Masha Gessen bails on “Intellectual Dark Web” event

Not a headline you see every day:

Masha Gessen Quits ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Panel After Accidentally Joining ‘Alt-Right Shitshow’

The organizers of a panel celebrating self-identified members of the Intellectual Dark Web—a very serious circle mostly consisting of men who REALLY don’t want you to call them alt-right—have persuaded a few real life intellectuals into joining them on stage for a “Day of Reflection” at Lincoln Center later this year.

New Yorker contributor and author Masha Gessen tells Gothamist she was shocked to learn last night that an event she’d agreed to speak at is actually an “alt-right shitshow,” hosted by racism-debunking podcaster David Rubin and focused on such illuminating questions as: “Has #MeToo Gone #TooFar?” “Can We Move Beyond Race?” and “Does Islam Pose A Unique Challenge To Modernity?”

I’d seen the poster for it, probably via Eiynah (Nice Mangos).


Soooo many usual suspects…along with, to be sure, some not so usual ones. Fareed Zakaria for instance is both a get and a wild card – he’s hardly part of the Twitter anti-SJW crowd.

“The way I learned about it is that I was at home watching a movie with my kids and I saw my Twitter feed go nuts, and strangers are [direct messaging] me asking, ‘Why the hell are you taking part in this?'” Gessen said. “There’s a lot of people who watch out for my ideological purity where I don’t think it’s appropriate, but I looked at this and was like ‘holy shit.’ So I immediately told my agent I was pulling out.”

Gessen notes that when she agreed to take part, she’d only been informed of the name of the #MeToo discussion, which “gave me pause, but I thought the lineup seemed really serious.” Information on the panel—distributed to Gessen’s agent through the event organizer Pangburn Philosophy—made it seem like she’d be appearing alongside other thoughtful woman, like NY Times investigative reporter Jodi Kantor. But immediately after she signed a contract, publicity materials went out showing a wholly different set of speakers, almost all of them far-right personalities and media provocateurs. (Plus CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria, who we’ve reached out to but not yet heard back from.)

Quite so. I daresay he’ll bail too.

“Pangburn Philosophy” of course has been throwing these “angry dude plus angry dude plus angry dude” events for awhile now. Sam Harris meets Jordan Peterson meets Peter Harris Jordanson; watch the sparks fly. Zzzzzzzz. Also as I’ve mentioned before, “Pangburn Philosophy” sounds very grand but it’s just some guy. He’s not a philosopher.

Those actually scheduled to speak at the event include Douglas Murray, who wants all immigrants out of Europe, and Sam Harris, who’s just asking questions about whether black people are genetically inferior to white people, as well as several known Islamophobes. A majority of the panelists were referenced in NY Times opinion editor Bari Weiss’s recent column about the “Intellectual Dark Web,” in which Weiss (who is also set to speak at the event) described the group as “iconoclastic thinkers, academic renegades and media personalities…purged from institutions that have become increasingly hostile to unorthodox thought.”

It’s interesting that Mister Pangburn is now trying to lure people in by keeping shtum about the nature of the events he sponsors.

Updating to add: Masha Gessen on how they got her to agree:

By misrepresenting the event is how they did it I am just seeing this now, and I am pulling out.

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