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.