The Streisand Effect and the Intellectual Black List

Confession: The whole Sam Harris / Jordan Peterson thing was largely a boat I missed until the woketernet started galvanizing against them.

Before the two had really become lightning rods, I remember listening to one or two really long Sam Harris discussions because a friend recommended the specific conversations. It was the kind of thing I listened to and thought: “Some nice zingers in there!” But I didn’t come back to it.

My friend and I chatted about it a bit. He got annoyed when I complained the ep was three hours long. That was about it.

Then Peterson’s sharp rise started to happen in the run-up to his 12 Rules for Life release and it was no longer possible to miss the guy. All I really new was a certain category of perpetually hysterical Twitter users hated him and that the New York Times’ Nellie Bowles had written a hit piece that read as daft even if you knew nothing about Peterson.

So, naturally, my curiosity was piqued and I started to notice his name with curiosity when it popped up on Twitter or in YouTube recommendations, in a way that I hadn’t before. I mean, verboten intellectual material? What do you expect. It’s like candy now.

And that led to more Sam Harris, the Intellectual Dark Web, the dirtbag left, Quillette essays, the rationalist community. I read a bunch of Solzhenitsyn. Pretty soon I started asking myself whether or not I should start devoting a set portion of my income to charity!

Man, these guys are dangerous! What if that behavior spread?

I’m not a joiner. I never became part of any of these communities. I’m not on anyone’s Discord. But now I needed to understand this myself when I probably would have ignored it forever.

Anyway, here’s my point… the name “Intellectual Dark Web” is great branding. Eric Weinstein really hit a grand slam there, but for precisely that reason the Consensus has really started hanging up warning signs at every exit from the Consensus Highway that leads into one of the IDW’s little towns.

There’s an old name for this on the internet: the Streisand Effect. TL;DR — if you tell folks not to look at something, more people will look at it than would have if you just pretended like the thing wasn’t there.

It’s so obvious.

I’m a complete “victim” of the Streisand Effect with regard to all these taboo thinkers. I really, really try to rise above scandals and hysterics. Generally speaking if there’s a low grade scandal burning along out there, I try to look the other way and maintain my own set of interests. If Golem Radio wrote 13 Rules for Life, “don’t rubberneck” would be one of the rules.

But if a low grade rumble of disconcerted liberals turns into burning embers of SJWretchedness, I can’t help it. I’m human. I need to know who’s twisting their nipple rings.

So, anyway, here’s where I am at: This whole “grey” category of liberal to vaguely right-of-center intellectuals have become more interesting than anything the Consensus is producing, and I don’t know nearly enough about it.

For my own benefit, I think I am going to start doing some deep dives into some of the lesser known members of this tribe and try to give them a fair reading (or viewing, or listening — whatever their preferred medium is).

A fair reading is a reading in which the reader (Golem Radio, in this case — me) assumes that the person’s work was made from a pro-social position. He or she may talk tough and say controversial things, but it’s all written from the perspective of trying to solve problems we all share and helping us all get through this life better off.

That is, an unfair reading is one in which the reader is just going looking for evidence of an antisocial viewpoint, trying to prove that the thinker in question is bad.

If I find compelling evidence of badness, I’m not going to mask it, but I’m not hunting for that. If you hunt for that, you’ll find it. That’s for sure. But an unfair reading is itself an antisocial behavior.

But I have a feeling that there are some boogeymen out there who really aren’t hiding under your bed with knives at all.

They don’t have knives and they aren’t under your bed. Most likely they are, in fact, in their own homes, and if you even encounter one it’s on YouTube or something, and you don’t even have to watch them if you don’t want to do so.

They might not even be boogeymen, when you think about it like that.