Why does the left hate Jordan Peterson?
His mild manners belie a potent challenge to our dominant ideology.
Ideas are difficult to create and destroy. This is, I suppose, because information relies, in a certain sense, on energy and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. However, an idea can decay if it is not organised, especially if it is not organised in a logical system. Logic is an anti-entropy device. Logic cannot grant you the truth of a statement, but it can ensure that the truth of a statement is preserved.
Consider ideas that many people, in my experience, hold about the world: mass immigration is a negative influence on society, men and women are biologically and spiritually different, and inequality is a social and moral good.
You probably know people who express these ideas in varying degrees. They may express them in a very crude way, if at all. They may just say, “You know what women are like.” Perhaps they allude to these ideas without directly expressing them. If they are in the lower classes, they will lack the verbal ability to articulate these ideas altogether.
These ideas exist in Western societies, but they do so – have done so until recently – in a state occultation and disorganisation. The reason for this is quite simple: the intellectual classes of the West are almost completely controlled by the political left, whose worldview is antithetical to those ideas expressed above.
Intellectuals are often pilloried as useless windbags, but since the pyramids of Egypt and probably before the intellectual has been a necessary component of any advanced society. The intellectual counts, records, writes the laws, and he is also – crucially – a storyteller.
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” said the journalist Joan Didion. This is true of individuals and societies at large. You make up a story about your life: you tell yourself why you go to work, why you study at university, and why you are attached to a particular woman. The story allows us to organise our life in a coherent way. At the highest level of society, the story allows us to articulate and pursue collective organisation. This is what I mean by an ideology.
All stories are true stories, or, rather, all stories contain an element of truth. The story we tell ourselves at the highest level, the story of our nation or society, must be rooted in truth if the collective organisation is to succeed. When a society deviates too far from the truth, as in the USSR or Nazi Germany, it is doomed. We all walk a path, the path of truth, and we may walk it in different manners. We may even stray slightly from the path. But if we leave the path completely, the reward is death. This is what Nazi Germany and the USSR discovered.
Western societies have been deviating from the truth for about a hundred years, and the deviation has become more acute with each generation. This is partly due to the capture of the intellectual classes by the political left.
I cannot overstate quite how far our intellectual life is controlled by the political left. It is evident in the way that dissident voices, such as the academic Camille Paglia, can only oppose the dominant ideology from the left. Paglia makes rightist points, but she does so by claiming that the left has betrayed the “true” values of the social revolution of the 1960s. Similarly, the dissident magazine Spiked often chastises the left for failing up to its true egalitarian aspirations and makes much of working class wisdom – although they advance perspectives essentially of the right.
These people are playing an intellectual game. They know that to overtly present what might be termed deep conservative views – a belief in innate human differences, hierarchies, and order – would have them slung out of the intellectual mainstream in an instant. It has, until the advent of the Internet, only been possible to advocate deep conservative ideas by presenting these as a form of leftism. People who deviate from this rule simply cease to be professional public intellectuals, and most academics and journalists quite like their salaries and social standing. Consequently, overt deviation from the dominant ideology has been rare.
Ideas are not contained through confrontation. The best way to beat an idea is to ignore it. That is not a position that is acceptable for anyone involved in the pursuit of truth, but the world of politics is not a struggle for truth. The left contains rightist ideas by refusing to discuss or publish them. The Internet has granted us a great source of knowledge, but there are still books that are hard to obtain even online. This is a consequence of an implicit censorship that makes people think that even making material available is wrong. The situation is paralleled in translation and other fields.
Power operates through cliques and occult relations. The left has no formal dominance of universities, the media, and other organs of intellectual life. There is no written document that says universities should be dominated by the left. It controls these because a leftist position is understood in those institutions as being what good and decent people believe. It is only the same as being in the Victorian middle classes and understanding that sex outside marriage was utterly unacceptable. People who were caught out in this were excluded from decent society, but there were few overt rules that prevented this behaviour.
How does a humble academic turned YouTube sensation fit into this situation?
Peterson’s message is, at face value, innocent enough. It is not even really explicitly political. He asserts common sense solutions to life’s problems, perhaps most notoriously he tells people to tidy their rooms.
His advice amounts to not much more than, “Get your shit in order!” I do not mean to diminish his advice, though. The point is, as intellectuals are able to do, that he articulates a common sense message in a sophisticated way. Common sense is actually very uncommon. We need people to constantly state and restate it. Due to the intellectual dominance of the left, many of the ideas that are articulated in a persuasive and sophisticated way in Western societies are against common sense altogether. The ability to stand up and persuasively explain common sense ideas is rare, and Peterson has this ability abundance. There is a good deal of envy on the right against him, because Peterson does this in a stimulating and original way without resorting to crude moralising.
We in the West – the world indeed – live under a technocratic state-corporate hybrid. The corporation and the state are fused together. We maintained enough capitalism to outcompete the Eastern Bloc, but our economy and life is still highly coordinated by the state. Effective government in the West takes the form of managed democracies that are cultivated, using the mass media and education system, by the permanent government of the state-corporate bureaucracy.
The ideology of this system is a technocratic liberalism that uses identity politics and egalitarian rhetoric to advance the demands of capital and the state. Open borders, women in the work place, and sexual free market all serve the needs of the latest technological iteration of capital. Intellectuals in this system sell the needs of the state and capital to the public as a morally justified project of liberation and equality.
The “official” right of the Conservative and Republican parties in Britain and the US has been co-opted into the system. The ideologues of these parties exist only to demand lower taxes, justify in conservative terms the last shift towards social liberalism, and cheer on the militarised state in its service of the corporate-state hybrid. The latter function is residually rightist, since the military is always a rightist force – even if it is slaved to leftist purposes.
This system seeks to reduce individuality and self-reliance, ostensibly to foster “equality” but in reality to ensure complete corporate-state control of every aspect of our life. The break up of the nuclear family, for example, facilitates the power of the state by preventing an alternative power system from emerging at a local level. The family, like private clubs of men, has always been a source of resistance to tyranny and state expansion more generally.
Peterson’s simple message of self-reliance and responsibility runs counter to this prevailing system. The corporations and the state want people dependent upon them. They want people plugged into the consumer treadmill of chasing the latest gadget or waiting for handouts from the welfare state.
The hard right, the neo-fascist and neo-Nazis (and some neo-reactionaries), react to Peterson with a sneer. This is largely because the kind of people who hold these views in Western society are social trash. Their ideas of the innate and biological amount to little more than a crude racial or ethnic narcissism where “being white” or “being Aryan” makes a person special. This is nonsense. It is, in fact, a variation on socialism. It is a demand for everyone to be levelled down on the basis of race or ethnicity, and for some other people to be held back on basis of race or ethnicity.
The origin of their animus lies in their envy. Peterson is a genuine elite figure. He is a competent intellectual unaffected by the type of social insecurity that leads people to adopt crude racial or ethnic politics. But, at the same time, he is elaborating a form of politics that values order, hierarchy, innate values, and everything that the people who join bizarre hard right organisations think they are representing.
The competent, stable, and pious family man is, in reality, a far greater threat to the leftist order than a moron who dresses up in an SS uniform on weekends. Indeed, the left in the West actively focuses media attention on small and eccentric hard right groups peopled by dysfunctional personalities in order to discredit, by presenting an extreme and distorted form, the politics of the right.
The neo-reactionaries, a cognitive elite of sorts themselves, react against Peterson because they are essentially consistent Darwinians who worship Artificial Intelligence. They merely take Darwinism where the left forbids it to go: the human mind and population groups. They see Peterson as being far too wet or soppy for their tastes. For some new-reactionaries, religion itself is a form of leftward drift. Peterson makes much use of evolutionary biology in his lectures, which should be to neo-reactionary tastes. However, he also has a strong religious influence through Jung. He is, in their view, simply not autistic enough.
They. fail to appreciate the role of ideology as a story. The vast majority of people do not have the intellectual capacity to grasp genetics or AI. I include myself among them. But there is still a need for a coordinating story for society, if society is to operate effectively. Peterson understands that this story may take many forms. The academic geneticist may understand life as a remorseless struggle between organisms that are adapted to their environment. The man on the street might find it easier to understand that Jesus was nailed to a cross and that every man has his cross to carry. The essential message – pain and struggle are the essence of life – is unchanged, although it is presented in a different form.
The left – along with some on the right – manage to perform the trick of sneering at the story of Jesus as childish while simultaneously failing to consistently apply the implications of genetic research to society. The result is that they worship a degraded form of science, a “scientism”, that does not capture the explanatory power of science and also excludes the comfort and truth of religion.
The neo-reactionaries are wrong to dismiss Peterson for being insufficiently biologically rooted. This is merely the result of an illusion that has come about due to how Jung’s thought has been treated in the postwar world. In fact, Jung’s worldview contained an element of racial thought. This means that his ideas were very biologically rooted, even if what we understand by “race” has changed substantially in the intervening period. Further, he presented a psychology of continuity over time that suggested an innate element to the human psyche. To be sure, this is not exactly the same as genetics or contemporary evolutionary research into human psychology. But it is still an attempt to understand how the human mind produces meaning and consciousness with reference to innate, biological, and transhistorical elements.
My understanding is not definitive, but Jung’s views on race were not quite a simple biological determinism. He seems to have shared a belief with the German thinker Oswald Spengler in the importance of land in forming a human’s biology. When Jung visited America, he saw a process of indigenisation underway. The European Americans were, in his view, taking on the physical appearance of the Indians – similarly, Jung saw New York’s skyscrapers as replicating on a larger scale the building customs of various Indian tribes. The land was turning the Europeans into Indians, or perhaps into a hybrid people. Insofar as racial thinking persists in the West, this view would cause its adherents to scoff, since it is not materialist and takes little account of genetics.
But this is all more than enough to raise the hackles on the contemporary left, since they are adverse to any biological thought in relation to humans whatsoever. This connection to Jung’s biological worldview that travels through Peterson is what frightens the left. They dislike his evolutionary biology as well, but they understand that Jungian thought – rooted in myths, legends, and stories – represents an approach that could have mass appeal. The numbers of people who will ever understand life from an purely evolutionary perspective will always be tiny. This is partly because many people cannot overcome the taboo on thinking of humans simply as animals, or reducing things such a relationships or jobs to behaviour analogous to a monkey colony – only cold and intelligent minds can do this.
But the same ideas can be conveyed through mass entertainment and education very simply by using Jung. After all, the left has been using stand up comedy and films in this way for years to propagandise for their causes. Jung’s work captures. the implications of evolutionary biology at a higher level, the social and psychological realm. Peterson’s approach, therefore, represents that possibility of elaborating. mass ideology completely outside the current systems of power and control. It is a critical threat to the left.
Aside from Jung’s racial thinking, he is also seems as suspect by the left for a supposed association with Nazism.
The honest position with regards to Jung is that the man was not a Nazi and quite obviously opposed Hitler. However, he committed a cardinal sin in the left’s eyes of not opposing Nazism from the left. Now, of course, the left was never against Nazism. The left is basically only after power at any cost. When it was expedient to do so, the left supported the Hitler-Stalin Pact. When Hitler defected on them, the “anti-fascists” howled for war against fascists – and damned the consistent opponents of Hitler on the right as “fascists”.
Jung was consistent to his worldview. His worldview. calls for us not to reject anything in the world or within ourselves, even that which is regarded as evil. What we reject returns with greater force in the Jungian worldview. What we condemn oppresses us, and what we accept liberates us. The way to avoid the evils of fascism, Nazism, and communism is, in the Jungian view, to accept that we each hold a little Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin within us. The people who refuse to accept this, such as the “anti-fascists”, merely turn into miniature versions of what they claim to despise. We see this fairly clearly in the case of Peterson, where mobs scream and scream for him to be shut up, often using the most underhanded tactics imaginable to do so.
Accordingly, Jung was involved in psychoanalysis in Germany during the Nazi period – if only peripherally. He also maintained, for example, a postwar correspondence with Miguel Serrano, an eccentric Chilean diplomat who pioneered the ideology of “esoteric Hitlerism”, a belief system which holds that a number of Nazis escaped to Antarctica to live after the war and elevated Jung’s psychological archetypes to purely racial categories. It is an extremely eccentric and essentially religious position that remains current in hard right circles.
Due to this history, it has been necessary for Jung scholars in the postwar period to be coy about Jung’s views on race and his thought’s biological aspect in order to survive in an intellectual environment hostile to this way of thinking. There are, accordingly, scholarly papers available that revise Jung’s “racism” to make him safe for the contemporary ideological environment. The fact that he maintained a correspondence with a leading postwar neo-Nazi is more than enough evidence for the left to condemn Jung. However, as stated above, a sincere acceptance of all people and positions was consistent with Jung’s philosophy and not an endorsement of their worldview.
It is a condition of the political left to believe that everything must become political. Personally, I would maintain a friendship with a person from any ethnic, religious, or political background – although, if they their politics motivated them to harm another I would have to act to prevent that. Tolerance of the Jungian sort is impossible for many on the left, since their views are often very insecure – resting as they do on deceptions about the human condition. They must have purity at any costs, even if they destroy themselves to do so.
The revision of Jungian thought to survive in the postwar world leads people on the neoreactionary side of politics to sneer at Jungian thought as yet more “woo-woo” blank slatist psychologising. They cleave strongly to the genetic explanation for all things in life, and Peterson is not strong enough meat for them in this regard. Jung’s thought, put through the ideological. thought shredder of the 1960s, appears on the other side apparently shorn of biology. His thought has been misused, for example, to claim that men should act more like women in support of the popular feminism of the 1960s and 1970s, even though Jung’s thought clearly points to the opposite and stresses that any idealisation of women by a man is merely a projection of his own romantic and religious nature.
The left is aware, possibly only an unconscious level, that the ideas Peterson articulates through Jung are innate, prior, and biological. Peterson’s explicit. politics places classical liberalism to the fore. He is about the individual, the individual’s rights, and the individual’s duty to his society. He is certainly not advocating ethnic nationalism, racial superiority, or anything of the sort that we could call Nazism. Yet, time and again, the left will call him a “Nazi”, “fascist”, and “racist”. This is, of course, partly rhetorical. These accusations are a useful way to shut someone up, and – sad to say – most people to not overly care for the truth, which is always bitter.
The accusations represent the left’s unconscious knowledge that Peterson’s Jungian thought drives back towards the rooted. It drives, as the journalist Tom Wolfe observed regarding contemporary politics, back to blood . Asserting individuality in the liberal sense is bad in the left’s book, because if you assert individuality you are different to other people and difference means inequality. The left claims to favour individuality, but what they really favour is atomisation. The atomised human is perfectly free to undertake solipsistic action, such as getting a tattoo. The problem is that everyone else is getting a tattoo as well, since they have been propagandised into it by mass culture.
Genuine individuality – Jungian psychology is partly about developing genuine individuality – is not about living an atomised existence where inclinations and desires are swung by the mass. A person reaches into themselves to recover the occulted aspect of themselves, essentially the deep knowledge of their ancestors. They emerge reconnected to a greater chain of being but also more individual and differentiate from mass society, which is purely rational. Reconnection to the ancestors demands ties of blood and ethnicity. Consequently, there is a strongly rooted element in the Jungian individual who arises from his form of psychoanalysis.
Peterson’s Jungian thought makes his liberalism insoluble to the dominant ideology. It cannot be broken down as the old classical liberals, paleoconservatives and neoconservatives were through the rational actions and mass education of the technocratic state. It is steadfast because it reaches backwards into the deep history of nations and peoples. Unlike a Conservative, Republican, or thinktank hack it cannot be bought with money.
When young men – Peterson is mainly a thing for young men – watch Peterson videos they ostensibly receive common sense and fatherly advice on tiding their bedrooms, along with a dose of liberalism and thoughts on shamanism. But they are also inducted into the worlds of psychological archetypes, a way of knowing God psychologically, and other ideas of the innate. They are also encouraged to reach back into the deep history of their ancestors. The left delights in destruction and the distortion of history, since history provides a basis for coherent resistance and coordination against the left. The left wishes to destroy history because, again, it differentiates people. By destroying history, it hopes to make people ever more malleable until they dissolve into a sort of universal “thing” (definitely not a man, their future is genderless) caught in an eternal and unchanging present.
The world of Jung is numinous, ordered, and hierarchical. This is the opposite to the dominant ideology in the West. The dominant ideology of the West is materialist, chaotic, and democratic.
The termination point of Jung’s views is that – while different civilisation and peoples can exchange ideas, technologies, and goods – there are certain fundamental limits to the degree to which societies can be changed. The good life for the American in Boston and Khoisan tribesman are fundamentally different. Their common humanness is undiminished, but their ways of being human find different expression, and it would be a mistake to make the Bostonian live as a Kohoisan or vice versa.
That sounds a lot like common sense. But, for the left, it is an admission that societies and humans are different – possibly unchangeably different for biological, spiritual, or psychological reasons – and that what constitutes a good and meaningful life will be different for different peoples. It may even be that Western individualism and liberalism cannot be exported. This is an attack on the dominant ideology’s ideas of a universal society.
The left, though the mass media and education system and corporations, tells you the following things everyday: there is no Western civilisation, there are no indigenous European nations or peoples, there are no differences between men and women, there is no right or wrong, and so on.
These are, more or less, lies.
These are the lies that the left must tell in order to complete its political project. The project is nothing less than the dissolution of man: the destruction of every civilisation, religion, race, ethnicity, and individual on Earth. We are to be reduced to universal puddle. The women of Saudi Arabia will drive cars and use Tinder. They will wear a fashionable hijab designed by Calvin Klein, but they will never hear the call of the sacred as their grandmothers did. The churches of England, as with one near where I lived in London, will be turned into play centres. The altar desecrated with biscuit crumbs and baby vomit. It is much more utilitarian, except that the human heart yearns for the sacred.
We are fortunate that this is impossible. The lies are futile. Reality will assert itself.
Peterson represents the first time in about three generations that an intellectual force has emerged from a deep conservative position. The Internet has changed everything, since the left no longer enjoys a monopoly on the media. Those ideas I mentioned at the beginning of this essay, those ideas that millions hold but are never articulated, have found an organising voice and story in Peterson.
This was not possible when the only people adopting deep conservative positions were the dregs of society with no intellectual ability or moral sense. This is terrifying for the left, because once people can articulate what is wrong with a society they can collectively organise and begin to change it. The left’s obsession with gagging people on the grounds of “political correctness” is nothing more than less than a command that people lie about what people think or feel. When they cannot speak, they cannot identify their problems or resist collectively.
People are relieved and enjoy hearing Peterson speak because he articulates what they cannot. They have always suspected that human relations were like this, but they lacked the language to explain what was wrong and what was being done to them. “You say what I always thought but couldn’t put into words.” This is a common reaction to an intellectual’s work. It should not be confused with being right about something, merely articulating an idea and having people agree with it does not make it true or right.
Peterson’s significance is, therefore, far more important than many on the right understand. It is the fact that he articulates deep conservative ideas in an implicit way that makes him so potent. Quite often, we reject what is presented to us in a straightforward and forceful way. If we think about hard right politics, this is what the likes of Richard Spencer do. There is something rebarbative in this approach, since it lacks finesse and sophistication and seems to be driven by a crude ressentiment and desire for power.
This is because this type of politics does not emerge from a sincere search for the truth and appreciation that humans are fundamentally evil, but rather from fairly obstinately held axioms that have not been examined (and never will be). This iteration of the hard right, like its counterpart on the hard left, is rigid – consequently, it will never find success and will snap. It will destroy the people who follow it, since they neglect the starting point for all right politics: the evil of man.
Peterson’s thought, since it emphasises a search for the truth, remains flexible even as it asserts eternal truths. This is, of course, because of the nature of the truth, which – being like a woman – is changeable and rather moody.
Peterson has addressed the implicit destructiveness of the sexual revolution, the technocratic society, and corporations. In doing so, he has become an organising intellectual force in resistance to these tendencies. He is, in essence, providing a coherent mass ideology against the dominant forces in Western society.
The appeal of Peterson a substitute father is often mocked on the right, since people on the right are more likely to have grown up with intact families and a male influence on their lives. He says what seems obvious to the rightist, and so they disdain him. I do not personally find Peterson particularly relevant to me and actually am not very keen on his lectures, but I am a product of a broken family and I can understand the appeal. Ten years ago, I would have benefited from his lectures. I would have probably become a huge fan of his. As it stands, I eventually managed to learn the lessons Peterson teaches myself. The person coming from the right – probably from an intact family – will have trouble appreciating quite how disorientating family break ups are, especially for boys. Women are, working alone, basically incapable of ensuring the healthy development for male children. The right underestimates the importance of what he is saying in this regard, quite foolishly as well, since divorce produces feminised males who tend to support the left. In this respect alone, Peterson does valuable work in providing a substitute father for people.
The danger is that Peterson, a quiet academic, will be swept up in the media storm that has surrounded him and lose his footing. I already see signs in his videos that his demeanour is becoming more arrogant. This is no surprise. Nobody could deal with this level of publicity without losing his head a little. He is well outside his natural environment and experience. Academics tend to be somewhat unworldly, and his assertiveness – necessary when facing forceful opponents – can seem contrived.
I could do no better, but it remains to be seen if Peterson will eventually be swallowed up in the maelstrom that has risen up around him. He pays special attention to the story of Christ in his lectures, and one cannot help but think that we may yet witness the martyrdom of Peterson. This is the nature of celebrity. The media environment pulls people up to the status of a minor god and then smashes them again. Few escape.
Whatever Peterson’s fate, he marks a significant development in the revivification of deep conservative thought in the West. He is the first of a new kind of intellectual who now has the freedom to explicate ideas that have been suppressed for many decades. The media theorist Marshall McLuhan, also a Torontonian like Peterson, predicted that the electronic global village would throw up a tribal identity that would subsume the nation state. He was partly right.
The nation, unified by print and broadcast media, has collapsed. It can no longer elaborate a coherent national story among the cacophony of digital media. What has replaced it is not a tribe, fundamentally a blood relation, but the cult. We live in an age of cults formed around storytellers on platforms like YouTube. These storytellers explain our technological environment to us, an environment so complex that it has become as mysterious to us as the forces of nature were to our ancestors. We live in a new age of myth, religion, legend, and conspiracy. Peterson is just one of the storytellers who will shape our time.
The controlled media environment that has allowed massive social engineering to take place over the past century is dead. It is a large statue that has been fatally undermined by subtle erosion. Nobody can see that it is about to topple, but very soon the whole will come crashing down. What comes after is uncertain, but it terrifies the left that has dominated the West for over fifty years.
Peterson is the first horseman of the apocalypse, and perhaps not the most terrifying.