Anders Behring Breivik in his fifteen-hundred page long manifesto, 2083 – European declaration of independence, declared war on »cultural Marxist« who are destroying European culture and tradition. Cultural Marxists are by his definition »socialists, collectivists, ‘politically correct’ types, feminists, gay and disability activists, animal rights activists, environmentalists etc. […] who support multiculturalism« and »political correctness.«
Cultural Marxism, Breivik explains in his declaration of war, was consciously created by the adherents of the Frankfurt School - Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse - but the term also includes ideas of »father of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida,« »extreme feminism [which] is a Marxist concept,« cultural relativism, »psychological warfare against the European male,« and emasculation. It occurred so »quietly« that when they »realized it, postmodernism was upon them with a vengeance.« Dressed as a police office, Breivik, in order to protect European culture and western civilization, set off on a killing spree and killed 69 participants of the summer camp of the youth democratic socialist organization AUF in the year of 2011.
Nowadays the most successful pundit with his conspiracy theory of cultural Marxism is Jordan Peterson. He fashionably rebranded it into »postmodern neo-Marxism,« which gives the concept a flavor of originality but releases it from the association with the original conspiracy theory that has its notorious paradigm in Nazi propaganda and the creation of the new internal enemy (the Jews), the so called »cultural Bolshevists.«
Under the term »postmodern/Marxist thinkers« Peterson counts in the proponents of the Frankfurt school Horkheimer, Adorno and Marcuse, Jacques Derrida, radical feminism, gender studies and »feminist, anti-racist, and queer theories.« The burden of guilt for weakening the Western culture Peterson lays on the »whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men. These are the areas of study, dominated by the postmodern/neo-Marxist claim that Western culture, in particular, is an oppressive structure, created by white men to dominate and exclude women (and other select groups); successful only because of that domination and exclusion.«
Breivik, in hoping to recruit his future »Knights Templar« was warning us about the devious plans of the cultural Marxist, »who are trying to systematically and gradually destroy European culture, traditions, our identities and to limit the sovereignty of nation states.«
Peterson blames the degeneration of the west on the fact that »we have been withdrawing from our tradition-, religion- and even nation-centered cultures« and »are increasingly falling prey to the desperation of meaninglessness,« for which »postmodern neo-Marxist institutions and educators whose stated, conscious and explicit aim is the demolition of the culture that supports them,« are responsible. And last but not least he blames political correctness.
Neonazi versions of the conspiracy theory believes that »cultural Marxism« is a plan created and run by the Jews to achieve Jewish world domination. Peterson's claims that »barely repentant Marxists still inhabiting the intellectual pinnacles of the West« have transformed Marxism into a postmodern theory in order to »retain their world-view« but nowadays »the law schools are overrun by postmodernists who are undermining the structure of Western law as fast as they possibly can,« as is happening in other academic areas. »Postmodernism is,« Peterson claims, invoking the archetype of perfidious snake, »the new skin that the old Marxism now inhabits,« since Marxist have »rebranded themselves under the postmodern guise.«
Despite the inconvenient details of both »thinkers« (since at times it seems that Peterson was plagiarizing Breivik), we have to admit there are essential differences between the two. For the«cultural Marxist« who are political activists and politically compromised »journalists, influential sociologists or university professors,« Breivik dictates »death penalty and expropriation« of their personal belongings. While Peterson, a vocal proponent of the freedom of speech, is less draconian since he demands merely censorship and the cessation of funding from public resources for the programmes or even for entire »corrupted departments« where theories of »postmodern Marxism« are being taught.
Breivik's violent methods are well known, while Peterson argues for »nonviolent warfare« against »postmodern Marxists,« notwithstanding that he has been caught threatening with violence one of this reviewers, thereby earning himself sobriquets the »Angry Guru,« »Pissed-Off Yogi,« and »Totally Untogether Psychiatrist.« At first he intended to create a site that would, with the help of A.I., recognize »postmodern neo-Marxist« study programs and dissuade potential students from signing up for these studies, but he has recently dropped this plan, perhaps in part due to the warning from his university, which notified him that this would be an unacceptable intrusion into the autonomy of the university.
Breivik, members of the alt right movement, neonazis, identitarians and paleo-conservatives call their enemy »cultural Marxism.« Peterson and Petersonians call it »postmodern neo-Marxism.« Many of his stalwarts don't even notice the difference as YouTube video named Postmodernism and Cultural Marxism | Jordan B Peterson demonstrates. »What’s in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.«
The conservative general
Jordan Peterson, who is admittedly critical of white supremacism, antisemitism and the most radical right, is the latest and most popular general of the wide throng of the conservative right. The media that uncritically believes every word he says and profiles him as a »classical liberal« shamefuly missed his public lecture 12 principles for the conservatism of the 21-century in which he contends that he is »not making a case for conservatism - I'm not here to make a political case, right, - I'm here to make a philosophical and psychological case and I think that's what I've been doing all along; it has political implications.«
But making »a philosophical and psychological case« that explicitly espouses a some kind of political philosophy or a doctrine (in this instance conservatism) is the same as making a political case for that political philosophy. You make a political case by (philosophical) reasoning and by including empirical evidence and case studies from relevant disciplines such as social studies and psychology. And that is exactly what Peterson is doing, making a case for conservatism.
»I'm no right-winger,« he announces, regardless of the fact that the first sentence of the definition on the web encyclopedia classifies the right wing of the political spectrum as those doctrines that »hold that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal or desirable« – which is a fundamental idea of Peterson's political stance, expressed in with a biologically-reductionist argumentum ad lobsterum (which was rejected in our previous essay; Peterson's misunderstanding of the evolution and the working of the nervous system was exposed by the biologist PZ Meyers).
In his work How Liberals and Conservatives Think (1996), cognitive linguist Gerog Lakoff distinguishes between »two conceptual metaphors,« namely the nurturant parent model, which is reflected in the political thought of the adherents of more progressive politics, and the strict father model, which is expressed in conservative thinking. Peterson, with his constant stressing of order, discipline and endless instruction and orders (»So, attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them—at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow…«), his twelve rules and his charisma of a leader of a movement definitely puts him more in the conservative spectrum.
According to the tri-axis system of »the language of politics« developed by the scholar Arnold Kling, who argues that progressives libertarians and conservatives all think in their own political language, when they speak of the morally good, correct or desired, Peterson belongs to the conservatve camp. While progressives think along the »the oppressor-oppressed axis,« conservatives are focused on the »civilization-barbarism axis,« which is why they so strongly stress the need for order and see themselves as »defenders of civilization.«
Despite Peterson's public image as a glorious defender of the freedom and the freedom of speech, it is clear that he is merely claiming the freedom for his own conservative speech, which he deems acceptable, this assumption is confirmed by his idea of »nonviolent warfare« against »postmodern Marxists« who have supposedly infiltrated into the »corrupted« departments of the universities, the danger of which he cannot overstate. He also does not seem to mind enforcing monogamy. He vilified the educational institute in Ontario as »fifth column,« and he urged the public that academics and employees working there »should be put on trial for treason.« Hopefully they won’t be judged by Breivik's Justiciar Knight – their judge, jury and executioner. Peterson is also dismissive of the progressive problematization of oppression by normalizing oppression as a inevitable and unchangeable trait of the human world: »society is simultaneously structure and oppression« and also »culture is an oppressive structure. It’s always been that way.« The value of human life is found in pursuing our goals, he says, which results in »inevitable creation of hierarchies of success, while the inevitable consequence is difference in outcome. Absolute equality would therefore require the sacrifice of value itself—and then there would be nothing worth living for.« With his rejection of the idea of the »enforced equality,« as he lambasted the entreaties for lessening inequality, proposed by the left, Peterson is legitimizing the extreme inequality of the capitalist system, in which just a few individuals have more private property and wealth than several billion of the rest of the world’s population, of which millions die every year from undernourishment, lack of access to drinking water and curable diseases, which could be all prevented by a more just distribution of wealth. At the same time Peterson creates a giant straw man, since only rare exceptions if any at all are arguing for »absolute equality«; not even »the old Karl Marx« himself would strive for total equality of outcome, but merely for free access to goods and services for any individual.
Political theorist Ed Rooksby has written about conservatives, who are staunchly opposed to egalitarian ideas, that they »presuppose that when the left talks about equality it means absolute equality of everything. This is a common assumption among those hostile to egalitarianism: that the left want everyone to be exactly the same. No serious political theorist, however, has ever argued for such a self-evidently absurd position. Marx certainly didn't... For the Left equality is a complex idea that has nothing to with caricatures conjured up by the right.«
Peterson, an archnemesis of everything that bears even a faint resemblance to equality, is indeed a great caricaturist when talking about political theory. »These words (particularly together) mean indoctrination,« he scares parents on Twitter »‘diversity’, ‘inclusivity’, ‘white privilege’, ‘gender’ and, above all, and absolutely unforgivably, ‘equity’. Never, ever let teachers talk to your kids about equity.«
One of the rhetorical tricks he also uses is the age-old logical fallacy known as red-baiting or reductio ad Stalinum, originally invented and used on the right pole of the political landscape and perfected in the era of McCarthyism. Instead of demonstrating what exactly is that which is problematic in the Marxist thought, he equates the entirety of Marxist thought with the crimes of Stalin, Mao and other communist dictators. Thus Marxism necessarily leads to mass killings, Peterson argues, since Solzhenitsyn in his work Gulag Arhipelago, meaningfully subtitled as An Experiment in Literary Investigation, has shown »in painstaking detail how these were not aberrations but direct expressions of the underlying communist philosophy.« If the former anti-Marxists like the Polish communist apostate Leszek Kołakowski, were still trying to show and explain in which way Marx's (and Engel’s) theoretical ideas lead to their practical application, our modern anti-Marxist save us all the details. Instead of the necessary reading of Marxist literature, laborious study, argumentation and critical reflection of the idea, which we wish to critically evaluate, for »the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now« it is enough simply to say that »the Marxists aren't just wrong: they're wrong, murderous, and genocidal.« But not only the Marxist, even liberal defenders of political correctness, multiculturalism, feminism, social justice, wage equality, equality of sexes and equality of various races or ethnicities, are murderous, since in virtue of the use of identity politics they are »playing these absolutely insane and I would say bordering on murderous intellectual games.« Which is the same as saying that the afro-american movement for human rights, which abolished racial segregation, is murderous since it was based on identity politics that recognized that one group (Afro-americans) was oppressed by another group (the whites).
Peterson also cannot even know if his political opponents are actually wrong since, in spite of his confident claims that he has studied them for decades, it does not seem that he would really be acquainted with their actual views. The fact is that we cannot find one single title written by a Marxist or other political theorist about Marxism in Peterson's bibliography. Moreover there isn't any title belonging to a »postmodernistic« writer, which he claims to be criticizing. As Shuda Haider noticed, in one of better critiques of Peterson's ignorance of the critiqued authors (the second critique which somewhat informed my writing is Historicizing with a Bulldozer, written by an author under the pseudonym of Tisias) the only relevant quote about postmodernism comes from a highly problematic work Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, which was authored by a Rayndian and libertarian Stephen Hicks who is building a problematic and unverified thesis that postmodernism was born of the wedlock of leftist politics and skeptical epistemology. Hicks's formerly obscure book (now being endorsed by Peterson) that has not been published in any academic publishing houses and on which, especially on the fifth chapter, Peterson is building his argument, much more than he would like to admit, was coldly rejected by E. Lorkovic in Philosophy in Review, since Hicks, »instead of taking postmodernism seriously and analyzing it carefully on its terms, […] oversimplifies and trivializes it, seemingly in order to justify his own prejudice against postmodernism.«.
The same can be said for Peterson who is also prejudiced against the authors he is criticizing, for example when he falsely thinks that »Marx attempted to reduce history and society to economics, considering culture the oppression of the poor by the rich.« Marx and Marxism both have little to do with the struggle between the rich and the poor, but about the class struggle between the capitalist class and proletarian class – what distinguishes the first from the second is the ownership of the means of production (factories, industrial machines, raw materials, natural resources) and not possession of money or personal property as such. The recurrent objection about Marx's economic reductionism has long been answered by his colleague Engels: »According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. Other than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase.«
But Peterson's ignorance is most clearly shown in all its misery when he opines that »the socialists were more intrinsically capitalist than the capitalists. They believed just as strongly in money. They just thought that if different people had the money, the problems plaguing humanity would vanish.« Socialists were actually capitalists, industrial magnates and factory owners? Because they believed in money? Capitalist is someone who believes in money? This is just ignorant. Even a quick glance at the lexical term »socialism« exposes the bizarre statements that the intellectual giant Peterson is making; even a basic definition states that socialism is »a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.«
Beside Peterson's very own way of writing about Marxism, his syncretistic merging of Marxism with postmodernism is also very problematic. Marxism is in its essence a modernist theory that explains the social reality by the use of a meta-narrative (historical materialism, theory of class conflict), while a pervasive trait of postmodernism as defined by Lyotard, is »incredulity toward meta-narratives.« Postmodernists are ardent critics of (neo-)Marxism and vice versa. Last but not least, Marxists see postmodernism as a form of liberalism )cf. Terry Eagleton, Ideology: An Introduction, 1991) and, as the title of the famous work of Fredric Jameson is called, as a »cultural logic of late capitalism.«
After the publication of Gulag Archipelago, as Peterson naively suggests, »no one could ever say again, what Stalin did, that was not true communism.« Of course many leftist and communist authors before him have vigorously and unequivocally condemned the Soviet type authoritarianism and repression that are opposed to the ideas of libertarian socialism. Among other ideas, they rejected Lenin's problematic idea of the vanguard party, which he has taken over from the »pope of Marxism« Klaus Kautsky, they also rejected democratic centralism, authoritarianism and the understanding of the Soviet Union as a socialist or communist society. Anarcho-communist Emma Goldman has, in the year of 1935, critically labeled the Soviet Union as »an absolute despotism politically and the crassest form of state capitalism economically,« and even Lenin himself admitted that the Soviet Union is »a state capitalism [which] differs essentially from the state capitalism in countries that have bourgeois governments in the sense that the state with us is represented not by the bourgeoisie, but by the proletariat.« The proletariat has never been at the head of the state, as anarchist Alexander Berkman noted, because the Soviet Union was nothing more than a »dictatorship of the inner circle of the Communist Party«. Even Leon Trocki condemned the Soviet Union in the era of Stalinism as »degenerated workers state under the dictatorship of the bureaucracy.« And Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas developed the »New Class« theory, to describe how in socialist countries the leadership of the party became the new ruling class.
Peterson's insistence about the instant moral decay of communism simply does not match historical facts. Even in the eighties communist parties in some of the western European countries, most notably in France and Italy, have achieved extraordinary parliamentary successes, and nowadays in many Western countries socialism is becoming more popular than capitalism, which is probably one of the causes we are seeing an increased revival of anti-socialist rhetoric. Numerous Marxist intellectuals, have, precisely because of their disillusionment of the authoritarian aspects of the Soviet Union (especially due to Soviet crushdown of the Prague Spring 1986), moved away from Marxism-Leninism and started to take on democratic principles of operation, which was termed »Eurocommunism«. After the Prague Spring movements such as libertarian Marxism (Daniel Guérin) and other currents of libertarian socialism (operaism, autonomism, communalism) thrived under the influence of the anarchist thought, and in the humanities were established new trends and approaches such as analytical Marxism (Cohen, Roemer), political Marxism (Brenner, Wood), structural Marxism (Althusser, Poulantzas), cultural materialism (Williams) and last but not least humanist Marxism, where we can also categorize the Yugoslav philosophical school Praxis. All of the various shades of a very diversed, original and fruitful Marxist and neo-Marxist thought are lost in the red paralysis of Peterson's scaremongering.
The crown argument of the red bait fisherman is as follows: »Ideas Have Consequences,« and since Stalin, Mao and the Khmer rogue are criminals, who in the name of some Marxist ideas committed crimes, the whole of Marxism is to be seen as criminal as a whole. Bernard Schiff, a former mentor and a friend, warned us of Peterson's transformation into a authoritarian demagogue, since he »frightens by invoking murderous bogeymen on the left and warning they are out to destroy the social order, which will bring chaos and destruction.« Schiff, writing about Peterson's demonization of Marxism, concisely asserted that »Calling Marxism, a respectable political and philosophical tradition, ‘murderous’ conflates it with the perversion of those ideas in Stalinist Russia and elsewhere where they were. That is like calling Christianity a murderous ideology because of the blood that was shed in its name during the Inquisition, the Crusades and the great wars of Europe. That is ridiculous.«
Following Peterson's motto »Ideas Have Consequences consistently,« we have to proclaim the whole of Western civilization as ideologically murderous since millions of innocent people have been murdered in its name. Which is of course a senseless point of view to which Peterson is vehemently opposed to. If someone commits an evil act invoking equality, freedom peace or democracy, let’s say for example murders someone, it does not follow that we must renounce the idea in toto, as long the idea itself does not contain or implies the evil action. Only in a paranoid imagination can a sympathetic call to a greater equality and social justice, become identical to a call to genocide. For Peterson, who is blindfoledly sliding down the slippery slopes of his argumentation, the feminist belief about the right to equal pay for both sexes boils down to »the murderous equity doctrine.« The same goes for the of transgender rights movement that is trying to protect one of the most vulnerable groups from discrimination and deadly violence – for Peterson such a struggle is indistinguishable to »Mao's murderous politics«.
As Peterson correctly notes, Christianity »made explicit the surprising claim that even the lowliest person had rights, genuine rights« and that »a revolutionary critique of everything slave-owning societies valued was necessary before the practice could be even questioned, let alone halted« (let us mention that the Marxist theory is, as stated by Marx, first and foremost die rücksichtslose Kritik alles Bestehenden, »ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.«). And yet Peterson, deeply immersed in the Christian imaginary and »pseudotheology« is unable to recognize that Christians were also »social justice warriors«, instructed by their holy book that they are bound to »rescue everyone who has suffered from injustice« (Jr 22: 3), »defend those who are helpless and have no hope«; »be fair and give justice to the poor and homeless« (Pr 31: 8-9); »be fair to the poor and to orphans. Defend the helpless and everyone in need« (Ps 82: 3-4); and that »you insult your Creator […] if you mistreat the poor« (Pr 14: 31), which is precisely why the Christian criticism of Peterson's self-indulgent appropriation of Christianity that rejects the Christian social teaching, was formed.
Following the footsteps of the hyper-suspicious Nietzsche, anti-egalitarian Peterson decries such social efforts as »ressentiment«; (Nietzsche used a French term to denote a envious grudge of the less successful, the poo and the weak towards the strong and the mighty; resentment that the weak hide by »shroud[ing] themselves in words of virtue.« Peterson was, as he writes in his Maps of Meaning, in his youth inclined towards socialism, but after reading Orwell's The Road to Wigan, he definitely realized that »[socialist] ideology served to mask resentment and hatred, bred by failure«. In 12 rules for life Peterson reiterates this belief stating that »[socialist] thinking found its motivation in hatred of the rich and successful, instead of true regard for the poor,« and then he makes an populistic generalization saying that »things in the unconscious—or on the social justice–dispensing leftist front—haven’t changed much, today.«
Perhaps we can find, as Peterson presupposes, among the numbers of activists for social justice a large amount of those who »frequently did not like the poor, as they claimed. Instead, they just hated the rich.« Maybe many of social justice warriors »disguised their resentment and jealousy with piety, sanctimony and self-righteousness,« but, as Orwell warns his readers in the very work that supposedly turned Peterson away from socialism: »To recoil from Socialism because so many individual Socialists are inferior people is as absurd as refusing to travel by train because you dislike the ticket-collector’s face.« The fact that social justice is also argued for by angry, screaming, infantile, rash, dogmatic and emotionally unstable activists, who accidentally find themselves in the role of the main protagonist of the popular genre the so called rekt feminist, does not mean that the entire ideas of social justice, equality and freedom are bankrupt.
Argumentum ad ressentimentum, which Peterson uses to reject socialist and progressive efforts and ideas is just as powerful as the argument of a defender of pedophilia, who accuses you that your motive for opposing pedophilia is the resentment and grudge towards him, a successful entrepreneur can afford to rape children in Thailand, which you, who are not so financially successful cannot do. Any objection, that this is not your desire in the first place is of course irrelevant since your ressentiment is clearly active on the domain of your subconscious.
Appealing to a motive is a logical fallacy, since, as one of the most prominent academics in the field of argumentation, Douglas Walton writes in his study Ad Hominem Arguments (1998), »the individual motives of a writer are altogether irrelevant in determining the logical force of his argument, that is, whether certain premises are or are not sufficient to demonstrate a conclusion. If the premises are sufficient, they are so no matter by whom stated,« or what is the purpose behind the statement. With a fallacy of appealing to the motive, Peterson is trying to insinuate that his political adversaries cannot really be trusted because they have a hidden agenda, »a Postmodernist agenda.«
Since in most cases we cannot really know the hidden motives of other people, Peterson, as he admits, uses the Jungian psychologistic speculation: »if you cannot understand why someone did something, look at the consequences—and infer the motivation.« And since the consequences of the actions of political movements on the (moderate) right, pro-capitalist, conservately-liberal side of the political spectrum, where Peterson puts himself, are destruction of the environment, imperialist wars and as their consequences, millions of dead children due to lack of basic necessities etc, it follows that the motive that can be recognized from his politics and those on the political center and the right is that they do not care about people, freedom or justice, but that they hate the individual and the humanity at large and wish to enslave or destroy them.
A further study of the hidden motives of Peterson who has, as he reveals in his Freudish slip, »found out how to monetize social justice warriors«, leads us to conclude that this is his real purpose and that he is opposed to the implementation of equality since he is himself privileged and thus unequal and would, by reducing the wealth inequality, loose a large part of his privileges. But even if this is true, this does not refute his outlandish claims; they can only be refuted by a critical analysis, that actually shows what is wrong with the claims themselves, namely how and why they are weak, faulty, invalid and logically fallacious.
Signs of the coming times
Jordan Peterson is surely not a fascist, a neonazi and alt-righter or a radical right-winger, as some of the critics accuse him of. He is also not a »classical liberal« as he labels himself. But as he presents himself and his right leaning conservative views as the accepted normative for the political centre, it makes it easier for him to depict his political adversaries, from progressive liberals to democratic socialists, that fully act inside the frames of parliamentary democracy, as a crazed radical misanthropic defenders of gulags and political persecution. Peterson is, (this is not an accusation nor argumentum ad hominem, but a mark of his political beliefs) – a conservative. He is also a charismatic orator that speaks of dialogue but at the same time he is also selling the conspiracy theory of »cultural Marxism« and demonizes his adversaries on the left part of the political map as murderous and genocidal. He is a fighter for a freedom of speech although he demands a complete censorship of some of the university programmes, elimination of the educational institutions and wants to put his academic colleagues on trial for their enforcement of the so called »postmodern agenda«. He is an apologist of the Christian religion, but he also denigrates the progressive movements and the idea of social justice, which is at the very core of the Christian teaching.
But, what is even more alarming and reveals the hidden state of the Western public and intellectual space, is the immense popularity of this supposedly »the most influential public intellectual«, who, as soon as he steps out of his discipline, falls into a pretentious sham and »therrorizing« about the things which he is only loosely acquainted with. The Peterson phenomenon exposes the pathological nature of the western intellectual culture: if a conspiracy theory, propagated by the most intolerant political option, can become a part of the mainstream and if this theory cannot be rejected, since the only people who have the required knowledge to do so are themselves seen as the conspirators by the public eye, then we have crated a dangerous rift between the scientific knowledge and the public opinion. Criticism and intelligence thus become internal enemies of the community which is dangerously drifting into anti-intellectualism and tyranny. This is not only a direct threat for the politically persecuted left, but also for the liberal center and, of course, for the people in general. The ensemble playing at the wedding of the conservative and the radical right, that both see the origins of the disease in the non-existent conspiracies of the left, is also playing the funeral march for the death of democracy.