Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation has roiled the group of conservative academics and internet personalities that calls itself the Intellectual Dark Web, leaving bestselling professor Jordan Peterson on the verge of abandoning his Twitter account amidst a backlash.
On Friday, a day before the Senate voted to confirm Kavanaugh, former Evergreen State professor and Intellectual Dark Webber Bret Weinstein tweeted that the idea of Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice and the idea of Kavanaugh withdrawing his nomination were “both… completely unacceptable.”
“If confirmed Kavanaugh should step down,” Peterson chimed in on Twitter.
Peterson’s Twitter feed soon filled up with more than 10,000 responses, many of them from disillusioned fans who felt Peterson had betrayed them.
It’s a surprise rift for the Intellectual Dark Web, an ideologically vague outfit best tied together by a willingness to tweak liberals and popular presences on social media platforms like YouTube and Twitter. The group includes academics like Peterson and Weinstein, mainline conservative pundit Ben Shapiro, frequent feminism critic Christina Hoff Sommers, “new atheist” Sam Harris, YouTube talk show host Dave Rubin, and even Ultimate Fighting Championship commentator and podcaster Joe Rogan.
Weinstein’s brother, mathematician and Peter Thiel associate Eric Weinstein, coined the term “Intellectual Dark Web” as a way to suggest that the group was willing to discuss ideas otherwise “forbidden” by a politically correct establishment. Intellectual Dark Web members often call themselves “classical liberals” and talk about campus free speech issues, which helps obscure some of their more outlandish ideas. Peterson, for example, has praised “enforced monogamy” and railed against the gender politics of Frozen.
But Peterson’s call for Kavanaugh to resign from the court bucked the increasingly conservative tilt of the Intellectual Dark Web. Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist who has restyled himself as a voice of internet Trumpism, said in a video that he was stunned by the idea that Peterson opposed Kavanaugh taking a seat on the court.
“I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with an opinion as much as I’ve disagreed with that one,” Adams said.
Peterson’s criticism of Kavanaugh also opened up him up for slams from pro-Trump commentators.
“Absolutely not,” frequent Fox News guest and Trump favorite Dan Bongino shot back on Twitter.
It was an unexpected moment of criticism from the right for Peterson, who first rose to prominence by criticizing liberal “social justice warriors” on college campuses. Since then, he’s become a kind of hero figure for many young conservatives, thanks to a series of popular YouTube videos and a book of life advice.
“Love me some Jordan Peterson, but nope,” tweeted Shapiro.
Peterson received perhaps his harshest criticism from Owen Benjamin, a comedian who gained a foothold in the Intellectual Dark Web with a series of comedy videos aimed at political correctness. Benjamin, who was banned from Twitter in April after attacks on Parkland survivor David Hogg, ranted about his one-time ideological ally on YouTube.
In a video, Benjamin compared Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle to the 19th-century Dreyfus Affair, and accused Peterson of selling out the Intellectual Dark Web and creating an opening for “female tyranny.”
“This is going to fuck Peterson,” Benjamin continued. “He’s not going to be able to afford as many fancy suits.”
Peterson, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, struggled to tamp down the controversy with a blog post on Tuesday explaining at length his reasons for finding Kavanaugh too controversial for the Supreme Court, and saying “It was an error for me to use Twitter to express such thoughts, particularly in the condensed form that Twitter requires.”
He used much of the post to consider what he did and did not owe his more than 900,000 followers there.
“It would almost certainly better for my mental health and ease of mind and conscience” to leave the site and his followers there behind, Peterson—who remained active on Twitter as this article was written—wrote in his blog post.