There’s another Dark Web beyond sites dealing in illegal goods and conspiracy theories. Even without a Tor browser, you can access a so-called Intellectual Dark Web of controversial authors, speakers, and interviewers–on the right and left. Neuroscientist, author, and podcaster Sam Harris is part of that list, and is also one of the Four Horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse (with Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens). But Harris is no longer part of Patreon, the crowdfunding service that had allowed listeners to contribute to his podcast Waking Up.
On Sunday night, Harris announced his departure from Patreon, where he was one of the top-ranked creators, because the service has expelled several people with whom he does not agree. Among them: feminism and “identity politics” critic Carl Benjamin (aka Sargon of Akkad), former Students for Trump adviser James Allsup, and all-around political bomb thrower Milo Yiannopoulos.
“Although I don’t share the politics of the banned members, I consider it no longer tenable to expose any part of my podcast funding to the whims of Patreon’s ‘Trust and Safety’ committee,” wrote Harris, who’s now raising money on his own site.
Over the years, Harris has ticked off both conservatives and liberals with his critique of religion and readiness to speak with almost anyone, regardless of how offensive their views may be. This famously included an interview with political scientist Charles Murray, author of the The Bell Curve, which probes a racial basis for differences in intelligence. Other episodes spawned criticism that Harris gives a platform to Islamophobes and white nationalists. However, Harris has famously refused to speak with alt-right icon Richard Spencer, so as not to give him a platform.
As deplatforming—both voluntary and involuntary—continues on social media, funding networks, and other online communities (such as Tumblr), the classic American struggles and arguments over free expression and tolerance show no sign of abating.