Why the IDW Fell Apart
In 2018, the journalist Bari Weiss crowned a heterodox group of writers and cultural figures as the “Intellectual Dark Web.” The promise of the IDW was that it was generating a substantive critique against left-wing orthodoxy that could not have emerged from the traditional Right. These new figures were also using new media, especially the podcast, to reach younger audiences and generate buzz for their intellectual movement.
But now, five years later, the IDW has become a spent force. As the group was confronted with a series of real-world political decisions—the rise of Trump, the COVID crisis, and the anti-CRT politics—it fractured, splintered, and decomposed. With some notable exceptions, such as Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson, and Bret Weinstein, the “centrists” of the IDW could never move from the domain of criticism to the domain of action. They acted as if they could solve political problems through podcast debates and failed to offer a viable theory of change.
Consequently, the IDW was overtaken by events. Although the movement deserves credit for pointing out the problem of left-wing overreach in America’s institutions, this critique is now part of conventional wisdom and is no longer sufficient. As I explain in my new video essay, the lesson of the IDW’s disintegration is clear: opponents of left-wing orthodoxy must grapple with the reality that, in a two-party democratic system, the path to reform must go through politics. If they want results, they must be willing to get their hands dirty.