The pale stale male revolt, Laurel/Yanni, the crucial ingredient for Trumpism, why Jordan Peterson is winning and maybe, just maybe we should get Roseanne her show back

By   /   June 3, 2018  /   22 Comments

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Resentment and backlash from men barley coping with  their own amputated emotional range is why he has surged in online popularity. Peterson is not winning because of any universal truth revelations, he’s winning because broken men are so desperate for a way to feel good about themselves that being told to stand tall, clean their rooms and the intricacies of Lobster DNA look palatable.

I’m not proud of this.

But I have a secret guilty pleasure.

Jordan Peterson.

Not his conclusions mind you, they are unquestioningly false (I’ll explain why later in this blog), it’s who Jordan enrages that makes me laugh.

Don’t get me wrong, for all those who see Peterson as the messiah, I think he has some great thoughts and is interesting and I enjoy his style of process, but his entire philosophical framework falls over so quickly it’s surprising he’s still getting the level of media attention online that he does, but what I love about Peterson is that he annoys people I don’t particularly tend to like.

It’s not that Peterson has stumbled upon great truths in the human psyche, it’s that he provokes such blind rage in people who seem very certain of their own intellectual superiority which only ends up serving to alert everyone else to their mediocrity whenever they stumble against him in an argument.

Finding glee in winding people up who you don’t like much is the secret ingredient in the cultural cocktail that is Trumpism.

90% resentment mixed with 10% self loathing, Trump supporters don’t care that Trump’s bloated narcissism poses an existential crisis to the American people, it’s that he annoys liberals, artists and actors who they’ve spent a life time resenting and being talked down to.

Trump is in the 40s in terms of approval ratings in America, that means despite the hate and venom Trump has spat, his base still love him because their resentment towards the liberals he enrages is greater than their disgust at Trump himself.

The politics of resentment is a cultural reality, and I suspect that much of it has been driven by the unprecedented power of internet communication.

Social media is one of the great two edged swords of our time.

On one side, voices that had been silent due to corporate gatekeepers now have power and platform, on the other side we now know what the ‘other’ truly thinks of us.

The great French Existential Philosopher, Sartre, said ‘Hell is other people’.

That needs updating.

Hell is other people’s twitter feeds.

Before social media, the only opportunity to engage with the ‘other’ in politics was letters to the editor, talkback radio or at political events or rallies, in those environments the debate stayed within certain parameters, in social media there are no parameters. We micro aggression police each other ruthlessly on media networks  that are algorithmically fuelled by outrage and social media pile ons. The insults are taken personally, grudges built and subjective evidence gathered from a cacophony of voices screaming into the void which replaces our public broadcasting town squares.

The reason why the whole ‘do you hear Laurel/Yanni’ aural experiment scared so many is the certainty with which we all felt at hearing what answer we heard. The vast majority of meaning in communication is taken from the tone, and in the social media world we all live in now you lose tone and the ease with which to misinterpret and lash out when we are so convinced of our righteousness means we have communication networks that do everything except communicate.

Identity politics has gone full circle when white men now feel like they are a minority. Recently some stale pale males have come out in their NZ newspaper columns complaining that white men are under attack.

Karl Du Fresne & Martin Van Beynen are of course right, it’s hard being a heteronormative white cis-male these days. The pile ons, the constant attacks & blame for every perceivable injustice within  society, the hashtag death of due process and a new evidential threshold of mere accusation that would make the Salam witch trials look judicious means that it feels like white men are always under attack, which is funny because do you know what that feeling is like fellow white men?

It feels like what women, PoC & queer have to put up with all the time.

Being made to feel uncomfortable as heteronormative cis-males is a reminder to the constant wall of criticism many others have to walk every day and we should let that discomfort humanise us rather than divide us but that’s a difficult emotional step to take when you are constantly accused of a privilege you barely notice.

When you consider the horrific male suicide stats, worst mental health outcomes, educational low achievement, emotional damage, lower life expectancy, substance abuse and worst health outcomes up against getting paid 12% more through the gender pay gap, the privilege concept looks less and  less privileged to those told they have it.

Toxic masculinity has left men broken with no socially acceptable forms of emotional support other than alcoholism, sport and suicide, THIS is why Jordan Peterson is winning.

Resentment and backlash from men barley coping with  their own amputated emotional range is why he has surged in online popularity. Peterson is not winning because of any universal truth revelations, he’s winning because broken men are so desperate for a way to feel good about themselves that being told to stand tall, clean their rooms and the intricacies of Lobster DNA look palatable.

Evolution and society aren’t the same. Peterson can talk about evolutionary hierarchy and how it’s powerful and I agree with him, but that doesn’t justify unjust hierarchy in culture. We don’t have any impact over evolution, but we sure as hell have power over our cultures.

If society has created hegemony that denies agency to all, then we the people have to change that hegemony because we hold those truths of the importance of the individual to be self evident. Peterson glosses over all this with his assurances that all we need is equality of opportunity and that we should never look at the equality of outcomes –  which is just absurd.

Unfair and unjust hegemony doesn’t want you to look at the equality of outcomes because those results demand change, but this isn’t about rational evaluations of philosophical platforms, this is about hurt men seeking identity at a time when their identity is being challenged endlessly on social media platforms fuelled algorithmically by personally subjective outrage.

So what do we do?

I think an enormous dollop of kindness, empathy and dare I say it, forgiveness is needed by progressives.

We on the Left are great at hunting traitors, the Right are great at finding recruits. I think we spend too much time in progressive politics trying to be right rather than trying to be effective and that the flags of identity politics are threatening to undermine solidarity to the point we can’t bring a majority with us.

Screaming ‘I’m different and you’re wrong’ isn’t much of a hearts and minds campaign which is why I think liberals should give Roseanne her TV show back.

I know, I just went there.

If we acknowledge the current discourse of anger and social media pile ons is probably pushing people apart and not bringing them together, then perhaps liberals in America campaigning to bring back Roseanne could be a way of trying to be more forgiving and kind to those who fuck up rather than feeding the resentment?

I acknowledge I say that as a white heteronormative cis-male who has never lived under the shadow of the grotesque racial insult she tweeted out at 2am in the morning. That legacy and the hurt it brings is something I can read about, listen to, sympathise with but never fully understand, so some might argue my desire to forgive Roseanne is ridiculous because I will never understand the hurt her thoughtless words created.

And that’s valid.

Recently I opined that I thought it was inane to attack a Pakeha pack rape survivor for getting a moko as a cultural appropriator because I believed the unique set of circumstances in that example didn’t make it a case of white middle class girls wearing Native American headdresses at a boutique music festival.

But, as many Māori woman rightly pointed out to me, it’s their views on this that are paramount, not mine, and I accept that, so any attempt to offer forgive Roseanne would need African-American agreement first because what she said impacted them.

But I think it’s something worthwhile for liberals to explore.


Because Roseanne as a show is worth saving. I know it’s not popular to point out now after her Trump support, but her show was the first mainstream TV show to explore issues like periods, working class issues and class injustice, It is worth redemption.

It’s also a show that is incredibly popular with the very people who feel culturally ostracised so to forgive Roseanne, to help her get her show back and to call on her to do better would do more to build the bridges we so urgently need now.

The Left are excellent at pointing out what’s wrong but we are hopeless at forgiving and offering redemption for those that do the wrong. If our goal is to exclude everyone who doesn’t agree with us, we can’t gain the mandate to implement the change we all desperately want.


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  1. Christine says:

    Sartre’s “Hell is other people,” is from Huis Clos, which I saw well performed at Cant Uni decades ago. Sartre is talking literally; he portrays hell as three people being locked together in a room for eternity, in this case I think an immoral socialite, a gay man, a philandering male – the hell is that these three persons have to tolerate each other’s conversation for ever and ever with no escape.

    So Sartre may not need updating, maybe other people’s twitter feeds do a similar sort of job – but at least they can be escaped from, unlike Sartre’s hell, which should be enough to keep anyone on the strait and narrow.

    I am not sure that the left are worse than the right at forgiving and forgetting either – my far right relatives put elephants’ memories to shame – all extremes are usually bad news.

  2. Worthy of consideration …

    The thing about the ‘Roseanne’ show is; does it question and explore the rationale behind resentment from Trump-supporters? Or merely validate and fuel it?

    If the former, it’s intrinsic value would merit preservation and encouragement.

    If the latter…

    If Trump is a symptom of what ails Working Class America, does ‘Roseanne’ look at the root-causes of the disease? Or does it exacerbate it?

    For example, Trump stood on a Republican ticket. Yet, it was Reagan’s Republican Party that implemented many of the free market policies that ultimately shafted the Working Classes and hollowed out the Middle.

    How would ‘Roseanne’ address that contradiction in US politics?

    Because blaming immigrants (who don’t vote) for something US voters did to themelves hardly seems productive.

    Just thinking out loud…

  3. LOLBAGZ says:

    You’re wrong. We don’t have any impact on evolution, with society and culture? They’re chinese-walled? Nonsense, they are cofactors and culture is the socially operative catalyst for the genetics. And as for the highest mercies for Roseanne, what if someone else deserves a chance? Personally I’ve heard enough of her for good. Don’t make a fool of yourself being kind to someone who isn’t.

  4. J S Bark J S Bark says:

    The Great Way is not difficult for those who do not pick and choose.

    When preferences are cast aside the Way stands clear and undisguised.

    But even slight distinctions made set earth and heaven far apart.

    If you would clearly see the truth, discard opinions pro and con.

    To founder in dislike and like is nothing but the mind’s disease.

    Sengcan – 3rd Zen Patriarch

  5. Olwyn says:

    I do not wholly agree with Peterson, as he is economically rather to the right of me, but I do think he has a place in the conversation, and I admire him for forcing his way into the increasingly scripted dialogue that public discourse has become. It was great fun watching him challenging Cathy Newman’s assumptions on the BBC.

    As to the “equality of opportunities/equality of outcomes” bit, I do not think that favouring the former brings his entire philosophical framework down, it simply points to his position in relation to a false dichotomy. And this false dichotomy, along with the concept of “choice” plays a big part in why it is so hard to get the middle class liberal left and the working class back onto the same page.

    What we should be aiming for at base is not so much equality as substantive human rights – the right to secure housing and to earn an adequate living – in short, the preconditions for a modestly flourishing life as a bottom line. However, to achieve that, a degree of authoritarianism is needed, to keep the capitalists’ hands off the relevant resources. This does not necessarily mean the abandonment of feminism, gay rights, racial equality etc., but the capitalists pretend it does – that their freedom to exploit equates in some way with personal freedoms. And it is all too easy to half belief them if you yourself are materially doing OK, but are open to feeling threatened on the personal freedom front. To reconnect these two branches of the left, we need to get past the either/or of personal freedom or basic material security.

  6. Johnnybg says:

    The French writer Baudelaire was once seen with a lobster on a leash in the park. A passerby asked him why he was walking a lobster & not a dog & his reply was ‘it doesn’t bark & it knows the secrets of the deep’. Well as I see it there is a lot of lame arse barking going on today & very little understanding of the secrets of the deep or what makes us humans tick. We live in increasingly intellectually lazy & superficial times; so it’s not surprising when a well read & knowledgeable guy like Peterson raises his head above the parapet & challenges the shallow combativeness all around us, he finds himself in the firing line. The deep is where you have to go if you truly want too ‘know thyself’ & it can be a terrifying place to swim around in, but as Kierkegaard said life is ‘sickness unto death’. Mastering this sickness & navigating the unknowns within & without us are the everyday battles each & everyone of us must face. Being honest with & accepting ourselves, warts & all, is an essential part of this ongoing process, & until you can do that what ever you say do in the wider world will not authentic. This is why the great explorers of inner space like Nietzsche, who incidentally wrote a lot about resentment, are still relevant today. To realise a dream or effect real change you must live out in mind body & soul what you believe in, either as best you can on your own or in concert with others. This word & deed existence takes real courage, what’s not courageous is throwing around such words racist, sexist, fascist etc without taking the time to explore & really understand the origins & true meanings of such terms. Many authoritarian individuals & identity politic groups who exhibit such behaviour seem to be driven by such things as guilt, self hate, envy, victim mentality & ideological possession. I think what’s refreshing about Peterson is that he is saying that delving a little deeper into ourselves, learning from the greats, & being an unconventional, challenging & broad minded individual is to be embraced

  7. tibbles says:

    Correction, wasn’t Baudelaire but French poet Gerard De Nerval who walked lobsters.

  8. Nick J says:

    I discovered Peterson’s “Maps of Meaning” long before he objected to authoritarian legislation and became infamous for what is a very principled stance. He is far more subtle and intricate than Bomber would have us believe, and I doubt he would take any joy in annoying people who Bomber thinks it good sport to do so.

    I think the case that he represents heteronormative cis males is a miserable indictment of the thinking and facile ideology of the extreme Left who lingually dominate discourse through labelling. Quite frankly to call me a moniker like heteronormative cis without my consent I find rather high and mighty, then to attribute me to an identity…well we know where that path leads to, knocks on the door at night. And to justify this by saying that “this is how it feels” is quite frankly an invitation to retributive ideologies. I’m a kulak, a running dog roader, bourgeois, whatever, it’s my fault. Peterson quite rightly points out the result of this train of thought, countless millions dead.

    Of course the argument is “you dominate the hierarchy”, well hell, do all we white males? Do you really think that we do? Can others break into / change this hierarchy? I’d suggest look at the record, it’s happening. There are far bigger questions here about the nature of hierarchical structures and their relationship to our society than just demonizing the current incumbents. Peterson doesn’t say don’t change things, he advises caution and a realistic appraisal, is that so wrong?

    I like what Olwyn says about the equality of opportunity / outcome nexus, that it is not simple. I am in total agreement with Peterson that equality of outcome is a Utopian idea. Where it has been attempted we have seen incredible misery and death tolls, and failure. History is not judgemental, that’s for you and I to observe and decide. My reading on Stalin over 40 years lead me to conclude that he was a true believer in a Utopian outcome, as were his coterie of lieutenants. They all happily signed death warrants for millions of labelled enemies of their ideal. Identity politics, pure and simple.

    There’s another bit Peterson emphasises. The biology of behavior, gender differences and intelligence. Years of empirical documented, peer reviewed, and agreed observation. Fact aka the way things are as opposed to how we want them to be. These things will conspire against equality of outcome, as will chance. Peterson doesn’t go down this path, I have made some conceptual leaps and I’d say its dangerous territory in today’s political climate. So to conclude I like that Olwyn points out acceptable safeguards around rights etc as preferred to equality of outcome.

  9. e-clectic says:

    So, not just talk about being inclusive but actually be inclusive with others of different opinion? That is radical.

  10. Sanctuary says:

    “…Correction, wasn’t Baudelaire but French poet Gerard De Nerval who walked lobsters…”

    It has got to be said, left wing comments are intellectually a cut above the morons over at the sewers.

  11. Bully Beef and Chips says:

    What the left seemingly fails to grasp is that the appeal of the likes of Peterson does NOT necessitate any radical transformation of political thought.

    The political goalposts have shifted so abruptly in the last couple of years that it is now possible for someone who was rabidly left wing 35 years ago to be considered today a Conservative, without having changed their political views one iota.

    There is little common ground between an old school economically left-wing, socially cautious universalist like Norman Kirk and today’s hyper-identitarian bourgeois Guardian-reading faux-left with their constructed dichotomies, victim narratives and authoritarian suppression of dissent.

    Today’s left increasingly resembles the regressive, sanctimonious moral prudes of the 1970s, calculatedly taking offence for politically-motivated ends, dogmatically demanding state intervention to silence their opponents, while obsessively and excessively indulging in the “shaming” of any transgressors.

    This is where “progressivism” has taken us.

  12. Andy says:

    In Peterson’s Maps of Meaning, he draws upon Taoism, Christianity, Jung, Solzhenitsyn and others to draw out common threads in our psyche and society

    Perhaps he is winning because he is speaking some universal truths

  13. Johnnybg says:

    This may be of interest to those who’re struggling to make sense of the culture war for the soul/s ~ heart/s ~ mind/s of humanity right now.

  14. Andrew says:

    Peterson has a global best seller and you’re a nobody

    Jealousy is a terrible thing.

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