Reading Peterson 4 – The Shape of the Thing

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12,…

I need to talk about the ‘thing’ a bit more. The ‘thing’ is the mess of stuff made out of a mix of things – like the book The Power of Positive Thinking to the current awfulness on the righthand side of politics. In part 3 I discussed the common thread which I defined as:

to see people who have problems of one kind or another (from being overweight to being bullied or to being poor or being abused) and thinking the blame lies with that person because they are weak-willed

I’m suggesting this a pathological extension of a different problematic idea – a tendency for people to blame their own problems on their own lack of willpower- which even quite positive forms of self-help might inadvertently reinforce.

I’m also suggesting that this thread can be seen in different ideological stances. The Ayn Rand cultist may see this purely in terms of individual failures whereas the more overt racist may claim a lack of moral fibre is some kind of inherent flaw in particular ethnic groups.

But there’s more to this ‘thing’ than just that thread. I also mean a set of reoccurring concepts that are connected by this thread.

  • Dominance hierarchies as the main element of social interaction.
  • Competition as life/Struggle and conflict.
  • Territory and biological territorialism.
  • Society perceived as winners versus losers.
  • Sex as reproductive competition and as biological determinism.
  • Gender roles as innate and emphasis on reproduction within gender roles.
  • Affirmation – gaining things by affirming you will get them. Aspiration – setting challenging personal goals for these things.
  • Becoming by being and avoiding perceived weakness – avoiding displays of vulnerability.
  • The will to power and populist versions of Nietzche.
  • Individual as only potential having free will.
  • Pop psychology and socio-psychological hacks. Subversion of the biologically determined (i.e. everybody else is controlled by their genes or hormones etc).
  • Nature-nurture contradiction – emphasis on biology but individuals transcending their nature.
  • Psychopathy and other ‘dark’ traits as positive models and suppression of empathy/sympathy.

That’s a whole big bunch of stuff and most of it overlaps like a particularly unpleasant Venn diagram that’s been left at the back of the fridge for too long. Pulling apart the sticky pieces is confusing – rather like trying to spot where the misogynistic Pick Up Artist (PUA) subculture ends and the misogynistic Men’s Rights Activism (MRAs) starts.

Both groups (in so far as PUAs and MRAs are distinct and not just different expressions of the same problem) adopt elements of the self-improvement genre.  There is a focus on tapping into people (specifically cis-het male people) who feel insecure or inadequate or who feel they need to be better. Amid the ideology is advice, tips, tricks – things that are supposed to make the target better or specific things that will improve their standing in the dominance games. Repeated failure is a psychologically weaponised version of the serial fad diet – failure to become an amazing sex magnet despite learning all the pick-up artist tricks confirms to the target that the game is rigged against them, which in turn confirms that it some sort of game that can be hacked or rigged, which in turn feeds an appetite for more revelations.

Vox day’s Castalia House manages to publish a character who looks like a fictional avatar of all this – Ivan Throne who markets himself as ‘Dark Triad Man’. The ‘dark triad’ in question being three psychological traits that are closely connected with crime and organisational dysfunction: Ivan Throne is not the only character in the toxic swamp of online misogyny who promotes the psychological traits of the narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy but he does it in a way that has all the trappings of the motivational speaker and self-improvement guru. To be honest, he’s hard to take seriously but apparently, he is a genuine thing – yet all his quotes seem like parodies.

Welcome to the Library of Ferocity of the Dark Triad Man. Survival is not going to happen for you simply because you like being here. It’s going to take ceaseless work to harden yourself against the pitfalls of the dark world. Part of that hard work is educating yourself. I’m not suggesting you fill your mind with trivia. Trivia is useful but it’s deep study of timeless materials that is going to empower you, enrich you, fortify you, align you, teach you and bring you to a better posture than you had.

For our purpose here – ruthless mentoring for a dark world – we’re going to focus on reading materials that are absolutely crucial for your success, your understanding of conflict and for the unflinching development of your own power.

Of course is book has a number in the title and promises to make you better at business and more attractive to women. Also, he has TWO passports, because that’s how amazing he is.*

I’ve wandered off from Jordan Peterson.

Peterson isn’t Ivan Throne, aside from his odd desire to scare cats, Peterson isn’t actively trying to promote psychopathy as a life choice. Which is smart because aside from it being a bad thing I’m not sure a person can actually make themselves a psychopath and I’d rather people didn’t try.

The point is we have a spectrum here with innocent stuff like the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at one end, Krypto-nazi garbage at the other end and all sorts of other stuff in between. That other stuff touches on those elements of ‘thing’ in different ways and it is through that lens that I’m looking at Peterson’s book.

Peterson isn’t Mike Cernovich (the other obvious alt-right self-help wannabe guru) and Cernovich isn’t Throne but the patterns of ideas are related. To illustrate that I’m going to need some lobsters…stay tuned for part 5 when I will actually get into Peterson’s book.


*[I’m sorry – it is a cheap shot to laugh at the oddly American view of having passports as being exotic.]