On Tuesday, The New York Times’ Bari Weiss appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss her new in-depth piece on the so-called Intellectual Dark Web – an agglomeration of thinkers from all sides of the political aisle who have been cast out by political correctness and now converse with one another regularly and publicly (full disclosure: I’m a charter member, along with friends including Sam Harris, Eric Weinstein, Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, and others). The entire premise of the IDW is that many on the Left refuse to acknowledge good-natured disagreement; instead, all disagreement must be due to nefarious evil on the part of those who disagree.
Proving the point on MSNBC was guest Eddie Glaude Jr., chair at the Center for African-American Studies at Princeton. When Weiss cited the discussions between me and Sam as evidence for the diversity of the movement, Glaude responded, “What allows you to describe these folks as intellectuals of sort? Let me say it differently. They’re connected intellectually by what common commitments? So you might have different ideological spaces, but when you talk about Sam Harris and Ben Shapiro in one sentence, I can see the connection between those two.” Weiss responded, logically enough, “Which is?” And Glaude explained:
Having something to do with how they think about race, having something to do with how they think about diversity in the country and the ways in which diversity is talked about, right? The way in which they think about political correctness.
Weiss responded, “Yeah, they’re anti-identity politics, for sure.”
To which Glaude launched into a full defense of identity politics: “Identity politics is a phrase that kind of is a red herring. Identity politics is just simply questions of justice, right?”
At this point, Joe Scarborough jumped in and hit the nail directly on the head:
Eddie, you have just made Bari Weiss’s point, that you disagree with the way Bari Weiss views the world, so you’re going to help her view the world more the way you view the world. The entire purpose of the exercise is to have honest conversations with people, and to not question their morality, or their wisdom just because they don’t view the world exactly the same way that you do.
Glaude reiterated that his view of identity politics was just that identity politics and justice were coincident.
All of which demonstrates the reason the IDW exists. Instead of acknowledging that identity politics is not a mere synonym for justice — and it certainly isn’t, given that identity politics insists that people be identified by their racial, ethnic, or sexual group rather than as free-thinking individuals — Glaude suggests that those who oppose identity politics are merely covering for their secret racism. That’s nasty, and it’s why the IDW exists. More importantly, it’s why intellectually honest people of the Left like Sam are now engaging with people with whom they disagree politically. If we can’t have discussions without throwing out buzzwords meant to end those discussions, discussions won’t take place.