The group of thinkers now known as the “Intellectual Dark Web” — Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Bret and Eric Weinstein, Ben Shapiro — were convened in Dave Rubin’s garage and on his YouTube channel, The Rubin Report. And yet he has always suffered the accusation that he wasn’t a ‘real’ intellectual.
“What I thought and believe now that I am good at is that I can sit with these people and take a lot of that stuff and distil it into something that the average person can understand enough of. I love that space,” he told Freddie Sayers in a wide-ranging and philosophical discussion on LockdownTV.
He sees the old IDW gang as divided now along a crucial ideological split. There are those who believe the tools of liberalism can still be deployed to persuade the Woke Left to change their mind (he includes Bari Weiss, Sam Harris, Bret Weinstein in this group); and then there are those, like him, who have decided that it simply isn’t possible, and they’re better off building bridges with the Right: 'They’ve made what to me seems to be a very obvious fatal mistake, that you can use any of the tools of Liberalism — of open inquiry, freedom of speech, respect for your fellow human beings, individual rights — that you can use any of these things to rationalise with the monster that is coming to burn your house down. And that’s why we’ve seen in effect the liberals have no defence over this, which is why all the liberal institutions are crumbling.What I’m seeing, and I would say this is more me, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, is that there’s all sorts of bridges to be built the other way. If you would have told me five years ago that I would consider Dennis Prager and Glenn Beck and Larry Elder and many other conservatives not only friends but the type of intellectual that I want to be — I would be shocked.'
His hope is on the Right, and the long-term vision is of building parallel institutions to those controlled by the liberal Left: 'Maybe we’re just going to build parallel societies. I think that that may start to be — woke culture will have its own TV, apps and all their institutions, and then the rest of us will have a whole bunch of other stuff. But my money is on those guys building the right thing.'
This vision of two parallel societies may come across as rather dispiriting for early fans of Rubin. After all, this was the host who brought together people of all different political stripes, namely the IDW, to talk things out on his show. Now he is advocating for the opposite. There was something genuinely counter-cultural about the way in which figures from the Reaganite Right all the way through to the progressive Left gathered under Dave’s roof to exchange and debate ideas, and it is a pity to see that disappear. Though Dave insists that there are “bridges to be built in the other way”, the gradual disintegration of the IDW feels like the end of an (albeit short-lived) era. Let’s hope the next one can provide us with something similar.