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I Was Wrong About Jordan Peterson (And Vox Was Right)

I Was Wrong About Jordan Peterson (And Vox Was Right)

A while back, I wrote a post defending Jordan Peterson against Vox Day’s criticisms. My claim was that while Jordan Peterson’s value is somewhat exaggerated by many of his followers, for whom his ideas seemed new and extraordinary, Vox Day’s claims seemed exaggerated. Vox argued that Peterson was an existential relativist, that he was controlled opposition, that his teachings are more harmful then helpful, and that he was simply insane. All of that seemed wrong, at least hyperbolic. To me, Peterson seemed like a modern Joseph Campbell, essentially a mythologist just teaching the moral stories of myths with the rhetorical skill of a showman. For a generation immersed in social-media and public-school propaganda, this seemed like a generally good thing, especially when coupled with his opposition to bill C-16.

To set the tone for this post, it is only now that I remember that his opposition to this bill was unsuccessful. The bill was passed on June 19, 2017. Not only was it unsuccessful, but Peterson had promised to go to jail if necessary, were the bill passed and accusations of violating said bill brought against him. At the time, it seemed rather admirable. But given the amount of fire he’s been under, it seems strange that his opponents have found no opportunity to challenge his conviction on the matter. Rather than being on hunger strike in some jail, he’s been traveling around the world on tour with his book.

I’m not saying Peterson should actively be hunting out a jail-term in order to be consistent, as that was not what he had promised. But the situation seems a bit incongruous, and most people don’t remember what it was that brought him to popularity in the first place. With the help of a little bit of recollection, however, I have come to believe that Vox Day was, in fact, right about Dr. Peterson.

Now that Peterson suggested that Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh should step down if confirmed, many people have opened up a little bit to the possibility that it may, in fact, be valid to criticize Dr. Peterson. But for many, being wrong on one issue (Kavanaugh) doesn’t necessarily undermine the whole edifice. So he got one political matter, in a foreign country no less, incorrect. What’s the big deal?

To answer that, we have to go down memory lane, and start at the beginning.

1. Jordan Peterson is Wrong

Anyone who has listened to his “Maps of Meaning” lectures from the beginning, or read Maps of Meaning, will know that the impetus for Peterson getting into politics and philosophy and psychology in the first place was the Cold War. Specifically, it was his concern about the possibility of nuclear war, and what he believed to be the insanity of the “mutually assured destruction” (M.A.D.) strategy. Finding an alternative path to nuclear weapons, M.A.D., and the horrors of war in general, has been the foundational motivation behind all of Peterson’s work, and I think it should be uncontroversial, among Peterson fans and critics alike, that it shows.

The trouble with this is that M.A.D. works. It did work. The Cold War never heated up, and although Peterson cites a number of close calls in some of his talks, mutually-assured destruction is, in principle, far older than nuclear weaponry. The entire philosophy of peace through military deterrence is essentially M.A.D. without nukes. And while nuclear weaponry is extremely powerful, it is not nearly as apocalyptic as people often imagine. Over 2,000 nuclear weapons have been detonated in tests around the world in the last century. The world continues to turn.

Taking this a bit further, one could reasonably argue that there is no viable strategy for preserving peace other than military deterrence — and in a nuclear age, that often involves the possession of nuclear weapons, as well as the willingness to use them. Put into a formula:

Ability (to fight) + Willingness (to fight) = Credible Threat = Deterrence = Peace

Curiously, Peterson seems to understand this precept when it comes to interpersonal relationships, as I have written about previously:

I know how to stand up to a man, who’s unfairly trespassed against me, and the reason I know that is because the parameters for my resistance are quite well-defined, which is, we talk, we argue, we push, and then it becomes physical. If we move beyond the boundaries of civil discourse, we know what the next step is. […] And when men are talking to each other in any serious manner, that underlying threat of physicality is always there, especially if it’s a real conversation, and it keeps the thing civilized to some degree. If you’re talking to a man who wouldn’t fight with you under any circumstances whatsoever, then you’re talking to someone to whom you have absolutely no respect.

Peterson is wrong about M.A.D./military deterrence for precisely the same reason that he is right about violence latent in male interactions. He is wrong, in other words, about the motivation and heart behind everything he has done related to Maps of Meaning. That clearly doesn’t mean that everything he says is factually incorrect, as the point about male violence in communication shows. But it should be a major check against the people who instinctively defend him, on the grounds of his purported brilliance, and the fact that he has “helped so many people.”

Speaking of which…

2. Jordan Peterson is Not Helping People

Yes, I have no doubt that there are individuals who have been helped by his advice and his lectures. While it is fun to make fun of the admonition to clean your room (variations of “didn’t your mother teach you that?” and “wipe your ass” abound), I actually still have a soft-spot for this particular tid-bit, which I explained in my previous open letter to Vox Day.

But you know who has helped far more people?

Deepak Chopra.

Don’t laugh. If you think I am joking, turn your eye inward a bit, and try to recognize where that reaction to Deepak Chopra is coming from. Chopra has written 80 books, translated into 43 languages, and has been in the public eye for decades. He has probably reached an order of magnitude more people than Peterson has, and you can probably find a similarly large number of people talking about how Chopra has “changed their life.”

Why do we scoff at that?

If you are like me, we scoff because we instinctively understand that Chopra telling them that “they are the universe” is not particularly profound, and is not any more true than it is profound. The fact that these words helped turn their life around, helped them stop drinking, or saved their marriage, or whatever the case may be, we may feel happy for them, but at some level, we are also likely to feel a little sorry for them.

It took that to get you out of your hole?

The fact that thousands of people are claiming that Peterson’s work has helped them personally is not evidence of the truth of his claims, or even of their more general helpfulness. It’s just evidence of his charisma and his skill in speaking, and to some extent, in reading people.

What is objectively helpful to people is information — specifically, correct information. Some of Peterson’s psychology is valuable, but unfortunately, most of what he talks about is not psychology, but a mixture of philosophy, politics, and theology.  His philosophy is nothing particularly special — like a non-philosopher’s blended introduction to Heidegger, Jung, and Campbell. His politics are simply bad, if one’s goals are to retain national sovereignty and distinct national identities. They are even bad if you simply want to take pride in your nation.

His theology is also wrong.

While his words may be inspiring, or motivating, or well put-together in such a way that people are inclined to credit them with their own personal growth, these are all subjective and difficult metrics for determining whether someone’s life has actually improved. Bad information, on the other hand, objectively, demonstrably, and consistently hurts people’s lives. It reduces their ability to make correct decisions.

Vox Day only took notice of Jordan Peterson initially because Peterson was wrong about Jewish IQ (Peterson claimed that average Ashkenazi Jewish IQ was between 110-115; in reality, it is still very high, but closer to 103-105 on average).

Rather than correcting, Peterson subsequently doubled down.

But even if someone was helpful 90% of the time, and was helpful in a manner designed to lead down a path one did not want to go down, does the greater amount of help outweigh the harm of the destination? Is the pied-piper a net aid to the children because, for the vast majority of the story, he is entertaining them with pleasant music?

This, of course, sounds like a bit of an accusation…

3. Jordan Peterson is Controlled Opposition

Peterson has stated that his motivation, and the fear that lies beneath all of his work, is the danger of nuclear war. It is his own map of meaning, determining the direction he hopes to direct himself, and to direct others… because nuclear war isn’t a personal problem. It goes without saying that it isn’t the sort of thing you can fix by cleaning your room.

But no one else gave him this mission. He isn’t controlled in that way. So what do Vox — and now I — mean by “controlled opposition?”

The direction he is going is useful to globalists, because he is also a globalist. The solution that those fearful of nuclear war consistently return to is that of one global government (another prominent example was Robert Heinlein). The fact that the rest of the globalists are pursuing the very power that the likes of Heinlein and Peterson hope to limit is irrelevant to their shared mission, which is establishing a single, world government.

While some elements of the far-left go after Peterson for being broadly anti-revolutionary and insufficiently progressive, the vast majority of the corporate left has fully embraced him, along with other “renegades” of the “Intellectual Dark Web.” For them, his message is less important than its effects. I have serious doubts that the millionaires and billionaires who run the New York Times, Amazon, and Microsoft spend hundreds of hours reading or listening to Jordan Peterson. They just see him as a useful tool for promoting the kind of world in which they’ll continue to dominate, which is necessarily a global one.

All of this means that Jordan Peterson is controlled opposition. He is supported and endorsed by people who don’t particularly care about his message, except that its effects will benefit them. His work for the United Nations, which can be looked at here, certainly does not bode we’ll for ordinary citizens in Western countries who wish to retain their own national identity (read page 18 for a cursory look over what they have in mind). Peterson is put forward as a false-antithesis, a “renegade” of the “dark” web, as if his ideas and ideology is some way an alternative to the internationalist, neo-liberal end of history offered by the corporate media. It is not. It’s just more creatively and interestingly described.

And if it seems odd that they’re throwing their weight behind Peterson, allowing (possibly helping?) 12 Rules For Life to become a massive international best-seller, rather than trying to destroy it like they tried with Milo’s Dangerous and various other dissident works, it is because Peterson’s ideology is not opposed to the globalism that undermines national sovereignty and the sense of identity that really gives meaning and motivation to your life. Peterson’s maps and rules are diversions from and dilutions of the familial, local, and national orientations that truly help people, and offer a cheap alternative that is based in fear, rather than love — perhaps the only viable alternative that can work in a globalized world.

This also makes his comments on Kavanaugh more sensible. A few Peterson fans I spoke to first didn’t believe he’d said it, and then didn’t know what to make of it. The words didn’t fit into their framework.

If everything he does is motivated by a terror over the possibility of war, then they do make sense.

4. Jordan Peterson is… Unhealthy

I am not a psychiatrist, and I am not comfortable calling someone “insane” because I disagree with them on a number of political and philosophical points. However, the fact that Peterson wrote about strange, sexual dreams about his grandmother petting him with pubic hair, and hiding with and then eating his cousin — whom he described as the most beautiful woman he’d ever met — and he wrote all of this down in his book, is a little disturbing.

The fact that Peterson is fundamentally motivated by fear and views suffering as the metaphysical basis of objective reality is not so much a challenge to his sanity as it is to his philosophy. Then again, the line between sanity and philosophy has always been tenuous, and better philosophers than Peterson have been more readily accused of insanity — Nietzsche and Kierkegaard come to mind.

But by his own admission, Peterson has battled depression for a great deal of his life. He describes catastrophic symptoms if he deviates even slightly from his rather peculiar diet: meat and salt. He has said that he would regularly wake up in the morning with an overwhelming sense of doom.

History is full of positively productive people who were spurred on by personal weaknesses and problems–sometimes physical, sometimes social, sometimes psychological. Just because Peterson is psychologically and physically abnormal does not mean that his contributions are necessarily negative. However, if his contributions were positive, it would not therefore mean he was sane either. And based on what I’ve outlined above, and what Vox Day has been outlining for five months now, it’s clear that what Peterson is contributing is negative, not positive.

5. Jordan Peterson is a Relativist

I argued in my initial post that Peterson’s account of pain-as-objective-meaning acquits him of the charge of existential relativism. But this account is very limited in its scope, and provides no telos, other than “that which minimizes suffering.” It is, in fact, subjective in nature, which for a moral objectivist like Vox Day, or Christians in general, is essentially relativism.

But this existential relativism is less concerning then Peterson’s epistemological relativism. For Peterson, “truth” means a number of different things, none of which mean what most people mean when they say the word. If he is consistent enough to apply this to the rest of his ideology, then its truth is suspect; if he does not apply his stated meaning of “truth” to his professed ideology, then he is inconsistent. In either case, it is a troubling subject.

In conclusion, I was wrong to take Jordan Peterson seriously. I suspect I saw public validation of ideas I myself had enjoyed from Joseph Campbell and Matthew Crawford, ideas which I believed had merit, but which were not well-received or well-known. And here was a champion who not only brought some of these ideas to the public in a way that reached millions, but did so on the back of a battle against a common enemy: the hard-left.

The moral of the story is that just because someone is right about one thing, or even many things, doesn’t mean that they are on your side. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. What matters isn’t where they are, but where they’re going, and the best way to understand that is by understanding what motivates them, what they’re trying to accomplish. Not whether or not what they’re saying happens to be useful to you in the moment.

It’s also worth remembering the people who were right, whose predictions tend to be accurate (and whose desired end-state is aligned with yours). It is how I discovered Styxhexenhammer666, and it is one of the reasons I continue to follow Vox Day. Both are libertarian nationalists, and both called the 2016 election correctly for Trump when virtually everyone believed it was in the bag for Clinton.

To bring it full circle, it’s basically just worth remembering, period. As opposed to forgetting, which a shockingly high number of people seem to find preferable.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. An honest and thoughtful reply on a well-positioned con man. This sort of careful pursuit of the truth is exactly what we don’t get from Peterson.

  2. Only one point, I don’t think vox subscribes to libertarianism anymore.

  3. “both called the 2016 election correctly for Trump when virtually everyone believed it was in the bag for Clinton.”

    from my perspective it was clear that it was not at all in the bag for clinton. the msm were pushing hard for her to win but not everyone pays attention to that and not everyone was open about their support for trump. i was convinced quite early on that trump would win.

  4. Vox Day is a lying piece of shit. As well as anyone that believes his bullshit. Nice opinion bro, too bad it has no facts. Also Jordan B. Peterson has helped more people than that con man Sam Harris ever will be able to.

    1. The emotional incontinence and logical incoherence that he imparts to his followers with shocking consistency makes the case against Dr. Peterson “helping people” better than anything else I could say.

  5. [This is getting longer than I thought, sorry.]

    ” not so much a challenge to his sanity as it is to his philosophy”

    First off, I am not defending Jordan Peterson here. I hardly know much, and what I have seen and read wasn’t really interesting. I am well aware of Vox Day though, and him I certainly thank for showing the truth of Christianity. It was his claim that only Christianity solves the problem of evil that made me give Christianity another chance and while reading into it, I became a born-again Christian.

    However, suffering is very certainly an integral part of this wicked (1 John 5:19) and evil (Gal. 1:4) world, this vale of tears (Ps. 84:6). I mean, I am a fat hunchback, of average intelligence, no talents, suffered from mental issues — anxiety disorder, depression, hot temper etc. This all improved drastically after my born-again experience, but it’s still there. I am also ugly, and small-weinered. And so this creates a lot of suffering on its own during the day.

    Vox Day now had it all; smartest in class, not liked much, being the omega in school, but not the fatso either. Rather, one of the best athletes, as he said. He wore Gucci, drove Porsche, banged international models.

    I, on the other hand, was an average student, dropped out of school, was obese. While I lost 100 pounds (later regained it; then I lost a lot again after becoming a Christian), I still battled with my character and temperament — my introversion, anxiety issues, suffering from meaninglessness and so on. Women were not even on my radar, I almost became a second Charles Crumb, a shut-in.

    I think that from a philosophical point of view, I’d describe Vox Day and most of his followers as rather shallow people. He is certainly intelligent, and I really liked his harsh stance on immigration and genuinely new perspectives, which had been the reason I actually followed his blog in the first place. So my hatred for immigration actually brought me to God in the end.

    What I am getting at is that when it comes to these very important existential matters, Vox Day simply does not speak to me because he has n o i d e a at all of how much one’s life can feel like a burden. I contemplated suicide all my late teens and twenties, even hanged myself at 23. Spengler felt similar too, as evidenced by his personal notes he wrote during 1910-1918. He was full of phobias and fears — afraid of people, even the pupils he ought to teach, of women, of stepping into a store and so on. Does this make his work worthless? Of course not.

    The interesting part is now Kierkegaard. He was born-again as well, his experience is recorded in his journals (he was around 25 years old at that time). So Kierkegaard was a true Christian, he believed in God, trusted in Christ, believed in heaven and hell. Another point few Christians seem to bother: eternal damnation *is* a horrible doctrine, but it’s the truth. And while Vox Day is right when he writes: God’s creation, God’s rules, I certainly don’t need to inject another poor soul into it, especially not with my crappy genetics which seem to gravitate towards suicide, sin and a dissatisfaction with existence in general.

    I agree with Vox Day on Peterson being a globalist shill and so on. I totally disagree on Vox Day’s own philosophy, and with a lot of his theology too.

    In the Three Krater Symposium video about Vox Day, a Dr. Fulton Brown or so repeated the claim that creation is good, that suffering is not the ground for existence from a Christian standpoint etc. Now she has heretical views anyway due to her being a feminist — someone linked to a video where she interpreted the Song of Songs and called Mary the bride of Christ.

    This whole Church theology is what I actually reject, and not only do I have Kierkegaard on my side — but the above two NT verses actually prove that if not creation, then the *world* is seen as evil and wicked, and God will destroy it in the end. And God wanted to destroy the whole world even in Genesis. St. Jerome was another Christian who shared some of my views on this. He even wrote to “Paula” that every day he repeats to himself the words of Jeremiah (the verse about cursing the day he was born). In the volume “Early Christian Lives” (Penguin Books), the female translator is really triggered as regards St. Jerome’s stance on celibacy, even calling it an “obsession”. This is what Christianity has become nowadays. (One guy from the Krater Symposium video actually embarrassed himself by criticizing Vox Day for calling man evil. No, that is what Christ Himself says about man [Matth. 7:11, 15:19]. This had been tackled in a response video by another Christian wh, citing Matth.15:19.)

    Basically, the early Christians were celibate and renounced the world. Howeverf, Vox Day wrote that “sex is natural, sex is good”. Well, it may be natural, it is definitely not good though. First off, there will be no marriage in heaven, as Christ Himself says. Secondly, sex is responsible for * a lot* of evil in the world. Thirdly, the Church herself placed celibacy above marriage — check out not just the early Christians, but also the Council of Trent and the accompanying documents. Example:

    “CANON X.-If any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.”

    Sorry for this wall of text, my point is that suffering varies from person to person, and some people simply suffer until the end of their mostly horrible lives. Schopenhauer — another brilliant thinker, Kierkegaard occupied himself with his philosophy one year before his death — wrote something to this extent too. Schopenhauer also understood very clearly that the NT has an ascetic core to it. Even if he may be one-sided here a little, it is certainly true that early Christians mostly took a negative attitude towards the earthly, worldly part of our lives. Even Aquinas puts celibacy above marriage, also he puts the contemplative life about the active one. Pascal comes to mind too, for he suffered from melancholia as well, just like Kierkegaard. And Matthias Claudius, as cited by Schopenhauer, describes this world as a vale of tears as well. Even Luther wrote that the Christian is a stranger in this world (as we read in Peter). Schopenhauer cites this in Latin, I think it was a sermon of Luther regarding Galatians.

    My suspicion is that it is the disgusting wealth that has created this flabby theology, and also resulted in the vulgarity and degeneracy we see today. No one scorned the modern world better than the great Colombian Catholic Don Colacho — Nicolás Gómez Dávila.

    I do suffer. I will continue to suffer. And I think this is even wanted by God. For we read in John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

    This is also why I highly doubt that Vox Day would see life as a gift if he had to live mine. I don’t wish my horrible life onto him, of course. I’m just saying that the Bible nowhere teaches that life is a gift, but that the grace of God is.

    I simply cannot take the breeder rhetoric anymore. It has consumed Vox Day, which is why I stopped reading him some time ago. I think he has gone the wrong path with his pseudo-scientific socio-sexual hierarchy. It is as scientific as psychoanalysis, and this constant name calling of people not having children, not being “fit” and whatever is getting boring. It would, again, change nothing of my circumstances. Eugenics works, Chris Langan talks a lot more sense here.

    Look: I could train as much as I wanted too: I would still be a hunchback, I would still have a four or five inch dick, I would still have to get my skin removed surgically and so on. The only guy on the Alt-Right that I came across so far who shares my view point to some extent is Andy Nowicki.

    But I guess that’s enough. If you want a TL;DR, it’s this:

    If you were born a pile of genetic scum, then faith might allow you to now *endure* your existence, to not constantly think of ending it all, killing yourself, but life does not feel much like a gift — sometimes maybe, but most of the time it doesn’t. Therefore I reject the traditional Churchian theology — no matter if Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox — and instead rely on the Bible and great individual Christians who *suffered* for the faith.

    Where Vox Day is wrong is his “slogan” he constantly repeats that we only need twelve. Come on now, they *saw* God, they could touch Him, speak to Him. They were chosen directly by Him. This is actually a topic that Kierkegaard wrote about. It is definitely something totally different if you *know* that God Himself gave you orders.

    Eugenics is not imposing suffering, as Vox Day writes, because it is *the child* that has to suffer from crap genes, and this has to be taken into account. Scientifically, it would work. This much is even admitted by Matt Ridley in his “Genome”, and by Richard Dawkins in “The Greatest Show on Earth”. It would have spared me my useless loser existence that I *cannot* change, because I cannot change the genetic basis for my looks, my character and temperament, especially my IQ, and so on. Coming into the world. being born does not mean being saved: you still have to live this life, and you could very well go to hell too. Something the early Christians understood very well, and which gets minimized nowadays. Alexander Pruss is in the same boat, a guy who likes his life way too much. I mean, I can understand that some people, maybe many, like their lives; but apparently the Prusses and Days of the world cannot understand that somebody, even as a Christian, does not really like it; and indeed, early Christians looked forward to their deaths. I’ll stop now, sorry, I think I got my point across.

    1. Kierkegaard is excellent, as is his odd, non-Christian mirror, Nietzsche, who, to me, seems to be condemning himself with every pen-stroke about nobility, joy, and power.

      I think one of the things that turns me off about Christianity is, strangely, its attitude towards suffering. I came from a pretty idyllic upper-middle-class childhood, athletic, intelligent, and not popular, but more or less well-liked by everyone, so I can’t really speak from experience on this subject. But I have spoken with people who have truly suffered in life; I dated a girl with fibromyalgia in college, and some of my military friends (one in particular) suffer from pretty serious PTSD, severe enough to destroy his marriage. Suffering is painful, and I think the honest confrontation with the sheer weight of suffering is what makes Job my favorite book in the Bible. I don’t like the way Paul brags about being content no matter where he is, regardless of circumstances, or the way Theresa says that suffering brings us closer to God. True suffering — not the relatively mild suffering I have experienced — does not necessarily make us stronger, as Nietzsche argued, but can maim us emotionally.

      I’m for eugenics in principle, but here’s a thought to consider, and why I am against eugenics in practice: it is sometimes very difficult to tell what is actually advantageous for life. I imagine much of your suffering comes from your physical condition, which is the result certain genetic predispositions. But those genetic predispositions may serve some useful purpose in a rare context of high-selection (i.e., when it really matters), or may be coupled with other genetic traits that are useful enough to make up for negative traits. It is very difficult to know, and it is harder — not easier — to know when it deeply impacts us emotionally.

      I appreciate your story, and of course, I am not a counselor or therapist, but from an odds perspective, I think it is highly unlikely you are genetically defective in the way you believe. My own intellectual hero — Hitchens — said he had to write because he couldn’t do anything else, and he was no specimen of beauty or fitness himself. By leaning into his one strength, he became more successful and confident than even natural polymaths like Vox or myself. I don’t think what you hate is life, but failure, and while I can see how the two can appear to merge over time, there is always a path towards mastery in at least one direction: perhaps theology, perhaps genetics, perhaps moral theory, or perhaps — as I am going — a skill or trade; something useful. As someone who has always been athletically and intellectually inclined, it is remarkable how simultaneously humbling and rewarding the trades are. With a little bit of time and effort, you develop a skill that is valued by other people, and with that comes a place in an otherwise uncaring world.

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