But not only has the internet gotten smarter, with more fact-checking than ever, more content than ever, and more interest than ever in niche topics, but so has the state of journalism. ’90s era journalism was dominated by opinion columns and overtly partisan websites, pundits, and publications such as Drudge Report, National Review, Thomas Sowell, Rush Limbaugh, Paul Krugman, Pat Buchanan, etc. The nascent internet was an extension of offline publishing, and websites acted as digital silos for offline content. This trend continued for the first decade of the 2000’s, but then starting around 2009-2013 or so a few things changed: the decline of these old, established media properties and the rise of more intellectualized and nuanced form of journalism and discourse, as part of the rise of centrism and ‘intellectualism culture’ online. The ‘old’ style of journalism of merely browbeating the reader with unsubstantiated, un-sourced opinions began to fall out of favor, and such articles don’t go viral or have much influence in the “national discourse”. Nuanced and ‘smart’ websites such as Quillette, Marginal Revolution, Slate Star Codex, The Outline, and Mel Magazine, publish articles that frequently go viral by challenging convention, by tapping into the wealth-individualism-individualism trinity, by employing shared narrates, by having lots of footnotes and links to source material, by engaging in opposing views/objections that inevitably will arise by writing to the most skeptical reader in mind, by using data visualizations, and by employing a tone that nudges, rather than pushes, the reader to the author’s desired conclusion. This is what I have dubbed “the new online journalism.” Even the rise of NRx and the Dark Enlightenment, which former Trump adviser Steven Bannon himself cited as an influence, in part owes its success to this new , more intellectualized style of discourse, and the recent huge demand for ideas that challenge convention. But also, the post-2016 meteoric rise of pundits such as Sam Harris, Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Scott Adams, Mike Cernovich, Dave Rubin, Tim Pool (and many others)-as part of the so-called ‘IDW’–all of whom employ and exhibit the aforementioned characteristics and strategies, is further evidence of this trend.
The overall theme and shared narrative is, a yearning by young people regardless of political affiliation for more evolved, smarter discourse and a revulsion to reductionist discourse, sweeping generalizations, and sensationalism, whereas young people in the ’90s were just content with MTV and movies, and people were spoonfed their information from low-brow, emotive cable news and talk radio sources. But also, a general shift in the media to a smarter discourse as shown by the popularity and viralness of articles by of Vox, Bloomberg, and QZ and other sites that employ a sort of contrarian ‘wonkish’ and conversational tone and other ‘smart’ characteristics, as discussed in the forthcoming section regarding ‘new online journalism.’ Yeah, there’s obviously partisanship and biases, but the difference is, as part of the new online journalism, more nuance and attention to accuracy.
Look at Steve Bannon…a pro-Trump intellectual who reads NRx and is familiar with rationalist writings. I can see Bannon being a bigger fan of Scott Alexander (or even Scott Aaronson) than Ann Coulter, due to the matching of intellect than ideological agreement. This goes back to the shared narratives concept. Vox Day and Bannon, although 50 and 60 years old respectively and of the ‘right’, understand the mindset of millennials more so than liberals who pander to millennials. Bannon, who calls himself an ‘economic nationalist’, in a recent interview, he said in 2016 he visited Northwestern cities that had been blighted by outsourcing and opium and saw the first-hand the enthusiasm for Trump, due to the connection Trump was able to make with these voters. Part of the reason why so many millennials look up Milo and Peterson, is not necessarily because of political agreement (although that does play a role), but because of a deeper, more fundamental intellectual connection, which also explains why reactionaries and rationalists keep bumping into each other. If right-leaning millennials simply wanted right-wing talking points, they could watch Fox News or tune into one of the many right-wing talk radio shows, but the intellectual and empathetic connection is not there.
Although Rush Limbaugh, who’s a relic of era of 90’s political punditry, which was much angrier and emotive than today’s ‘smart’ online journalism, still has millions listeners, his listeners generally have lower IQs and hence smaller social networks and much less influence than a typical high-IQ Reddit or 4chan user. Not all consumers of content are equal. A small high-IQ audience is better than a large average-IQ one in terms of influence. A single high-IQ Jordan Peterson fan or IDW follower, has as much influence in the ‘national dialogue’ as hundreds of Rush Limbaugh listeners.