Last week I was sitting on twitter, feeling good. Thanksgiving was coming up and a 4 day weekend was coming at the right time. The town I’m living in just put up Christmas lights and morale was looking up during this dark Covid winter. All of a sudden a tweet about a Jordan Peterson controversy came over my TL. Jordan Peterson? Now that’s a name I have not heard in a long time. He is releasing another book on the rules of life. I think it may be time to examine the Jordan Peterson phenomenon, now that we have a few years of distance from its peak.
Most Popular Intellectual In the World
For about 3-4 years Jordan Peterson was the most popular intellectual in the world. It was intense. He had a YouTube channel with millions of subscribers, he was a regular on the Joe Rogan Podcast, he wrote books, he sold personality tests, he made $80k a month on Patron, toured theatres across the country to sold out audiences charging $50 tickets and even sold merchandise. He must have made $20-30 million dollars in a few years, maybe more.
What was he selling? He was communicating the tenets of stoicism, ancient virtue, self-reliance, the power of the will over circumstance and environment. “No one gets away with anything, ever, so take responsibility for your own life,” he would say. He was good at it.
He had a smooth delivery, an authoritarian tone but still retained an intellectual veneer. He ended up almost becoming a father figure to young men out there, he would repeat his “clean your room” mantra.
But most of all, he played the liberal media perfectly. The media was looking for a right wing figure to criticize, and he became it because he would criticize the world. He flourished in this feedback loop.
They’d criticize him, he would gain more followers, rinse repeat. He just kept getting bigger and bigger.
What was interesting is that Jordan Peterson was the first “intellectual” who was famous in the media monoculture (NyTimes, Washington Post, CNN) and also in the “decentralized media” (Youtube, Twitter). He was in both worlds and was dominating the networks. So you could never escape news of him. I don’t think this has happened before, except for maybe Donald Trump in 2016.
However, this phenomenon mostly began during the campus protest era.
There was a moment in time a few years ago when the media wanted people to care about what was happening at universities. This is how Jordan Peterson really got famous. There was some sort of controversy over if a woman can be a man or some liberal nonsense. It’s all hazy. I work for a living. I’m a worker. I live a 4HL in the Consistency Space. Students or tenure faculty protesting about free speech is alien to me. All the conversations about free speech would be linked to reality if they started from the objective and obvious fact that, for most people, the number one threat to your free speech is your boss. Do you know why LinkedIn is the worst Social Media network? It’s because everyone there has a gun to their head when they post. Of course it sucks. Campus protests were this media creation pushed by various right wing and left wing fanatics, who want to control prestige publications and elite institutions.
Rich administrators, tenured faculty studying bs, indoctrinated insane kids, expensive buildings. Who’s paying for this? My student loans. Tragedy.
Then things got really bizarre. He disappeared for months. in early February, his daughter posted a video on youtube where she said that Peterson had spent eight days in a medically induced coma at an unnamed clinic in Russia seeking an unorthodox treatment for his physical dependence on the drug clonazepam. According to Mikhaila, he nearly died several times during his medical ordeal. After weeks in intensive care, he was unable to speak or write and was taking anti-seizure medicine.
Peterson’s health problems first surfaced in September 2019, when his family announced that he had undergone a stint in rehab in upstate New York. According to Mikhaila’s update from Russia, he was prescribed the sedative clonazepam, a benzodiazepine, by his family doctor in 2017 for anxiety. Peterson’s doctor allegedly increased his dose after Peterson’s wife was diagnosed with kidney cancer in April 2019. Peterson supposedly didn’t realize he’d become dependent on clonazepam until he suffered agonizing withdrawal symptoms when he tried to quit the medication cold turkey during the summer of 2019.
I work a job for a living. I can’t spend 2-3 years of my life going on a rehab tour. I would have no money in the bank, my wife would leave me and I would be unemployable. This what someone who is rich and in payoff space would do. It’s one big flex
Jordan Peterson, prized student of Jung and the master of metaphors and symbolism is telling you about his crippling benzo addiction. Joe is confused. This clip only makes sense after his collapse and two year rehab tour.
It wouldn’t be a big deal if Peterson was a soccer player. Turning to drugs and addiction is irrelevant to why the man is famous. It’s not connected in any way to his work. This obituary of Diego Maradona by the New York Times is shameful.
The New York Times @nytimesDiego Maradona, the Argentine who became one of soccer’s greatest players, has died at 60. His legend was marred by his addiction and excesses. https://t.co/oQKtgwCEta https://t.co/VxUgZMJC2w
But if your line of work is to communicate how to handle adversity, and using philosophy and ancient literature as examples. It is relevant.
# 6 fails the Skin in the Game constraint
Jordan Peterson was trained as a psychologist. I don’t know what’s going on with psychologists. Here is pioneer in “Happiness Studies” jumping off a building to his death:
Nicholas A. Christakis @NAChristakisSuicide, a leading killer, is ineffably sad. Magnificent, poignant writing by @JenSeniorNY in @nytimes: Brickman made his way onto the roof. The man who’d done one of psychology’s foundational studies about happiness couldn’t make his own pain go away. https://t.co/x9HlfXjBu5
Other Psychologists are telling you making more than $75k a year won’t make you happier, but they are trying all they can to make more than $75k a year:
Is it interesting that Jordan Peterson is a hypocrite? Not really. His work fades as time goes by. His work doesn’t seem to “gain”. He seems to be a product of his time and the trends that were happening in that era.
What is hypocrisy, this ancient word. It turns out this word meant slightly different things depending on the era.
The instinct of classification seems as strong in humankind. Studying resemblances and differences with the view of isolating species in nature, or types in society, has no doubt been a native activity since the dawn of scientific inquiry. One of the inventors of the personality types (“Characters”) Theophrastus, was, like his older colleague Aristotle, deeply interested in the natural sciences.
Theophrastus' volume of thirty character sketches (c. 319 B.C.) stimulated a whole school of character- writing and set in motion a similar kind of development in France that would lead to La Bruyère's masterful homage of 1688, and continued to affect the forms of social commentary long afterwards.
Theophrastus calls "the dissembler" (or "the dissimulator," "the insincere man," depending upon the translation). The Greek word rendered as "dissembler" is eiron, not hypokrites, as one might expect; the latter still carried in Classical times the relatively neutral meaning of "one who acts on the stage." Here the eiron is guilty of a moral excess, a failure to deal honestly with people. It is no surprise, of course, that a disciple of Aristotle and his chosen successor should situate eironeia in the context of an Aristotelian golden-mean morality. Naturally, Aristotelian ethics presupposes a moderate middle term: neither underplaying one's hand deceitfully with one's fellows nor importuning them with exaggerated self-display.
Theophrastus defines eironeia as "an affectation of the worse in word and deed." What "worse" means exactly is unclear, but the enumeration suggests, predictably, devious social conduct. Thus, to quote a few traits, the eiron "will be disposed rather to go up to an enemy and talk with him than to show his hatred: he will praise to his face one he has girded at behind his back." "If you are borrowing of your friend and put him under contribution, he will tell you he is but a poor man; when he would sell you anything, no, it is not for sale; when he would not, why then it is. He pretends he has not heard when he hears, and says he has not seen when he sees."
Although this character is obviously not to be admired, there is no heavy moral judgment either. Theophrastus' dissembler is not evil; there is not a single-minded strategy to gain power or advantage, but seems rather a product of eccentric and naively self-involved reactions to different social stimuli.
Theophrastus’ sketch of this personality, much like his other sketches are quite vivid and modern";
This mood of relative tolerance within a basically satirical perspective imbues most of Theophrastus' Characters. Indeed, many of the faults described like boorishness, garrulity, officiousness, and surliness, are social irritants but hardly manifestations of human depravity. Even arrogance, closest of all the traits described to the mortal sin of pride, depicts, as we have seen, an unpleasantly egotistical man but not an evil one. It is not surprising then that our dissembler is more eccentric than malicious.
The Eiron was always connected to plays and the theatre.
Ancient societies put actors at the bottom of society, below prostitutes. Romans banned actors from marrying, even mixing with citizens.
Actors are trained to NOT seem stupid and they carry more credibility than other unqualified something.
Actors are forcing opinions on the rest of us because they impersonate an authority they should not have. Actors should not be the ones lecturing the rest of us on ethics & morality.
They also have a tendency to conflate virtue and its external manifestation, given that everything in their world is appearance. You don't see gynecologists or train engineers lecturing the rest of the world on virtue.
Our society places actors at the top of the societal order. This is because of the 20th century media monoculture made actors household names. Centralized entertainment scaled up and Hollywood was full of only a few of them.
Actors represent to us on the screen how other citizens are; but they are too fake to be like other citizens.
It’s a risk management strategy to keep actors at the low end of society, they can fake it and sound like a competent expert. Dangerous to societal stability.
From Eiron to Hypocrite
The attitude of the Greek eiron was characterized by playful mischief. However, in the Christian era the hypocrite replaced the eiron. The Christian hypocrite was dangerous and threat to the salvation of the faithful because his tricks and disguises. The Antichrist was described as a hypocrite. It became a vice that would send you straight to hell.
Christ's scathing condemnation of showy piety and theatrical devoutness, of sanctimonious self-righteousness and preoccupation with empty form, fixed itself in Christian consciousness.
The word hypocrite has changed over time, but it depends on personal piety. However, when it comes to business and trading there is an ethic that has not changed: You who caught the turtles better eat them (Ipsi testudines edite, qui cepistis) goes the ancient adage.
Beware of the person who gives advice, telling you that a certain action on your part is “good for you” while it is also good for him, while the harm to you doesn’t directly affect him.
The asymmetry is when the said advice applies to you but not to him –either because he is selling you something or getting you to marry his daughter or hire his son-in-law.
You are selling me self-reliance and resilience but you resort to popping pills when life gets hard? That’s unethical. You are not eating your turtles.
Eiron or Hypocrite
We live in a post religious world but Christianity has massively influenced our society. So much so that being labeled a hypocrite isn’t Theophrastus’ mischievous but playful character, but nor does it mean you’re going to hell. It means something in between today.