In the Post Truth Era a scrap of gossip as juicy as Obama joining the Intellectual Dark Web could easily be dismissed as hearsay. However, unless Twitter has climbed aboard the fake news bandwagon, Obama is currently the unwitting poster child of “Dark Webbers” everywhere.
But first, for those that have been frozen in carbonite for the last 12 months; what is the Intellectual Dark Web? Basically, it’s a bunch of Professors In Exile and free-thinking academics, who aim, “To foster a new discourse that can allow innovative thinkers to wrestle with the world’s problems without having to tiptoe around subjects or questions deemed culturally or politically off-limits” (LA Times).
Because of the large numbers of disaffected young men they attract, the controversial topics they cover, and the extreme (and, at times, absurd) views of the people they sometimes debate, the Intellectual Dark Web is often characterised as a racist, misogynistic movement more likely to produce xenophobic incels than open minded citizens of the world. But the leaders themselves are smart, if a little contrarian and smug for many people’s liking.
So how did Obama get caught up in it all? Yesterday he gave a speech in South Africa, to mark 100 years since Nelson Mandela’s birth, in which he appeared to sympathise with elements of the Intellectual Dark Web’s fight against identity politics.
Pres. Obama: Democracy demands getting inside “the reality of people who are different than us.”
“You can’t do it if you insist that those who aren’t like you because they’re white, or because they’re male…that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters.” pic.twitter.com/NHPR9cQmpQ
— ABC News (@ABC) 17 July 2018
This was heard by members of the so-called Dark Web, like Dave Rubin, host of The Rubin Report, who were quick to extend an invitation to the most unlikely potential recruit you could imagine (the Dark Web have long been critical of Obama for his role he played in enforcing the “gated institutional narrative” while in office).
— Dave Rubin (@RubinReport) 17 July 2018
As the NYT points out, in their eagerness to reach a larger audience, members of the Intellectual Dark Web have previously aligned themselves with all sorts of people. “Go a click in one direction and the group is enhanced by intellectuals with tony affiliations like Steven Pinker at Harvard. But go a click in another and you’ll find alt-right figures like Stefan Molyneux and Milo Yiannopoulos and conspiracy theorists like Mike Cernovich (the #PizzaGate huckster) and Alex Jones (the Sandy Hook shooting denier).”
In light of this, Obama would be a welcome addition. Unfortunately for #webbers, the invitation may have been tongue in cheek—and he is yet to respond.