the “dark intellectual web” takes on the millennial sex recession
When it comes to shows with toxic fandoms, Rick and Morty is often cited in debates about fans suddenly imagining that they own the show and its characters over the showrunners’ vehement objections. The toxicity was enough to trigger a common expression to sum it up; 90% of the fans think they’re a Rick when they’re really a Jerry. Rick, of course, is the titular genius whose vast understanding of the universe and how it works has led him to alcoholism and nihilism, while Jerry is his daughter’s dimwitted, cowardly husband whose only accomplishments in life were getting his crush pregnant as a teenager and mooching off others’ pity.
Something very similar applies to the incels, young white nationalists, and lost souls who dove deep into what’s been gradiosely called “The Intellectual Dark Web” by sympathetic writer Bari Weiss. They’re all very quick to agree with soliloquies painting them as hurting young men in search of purpose, whose achievements are both insignificant and too few and far between, scorned by a world that doesn’t understand or appreciate them, and inspired by a periodic pep talk that gives them a choice. Which is more or less the summation of Jerry that Rick lays out in The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy episode of the last season as of this writing.
But you see, they’ve found a way to become Ricks thanks to their dark intellectual sherpas. Yes, they’ll be told to make their bed, clean their rooms, and do their homework, but mostly, they’ll have their supposed intellectual and cultural superiority affirmed and be given a scapegoat: the evil ghost of Cultural Marxism, the zombie bugaboo of the John Birch Society that refuses to die thanks to the baby boomers’ deeply ingrained fear of certain buzzwords associated with the far left and the Soviet Union. Once again, it’s been summoned from the grave to give young men left behind by post-industrialization an abstract two-dimensional evil cutout to attack, especially when they’re faced with complex, multi-faceted problems.
millennials and the great sex deficit
A perfect example of this technique is an article by Dr. Debra Soh, one of the “dark intellectuals” using the moniker for instant shock jock cachet, about why according to countless studies, not only is the hookup culture a media-created myth, younger generations are actually having less and less sex. Why? While academics are exploring numerous explanations and their possible overlaps, as summarized by The Atlantic’s latest cover story, Soh knows exactly what the problem is: an army of evil man-hating harpies swarming college campuses with fake rape accusations which the liberal media refuses to mention not to trigger the social justice warriors ready to storm their headquarters in the name of political correctness.
She may have worded it more eloquently than that, but this is exactly what her argument boils down to when you strip it of all the rhetorical trappings, and it very much flies in the face of the article she’s using as her jump off point. Researchers have examined the role of #MeToo and their findings, and the opinions of college women, are debated in depth in a section discussing dating apps. The millennial sex drought affects both women and men in and out of college, but Soh is only interested in lamenting that men aren’t getting all the sex they want and how they must always fear the inevitable rape accusation, ending with a textbook example of begging the question by asking how supposedly vilifying men wouldn’t lead to a sex drought.
And this is not to mention the massive flaw in what we technically have to call her analysis. While spending much of her time recycling the same tropes about the supposed proliferation of misandrist feminazis in the West, Soh completely ignores the widely publicized decline in sexual activity in Japan, a nation which seems like the embodiment of the nationalist right’s desires on the other side of the Pacific. If the virulently anti-man feminist brigades on college campuses are a significant part of the so-called millennial sex recession, why are roughly half of adults virtually asexual in a country where they’re an extreme rarity?
Soh can’t feign ignorance here either. It was prominently highlighted in the article she used as her jump off point, and even the most cursory research into this question immediately yields countless reports of nearly half of Japan becoming more or less asexual to the frustration of just about everyone. Given the slightest bit of nuance and rigor, her hypothesis falls flat on its face, good only for getting her incel fans to cheer by once again blaming their mortal enemies — ones she conveniently provides for them as a scapegoat — for their moral, financial, and sexual woes. But of course, that’s the whole point.
In a way, what Soh and her colleagues are selling is the illusion of insight and nuance. Listen to them and your choice is either hysterical leftists screaming Marxist slogans or their calm, factual take on any given subject in which they don’t hesitate to wade into gray areas. Except for the part where they cherry-pick those facts to suit their narratives, or pretend that the nuance or insight they want to add wasn’t already discussed at length, as we just saw with Soh’s article. She had to pit the demonic anti-Western feminazis against the saintly men being demonized for the sin of existing while ignoring any agency or opinion women might have on the subject. That’s what her fan base expects and bought as a nuanced analysis.
regressivism vs. postmodernism
Much like the postmodernists these “dark intellectuals” decry, they rely on erecting fragile and elaborate strawmen and absurd premises in which either they or something they very much approve of is being victimized by sinister forces, then bombarding readers with enough jargon and rhetorical flourishes to lard their talking points. Soh’s cry of masculinity under attack by relentless radical femininity is nothing more than a regressive inversion of Luce Irigaray’s premise that all of physics and math oppress women. The only reason why Soh isn’t dismissed as quickly is because she’s exploiting the fear of her audience far better than Irigaray and in far more straightforward, relatable language.
In arcane discussions about racism, gender, and intersectionality being given the light of day in a few essays here and there, Peterson, Soh, Shapiro, and their fellow travelers found a teacup in which they could whip up a Category 5 hurricane. Meanwhile, in the real world, the delicate college snowflake both afraid of his/her/shkler shadow and ready to violently riot when called the undesired pronoun, the fabled Schrodinger’s Leftist, is a statistical anomaly. They exist, but their true numbers have been wildly exaggerated in no small part thanks to pundits eager to cover a conflict and aforementioned right wing demagogues following the standard formula of right wing graft: selling older generations doomsday porn about the collapse of society as they know it.
The campus intersectionalists are an out of control problem because the “dark intellectuals” need them to be, the media is fixated on the attention pointed towards them, and they make a perfect stand-in for the “campus Marxists” of the Civil Rights era, making it easy to dust off the Red Scare playbook and play ad libs with some of the terminology. Once again, those whose message boils down to “maybe we should treat all people with respect and recognize that we all have problems in common” are dismissed while the most outspoken radicals among them are cherry-picked and held up as a typical representation of anyone advocating for a change to the status quo.
The many young men trapped in an economy with little use for them, left to themselves in an era of post-industrial social change for which they’re ill-prepared, were just a bonus. Their loss, chaos, and grief could be exploited by regressive self-help gurus who’d beat them up about having a messy room and not taking enough showers, but not too much because the villains had to be minorities and feminists, and their fans were simply temporarily embarrassed alphas who deserved all the sex, lucrative jobs, and societal power they requested simply by virtue of having a penis and a tidy room. And of course, that Patreon subscription to the latest regressive mantra…