Positivity and Gibberish Ideology

Way back in 2018, I talked about I called “the thing” in the context of the nonsense that Jordan Peterson was putting out. I still don’t have a better name for it. What I said at the time was:

“To perceive yourself as inadequate or weak-willed or to see unhappy circumstance as your own fault for being weak-willed is not good but what is extraordinarily toxic is to regard OTHERS in that way. In other words 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 is the common thread that joins the pieces of this ‘thing’ together. It’s how Ayn Rand ties into modern Fascism and why Nietzche is peppered through Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.

https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/03/02/reading-peterson-3-n-things-of-for-y/

It’s one of those tricky conceptual itches that is hard to scratch because this thing I’m tying to describe often looks like a side-hustle of online grifters who are also pushing right-wing ideas or it looks like innocuous advice for people just trying to cope with the stresses of modern life. Partly it is about a method for making money and recruiting men struggling to cope with modern life (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/some-links-relevant-to-the-thing/ ) but it is also a common ideological thread.

I’ve also discussed before how Vox Day doesn’t like Jordan Peterson but the difference in their underlying ways of thinking is small. The objection Day has to Peterson is one of a rival in a similar space (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/ye-olde-skull-lobster-reading-vox-day-so-you-dont-have-to-part-n1/ ) and different ways of trying to employ a pseudo-psychology of positivity that is both pseudo-scientific and theological.

Why I am rehashing all this again? Just that Day has been saying weird things in this space again:

“Then keep in mind that the effect works both ways. Over time, you’ll begin to observe that luck, like confidence, builds on its own success. I don’t merely hope to be fortunate and I don’t just know I’m fortunate, I fully expect to be fortunate. Remember, the ancients’ idea that Fortuna personally favored some individuals and disfavored others wasn’t an invention ex nihilo, it was an observation.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20210711181738/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2021/07/always-watch-your-tongue.html

At one end, Day is saying to his followers “happy music can cheer you up” and that negative comments can get you down — both of which is true. At the other end, he really thinks this is SUPERNATURAL in nature.

The additionally odd thing is that Day is critical of two similar versions of what he is endorsing:

“This is also why the Prosperity Gospel, also known as “name it, claim it” theology, is fundamentally wicked. It’s literally practicing psychological magic in order to obtain material wealth. Scott Adams, for example, is a very successful practitioner of this sort of psychological magic.”

For those of you following the Debarkle, a lot of the oddly boastful claims Day makes about his numerous failed or under-delivered projects become clearer. These claims are akin to magic for Day. I assume the distinction he makes between his version of essentially trying to wish things into reality is that he is trying to make a project work rather than just make money. Who knows? I don’t know how to untangle the ethics of using magical powers that you don’t have but sincerely believe you do have.

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43 responses to “Positivity and Gibberish Ideology”

  1. The George H.W. Bush administration ridiculed its critics for being in the “reality-based community” (i.e. people who base arguments on facts.) Some of it feels very Vox Day. Here’s a famous quote from Ron Suskind’s 2004 article in the New York Times Magazine (from Wikipedia:

    “The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ […] ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do’.[2]

    Liked by 3 people

    • The “George W. Bush” administration. “HW” is Pappy.

      Also, though it’s never been confirmed, it’s generally believed that said ‘aide’ was Karl Rove, which explains why it sounds like a college dropout who majored in political science throwing terms he doesn’t understand around.

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      • I’m kinda surprised that no-one has been sick and/or inventive enough to put together a chunk of software which would produce self-re-affirming language like this. Maybe ghost-writers aren’t very high on the pay scale, but seems to me that the return/expense ratio on a dedicated software package would be high enough that one could generate incredible returns, for the first year or so.

        Of course, it could be I’m wrong. VD does seem to follow the example of right-wing fund-raisers whose basic model seems to be cast enough bread on the waters and you’ll always get a return. I guess if one just sits down every day and generates 5 BS ideas for motivating people to give you money, that’s less than paying $500 for a new chunk of software to do the same thing and amortizing it over 6 months.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve always imagined that the rejoinder to this nonsense was, “Sure, you do, until the chickens come home to roost. And they always do.”

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  2. Pretty much all right-wing thinking, especially religious right-wing thinking, in the US, can be traced back in one way or another to the New Thought — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Thought . “If things in your life aren’t working out the way you want them to, you just need to think about it differently and they’ll all go right” is a very good way of blaming individual victims for systemic problems while feeling good about oneself.

    Liked by 5 people

      • I’ve never understood why people always use that phrase, since it’s LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE to pull oneself up by one’s own bootstraps. Kind of like the “one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch/barrel” slogan. Actually, 9 times out of 10, it does, absent refrigeration or special gas-based storage systems.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “One bad apple doesn’t spoil the barrel” is the opposite of the common form of that motto. It’s true that “bad apple” is often used by itself to downplay the significance of, for instance, a violent police officer – which is illogical for the reason you pointed out. But many people have pointed that out, because the familiar form of the truism was always the more sensible “one bad apple spoils the barrel.”

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      • My understanding of the bootstraps saying is that it was used derisively in the 19th Century when discussing an impossible task and its meaning (like the nearly forgotten “…spoils the bunch” ending of “one bad apple”) has been reversed in the past couple hundred years.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m pretty sure it was the Osmonds. They just sounded a lot like the Jackson 5, I think because the song was originally written with the Jackson 5 in mind.

        Either way, I’ll still blame the Osmonds. They deserve to be blamed for something.

        Liked by 2 people

        • You are both correct, my apologies! That will teach me to trust my increasingly-bad memory instead of checking first. 😀

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        • Oh look, I’m not the only one to have that mistaken memory.

          George Jackson worked for the studio hired by MGM to produce the Osmonds, and “One Bad Apple” was a song he’d written for the Jackson 5, but it had been rejected by their manager Berry Gordy, so the Osmonds got it instead.

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    • Well, before he wrote self help books, Peterson had degrees plural and a steady job as a professor – does Day have anything like that to fall back on? What’s his between-grifts day job?

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      • Teddy’s day job is being a remittance man, living off the money his daddy grifted — much of which his sister managed to save, and she sends enough to him so he can have a house or two in Europe.

        He doesn’t have to work, he just likes to keep his hand in the family business of grifting and RWNJ-ing.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The thing I’ve seen along these lines that sounds mildly plausible is that positive people, and those who perceive themselves as lucky, take more advantage of opportunities that come along because they see them as likely good, whereas more negative people will reject them as being likely bad. I’ve lived most of my life by serendipity, essentially taking the first thing that came along at various stages in life – my college, various jobs, my wife – and the results have largely been happy for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a very bad idea IMO to make generalizations like that based on your own experience.

      Plenty of “positive people”, if by that you mean people who tend to consider only possible positive outcomes, make choices that don’t work out well. Plenty of “negative” people who are negative because things have gone badly for them in general nevertheless don’t just sit around doing nothing, they take opportunities that they don’t have high expectations for, because *they have no choice* – we don’t all have the luxury of deciding to avoid risk. And then there are people who see things very negatively but have also been very lucky; I’m in that category.

      The idea that you should the first thing that comes along, and that if you don’t it means you’re negative, is especially bad advice when applied to relationships. I mean, I’m glad things worked out for you and your wife, but come on. The world is full of terrible marriages that happened that way.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Being positive also comes with seeing the good things in what you’re doing, so you complain less and enjoy more. It’s a virtuous cycle. I have never been a person who looks for the next better thing as soon as I have acquired the current one. I can only say that it has worked for me. I’m married 24 years now, with a 21-year-old son, and we’re all doing pretty well for ourselves. Most of the jobs I’ve held have been long-term, eight years or more each, and they were all good. (I’m retired now.)

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      • I feel like there’s a weird balance of truth here; Being *realistically* positive (there’s a level of “positivity” which turns toxic, which is also a part of what Eli is reacting to) can mean taking advantage of more good opportunities, and yet being negative is not inherently a bad trait, or cause to treat the negative person as deserving of their misfortune if they are also unlucky in the choices they *do* take. Even realistically positive people can come across as believing that people who didn’t have their resilience or luck are to blame in some way, thanks to survivorship bias.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Until the brave get cancer, or multiple sclerosis, or get shot in a road-rage incident. Then they’re fucked like the rest of us in the reality-based community. C.f. COVID death and hospitalization rates for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations in the US. Positive thinking ain’t gonna ward off a viral infection.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Ah, but the whole ‘positivity’ mindset allows the luckier ones to feel reassured of their immunity, because if misfortune befell others it must be because they were ‘weak’ in some way and therefore caused and deserved their downfall, unlike themselves.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, to some degree the fact that that was a truism in classical times reflected the belief that Fortune was an actual sentient force that could like or dislike you; someone who believes in that kind of supernatural intervention can’t be talked out of it by simply saying it’s not a factor, because everyone’s seen bad things happen to people they admire so if they nevertheless have this belief system, it is durable.

        However… it’s not actually the case that, as Beale supposes, the ancients all agreed that this was true and therefore they must’ve been observing a real thing because how could they all be wrong. Even a casual search will turn up examples of classical writers using the phrase with intentional irony, making it clear that they knew it wasn’t that great as a rule of thumb. One of the best-known citations is Pliny the Younger describing how Pliny the Elder said this immediately before getting himself killed.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. If (VD/TB/NB) is Calvinist then he could be working off the “logic” that he’s been fortunate (has he really?), therefore he’s can infer that he’s one of the Elect, and will continue to receive God’s favor (i.e. be fortunate).

    I don’t know whether this is more or less pernicious than Prosperity Gospel, but it does seem less griftious.

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  5. I don’t think VD is a Calvinist. I am quite sure that I somewhere have seen him calling Calvinism a heres (but I am to lazy, or have to much self preservation, to try to find it).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Day is definitely not a Calvinist. He rejects the doctrine of the Trinity, and insists on the Nicene creed as formulated by the Council of Nicaea, not the amended version with the additional wording about the Trinity that comes from the second ecumenical council in Constantinople. Basically, he considers every belief formulated after 381 AD (other than his own, obviously) as heretical to some extent.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Which, of course, makes *him* the heretic in Western Christianity.

        It’s always projection with Teddy.

        Since he’s not Eastern Orthodox, a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, a Christian Scientist, or a Unitarian, I guess he’s a Teddytarian. Himself is the only thing he truly believes in, after all.

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      • So is Day a heteroousian or a homoiousian?

        Since I am pretty sure that Calvin’s Reformed Theology did not derive directly from his christology, there’s nothing to stop anyone from picking and choosing those doctrines that he likes, or reinventing them from various verses, or the commentary on those verses.

        I’ve sometimes thought that certain aspects of some parts of Islam were vaguely Calvinistic, or rather, Reformed Theology might have either borrowed from or independently invented some aspects of some parts of Islam. You don’t need a whole lot in common to take “God is sovereign, and can do whatever He wills”, and derive additional ideas about providence from that basic concept.

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        • I think the stoics had a lot of influence, at least unconsciously. Remember that Calvin was a renaissance humanist before he became a religious reformer.

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  6. Sorry, JJ, but it actually was the Osmonds . . . though it was written by a George Jackson (if he had any attachment to the Jackson 5 I haven’t yet been able to find out yet).

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’m always a bit surprised when Day’s careless and sloppy wording makes it sound like he’s actually a polytheist rather than monotheist. Fortuna was considered a god, and often worshipped or honored as such.

    If one wants to make it sound that one has the Christian God’s continuing favor, you would write about [divine] providence, not fortune.

    But perhaps he wants to sound less God-bothery for the less theistic ilk. God would presumably only favor the devout, but Fortune can smile on any theologically indifferent punter.

    I was going to point to Donald Trump being hugely influenced by Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking”, but when I searched for where I had read about that, I came up with, well, this. Here. On this site.

    https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/03/07/note-quite-reading-peterson-8-roots-and-themes/

    I think I may have read about it elsewhere as well, but I cannot remember where, if so.

    Liked by 1 person

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