The Hopeless Case of Lobster Neocon in 2021
Peterson is back. As happy I am to see him recovered from the illness, little if nothing at all seems to have changed in his long youtube hiatus, ideology-wise. If thinkers like Pageau have taken time to ponder on the cultural issues of the day and adjust their understanding accordingly, Peterson, just like his recent guest, Douglas Murray, managed to keep his entire 2015 mental picture of the world virtually unscathed. It’s enough to hear him start a sentence and you know where he’s headed, just like our old friend edcibinium.
Jordan is a psychologist, not a political scientist. His alarm at the Social Justice takeover that intensified around 2012 was fully justified. He was right-brained enough to sense the unsettling air of civil unrest, shifting poles, echo chambers and feedback loops. However, when he tried to make sense of it politically, his neocon ideas proved to be more like barriers to understanding than anything else. His insistance on understanding the problem at an ‘Individual’ level led him to psychoanalise the social justice warriors and what he calls ‘identity politics’ in a similar way in which Douglas has been trying to diagnose it. They can do a fair amount of investigative journalism; they can map out the psychology of a leftwing radical quite accurately; what they lack – utterly and hopelessly – is a realistic map of the power levers that incentivise such behaviour.
‘Conservative ideas are not sexy’, they like to repeat. ‘You tend to ignore things that work well, until they stop working.’ Both Peterson and Douglas have this picture of a level playing field, with two equally matched political sides taking turns at governance in a 50-50 ratio. If they lost it now with Trump, conservatives should not despair, but simply admit their defeat and craft a new narrative for the next elective cycle. Simple as.
You would expect Douglas, after having written ‘The Strange Death of Europe’ to realise that the only thing Tories ever ‘conserved’ in the past 2 decades were the ultra-radical progressive policies of Tony Blair, who achieved more than any looney contemporary Corbynista could ever dream simply because he avoided the drama that comes with allowing public scrutiny over these issues.
You would hope to see them realise the blind spots of Reagan’s and Thatcher’s fusionist neoconservatism which traded important cultural and religious issues for laissez-faire magical thinking and 2nd wave feminism – ideas formerly of the left, discarded by the radicals of their time for no longer being radical.
Finally, you would hope they realised that ‘cancel culture’ and ‘identity politics’ are not new developments coming from nowhere; that the ideas of Social Justice have a long history spanning across almost 2 centuries, constantly justifying perpetual revolt against established rule, law above the law; of governments slowly corrupting academic and journalistic institutions by allowing them to influence public policies, and thus informally leaking sovereign power to these unelected institutions, until they festered and grew like filthy algae in a lake where they kept dumping nutrients. Through unholy incentives and the desire to matter and feel like comicbook heroes, all these institutions reached a surreal level of homogeneous doubleplusgoodthink, in the complete absence of any dictatorship or doctrinal compulsion.
This is what formed today’s institutional far-left consensus that puzzles both Peterson and Murray. Of course you may want to look at the demographic aspect of it, with the industrial and sexual revolutions removing all barriers against the ascendance of the WEIRD managerial types, the strangest, most atypical personality type in the world, as Haidt called them, with the weirdest of the WEIRD (10% of USA demographics, all university educated americans) holding virtually all positions of power and influence in the state, naturally selecting and associating with more people of the same mindset, until full WEIRD lifestyle and ideological conformity is reached.
But an NPC like Peterson would probably label this a ‘populist’ approach, since it recognises the existence of an elite class, and that simply couldn’t happen in our precious Democracy which – we all know – selects only for true ideas and maximum upward mobility. You would think that acknowledging that inequalities are a serious problem that tends to manifest in every system would allow him to conceptualise such issues, but you would be wrong. His view of the power dynamics in the American political system is that of a complete black box. He is just as clueless about it as your next door neighbour. His notions of ‘meritocracy’ and ‘democratic will of the people’ act as barriers against understanding that we’re in fact dealing with an Oligarchy that uses those precise terms as ideological spells to neuter its enemies.
There is no room for dissent whatsoever. Public policy must go in one way and one way only. Election cycles serve as bread and circus for the masses, validating the illusion that they still have a say over the distribution of power. Spilling some more nutrients in the lake, promoting new journos, tenuring new professors, rewarding loyal lobby groups with funds and – last but not least – providing sweet sinecures for grumpy establishment conservatives whose only goal is to act as wrestling ‘jobbers’, controlled antagonists that keep alive the illusion of a culture war at the expense of moral capital or trust between citizens.
One must be blind (or a centrist) not to notice that Peterson and Murray are playing just that role in the culture wars. Always pondering over what might cause the never ending shift to the far left; the mysterious psychological drive to ‘identity politics’; or the philosophical corruption coming from ‘bloody Postmodern Neo-Marxists’, that cartoonish Hicks-inspired caricature of a movement so heterogenous (and at times, reactionary), that its only unifying factor was the opposition to the excesses of modernity. Peterson is making millions of views with his boomer lamentations; his books are all best sellers; his guests – select and erudite. If only we tried a little harder to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps! If only we could stand up for what we believed in and not allow the wokies to keep winning! Come on Jordo, cry in front of the camera! We all love it!
And the cherry on top of the boomercon cake was Peterson (and Murray’s) take on the pandemic situation. While they are right in being concerned about the conspiratorial mindset Trumpists have adopted once it became apparent their cause was lost, they seem completely unaware of the ideologisation of every public policy surrounding COVID; that all these policies are mapped out in the toxic notions of the radical left, which manages to win the establishment over to its side with every new crisis, real or induced (it doesn’t matter at this point), turning the screw incrementally and smashing some additional opposition in the process.
Conspiracy theories among the commoners (I bet you despise that Populist word, Jordo) are yet another symptom caused by the same problem of unaccountable power; of nutrients being dumped into the lake; of government outsourcing power to unelected actors – both volunteers AND dissidents, who become drunk with different aspects of this power they either try to maximise or fight against, but which ultimately does not belong to them. When the entire sensemaking apparatus has gone bonkers and is starting to act like Robespierre’s teenage girlfriend, no wonder that people stop believing any news.
It is really sad that after watching tens, if not hundreds of hours of Peterson lectures, after witnessing the great shift in discourse and Overtons this man has triggered since 2015, he ends on a note of justifying the Cathedral; of urging Biden to ‘heal the country’, of urging the voiceless independent middle class to just wait passively for the vaccine, while it is being utterly crushed financially, while the managerial elites experience K-shaped economic growth coupled with increased ideological hegemony and righteous validation. All that’s left for him to say is that this is yet another victory for the laissez faire system and the miraculous marketplace of ideas, both of which already crushed all of his talking points but might mercifully decide to spare this skinny boomer only to turn him into yet another ‘jobber’ tool for the system.