The Return of Public Lectures Useful to the Public
Back in late 19th and early 20th century America, “Chautauqua circuits” of public lectures swept across the states. This was long before radio and television — and a hundred years before the internet and social media. Chautauqua circuits provided education and entertainment of an intellectual nature to the public, in the setting of large tents pitched in open fields. Appealing to a public of that era who were eager to think and learn, Chautaquas competed with circuses, revival meetings, theatrical productions, and music shows with the express intent to educate as well as entertain. And they were wildly popular.
Lectures were the mainstay of the chautauqua. Prior to 1917, lectures dominated the circuit chautauqua programs. The reform speech and the inspirational talk were the two main types of lecture until 1913. Later topics included current events, travel and stories, often with a comedic twist. __ http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/139107
21st Century Millenials Not so Eager to Ponder Difficult Ideas?
In an age of addictive social media, video games, and internet porn, it would seem that today’s youth are not interested in deeper ideas. Or are they? If we can judge by attendance at public lectures by Jordan Peterson or Sam Harris, perhaps modern and jaded Americans (and Australians, Brits, Canadians, Europeans, etc.) have not lost their desire to struggle with deeper ideas.
Consider how the New York Times describes the new phenomenon of the “Intellectual Dark Web:”
Most simply, it is a collection of iconoclastic thinkers, academic renegades and media personalities who are having a rolling conversation — on podcasts, YouTube and Twitter, and in sold-out auditoriums — that sound unlike anything else happening, at least publicly, in the culture right now. Feeling largely locked out of legacy outlets, they are rapidly building their own mass media channels. __ NYT
Along with Jordan Peterson, we find Sam Harris, Bret Weinstein, Heather Heying, Douglas Murray, Christina Hoff Sommers, and many other academics and rogue intellectuals who are roughly grouped as members of the intellectual dark web.
Peterson is touring North America — and parts of the UK, Europe, and Australia — promoting both his book “12 Rules for Life” and his larger sphere of ideas. In addition to income from book sales and public appearances, Peterson’s patrons gift him roughly $80,000 per month to support his work on the internet.
Other members of “the intellectual dark web” are also touring much of the developed world, bringing “heretical ideas” to a public that has been over-saturated in post-modern multicultural political correctness and other popular cults of deception.
The new Chautauqua of both public lectures and internet lectures and conversations is hitting the larger intellectual world in a most uncomfortable place. Clearly, established lords of the intellectual domain do not appreciate being bypassed by these mavericks of free thought and free speech.
The Empire Strikes Back
Across the media, writers in print and producers of multimedia have been taking potshots at Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Cristina Hoff Sommers, and other “dark web” speakers in a growing frenzy of reactionary fear. From UK Channel Four to Australia’s 60 Minutes to Vice Media to American NBC and on and on and on — the ruling lords of media and academia have been desperately burning out their gun barrels in an attempt to blow these upstarts to oblivion.
But strangely, in their mindless fury, the reactionaries of the authoritarian left are only making Peterson and the rest more and more famous and appealing. This odd impotence is something they had not counted on, after all this time of being largely uncontradicted on campus, on the internet, television, in print and in public discourse.
Entering a New Age of Public Intellectual Discourse
One of events that dismayed the leftist thought police of media and academia was a recent endorsement by Kanye West of young Candace Owens and her outspoken ideas against political correctness. They understand that if they lose celebrities in rapper culture and black celebrity culture, that they are definitely in trouble in terms of future political control.
The intellectual dark web is only one manifestation of a wind change that has moved across the American landscape over the past few years. Jordan Peterson could have never achieved current levels of public success in the US without the growing levels of disillusionment toward institutions of media, academia, government, activism, etc. during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama years. Those three dismayingly lightweight presidents set the stage for a larger blowback.
For example, US President Donald Trump was not the first choice for most people who ultimately voted for him, but the voting public (not counting people voting illegally) was in no mood to see the country descend further into an Obamaesque or Clintonesque decay. And so they took their chances with a relative unknown rather than to play a hand that would have been a definite loser.
Jordan Peterson Penetrates Deeply Beneath Ideology and Politics
Most of the attacks on Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, and other mavericks who dare to contradict the PC thought police, centre on their statements which have political implications — or which most strongly oppose the intolerant and authoritarian leftist crusade of intellectual conquest over all public institutions.
But Peterson — and to a lesser extent Harris — penetrates so deeply beneath the superficial layers of politics and ideology, that virtually none of the critics of the left have the foggiest idea what is being discussed.
It is not so much a “blind spot” as it is a cognitive deficit and comprehensive ignorance among leftist “intellectuals” and media personnel so astoundingly broad and deep so as to discredit them for their automatic bias and groupthinking reflexes. These characteristics of the leftist echo choir are not so difficult to observe and note, for most members of the public.
And So the Media and Academia Accelerate Their Own Decline
These predominantly leftist institutions made their choices toward a brittle intolerance toward open debate a number of decades ago, and have only been tightening the nooses around their own necks since making the fateful choice.
How ironic that now that technology is allowing the heretical outcasts and insider mavericks to bypass the gatekeepers and address the public directly, the public is regaining an appreciation for face-to-face public lectures.
If you go down this list of public lecture venues you will see that until recently, most public lectures have taken place on university campuses and inside the auditoriums of institutions such as museums, libraries, and public/private institutions of science.
Because many of the conventional venues for lectures are controlled by leftist-oriented institutions, the new mavericks of free thought and free speech are renting public auditoriums generally used for musical and theatrical performances. Such an approach bypasses the leftist gatekeepers while providing the public with a chance to view and listen to unconventional thinkers and speakers face to face.
Meanwhile on the internet, more and more people are beginning to think about things that would have been unthinkable — simply because professors, administrators, and media outlets would have never allowed the ideas to see the light of day.
Pay attention. What is happening on the intellectual front is analogous to what happens in meteorology when a warm air mass confronts a cold air mass. Make provisions for turbulence. And take every opportunity to make yourselves Dangerous on all levels.
A recent thought-provoking talk by Jordan Peterson at Lafayette College: