The problem smart people have is that they can’t use the excuse of being stupid.
And so, for the highly intelligent members of what is being called the “Intellectual Dark Web” it’s simply not believable that they have not seen the destructive economic-trend of corporatism, which has been growing unchecked for decades in the United States. Furthermore, how could they not see the problem when they themselves would appear to be the recipients of persecution from the traditional corporate media structure.
And it’s not just this group suffering, it’s the whole country. Americans have in no uncertain terms told us the economic problem; yelling at the top of their lungs for decades about wall street scams, fake news, censorious tech, big pharma addiction and extortion, a toxic food supply, environmental destruction, military industrial warmongering, and production outsourcing by globalism. Notice the complaints are heard across party lines; almost everyone is fed up with something on that list. The common denominator: these problems are all negative externalities (i.e. costs externalized to the public) originating from big corporations.
It’s a problem with institutions, and more specifically with the legal-programming of the modern corporate form in general: “shareholder primacy” means stakeholder interests get subordinated, with limited liability protecting the corporation from being held accountable for the damages to the stakeholders (the public). As the corporation is able to internalize profits and externalize costs, it grows rapidly, forming oligopolies and monopolies, with new oligopic power allowing it to shrug off even more costs to the public—creating an unsustainable feedback loop.
So why would we be surprised to find that those whose interests are being systematically ignored by this corporate system are furious and disillusioned with that system? Why would we be surprised when they turn to the appeal of socialism? And, of course, why would we surprised when they turn to their new saviors—the IDW.
The rise in popularity of the IDW makes sense, especially given the record low trust in traditional corporate media. But what’s unanswered is why this group avoids any discussion of the systemic corporate problem; which consequently, led to its own existence. This avoidance of something so obvious, “the elephant in the room” as the saying goes, leads observant people to questions. When studying this group we can remove stupidity as an explanation, and so, there are only so many remaining explanations. What is going on here?
Explanations for the IDW’s Avoidance
#1: Ignorant of the corporate world
The benevolent explanation acknowledges that this group has few experts from the corporate world; therefore a blindspot.
For example, Jordan Peterson’s background is in academics and small business; he has no corporate world experience and admits he “doesn’t know enough about economics, barely anything.” Same with Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, Dave Rubin, Stephen Hicks, and so on; to my knowledge these people have never held a position at a S&P500 company. However, Eric Weinstein (Thiel Capital) and Nassim Taleb (Credit Suisse) do have relevant corporate experience, and they do sometimes bring up system economic problems. Furthermore, the counter culture figure with arguably the most corporate experience, Steve Bannon (Goldman Sachs M&A), directly identifies corporatism as the root economic. So maybe there is something here related to specialization and discussion of the topic?
However, I tend to rule out ignorance as the primary explanation. Ignorance does not explain extreme avoidance of the topic. Why wouldn’t intelligent people become educated, or network with those who have relevant experience? But rather, despite thousands of messages on social media about the topic, these guys remain perpetually silent. These observations suggest strategic avoidance (see #2).
But with Peterson it gets even weirder, ignorance but not avoidance, crossing into aggressive ignorance. He preaches that you should “talk about what you know, you have to know 4 times more than what you speak about;” yet, despite admitting that he knows “barely anything” about economics, he continually posts about economics! And as for the content of these posts, curiously, they consistency argue against the existence systemic economic problems. But why, from a position of admitted ignorance, does he choose that side? Why does he talk at all when it violates his own claimed behavioral code? How can we reconcile this mess? And we are supposed to believe that Peterson, with a claimed IQ “in excess of 150,” simply doesn’t see this makes no sense?
These are irreconcilable observations—extremely intelligent people; engaged in a mess of claimed ignorance, arrogance, avoidance, and denial—that actually provide more evidence that something is off.
#2: Ideological-driven strategic avoidance
A better explanation is ideological bias. If we say the group tends to lean to the right economically, particularly if it’s to the “corporate right,” then it would make strategic sense for them to avoid the discussion of systemic corporate problems.
The IDW clearly favor certain automated responses which for decades have been associated with the corporate right wing: 1) pretending massive government-sponsored corporations are “just businesses, like a neighborhood bakery,” 2) pretending public corporations are “private companies,” 3) claiming “competition will naturally fix the problem” where the market structure is an oligopoly or monopoly, 4) asserting “we just need less government,” as if smaller government would rewrite existing corporate law or decrease existing corporate power, and 5) the classic externality-shrugging propaganda of “you did it to yourself, take personal responsibility.” These “libertarian” and “free market” stories have long been used by corporate advocates in dismissing institutional problems (e.g. Koch, Friedman).
And again, it’s just hard to believe this intelligent group doesn’t see these institutional problems. And it’s hard to believe this group isn’t aware they are repeating tired old propaganda to dismiss the problem. For reference: there’s never been a more transparent illustration of this avoidance than this panel with Rubin, Peterson, Shapiro, Weinstein where Eric went off script. The groupthink reaction was telling. Clearly the group wants to sweep some topics under the carpet; including topics which are central to the problems which they pretend they are trying to solve.
If this explanation is correct, it destroys their credibility as a “diverse group of individuals” who “discuss ideas openly based on their merit.” How diverse and open-ended is this group, really?
#3: Fearful of attacks from big corporations
Another good explanation is that the IDW recognize the elephant, and are rightly afraid of it.
It’s one thing to run alt-media narratives counter to leftism; you will draw attacks from mainstream corporate media because you are interrupting their social engineering program. But nobody goes against corporatism itself, not in effective action, and lives to tell about it. We have been witness to this with the defamation of Bannon, Milo, Sargon, Jones, and even PewDiePie. Attacks on the corporate system, without having corporate backing to protect you, are met with severe and coordinated strikes from corporate media/tech. If you are in the corporate club then it’s okay to virtue signal against corporatism, because the system knows that as part of the system you are no risk. But attacks from outside the system, particularly effective attacks, either from independent media entrepreneurs or rouge corporate arms, are not appreciated. The reality is that the mainstream media machine can make up anything about anyone, nobody is safe, and use that to “digitally deperson” you; shutting down your revenue streams. Who really wants to poke that bear?
As Eric Weinstein has said, the system “makes liars of all of the experts.” This happens because everyone who is making money is doing so as part of that corrupt system, and motivated by self-preservation to ignore systemic problems.
#4: Employed by corporations
The most malevolent explanation is that key IDW members are employed, if even indirectly, by large corporations. It’s also the most obvious explanation: media personalities don’t talk about systemic corporate problems, because their sponsors, or would-be sponsors, are corporations. Related to this is the long-term trend of business models forming in America which are based on the negative externalities of corporatism; these people monetize the externality and thus aren’t actually interested in solving the root problem, but in maintaining it.
Corporations employing “the opposition” makes sense. From corporatism’s perspective it’s essential to control the media narratives, particularly during a time of growing political unrest and disillusionment with mainstream media. As people switch off legacy media and on to new tech media; the new communication networks must be owned, and their media personalities too. Given the inevitability of social change, strategically it makes sense to give the public some acknowledgment that socially the far-left stuff is kinda bullshit, while economically continuing with corporatism. Since corporatism is only about profit maximization, it’s a good trade — the system sacrifices an aging pawn (leftism), but protects the king (corporatism). With just a bit of controlled opposition, it can delay the economic revolution N-years. And actually, we know this is happening.
It’s known that Dave Rubin has had a Koch partnership since 2016. It’s almost certain that Jordan Peterson, who is close with Rubin, and who constantly retweets Koch economic propaganda from HumanProgress, is also sponsored. Same for Steven Pinker, who puppets near identical views, with Koch retweets (no reputable academic would spread blatantly misleading economic stats from America’s second largest private corporation). As for Shapiro, his entire business model is based on mainstream corporate media (CNN, FOX, Amazon book sales, etc). Eric Weinstein is from Thiel Capital, and almost certainly backed by Peter Thiel who has long held similar views. From here, groupthink explains why those not on the corporate payroll (perhaps Bret Weinstein or Sam Harris), or who have gone off script in the past (Eric Weinstein), have gone largely quiet on the topic.
Unfortunately this explanation makes the IDW just another corporate think tank and propaganda outlet; packed full of hidden agendas, bias and groupthink—like mainstream corporate media—but designed to provide an “alternative” which placates, and controls, the revolution.
Some combination of the above
The above explanations are of course interrelated. For example, Ben Shapiro is a corporate media industry contractor (#4), he would be afraid of speaking on topics that would jeopardize his cash flows (#3), and he is obviously biased rightward (#2). Despite working as a consultant for the corporate world, he’s never actually had a high-up position inside a big corporation (#1).
Anyhow, there’s definitely something off here. We can nail some of it down, while other elements require some speculation which could end up being wrong. But whatever is going on, it’s clearly not believable that these intellectuals have no clue about the institutional corporate problems. And it’s also clear by now that we’re not going to get answers from them about this, just deafening silence.
In the investment industry, when we speak publicly, we are required to disclose financial dealings which might reasonably be expected to bias our views. It’s meant to protect the public from getting scammed by smooth talkers with hidden agendas. However there don’t appear to be any such rules in the media industry. These media personalities are taking public money while giving the public the impression that they work for them; without disclosing corporate deals which seem to significantly guide their behavior. I wonder, would Peterson would call this “morally reprehensible”?
Where Does Avoidance of the Root Problem Lead Us?
The issue is that system-deep institutional problems are not going away. In fact they’ve been growing for decades which has driven the demand for social phenomenon such as Bannon, Bernie, Cortez, Warren, Trump, Obama…and the IDW.
You just can’t ignore one side of a socioeconomic problem, because it’s all intertwined. America’s socioeconomic problem is postmodernism (social) and corporatism (economic). The IDW acknowledges the former, while peculiarly and stubbornly ignoring/denying the later. Which just so happens to be the mirror opposite of what the left does. And so, the American public ends up divided, again. Two sides, both with an incomplete answer. Isn’t it rather curious how this keeps happening?
Let’s be generous and take the scenario where the IDW “wins,” achieving a cultural revolution, while the economic system holds constant; what does society really end up winning? We just get a more eloquent collection of pro-corporatists to replace the painfully transparent old pro-corporatists? Decades more of status quo propagandists telling us everything is fine, as the root problem worsens? Does changing the front office faces of corporatism change the reality of the situation? In shilling for corporatism, is 150 IQ Jordan Peterson less dangerous than 90 IQ Jim Acosta?
Are We Pawns in Inter-Corporate Warfare?
Historically, corporatism has succeeded in silencing, buying off, or otherwise subverting the opposition.
That’s what it did to the journalistic integrity of the media industry after the 70s, it simply bought the entire thing! Why wouldn’t it be doing the same thing now, with social media influencers? With long-term strong trends it’s wise to assume they will continue; so often what people think is a change at the time, only ends up a continuation of the trend. And today, with corporatism’s control of all major assets (including media, tech, banking), and its apolitical and opportunist nature making it able to play all sides, it’s not hard to see how this trend could adapt and persist.
What if we are witnessing inter-corporate warfare —Koch vs Comcast, Mercer vs Disney, Foxcorp vs AT&T, Google vs NYT? Battles between closed-groups: the legacy media’s voices of corporate interests vs a new group of covertly-backed pontificating social media influencers; who despite all their grandiose ideas just end up being the new puppets of corporate interests? If this is what we are witnessing, does the winner matter?
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?
COMMENTARY: PETERSON, SHAPIRO, WEINSTEIN, RUBIN (PANEL, JUNE 29, 2018)
The avoidance behavior was glaringly obvious in this panel where Eric Weinstein started disrupting the narrative by flirting around the edges of the institutional problem. This was some hard-hitting realism which seriously disrupted the other three's feel-good “libertarian” and “free market capitalism” story. My comments are in brackets. Also, I'm not trying to take the following comments out of context and so have included timecode, but I think these quotes accurately reflect their positions (which aside from Eric’s, are ridiculous)...
"A lot of the people at the very top understand why these games are fragile...the games are still serviceable...but if you actually understand how the games are played...you understand just how quickly this thing [the system] could turn."—Eric @ 20:10min.
"There was a phase change in the economy around 1970, that I can not get people to focus on [welcome to the club, Eric!]...if you look at GDP...and median male income...both going up until 1970...and then one of them flatlines and the other keeps going. We've built up two plus generations of experts lying about what happened [modern corporatism happened, the experts are servants of it]." —Eric @ 27:46min.
"Everything that got built during that time has an embedded growth obligation, if it doesn't grow at this rate, it's going to turn pathological."—Eric @ 28:55. [Right, that is the nature of a profit maximizing machine not programmed for a steady state, nor to care about damage to society (i.e. externalities), once the easy profits are gone, it must eat its own society. We programmed it by law to do that!]
"The market was unbelievably brilliant [real capitalism], and then there was a structural change [to corporatism], and now the question is: how do we account for these embedded growth obligations, that make liars of all of the experts, who service the institutions."—Eric @ 30:07min. [Brilliantly said, this gets into the fake economic stats, fake equity market valuations, fake venture capital valuations, fake USG debt measurements, and empty promises to society. The system must show return, and so it makes up return!]
"When you [the system] hit steady state, none of this works anymore. It's a Ponzi scheme."—Eric @ 30:24min. [Correct, societies follow a life cycle—eventually they exit their fast growth stage, and hit steady state. But corporatism is not programmed to deal with that, and with the economic center moving East, the whole system breaks down and goes pathological. Relates to MAGA.]
"The message that you should improve your own life, got conflated with; if your own life isn't awesome, it is because you failed to make it so. That was more true...1945-1970...when hard work usually paid off."—Eric @ 21:40min. [Right, and the machine is now seizing reward from the masses, in order to hit its own required rates of return.]
"When you have bad behavior by institutions, it is pathological to put that on individual's shoulders."—Eric @ 44:22min. [Obviously. And so we could say corporations are pathological, as they constantly use "you did it to yourself" propaganda. See Peterson's response to this later, very important.]
The other three attempt to explain away the data points, play the classic "personal responsibility" line, pretend people have not enunciated the systemic problems, present the false equivalence of stuff = happiness, and ignore that prior century capitalism existed and was completely different from current century corporatism. Again, I like these guys generally, but am not impressed here...
"It's personal responsibility" [long, paraphrased]—Peterson @ 16:36min.
"You want to make ethical citizens so that they don't make mistakes that corrupt the operation of the system at a systemic level."—Peterson @ 44:31min. [Wrong, or at least irrelevant at this point; 50yrs too late. The current driver of immorality, is top-down amorality written into the core system code (bottom-up morality does not address this existing root cause). Modern corporations are a designed mechanism for removing human judgement/morality—the employed humans are by law required to maximize profit while subordinating all other concerns, especially by maximizing externalities—while limited liability protects from said externalities coming back to them. Again, by law required to, or you and your ethics will be thrown out of a job!]
"Virtually all of those problems, are problems that people put in front of themselves"—Ben @ 23:49min.
"You're just lying to yourself, we aren't in a crisis."—Ben @ 19:30min.
"What we are saying is being read as self-help...basically what we are saying to people is...shut up and get on with your lives...solve your own problems."—Ben @ 17:40min. [Nice. I consider Ben a thinly-veiled corporate propagandist.]
"So many people think that the system is irrevocably broken, that they are willing to break the system, that is not irrevocably broken."—Ben @ 19:54min. [How are you so certain it's not irrevocably broken? Because GDP went up, that's it? People are just suffering from mass delusion?]
"Everyone is depressed but we don't know why we are depressed."—Ben @ 18:38min. [Actually people have enunciated very clearly why.]
"It's pretty good [the system], and we could maybe make it a little better, but the capacity for humans to make a system much better than this...[expresses doubt]"—Dave @ 25:00min. [This always gets into fighting the last war with the "capitalism vs communism" false binary nonsense. Except America is corporatist. You could make it much better, for example by being capitalist (symmetric risk/return), not corporatist.]
"The fundamental hatred of the system by many people...the system that we have [modern corporatism] is the best that has ever happened to any human beings in the history of the world."—Ben @ 25:55min. [Scary delusional. We're talking about the same corporatist nightmare teetering on the edge of collapse? What about 20th century capitalism 1900-1970? Pretty sure that was better. You are conflating the two, they are distinctly different economic forms, per capitalism's own definitions (provable). Note: everyone needs to revisit this base assumption in their model, that America's current economic system is still capitalism...it's these basic assumptions that nobody thinks to check, that get you.
"Well, fortunately we've got something better going on here, so let's not worry about it."—Dave @ 45:31min. [LOL, did that just happen? Eric just said nobody will talk about this stuff (tell me about it buddy!), followed by complete shutdown by the host.
And yet still, that pesky elephant remains standing there. Sorry, but the postmodernist-right can't just wish away reality, any more than can the postmodernist-left.