On Morning Joe, NY Times' Bari Weiss and Joe Scarborough tout far-right websites as “intellectual salons”

Weiss: “What's interesting about this group is it brings together people from across the political spectrum,” from Ben Shapiro to Jordan Peterson

From the May 8 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

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BARI WEISS (OPINION WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES): So the intellectual dark web, I think, is maybe one of the strongest signs of the time we're living in. We increasingly, as we've talked about before, live in this era of that which cannot be said. A little bit like, Voldemort-ish. I'm not talking about things around which there should be taboos. You don't run up to someone and say, “you're ugly.” Certain taboos exist for a reason. I'm talking about saying things like, there are differences between men and women. Not all cultures are equally conducive to human flourishing. Things of this nature that are incredibly important if we want to A, gain knowledge and B, progress, not just as America but as, sort of, a society, and increasingly, if you touch those topics, which have become third rail, you reap a whirlwind of sort of derision and outrage. And the people in this very, very unorthodox group are people that have basically been smeared so thoroughly that they've sort of said, “screw it, we're going to touch these topics ourselves, but we're not going to do it inside the mainstream.”

Now, of course there have always been intellectual salons. What makes this different is that, in previous eras, you'd have the Trotskyites of Alcove 2 at City College, you'd have the neoconservatives, you'd have the neo-Marxists. What's interesting about this group is that it brings together people across the political spectrum. So you have anti-Trump conservative Ben Shapiro, who left Breitbart over Trump. You have Sam Harris, an avowed atheist. Now, Ben Shapiro's an orthodox religious Jew, Sam Harris has basically devoted his public life to arguing against religion, and yet they're in conversation with each other. They are sort of pushing back against the the sort of bad faith -- kind of bad faith arguments that tend to be increasingly regular in places like Twitter, and they're sort of doing something of their own, and they're generating an absolutely enormous audience. These people are celebrities who most people in the mainstream media basically ignore.


JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): So, a name that I guess fits into there, Jordan Peterson, I really -- I've only read articles about him. I've never seen -- I haven't seen any of his YouTube speeches or anything like that, but that seems to be an example of a guy who is talking about how young men should hold their shoulders back, stand up straight, do some basic things that a lot of our fathers taught us, and he -- for espousing such views, he was, you know, immediately called out as being some member of the “alt-right” or some neo-Nazi. Is that what you're talking about?

WEISS: Exactly, so some people look at Jordan Peterson and say he is a gateway drug to the “alt-right” because he is basically taking the crisis of masculinity seriously and not simply saying to men, “you're toxic.” Right? He views himself, and I think I'm more on this side of things, as a sort of catcher in the rye. He's taking people -- and I have people writing me on Twitter saying, “Jordan Peterson saved my life. I was living in my mother's basement, I was smoking weed all day, I read Jordan Peterson, and I started to take my life seriously.” And what I think is powerful is, again, as a sign of the times, is why is Jordan Peterson, the most popular public intellectual in this country, and certainly in Canada at the moment, for saying things that are so basic? It really just tells you how few people are sort of wading into these important subjects these days, and I think that's why these people are worth paying attention to. They have flaws. They have lots of flaws.

EDDIE GLAUDE JR. (CHAIR, CENTER FOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY): So, Bari, let's talk about this. So what -- what allows you to describe these folks as intellectuals of sort? Let me say it differently. They're connected intellectually by what common commitments? So you might have different ideological spaces, but when you talk about Sam Harris and Ben Shapiro in one sentence, I can see the connection between those two.

WEISS: Which is?

GLAUDE JR.: Having something to do with how they think about race, having something to do with how they think about diversity in the country and the ways in which that diversity is talked about, right? The way in which they think about political correctness, I can see the way --

WEISS: Yeah, they're anti-identity politics, for sure. 

GLAUDE JR.: Identity politics is a phrase that kind of is a red herring. Identity politics is just simply questions of justice, right?

WEISS: No, I don't think so. 

GLAUDE JR.: No, absolutely, so is the question, is it --

WEISS: That's not how I think about identity politics.

GLAUDE JR.: OK, well, let me help you think about it then --

WEISS: OK, help me.

SCARBOROUGH: Wait, wait, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on a second, right here, no, no, no, no, I got to step in. Eddie, you have just made Bari Weiss's point, that you disagree with the way Bari Weiss views the world, so you're going to help her view the world more the way you view the world. The entire purpose of the exercise is to have honest conversations with people, and to not question their morality, or their wisdom just because they don't view the world exactly the same way that you do.

GLAUDE JR.: That's not what I was doing though, Joe. What I was trying to do was to say there's a way in which we can understand identity politics as just simply kind of group-based. I want to suggest that identity politics isn't -- the question of equal pay for women. That's not an identity politics question, that's a justice question. And so calling it an identity politics question is to turn one's attention away from the issue of justice, or the question of fair treatment under the law, for black men and for white, black women. That's not an identity politics question, that's just a justice question.


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