The IDW trades in right-wing rhetoric. It masks this behind a veneer of academic intellectualism and liberalism, never minding that several of its members are disgraced academics or explicitly anti-intellectual, anti-academia, or full-on conspiracy theorists, but it is a right-wing movement that draws from far-right distortions of discourse in an attempt to score points against the left. It is not centrist, and its adherents cleave cleanly to Randian, reactionary politics. The very politics that many high-school Libertarians put in the rear view mirror the moment they took their first college-level political science course.
Despite their claims to be in support of academic diversity, they are generally not interested in a breadth of viewpoint, and will not actually consider or platform any legitimately left-wing voices or ideas, selecting instead from a narrow cross-section of in-network culture warriors who advocate one or more reactionary positions, most notably anti-antiracism and anti-antifascism. Outright misogyny, xenophobia (especially Sinophobia), and transphobia are also very much in play for the IDW, as are, more recently, Trumpian election fraud and anti-vaccination conspiracy theories. They will characterize the relative extremity with which they oppose Black Lives Matter or espouse transphobic beliefs as “diverse opinion.” And nowhere among them will you find someone who unequivocally supports Black Lives Matter or unreservedly supports transgendered people and rights, but you will find no shortage of views rooted in bioessentialism and eugenics.
For the sake of specificity, I draw from the Wikipedia entry for the IDW to identify who this group’s constituent members are:
I should note that Sam Harris has disavowed the IDW, for whatever that is worth, and has wisely identified the rhetoric of other members as being something he does not wish to be associated with (specifically, he did not agree with some of their stances of soft support of Trump’s claims of election fraud). Good for Sam, though in my opinion he could do with a few more rounds of disavowing unscientific beliefs he has spouted. And also, Joe Rogan has platformed actual leftists, such as Cornel West, but the ratio of right-wing to left-wing thinkers (not to mention the ratio of men to women) he has hosted on his show is decidedly unbalanced.
So, with the rare exception of when Joe Rogan has hosted an actual left-wing thinker, why does this group’s output remain 100% trash? The following statement encapsulates it well:
I have discussed this guy before. So have others. The man is a professional victim from a wildly privileged background, who of course now has a podcast and is in the business of monetizing white grievance, just like the rest of the IDW.
Every element of this tweet is rooted in ignorance and alt-right style sensationalism, which is standard for proclamations made by IDW figures. The very first parenthetical includes the usage of “wokeness” as a pejorative, which is an alt-right appropriation of a term that originated in Black activism. If you deliberately use alt-right appropriations of African-American Vernacular English as a means of disparaging the struggle for justice, then you are in fact not a leftist. You are not an ally to the left, and you are doing something that racist right-wingers do as a means of supporting white supremacy. You are no different than Rush Limbaugh and his decades-long quest against “political correctness.” You are engaging in and enabling racist rhetoric. If we subject this to a Kendian analysis, where an action is either racist or antiracist, it’s not hard to determine where boosting alt-right racist rhetoric falls on that axis.
It is one thing to argue against equality of outcome in the context of a racist world, but it is quite another to employ racist rhetoric while arguing against equality of outcome in a racist world. This very act of supporting racism, of actively engaging in cultural appropriation and the disparagement of Black activism, explicitly opposes equality, both of opportunity and of outcome. It is anti-antiracist in that it adds to the reactionary counter-current that swells in opposition to calls for the dismantling of white supremacy. If you wish to argue against equality of outcome, it is best to do so neutrally, without disparaging the very activists arguing for Black people to have the opportunity to pursue life, liberty, and happiness equally under the law, which is of course impossible when racist law enforcement leads to decidedly unequal opportunities and outcomes in all three of these categories.
Beyond the racism that leaps out of the tweet in the very first sentence, we see that the entire argument rests on having no understanding of Marxism and having an audience that is similarly lacking. In fact, one need not even read everything Marx wrote to discover the inaccuracy of this sentiment, or anything. That work has already been done. One could simply read Wikipedia.
I have highlighted the last sentence, because that really is the essence of the entire point of Marxism, and is still at the heart of modern leftism. When Marx invokes alienation, he discusses the worker’s loss of humanity. Personally I extend this beyond workers to all people, most notably the unhoused and incarcerated, but the point is that unequal access to consumption (which encompasses opportunity), drives dehumanization. It is undeniable that people sleeping on the streets are every ounce as human as people sleeping in mansions, but that people sleeping on the street do not have equal opportunity to consume the resources that would allow their humanity to be realized as fully as those who live comfortably.
I do not consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist — I have many differences of opinion and identify more closely with the beliefs of Bakunin, Kropotkin or the Black Panthers, and I happen to believe that on a demographic level, equality of opportunity will lead to equality of outcome without specifically calling for equality of outcome — but I also do not need to concoct absurd straw man readings of Marxian concepts against which to argue in a reactionary, Limbaugh-esque fashion. There is nothing intellectual about an intellectual dark web that engages in pseudo-intellectual posturing.
I hope people will know better than to take these Patreon-pushing, podcast-peddling, Substack-shilling, conspiracy theorists and disgraced academics seriously. The entirety of their politics is reactive, and they have produced little, if anything, proactive the way the very movements that they ceaselessly mischaracterize and rail against, such as Black Lives Matter, antifascism, or intersectional feminism, have. They do nothing to advance the cause of the working class, and generally work in direct opposition to the working class. Their politics are rooted in conservatism, and their primary purpose is to preserve white supremacy, patriarchy, and Enlightenment-era hierarchical traditions.