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The intellectual dark web vs. transgender people

The so-called intellectual dark web (IDW) is a loose alliance described as a “gateway to the far right.” Many people involved are prominent opponents of transgender rights. IDW members typically get money and attention by claiming to be “canceled” or silenced by the minorities and progressive movements they criticize (called DARVO in general; see also the Dregerian Narrative in relation to trans issues, named after IDW inaugural member Alice Dreger).


The IDW began to coalesce around 2014 as a reaction to progressivism during the Obama administration, particularly the greater visibility and acceptance of trans people. Key moments:

A number of websites emerged profiling members, like the examples below.

The movement was popular with many anti-trans authors, including Meghan Daum, who has written about having an “affair” with IDW.


Evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker is the member that ties the IDW to last century’s Human Biodiversity Institute, a group created by white nationalist Steve Sailer which promoted similar eugenic ideologies.

Numerous lists of IDW people emerged around 2018 that include some or all of the following people:

2018 Data & Society study

In 2018, Data & Society published an analysis titled Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube. It showed how far-right accounts were able to launder their views through collaborating with several prominent members of the IDW.

2019 radicalization study

IDW members grew in popularity through podcasts and YouTube. A 2019 analysis titled Auditing Radicalization Pathways on YouTube examines how YouTube algorithms in the 2010s infected viewers with recommendations from the alt-right, alt-lite, and intellectual dark web. The kinds of radicalization included anti-trans radicalization.

Below are the channels labeled by the study as part of the intellectual dark web.

reddit communities

There is significant overlap with IDW and anti-progressivism on reddit. The subreddit r/IntellectualDarkWeb is closely aligned with center-right and conservative media figures engaged in political philosophy.

Jordan Peterson

  • Jung
  • JordanPeterson
  • Jordan_Peterson_Memes


  • samharris
  • daverubin
  • enoughpetersonspam
  • ThePortal
  • EnoughIDWspam


  • moderatepolitics
  • centrism


  • GoldandBlack
  • benshapiro
  • walkaway
  • FreeSpeech


  • stupidpol
  • SocialJusticeInAction

Media critics

  • media_criticism

Decline in influence

Following a number of reports demonstrating that YouTube was a major pipeline for right-wing radicalization, the company took steps to refine its recommendation algorithms and began enforcing stricter content policies. Many IDW members were required to remove videos. Some channels were demonetized and/or suspended.

Observers have noted three other key events that splintered the IDW:

  • The presidency of Donald Trump
  • COVID and response to it
  • The George Floyd protests

IDW member Christopher Rufo chalked up the collapse to these events. Rufo also noted that the alliance collapsed because it was a reactionary movement with no political will. They stood against many things, but as a group, they did not stand for anything.

Most IDW members craved money and/or attention, and once that became more elusive, the alliance began to dissipate.

Examples of listings

IDW member Alice Dreger in 2018. Source:
Alice Dreger, Steven Pinker, and other IDW members. Source:
Intellectual Dark Web members by redditor AnotherDayDream (June 2018).
“Members of the Intellectual Dark Web that have appeared together (so far)” source: IntellectualDarkWeb subreddit (June 1, 2018)


Lewis, Rebecca (September 18, 2018). Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube. Data & Society

Ribeiro MH, Ottoni R, West R, Almeida VAF, Meira W (2019). Auditing Radicalization Pathways on YouTube. (PDF)

Dickson EJ (August 28, 2019). Study Shows How the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Is a Gateway to the Far Right. Rolling Stone

Beres, Derek (March 5, 2018). These are the women behind the Intellectual Dark Web. Big Think

Weiss, Bari (May 8, 2018). Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark WebThe New York Times

Robinson, Nathan J. (May 10, 2018). The real “dangerous” ideas. Current Affairs

  • “There are dozens of well-known critics of social justice activists: Harris, Shapiro, Peterson, Brooks, Stephens, Hoff Sommers, Weinstein, Weinstein, Murray, Murray, Rogan, Chait, Haidt, Pinker, Rubin, Sullivan, Weiss, Williamson, Yiannopoulos, Dreger, Hirsi Ali.”

Dreger, Alice (May 11, 2018). Why I Escaped the ‘Intellectual Dark Web.’ The Chronicle of Higher Education

  • Before backing out of appearing in Bari Weiss’s article with other alt-right figures, Dreger posed for the photo: “Damon Winter, the Pulitzer winner, had me standing in a marsh full of tall, dry reeds, waiting for a particular moment just past sunset.”

Brown, Elizabeth Nolan (May 14, 2018). The ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Is Just Rehashing Old P.C. Controversies in New Media. Reason

Daum, Meghan (March 16, 2018). Op-Ed: A new movement to speak truth to identity politics is our best hope against regressive thinking. Los Angeles Times

Daum, Meghan (August 24, 2018). Nuance: A Love Story. My affair with the intellectual dark web. GEN.

Wakeling, Adam (June 13, 2021). What Happened to the Intellectual Dark Web? Arc Digital

Fisher, Anthony L. (January 19, 2023). The Intellectual Dark Web’s Descent Into Paranoia and Trumpism. The Daily Beast

Rufo, Chris (March 6, 2023). Why the IDW Fell Apart.


The Intellectual Dark Web (

Intellectual Dark Web (

School of Peterson ( [archive 2018-2021]

  • The Intellectual Dark Web [archive]
  • The only such list that included Seth Godin

The Intellectual Dark Web ( [archive]

San Diego Public Library (

Wikipedia (