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iLobster. iCon. Jordan Peterson & Identity Politics.

“Idenity Politics began in the 1960s, with the Postmodernists and the Neo Marxists!”
— Jordan Peterson

 

 

Identity Politics is nothing more or less, than an examination of the politics of, identity.

Apparently there is some confusion about this.

For example, the Lobster King of Toronto, Jordan Peterson, recently gave an interview to GQ Britain, in which, repeating right wing orthodoxy and assorted talking point templates, he insisted that “Identity Politics” was an invention of the “Postmodernist Neo-Marxists” of the 1960s, and that, it was impossible to change the definition and apply the term to any historical events prior to the 1960s.

As we showed in our previous missive, this is of course factually wrong. The assertion made by any number of people, from Mary Wollstonecraft in, The Vindication of the Rights of Woman, to Montesquieu, Rousseau, Thomas Paine, Edmund Burke, to David Hume’s assertion that the “individual” as such, does not exist at all, all clearly show the tell-tell marks of “Identity Politics” even if they did not use that phrase, and that these ideas, far from being locked in intellectual or historical amber, are fluid. After all, we doubt that Wollstonecraft was so strident in her Feminism, that she would have been happy to see Byron burned at the stake, or that Hume, while enraged by Rousseau’s (sometimes) justified paranoia, wanted to see him, or his dog, hanging at the end of a rope.

Further, it is clearly not only wrong but, is wrong in the manner of the standard reactionary to declare, that one is not free to change the meaning or one’s view of past events based on new praxis, and that to dismiss that fundamental right, ironically contextualizes Peterson as a poor man’s Marxist, offering a retrograde dialectical determinism.

The stubborn facts, the dreary, annoying truth is that again, as we showed previously, the reaction to the French Revolutions of the 18th century, the reactions to the American Revolution, and the push to restore absolute monarchy to its position of authority, all sound essentially like, the reactionary dogmas of the contemporary scene. Herder, de Maistre and any number of others who believed stridently in power, and discipline, and the mythology of the tribe, declared in absolute terms that the individual did not exist, that women were, by definition, second class citizens, that, in the words of Emanuel Kant, “blacks” were inferior and that while (White) men, of specific class, education, wealth and property, were endowed by sublime, divine providence with rights, everyone else was, more or less, fucked.

A further irony is that, Peterson, while sounding like the worst sort of doctrinaire Marxist whose idea of sophisticated analysis is, a back catalogue of Pravda, also sounds like any number of “We are the World” self-described, “leftists” whom he despises, and who know as little about the past as anyone on the right, have the same slippery grasp of the details as Peterson, and as a result sound like, the worst sort of doctrinaire Marxist whose idea of sophisticated analysis, is a back catalogue of Pravda.

Given that Identity Politics is nothing more or less than an examination of the politics of identity, and that we are free to repurpose language and to change our minds, we offer a few brief examples:

Who, was Josephus? And who is he now? Were there politics in the formation of his identity as he crossed the social border from rebel to slave, and from slave to citizen? For whom did he write? Those who held him captive, or those who were captive? Was he Hellenized or a subversive operating in cultural (thus political) drag? Was he a collaborator, or a traitor? Both, neither? What were the Identity Politics of being a “Jew” when the Romans declared “Jews” to be erased from History?

Who was William Butler Yeats? An “Irish” nationalist? A proper Protestant? An apostate? A bad liberal or a good conservative, or the other way around? A member of the ruling class who slummed with Maude Gonne? Or a radical revolutionary who slummed with the ruling class and was a member in good standing, of the parliament? What did it mean to him that Ezra Pound was his administrative assistant? Were Yeats’ fairies, ghosts, and sprites, an anti-British code, or a pro Irish jig? Both? Neither? Who saw the wild swans, and who sailed to Byzantium? Who seduced Iseult, but was seduced by her mother? Who was Irish? British? European? Blueshirt and thus a fascist, or Irish and thus, not English? What rough beast came around at last in Easter, 1916? Those he guarded, he did not love, and those he fought, he did not hate?

What goes missing in this; in Peterson’s carnival of mendacity and militant ignorance, is that the symbiosis between the two seemingly opposed camps, not only keeps them in business, selling books, and selling out auditoriums full of people who prove that the maxim, there’s a sucker born every minute, belongs on every piece of currency, but proves that ignorance is no barrier to success.

But, beyond that, what also goes missing, is that it is not the “left” or even the Left that is responsible for this sham, but the marketing machine of the dominant system – capitalism, or iCapitalism.

Peterson is a creation of YouTube, and YouTube is a colony of the tech empires operating as both whore and pimp. Consider that in his strident denunciations he has not once offered a single example in the form of quotations, text, peer reviewed papers, or any documentary evidence of any kind to bolster his claims about “Postmodernism” or “Neo-Marxism” or the Yeti of his nightmares, “Postmodern-Neo-Marxism.” (a baggy suit that is akin to, a Libertarian Bolshevik, or a Muslim member of the Klan) and yet, establishment organs, like The New York Times, GQ, and others, proclaim him the most important public intellectual of our time.

Thus, it is the establishment, the bullhorn of the Market, utilizing the propaganda techniques of the Soviets and the Maoists, replete with Orwellian flim flam that renders up, as down, and right, as left, and war, as peace, who have manufactured, “Jordan Peterson.” Thus, it is Peterson who represents, Identity Politics at its most toxic.

iCulture, the idea that buying a product conveys an identity, is a hallmark of Capitalism, exemplified by the cult of Steve Jobs; the 24/7 push that owning a Mac, or an iPhone, (or for that matter any Apple product) bestows upon the user, an identity as, cool, sophisticated, non-corporate, egalitarian, committed to the spread of information, without restriction or recognition of last century, dead on arrival ideas of the state, borders and terminally dull bureaucratic authority.

Never mind that all electronics (including the one on which this is being written – as Baudelaire said – brother hypocrite, I salute you) are slave manufactured, government sanctioned, tracking devices – designed to expand the very power structure Apple claims to be subverting. Never mind that it is a bespoke Identity Politics and the politics of identity being sold as “freedom” and that Peterson is a cheerleader for it.

That this is also the system that fits Jordan Peterson’s definitions of abusive is, as with the tech empires, not up for public debate. After all, turning the truth as a weapon of discourse upon the ring masters, might get the otherwise apathetic SOMA consuming drones, to turn their rage on the powers that be.

For Peterson, as a demagogue, this is clover. There are no details, only assertions of a terminal authority backed up by “research” that he insists is not open for debate, denunciations of “others” about whom he knows nothing, offers no details, but insists, pose a threat to everyone, and that what he is offering is, freedom. This then is Public Relations, Marketing, selling the product which is, as with Apple, “Peterson” as an identity; a way of being, a club, or cult, that serves the system by ginning up ticket sales and clickbait.

As one of those “Postmodern Neo-Marxist, French radicals” that Peterson hates, put it:

“Paradoxically, the games of culture are protected against objectification by all the partial objectifications which the actors involved in the game perform on each other: scholarly critics cannot grasp the objective reality of society aesthetes without abandoning their grasp of the true nature of their own activity; and the same is true of their opponents. The same law of mutual lucidity and reflexive blindness governs the antagonism between ‘intellectuals’ and ‘bourgeois’ (or their spokesmen in the field of production). And even when bearing in mind the function which legitimate culture performs in class relations, one is still liable to be led into accepting one or the other of the self-interested representations of culture which ‘intellectuals’ and ‘bourgeois’ endlessly fling at each other.”

iCulture, has captured the public imagination. iCulture is a bespoke identity, operating in the service of, Identity Politics, and it subverts a sense of community, it has contempt for the individual, it demands fealty not only to its own cult but to the cult it supports, which requires for its survival, the use of children soldiers and slaves who dig Coltan which powers “smart phones” to slaves in third world dictatorships, where they are stripped, not only of civil rights, but of any identity except as a cog in the Borg collective.

It is, capitalism that has absorbed “Identity Politics” and developed an ad hoc doctrinaire hollowed-out Marxist ideology, that demands the elimination of the individual through a collective all encompassing, terminal technological panopticon, that promises seduction but threatens with force if, anyone gets out of line.

But notice, that like a proper foot soldier for the system, Peterson is sounding the charge, demanding that we go over the top of the trench and run headlong in the wrong direction – the “Postmodern Neo-Marxists” are out to get us! The French are out to get us! The Trans are out to get us! The Feminists are out to get us! The Multiculturalists are out to get us! The Environmentalists, (with their bogus data and their ginned up hysteria) are out to get us!

But not a word about anyone else.

Only a demand that everyone should be grateful for what capitalism has given them.

Sound familiar?

This is Trump but, with the patina of a university degree.

iFreedom.

iExist.

iHave.

iLobster.

Jordan Peterson, iMarxist.

Jordan Peterson, iCon.

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4 comments on “iLobster. iCon. Jordan Peterson & Identity Politics.

  1. What I take from all of this is the literalism and ideological realism of the reactionary mind. It simultaneously destroys the past and replaces it. Then invokes that thus it always was.

    You point out the symbolic value of the 1960s. Bannon loves to play this up in his documentary about generations theory. An interesting piece of rhetoric with a narrative that he beats the viewer over the head with. Same for Peterson: 1960s! That is the whole argument. It’s as if there was a demonic rupture in historical temporality.

    It’s always some specific moment of time, before which all was well with the world, from the Civil War to the French Revolution. But it is the literalist imagination that is most fascinating, as much for what it proclaims as for what it denies. It is always historically rooted, even as it is historically ignorant and indifferent. That is to say it is nostalgia bolstered by conviction of the faithful, purified of all that is inconvenient and so made usable for any purpose.

    That is what is seen with constitutional originalism. It lacks any informed position on the constitution itself and the context of the era — no detailed survey of historical texts is necessary. Instead, it asserts itself as theology. Historical time, in the reactionary mind, is mythological time. A French revolutionary or a “Postmodern Neo-Marxist, French radical” is a mythological creature, a bogeyman. It serves a primitive need.

    The stark reality of the present gets lost in the muddle. The present being the only place where meaningful and effective action can take place. The reactionary mind shackles the imagination, the potential impetus to do something, anything other than more of the same: “sounding the charge, demanding that we go over the top of the trench and run headlong in the wrong direction.” It locks us into a deal we forgot we made. That is the point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      Yes to all of that except I’d say that in regards to 1789 and 1776, things actually changed (with the French being more radical by several chopped heads) vs 1968 where the counter revolution was victorious even if in the end Nixon was sent off – for a rest and then rehabilitated and brought back.

      The curious quality of reactionaries is as you say – in JP’s case he ends up sounding like the worst sort of Marxist which is funny if also nervous-making.

      But unlike a Marxist the reactionary does as you point out fixate on a specific moment – probably having to do with some personal trauma or a wound in their imagination attached to a specific time or event.

      JP’s fixation on the “60s” has the curious ring of someone just a bit too young to have enjoyed the fun and the danger and is now bitter about it. Were I to put on my shrink hat and coddle one of Freud’s cigars my guess would be someone (probably a man) got a little too friendly amid the late night discussions – JP was originally a “leftists.’ You mentioned a kind of fragility about him and that makes sense – turned inside out it becomes borderline hysterical, tyrannical and then there’s the strict dietary issues – all suggestive of some specific abuse but regardless, the reactionary looks backward and with ferocity.

      It’s lost now in the dust but Mathew Arnold’s Dover Beach is one of the great rally points for the two sides of the reactionary mind/imagination. For the right leaning or fascist it is the moment where the 19th century said it was heading off to Verdun and Modernity (1917 being the answer) and for the more left leaning it’s the moment where the counter revolutions of the 19th century announced they were heading towards Verdun (1917 being the answer – but welcome).

      Of course that all makes it a proper Postmodern narrative in which the facts remain the same but how they are read changes.

      Oh! somewhere in Toronto a lobster just jumped up and screamed!

      Like

      1. It’s always relative.

        The English monarchy hung more of its own citizens in the period immediately following the French Revolution than were killed in the Reign of Terror. They also killed more Irish in violent oppression shortly after Burke died, the very man who popularized the attack on the French Revolution for its violence.

        But violence is only ever radical, even when committed by reactionaries, when it opposes what came before — no matter how much violence preceded and precipitated it (the threat of change being the real accusation, not the threat of violence). Authoritarian violence leading to reactionary violence, while cooler heads of genuine radicalism like Paine actually advocated for non-violence (at least not vengeance, such as toward the French king).

        Either way, in comparison, the American 1960s seems rather mild. If the 1960s was a revolution, it was one snuffed out in the crib. But it was a violent time of state power, no doubt. There was the violence afflicted upon foreign populations. Also, it was the beginning of militarized police, war on drugs, and mass incarceration. American society was transformed, albeit as counter-revolution.

        What was imaginable, sometimes to the point of being actionable, in the first half of the 20th century quickly became unimaginable. The 1960s was a dividing line between two realities, but the reactionary in dissociation projects their present hegemony onto the past. For all the failings of that earlier time, even Republicans back then were capable of praising liberalism and occasionally paying heed to left-wingers, attacking corporatist oligarchy and promoting the public good.

        There was change, just not radical. And the radicalism that came before was erased from public memory and written out of the official histories.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        All true. Merleau-Ponty in humanism and Terror makes the point that the accusation by the establishment (reactionary and liberal) against “Revolutionary Terror” rests on the assertion that the establishment has not caused the revolution and is not engaged in trying to crush it.

        It is not accident that the “Terror” is mythologized but England’s far greater state violence is only a historical footnote.

        1968 was a revolution but as you say – snuffed in its crib. It changed the social mood but at the same time I make a point of looking at things like the baseball All Star games for the era because it’s a way of contextualizing how the rest of the country was creating a narrative of right and wrong and what was important.

        Guess that makes me one of those bad French historian postmod types but you’re correct – Nixon was by today’s standards a liberal – really an Obama type or Hillary type liberal with an insane violent foreign policy (Obama less than HRC) and sops to liberal domestic forces but at the same time generating an imperial presidency through secrecy paranoia and the Stasi and the corporations.

        “There was change, just not radical. And the radicalism that came before was erased from public memory and written out of the official histories.”

        That’s crucial – the system in proper Stalinist form erases things from official records – and “History” becomes a fiction.

        Thus, ironically, making the establishment Postmodern.

        Liked by 1 person

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