Jordan Peterson and the Lollipop Guild

If that is not already the name for some random French-Canadian indie rock band, then that is a shame. Anyway, onto the actual content.

Note: I’ve been trying to suss out what I would say in this piece for quite a while. Though it may look like I’m jumping on the bandwagon of anti-Jordan Peterson content–and, in a way, I am–just know that this post has been sitting in my archives, revised and edited and added to for nearly four months at this point. I simply required a few other hot takes to help me organize my own thoughts, and it just so happens that those hot takes are comin’ at ya now.

You have TJ Kirk who was prompted into writing a book on the subject of disagreeing with Peterson. Hugo and Jake from the Bible Reloaded have discussed Peterson’s questionable track record with transgender pronouns and Bill C16. Matt Dillahunty had a debate with Peterson about religion. And, most interestingly, one of Peterson’s colleagues recently wrote a lengthy article detailing why he thinks Peterson is falling into a dangerous position with his popularity.

Now, I don’t agree with every point made in every one of these examples. Do you trust that I can generally agree with something without finding it 100% perfect? Good.

Those above examples tackle the Jordan Peterson issue from multiple viewpoints. I highly recommend all of them. As you may remember, I do have some fondness for Peterson. I think he was the public figure who best elucidated why the commentary surrounding the American presidential election was such an ethically reprehensible shit show. I still think that. I think his academic work on the rise of authortarianism is very interesting. I don’t absolutely hate the guy. Part of the issue is that his rabid fanboys think I do because I don’t see every single word that falls out of the man’s face as a gospel Truth of the highest order. Had he remained a fringe figure well-like by certain circles on YouTube, I doubt I’d have much of a problem with him. But his shining star has burned bright enough to wear holes through the facade of intellectual excellence he’s been selling.

I am an atheist who did not take very kindly to Peterson pulling the 2004 Christian apologist move of saying, “Atheists who don’t run around acting like psychopaths are actually just Christians, they’re just stupid and confused so they won’t admit it.” I’m also technically a nihilist, so I don’t think his fears of nihilism are founded on much besides cherry-picked philosophical navel gazing. And though the “We already use ‘they’ as a singular pronoun in this one linguistic context totally unrelated to the context you are asking us to use it in now, so checkmate!” argument is stupid as fuck, there is something to be said for flexible language use and the practical purpose of pronouns that Jordan Peterson seems not to want to address.

That’s been talked about, though. For my part, I’m going to point out something that I haven’t seen many people touch on: Peterson’s intellectual influences that he quotes all the time and pulls examples from all the time and espouses the validity of all the time . . . are kind of stupid. And by that, I mean Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud are hacks.


Jordan Peterson confuses me very, very much in this regard. He’s a clinical psychologist who, from what I can see, does generally good work and conducts acceptable and scientifically valid research. His seeming obsession with Freud and Carl Jung as two of the frequently-referenced pillars for his sociopolitical beliefs, then, is the most paradoxical thing I’ve come across in quite some time. I’m not going to pretend to be some expert on the subject, but I do know quite a lot about both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Hopefully, after going into their work more, you can see why it baffles me so much to see a modern-day clinical psychologist quoting Freud and Jung like they’re authorities on anything, let alone men whose advice is warranting of building an entirely new conception of Truth around.

Being important and interesting historical figures in the field is not the same thing as being legitimate sources to choose from in regards to psychological or philosophical argumentation. Peterson is an intelligent man, and he’s very good at making what he says sound intelligent even when it’s really not; and his constant invoking of Freudian and Jungian theories just comes across to me as a smart person taking advantage of the fact that most people don’t know enough about the topics he’s discussing to realize he’s making no sense and quoting people who no one takes seriously outside of philosophical circles.

I want to make that very, very fucking clear, because Peterson never has: Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are not guys you go to for psychology. Their ideas are seen as very interesting philosophical frameworks. As an anecdote: I’ve done most of my readings from Carl Jung under the context of studying classical mythology. I studied Freud in psychology courses as a Significant Figure (TM), not as someone who was right about things. Peterson using his authority to lift his pet-thinkers up as psychological figures to people who don’t know any better annoys me to no end.


Let’s start with Sigmund Freud. He’s a very important guy. He is the founder of psychoanalysis, ie, trying to address mental and behavioral problems through dialogue between therapist and patient that uncovers the psychological underpinnings of one’s actions. For some context, before Freud came along with his (genuinely revolutionary for the time) idea that maybe having conversations about mental states would help mental health, people were still doing things like determining someone’s psychological traits by looking at skull shape.

Freud is one of those founding figures of psychology who–like many founding figures in many fields–was in the right ballpark . . . but not much else. The very generalized, very basic ideas that he pioneered are correct, but acting like he was in any way accurate beyond that point is getting into “Intentionally Misleading” territory. The main issue with most of Freud’s more detailed theories is that they are conveniently unfalisfiable.

“You do X now because Y happened when you were a kid, and you just don’t remember,” or “You do X because you subconsciously want to do Y, and it’s so subconsious that not even you know it.” There’s not much you can do with either of those statements, and that’s what Freud-style psychoanlaysis is. If that seems familiar, it’s because Jordan Peterson uses the same method of unfalsifiable psychoanalysis in his own speeches and claims constantly.

Look no further than his “Feminists who defend Islam are secretly yearning to be brutally dominated by a man.” comment. That’s a very nice example because it also ties perfectly into Freud’s insistence that most anxieties, neuroses, and eccentricities can be tracked back to sexual repression or being stunted during a (totally not accurate to actual human development) stage of psycho-sexual development as a child.

Peterson also takes very generously from Freud’s penis envy idea — that “young girls experience anxiety upon realization that they do not have a penis . . . that is a defining moment in the development of their female sexuality and gender identity.” While that may have been an accurate depiction of the 19th century aristocratic woman’s plight of living in a genuinely patriarchal society that meant her lack of a dick limited her social mobility, it’s been rightfully criticized as a not-at-all-accurate depiction of generalized female psychological development. Peterson’s own views on the importance of well-defined gender roles/societal responsibilities and the ultimate societal harms of androgyny/less defined gendered behavior (up to and including trans people and their pronouns) fits well within the boundaries set up by Freud; Children learn to not only notice the differences between the sexes but see similarity to the other sex as something anxiety inducing. A boy’s realization that girl’s genitals are different is referred to as “castration anxiety” for crying out loud.

If you want more examples of Peterson ripping off Freud’s technique of ascribing motivations where he logically cannot know them, I will gladly send them to you.


Then there’s Carl Jung and his most frequently referenced theory about collective unconscious. AKA the reason Jordan Peterson thinks that everyone with morals is religious and that art cannot exist without religion. To put it very simply: the collective unconscious refers to psychological structures or ideas that are shared among all people (with the more wishy washy point that they have a collective meaning and understanding cross-culturally and between individuals, not just a collective undefined presence in our psyche. Not all Jungian subscribers believe this.). More contentious still is the idea that those structures are ones we as humanity find extremely significant in informing our moral frameworks. That, I believe, is what Peterson is arguing for. This is one of the topics that he’s notoriously vague and word salad-y about.

The key word here is Archetype. A universal symbol that we all have some inherent understanding and connection to the symbolism of. People have used to to explain why most known religions oftentimes have the same character archetypes and stories (the Savior, the Wise Man, the Great Mother, the Great Flood, etc.).

I don’t think I have to go into why this isn’t scientific. This is philosophy if we’ve ever seen it. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that Peterson uses it as fuel for his social commentary on psychological issues. I don’t even get how. He models a huge chunk of his rhetoric after Freud, who was a proponent of the idea that everyone’s unconscious mind and anxiety had some very individualized work put into it; but in the same breath he’ll mention Jung, whose entire shtick was that everyone’s unconscious mind is tapped into this collective where we all get our understanding of human morals and where deviation from those collective archetypal ideas is what causes anxiety. I’m not saying you can’t like both, Jordan, but you have to be better at explaining it, because right now I’m at an utter loss for how you can hold these two theories of where anxiety comes from at once.

 

That discrepancy doesn’t even touch upon his tendency to use the collective conscious to uplift socially traditionalist Christianity as the inexplicable go-to for social order and moral rightness. This confuses me because Jung makes it clear that religions are not the source of these moral archetypes, just a very salient expression of them that happen to hold the social zeitgeist. Peterson himself shows this very clearly with the high regard in which he holds the Pinocchio story and the archetypes found within it. Apparently, Jordan Peterson can find Pinocchio to be morally informative and beautiful, but if an atheist says they get their morals from somewhere other than a religion, they’re just lying or misinformed. Now, if he explained that as “Oh, the moral lessons you like come from the same collective unconscious as religious parables that teach similar moral lessons,” he’d at least be consistent. But he has yet to explicate it that way.

He also seems to have missed Jung’s point about religions not being the only expression of the collective unconscious and that religious stories having those archetypes does not therefore mean that those archetypes are owned by religion or are religious in nature, inherently. This is where I assume his comments about us not having any art without religion come from. I assume. The Blue Fairy from Pinocchio being like an angel does not mean Pinocchio was really a Christian story this whole time. It just means that angels and the Blue Fairy are separate expressions of the same archetype, one in  a religion and one in a fairy tale. That’s the entire point of the collective unconscious as an idea, to show that these values exist within humanity universally.

And Jordan Peterson has somehow managed to obsess over that and yet turn it into the utter antithesis of what it  initially was at the same time. He’s somehow managed to take an already questionable philosophical idea that tried to level the playing field for all stories, religious or otherwise, and turn it into a pitch about how the religion he likes the most should be the one we all look to for moral guidance. What?!

I’m getting worked up. I’m done. Read the article I linked to. It’s really interesting. Good night.

LGBT Muslims and Cognitive Dissonance

I’m responding to a video from MTV News that pretty much came out a millennia ago in internet time. It’s pretty old. It came out two months ago. But I still feel the need to respond to it because it continues to be overwhelmingly relevant to the current conversation and stupifyingly oblivious treatment that the religion of Islam is given. The video is titled What it’s Like Being LGBTQ & Muslim. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m offended that they left out my intersex and asexual brothers in their gay letter pile up. Everybody knows it’s LGBTQIA+ now, guys. Come on. It’s 2016.

What it’s like to be LGBTQ and Muslim, huh? I can only imagine that it’s very interesting. Fucking gay Christians still have to jump through some mental hoops to justify those two conflicting parts of their identity, and (in the US at least) there are relatively few instances of extremist Christians doing anything worse than inconveniencing them. So being LGBT and Muslim has to be extra difficult. The cognitive load these people are under must be immense.

I wake up every morning and wonder “What identity am I gonna be killed for today?”

Seeing as how murderous hate crimes against Muslims are borderline non-existent in the US and Americans on average have a more favorable view of Muslims than Muslims have of Americans, I’m going to go ahead and say the gay thing is probably your best bet as far as ‘what am I gonna get killed over today?’ goes. Especially if you’re living in a religious community. Then again, I’d advise against waking up with 100% that today is the day you’re going to die in a hate crime. That seems a bit overly cynical. Some cognitive therapy might help with that.  

That’s how you’re going to open the video? Really?

You have Donald Trump tweeting “LGBT people, I’m here to protect you,” but at the same time he also says in the same tweet, “We’re gonna protect you from the people trying to kill you.” So one part of me he wasn’t to protect and fight for, but on the other side he wants to ban me.

I don’t want to be a Donald Trump apologist or anything (disclaimer: he is stupid), but he just supported gay rights here. I know this is MTV, the new bastion of leftist social politics, but are you not even going to give the guy credit where credit is due and admit that he said something progressive and supportive of a minority group? No? The guy can do no right, huh?

This is also a fucking retarded statement. Let me get this straight: You identify as an LGBT person, and you also identify as someone who wants to kill LGBT people? No one explicitly said Muslim, here. Not Trump, and not the guy commenting on Trump. In both cases, it’s implicitly acknowledged that people who want to kill [LGBT people] means Islamists. The guy who is arguing against this mentality just went right on to perpetuate that mentality by inherently acknowledging that they’re one in the same thing. He is outright copping to the fact that being Muslim more often than not entails being anti-gay, and he’s still going to complain about what Trump said. No cognitive dissonance here, folks!

This is the equivalent of a gay rights person talking about the struggles they’ve faced in America, with everyone in the audience inherently assuming that they’re talking about fundamentalist Christians even if it’s never explicitly mentioned. And rightfully so. You didn’t see very many Buddhists speaking out against gay rights. The issue here is that the entire point of this video is to say “Muslims didn’t do nuffin,” and in the first ten seconds, one of the people they’re interviewing makes the fundamentalist Muslim/people who don’t like me conflation seemingly without even realizing it.

You fail at your job MTV. You can’t even make propaganda right.

Where does that leave LGBT Muslims?

In a really shitty room full of hoops to jump through, I’d say.

Basically it feels like my identities are being used against each other.

What? Just, what? WHAT. G:IJIODGHSI:OGDIGODJ:FD FDFD:LGK D:F

Fucking shit. This video is going to be the end of me. It is actually going to kill me.

It feels like your identities are being used against each other because you know — you FUCKING KNOW — that the majority of people who follow your religion (yes, even the moderate ones in Western countries we love to bring up) are explicitly opposed to homosexuality. You know this, and you’re just ignoring it. You’re ignoring it in favor of acting like the people who legitimately point out the personal and intellectual dishonesty you’re engaging in are the bad guys.

This is actually making me angry. This is despicable. There are LGBT dying every day in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt because courts majorly influenced by Islamic law say that being gay warrants a death sentence. People are dying. They’re being run out of their homes by their own family members. They’re being sent to prison. They’re being victimized by their government. They’re being forced into unnecessary and unwanted sex change surgeries to “fix” what’s wrong with them. And you are sitting there in a fucking MTV studio in LA or New York or San Fran, some nice, cushy first-world office where you are perfectly safe and supported by everyone around you, complaining about how it just doesn’t make any sense to you why people who care about gay rights are opposed to your religion. And it’s even more disingenuous when you’re probably the same kind of person who chomps at the bit to talk about how badly Christians treat gay people, but all of a sudden when it’s your religion people are rightfully pointing out as regressive and hateful that just doesn’t make any sense.

There are people out there, Muslims and ex-Muslims and every other kind of person, fighting to reform the religion you love so much. They’re fighting to bring Islam into the modern age to protect people like you! And you could help. You could be the change you want to see by being openly LGBT and Muslim and exposing the people of your religion to someone like you so that they realize that you’re just a normal person. You can work towards that reform. But you’re standing there with your head in the sand denying that there’s any problem that needs fixing, denying that there’s any reform that should be done because you have an okay time being gay and Muslim so you just don’t see what the problem is. Tell that to the people in prison right now. Fuck you. Seriously.

This is the equivalent of Alice being punched repeatedly in the face by Bob, but when Charlie comes to tell Bob off for his behavior, Charlie is the one Alice gets pissy with because Bob is an old friend and she doesn’t like people yelling at him, all while her face is swelling up to the size of a watermelon.

We get heckled. We get harassed by the NYPD. Not just as queer people, or people who look different, or gender non-conforming, or trans. But also we get harassed and surveyed because we’re Muslim.

It’s not the world’s job to accept you. If you’re going to walk around wallowing in how different you are, you’re going to have to deal with not everyone accepting you. That’s just how it is. As for the Muslim thing: You choose to be Muslim. Islam is a thing people choose to believe. It is not some inherent part of their identity that they’re born into and can’t change. When you choose to believe something, it is your job to justify that belief, and the negative implication of that belief are the weight that you’ve chosen to bare. This is like a Scientologist getting pissy about how no one trusts them and everyone judges them and thinks they’re crazy. That’s what you deal with when you join a religion infamous for being full of crazy people. And being surveyed by the authorities is what you deal with when you join a religion infamous for inciting criminal behavior. Maybe you should, I don’t know, try to reform that religion so that’s no longer the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear about it. But wait, Muslims didn’t do nuffin. I forgot.

I think the term “radical Islam” is a term that’s overused. But I also feel like it’s a term that can be applied to any religion, any community.

This is the biggest non-argument ever made in defense of Islam. Other things are bad too, guys! Why can’t we just talk about those then? Why are you talking about my bad thing?! Yeah, I know the Salem witch trials happened and killed lots of innocent people and were overtly influenced by Protestant doctrine and religiosity, but look at all the shit Catholics have done! Catholics did bad things, so why are you singling out Protestants? The witch trials had nothing to do with Protestant ideas because other people also did bad things for other reasons, which means talking about religion in this case is pretty much pointless. It had nothing to do with it. You can apply the term “religious fundamentalism” to anything!

Said no one ever because everyone is perfectly fine with talking about the negative effects and implications of a religion as long as it’s not Islam. Islam is fucking sacred and is only responsible for the good things it encourages and has nothing to do with anything bad.

We talk about radical Islam because it is the religion causing the most problems right now. Oh, why don’t we talk about Christians? They don’t like gay people either. Sorry to break it to you, guys, but this is laughable. Out of all the places that have outlawed homosexuality, one of them is Christian (Uganda) and the rest are Muslim. Even though there is some Christianity-fueled anti-gay sentiments left in the US, the West in general seems to have accepted the notion that gay people exist and can do what they want. So a Christian doesn’t bake someone a wedding cake, or the Westboro Baptist Church ruins another beloved celebrity’s funeral. They aren’t hurting anyone. The worst, most damaging things that still happen somewhat frequently are that maybe some Southern Baptist parents kick their gay son out of the house or force him into conversion therapy (which is quickly becoming illegal nation-wide). You can call them assholes all you want, and you would be correct. Those are deplorable things to do. But the instances of that are going down, and it sure as fuck isn’t written into our federal laws that we should kill gay people and even the most fundamentalist Christian in the Bible Belt wouldn’t agree to that, unlike many fundamentalist Muslims who think the death sentences for fags is okay. You are patently ignoring that modern Christian fundamentalism and modern Muslim fundamentalism are too very different things that can’t be conflated with a “but both of them are bad” shoulder shrug.

What do they mean when they say radical Islamism? Who do they mean? They’re using this term to comfort people in America that, “Look, we know what it is. It’s radical Islamism. And we need to kill it. And we need to survey them. And we need to deport them.

You know what we mean, you stupid fucking-

I’m done. We’re pointing out that we know what it is we need to stop because radical Islam turned into a political movement is overtly the thing causing so many problems. What, would you be against us labeling the Nazis as the guys we’re fighting and need to stop? ISIS has control over major states and releases propaganda about how they’re attacking the West because it’s full of sinners. Nah duh we’re identifying that as the problem we’re going up against.

When people use radial Islam, it just feels like the Boogeyman.

Yeah. If the Boogeyman was real and killed hundreds of people a day and indoctrinated them into a radical belief system that glorified above all else dying while fighting the infidels and victimized mainly the other Boogeymen around it for not being “Boogey enough” but has quickly started branching out to kill people en mass in other countries, yeah, it’d be like the Boogeyman then. I see your point.

You realize you would be killed by these people for being a bad Muslim, right? You realize this? You being a Muslim doesn’t protect you from radical Islam anymore than it protected the hundreds of people in the Middle East being subjugated right now.

Being trans-gender in this day and time is rough, especially with everything going on. And being Muslim is also. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Wouldn’t trade it for the world, huh? Let me fly on over to the war-torn deserts of Syria and ask some of those people being terrorized by radical Islamic regimes if they wouldn’t trade it for the world. Let me run on down to the Egyptian prison system and ask the gay man imprisoned for life in barely livable conditions for no other reason than he likes to take dick up his ass sometimes if he wouldn’t trade his situation for the world. Let me ask the gay man in Iran who avoided a prison sentence by being coerced into male-to-female sex change surgery so that his interest in men would be okay if he wouldn’t trade it for the world. Let me ask the woman in Saudi Arabia desperately trying to seek asylum in another country because she’s been accused of adultery but can’t leave because her abusive husband won’t give her her passport if she wouldn’t change it for the world.

This just goes to show how fucking sheltered these people are. They live in the first-world. Nice, Western societies that don’t have to worry about religious insurgent groups, that support their tendency to sit there and navel gaze about their own identity and go on TV to talk about their brainless musings to other people. They have good lives. They wouldn’t change it for the world, because nothing about their life is all that fucking bad no matter how much they insist that they are oppressed.

I want people to recognize that a lot of us live in these intersections that aren’t super clear. Our love lives are really complex, and our family lives are really complex, and our relationship to religion is really complex.

Yeah, I fucking bet it’s complex. I have a complex life too. Balancing my identity as a black woman with my firm belief in Neo-Nazism gets pretty tough sometimes. But I’m complex, and my relationship with my political beliefs is complex. When people point out to me that being a black Neo-Nazi is kind of suicidally stupid and contradictory at the most basic level, that’s just a sign of them not getting it. Neo-Nazis are a fine group that haven’t done anything to warrant that totally false negative judgement. I keep trying to explain this to people, and it never works. That’s the cross I bare, I guess.

I hope that after this tragedy we have a more meaningful conversation about how we can more forward, not just as separate communities but as people who live in this country, as people who want the best for humanity.

Meaningful conversations! Like when we totally avoid the elephant in the room about how modern Islam is overtly and oftentimes violently anti-gay and then go on to make a two minute long video about how we just don’t get why anti-gay and Muslim are conflated so often. Logic.

Herp de derp.