A short Twitter diversion on Jordan Peterson

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.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/donald-trump-2016-norman-vincent-peale-213220/

https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2020/10/8/21506597/norman-vincent-peale-donald-trump-covid-glenn-beck-positive-thinking-stephen-covey-mary-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’

53 thoughts on “A short Twitter diversion on Jordan Peterson

  1. I’m astounded he’s still got enough stans to brigade on twitter, but apparently the benzo thing was totally not Peterson’s fault, and his advice totally makes sense if you watch several hundred hours of videos in order to understand the prophet.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw the article, but appreciate your amplified discussion. Don’t know if the resemblance would be so noticeable if Peterson weren’t shouting so much about it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Considering the top image I’ve seen in lots of places has ‘Ten Rules for Life’ in there, I’d think the parallels are pretty deliberate. That said, you have a point in that a lot of Peterson’s fellow travelers all sound remarkably alike for ‘rugged individualists’, and it can be hard to tell if any one particular person is being satirized.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Yeah, “Wellness” is just a template for a grift. Everyone basically just copy-pastes the basic outline and mad-libs a few extras in (wolves, lobsters, apes), come up with an arbitrary number of “rules”, pick a fad diet or workout routine and then cross-promote with your buddies doing the same grift.

        That Peterson thinks this resembles him *specifically* should trouble him.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. In the same panel as “10 RULES FOR LIFE” there’s also a headline about ORDER vs. CHAOS. While of course authoritarians in general like to say they’re about order, this is also a very specifically Petersonian phrasing.

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      3. I’m not familiar enough with Peterson’s witterings, I guess. I associate things like “ORDER vs CHAOS” as just the run-of-the-mill misinterpretations of Eastern philosophy (exemplified by yin/yang, masculine/feminine, order/chaos, etc) that are alarmingly common in “wellness”.

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  3. If it had been earlier in the day when I saw your tweet I would have been in serious danger of spraying coffee through my nose. It’s nice to see that Peterson has the Puppy-standard thin skin and complete lack of self-awareness.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Authoritarianism is based on the concept of a superior authority who should be in charge (and have all the good stuff) — the nobility — and the mass of inferior people who make up the lower rungs of social hierarchy and have to follow, do all the work and have very little stuff — the peasants — and that hierarchy is maintained and enforced with rule of might violence that keeps the authority (nobility) in power.

    The variation is the rationale for why the chosen nobility are/should be the superior noble authority. Systematic bigotry postulates that the differences are innate, biological, meritorious and sometimes divine.

    The Nazis claimed that the Aryan German people were the chosen of their God (always popular) and the best of humanity, destined to rule as the authority but had been betrayed and weakened from their rightful place and former glory. They then set about shifting definitions of the chosen (gentry) and themselves as the nobility authorities and enslaving, exploiting and murdering off various groups of assigned peasants who they declared threats to the purity and authority of the nobility. That system also kept other, higher tiers of peasants in line and fighting each other for stuff and the hope of getting higher up.

    Ayn Rand found a lucrative grift telling American businessmen that they were the nobility — the makers — that their success and wealth came from their superiority, that they were more intelligent, innovative, meritorious and logically the authority in charge and getting all the goodies, and that their workers were peasants — takers — who were greedy, inferior, directionless and lazy, etc.

    Peterson’s schtick is basically the same as Rand’s but with the whole hierarchy of systemic bigotry built in, especially sexism. He rose to fame first off by asserting bigoted gender roles and queer phobia as something he should be able to continue inflicting on his students and patients if he felt like it. But his big authoritarian claim is that the authorities, the superior nobles, are basically men who are intelligent, meritorious, driven and assertive (forcing others to bow to their will.) Just like Rand’s reassurances were highly appealing to American businessmen, Peterson’s claim that if young white men will just clean themselves up a bit, aggressively put themselves out there, be the authority that they are biologically, naturally and perhaps divinely meant to be, they will get to be in charge as the nobility and have all the stuff. In particular, they’ll be able to force women to be peasants. Obviously that’s been very appealing to many young white men who have been routinely taught to blame their failures and struggles on others, particularly women, and their successes on their innate superiority and right to rule.

    So yeah, absolutely Red Skull/Hydra would be selling self-help products and wellness systems to recruit like Peterson, Glen Beck, Alex Jones and many others. Because authoritarianism from its most deadly, nation owning forms to its huckster product selling forms is about one thing — there are noble authorities and sheepish peasants and if you are X and/or do X, you can be part of the noble authorities crushing those annoying peasants who won’t bow to your excellence and authority.

    Also Peterson does seem to cater to neo-Nazism and militarism on a regular basis but then wraps it up in verbiage to give himself the just asking questions position of every garden variety bigotry grift.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. There’s a great story arc in the 1980s/90s series Wiseguy in which the villain is an Aryan self-help author (“Don’t blame the Zionist Occupied Government for your lack of money! Blame yourself — and take charge of your life with the Knox Pooley Seven-Point Plan for Reclaiming Your White Destiny!”). Turns out he’s an amoral pitchman who doesn’t believe a word of it, he’s just happy the money’s rolling in.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I think of that arc ALL THE TIME nowadays. It was so ahead of its time, showing how unemployed/underemployed young white men are easy prey for right-wingers.

        The final episode shows him changing his name, selling Florida swampland to old people, and using Yiddish.

        He was played by Republican Presidential Candidate Fred Thompson, BTW.

        And he was frighteningly perfect at it.

        (Oct-Nov. 1988)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Loved the Wiseguy series and yes, many of its storylines were on target then and now. Of course that was before we knew that Kevin Spacey was a raping POS, Thompson was a neo-Confederate, etc. But it created my deep love for Jonathan Banks, enough that I started watching Breaking Bad with my husband.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Kat just said most of the things I was about to say, so I’ll just add this: right-wing authoritarianism has two groups: the leaders and the followers. The followers are all about tribalism and being obedient, er, loyal members of the favorite people; the leaders are all about maintaining their own power by feeding the followers what they want to hear, including both pseudo-intellectual arguments that ultimately depend on Our Group Uber Alles and anti-intellectual arguments that just lavish praise on Our Group being naturally better than those other people, so support Our Gang and Our Leader.

      Over in Republican fund-raising territory, y’all may have noticed that they had to refund a lot of money that came in from pre-checked checkboxes to convert single donations into weekly or monthly donations. The checkbox now pops up a message saying “if you unclick this box we’re going to report you to Our Leader as a defector!”. General media is aghast at this tone, but it’s entirely in keeping with RWA follower-logic: Our Group deserves support and anyone who stops supporting Us is a dirty no good space hippie.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. -dsr-: Our Group deserves support and anyone who stops supporting Us is a dirty no good space hippie.

        It’s even worse than that. Those people haven’t stopped supporting the Group. It’s actually:
        “If you unclick this box so that you’re only giving us a single donation, we’re going to report you to Our Leader as a defector!” 😐

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Congrats!

    Of course, nobody would have heard about this till he Streisand-Effected himself. I mean, I have consumed almost all the live-action much MCU yet I don’t remember the last time I read a comic.

    Also, if you see a Nazi in a comic book and think “That’s me!”… as the article says, have you tried not being a Nazi?

    Did Red Skull go to Madripoor to use their unrestricted servers and get off his benzo addiction?

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I am very tempted to defend the Lobsters here. The poor animals.

        Interesting, Marvel had another case in the 80ths were Cobra (GIJoe) were connected to Amway.
        And yeah Hydra would definitly try to get in the alt-right movement.
        The Feminist Trap is another homerun.
        Generel rule when a villain like the Red Skull is to near to your own ideology (exspecially the Red Skull) it is a moment to really think about yourself.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. He’s doing pre-schilling for his up-coming second book. White boy comicgaters are a big branch of his following. It was a Comicsgater who went and alerted JP to the comparison in the comic.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Frankly, self-help books (from Peale to Peterson) have always struck me as just excuses to blame the victims of economic inequality. So you’re not a millionnaire living a life of leisure? Then you must not have followed the four/ten/twelve simple rules for success! What’s that you’re saying about systemic inequalities and barriers to entry that favour the interests of an already entrenched ruling class? No, no, no, little prole, the blame is on *you*. You didn’t work hard enough, pray hard enough, dream hard enough, wish hard enough. You clearly just don’t *want* to succeed, you feckless idler. Accept your place in life as a natural failure! And clean my car while you’re at it.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. “I found out how to monetize social justice warriors”.
    Peterson on several shows, podacst etc.

    I’ll have some schadenfreude cake with irony.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Back in the late 70s, when I was still in high school in Tennessee, I made the observation that all libertarians were either kids who were upset to learn how much of their paychecks got withheld or else white supremacists who wanted to bring back Jim Crow. The second group were people who firmly believed they had a “right to discriminate,” and Libertarianism fits beautifully with that.

    In half a century, I don’t think I’ve ever met any other kind of Libertarian.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The other variant of Libertarianism…at least in the ’70s/early ’80s…was cannabis activists. Now that whole aspect somewhat split off during the Reagan era, but for a time there was a heavy Libertarian influence in NORML and other groups. I’ve talked to people who automatically thought pro-cannabis=liberal. Uh-uh. Nope. Biden’s opposition to legalization was actually bog-standard for liberals of that era, because it was an issue that they could concede to conservatives as a trade off for concessions on other issues. Liberals to leftists, actually, because socialists in the Democratic Party were even more likely to sell out cannabis issues.

      And these days, you’re just as likely to see pro-cannabis commentary from people who have heavy right wing influences amongst their likes on Facebook as not.

      (Note: former cannabis activist from the late ’70s and ’80s here who went Democratic. I know what the hell I’m talking about. Still have very visceral memories of being sold out by liberals at Democratic state platform conventions.)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’ve known some who were corporate authoritarians: they talk about freedom but they really want rich people and corporations to decide everything, hence the need to shrink the state.
      It’s telling that I see a lot of libertarians preferring Republicans over Democrats even though the Republican agenda is much more into state power: expanded surveillance, massive warmaking, control of people’s sex lives etc. But they’re big on deregulation and lower taxes, so there you are.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s pretty much it, yes. It’s the Randian philosophy of Galt’s Gulch. The technobro Libertarians dream of SF futures where the corporations own and run everything and all the workers are their serfs, owing them money at the company store while slaving on their giant ship carrier cities, Mars colonies, island kingdoms, etc. For them, nobility is white, mostly men who own property/business tycoons and poor people who can’t get out of poverty are the peasants. It’s the most direct return to feudalism/serfdom philosophy around almost.

        They’re why we don’t have a national healthcare system, expand our school to prison pipeline for slave convict labor, and demand that we privatize everything no matter how much it crumbles, etc. They love to get around governments with cryptocurrencies and breaking the paradigm and other business speak. They wanted to legalize cannabis so they could make a huge profit on it. And if they do get their space colonies, they will charge the workers for breathable air.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. As I understand, neocons favour an aggressive foreign policy (that being their defining feature), while libertarians tend towards isolationism. American movement libertarianism is rather unlibertarian; at their best they’re anarchocapitalists.

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  9. Also, and this cannot be pointed out enough, Coates has been writing the Marvel comical books for 5 YEARS, so it isn’t like he just now got a job to make a too-accurate dig at JP.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. As with so many of these things, there’s a kernel of truth in that quote from Peterson. I will always remember my mother talking to my daughter when the latter was perusing options for university courses. “When I was a girl,” my mother said, “I never knew jobs like architect existed.” My mother grew up in a small Yorkshire coal mining town in a blue collar family.
    My mother could certainly have never become an architect without ‘expanding her conception’ of what kinds of jobs were possible. On the other hand, she could also never have become an architect because she is terrible at maths, and people generally prefer their houses not to fall on their heads. I know about lots of jobs that can earn very large quantities of money, but I would be shockingly bad at them and miserable to boot because I am a total introvert.
    So, yes, it is absolutely necessary to expand your awareness of what is possible, but there is no guarantee that having that awareness will enable you to do anything with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “So, yes, it is absolutely necessary to expand your awareness of what is possible, but there is no guarantee that having that awareness will enable you to do anything with it.”

    Especially when the girls who were/are good at maths and lived also in poor families in coal towns were told they couldn’t be architects and forcibly blocked from becoming one by adults at every level. Or girls who weren’t that good at maths but might have become so if they hadn’t been discouraged away from pursuing study of maths by adults because they were girls and not expected to have the capacity. Awareness and developing skills are two parts but so are equal access, education, opportunity and representation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whether it was worth it sending a girl onto an academic track school, let alone university, because she’d only get married anyway, was still debated among the less enlightened parts of the population well within my lifetime. I personally overheard people I knew (neighbours, relatives, etc…) ask my parents if they really thought it was worth wasting advanced education on a girl.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. It is also an influence on, guess who? Donald T Trump.

    You know, this is a very minor point, but in our universe, the ex-president (but still a positive-thinking fraud and grifter!) has the middle name of “John”.

    /Just sayin’

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  13. I honestly didn’t like this “joke” at all. While I abhor Jordan Peterson, there is a difference between your ordinary bigoted conservative and a genocidal nazi. So while I think it’s funny making the Red Skull a social media guru, I’m less fond of associating him with a real person.

    (Yes, I know they have moved away from Red Skulls nazi past in later years, but it will always be there in the background)

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    1. It is true there is a difference but as an entry point to a pipeline towards full on Nazi Peterson (or, say, Ben Shapiro) is very good example. And that’s the more subtle point here, a super villain recruiting would use such tactics. Hell our own adopted super villain the self proclaimed Dark Lord Vox Day did this whole schtick with the Alpha Game blog trying to tap into lonely guys sexual angst.

      Peterson is to unselfish aware to be a Red Skull supervillain but that doesn’t mean a Red Skull supervillain wouldn’t exploit rhetoric that works for them

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I absolutely agree they use the same tactics. Which is why I say it is funny making him a social media guru. I do not think it is funny doing it in a way where you clearly associate him with a real person that I have no reason to believe is a genocidal nazi.

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    2. Peterson is an authoritarian with fascist leanings, which is why a lot of Neo-Nazis like him. He believes in might makes right, dominance hierarchy and authoritarianism is necessary for order and advancement, that women are sub-human chaos agents who cannot work with men because they distract the men, that men are inherently violent and competitive, the concept of manifest destiny/white supremacy/IQ, etc. He’s queerphobic and came to fame demanding his free speech right to discriminate against his non-binary and other queer students (and stifle their speech.) He above all pushes the concept of the superiority of “Western” (white) civilization, which is superior because it is an intelligent and competent hierarchy that only crumbles when it gets just too tyrannical. He just combines all his greatest civilization stuff with pop psychology exercises and aphorisms.

      To some, that may not seem to rise to the level of genocidal fascism. But I assure you that Black Americans like Coates view the stuff that Peterson spews very much as advocacy for Black genocide and oppression in the U.S., not to mention that he routinely encourages violence against women. There’s also the fact that Peterson called Hitler an organizational genius and waxes on about Hitler and WWII regularly with countless errors and omissions. Peterson is effective because he soft-pedals fascistic and violent ideas, claiming them the inevitable cycle of men’s struggle for dominance and order through violent means. And yet, he decries the work of antifascists and civil rights advocates as destabilizing and tyrannical. Apparently only great white men who bend the world to their will — like Hitler and Harvey Weinstein who he also admires — can participate in the cycle of dominance rule until they get a wee bit too much.

      So Peterson is not just another bigoted conservative. He specifically romanticizes aspects of fascism and supports some genocidal violence as necessary and/or inevitable. All of which has made him a darling in particular of white supremacists and nationalists and neo-Nazis in Europe and North America. He actively supports harm against marginalized groups as natural dominance. It’s not that much of a stretch.

      But even so, Coates never brings up Peterson specifically in Red Skull’s actions. While Red Skull’s efforts have a Peterson bent that’s recognizable, they do also apply to a number of other schillers like him that populate the air waves and do lecture tours so that they can be seen as the “reasonable” intellectuals of fascism, racism and violent oppression ideas. It’s parody of a wider mind set and fair game.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yeah, besides being super-evil, it would have meant nationalizing the means of production supply of women and doling them out via a statist bureaucracy… and that’s SOSHULIZM.

        Liked by 1 person

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