Stars of ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Scramble to Save Their Cash Cows

Of note:

Members of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web are taking a financial beating and scrambling for funds because their followers are reluctant to continue pledging money on Patreon after the crowdfunding platform jettisoned another right-wing provocateur over hate speech.

Fans of the internet’s contrarian wing don’t want Patreon taking a cut of the money they send to their heroes for premium content and have stopped making pledges.

The boycott may be hurting Patreon’s bottom line, but it’s also hurting personalities like right-wing author Jordan Peterson, comedian Dave Rubin, and other big names—who have resorted to begging their acolytes to keep the cash coming or are looking for another way to raise money.

Peterson, for his part, in a video posted online Sunday, begged his fans to be “reasonably patient” and keep up the monthly payments they send him through the crowdfunding site.

“It’s not so good for me on the financial front,” said Peterson, who lost nearly 10 percent of his Patreon supporters over the past week.

“My business side is going: that’s not great,” Rubin added in the same video.

Peterson, Rubin, and other pillars of the Intellectual Dark Web, an amorphous group of conservative internet political personalities defined by their willingness to buck political correctness and tweak liberals, have seen their Patreon payments battered this month by a controversy starring one of their movement’s own members.

Now Intellectual Dark Webbers like Rubin and Peterson are faced with a tough choice.

They can follow their fans and leave Patreon, abandoning the platforms that earns them each hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in exchange for another crowdfunding platform that could be shut down at any moment. Or they can stay, and risk being branded as sellouts to their free speech-obsessed fanbases.

The Intellectual Dark Web’s Patreon gravy train is under threat over Patreon’s treatment of Carl Benjamin, a pugnacious right-wing personality who poses as ancient Mesopotamian ruler “Sargon of Akkad” online. On Dec. 7, Patreon banned Benjamin, who was making more than $12,000 a month on the platform.

Patreon kicked Benjamin off for “racist and homophobic slurs,” an apparent reference to a February rant in which Benjamin called his foes on the extreme right “niggers” and “faggots.”

Peterson, Benjamin, and Rubin, as well as Patreon’s press office, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Benjamin’s supporters on the right have mostly ignored his hate speech, framing him instead as just the latest right-wing figure to be kicked off a tech platform over his politics.

Despite his use of racial and homophobic slurs, Benjamin’s friends in the Intellectual Dark Web have cast him as a martyr to free speech. Peterson, who has been lauded in mainstream outlets like the New York Times, called Benjamin “a brave guy” and said he was “extremely upset” by the ban.

On Sunday night, “new atheist” author and Intellectual Dark Web figure Sam Harris, who had one of Patreon’s highest-earning accounts until Monday, said that he was quitting the fundraising platform over recent Patreon bans.

“These recent expulsions seem more readily explained by political bias,” Harris said in a statement.

Benjamin’s ouster left fans of the Intellectual Dark Web urging other personalities like Rubin and Peterson to quit Patreon, too. But their options are limited.

SubscribeStar, an upstart Russian crowdfunding site, initially offered to take in right-wing figures who were kicked off Patreon. But payments giant PayPal closedSuscribeStar’s account over the weekend, making it nearly impossible for the site to process credit card transactions.

That puts SubscribeStar in the same spot as other crowdfunding sites that have courted the extreme right, only to be banned from the major financial tech platforms. Over the weekend, SubscribeStar stopped accepting new members.

Other personalities are attempting to raise money through membership programs of their own. Some have urged their fans to just send them money directly through PayPal, while Harris has directed his thousands of Patreon subscribers to sign up to pay for his content through his own website.

Peterson, an idiosyncratic Canadian professor and bestselling author who subsists on an all-beef diet, isn’t about to go broke if he loses the Patreon money. Neither is Rubin, who has other income streams, including YouTube ads for his online talk show.

Still, Peterson and Rubin have a plan to save their fan payments: launching a Patreon-style website of their own. On Sunday, Peterson and Rubin urged their Patreon backers to hang tight as they work on the new site.

“We have not been sleeping on this front, man,” Peterson said in a video. “People are trying to figure out what to do so this stops happening.”

But Rubin and Peterson don’t have a launch date for their Patreon clone, and it’s not clear how many of their fans would follow them to a new, untested website. And they’ll have to contend with the biggest issue of all: keeping publicity-conscious payment processors like PayPal happy, while not alienating their hard-right fans.

Source: Stars of ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Scramble to Save Their Cash Cows

My secret debate with Sam Harris: A revealing 4-hour dialogue on Islam, racism & free-speech hypocrisy – Salon.com

A very good long-read and effective take down of Sam Harris, a major figure in the anti-Muslim cottage industry, by Omer Aziz:

On that same podcast, Harris reflected with astonishment that I “didn’t even seem to be religious!” When I heard him say this, I burst out laughing. Unlike the charlatan Maajid Nawaz, I forthrightly admit that I am a skeptic and make no claims to being a “reformer”—such titles are for self-anointed prophets, not writers. Harris referred to me as a “young Muslim writer,” echoing his remarks during our debate where he referred to the same Middle Easterners he considers backward subhumans as “your fellow Muslims.” Imagine the grotesque stench of anti-Semitism if I called Sam Harris a “Jewish neuroscientist” or referred to Jewish terrorists in the West Bank as Harris’s “fellow Jews.” This is what white supremacy does: It reduces another person’s complex humanity to a two-dimensional stick-figure and allows the objectifier to remain so ignorant of how other people actually live that this ignorance becomes a privileged badge of honor rather than a mark of impoverishment. One should pity individuals like Harris, so blinded by arrogance that they live in a world removed from the struggles of every day people who they assume to be knaves and fools.

Harris ought to retire from the Islam industry altogether, or at least take a long vacation from spouting bile for a living. If this is too much to ask, he should at least have the integrity to admit that his attempted ambush on the “young Muslim writer” who “didn’t even seem to be religious” backfired and so he deprived his customers out of the truth.

For all of its shortcomings, this unpublished debate was not a waste of time. It illuminated one thing for certain: that Harris and his brigade of  reactionary pseudo-liberals are not at all interested in the questions they raise. It is about power for them, and maintaining a belief in their own superiority. No debate will rob Harris and his ilk of such a satisfying elixir, that they are civilized, while those people over there, in their ghettos and their mosques, they are barbaric, they are criminals, they are animals. Why escape Plato’s cave if you are the one holding the chains?

Source: My secret debate with Sam Harris: A revealing 4-hour dialogue on Islam, racism & free-speech hypocrisy – Salon.com

ICYMI: ‘Islam and the Future of Tolerance’ and ‘Not in God’s Name’ – The New York Times

Irshad Manji on the need for respectful discourse:

Enter Jonathan Sacks, a former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth. In his sobering yet soul-stirring new book, “Not in God’s Name,” Sacks confronts “politicized religious extremism” and diagnoses that cancer crisply: “The 21st ­century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning. Religion has returned because it is hard to live without meaning.” Given that “no society has survived for long without either a religion or a substitute for religion,” and given that believers are proliferating, Sacks predicts that the next 100 years will be more religious than the last. Bottom line: Any cure for violence in God’s name will have to work with religion as a fact of life.

That is where Sacks’s brilliance as a theologian radiates. He thinks two matters need tackling. There is “identity without universality,” or solidarity only with one’s group. Then there is “universality without identity,” the unbearable lightness of humans in a transactional but not transcendent world. Sacks wants to preserve the joy of participating in something bigger than the self while averting the hostility to strangers that goes with tribal ­membership.

He attempts this balance through an ingenious rereading of Genesis. Sacks’ proposition: Genesis contains two covenants rather than one. The first focuses on justice, which is impartial and thus universal in application. The second covenant emphasizes love, which is exquisitely particular and personal. In a ­showdown, justice overrides love. Analyzing parables and sibling rivalries in the Bible, Sacks concludes that decency toward the misfit, even to the infidel, takes precedence over loyalty to your own.

This should hearten Sam Harris, who despises the tendency of Muslims (and others) to stick up for fellow believers, especially when they act like “psychopaths.” Still, I have to wonder if Harris and his disciples will put stock in any reinterpretation, no matter how learned. After all, Harris opines that to reform religion is to read scripture in “the most acrobatic” terms. Sacks turns the tables on such skepticism, observing that “fundamentalists and today’s atheists” both ignore “the single most important fact about a sacred text, namely that its meaning is not self-evident.”

My own skepticism is about whether reformist interpretations can outpace regressive readings that tap into primal fears and gain traction quickly. Sacks argues, “We must put the same long-term planning into strengthening religious freedom as was put into the spread of religious extremism.” That implies creating a matrix of schools, policies and campaigns to teach reformist perspectives. But as he admits early on, “decades of anti-racist legislation, interfaith dialogue and Holocaust education” have not prevented the mess we are in. Why would it be different now?

Here is why. The Islamic State’s savagery against Muslims offers hope for taking power politics out of Islam, eventually achieving the mosque-state separation that Nawaz views as central to reform. Sacks gives historical comparisons to justify his hope. Europe’s bloody Reformation wars showed that big religion could not be relied on to protect the religious: “Western Christianity had to learn what Jews had been forced to discover in antiquity: how to survive without power. . . . You do not learn to disbelieve in power when you are fighting an enemy, even when you lose. You do when, with a shock of recognition, you find yourself using it against the members of your own people.”

Meanwhile, back at liberal democracy’s ranch, we must “insist on the simplest moral principle of all. . . . If you seek respect, you must give respect.” This does not mean always having to agree, but it does mean viewing one another as worthy of candid, constructive engagement. On that front, Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz are role models. The Lord works in mysterious, perhaps acrobatic, ways.

Source: ‘Islam and the Future of Tolerance’ and ‘Not in God’s Name’ – The New York Times