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Bring Out Your Dead. Jordan Peterson and the Catastrophe of Numbers.

In a series of public comments, Jordan Peterson has asserted that Marxism (or Marxist-Lenninism) has resulted in the deaths of 100,000,000 people.

This statistic, he insists, establishes the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of Marxism and by extension, establishes any and all attempts at advocating Marxism, or left-leaning platforms, as morally and intellectually bankrupt to the point of being evil.

As a corollary to this he also insists that people he defines as, “Postmodernists” generally, and the French academic intellectuals of the mid to late 1960s and early 70s specifically, are charlatans at best, and at worst, dangerous immoral subversives.

Expanding his point while narrowing his focus, he adds that Stalin and Mao were not only evil mass murderers, but that they and their heinous systems are the logical and inevitable outcome of Marxism in any permutation that it takes, and that the aforementioned French intellectuals knew this but, being charlatans and dangerous subversives, ignored it or embraced it.

He adds that counter arguments that stand on the premise, that those examples, however egregious, were not authentic Marxism are, false because, that’s what leftists always say and because, Peterson says so. That is, in Peterson’s hermetically sealed version of events, itself a regurgitation of classic anti-left narratives from a hundred years ago and during the Cold War, there were never any outside actors, actions or events that injected themselves into the assorted revolutionary vortices. Thus, there was no multi-nation intervention into the Russian Civil War, no attempted coups, counter coups, assassinations, or embargos, involving, Cuba, Iran, China, the Congo, or anywhere in Central and South America. And even if they did occur, they had no baring on the inevitable outcome.

In this narrative system, things like Operation Condor and Operation Phoenix are either elided (Peterson’s preferred method), or asserted, or inferred indirectly via moral equivocation, as prima facia evidence of the inherent evil of Marxism which, in being resisted, required, extrajudicial action (and are therefore justified), rather than being prima facia evidence of the extent to which both reactionary liberalism (under the liberals, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson) and reactionary neo fascism (under the reactionary neo fascist Nixon/Kissinger) will go in support of blatant fascists like Pinochet or assorted monarchists, reactionaries, and fascists like the Diem family and the warlords who followed them.

Our aim here is to excavate Peterson’s narrative and address it first as a system in which each component exists both autonomously and as a buttress for the others, and then to excavate the context upon which the examples rest.

That system – Peterson’s method – can be defined as, x is true (Marxism is evil) therefore y and z follow (Mao and Stalin) and if you examine y and z you will inevitably retrace your steps back to x and find that all assertions are true, regardless of the sequence in which they are examined. This rests on an assertion of strict cause and effect yet simultaneously relies on the denial of cause and effect, and has, as a methodology, more in common with entanglement in quantum physics than it does with historiography and logic – but that’s entanglement as it’s (mis)understood by people who know nothing about the subject. That is, events occur at a distance from either a cause or no discernable cause.

Thus, Marx leads inevitably to the Gulags but the 19th century counter revolutionary kulturkampf, does not lead inevitably to Marx. Here, per Peterson, History is a one way street, in which the principle of inevitability only applies to Marxism – a fact which we note with some amusement, makes Peterson an advocate of a bespoke Dialectical Materialism. Except the dialectic only applies to Marx and Marxism and somehow, unlike all other events, is free of any context except its own evil. It is therefore revealed, in an even deeper irony, to be practically a kind of ad hoc, crypto Hegelian mysticism, which, considering the source, would be cause for humor, were not the messenger so devoid of a sense of the absurd, or how short a distance it is from that condition to the sublime.

As a result, this “Marxism” happens, like a plague, or a volcanic event but even that metaphor fails as those are understood to have causes where as, for Peterson, “Marxism” if it has any cause, it is to be found in twisted visions of utopias that automatically become sadomasochistic cults but only because of their innate and inherent evil. There are no biographical details that contextualize the usual suspects (feel free to make your own list) and as a result “Marx” “Ho Chi Minh” “Lenin” “Trotsky” and “Castro” just occur, Diabolus ex Machina.

This is an elastic system and in the manner of sophists and demagogues, effective at least up to the point where one asks for verifiable facts to support the assertions.

In the absence of any verifiable facts, the sophist and the demagogue (a not unimportant distinction as not all sophists are demagogues, while all demagogues employ sophistry) can assert anything based on the elastic structure devoid of verifiable facts, and so Peterson rams home the assertion that, as he is speaking gospel, and that “Marxism” resulted in an apocalypse, “we” don’t need to try it again.

From this he then concludes that the entirety of what he defines as “the left” are dismissed in an end of history finality. Again, ironically echoing a mirror Marxism and dialectical certainty. In this case, “the left” being both specific and utterly vague, is a useful catchall for anyone with whom he disagrees, and for his audience, this provides a kind of rhetorical carpet bombing that does not need to be specific, while claiming that it is in fact specific to the point of achieving a terminal authority, in which all counter arguments are a priori, illegitimate.

From here, we address the first and most damning of his assertions – that Stalin, Mao, and assorted other “Marxists” are responsible for the deaths of 100,000,000 people.

The first problem is of course records and verification – as in, if one accepts the premise that Stalin and Mao were mass murdering psychopaths, committed to establishing and maintaining all pervasive, soul crushing dictatorships, in which, like pagan warlords, they had the absolute power of life and death, that they employed systems of both overt and covert tyranny including but not limited to, massive armies and furtive, sinister and lethal secret police apparatuses, and that both their toxic personalities and the bureaucratic requirements of these totalizing systems required systemic secrecy, how are we to adjudicate the veracity of any records to which we gain access?

For example, consider that when he discovered his name had been arbitrarily added to an execution list, future party boss and chief thug, Nikita Krushev, worked overtime to ensure that future lists could be “administered” for “accuracy.” Once you enter a hall of mirrors in which psychopaths make decisions based on whim and caprice versus facts, what constitutes a “fact” becomes a question of who speaks last

The second question arising from this, and adding to the question of methodology within our historiography, is the extent to which these records may or may not have been altered both in the sense of literally being doctored, or in the sense of having been censored (that is other contextualizing documents are being withheld not only inside the former Soviet Union but inside the various other state apparatuses of other nations), by the tyrant’s opponents, who surely would have reasons to alter the record?

For example, to again consider Krushev, and his famous “secret” denunciation of Stalin. Does one posit a corrupt psychotic court and cult of personality for “Stalin” but then posit that having been a loyal apparatchik under the previous regime, that Krushev had neither the means, motive or opportunity to alter reality to pad his resume and develop as much bureaucratic armor as possible?

The third question would be how do we establish those places where due to wars, civil and general, revolution, purges, political and personal intrigues, and the mistakes to which all systems are prone, impact the accuracy of the record?

Needless to say, Peterson has not given any indication of being bothered by these questions and repeats his litany of x equals y number of deaths therefore any and all who by his definition sound like x or are remotely close to x, are guilty of either advocating for y number of deaths or are indifferent to it. His methodology is denunciation and advocacy.

The record however has been addressed and numerous historians including but not limited to, avowedly conservative (i.e., not friendly to what we would call “the left.” – in particular see the link below and consult the conservative historian, Robert Conquest) have sifted the records, adjusted their findings to take into account the questions above and have concluded that the number of state caused deaths (vs those who died indirectly from famine – which may or may not have been exacerbated by the machinations of the state – or other factors which is a point to which we shall return) tops out at over 60,000,000 but less than, 100,000,000. Which we hasten to add is not the final word on the subject as reasonable people can and do disagree on the veracity and validity of the Russian state archives. In other words, as with every other state bureaucracy, it takes care of its own.

This of course is still a staggering number. And in case you were wondering, as we have said elsewhere, Stalin and Mao were monsters of epic proportions. Both were clearly psychopaths. But, everything else beyond that, is where the narrative becomes far more complex and contradictory than are allowed for within the universe of Peterson’s certainties.

Which brings us to the second issue. When we say “Stalin” what do we mean? For example, we might mean, a dictatorial psychopath who used state terror to eliminate millions in a series of devastating purges, all of which were self serving spasms of tyranny dressed up as being for the benefit of the people.

True enough, but “Stalin” is also a host of other narrative systems. For example, in order to define “Stalin” as a monster and only as that (as in no matter what else he did he remains monstrous) one must eliminate any other counter narratives. That is, there must not be a, beyond reasonable doubt alternative. This “Stalin” is a historical freak, an anomaly, who has no meaningful biography, no historical or cultural context and simply appears, is evil incarnate, and then vanishes.

This “Stalin” is a religious figure in the sense that he is rendered as essentially, supernatural precisely because while specific, he is also elastic and Peterson can, like an avenging Jesuit proving a witch floats, twist him to suit any version of “History” he wants. In this way he is also similar to the arguments put forward in the first phase of post war historiography that amputated Hitler and the Nazis from both German culture and history specifically, and from European history and culture, generally. This version of “Hitler” was both a fact of history, in that he lived at a specific moment and died, and outside of the sequence of events and thus, became a mystery to which there was no satisfactory answer.

For Peterson, “Marxism” which is synonymous with “Stalin” and “Mao” fulfils the same purpose. The problem then becomes, how to fit this anomaly into the historical frame without bolting it into the facts. Either one must jettison the facts or jettison the narrative. Either Chamberlain, for example, had a policy of appeasement or he didn’t, or he did but it doesn’t matter because, “Hitler” being essentially supernatural and locked into a fixed trajectory, like “Stalin” and “Mao” will arrive at his historical destination regardless of any action taken by other, earth bound actors.

This “Stalin” being who he is, must like Judas, act as fate dictates. There are no alternatives. Which of course requires other actors, say FDR, to be lesser men, but either unwilling to act independently, or unable to act independently because, “Stalin” is fate.

This of course produces a conundrum and Peterson (not for the last time) scores on his own goal. In the absence of any other possible outcome, “Stalin” ceases to be only a monster and becomes a qualified moral dilemma for which there is no easy solution. And not because he is outside of history, but precisely because, he is within the flow of events. For Peterson “Stalin” is inevitable and therefore, no context exists or if it does has any significant impact on the outcome. Therefore, magically, all other events and individuals are subject to context but “Marxism” as a historical version of Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance” defies all expectations. This requires two historical realities to exist side by side; to interact yet not effect each other while still being effected.

This of course is a kind of magical thinking and precisely because it is built on gossamer assertions ends up proving the opposite of what Peterson intends.

For example, let us posit that the allied intervention in the Russian Civil War had succeeded. This of course would entail that, Japan, France, England and America with their allies, the assorted White Russian factions, comprising the mass murdering, racist, fascist Admiral Kulchuck, the loose affiliation of assorted mass murdering, freelance racist, fascists whose allegiances were both provisional and certain, depending upon how much money was involved, and the loose affiliation of liberals and monarchists, with their situational ethics and comprised of such stalwart figures as the dithering, equivocating, self-agrandising Kerensky, and the pretenders to the Romanov throne, who could be expected to want to restore as much of the authority of the crown as possible, had all achieved victory.

Victory then would, one assumes, involve either a weak constitutional monarchy in order to appease the hard nationalism and fascism of the Whites (that is, a weak monarch with the Whites as the power behind the throne, or conversely a restored and fully autocratic Czar which would require the elimination of Kerensky and the liberal faction), or a robust constitutional liberalism in order to satisfy the Kerensky cadre (which would enrage the Whites), followed in either case by the whole sale liquidation of the defeated left with summary executions, show trials and exile to Siberia. Followed by land reform, which would have enraged the royalists and the nationalist-fascists as well as the Kulaks, and would have sent the country into another spasm of violence. Or, those measures could have been deemed too dangerous resulting in (after say 20 years) assorted left-wing uprisings, among both the urban labor centers and the rural peasantry resulting in, yet another spasm of violence.

In other words, regardless of who was victorious the immutable facts of geography, demographics, and context, force the inevitable conclusion. For Peterson, the straight jacket is Marxism. For the rest of the world the straight jacket is that the Revolution was not the beginning of the catastrophe but the echo of the crash that had already occurred.

For the rest of the world, unlike Peterson, there had already been a series of devastating wars culminating in the near apocalypse of the trenches, the aborted revolution of 1905, assorted anarchist, and syndiclist movements including various terrorist campaigns and assassinations. Or to be brusque – pick your poison – Czarist terror, Bolshevik terror, fascist terror, Cossack terror, or an amalgam of all of them in some sort of Manichean steel cage death match.

All of which, aside from being support for tyranny in one form or another, and which contradicts the entire premise of Peterson’s assertions of a totalizing, hermetically sealed evil inherent in “Marxism” and leads inevitably to a catastrophic civil war, but with a right wing, anti left tyranny being triumphant, resulting in the deaths of millions, and the subsequent enslavement of still more millions though, all of that is only the edge of the inevitablegreater disaster.

We refer of course to the inevitable scenario in which Germany either has in Russia a neutral partner or an active ally. The counterpoint would be to say, yes but minus the triumph of Bolshevism and “Stalin” one removes one of the primary causes of Nazism. Without “godless Jewish-controlled Bolshevism” as his nemesis, what is a Germanic tyrant to do?

Except that in order for that to be true, it requires that the allies, while being logically consistent vis their intervention in Russia’s Civil War, are then contradictory in the rest of their action, and do not impose the devastating requirements of Versailles on the Germans. This scenario of course instantly falls apart as it attempts to exceed the G force tolerance of logic.

If the allies’ intervention was successful there is no reasonable scenario in which their actions change in the rest of the post war environment, with the result being that a successful outcome in Russia does not change their calculus regarding Germany, and therefore we find ourselves with tyrants in Russia and Germany, but the Russian tyranny is perfectly willing to work with the Nazis, and remove any reason for Barbarossa in 1941 which results in an additional 50 Wehrmacht divisions to park in France rendering D Day a fantasy. In fact what seems logical, is that in addition to sharing Poland between them, the White Russians agree to sell wheat, allow German colonists, and would be perfectly willing to ship “undesirables” off to camps in Germany except, having already killed them all, there aren’t any left to execute.

In fact, assuming the triumph of Kulchuck and the Russian nationalist-fascists, it is then reasonable to assume a Russian German alliance (after the Nazis seize power) and the inevitable destruction of England and the end of what we charitably call, Western Civilization.

But for the sake of argument, let us assume a liberal or constitutional monarchy defeating the Whites, and after trying to appease Germany, and after agreeing to share Poland between them, finds itself on the receiving end of Hitler’s dreams of expansion and empire.

Into that vortex one must include a resurgent White nationalist, fascist force, either bribed or perfectly willing to side with the Germans as an opportunity for revenge, resulting in Kerensky or someone like him, having to employ the same draconian survival at all costs measures of “Stalin.” And so, we find ourselves having walked in a long circle and returning to where we began.

Additionally, one could add, famine, assorted pandemics, and the body count from the civil war to push the butcher’s bill still higher, but we shall leave that aside for the time being.

Instead we can posit another “Stalin” about whom we are forced to say, thank god for the devil. This “Stalin” a monster still, and soaked in the blood of his operatic sadistic violence, the master of the Gulags and the debacles of the purges, who, precisely because he is a monster, and a tyrant, pushes the Soviet Union towards victory against the Germans. This Stalin, odious, a thug of epic proportions, is a devil in a struggle to the death against another devil and, “we” are the better for it.

This of course is the terrible trap of history. Defining “Stalin” as a monster is easy as he was a monster. The dilemma begins when one realizes that all alternatives lead to the same outcome and the monster becomes indispensable. Unless of course one’s true agenda, is to eliminate the forces at work that contextualize Marx, and establish a justification for fascism.

Oh dear, what is a morally certain anti-leftist to do?

In the case of Peterson, the answer is to shout louder and avoid bothering with complex questions and stubborn facts.

Which brings us, briefly to the mad god-king, Mao.

Essentially the same set of dilemmas face us when dealing with the Chairman and his hymns to tractor factories, and the tens of millions of dead due to the famine and the Cultural Revolution.

Support for the nationalists did not work and if it had, we would have substituted Chang Kai-shek’s corrupt, nationalist, racist, fascism, for Mao’s, with the result being that instead of Mao being responsible for tens of millions of deaths it would be the Generalissimo and his Western allies though, there probably would have been more opium, which would have helped dull the senses when confronted with all of those millions of corpses.

Of course Shek was also unlikely to have been much use against the Japanese and so as with “Stalin” “Mao” becomes problematic in a devil you know sort of way which again gums up the gears in Peterson’s Rube Goldberg contraption.

One can of course dream up counterfactual scenarios all day long but History qua History has a way, like gravity of being annoying and something one can’t ever escape. Try as you might, or as you like, “Stalin” ends up being there and the catastrophe finds us no matter which way we turn.

Which brings us to the next layer in our excavation of Peterson’s program. We ask, at what point are the number of dead sufficient to warrant condemning a political or social movement? For example, if every year, a socio-political system executes ten people, no more and no less, is that cause to label the system immoral and intellectually bankrupt? What if the number is 100 or 100,000? Too many or not enough? What if the system justifies the executions, regardless of number, by saying the befits of the system outweigh the deaths of x number?

This is no idle or abstract speculation as it lies at the heart of Peterson’s assertions. He is insistent, even passionate, that the number of dead in the “Marxist” paradigms, render the entire enterprise bankrupt. This of course requires one to hold as a given that the number of dead and enslaved by other systems, are not sufficient to force one to declare those systems morally and intellectually bankrupt. As a result, the Atlantic slave trade, while abhorrent is not sufficient reason to declare capitalism a failure, nor are the various programs and colonial settler projects in North, Central and South America, or in Africa and Asia. Nor are various dictatorships established precisely to combat the “left” and defeat attempts to establish “Marxist” tyrannies or for that matter, democratic republics with a coalition involving socialists.

As a result, while Peterson condemns Hitlerian fascism, he also, logically holds that while awful, the Holocaust by weight of numbers, is not as awful as “Stalin” or “Mao” and that as a result of that differential, the system, capitalism*, which produced Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, are either immoral but not sufficient to condemn their causes, or are and therefore the “West” is as bad as any other polity. Since Peterson insists that “the West” is superior the only conclusion left is a justification for atrocities and genocides, committed by non Marxists. After all, per Peterson, someone’s got to pick the cotton.

But again to play devil’s advocate, let’s take Peterson at his word. The Holocaust is an immoral tragic event that stains the conscience. However, our measure for condemnation is two-fold. First, there is some unspecified number that Peterson has in mind, beyond which the entire system is a failure, or the number is arbitrary and (crucially) additionally, the “benefits” of the system outweigh the calamities.

This is in fact a point, without any pesky details, that Peterson makes, consistently asserting variations on the claim that, despite things like the Holocaust and slavery, “the West” has provided a material comfort full of benefits that outweigh any failures and instead of complaining, people should be grateful.

At this point, as with the 100,000,000 assertion, Peterson throws out a set of statistical claims about relative standard of living, all of which, upon even cursory examination, turn out to range from flat out wrong, to being in dispute between reasonable points of view, proving as always, that statistics don’t lie, but statisticians do.

This leaves us in yet another logical cul de sac. What is required from Peterson, since he’s making the claim, is some way to measure or determine at what point are there enough dead to warrant failure and, at how do we define “benefit” relative to the number of dead in order to justify the continued faith in the system’s relative success?

Let’s take a case study. Let’s consider, “The Belgian Congo.”

Estimates for the number executed and/or worked to death by the Belgians and their allies, range from around 8,000,000 to just over 20,000,000.

The first argument one could imagine would be to declare this incident an anomaly that only proves the exception, not the rule.

The problem being of course that from Roger Casement to Joseph Conrad and the likes of Mark Twain and dozens of governmental inquires and media, the atrocities were well known, and as we know, colonialism was not a secret. Therefore this argument is dead on arrival.

The second argument would be the macabre suggestion that while it was an immoral catastrophe, it was part of a wider “civilizing mission” that brought benefits like, better medicine, education, and material growth to the subjects of the various empires. This is the hallmark of revisionists like Niall Ferguson who, in a kind of Kipling 2.0, have regurgitated the White Man’s Burden school of realpolitik that finds fertile fields in The Economist, and The National Review. While intellectually tepid, he is, head and shoulders above Peterson but one informs and contextualizes the other, in the manner of a gangster who says they will run whore houses but wont touch heroin because, that wouldn’t be ethical.

What’s interesting about this argument is that it ends up being right but for all the wrong reasons, and ends up not only being an example of scoring on your own goal but in setting fire to your own stadium.

Ironically it is the left who immediately cry foul but, let’s excavate this.

The fact is, Western imperialism did have the effect of raising standards in literacy, logistics, science and medicine. However, at its crudest, this is like saying that Auschwitz was an excellent weight loss program and lynching taught arboreal respect.

The assertion of a fact by reactionaries is a preferred tactic in that their opponents fall into the rhetorical rabbit hole, and try to prove that the asserted fact is wrong because it is attached to something that is immoral.

The better response is to acknowledge that the fact is not in dispute, but that what is in dispute is the conclusion one draws from the fact.

Peterson asserts that it is a fact that imperialism, while repugnant, increased certain social standards, and he’s not wrong. However, he is either susceptible to being labeled some sort of sociopath or he’s a knob, who’s too stupid to understand that burning the village in order to save it is at best a hideous form of pretzel logic reserved for cold blooded, reptilian tyrants or, is a form of passionate and systemic bigotry in support of a tyrannical Brave New World in which, a certain number of people ranging from one to several million will have to be sacrificed because, other people receive benefits from it.

If that reminds you of a pair of “Marxist” gangsters soaking in the blood of tens of millions, for whom they were willing to sacrifice things like freedom, the right to dissent, religious freedom, intellectual freedom, the right to argue, and or remain silent, well you’re on the right track.

And here a word about Peterson’s consistent denunciations of the French left intellectuals in the post 1945 era.

Peterson castigates them as, (the verbiage changes though the tone is consistent) Marxist, Maoist, deviant, charlatans who, used their intelligence (such as it was) to bamboozle weak minds into denouncing the morally superior West, with Marxist Postmodern swamp gas. Shame on them.

While a survey of the post war environment would be worthwhile, we will here focus on one case. The post war reaction to the Franco dictatorship.

Following the euphoria in the hectic and fraught liberation of France, and the settling of scores between the resistance and the collaborators, the French intellectuals ranging from pro resistance Catholics like Mauriac,** to pro resistance atheists and leftists like Sartre and Camus, there was a sense that the situation was not only ripe for, but required (or demanded) the liberation of Spain.

Franco, though technically neutral, had of course provided a conduit for oil from the US to Occupied France and then on to Germany, and of course was a fascist responsible for the deaths of millions, the suppression of religious freedom, political freedom, press freedom and the stultifying, entombment of Spain under the cement of the cult of the great leader, El Caudillo.

But, resources being stretched, and their eyes on the prize, the Western brass said no, and raced towards the Elbe. Following the settling of that, the issues that had been put aside during the war resurfaced and, Spain was then a strategic ally because it had deep water ports on both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and room to accommodate nuclear armed bombers.

Therefore, those annoying French left intellectuals could go fuck themselves with a stale baguette.

This again complicates things for your average ardent reactionary and Peterson. To support Franco as a bulwark against the “Marxists” is to condone mass murder and fascism. To denounce Franco is to be in the same camp as the “Marxists” and the “French academic intellectual Marxists.” Oh dear, what is one to do?

Consider this statement by Peterson from an interview he gave to Esquire:

“I have something in common with Nazis,” he told me, “in that I am opposed to the radical left. And when you oppose the radical left, you end up being a part of a much larger group that includes Nazis in it.”

There is at best, something morally gelatinous about that and at worst there is something sinister. Again it is crucial to note that technically he’s correct. The set whose members are people who are against the “radical left” includes Nazis.

It’s also true that “radical” and “left” and “radical left” are baggy constructions prone to netting a lot of endangered mammals along with all the canable tuna (to paraphrase Zadie Smith operating in a slightly different if still on point context) and that if you aren’t in a panic because you’re standing on the same side of the oven door as the Gestapo and the SS, then you have much bigger problems. And claiming, in defense that, you’re just stating a fact, as if the words and the facts do not have a moral dimension that requires clarification, precisely because you are otherwise at pains to highlight what you insist is the necessity of moral clarity in the social jungle, then either you’re liable to be labeled some sort of sociopath and reactionary crank, who traffics in the overheated rhetoric of neo fascists, by people inclined to toss out accusations like “sociopath” or you’re in an intellectual stupor and a moral coma.

But beyond even that train wreck, what matters here, is that one could reverse the statement and in place of Nazis, substitute, “Marxists.” As in: When you’re against the radical right, you find yourself on the same side as “Marxists” “Stalinists” “Maoists” and anti Stalinist Leftists.

Politics, as they say, makes strange bedfellows as does logic and intellectual rigor, and honesty.

Which of course, leaves out sophists and demagogues.

We are here reminded of the old Robin Williams’ joke: in the dictionary, under Irony, see, Irony.

Peterson has not only rhetorically blown a hole in his own head, he’s managed to lead his ardent followers into a bottleneck of tortured pretzel logic and embarrassment, relieved only by the fact that most of them are too ignorant to know they’re ignorant. After all, it’s always the morally certain naïfs who believe jokes are always funnier, when you take the time to explain them.

Thus it means nothing to them that they are on the same side as that noted Zen poet and jazz improv genius, Stalin, who said: the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a million, is a statistic.



For a detailed examination of the statistics for deaths per war, revolution, and state sponsored execution, see the following:


*Regarding capitalism as a cause or the cause for fascism in Europe. We here define capitalism as the umbrella under which various other social frictions caused the rise of fascism. For example, imperialism as a subset of capitalism, or colonialism as a subset, or reactionary liberalism, conservativism, and so on and of course the failure of assorted left movements which created the impetus among liberals and conservatives to pay for fascists to kill leftists. A circular firing squad any way you look at it but in each case, what they all have in common as a governing condition, is capitalism


**Regarding Mauriac a few things among many are worth noting. First he was an ardent Catholic who was at one point a member of the fascist Action Francais terrorist gang. He quit the group because of their support for Franco. He supported Petain and then joined the Resistance. Following the war he had a bitter feud with Camus over the extent to which there should or should not be a purge of the collaborationists.

Camus, in a more blood thirsty vein, prior to his later more sanguine period, wanted a complete purge. Mauriac was against it, advocating reconciliation and also that he did not believe such a purge would be based on evidence and would lead to episodes of private revenge being carried out as public, state sanctioned murder.

The record supports his view.

However, Camus’ point contextualizes the moral, intellectual and historical defectiveness in the reactionary program of Peterson. What he consistently leaves out is that the context of the post war French left was the fact that at least half the population had supported the Nazis. To purge them would entail civil war, revolution, and a bloodbath on top of the one that had just ended. To deny the reality of the situation was to create a psychological derangement and dissonance in which the surreal atmosphere of the Occupation was repeated under the new title of the Liberation.

In this dream state, one had to pretend that people you knew who had been either active collaborators, or passive collaborators, were now, new people, untainted by their previous crimes and immorality. This in turn indicted you as a collaborator yourself, justifying your silence in a manner not so very different from those who had been silent in the face of the Nazis.

To take a principled stand, to maintain a sense of personal honor, required a mental gymnastics beyond the ability of most and even stretched the abilities of geniuses.

The question then is not why were the French intellectuals tormented by byzantine feuds and theories but, given the ugly truth, and the blunt generational trauma, how could they not be.

And Jordan Peterson, is not right.


15 comments on “Bring Out Your Dead. Jordan Peterson and the Catastrophe of Numbers.

  1. What rubs me wrong is Peterson’s cloying earnestness and humorless pomposity. There is something so demanding in his way of speaking, as if he is begging his listeners to take him seriously, maybe a habit learned from a lifetime of experience in being ridiculed.

    His attacks are so simplistic and predictable for the very reason he is incapable of any meaningful defense of his own views. All he can do is declare his conclusions according to the rehearsed formula. It is monotonously boring.

    Yet somehow his followers find him impressive and inspiring. I guess it’s a case of low standards, the need for anyone no matter how undeserving to fill the void of conservative public intellectual. And Peterson is more than happy to play the role with conviction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      There is a desperate tone to the man and a pomposity that is intertwined with the desperation. A burning need to be taken seriously and like a lot of parvenu types, despite his expressions of contempt or his inferred contempt for “elites” when he was attacked by a writer in The New York review of Books he took to YouTube and uploaded a video threatening violence in response. No doubt because being insulted by another professional lightweight like Sam Harris can be taken in stride but the NYRoB hits him in the truth.

      The dilemma with JP is that he’s all of that and obviously absurd so the impulse is to be sarcastic and dismissive. That’s true for all such goons including Trump. But the inverse ration applies in that the less legitimate he is intellectually the more his base grows including the neo-fascist cadres.

      There’s something to be said for the “don’t feed the troll” approach and I’m not against it per se yet at the same time the man’s total disregard for the facts, stubborn and general, is dangerous. People believe his bull shit and it becomes gospel. Reading the comments for his videos is a lesson – over the past 6+ months I noticed a steady increase in informed opinions highlighting the usual suspects – lack of context, half truths, lies, etc – but then there’s a wave of pure neo-Nazi shit that repeats the process where one thinks, it’s so ridiculous don’t take it seriously. But, that’s exactly what happened last time and needless to say that did not turn out well.

      I started the piece and found it expanding to its current large-ish size as there’s so much involved and that’s another issue – he has the advantage of not being weighed down by having to provide any evidence or construct a reasonable argument. That’s the advantage all demagogues and fascists have. No need to let the truth get in the way of a good or outrageous rant. That of course feeds his audience who don’t want facts just amygdala stimulating injections.

      Lastly, of note, I seem to have struck a nerve as the number of hits and countries for those hits indicates not only a cadre of Lobster boys but a sense that they are watching or on the look out for people who insult their chief – so they can reach for the cyber conch shell and scream sucks to your assmar!

      More, no doubt to follow.

      See you at the barricade;-)


      1. To keep it balanced, I do know some “good liberals” who like Peterson. Or at least they liked him in the past.

        Maybe their views have changed as he became more blatantly reactionary. But the reactionary element was always there. For all that it contradicts their self-identity, there are many liberals who are drawn to the reactionary, especially when it can be couched in terms of “classical liberalism” or other bullshit.

        A significant number of self-avowed liberals should be more accurately considered as conservatives, as a significant number of self-avowed conservatives should be more accurately considered as right-wingers. The reactionary infects the entire mainstream. Second-rate pseudo-intellectuals like Peterson take advantage of this confusion and the anxiety that fuels it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        Exactly the case. Fifty some years ago, Mailer was being interviewed by the high priest of reactionary neo-fascism, Bill Buckley and Buckley asked him about being a liberal and Mailer coughed up a lung, and said he wasn’t a liberal and that the problem with liberals is that go through life being terrified someone will call them a leftist.

        Back in the 80s being exhausted by the system’s binary method of identification and control in labeling people “Dem” or “Republican” people began to call themselves “independent” which was then absorbed back into the system because it has to market and thus control.

        That morphed again into people who came to call themselves “progressives.”

        I think the systemic weakness of the American “left” that loose affiliation of progressives and “liberals” is a mirror that feeds the space where Peterson’s bs grows and lives.

        But even if that’s wrong, your point is apt – self-described liberals are really essentially conservatives and the conservatives are really reactionaries if not fascists or at least jackboot curious and perfectly willing to use fascists for their own ends. Here’s a good analysis on the current scene and its historical parallels:


      3. The liberal who really drew my attention to Peterson is a nice lady from Canada. She is quite progressive, socially liberal but with a smidge of economic conservatism. So, although she isn’t anti-leftist exactly, I suspect she’d support a ‘moderate’ conservative before she’d support a left-winger. Keep in mind that as a Canadian liberal, she is still to the left of the average American liberal.

        I’ve known some American liberals who vote Democrat while espousing rather authoritarian views. That is the problem and irony with the Democratic Party, in that it was their attack on democratic process in their own party that ensured Trump’s victory. If not for the anti-democratic Democratic Party, we’d now have the old school liberal (what is called socialist today) Sanders as president and we’d also have had Democrats nominated to the Supreme Court.

        Trump was powerless to do anything without the help of the DNC establishment. In fact, along with the corporate media, they actively promoted Trump because they thought that was a brilliant strategy, presumably in their trying to keep the political left silenced and disfranchised. But many voters figured that, if they were being forced to choose between varieties of evil, they might as well go with an authoritarian who is at least honest in his own way.

        My outrage has burned out. I see bigger problems on the horizon. Does it matter who is president or on the Supreme Court when the Midwest is no longer arable because of drought and so American farming can no longer feed the population? No matter who is in power, that will mean conflict over resources, either civil war within the country or war against other countries. On top of that, there will be a refugee crisis since most of the population lives on the coasts.


      4. rauldukeblog says:

        There’s definitely a case to made for the liberals, in their traditional role as handmaid to the extreme right, made Trump possible.

        Also of course these definitions are not always fixed. Historiography as a “science” lacks the flexibility of literature which can allow for nuance and shades of grey. (And as side note, I think a lot of the antagonism towards the French “postmods” is due to their style being a meshing of historiography philosophy and literature – Foucault often reads like a work of fiction – and I don’t mean that in a Focauldian way).

        Regardless, you can trust the liberals to screw the left which doesn’t mean the left isn’t capable of screwing itself.

        As to the dire environmental situation. There was a report last year that at current rates the earth has 60 more harvest cycles left before it’s fallow.

        There are a lot of reasons to embrace resignation. It’s not illusionary, the situation really is bleak and feeling exhausted is normal.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. All I know is that liberal Democrats pining away for the good ol’ days of Obama and Bush, well it makes me want to puke. But I have no clue about left-wingers.

        Who is a left-winger this day, that is a left-winger of any significance? What goes for a left-winger in the mainstream is Sanders and Chomsky, both seeming more like genuinely non-reactionary liberals but still mostly standard liberals.

        The only left-winger of note that comes to mind is Paul Street, as one does here of him on occasion, not that he is that well known. I’m mostly aware of Street because he lives here in Iowa City.


      6. rauldukeblog says:

        I use the term “left” loosely as there is essentially no authentic left in this country because of course the kulturkampf and fascist counter revolutionary actions of the establishment (i.e. COINTELPRO, ETC) and what remains are as you say liberals like Sanders and Obama. And I’m underwhelmed by Chomsky and his cult.

        If you have anything on Paul Street send it.


      7. It seems odd now that I used to so easily identify as a liberal. And it still is hard for me to shake it as a personal identity or sensibility. I genuinely don’t feel like a left-winger, as I don’t vibe with the whole worker solidarity schtick.

        My identity isn’t as a worker, much less as a member of the working class. I don’t dream of the workers of the world uniting. It’s not how I think about the world, defining all of humanity according to economics.

        I’m a mutant liberal, some kind of deformed ideological creature. I have no place in this world of political labels.

        About Paul Street, he writes all the time. Below are a couple pieces I randomly came across. The second one, in particular, resonates with me as I’ve never been a fan of the Constitution which was designed to prevent democracy.

        While I’m sharing articles, I’ll toss out a few more. Here is a piece related to Street’s view of the Constitution.

        This one fits in with understanding the role of reactionary conservatives in relation to the Nazis. It gives context to what they were reacting to, demands of democratic reform.

        The next one is about one of my dietary concerns, farm chemicals. I talked to a guy who grew up on a farm and, along the road of his family’s farm, there were 6 other farmers. They all started using Roundup about the same time, which they mixed by hand. And now in old age, 4 out 7 of these old farmers have Parkinson.
        “The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals, even the one with the lowest level of contamination, is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people).”

        Last but not least, this is why I despise the Democrats with my heart and soul. It’s because I can’t shake my sense of liberalism that I’m so offended by what goes for liberalism in this country.

        “If Melania really wanted to warn Africans, she would have worn a pantsuit. Hawk Hillary has brought slavery back to Libya, and even was tacky enough to cackle about it on live television. Then there was that 100 million dollar donation to the Clinton Foundation, by Lundin for Africa. Um, is this charity? Lundin is an oil and mining company based in Canada. There was also a 20 million donation to the Foundation from Ethiopia’s repressive leader Meles Zenawi. And ties to businessman Gilbert Chagoury brought along shady land deals in Nigeria. Also of note is her State Department arming of child soldiers in southern Sudan. I mean this could go on and on. Between the Clinton Foundation and an ugly State Department reign, there appears to be pantsuit pollution in about every country in Africa. She’s a basket case of deplorable! […]

        “The Hillary—Barack murder of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi was devastating not just for Libya, but all of Africa. Gaddafi was such a threat for the U.S. powers-that-be because he was unifying Africa before his death. Now the entire continent is fair game for the lawless leaders in the United States. The Guardian observes: “The Obama administration in fact oversaw one of the largest military expansions into Africa establishing small bases and outposts for drones, surveillance, air-bases, Special Forces, and/or port facilities in Kenya, Uganda, Chad, Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Senegal.” […]

        “The reason that liberals empower rather than defeat Trumpism, is that Donald Trump, like hunger and poverty in Africa, is explained as a deviation from, rather than a product of, the neoliberal capitalist imperialist structure.

        “Forget the Trumps and their silly hats for a moment. We missed the moment when democracy died. It was when the U.S. war on Africa ballooned by 20 times its previous amount in just a decade. It was when this happened and nobody knew, nobody cared, and nobody stopped it that we became a state of fake news, willful ignorance, ethnic cleansing, and fascism. The appalling rise of AFRICOM shows that things change, and change quickly and dramatically. So, better days, maybe far better days, could be ahead in our future.”


      8. rauldukeblog says:

        In a sort of reverse order:

        “The reason that liberals empower rather than defeat Trumpism, is that Donald Trump, like hunger and poverty in Africa, is explained as a deviation from, rather than a product of, the neoliberal capitalist imperialist structure.”

        That’s really crucial. I’ve beat Pelosi over the head rhetorically for her, we’re capitalists get used to it, mantra, but one could easily go further as it’s a perfect illustration of the moral stupor and intellectual coma of the liberals.

        To possibilities, at least, suggest themselves. Either Pelosi & co are too stupid to understand the extent to which the “market” causes everything they claim to be against, or they do but like a Jehovah’s Witness with a high fever, they hope reality will turn out differently than the diagnosis suggests.

        Of course their positions aren’t fixed – they could see how they make Trump possible and still talk about changing things but then I end up imaging them like alcoholics or other addicts making deals – x amount of market “reform” and then I’ll be a good liberal.

        Beyond that though I’m not sure the distinctions matter. I don’t care what they’re “reasons” are – we’re at a moment where environmental collapse is to our time as the Nazi seizure of power was to the 20th century. The liberals, if they weren’t the liberal wing of Vidal’s one party system, would be demanding the arrest and trial of corporatists for genocide/crimes against humanity.

        But Pelosi and the rest of the neoliberal gang – HRC, Obama – are all going to keep preaching “reasonableness” while cities vanish under water and all the rest.

        As to the Libya disaster – more of the same. I just find it hard to believe no pone was in the room to say sure we can kill him and his military doesn’t stand a chance but…what do we do after?

        Powel allegedly said that to W before Iraq but they don’t listen because they don’t have to worry about consequences. No senior American political figure has ever been prosecuted for a crime except Spiro Agnew and he got away with a nolo contender and of course his boss got a pardon, a vacation, a few books deals and then rehabilitation. And if you want a wry chuckle look up Hunter S. Thompson’s eulogy for the rat fucker – it’s priceless if depressing.

        I’m reminded of a scene in Heart of Darkness where a French gunboat is pumping shells into the jungle – whomever they were aiming for having vanished but they just kept shooting.

        There’s American “foreign policy” in a paragraph. Massive, futile, depraved, counterproductive. Just look at this crap with the Saudis killing a guy in Turkey – and the US is screwed because heaven forbid we actually apply a sense of morality to anything except how it impacts Wall Street.

        As to Madison & co I’m of two minds. Madison was a prick but the biggest problem would have been avoiding a civil war right out of the gate.

        Power to the un-propertied would have provoked a succession crisis by the Southern aristocrats.

        On the other hand the Constitution is clearly designed to keep power in the hands of the few.

        I’d say now we have a mix. Most power in the hands of the ruling class but also a volatile mob rule.

        Either way I’d say we’re fucked.

        I just don’t see a democrat (take your pick) getting elected on a platform that explicitly makes the connection between the environment and capitalism and that we have to choose – Wall Street or breathing.

        Street seems alright. The situation in Berlin in 1919 has always been fascinating to me. Tragic but fascinating and clearly an example of the liberals and the fascist joining forces to fuck the left.


      9. rauldukeblog says:

        And – to add – I can’t abide the doctrinaire attitude of what passes for the “left” mostly because they seem to have no sense of humor and as I mention in a recent post they have a strange obsession with Jews so that even when they have a legitimate point about the ME there’s almost always someone who start saying shit that makes me nervous.

        The liberals of course make me ill in numerous ways. The hypocrisy, the smug superiority and so on.

        Well, a mess all around.


      10. “To possibilities, at least, suggest themselves. Either Pelosi & co are too stupid to understand the extent to which the “market” causes everything they claim to be against, or they do but like a Jehovah’s Witness with a high fever, they hope reality will turn out differently than the diagnosis suggests.”

        I see a third possibility. It’s not a matter of Democrats succeeding or failing. It’s simply that they can imagine nothing else and so they repeat the same behaviors. They are caught in a narrative loop.

        The fact of the matter is that former Democratic Trump is the apotheosis of the Democratic Party. Trump and those like him are necessary to the Democratic worldview, without which there would be no self-justification to prop up their flimsy cardboard identities. That is why they would rather have a president Trump than a president Sanders.

        Everything is going according to plan, be that plan cynical or unconscious.

        “Of course their positions aren’t fixed – they could see how they make Trump possible and still talk about changing things but then I end up imaging them like alcoholics or other addicts making deals – x amount of market “reform” and then I’ll be a good liberal.”

        They know and they don’t know. That is how dissociation operates in the mind of addiction, of repetition-compulsion. And that dissociation is how the system maintains itself.

        It’s part of Charlie Brown’s identity that he will miss the football over and over when Lucy pulls it away at the last moment. If he managed to kick it for once, he wouldn’t know what to do with himself. He no more wants to actually kick it than the Democrat actually wants reform.

        The whole point is playing out and replaying again and again the scripted comedy of errors. It doesn’t matter that we already all know how it ends. We watch it each time with anticipation and we laugh when Charlie Brown goes flying, but we also feel some sympathy almost hoping that somehow it will be different next time. It won’t be different, though, and we know that.

        “Beyond that though I’m not sure the distinctions matter. I don’t care what they’re “reasons” are – we’re at a moment where environmental collapse is to our time as the Nazi seizure of power was to the 20th century.”

        I feel pretty confident that these particular distinctions don’t matter much. And for damn sure, I don’t care about their reasons.

        “As to Madison & co I’m of two minds. Madison was a prick but the biggest problem would have been avoiding a civil war right out of the gate.”

        There was no civil war with the Articles of Confederation. And there is no reason to assume a civil war would necessarily and inevitably have followed if not for the the constitutional coup that itself threatened the alliance that had formed.

        “Power to the un-propertied would have provoked a succession crisis by the Southern aristocrats.”

        Considering what we know about what actually did follow, Southern secession right from the start may have been the only positive outcome that was possible. Instead of causing civil war, avoiding the constitutional coup might have prevented the one an only Civil War in this country.

        “I just don’t see a democrat (take your pick) getting elected on a platform that explicitly makes the connection between the environment and capitalism and that we have to choose – Wall Street or breathing.”

        I don’t either. That is why the promises of Democrats are empty.

        “Street seems alright.”

        He is nothing spectacular. I only mentioned him for lack of many other examples. He is one of the rare genuine left-wingers who occasionally gets heard in mainstream media, such as when he has a recent book published.

        But that isn’t to say he is extremely radical. What he does give voice to is equal opportunity criticism that is ideologically consistent and principled. Nonetheless, even someone like Street can sound stale and recycled. Refreshingly new thinking on the left is as hard to find as anywhere else.

        “as I mention in a recent post they have a strange obsession with Jews so that even when they have a legitimate point about the ME there’s almost always someone who start saying shit that makes me nervous.”

        Which post was that? I’m sure I saw it, but nothing comes to mind. About left-wing obsession with Jews, I might know what you’re talking about. But could you share a specific example?


      11. rauldukeblog says:

        First, “Two” not “To” in my previous answer.

        As to the dems. I think we’re essentially in agreement. For multiple reasons they are locked into repetition and the last thing they want is genuine change. They believe in capitalism with a smile the same way the Soviets sold Socialism with a smile for a brief period in the 70s.

        Wall Street is essentially a feudal system for the modern era and it has to go but the dems will never do it.

        As to Madison I remain uncertain. I can see it both ways but haven’t looked into it enough to be definitive though I remain – based on cursory reading and a hunch – that empowering the average farmer would have pushed the southern aristos out and that would have led to a war over expansion/trade and so on. But to emphasize, I’m not certain.

        Of course it’s interesting to follow your point and consider the South splitting off and avoiding a war and perhaps down the road rejoining but, I wonder how slavery would have been dealt with and it feels as if one just walks in a historical circle.

        There really is no authentic “left” in the US. Sanders is a Canadian liberal and left of center. One of the TYT correspondents proudly explained in the wake of AOC’s win in NY that they are not “leftists” and that “progressives” believe in the market but want universal healthcare, etc. in other words, the boilerplate of the “left” of the dem centrists and no recognition that they are talking about ripping a trillion dollar hunk out of the market and that the market is incompatible with their agenda. What’s revealed in their rhetoric is the same old same old fear that someone will accuse them of being an authentic leftists and they think they’re being clever about dodging the accusation.

        At this point I can barely tolerate even their bs for more than a few minutes – TYT and Sam Seder are just an echo chamber that is slightly more genuine and honest than the establishment media but it’s a matter of inches not miles.

        As to the left and anti-Semitism I’ll post the link below. I think we exchanged comments about it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. FaC says:

    I lost track of ever properly replying to a comment exchange in an earlier entry of yours, and sorry for that. Perhaps I can muster the energy to do so at some point soon. Partly it’s a time/energy issue, but it’s also thumbing thru more of the entries as/when I get a chance; and getting different evovling glimpses into your views of things.

    I started reading this post, but ~five paragraphs in I resorted to rush-skimming the rest to make it to the bottom, and to notice a few exisiting comments on here.

    I will try and make a point of reading through it as I’m pretty sure it’ll be very interesting, but I’ll leave as a reminder/placeholder here, my initital impression from the title, what I’ve skimmed from the post, and generally in the blog:

    <I wonder if perhaps you're getting yourself a little worked up…(?)
    Tackling Peterson does require an inordinate length and space, but if I were to try an whittle it down (despite his internal contradictions) –
    my best reading of Peterson at the moment is that he sits somewhere between or around Heidegger (a rather sinister radical historicist), Kojeve (a dangerous genius – that is, without weighing in on his philosophy one way or another, per se), and John Rawls (a hack).
    He is historicist in orientation (the beginning of MofMeanings lays out as much). The vehicle/structure is Heideggerian (language-house-of-being etc), the political orientation is Kojevean (capitalism indeed trumps Marxism/socialism/commumism as the best system towards ensuring -recognition- etc). Kojeve accepted Stalin for speeding up the global process now at the End of History, and Peterson objects due to his professed reasons indeed, and in line I think with how you're framing it (if I'm correct), it would be something of a retrograde motion at this point in 'History'. Needless, backwards, and bloody. Rawlsian, though perhaps unsatisfactory/not obvious parallel, is pretty relevant to Peterson's social democratic leanings (regardless of whether how he currently frames them), it seeps out in his commonality of purpose/project with Pinker/Haidt. Much like Rawls who proceeded to carry on as though he had invented political philosophy, mangled Kant and Aristotle, disregarded Nietzche, and arrived precisely at a prescription for Nietzche's Last Man; Peterson too in playing with ideas bigger than himself, or reading philosophy *psychologically* or perhaps rather autodidactically in approach, also ends up cobbling and patching up a structure that is seems quite antithetical to much of a what he professes in many respects. That he manages to stuff into (or derive — depending on one's outlook, angle, or frame of analysis) from History, something of approximating natural rights, a more permament human nature or essence, and thereby questions that are more permament in nature — is a dilemma that begins to border on, but never quite reaches something on the Straussian plane.
    I respect the man's intelligence and can appreciate/apprehend some of how he's arrived at where he is, but not terribly impressed with the philosphy whatever it is..

    If anything, I would gather Peterson as a curiously liberalising force for a good bunch; helpful to another few who are kinda put together outside of Peterson's belief system, but find something of value, or a good 'push' in his message; and confusing, misleading/dead-ending/possibly detrimental for a good deal of others. I dunno.

    Gosh, this already begin a huge comment, hastily written. And it was supposed to be a placeholder. I'll try to revisit if after reading the entry I feel like I need to add or amend (or very likely to correct).
    Or obviously if you reply (i.e. I'd try to respond this time around for sure)


    1. rauldukeblog says:


      not sure which previous comments you’re referring to but no worries. On a house keeping note, the notification only showed part of your comment and I had to dig a little for the rest. If in any event I miss something make you’re first assumption a technical glitch rather than being ignored.

      As to J.P. it is possible I’m getting “worked up” but I’m of two minds about responses. On the one hand there is something to be said for starving him of oxygen. On the other there is something too reminiscent these days of street corner demagogues – except substitute the corner for YouTube – and it just makes me nervous and I find myself re-watching episodes of The World at War or some such. I’m being somewhat tongue in cheek but not completely. Twain’s quip, history may not repeat but, it sure does rhyme comes to mind.

      As to the specifics I’ll be cursory in deference to your wanting to develop your point

      “Tackling Peterson does require an inordinate length and space”

      It’s a dilemma that I’m wrestling with. The Bring out your Dead piece was originally much shorter but, JP, is such a baggy suit, that it’s a bit like herding cats when you try to pin his jive down to the essentials.

      One possibility is to be sarcastic and brief but, the other is the carpet bombing approach. Obviously the Bring out your Dead is carpet bombing where as, another piece,

      is a lot shorter and might even qualify as pithy.

      As to Heidegger and Kojeve. I’d be surprised if JP has read anything by either of them. I could be wrong but I’m willing to bet having to eat a hockey puck and an empty six of Labatt’s that he hasn’t. That’s not an idle point either as while he may sit near them, the proximity in thought has got to be accidental.

      Heidegger is indeed sinister and was a man with a flexible if right leaning sense of ethics – to say the least. My guess is that one could connect JP to Heidegger in that he leads back to the more mystical Prussian hit parade of Hegel – but that’s just intuition talking and again, I’d emphasize that for JP the connection, if it’s there is not because he’s well read just following the same beaten path.

      Kojeve makes me nervous – and that’s even without the possibility that he was a Stalinist/Soviet mole. I only know it’s been suggested but even without that, reading his lecture notes on Hegel is a trip. His Orwellian spin on America in the 1950s and later is at best, weird, and at worst, sinister – to use that word again. On the other hand his deconstruction of the inherent dilemmas in the “end of history” are well reasoned and it’s refreshing to see a “leftist” admit to the structural contradictions in “Marxism” but (and it’s a whopper) Kojeve jumps from that to some mumbo jumbo about post war Japan being an example of how it could work.

      And again, given Kojeve’s connections to the “left” (his students are a who’s who of French 20th century intellectual giants and oddballs – Lacan, Merleau-Ponty, Baitaille, Breton, and though he denied it, I’m certain, Sartre) – but at the same time, Kojeve coughs up an odd End of History song and dance that finds a home with Leo Strauss and through him connects to Francis Fukayama who in turn was a student of Francois Furet who was a Gaullist and pro market anti-Marxist (in French terms) – all of which is to say the whole thing is a hall of mirrors and complex beyond anything I find in JP.

      But! At the same time I take your point (correct me if I’m wrong) that JP echoes those people just minus the erudition?

      I can see that. He sounds generally like a hit parade of so many things, including but not limited to – Jungian/Hegelian mysticism, neo-fascist, self help guru, and so on it’s hard to pin any of it down.

      I’m not up on Rawls enough to say anything even half way intelligent so feel free to expand on that.

      “Peterson too in playing with ideas bigger than himself…”

      That seems crucial. I think he stumbled really accidentally into sounding like a crypto Hegelian and, irony of ironies, like a “good” Marxist but, it’s not the first time or the most egregious example of his “methodology.” There’s a video on YouTube from when he and Sam Harris were sniffing each other, where JP goes in for one of his standard assaults on Frankfurt, and Foucault, and coughs up a pitch perfect paraphrase of both except he uses the patois as a positive example of methodology.

      It’s funny of course but also cause to keep one eye on the nearest exit. Needles to say, Harris is just as clueless.

      My perhaps belabored point being JP is a verbal drunk – he’s swerving all over the road and he’s no more hip to, Adorno/Horkheimer, than he is to any of the other heavyweights we’ve dragged into this. But he keeps saying things that make any knowledgeable reader say – hey, wait a minute…

      I’m less inclined to be charitable than you appear to be (not intended as a putdown) and I’m consistently appalled by the comments so many of his followers make. Here’s an examination of that issue and crucially there’s a comment JP makes in an interview with Esquire which really should have set off alarm bells for a lot of people. And I’m willing to concede that Esquire could have “edited” the original but even so, it’s damning anyway you look at it because, either there’s something reptilian in the man, or there’s something that’s jackboot curious.

      Here’s the whole piece:

      And here’s the Esquire quote which I use in both the Bring out your Dead and the one just above:

      “Peterson’s fame on these subversive platforms is often used to paint him in ominous tones. “I have something in common with Nazis,” he told me, “in that I am opposed to the radical left. And when you oppose the radical left, you end up being a part of a much larger group that includes Nazis in it.”

      Well, I may not have it right but I don’t know how else to read that except as either, sinister (sic!) in the sense of being detached like HAL refusing to open the pod bay doors, or the rhetorical equivalent of wanting to wear a lot of leather.

      Even at the most generous I think it speaks to what we’re discussing in that, one could say: JP is making a technically correct point…but, at what cost morally and intellectually?

      That’s a point I develop quite a bit more in the Bring out your Dead piece because (among several reasons) it speaks to a slipshod style prone to abuse – after all, as I wrote in the dead piece, one could substitute “Marxist” for “Nazis and end up with something like: When you’re opposed to the radical right you end up on the same side as the Marxists, Stalinists, Maoists, etc…

      I’m not sure I’d chalk that up as an example of his ‘intelligence.”

      I also wrote in The Guardian Defends piece that I have no doubt JP has helped people – and good – but there’s a lot of sketchy rhetoric in what he says.

      Well, word vomit – that’s the thing about these issues – they are so complex that being brief is all but impossible. I’ve probably misread some of your points, so apologies and feel free to tell me so, and I’ve also probably done some combo of misspelling/typo/fat finger/fat idea mangled but have at it.


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