Jordan B Peterson’s time in the spotlight appears to have faded but he popped back into my awareness recently after Ta-Nehisi Coates introduced a new spin on Captain America’s arch-enemy, The Red Skull. Here’s The Mary Sue article:
And hey! Look, look! That’s my little Tweet in there! [scroll down the article, no scroll further, further…] Of course, I only get a popular tweet when I have a hyper-busy couple of days at work.
So that was fun. I did add a more serious explanation based on things I’ve been mulling over [see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/03/11/reading-peterson-12-the-end-of-peterson-the-last-lobster/ ].
I was asked on Twitter: “How does an ultra individualist like Jordan Peterson fit into the Red Skull?” I think this is an interesting question even if my initial tweet was flippant. For many people, it barely needs explaining how radical individualism ties in with both Nazi & fascist ideology. For others, it sounds paradoxical and I can see why.
People on the left who have been tracking the rise of the Alt-Right are already familiar with the libertarian-white nationalist pipeline. It’s a moot question whether the many people who once claimed to be libertarians who later asserted overt white nationalist beliefs were always closet white nationalists or who adapted their beliefs over time. I think it is a mix of both. Definitely, some 2010 era ‘libertarians’ were just Paleo-conservatives, adopting a trendier title (e.g. Vox Day). But we can’t see inside their heads, so what’s genuinely confused thinking and what was them intentionally hiding authoritarianism under a cloak of libertarianism, I don’t know.
However, I do know that what does not* go away is radical individualism! That stays, even as the faux-libertarian shifts to quasi-fascist!
Individualists and those libertarians who haven’t drifted into the Al-Right say that CANNOT be! Its a contradiction! Nazis are all about order & conformity & discipline & obeying orders & uniforms! How is that individualism! Well…it isn’t but it is a false promise offered by Nazi-like figures – join & you get to do what you want but only if you are the top-dog.
If you are somehow manly enough then you can do whatever you like and get away with it. That’s not Peterson’s ideology but it is why the alt-right loved Trump. Peterson does do promote the idea of intrinsic social hierarchies as right & good and that the hierarchy of assertive individuals is Peterson’s way of getting ORDER from CHAOS (it’s central to it). It’s not Nazism but it is a common principle. And it is rooted in the self-help ideology that is common to Peterson & Ayn Rand and somebody else as well.
Norman Vincent Peale’s ‘Power of Positive Thinking‘ runs through post WW2 US politics. 10 Rules for Life rehashes elements of it dressed up with Jung and Nietzche. It is also an influence on, guess who? Donald T Trump.
The idea that if you just WILL something enough you will get it is so toxic because when it fails it breeds conspiratorial thinking & a desire to attach yourself to people who appear to have proved the idea correct: people who just appear to get what they want by demanding it.
So in 2015, we see ex-libertarians embracing the corrupt authoritarian & unprincipled fraudster Trump as if he was Ayn Rand’s John Galt, simply because Trump kept getting away with shit. That was the ideal. Trump’s surprising victory was like a kind of empirical confirmation of Trump’s capacity to get what he wants through the act of wanting it.
Peterson doesn’t believe in a magical version of this but he does claim a sort of quasi-materialist version, as I’ve quoted before:
“What if it was the case that the world revealed whatever goodness it contains in precise proportion to your desire for the best? What if the more your conception of the best has been elevated, expanded and rendered sophisticated the more possibility and benefit you could perceive? This doesn’t mean that you can have what you want merely by wishing it, or that everything is interpretation, or that there is no reality. The world is still there, with its structures and limits. As you move along with it, it cooperates or objects. But you can dance with it, if your aim is to dance— and maybe you can even lead, if you have enough skill and enough grace. This is not theology. It’s not mysticism. It’s empirical knowledge.”Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (pp. 100-101). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
Jordan B Peterson isn’t a supervillain but absolutely a charismatic quasi-fascist leader will exploit these kinds of ideas (along with other ideas, including leftist-style ones).
The original tweets are here https://twitter.com/CamestrosF/status/1379357342467117057 and here https://twitter.com/CamestrosF/status/1379512040818044929
*in the original tweet I left out the ‘not’