JBP and the shadow
Updated: Jan 29
I’m Jordan Peterson’s Heraclitean opposite: I’m everything he denies that he should acknowledge and integrate to be whole—the material that he regards as “evil” but is just the necessary darkness for anything to happen at all. Peterson is under the delusion that he is not “ideological”—I do not use the term “ideology” myself, since it has Marxist connotations, but in the sense Peterson means it the word could be taken to mean “a rigid belief system”.
Yet, of course, Peterson has a rigid belief system—people who announce they are “not ideological” often have the most rigid ideologies. I myself aim to have no beliefs, but I accept that beliefs recur naturally—so I do have beliefs and I aim to bat these down as quickly as possible, and those beliefs I do have I aim to hold lightly; so I would not claim to be “objective”, “neutral”, or “not possessed by ideology” (to use Peterson’s phraseology).
You can tell Peterson has a rigid belief system because he excludes certain viewpoints axiomatically—for example, the nationalist right (as when he had Faith Goldy, a Canadian nationalist, knocked off a free-speech discussion panel because she was insufficiently tough with an “actual Nazi” in an interview; for Peterson isn’t interested in reality, he’s interested in how he can manipulate reality with his lobster claws—so people can’t just talk, they have to manipulate in their journalistic persona).
Peterson has said that he just wants the exclusionary policies currently employed against the radical right also employed against the revolutionary left. This has nothing to do with being “non-ideological”; if you have two belief categories that you axiomatically exclude, you have a belief—a belief that those are “evil” or “dangerous”. What if, for example, the radical right or the revolutionary left make points, taken stand-alone, that happen to be real? For Peterson, such points must be squashed—for he forbids you to see; and that is because he has a rigid belief system.
To return to Goldy, if we use the criteria from classical liberalism, to which Peterson claims he subscribes, the grounds to exclude Goldy from debate should have been whether or not she called for violence—she had not. What she had done was associated with undesirables and not given them a sufficiently hard time. To exclude someone on those grounds—from a “free-speech” panel—must be an idiosyncratic belief (that is very subjective—how do we objectively say what a sufficiently “tough” journalistic question is?). She was excluded because Peterson has rigid beliefs that have to be defended. She was treated as Peterson is treated by his own “ideologically possessed” enemies.
It’s actuated by his chronic anxiety; he fears that if people say things—about Satanic preschool sexual abuse or Jewish influence or white wealth—“terrible things” will happen; so it must be impermissible to make observations—that is a belief. It is also a rigidly policed boundary; it must be, since for Peterson to include those viewpoints will lead to “the holocaust”—and that’s his belief system; and, as with all “ideologies”, in a Marxian sense, it presents itself as neutral while it is actually partial (it’s a subjective interest generalised—in Peterson’s case, if he can suppress “resentful ideas”, in his characterisation, he can reduce his own anxiety, ultimately about his own death, to acceptable levels). Peterson’s pose as a “reasonable centrist” is his attempt to get his own anxiety under control; he thinks if he can control what other people say, do, and experience he can “prevent death” (the worst fate imaginable for an atheist materialist such as himself)—but you can’t control reality; it’s greater than you.
So Peterson’s worldview amounts to every view except his own “moderate centrism” being excluded from debate—and that’s a rigid belief system. He thinks certain views need to be excluded and it’s too dangerous to even say certain things. Ironically, he thinks in exactly the same way as those people who criticised him for his initial stand against compulsory pronouns; they argue that if people can just say, “Actually, you’re a ‘he’,” that is one step “on the road to Auschwitz”—it’s essentialist, it imposes white rationality on another person, it’s like the coding system of pink triangles they had for homosexuals in the camps.
Peterson agrees with the basic framework—the basic belief system—he just thinks it’s a step too far to apply it to transgender people. He’s fine for the same protective logic to be applied to the Jews, he speaks about “racism”, and so on—and that is because he is a moderate progressive who thinks progressivism has gone too far; and, as with all people locked in a rigid belief, he thinks he is just “a reasonable normal sane guy”—it’s you, you demons, who have a problem (I am a demonic nutcase, myself—totally abnormal and bizarre).
I know what his implicit belief system is because I’ve entertained it myself. He thinks he is the most subtle and brilliant Christian because the true Christian never says he’s a Christian and lives his life in service to the most marginal people. Who are the most marginal people in a Christian world? Jews, women, ethnic minorities, and so on. This is what Protestant Christianity turned into after centuries of secularisation—the Christianity of Harvard, where Peterson taught. It’s very clever because it’s all implicit—Margaret Atwood, though Peterson loathes her, actually subscribes to the very same religion (it’s why she’s so keen on Quakers in Handmaid’s Tale).
It’s what’s left from Protestantism when you’ve taken out all the “superstition” and so instead rely on science and technology alone because God has recused Himself from the world—in the end, you eliminate the final superstition, God, to worship technology and yourself. This is why Peterson is so self-righteous and looks down on actual Christians who pitifully think the miracles were literal and the angels real—he knows that the *real* “message of Jesus” is to help the poor, weak, and marginalised with technology and never say you are a Christian. So, secretly, he thinks he is “the greatest Christian” or the “true Christian”—to see this rank hypocrisy and smugness in genesis spend some time with Quakers, then imagine people like that but much worse.
In practice, this ends up in the worship of the Jews, since the Jews are the “ultimate victims”—being the bad guys in the New Testament who persecute Jesus and say “let his blood be upon us”. But for secularised Christianity, where Jesus was just “a wise teacher” whose message was to love the marginal, Jews and women become the “most beloved”—the most marginal people, whose feet we must wash.
That’s all implicit in Peterson but it works in millions of people in the Anglosphere. It is a genuine rigid belief system (mostly because it’s implicit and hidden behind layers of pseudo-humility)—for example, it would never countenance literal miracles (that’s for superstitious stupid people—perhaps Catholic immigrants from Ireland believe that a lock of hair from St. Tabitha will help them cross the sea, but they’re actually “ideologically possessed” with backwards fanatical Catholicism).
It’s why Peterson has extreme disdain for Islam, as do the neoconservatives: Islam still has much residual literal religion in it, and it rightly has identified that the contemporary West is Satanic and run by Freemasons and Jews. By contrast, the urbane “Judeo-Christian” neocons regard religion as “metaphorical”—life is about technological progress, making money, and self-worship; and in this way we will save the marginal.
The bottomline is that Peterson has a very rigid belief system and will not see things that are inconvenient to it—his excuse would be that if you see certain things that might lead to “bad outcomes” (indeed, he doesn’t really talk about “seeing”, he talks about “ideology”—because he’s cut off from experience; he intellectualises everything). Yet you can never really know about the “bad outcomes” from what you see or observe—even the things Peterson himself observes (and Peterson naturally thinks his own observations are anodyne—though thousands of progressives say otherwise and claim he’s a “Nazi”, completely by his own logic).
If someone makes an observation and it is the case, it shouldn’t matter whether they’re an orthodox Marxist, a post-modernist, a Muslim, or a neo-Nazi. It doesn’t matter if you’re not genuinely driven by belief—but it matters to Peterson; certain people are “out” for him, whether what they say is the case or no. So he is deluded when he says he is not “ideologically possessed”. It’s because his own overt belief system, spun off from Nietzsche, says that you should be driven by your self-interest—you should believe what is in your self-interest; so if certain low-status beliefs see things that are not in your interest, discount them.
With regard to this specific tweet, I’m not sure what ExxonMobil’s PR department is supposed to do. They exist to cultivate a positive image for the company; in the contemporary West, “global warming” is an important issue for government, academia, and the media—oil companies are considered “a problem” in that context. What are they meant to do? Praise oil and expose the company to the full ire of the state and media? It’s irrelevant anyway: as with all major corporations, ExxonMobil is tied into the state—tied in by HR regulations, by its bureaucracy (that in its irresponsibility acts like the state), by innumerable contracts. It’s not really opposed to the state as if this were the 19th century and one man in a top hat with a cigar owned it. ExxonMobil is the state for all practical purposes. As for climate change, the people in corporations toe the line.
Peterson’s tweet is empty moralising. The empty moralisation comes about because he has a rigid belief—in classical liberalism—and that belief says “private companies and the state have opposed interests”; and yet the reality is that ExxonMobil is fused with the state—so woofing at them to “act in their interests” is delusion, based on a belief that the world works as classical liberalism says it should (but it doesn’t, reality transcends belief). As therapists say, we need to address the “real issues” and not just repeat meaningless routines and coping strategies—Peterson has a meaningless routine based on a false belief; but he is well paid for it and, more importantly, derives status from it—so perhaps “no harm done”, in a certain respect; although it costs him his integrity, it costs him what he does not permit himself to see and acknowledge—hence his Heraclitean opposite emerges.