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More Thoughts on the Snake Oil Salesman du jour, Jordan Peterson: 1

June 2, 2018 25 comments

A few months ago, I wrote an initial assessment of the latest “public intellectual” to “challenge” the SJW-ization of North America. In that post, I had pointed out a major reason behind the growing public popularity of Jordan Peterson was that pretty much every single person in his position, specifically “public intellectuals”, had stopped questioning SJW dogma because of the fear of resulting social, career and reputational damage. In other words, the major reason for Jordan Peterson’s growing fame is that he has no real competition for the audience to whom he was selling his brand of snake oil.

But before we go further, let us clear about a couple of things. I detest SJWs, current strains of “Feminism”, classical LIEberalism, LIEbertarianism with the same intensity as CONservatives, Religious Nutcases and Cultists. In my opinion, anybody who is trying to force their ideology upon you does not have your best interests in mind- to put it mildly. Furthermore anybody trying to sell you a ‘theory of everything’ based on rhetoric, lies and manipulation is a fraud- regardless of the ‘credentials’ of such a person or ‘reputation’ of the institution they hail from.

Secondly, I do not care about how good an ideology sounds in theory because that often no relation to reality. It is, for example, trivial to develop a geocentric model of the solar system that is accurate enough to explain the motion of the sun, moon and planets visible to the naked eyes. Indeed, the two thousand-year old Antikythera mechanism is quite capable of modeling the motion of those objects even though it is based on a geocentric model of the universe. To put it another way, a theory or model which can explain a few things can still be often totally wrong.

And this brings me why I said that Jordan Peterson was merely the latest “public intellectual” to “challenge” the growing SJW-ization of North American society. In case you are still wondering, I do not believe he is an intellectual or that he is really challenging the SJW-ization of society. So, let me start by first addressing the reasons why I do not consider him an intellectual. Some might say that he is clever, well spoken and intelligent and you know what.. he is a decent public speaker and self-promoter who saw a niche that others were too afraid to exploit.

Being clever and intelligent does, however, make you an intellectual. The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, was also a clever and charismatic con man who was able to found a cult.. I mean ‘religious order’ which continues to this day. The same can be said about people like L. Ron Hubbard, Sathya Sai Baba and number of other people who started ‘religious orders’ within the last hundred years. One can also make the point that every single religion and secular religion throughout human history was founded by one, or more, clever con man or woman.

The real question, in my opinion, is whether an ideology benefits followers and believers as much (or more) than the founder and the high priest of that ideology. In case you are wondering, the vast majority of cults, traditional and secular religions tend to disproportionately benefit their founders and high priests at the expense of followers. For example, the founder of Mormonism and his close confidants benefited far more from Mormonism than the average follower. In contrast, the scientists who pushed for acceptance of the germ theory of infectious diseases benefited their followers (and the rest of humanity) far more than themselves.

So, why do I see what Jordan Peterson is pushing as the pseudo-intellectual equivalent of snake oil. Well.. there are many reasons, but let us start by talking about why I chose to compare him with a snake oil salesman of yesteryears. For starters, snake oil salesmen did not for the most part sell snake oil. Instead, they usually sold patent medicines which were usually just liqueurs containing opium (later morphine), cannabis and cocaine. What makes the people who sold and shilled for them interesting is that the snake oil salesman as well as demand for their products was largely a product of the socio-economic changes of the 19th century.

It is common knowledge that the second stage of the industrial revolution (1850s onwards) allowed the mass manufacture of bottles and the various “medicinal” liquids they were filled with. What is less well-known, is the fact that the main reason people bought patent medicines in that era had a lot to do with the socio-economic dislocations and hardships caused by capitalism. To put it another way, people bought liqueurs with opium, cannabis and cocaine because their lives had become so precarious and shitty. Furthermore, getting high by taking a “medicine” was seen as far more respectable than smoking opium or cannabis.

The neo-traditionalist snake oil that Jordan Peterson is now selling is popular largely because it allows the true believers and followers (almost exclusively young white men) to dissociate from the admittedly shitty reality of living in the second decade of the 21st century. So how does the snake oil that Peterson sells differ from somewhat similar but older products sold by various evangelical and baptist preachers? Well.. for one, it comes inside the bottle of secular authority letting the buyer feel superior to those rubes who buy one that comes in the largely discredited bottles of traditional religious authority.

It also helps that the purveyor of said product can speak in a much more intelligent seeming manner, as compared to those who sell the more traditional form of that product. You might have noticed that Jordan Peterson is careful to avoid challenging any of the central tenets of modern Feminism, even the ones that are well.. nuts. Sure, he pokes the dragon a little (to establish cred with followers), but never enough to evoke a lot of reaction and shut down his little business. Then again, you cannot blame the guy for identifying and exploiting a virgin market to sell his version of snake oil. He, like previous generations of snake oil salesmen, is simply serving a new and under-served market.

In the next part of this short series, I will explain in some detail (and with examples) why the stuff that Jordan Peterson is selling is close to useless.. except perhaps to make believers feel better about themselves for a short time. I will also talk about how the ideas and beliefs he is pushing are setting up his followers for failure and disappointment.

What do you think? Comments?