Jordan Peterson and the Red Skull
There is much talk about projection, so let us take a case study in projection. About six months ago, Jordan Peterson discovered that a comic had been produced that featured a supervillain, the Red Skull, in a storyline where he adopted Peterson’s ideas. This was not done humorously, the Red Skull did not tell people to tidy their bedrooms and launch a conspiracy against Captain America, his foe, to make children be more tidy—if that had been the comic’s plot it would have been hilarious, but it would not have been projection; no, the people who made the comic took themselves far too seriously for that, so the Red Skull takes, in essence, Peterson’s message and uses it to indoctrinate young white men into what orthodoxy calls “white supremacy”—and does so via YouTube videos; just so it is quite clear that the comic refers to Peterson, since he emerged as a cultural force from YouTube.
Peterson is only related to the Red Skull insofar as he identifies with the lobster; the lobster has a red exoskeleton—and so, through metaphorical extension, it could be called “the Red Skull”. However, we can tell this is projection because the lobster does not seek to dominate the world; it is a creature that dwells in the depths and once removed from the depths it is relatively harmless—it can nip you, but it cannot really hurt you. It is not the Red Skull, a human skeleton—man, the most dangerous animal—with designs on global domination; the lobster dominates its local environment, not the world. Besides, the Red Skull is a skeleton—he is the inside—whereas the lobster has an exoskeleton; Peterson’s identification with the lobster—as with his expensive suits—represents a defence mechanism, not his inner reality. Only someone who projects would think that the Red Skull is Peterson’s inner nature; they saw the superficial, the lobster, and worked from there—they mistook the shell for the core.
The Red Skull is a prototypical Nazi villain; the Promethean scientist who dreams that he will conquer America (and the world)—so the accusation in the comic is that Peterson is “a Nazi”. America is a humanist liberal progressive state with a feminised inflection; accordingly, for the hegemonic American belief system, several ideas and aesthetic sensibilities are repugnant and deemed “evil”: responsibility—seen as monarchical, masculine, and militaristic; masculinity, seen as inherently anti-femininity; God, since God is masculine and He suggests there is a force more important than man; genuine science, again an anti-human enterprise that decentres man; individuation, seen as elitist and aristocratic; non-materialist or spiritual ideas, since these also decentre man; Christianity, since it has a male God; and, finally, nature herself, since nature is cyclical, not progressive—and also greater than man.
If you put forward any ideas or even aesthetic sensibilities that contradict these notions you will be called “a Nazi” in the Western world—whatever your subjective feelings or thoughts about Hitler; and this is because the National Socialists happened to be masculine and militaristic and had spiritual ideas, just like almost every society in man’s history. This is why the Iranians correctly call America “the Great Satan”; she is built on humanism—the worship of man—and man is Satanic, he is the Great Liar; he lies to protect his ego and self-importance.
Consequently, there is a great deal—basically anything outside a Hallmark or Disney movie—that you cannot say without being “a Nazi”. Peterson, as an outsider from Canada—a slightly less democratic country, thanks to its residual British trappings—ticks quite a few boxes that say “Nazi” in the hegemonic belief system: praises masculinity, speaks for God, and speaks for genuine science (especially as regards sex divisions); just like the Red Skull he comes from the outside, from another country—and so he must be combatted by the national avatar, Captain America. In short, the people who made the comic want to use indiscriminate violence, science (what they call science), and lies to conquer the world—they are the Red Skull. They project this state onto other people, just as antifa, a violent paramilitary gang sponsored by the state, represents the most functionally fascistic organisation in the West—although they call everyone else “fascists”.
The only way to deal with projection is to yield—“resist not evil”—or, as with Putin’s sport, implement a judo throw. Unfortunately, it is too late for Peterson to do this; he made a joke out of the comic—made a range of parody lobsterish Red Skull-themed products for charity—but the joke itself is an attempt to resist the projection, and if you attempt to resist projection you will become captured by it. “Look, look I’m laughing it off. I’m not concerned that I’m really a neo-Nazi supervillain. I’m a nice person, actually—only a nice person could joke about it, right?” The real joke would be to accept it. To say, “I AM the Red Skull,” and then laugh maniacally—and the laughter would be quite natural, as it always is when you give way. Similarly, when people say I am arrogant, lazy, or selfish I reply: “I am arrogant etc.” and then I laugh genuine laughter. The alternative is to build a case: “Look, you can’t say that: I bought you that beautiful present last birthday, it was very thoughtful and considerate…and...and…and…” The mask protects itself with reason; yet reason and rationality represent the problem, at least when it comes to mask maintenance.
Projection occurs because we craft intellectual masks to convince people as to what we are. It starts when you are a baby; when you are a baby your mother is your world: if she adores you then you see yourself as adorable—the world is your mirror, and it is a warm world; if she is a cold mother you see yourself as cold—it is a cold world, and nobody cares that much about you. Both are illusions. The mask formation continues throughout school, university, within social groups, and at work; the mask is the intellectual attempt to convince people as to what you are—to sell yourself to them. Indeed, people at work have literally said to me, “Time to sell yourself!” We could say, “Time to lie! Time to see if you can fool us! If you can fool us we’ll reward you, but if you slip up you better watch out.”
People resist projection because it conflicts with the intellectual mask they have constructed that seems to please others: “I am a reasonable, responsible person. I deal with problems with reason. I am liberal and concerned about cruelty. I am not the Red Skull.” Projection challenges the mask, and the usual response is to lock down with defences. “You’re an angry white man!” “No. I’m a reasonable man and what I say is based on decades of painstaking research and it is precisely when you throw accusations around like that…” Reason protects the mask, but it feeds the dynamic. Alternatively, “I am an angry white man. And, actually, I’ve lots to be angry about!” (Hilarious). Step back, if someone says to you, “You’re just an angry white man,” with a sneer, what does that mean? What is wrong with being angry or white or a man? Nothing; other than the inflection given to “white” and “man” in our system—and a feminised aversion to anger, also from the system.
And in reality, nobody calls somebody who is really angry “an angry man”—when someone is really angry everything gets very quiet because there is about to be a fight. The one time I have seen someone say, “You’re an angry white man,” the person who said it was obviously— seething under his progressive mask—an angry black man. Yet it is no good to deal with projection through an intellectual attempt to make the other person see that they have projected. “You’re projecting! You see what you just said is classic behaviour according to Jung…” “No, you’re projecting!” “Am not!” “Why are you so angry?! What’s your problem?”
The mask game is an intellectual game: “I’ve got you now, you sucker! Got you now, you bastard! I caught you out, pretending you’re a nice person—pretending you were a saint—fuck yoooooouuuuu!!!” This happens all the time, especially online, because most people do not even know they wear masks; their world is the world where mom always picked them up and cuddled them, or the world where she left them alone in the crib until they learned to stop crying because nobody would come—or the world where the English teacher praised them and the maths teacher looked exasperated and said, “There are other things you’re good at, I suppose.” For such people the greatest fear is exposure, to be “caught out”—and other people, who feel the same way, play “catch out” too. If the mask dies they die; and some people respond to a destroyed mask with physical self-destruction, since they cannot tell the difference between themselves and the mask.
To enter into the game intellectually, to attempt to “get them where I want them”, represents a disaster; it is precisely when people begin to play this in earnest that they become lost. “You can’t touch me, mate. I’m clean. CLEAN. Check the records; nothing there. It’s perfect, not a trace. Clean licence. Nothing on video. Nothing on the computer. You can’t touch me. I have all my certificates. Everything is in order [smug smile].” To be careful means to be a liar, exquisitely careful in your lies.
So the response to projection—other psychological defence mechanisms—cannot be intellectual; it cannot involve reason. We want to short circuit the game, not bind ourselves into it. If this situation is approached intellectually, people usually reverse themselves. This is what Prince Harry did; he is a prince and he is also narcissistic—as with his mother—and so quickly emulates those around him; he quickly changes his mask, although he does not know it is his mask. So he has sought to escape from his birth, perceived as unearned authority by his intellectual mask, by playing humble: royals are reserved and aloof, so I will tell everyone about my inner emotional life; royals do not work in the conventional sense, so I will get a job in a corporation; royals protect the integrity of the bloodline, I will marry a mixed-race woman…
Harry is still trapped, of course; he never says what his real inner emotional state is when interviewed by Oprah and the like—although it would be much more joyous and hilarious if he would, much more like Prince Philip. He has a new mask to defend, the “good” prince who scrupulously conforms to contemporary democratic values. Actually, what he has done is staggeringly arrogant—not humble at all—because you cannot negate your royal birth with an intellectual mask; it is in the blood and intrinsic to what you are. To attempt to cancel it and then say: “You all have to treat me like a regular person, except I am not, by definition, a regular person,” represents hypocrisy. It is all a play-act.
If Harry really wanted to be ordinary he would have to cut all links with his family, renege all titles, and give up all his inherited money and property; even then—since royalty is about blood, by definition—he would still be Prince Harry; as it stands he has barely made any effort to cut these links. Possibly he could genuinely “quit the Royal Family” if he became a hermit monk on Mount Athos (his grandfather was a Greek royal, after all) and refused to see or speak to anyone; to do so would genuinely negate his inherent princely advantages—yet it would be far too real and hard; and, anyway, it is not what he really wants.
What he has done—one reason why lots of people are annoyed with him—is opt out of all the boring, tedious things royals are expected to do as their duty, such as opening Sainsbury’s supermarkets on wet Sundays and making banal speeches about a new by-pass and chatting to people in hospital who have had their faces burned off in industrial accidents. Harry has opted out of all that while still, barely secretly, holding the fact that he is a prince in reserve; worse, he has done that and then made out that he is ever so ‘umble and moral—yet he will never, never be just another middle-class executive in California.
What he has done, in fact, represents arrogance and, ironically, arbitrary royal power; as he pretends democracy, he does what no common man can do—i.e. he abuses his royal position to play-act as “ordinary”, while he neglects the duties that underpin legitimate royal authority. While he pretends to apologise for supposed crimes and evil actions in the past he acts in a genuinely arbitrary and illegitimate way—much more so than those in the past he condemns. Actually, if he was honest about what he wants he would not endorse his current positions at all; but his genuine position is buried under masks and counter-masks—a situation only reinforced because there are now two camps that war over him as “good” or “bad” Harry, especially in relation to his brother.
Harry’s response is quite typical for people who realise they are trapped in a mask and want to escape; sometimes it is the first response to Jungian depth therapy, or to the realisation that there is a mask at all. They become indignant, intellectually, and say to themselves (to others, indirectly), “Oh, this has all been bullshit. Okay, I’ll do the opposite of everything I did before—that will show them.” So the good pupil misses all their exams, or the dutiful husband hits forty and buys a sports car and stops saving. “There. You thought I was good, now I’m bad. How d’you like that? You always said I was evil, well now I’m evil; there you go.” It is still a manipulative mask. Now I’ll show them—but there is no one to show. It is a defensive trick to escape, just as when Peterson tried to make the Red Skull into a joke.
Another alternative is to feign neutrality, this is, in part, what Buddhists call “being a stone Buddha”: “Yes, I’ve gone beyond good and evil. I’m indifferent to everything. Communist or Nazi, Muslim or Jew, American or French. It’s all the same. I’m the most neutral man, anyone can come to me because I’m completely neutral. You cannot believe how neutral I am about everything and how much I love everybody and everything.” This is a more clever and subtle trap, rather like Harry’s decision to play at being a humble and compassionate man.
There is no intellectual solution to this problem. The mask is inherent, the desire to be liked (or loathed, since other people may have told you that you are to be loathed) and to cultivate an image is integral to man; it is probably biologically integral to us as a species. If you fight the mask by turning it inside out—the good boy turned bad—or through neutrality, the mask still owns you. So the first step is to realise that there is no escape. You do not know who you are; people tell you who you are, but they do not know who they are themselves—and that is why they project, and why you project. This is why meditation encourages people to watch the masks form and die and form again: the different ploys that the mind devises to try and get what it wants. It cannot help itself; it does it again and again—stratagem upon stratagem, puppy-dog eyes or the icy façade that you are one mean fucker.
The objective in meditation is to identify with the void behind the masks; when a person does this fully they mirror the world—meditation polishes the mirror, eventually the mirror itself disappears. When such a person meets projection they reflect it back in an instant. “You are a Nazi.” “I am a Nazi.” “You are an arrogant pig.” “I am an arrogant pig.” The person can do this because they have fully let go from the mask, detached from it. “I” is an illusion; why defend an illusion? “But people will think you’re bad! You can’t say that! You have to prove you’re a good person!” I am what I am. This person lives as a mirror: when he sees beauty, he reflect beauty; when he sees ugliness, he reflects ugliness; when he sees war, he reflects war; when he sees peace, he reflects peace—and so on. “But people won’t like you! They’ll say bad things about you. You can’t just say what you see.” Yet these people are illusions too; they do not know who they are—although they want to tell you who you are (Red Skull, demon!). They tell you who you are because they do not know who they are—they are still mommy’s angel, or the bad boy at school, or the humble prince.
“It’s bad! You have to be good!” Good and evil are also illusions; there is only reality—and reality is both and neither. God is a metaphor for reality; reality is creation—and creation is beyond good and evil; it just is. To live in accordance with reality is to say what you see, not the intellectualisation that makes it palatable—“Sell yourself!” (Sell your soul). Besides, the moral pose will only lock you into a projection-defence dynamic: “Watch out…or else!” Who should watch out? There is nobody there. All attempts to constrain reality with moralisation backfire: “If you carry on like this we’ll end in the gulag…in another holocaust.” Get up and make a speech like that and you have put in motion the process that leads to those very events; for the dynamic is established where your opponents will make out they are “good” people who never massacre anyone, and everyone will be so keen to show they are right that they will eventually massacre the other side to prove it.
Unfortunately, this is roughly what Peterson did in his original tours; he cautioned his audience to “watch out” for the gulag and Hitler’s holocaust—carry on like this and…Yet this is what causes such events to happen. The parent says to the child, “Whatever you do don’t touch those papers on my desk while I’m out...or else.” The first thing the child will do is go to the paper on the desk and see if they can move it about or read it without being noticed—so better not to mention it at all. When someone cautions you that something might happen then you usually assume they secretly want it to happen; and that is why, in part, Peterson ended up being cast as the Red Skull.
To play the blame game—the mask game—an antipode is required; and Peterson provided the lightning rod to canalise a certain leftist energy; i.e. he aided the radicalisation and destabilisation process that the West has seen over the last few years—something, ironically, he wanted to avoid. This is because his approach was primarily intellectual and not experiential; the intellect wants to impose a narrative—supported by science or scriptural authority or political authority—and the attempt to impose the narrative fuels the conflict. It is better not to have a narrative at all; never try to get your story straight—reality is too unlikely and peculiar for that. What Peterson often said in his lectures was in effect, “Stop ‘X’ woke behaviour or you’ll cause another gulag or holocaust—so watch out!” In essence, this is a threat: do what I say or millions will die—drop state compulsion as regards pronouns or there will be a holocaust. People respond to threats by doubling down, and so the anxious desire to manipulate people away from mass murder drives them towards it.
“You’re a white supremacist Nazi monster!” If you say, “I am a white supremacist Nazi monster,” you will naturally laugh maniacally and forget about it. “But that’s not factually true. I have proof!” This is justification; but life is not about being right—that is how people end up self-righteous; how they end up making pompous comic books about the Red Skull. Life is about experience, not about being right. Facts and logic are important only secondarily, equipment for lawyers—inherently miserable people—who want to build cases that have nothing to do with reality. I have no case, I have my experience: I have what I see—put me in jail if you want, but that is how I see it.
No; every attempt to police reality leads to disaster; reality cannot be constrained: people should say it as they see it without any reserve—without any attempt to “protect” or manipulate people; let the chips fall where they may. “I’ve said as much as I dared.” You lied; you chose illusion over reality—a good impression over reality; and yet it is diplomacy that starts wars, not aggression. Now to live in this position permanently is sainthood or enlightenment—and I would not claim it for myself, except momentarily. It requires identification with nothingness, but not the self-pitying “I’m nothing really, *sob* *sob*”—that is about an unsatisfactory mask.
It is about the real nothingness; to be empty like a bowl—the harder you strike the bowl the louder it resounds. This returns us to Nietzschean ideas about how to philosophise with a hammer—by which he meant a tuning hammer; if you strike a man who is filled with notions and ideas—including ideas about “right” and “wrong”—you generate a dull sound; only the empty bowl resounds. Become retarded. Become empty and limp, let yourself move with reality; never fight it, never tense the body. This is the real adventure; now you follow reality, not man’s expectations for you. This is how people find their destiny; they have to drop their defences and move with reality. “But everyone hates me!” Whoever said destiny was easy! Yet if you really appreciate this you understand “everyone” is illusory.
“This could be dangerous.” Dangerous to what? To an illusion. The mask is always clever, it always has a defence; it must maintain the shell—the lobster shell. “Everyone will leave me and I’ll be alone!” Those other people are masks, illusions—the prison is dependency on what “they” think. “It’s irresponsible!” But you are only responsible to yourself; the mask facilitates irresponsibility through lies—“Never mind reality, I have fooled them into thinking I’m a good person.” How many problems are caused by this today? If only Hunter Biden said: “I’m really into crack and whores. Don’t give a damn about anything else—or there is one thing, actually…” Instead, we have to hear about why he is a “good boy” really; or not so bad, anyway. He is what he is; please, spare us the story.
When leftists attack contemporary structures they are often correct: the people in charge are utterly corrupt and liars—it is just the leftists never go far enough in; they should have obliterated themselves as well. Their opponents, conservatives, are just earlier leftists; they still hold on to lies and keep the dynamic in play—for they do lie to those progressive activists; they never hit them with reality, only with moralism. “When you grow up, when you mature…” (When you learn to lie a little better; at the moment, your lies are too crude—moralise about “the Judeo-Christian tradition”, we like this lie; it is responsible—we approve). So they respond with “responsible” half-truths; and so the activist smells a rat—it is just it is not the rat they suspect. “Stand up straight!”, “Put more effort in!”; yet expectations are a prison, if you live up to expectations you live up to the illusion and the mask.
When Jung observed that what is unlived in the father is lived out in the son, he referred, in part, to expectation; the person who follows expectation over reality prepares his son to live out what he should have acted on but squashed through expectation. Perception is greater than expectation—to liberate people they must be trained to follow their own perception over and above the police, the state, science, other people, and the family. What Western societies criminalise is perception and perception is revelation; and revelation is forbidden because it disturbs, being amoral—and so men who reveal, such as Julian Assange, end up persecuted. Really, every state secret should be published tomorrow; we should blow the whole thing open and let the chips fall where they may.