Mark Metcalfe / Politico
One evening this fall at a house in West Hollywood, the Australian editor and writer Claire Lehmann had dinner with the neuroscientist Sam Harris and Eric Weinstein, the managing director of tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel’s investment firm. Joe Rogan, the podcast host, joined later on, when the group decamped to a comedy club.
You could think of the gathering as a board meeting of sorts for the “intellectual dark web,” or IDW, a loose cadre of academics, journalists and tech entrepreneurs who view themselves as standing up to the knee-jerk left-leaning politics of academia and the media. Over the past year, the IDW has arisen as a puzzling political force, made up of thinkers who support “Enlightenment values” and accuse the left of setting dangerously illiberal limits on acceptable thought. The IDW has defined itself mainly by diving into third-rail topics like the genetics of gender and racial difference—territory that seems even more fraught in the era of #MeToo and the Trump resistance. But part of the attraction of the IDW is the sense that many more people agree with its principles than can come forward publicly: The dinner host on this night, Lehmann says, was a famous person she would prefer not to name.