Jordan Peterson

The War for Free Speech

A few months ago, the tech giants came for Alex Jones. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube simultaneously decided that he was peddling hate speech and that it was time for him to go. Twitter sort of danced a bit. First he was gone and then he was back, but in the end, Jones’s account had to die. He was the first casualty in what seems to have morphed into a mass banning effort that has started further to the outskirts of the right and is creeping ever more steadily towards the center.

The Intellectual Dark Web

Last week, Sam Harris hosted Ben Shapiro and Eric Weinstein at a live event. All three of them are always interesting, have something of value to say, and I listen to all of them regularly. Towards the end of the evening, Weinstein cleverly coined the term “intellectual dark web,” which I expect is going to really take off this year. He was referring to the alternative media, the media that is actually having a conversation about issues that people care about, and is doing so in a way that is so interesting and thought-provoking that it can’t help but draw in any rational ears thirsting for a return to times when we can sit down and have an honest conversation again.

I was heartened this morning when a liberal friend of mine posted the single most rational thing a leftist known to me personally has ever said. She acknowledged that she felt Trump was ignorant and offensive, but that we should not be letting that dominate the conversation. She asked politely who would really like to discuss immigration reform. I applauded her for her clear-cut thinking and sensible words and stated that I believe there is a growing mass of people that want exactly the same thing and that there are people rising to meet that demand. My response went over quite well.

First of all, I still see libertarian purists being divisive. I am an anarcho-capitalist at bottom. I will always be a radical, and I will always be working towards that end, but I have no interest in alienating everyone that doesn’t believe the exact same things that I do. I actually do not know if there is another person alive that thinks exactly like I do. I have not met that person. Even my cousin – the Bro-Co, I call him, because he’s more like a brother to me than a cousin – who is also an anarcho-capitalist, does not share my exact interpretation of the world. We have incredibly similar worldviews and interests, but we are not the same person. That would be boring, anyway.

This is a time to take heart. We have all felt despair, wondering if the message of liberty was dying, if the movement was irretrievably fractured, and if we would ever see any progress at all. I am not in despair at all. There are voices – so many voices! – that are now rising up for liberty. They want free speech, limited government, lasting peace with other nations, tolerance, and sound money. And the most fantastic part of this entire revelation is that they are coming from everywhere.

They are left, right, centrist, and libertarian, but they all have one thing in common, and that is that they want the best possible outcomes for the largest number of people. We are talking about leftists who acknowledge that socialism is terrible and that capitalism has done phenomenal good and will continue to do so. We are talking about people on the right who are tolerant and friendly towards all people. Best of all, we are talking about people that sincerely want to talk about ideas – real ideas, such as how to solve the issues that are going to come along with AI and AGI, true immigration reform, US intervention, racism, monetary problems, education, and how to give the most power back to the people with the least amount of pain. My God, these are real conversations!

I have seen quite a large number of libertarians dismiss some of these thinkers because they are too much of this and too little of that. The truth is that we are never going to have a consensus. Given this truth, we must start talking to people, and we must start talking to them intelligently and rationally while giving their opinions our ear.

What I am not doing here is advocating giving SJW types an ear. They should be ignored. In point of fact, they have already lost control of the narrative. The snake is eating itself on their end. There is a groundswell of sentiment coming to those on all sides that want a sincere, honest discussion about the problems we are currently facing. It is also time that libertarians allow that sometimes, when people state their grievances, especially if they are able to do so in a kind, intelligible way that holds water and makes sense, that there is perhaps an issue that needs its day in the light.

I think the great news in all of this is that the intellectual dark web is providing us forums for discussion where we can hear others’ ideas. We can expose them to the rigors of debate and public inquiry, and we can decide for ourselves based on the evidence which ones are worth pursuing. Do you want to know what the great news is in all of this? Liberty and freedom are themes that keep coming up. They are not just coming up from conservatives and libertarians; the left is joining in the chorus.

Bret Weinstein was on Joe Rogan back in December, and he talked a bit about “Game B,” which is defunct as a group, but its implications are utterly fascinating. The scenario comes from game theory, which you might expect, but the overarching idea that he was talking about reminded me strongly of agorism. He might debate that, but I would say that the notion of a game B, a market that rises up alongside the mainstream and functions in it and yet outside of it, is going to be key to the future. We are already seeing it. The intellectual dark web has arrived at the speed of an internet connection.

Not everyone is going to be able to see Game B. Game B exists on a different TV screen, to apply Scott Adams’s analogy about there being two different movies playing in this country. There are two different movies. There is the movie that everyone, including sleepers, can see, and there is the movie that the remnant can see. The remnant is growing, and it is quietly asserting itself. It is coming from all corners, and it is creating a web, a series of intricate but powerful links between different groups. These groups share small and large goals in common, and they will work together to realize them. The people who can see Game B and who are actively participating in it will be able to pivot, and that is something that Game A cannot do. Game A is a leviathan, and although the leviathan can crush, it cannot squeeze into corners, and cannot turn on a dime the way that Game B can.

So take heart, Liberland. You are not alone. If you are lamenting the fact that you cannot find anyone that thinks the way you do, you are thinking about the world the wrong way. There are plenty of people that think like you do. They may disagree to some extent on the means, but they are out there, and they want to talk. Now is not the time for divisiveness. Now is the time to present our beliefs clearly, articulately, and peaceably.

 

Now that the meat of the article is over, I would like to hear from readers. Eric Weinstein Tweeted out a request this morning, asking people to reply with lists of their top 10 intellectual dark web participants.

Here is my current list, in no particular order:

1.     Tom Woods

2.     Dave Rubin

3.     Eric & Bret Weinstein (They’re brothers, so twofer!)

4.     Joe Rogan

5.     Thaddeus Russell

6.     Sam Harris

7.     Scott Adams

8.     Jordan B. Peterson

9.     Michael Malice

10. Christina Hoff Sommers

 

Honorable mentions to:

-       Camille Paglia (She only lost to Hoff Sommers because Dr. Sommers has more public reach.)

-       Ben Shapiro

-       Ayan Hirsi Ali

-       Scott Horton

Dead Poets Society

I am in my early thirties, and Dead Poets Society was a necessary coming of age film for me and so many others of my generation. It reminded me of so many things that I loved in my life and still others that I wanted. The nights of sneaking out to the cave reminded me of summer camp kitchen raids and nights spent on the docks, watching the stars. I also had a vocal desire to go to boarding school, mostly to escape my hometown. The more knowledgeable adult tells me that boarding school would likely have been worse, but I wanted out from a young age, in any case. Dead Poets Society was it for me, and when Todd Anderson stood up on his desk at the end of the movie, it sent a thrill skating up my spine.

Until tonight, I had not watched Dead Poets Society since I was a teenager. Many of my teenage loves have become constants in my life and stuck beside me through the changes that adulthood has brought, but Dead Poets Society was one that I would exclaim over if it came up in conversation, but I never went out of my way to watch it. Something about it occupied a space in my mind alongside other loved works and ideas that had slowly been left behind, like John Hughes films, Sweet Valley High books, and the idea that Republicans were the ones that were right.

As I listened to Robin Williams whisper “Carpe Diem” to the boys in front of the trophy cases and talk about how those alumni from years long past were now worm food and as I watched the character of Mr. Keating encourage these boys to embrace their inner hero and become men, it struck an emotional, resonant chord. This was not a new feeling, but thanks to maturity and probably Jordan Peterson, I understood the resonance with a far greater clarity, and suddenly the movie leapt out of the past and become living again. Indeed, it became vital in a way that it never had been before.

The eyes of my teenaged self had seen something that I wanted superficially. I wanted to get away. I wanted to be an adult. I wanted to have marvelous experiences with my friends. I wanted to be something like these young men, but I didn’t understand why, except that it all looked pretty fun until tragedy struck.

That same naïve teenager saw nothing deeper in Neil Perry’s untimely death than a cruel parent, unable and unwilling to understand that his son was not the person that he wanted the boy to be. Every teenager will identify with that because growing apart from one’s parents is part of growing up. The adult in me saw the same thing, but the adult in me was also able to carry it one step further and see the much larger picture.

Watch the movie. Most people will find themselves wanting and believing that Neil Perry is the hero. He should be. He defies his oppressive father. He breaks school rules with a cheerful, intelligent optimism common to most heroes in these sorts of movies. Every time Neil says something smart or finds a way around his father’s tyranny, we cheer aloud for him. The movie is supposed to end at the end of the play. Neil’s father is supposed to see him, realize the error of his ways, embrace his son, and encourage him to be his own person and forge his own path. Instead, he yanks his son out of this “midsummer night’s dream” and effectively damns him to hell for what to a teenager feels like an eternity – 10 years. Rather than accept his fate or continue striving against his father, Neil puts a gun to his head and suddenly, he is no longer the hero.

At this point, the movie is without its hero. Charlie Dalton is, in ways, the most likely second candidate and, in his own way, is a hero, but he fails to fulfill the archetypal role because he always leaves the viewer with the sense that he is only heroic because he is rebelling. There is an instinctual understanding that he has no real path in mind, or at least not in the way that Neil did. He has the essential bravery but without a true purpose in mind, and in the end, he is expelled and removed from our consideration as a true hero, although Charlie Dalton should certainly be given his due for his final moments onscreen.

Todd Anderson, while not the most unlikely candidate, is not the kid that you want to root for. He seems small and ineffectual. He doesn’t talk much, and he is scared even to write and read a poem in class. Neil has to point out to him the fact that, at points, he can’t even seem to be on the side of his friends. He simply wants to go along and get along. Only when he is pushed by Mr. Keating, the great font of truth and benevolent fatherhood, does he begin to show signs of strength and character.

As the chips fall against Mr. Keating (and truth) at the end of the movie, it is evident that Todd is deeply affected by this turn of events. He does not want to add his voice to a chorus that he knows to be dishonest to its core. In the quietly climactic final scene, he climbs to his desk and utters that famous phrase, “O Captain, my Captain,” and one by one, most of his classmates follow his brave example and express their solidarity with Mr. Keating. Todd emerges perhaps the most unlikely hero of all.

The story is moving because it expresses so many things that have touched us all, if we have attained a certain number of years. We must all find the bravery to break away and forge our own paths in life. However, it is never clear that those paths will bring us to the best place or even a good one. Sometimes those choices lead us to our own demise. The likeliest hero is sometimes cut down. And knowing this makes it all the more difficult to find that individual path. Todd is not the hero because he is as brave as Neil, but he is the hero because he expresses solidarity with the truth of the idea that we all have to be free to make our own choices in life, even if those choices lead us to a dark, bad place.

The impact of this realization was quite moving to me, as the bagpipe strains sounded and the credits rolled, and Dead Poets Society was made new for me. I have gone down the path of Neil Perry. I went my own way, and not all of the choices I made were good ones. I figuratively shot myself in the head on at least two occasions. I have been through quite a bit of hardship in my life, some of which was inevitable and some of which was largely avoidable. I have chosen to view the avoidable hardship as constructive, as something that perhaps needed to happen to bring me to maturity, knowing that there was no guarantee that I would get there otherwise.

Christmas is a hard time of year for me for the same reasons that it is hard for a lot of people. It magnifies our shortcomings with our family. It perhaps magnifies empty chairs at the table where a loved one no longer sits. It magnifies feelings that we have inside of us that perhaps we feel should not be there. Despite that, I am leaving this Christmas behind feeling that I have gained something genuinely great and inspiring through my experiences, and I feel a wonderful sense of gratitude knowing that I’ll live to fight another day. I like to think that I might even have the ability to accomplish more now than I would have otherwise had.

I doubt that I will watch Dead Poets Society again for a long time. Its place is genuinely in the past, but we would all do well to learn from our own pasts. Sometimes it takes a Christmas visit from an old friend to impress upon you the importance of what you have learned, that truth is a tangible thing in the world that is worth defending, and that the pursuit of happiness, however you define it, is the ultimate goal of all people in this world. The road may be long and hard, but that it be uniquely our own to pursue – that is something worth fighting for.

Merry Christmas.