist left is exactly the same in as the Hitlerian form of fascism, save for who they hate, who they blame, and who they want gone.

  82. chowderhead says

    tl;dr. What I did read completely missed the point of the IDW, whose birth arose from repeated deplatforming and defrocking based solely on expression of ideas. No ideology required to see the lunacy of that path.

  83. Donald Collins says

    The problem I see with the article is that the writer defines todays left as the modern left. That is incorrect as many folks here that are lelft (I am not, I am way to the right Libertarian) are the modern left.

    They are the left that accepted gay marriage long before Obama and Hillary. That is one example there are plenty of others and I see them in my union buddies post, so I have a bunch of left friends, that are understandably digusted by the regressive left, which is whom the writer speaks of yet calling them modern as the ” IN” crowd.

    Tehy are a loud crowd with many institutional backers, but they are most definitly not the super majority of the left, nor even a majority

    Tim Poo, a lefty and a socialist lite guy, did an excellent piece in this regard and you can find it here


    • Donald Collins says

      Worked all night, I sure didnt mean to misspell Tims name….it is Pool…..I may disagree with the guy on a bunch of things, but I don’t believe in the make fun of folks name game. I don’t DemoRat or Repubtard or Obummer or moochelle or orangy man bad….its childish

  84. SteveCanon says

    This is the second article in a series purporting to be about politics that ignores …. politics.

    Here’s a thought: maybe the various members of the IDW who call themselves liberals largely consider themselves to be so because they support liberal causes, give money and time to liberal candidates, and vote Democrat. And maybe the source of their frustration is that while they stand steadfastly against the Party of Trump, they are increasingly irritated at being told by people purportedly on their side that they are not “real” progressives because they don’t support every single outré idea that comes from their side of the aisle.

    However, in politics, that irritation doesn’t mean anything unless it causes someone to switch sides. Liberals are always irritated with each other. That’s been a joke since Will Rogers’ day. But to pretend that the arguments between Sam Harris and Ezra Klein are somehow more significant to the future of liberal causes than the battle between Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi is tunnel visioned.

    My guess is that most of the IDW consider themselves liberal because that’s how they vote. The fact that in two separate articles the author has failed to grasp this point does not make me look forward to the third in the series.

  85. Geofiz says

    There is so much wrong with this article that it is hard to know where to begin. It is a breathtaking masterpiece of cognitive dissonance. First off, let’s look at why there IS an IDW. It is because liberal and conservative intellectuals have been shut out of conventional intellectual institutions. “Viewpoint Cleansing” within the academic community occurs to such an extent that a Campus Police Chief at Smith College was fired for “liking” a conservative post. Progressives are fundamentally intolerant of opposing viewpoints and are willing to use coercive measures to suppress them. They not only want restrictions on speech, but also on thought and critical analysis. Since the search for the truth is antithetical to both viewpoint homogeneity and viewpoint intolerance, those who believe in free thought needed a place to espouse their views without being persecuted.

    Harris asks: “Does it make sense that all of these (highly educated and intelligent) people have abandoned classical liberalism, with its supposed emphasis on logic and reason, for an ideology that is intellectually lazy, based on feelings, and which doesn’t meld with rational thought?” Yes it makes perfect sense. Both Communism and Nazism were enthusiastically embraced by intellectuals. Martin Heidegger, for example, was both one of the leading philosophers of his time and a prominent Nazi. We are genetically predisposed to be tribal. Progressivism, with its emphasis on oppressed and oppressor classes appeals to tribalism in the same way that Nazism appealed to tribalism. The only difference is in the degree. In addition, many academics believe themselves to be superior “(highly educated and intelligent)” to people outside the bubble and therefore believe that the world would be better if only people did what they say. Henry and Napier conducted a study in 2017 published in Public Opinion Quarterly which demonstrated that education is related to greater ideological prejudice

    The IDW criticizes progressive views. Harris provides no data or examples to illustrate that it caricaturizes them. Harris also ignores the fact that progressivism goes far beyond caricaturizing dissident views. They demonize them. To express alternative views on many campuses exposes you to accusations of being a racist, homophobe, Islamophobe etc, and to real persecution. IMO all opinions, including progressive ones. should be discussed in all intellectual settings, not just the IDW. But criticism of those opinions as wells as liberal and conservative opinions is necessary in any search for truth. Attacking that criticism, as opposed to the ideas, is antithetical to free thought. Criticism does not mean demonization.

    Harris’ only argument appears to be, that since academics are highly educated and intelligent, we should accept their opinions uncritically I know this will come as a shock to you, Uri, but some of us outside the bubble are also highly educated and intelligent. We do not worship progressive academics.

    “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind”. J.S. Mill; On Liberty

    • Harrison Bergeron says

      Harris asks: “Does it make sense that all of these (highly educated and intelligent) people have abandoned classical liberalism, with its supposed emphasis on logic and reason, for an ideology that is intellectually lazy, based on feelings, and which doesn’t meld with rational thought?” Yes it makes perfect sense. We are genetically predisposed to be tribal. Progressivism, with its emphasis on oppressed and oppressor classes appeals to tribalism in the same way that Nazism appealed to tribalism.

      Well said. Although I would add that we should not forget the importance of cowardice in the equation. When Harris claims that there are many on the left who have not abandoned classic liberalism, he is probably correct. However my experience in academia, for instance, has taught me that these people are mostly cowards and will not stand on principle if it might subject them to any type of serious scrutiny or criticism.

      • Geofiz says

        I have seen the same thing in academia but I take a more charitable view. I began my career in academia but left many years ago to pursue a career in industry, in which I have been quite successful. As a geoscientist, I had options. Today, I don’t have to worry about feeding my family. No college administrator can fire me and I will never have my career ruined by a Twitter mob. It is easy for me to talk.

        There are not a lot of options for a liberal or conservative who wants a career in English literature or history. If you speak out, you are fired and blacklisted forever. The alternative might be waiting tables.

        Most of the academics I know ARE classic liberals and they are scared “sh*tless. I can’t say that I blame them. It is easy to take a stand when there are no consequences., It is much harder when your entire career is at stake.

  86. Shawn T. says

    Ahhh…the labels. What good is all the navel-gazing if you can’t spend 80% of your effort coming up with some slick label to brand yourself? IDW is, in itself, a silly label. Is “Intellectual” a self applied label? Is there a membership committee? Business cards? An annual gala to celebrate their own genius? Dark web: YouTube videos, vlogs, blogs and websites….soooo dark. My point is, these can’t be self-applied labels or organized groups. They are simply people who don’t fit into the mainstream we see and hear all day every day. We who read them happily lump then into an “other” category of refreshing takes on an ever sterilized political world. It’s really not that complicated. Sort of like “indie” bands. All cool, so long as it is the consumer who decides what that means – not mainstream. As soon as you have 20 indie labels producing it, the very term/genre ceases to exist because it has entirely lost its other-ness. This article, like many others, more demonstrates the author’s irritation at not being in the latest “cool kids club” and self-analyzing than just writing about the world with some honesty and without lenses imposed by mainstream labels. Always arguing about the value of the mug, not the tasty contents therein.

  87. BrainFireBob says

    Little disappointed in the community here.

    A classic debate tactic these aggressive activists use is a mix of “whataboutism” and false equivalency.

    In this case, the original author is essentially bemoaning that those who don’t tolerate dissent aren’t welcomed on the IDW. He then uses this classic tactic by saying, in effect, “this is just an ideology, classical liberalism is an ideology too!” and many posters fall into the trap of defending classical liberalism.

    That’s allowing them to define the terms of the debate. We’re not discussing whether classical liberalism, as an ideology that embraces enlightenment ideals of perfectability and self-questioning, is the same as a dogmatic ideology. We’re discussing that the SJW ideology is dogmatic, rigid, unquestioning and that it shuts down debate and will only be engaged with if its allowed to create collapsing tautologies- dialogue is impossible.

    It’d be like having someone start beating their wife in front of you, and when you intervened, started demanding by what right you judge them- have you ever forgotten your wife’s bday? Your anniversary? And while you stand there indignantly and sputter, they keep up the beating! The salient point under discussion is that the wife beating is immoral, and anything else is nothing more than a deflection or false equivalency!

  88. Geofiz says

    Agreed. Harris’ article is a not-very-good exercise in sophistry..

  89. Asenath Waite says

    “Here, issues that have previously divided left and right, such as gay marriage and abortion, are relatively unimportant. What matters is one’s attitude towards “social justice” issues, such as identity, structural oppression, and privilege.”

    These latter issues are not divided by left and right, they are divided by rational liberal thought and irrational authoritarian thought.

  90. D-Rex says

    I grudgingly applaud Quillette for allowing this guy to have his say so that he can be shredded by the commentators here.

  91. Geofiz says

    I applaud Harris for writing an article that he knew would be very poorly received by the Quilette crowd. Viewpoint diversity means including and seriously evaluating viewpoints such as his as well as ones we find more agreeable.

    That does not mean I cut him a break (Grin)

  92. Gera says

    The two sides to this are individualists and statists, not progressives/conservatives. If you think the government and careerists in regulatory agencies have the answer to our society’s problems, left or right you’re a statist. If you think a million brains are better equipped to find solutions to problems than a few you’re an individualist.

  93. Constantin says

    Despite my best effort, I can’t make sense of Uri Harris’ argument. It seems to me that it follows this general path: 1) Classical liberalism is an ideology and, like any closed system, has no empirical way to validate the truth (however defined) of its claims; 2) Emmons painted a false caricatured image of an alternative ideology that just might provide a “more coherent explanation of social phenomena and clearer solutions for improving society. “; 3) there is something about this more coherent ideology that makes it attractive to a lot of smart people, to the point of becoming preponderant in academia. There is also a side argument that, in the author’s estimate, people like Sam Harris, Ben Shapiro, Dave Rubin and Jordan Peterson appear united in their denunciation of the totalitarian tendencies of the radical post-modern left, but do so erroneously focusing on extreme examples of SJW extremism. This erroneous focus, prevents the IDW characters from engaging meaningfully with an alleged more moderate or sensible alternative (that also happens to be more “nuanced”) and are, therefore, failing in their alleged goal of building bridges in the cultural divide.

    I have a hard time agreeing with any of these premises. It may well be that “classical liberalism” has some blind spots, but it provides a framework that limits coercive power over the individual and champions speech and argument as a way to resolve disputes. I do not know anyone who claimed that it was perfect, but most sensible people would agree that alternative and even fringe viewpoints face least oppression under the corresponding political climate. The same can not be said of the alleged “more nuanced” alternative ideology, because it does not stop at observing that “beliefs and behaviors are socially constructed to some extent” and invite a polite and mutually beneficial dialogue on that issue. It so happens that, regardless how “nuanced”, ideologies tend to have practical applications. In this context, the “praxis” that is powerfully exemplified by the students of all those allegedly smart and nuanced intellectuals is rather reminiscent of the Nazi Brown Shirts, and could not be described in good faith as open to meaningful dialogue and inviting “bridge building”

    I actually reject an empty concept such as a ranking of “nuance” lacking both a definition and a rational methodology, and do not thing that Mr. Urris, or anyone else would be entitled to make such a judgment. I think it is an undisguised claim of an ill-defined intellectual superiority.

    Whether Emmons’ description is accurate or a caricature, comes down to a discussion of what criteria must be used to determine the usefulness or validity of ideologies with real life consequences. I think that Emmons correctly invites his readers to assess the post-modern leftist ideology by admiring the resulting Frankenstein foaming at the mouth and stopping at nothing to prevent engagement with opposite viewpoints and keen on such modern forms of ostracism and political exile such as “deplatforming”, disqualifying from political participation, and denying not only the right to critically examine alleged personal experience, but even the act of imagining it. Goya’s “caprichos” are the closest thing that comes to mind, and not in a happy or detached way either.

    As far as I could tell, the alleged members of this obscure club (the so called Intellectual Dark Web) have never set to create a bridge with totalitarian ideologies, no matter how “nuanced”, but rather conceived of themselves – more or less and in degrees as refugees from a confused and overpowered political left openly courting and validating totalitarianism. I don’t deny that sitting down and inviting the Nazis or the Soviets, or the radical post-modern SJWs to a constructive debate of ideas would have theoretically been an extremely useful exercise. But the giant pink elephant in the room is that the side that rejects any meaningful dialogue is very – very – obvious in this situation.

    I am also shocked by what I view as a modified “argumentum ad ignorantiam” (appeal to ignorance): The classic logical fallacy usually takes the form of “nobody disproved fact A, therefore A must be true” The alternative used by Mr. Urris is “so many smart people joined the parade, so it must be true”. Sadly, even school aged children know by now that lots and lots of ‘smart people” aligned themselves to murderous and totalitarian ideologies (and, to be absolutely frank about it, the American Academics have a long and rather disturbing love affair with anything that gives the intelligentsia the power to rule and dictate both beliefs and behaviors.) I reject this argument as bot a subspecies of a known logical fallacy and also as likely disingenuous.

    So – what are we left with? If Mr. Urris believes that post-modern interectionalism provides a “with a more coherent way of understanding society” and a more “nuanced” one, I would not mind examining his argument, but him simply stating such conclusions and underscoring them by resorting to italicized or otherwise emphasized text, leaves me both indifferent and suspicious of his motivation. Your problem, Mr. Urris, does not seem to be that we are not trying to understand what you are saying or that you failed in previous attempts to present your argument as strongly and clearly as possible. Your problem is that you scream at us a set of unsupported conclusions, battle a set of straw man issues (such as the alleged goals and desires of the IDW), patronize by claiming the authority to rank obscure values such as “nuance” and resort to variations of known logical fallacies. Keeping writing about intellectuals, whether of the ‘dark” variety or others, does not make one a credible and noteworthy intellectual. Try engaging with a subject is a truly systematic and organized fashion, and we could have a different conversation.

    • augustine says

      I enjoyed your comment, Constantin. Thanks.

  94. Alfons Kuchlbacher says

    That’s why the traditional thinkers on the left and the right side go crazy about the IDW. The can’t exclude them and the can’t incorporate them because the difference is not “left” or “right”, it’s mainly collectivism vs. individualism. Or with other words: they (the members of the IDW) are simply to smart for the specimens of politicians and ideologists in the old parties, who are becoming slowly extinct.

  95. Lawrence says

    You claim classical liberalism and progressivism are both ideologies. I don’t disagree. But when the IDW claim to be without ideology – I think they simply mean they are always open to critique and questioning their own positions. Meanwhile today’s version of Progressivism openly discourages critique by dismissing any critics as racist, homophobic, etc. Progressives seem to be generally more driven by their ideology rather than classical liberals who seem to be more driven by open-mindedness.

  96. dirk says

    De-platforming is now even a thing in the NLs (because, whatever is going on there, we like to copy), I’m rather old already, but wonder where all this will end! I fear, in a Fellini like parrade, circus, caucus, ni modo, we are all just human!

  97. Greg McKnight says

    Classical liberalism is a foundation, not an endpoint. Ken Wilber uses a four quadrant model to provide the most inclusive description of reality currently available. Classical liberalism only understands and believes what can be measured (the right quadrants in Wilber’s model). CL completely disregards the interior left quadrants (that are EXPERIENCED subjectively and cannot be measured objectively). Uri is merely pointing out the limitations of CL while pointing out the excesses of the modern left. He isn’t proposing throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  98. Greg McKnight says

    If you are emotionally moved by an idea — you probably have an ideology. The comments here demanding classical liberalism is the ultimate truth sound quite similar to religious fundamentalists.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Greg McKnight: I think many would agree with your above statement. Classical liberalism is a foundation, not an endpoint. I haven’t seen many commentators here saying that it’s the ultimate truth though. I think most here are trying to get away from absolutism.

  99. So what I’m picking up so far – “Classical liberalism”, at least as it’s defined here seems to be pretty much vintage Reagan-era conservatism, rebranded. “Reasonable debate” seems to be gainsaying evidence-free “common sense” arguments. Correct me where I’m wrong.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Curiousblue: I take it to mean the hundreds of years of thought, literature and philosophy that have given rise to the most wondrous civilizations ever.

  100. Thylacine says

    “Classical liberalism” is, in Robert Nozick’s famous phrase, a “framework for utopias.” It is a framework that allows many different visions of utopia to self-organize and thrive, within a single polity. One can be classically liberal politically, and conservative or neo-marxist culturally.

  101. This is a great article. I’m honestly disappointed in the comments section here.

  102. In what way? An example would be of help.
    And what did you especially like in the article?

    I’ve been telling people to read this because of the comments.

  103. “…progressives hold the view that beliefs and behaviour are socially constructed to a significant extent, that discourse influences/normalises behaviour, and that identity plays an important role in how people experience the world, among other things.”

    Fine, but these are not political views, and I thought political diversity was the topic.

  104. “The majority of people who identify as progressives hold the view that beliefs and behaviour are socially constructed to a significant extent, that discourse influences/normalises behaviour, and that identity plays an important role in how people experience the world, among other things.”

    The trouble is that they cleave to these views regardless of substantive contradictory evidence. They also, at least in my experience, never seek to disprove the claims. And that’s what distinguishes “modern progressive ideology” from “classical liberalism”, in my view.

    In fact, I also think that holding beliefs even when confronted with strongly contradictory evidence is the definition of ideology that most IDW-types and “classical liberals” are working with, which is why they can claim to be “ideology-free” while also claiming that “modern progressives” are ideologically blinded. Modern progressives, on the other hand, seem to think that ideology is everything and everywhere and inescapable—this seems to be Uri’s view of it, too, given what’s written here. This definition of ideology is also what’s often taught in undergraduate social science classes, and seems to me to come from Marxism (https://www.cla.purdue.edu/English/theory/marxism/modules/marxideology.html). It’s really a semantic debate, though, since we can define words however we like. The major point of departure between the two “isms” is that “classical liberalism” assumes there’s an objective reality and that we are obligated to ensure to the best of our abilities that our ideas map onto it—essentially, and in practice, this means falsification and basing our ideas on evidence. “Progressivism”, in contrast, claims that reality is largely socially constructed and in practice they make no (or, if I’m being generous, few) attempts to falsify their own claims with evidence. “Progressivism” is also centrally concerned with social activism—again, thanks in large part to Marx, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” That concern overrides every other, which again is why IDW considers it primarily “ideological”—it ultimately doesn’t matter to “progressives” whether a claim maps onto reality, it only matters that the social cause is advanced, which nowadays means undermining or overturning so-called structural oppression.

    As an aside, it doesn’t matter how many educated, smart people hold a given view—that’s not a sufficient reason to suspect the view maps onto reality, it’s just an appeal to popular belief. Even smart, educated people are susceptible to bias and fallacy.

  105. Tyler says

    “The Intellectual Dark Web needs to include Leftist thinkers.” Writes Leftist thinker in article published in IDW journal.

  106. I enjoyed your critique of the IDW.

    The Intellectual Dark Web is doing a very good job of deconstructing left-wing identity politics with both left-leaning and right-leaning figures but it’s making no effort at all to deconstruct right-wing identity politics that I’ve seen. Just an occasional acknowledgment of the the fact that right-wing extremism is not a good thing.

    I think that left-wing and right-wing identity are two sides of the same coin. Both sides contribute equally to our tribalism. They need each other to remain relevant, they feed each other. Invalidating liberalism validates conservatism, sometimes subconsciously. As a liberal, I think there’s much that has become invalid on the left but both sides hold truths and both sides are clinging to some major delusions imo.

    I think because of this, the IDW is becoming another branch of the right-wing, media echo chamber. It’s not intended to be perhaps but it’s very one sided imo. It might be a good idea for Rubin and others to interview conservatives who are willing to critique all that is wrong with conservatism today, if any can be found who are willing and able. Rather than painting caricatures of far left socialists, invite Bernie Sanders on for an interview.

    The IDW has a really good thing going but there is a lot of room to grow. I’m not sure Rubin can see it, his show seems a bit rigid or he has little ability or even desire to challenge his guests on the more controversial and extreme issues in the right-wing political sphere. This can be done respectfully, it should be done respectfully, but I think Rubin may just lack the talent or the vision. Rebel Wisdom available through YouTube is also presenting a good challenge to left-wing identity politics but it seems more flexible and neutral. That makes it less sensational but it’s worth paying attention to.

    I think we need to see the left saved, not destroyed, we need a healthy left/right balance in society. Rubin’s show rarely gets into economics and foreign policy beyond shallow, uninteresting references to socialism vs neoliberalism. The Culture War is a distraction from much more serious issues.

    What I would like to see destroyed is this Culture War that both sides are addicted to, that’s responsible for our toxic divisions in society. This requires a balanced view of left/right tribalism.

    • Michelangelo says

      I’m eagerly looking forward to the end of this culture war too. On the excellent podcast, ENEMIES:From War to Wisdom, Polly Young-Eisendrath states that what is necessary is for humans to finally let go of tribal identification, however dear and ancient and sometimes helpful. Letting go of our racial, cultural, and historical stories and coming together simply as human creatures rings so true, especially in the millenia to come. This seems like the only true way forward for our best survival.

  107. Willy Biber says

    Rather than happily putting different sets of views and values into the ideology box, it may be more informative to compare how the different ‚ideologues‘ or ‚followers‘ try to implement their convictions.
    One may then notice behavioral patterns to be in open contradiction to what people claim to stand for, while semantic tricks are often times being used trying to make believe that whoever notices those contradictions is simply wrong in his interpretations.
    Building bridges across the political/ideological divide would not be that difficult. People only need to live themselves what they require the other side to live in that respect.
    It would therefore be interesting to learn from Uri Harris all the steps that he and his political friends actually take to bridge the gap.

    • Matt says

      Perhaps the issue is the need of the progressive / regressive left to impose a group ideology on the IDW – individual free thinkers that have gained their own notoriety in diverse ways. As Peterson says, it’s like herding cats.
      As I see it, that which aligns them is their propensity to call out that which they see and hear as crap. I don’t believe they have monthly meetings to discuss their diversity policy.
      If the ‘progressive’ left wish to enter the discourse via the same platform, I believe they have an equal opportunity.

  108. Pingback: Here’s Why I Heart Social Media, And Ya’ll Should Too

  109. Pingback: Yes, The Intellectual Dark Web Is Politically Diverse - Areo

  110. Rudolf Held says

    Most necessary article! Reflects all my concerns on IDW. We need cooperation with progressivists, not divide. IDW needs more self-knowledge.

  111. Pingback: Here’s Why I Heart Social Media, And Y’all Should Too • Just Conservative Views

  112. Pingback: Here’s Why I Heart Social Media, And Y’all Should Too – Conservatively

  113. Pingback: On the IDW: A Response to Eric Weinstein - Quillette

Comments are closed.