A ten step guide to being invited to a dinner with the Intellectual Dark Web

The Video Loss Weekly Digest is a newsletter of media, politics, and dreams.

Step One: Decide you are very smart.

Step Two: Decide you are not just, like, academic smart or vocationally smart, but people smart. You understand the world and the people and the systems of socialization on a deeper level than the common man. Decide you are a modern philosopher.

Step Three: Because you have made this realization at a politically tenuous time and because you can write in a manner that is compelling, you receive massive success both among the public, the press, and academics. To a public shaken by war and a widening cultural divide, your takes like “Religion is Bad!” feel groundbreaking and inventive. Keep. Talking.

Step Four: Waddle into some really dumb takes. For example: the inherent violence at the core of a particular religion and the lengths we can morally go to correct this violence!

Step Five: Because you have been held up as a Good Smart Person by the media and public, the criticism you received for your dumb takes will be swift, intense, and—since it mostly originates from the internet—occasionally tenuous. Absolutely refuse to back down, both because you are entirely convinced you are a Smart Good Person and because you have become increasingly unable to separate the internet noise from the thoughtful and reasoned critiques of your work.

Step Six: Because you are Very Mad about the criticism of your bad takes and you demand recognition for Being Right, allow these bad takes to become increasingly central to your role as a public intellectual. You double down, and triple down, and quadruple down.

Step Seven: Along the way, due to the still mostly-glowing mainstream press coverage and because of increasing dabbles into independent media, you begin to amass a large contingent of fans. Because this is all happening mostly Online and mostly in circles that act very seriously about things like “Intellect” and “Atheism,” these fans are mostly young men with high regard for themselves and little regard for nuance or people saying that they are wrong. Nurture them. They are also a powder keg of political radicalization waiting to be sparked, but you might not realize that yet.

Step Eight: At this point, you are at the height of fame but lowest point of mainstream acceptance. This bothers you immensely. Years of nonsensical public feuds and your increasing project of turning “grievance” into the kind of identity politics you would otherwise condemn have lost you a significant portion of your peers. Most of your contemporaries are dead or substantially to your left. Your press clips increasingly paint you as bigoted, which only drives your bloodlust and disenfranchisement from the mainstream media. Recent events have radicalized a number of your fans. They are calling on you for validation and guidance as they decide just how much they should hate women, the libs, and brown people. Listen to them. Decide you are now a wise old man who must moderate and conduct debates on the political shape of the world by the new pen and paper of podcasts and Patreon.

Step Nine: Because you have burned most of your bridges and alienated yourself, your attempts at debate are mostly latched onto by idealistic grifters looking to raise their public profile off your platforms. Indulge them. After all, they are the only guests who are willing to bear your new habit of sidetracking every single podcast interview with a 25 minute monologue detailing Glenn Greenwald’s sins against your character. Have enough philosophical, not outwardly racist conversations that your non-radicalized fans can still claim you have value.

Step Ten: You are now entirely in a cycle. Your response to criticism remains comically dramatic and absolute, furthering your alienation from mainstream thought. This, in turn, leads to an increasing political slant to your platforms. Which, of course, only fuels the criticism from mainstream media. The grifters become your friends. Your peers shift from Chomsky to Shapiro. Sniveling dipshits like Dave Rubin—a man of such little intellectual insight or ability that he would be a marketing executive for a regional soda company in any other society but ours—invites you onto his podcast and you say yes. You talk into a microphone to the host of Fear Factor for hours on end. You say Vox journalists are comparable to Nazis and no one blinks. You have never been more successful. You have never been less necessary. One night, you debate a popular frog man about the appropriate level of gender oppression for a crowd of thousands of identical looking men named Conner. As you gaze into the sea of too-tight dress shirts and breath in the air of noxious hair gel, you feel a brief moment of clarity. You give an interview to an outlet where you condemn Kermit for his inane views on just about everything. This passes. Agree to two more debates for later in the summer.

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