Australia’s Mistress of the Intellectual Dark Web

Australia’s Mistress of the Intellectual Dark Web, by Helen Dale.

Claire Lehmann is editor-in-chief of Quillette, magazine to the oddly-named ‘Intellectual Dark Web.’ A rising star and genuine Australian success, her outlet’s extraordinary popularity also reveals troubling attempts to narrow the range of acceptable ideas in the academy, legacy press and wider culture. …

From its foundation in October 2015, Quillette has always paid its writers. At first the sums amounted to pin money, but when Lehmann set up an increasingly popular Patron account, payment came to match and then better that offered by major metropolitan dailies. Lehmann also spent some of the income on multiple server upgrades so popular has Quillette become. She was helped in this because, sometimes, contributors did not want to be paid.

Quillette is the official outlet — if one can be said to exist — of the now notorious ‘Intellectual Dark Web’. When the New York Times produced a lengthy investigation of both the magazine and so-called IDW ‘members’, the only non-Americans profiled were Canadian superstar psychologist Jordan Peterson and Australia’s Lehmann. …

The IDW foundation narrative is clear enough. The bulk of this loose intellectual confederation is made up of academics and former academics, plus an occasional businessman like Weinstein or YouTube personality like Dave Rubin.

All have found themselves excluded from polite society — and sometimes their jobs — for suggesting, say, biological and psychological differences between men and women are real and well-documented, identity politics is polarising nonsense, courtesy in addressing opponents is essential because it confers an ability to persuade, and free speech is the sine qua non of civil society, no exceptions.

They agree on almost nothing else. The Americans involved voted variously for Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson and even Donald Trump.

As the world’s media — with a deluge of articles in outlets from Vanity Fair to Slate to Reason to The Spectator have tried to come to grips with both Quillette and the IDW, two things have been forgotten. First, Lehmann is Australian and founded the magazine when the ABC and Fairfax stopped accepting her articles, and secondly, when it comes to the IDW, Quillette defines the boundaries of who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’.

Pinker, Damore, Hirsi Ali and the like get by-lines, respectful interviews and thoughtful reviews, for example. Candace Owens, meanwhile, is excoriated as, well, a wingnut.

‘I have all the respect in the world for the Australian and The Spectator,’ Lehmann told me last week when I asked why she’d never approached either, ‘but my interest has always been cultural criticism and science writing and not political commentary per se.’

hat-tip Stephen Neil