My attention was called to an article printed in the Toronto Star:
“I was Jordan Peterson’s strongest supporter. Now I think he’s dangerous” It was written by (an apparently reformed) friend of his, Bernard Schiff. But this post is not about Jordan Peterson or Schiff’s article about him. It is about assumptions and perceptions.
What I found most objectionable is the following passage:
“Following his opposition to Bill C-16, Jordan again sought to establish himself as a “warrior” and attacked identity politics and political correctness as threats to free speech. He characterized them as left-wing conspiracies rooted in a “murderous” ideology — Marxism. 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.
In Jordan’s hands, a claim which is merely ridiculous became dangerous. Jordan, our “free speech warrior,” decided to launch a website that listed “postmodern neo-Marxist” professors and “corrupt” academic disciplines, warning students and their parents to avoid them. Those disciplines, postmodern or not, included women’s, ethnic and racial studies. Those “left-wing” professors were trying to “indoctrinate their students into a cult” and, worse, create “anarchical social revolutionaries.” I do think Jordan believes what he says, but it’s not clear from the language he uses whether he is being manipulative and trying to induce fear, or whether he is walking a fine line between concern and paranoia.
His strategy is eerily familiar. In the 1950s a vicious attack on freedom of speech and thought occurred in the United States at the hands of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee. People suspected of having left-wing, “Communist” leanings were blacklisted and silenced.” [all emphasis mine]
Sorry for the long quote, but I wanted to leave it one piece so that the point can be followed from beginning to end. The problem exposed by this post is the echo chamber that academics like Bernard Schiff live in. Every single one of the references made in these three paragraphs are fundamentally wrong.
- Marxism is not respectable;
- communism IS a murderous ideology while Christianity is not;
- the crusades were defensive wars trying to save Eastern Christendom from Muslim conquest;
- The crimes of the inquisition are grossly overstated and cannot even compare to the horrors of communism;
- postmodernist and neo-Marxist professors are clearly labouring on destroying the ideas and principles that made Western civilization successful; and
- Joseph McCarthy actually underestimated the communist infiltration into America.
These are not just allegations. Each of these claims can be supported by strong and reliable evidence. There is nothing paranoid about them. There is no fine line and the only thing that is ridiculous is academia’s refusal to engage the evidence. Scrap that, it is not ridiculous, it is pathetic.
For a present day academic, “calling Marxism, a respectable political and philosophical tradition, “murderous”…” is just absurd. Patently so. It is ridiculous; therefore, it can be dismissed without the need for any discussion. No serious person can argue that it is not so. Later on, Schiff says “I do think Jordan believes what he says” but it’s not clear whether he is lying or just insane.
Well, these are some strongly held (and just a bit confused) beliefs. It makes me wonder if the subject ever came up in their personal conversations.
Luckily, I am not respectable, so I can freely walk the line between concern and paranoia. I can ask what exactly is respectable about Marxism? Its political tradition? That long line of perversions? Communism has been tried many times, each ending in failure with a varying degree of murderousness. According to the black book of communism, this respectable political tradition claimed 100 million lives in the 20th century. How many more need to die before we can legitimately start questioning its respectability?
Even when communists fail, they usher in authoritarian rule.
Dictatorships in Italy, Spain, Germany and Chile all started as communist projects. In all cases, fascism ‘saved’ them from communism. Fascism is just pragmatic communism.
The political tradition of communism does not have a good track record. How about the philosophy?
What is respectable about Marx’s philosophy and its tradition?
His regurgitated Hegelian dialectic? His primitive, histrionic treatment of history? His ridiculously ill-informed, ignorant theories about the economy? His pathetic predictions about the future?
Bhöm-Bawerk and Mises have completely taken apart his economic theories; the first world war repudiated his prophecy about history and his dialectic materialism seems childishly simplistic in the 21st century. A few years ago I wrote a post, “The Greatest Achievement of Karl Marx” making the point that the only achievement of Marx is the fact that we are still talking about him even though he has contributed NOTHING of value to any of his subjects.
As I already said, I am not a respectable person so I can also point out that Karl Marx was not only a rude, arrogant, spiteful and angry man but also a filthy, stinking, disgusting pig. Paul Johnson titled the chapter about him in his book “Intellectuals” “Howling gigantic curses”, which is actually, a quote from an early poem of Marx. He was a hypocrite and a liar; a drunk and a spendthrift; an abusive husband and friend; a combative and obnoxious bully in public life; and I could go on.
The point here is not just the fact that Bernard Schiff does not know this, but the fact he dismisses even the possibility that dissenting opinions may have some validity.
Russian literature, especially Solzhenitsyn, made a strong impression on Jordan Peterson. And so it did on me. The second book I read in French was “The First Circle” and the second book I read in English was “The Gulag Archipelago”. Somehow, I doubt that Professor Schiff read either. You cannot walk away from them untouched. As a former political prisoner in a communist country, I had a special interest in the subject, but anybody should be able to get the idea that something must be wrong with the ideology that stands behind such horrors.
If you understand Marxism, if you understand Marx, you also must understand that the praxis of communism is NEVER the perversion of the ideology, but a more or less perfect manifestation of it. Conflict, intolerance and bloody violence are the essence of communism. NOT unfortunate by-products and definitely NOT an aberration of the ideal.
Vice, inquisition and McCarthy
In the Munk debate about political correctness, when Michelle Goldberg says:
“maybe if women don’t want to be…, don’t want the workplace to be sexualized they shouldn’t be allowed to wear makeup” – Jordan Peterson interjects saying – “I didn’t say that” – to which she replies: “… well, Google it! It was in the VICE interview. Google it!”
Just think for a second about the implications! What is said about you is considered more reliable than what you say yourself. That an edited/redacted version of what you said is considered truer than the actual, full statement and should definitely take precedence over your ‘denial’.
It is fascinating to see communism and the inquisition mentioned in one sentence. I wonder, how many people know that during the three years of the red terror in Spain from 1936-1939, the communists killed more members of the catholic clergy than what was the total number of the victims of the inquisition in 350 years?
But such well documented historical facts would never stop a Marxist professor to use moral equivalence to dismiss criticism of their secular religion.
After the fall of communism, the soviet archives were opened. Joseph McCarthy was fully vindicated by the information they contained. He actually underestimated the infiltration. And the ‘harm’ visited on these communists was never more than professional inconvenience. They lost their jobs which in most cases did not even stop them from working. NOBODY could have survived similar accusations on the other side of the iron curtain. There is no moral equivalence.
The postmodernists and the members of the Frankfurt school are part of the (dis)respectable Marxist tradition. They realized that the Marxist utopia can only come into being if the past is erased. They do not even hide this too much. Whatever happens in the universities today – IN THE NAME OF PROGRESS – perfectly demonstrates that. One must ask how it is possible to dismiss or deny this the way Schiff does in his article?
I am not even sure what Schiff means by calling Marxism ‘…a respectable political and philosophical tradition’. What does he refer to? Just the works of Marx? Or that of Lenin? Trotsky? Gramsci? Che Guevarra? The Frankfurt School? The post-modernists? Picketty? Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders? Or maybe just to the army of delusional arm-chair revolutionaries of the professoriate that he is surrounded with?
I met many respectable Marxists in my life, what I never met was a respectable Marxist idea. A respectable Marxist policy. A respectable Marxist program. A respectable Marxist country.
I like this picture, as it illustrates the point quite well. This are the heroes of Marxists today. Rosa Luxemburg, the terrorist, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, the founder of the Cheka, the predecessor of the NKVD and the KGB. This picture is not an accident and it is not a ‘perversion’. This is what today’s Marxists display as their heroes. Terrorists and mass murderers.
I also like the formulation of Bernard Schiff:
“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.”
I don’t want to ‘conflate’ “This respectable political and philosophical tradition” with anything. I would just love to see it finally die before it has another chance to murder millions and ruin the lives of countless others. Wherever they would.
And now, seriously. If anybody can point me to anything respectable about Marxism, I am here to listen.