I recently took some time to devote serious attention to the work of Jordan Peterson. Until a few months ago, my familiarity with Peterson had been limited to his very weak and ill-advised intervention in the Nathan Cofnas affair. At that time, I toyed with the idea of providing a series of historical examples (there are many) that would contradict every one of Peterson’s assertions regarding the Jewish Question, but, in the end, his intervention was dealt with so conclusively by Kevin MacDonald (see here), that I saw no reason to discuss it further and abandoned that essay at the “skeleton” stage. Peterson is, however, hard to ignore. As MacDonald put it, Peterson is indeed a “celebrity intellectual,” and one who, despite an occasionally overt philo-Semitism, has engaged in spirited defenses against some manifestations of cultural Marxism. This is admirable, and he is generally pleasing and interesting to watch his TV appearances. Watching and listening to these appearances with any frequency, it’s hard to escape Peterson’s key influences. The Canadian academic is both vocal and (remarkably) repetitive in naming them: summaries, quotes, and interpretations of Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, and Jung all feature very prominently in Peterson’s content.[A1]Jung is perhaps the most important figure in Peterson’s thought, understandable given their overlapping professional interest in psychology and psychoanalysis. The Canadian has most notably brought these interests to bear in his series of lectures on the psychological significance of the Biblical stories. It’s clear that all four men act as his foremost intellectual and personal heroes. But they share something else in common – they have all confronted the Jewish Question in a manner that quite clearly contradicts the view put forth by Peterson. This is not to say that everyone must follow all the ideas of their heroes, but it does call into question how carefully Peterson has both understood these writers and considered his own position on the Jews. The following essay is intended to tease out some problems and contradictions.
I’ve spent the last couple of months listening to Peterson’s lecture series on the Biblical stories, reading his 12 Rules for Life, and examining (and re-examining) his essay “On the So-Called Jewish Question.” I have to confess to finding his lecture series extremely strange. Listening to the audience question and answer sessions at the end of each lecture, it’s clear that Peterson has a sizeable Jewish following and that his lectures are, if not geared toward Jews, certainly holding great appeal for them. Part of this may be the fact that, for an ostensibly Christian apologist, thus far only one of Peterson’s sixteen lectures have concerned the New Testament. What I find particularly interesting about Peterson’s interpretation of these stories is that he extracts, in abstract psychoanalytic fashion, a series of self-help non-sequiturs without looking at how and why the stories were formulated in the first place, and how they have been understood by Jews during the many centuries since they were written. This is an especially ironic development because Peterson’s approach to these particular texts is rather like that of Jacques Derrida, the Jewish Marxist postmodernist he rebukes in 12 Rules for Life, who argued “there is nothing outside the text.” And it is quite unlike the suggestion of his hero Carl Jung, who, as Peterson notes in 12 Rules for Life, suggested that “if you cannot understand why someone did something, look at the consequences — and infer the motivation.”
Peterson doesn’t seem remotely interested in the psychological needs and motivations of the Jewish authors and readers of the stories, and, by his own admission (in the question and answer session following his discussion of the tale of Jacob and Esau) Peterson has never examined the Talmud to see how Jews have interacted with them.
This is certainly the case with the Book of Exodus. Peterson glosses over the barbarism of the Moses character and seems oblivious to evidence strongly suggesting the book was constructed as a response to a proliferation of Greek-Egyptian narratives in the third century B.C. about the eviction of subversive foreigners from the historical Nile Delta. Instead, Peterson presents the Moses character as someone in touch with a divine cosmic subconscious, who “bargains” with a largely benevolent and well-meaning deity that represents the future—god as a “judgmental father.” (In Peterson’s rendering of the development of religion, picturing the future as a “judgmental father” to whom we owe sacrifices is a stroke of genius.) In this approach, Peterson both borrows the methodology, and diverges from the conclusions, of the psychoanalytical examination of the Bible carried out by his hero Carl Jung, who, in his essays “Answer to Job” and “Christ, a Symbol of the Self,” characterized the Yahweh of the Torah as “savage,” “touchy,” “suspicious,” “two-faced,” “gratuitous,” “revolting,” “remorseless,” “brutal,” and “illogical.”[A2]All quotes taken from Anthony Storr (ed), The Essential Jung: Selected Writings (London: Fontana, 1998). These traits are so manifest that Europeans/Christians have struggled for many centuries with their distaste for the God of the Old Testament. An excellent recent example of the Christian attempt to wrestle with this problem, and an overview of the history of debate on the issue, is Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan’s Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God (Michigan: Baker Books, 2014).
Peterson’s obliviousness to the specificities of Jewish interpretations and uses of the texts he discusses is perhaps even more the case regarding the story of Jacob/Israel and Esau. Peterson sees the tale as a straightforward lesson in making the right sacrifices to achieve one’s goals and avoiding resentment when things don’t work out how you’d like them—an anodyne self-help platitude by any estimation. But how have Jews historically treated the story of one of their foremost Patriarchs?
It surely has great significance for any psychological rendering of the tale that Jacob translates as “usurper” or “he who cheats,” and that Jews have always conceptualized Esau as representing gentiles, especially Europeans, or the racial or cultural descendants of the Romans. Daniel Elazar, writing for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, comments that Esau displays “characteristics which are later to become part of the Jewish stereotype of non-Jews (“goyim”).” Meir Levin addsthat “the rabbinic identification of Rome with the Biblical figure of Esau is basic to the traditional understanding of much of the relevant sections of Chumash Bareishis [Genesis].” Levin continues that the Talmud and later rabbinical commentaries presented Esau and Western civilization as sharing negative characteristics such as hypocrisy (Shocher Tov 14,3), individualism, and placing an emphasis on style over substance. Maimonides pictured Esau as an “evildoer” whose descendants were “Amalekites” who were “to be destroyed and their name blotted out.” Maimonides wrote that survivors of the Amalekites were “Rome and the Catholic Church.” Salo Baron writes that the idea that Europeans were the descendants of Esau was “widely accepted in medieval Jewry” along with the idea that the dominion of Edom-Rome would end with the coming of a Jewish messiah.[A3]Baron, S. W. (1934). “The Historical Outlook of Maimonides.” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Vol. 6, No. 5, 24. The Jewish-American History Foundation concurs that “Babylon, Rome, Edom, and Christianity are synonymous,” and remarks that the final end of Edom/descendants of Esau is interpreted from Jewish texts as meaning “that every one of the Mount (or House) of Esau may, or shall, be cut off by slaughter,” [Obadiah v.9] and will “perish forever.”
This interpretive pedigree is more than a little darker in tone than Jordan Peterson’s “clean your room” rendering. But it’s easy to see why Jews would applaud and promote the latter’s presentations. A takeaway message for Christian and atheist alike from Peterson’s lectures would be that these texts are full of rich and benevolent wisdom, with no mention of even the possibility of malignant intent or usage. As stated above, it’s highly likely that Jordan Peterson is naively ignorant of this interpretive pedigree, and there is nothing in his work or activism that suggests he has ever seriously engaged with Jewish cultural activity, or critical commentary on it (for all his bluster, I sincerely doubt he’s read a single sentence written by Kevin MacDonald). Indeed, if any reader wanted a serious, and novel, psychological profile of the Biblical stories, the third chapter of Kevin MacDonald’s A People That Shall Dwell Alone makes a succinct but powerful case for evolutionary aspects of the Tanakh. All things considered, I find it difficult to separate Peterson’s dubious approach to the lecture series from his 12 Rules for Life and later essay “On the So-Called Jewish Question.”
On a fundamental level, I believe that Peterson is hopelessly wrong in his approach to Jewish matters, and especially the issue of anti-Semitism. Since the opinion of an anonymous “anti-Semite” is likely to hold little sway with the celebrity intellectual, however, what follows is a critique of the latter essay by each of the four men whom Peterson holds most dear; by those we might, or he might, even call his intellectual fathers. So Jordan, it’s time for a father-son talk.
Jordan Peterson references Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in almost every interview, talk, or text he delivers. His admiration for the Russian author is considerable and is made clear in 12 Rules for Life. In 12 Rules, Peterson refers (p.115) to Solzhenitsyn as “the great writer, the profound, spirited defender of truth.” He writes (p.116) that Solzhenitsyn was an extremely brave man whose courage was one of the reasons for the fall of Communism. He (p. 140) wrote “definitively and profoundly about the horrors of the twentieth century,” and (p.152) “wrote the truth, his truth, hard-learned through his own experiences.”
Solzhenitsyn came to mind immediately when I read the early part of Peterson’s essay “On the So-Called Jewish Question.” The title itself is almost unforgivably flippant and dismissive, and illustrative of a deep ignorance of history. In essence, Peterson appears to deny the possibility or reality of fundamental clashes of interest between Europeans and Jews, both in the past and in the present, along with a rejection of the notion that these clashes have historically revolved around issues of identity—especially the expression of Jewish identity in Western civilization. These issues are what is essentially meant by the term “the Jewish Question.”
In addition, Peterson’s scorn for what he dismissively terms “identity politics” may be rhetorically fashionable among civic nationalists willfully ignorant of the determinant role of race and ethnicity in world history, but it’s largely meaningless considering that identity (racial, religious, cultural) has influenced politics from time immemorial. All politics are ultimately rooted in identity, and all identities are ultimately political. Given serious reflection, Peterson’s position may be deemed even more harmful and dangerous to Whites than the Left-Liberal position, because while the latter is merely hypocritical in denying the positive aspect of ethnic identity to Whites (i.e., denial of the right to ask the question “is this good for my group”), Peterson would have us believe that all our deep interests are essentially synonymous or at least reconcilable, and that conflicts based on group interests are both essentially wrong and in some way escapable. This can only be described as a facile understanding of the development and manifestation of ethnic conflict.
In Solzhenitsyn’s Russia, the cultural and political clash of Jewish and European identities was, of course, both inescapable (beginning with large-scale Jewish settlement and subsequent population growth), and utterly catastrophic. So one has to ask how Solzhenitsyn, with his “truth, hard-learned through his own experiences” might respond to Peterson’s dismissal of the Jewish Question in relation to “identity politics.”
Fortunately, we know exactly how Solzhenitsyn would reply to the Canadian celebrity intellectual because he answered an almost identical situation in 1985, when he came under fire for implying that Jewish identity played an influential and negative role in the Bolshevik revolution. In particular, many Jewish critics came forth to declare that there had been no such “Jewish Question” in the development of the revolution, and that Solzhenitsyn was an anti-Semite for declaring the opposite. Solzhenitsyn’s reply now comes across the decades, speaking directly to a man who would lay claim to be his protégé:
A Jewish Question existed and was a burning issue. But at that time hundreds of authors, including Jews, wrote about this; at that time, precisely the omission of mentioning the Jewish Question was considered a manifestation of anti-Semitism — and it would be unworthy for an historian of that era to pretend that that question did not exist. … My task is to write true historical research on the Russian Revolution. [emphasis added]
Solzhenitsyn, as is well known, did this and more. After publishing Two Hundred Years Together, Solzhenitsyn was accused of anti-Semitism for asserting that pogroms against Jews in Russia were rare, spontaneous, and originated “from below” rather than being government-sponsored. He was further accused of anti-Semitism for implying that Jews avoided conscription and, in particular, frontline military service. Both fall into the category of thought that Peterson dismisses in his essay as “conspiratorial claims based on ethnic identity.” And yet it’s a testament to the lingering vitality of the historical profession that more recent archival research and published studies (from Cambridge University Press and Princeton University Press) have vindicated both of Solzhenitsyn’s claims.[A4]See John Doyle Klier, Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) and Derek J. Penslar, Jews and the Military: A History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013).
Peterson also caricatures the critique of Jews as being ignorant of the role of IQ. In reality, however, most historical ‘anti-Semites’ have struck a balance between the role of intelligence/capability in the acquisition by Jews of what may be termed sociopolitical gatekeeping positions, and the role of ethnocentrism in the further development and ultimate consequences of Jewish demographic over-representations resulting from Jews in these positions acting according to their perceived ethnic interests.
Solzhenitsyn, in Two Hundred Years Together, provides many examples where Jews were given equal opportunities based on ability and became over-represented in several key areas of public life. The most widespread and justified concerns, however, where not about how these over-representations were achieved, but about the potential consequences of Jewish over-representations in aspects of Russian life. In one example from 1870, Solzhenitsyn discusses the introduction of municipal reforms:
Initially it was proposed to restrict Jewish representation among town councillors and in the municipal executive councils by fifty percent, but because of objections by the Minister of Internal Affairs, the City Statute of 1870 had reduced the maximal share to one third; further, Jews were forbidden from occupying the post of mayor. It was feared that otherwise Jewish internal cohesion and self-segregation would allow them to obtain a leading role in town institutions and give them an advantage in resolution of public issues. [emphasis added]
Solzhenitsyn was also acutely aware of the role of revenge in Jewish political choices and actions. Regarding food shortages and famines, he notes:
What would you expect from peasants in the Tambov Guberniya if, during the heat of the suppression of the great peasant uprising in this Central-Russian black-earth region, the dismal den of the Tambov Gubcom was inhabited by masterminds of grain allotments, secretaries of Gubcom P. Raivid and Pinson, and by the head of the propaganda department, Eidman? (A. G. Shlikhter, whom we remember from Kiev in 1905, was there as well, this time as the chairman of the Executive Committee of the guberniya.) Y. Goldin was the Foodstuffs Commissar of the Tambov Guberniya; it was he who triggered the uprising by exorbitant confiscations of grain, whereas one N. Margolin, commander of a grain confiscation squad, was famous for whipping the peasants who failed to provide grain. (And he murdered them too.) According to Kakurin, who was the chief of staff to Tukhachevsky, a plenipotentiary representative of the Cheka headquarters in the Tambov Guberniya during that period was Lev Levin. Of course, not only Jews were in it! However, when Moscow took the suppression of the uprising into her own hands in February 1921, the supreme command of the operation was assigned to Efraim Sklyansky, the head of “Interdepartmental Anti-Banditry Commission,”—and so the peasants, notified about that with leaflets, were able to draw their own conclusions.
And what should we say about the genocide on the river Don, when hundreds of thousands of the flower of Don Cossacks were murdered? What should we expect from the Cossack memories when we take into consideration all those unsettled accounts between a revolutionary Jew and a Don Cossack? In August 1919, the Volunteer Army took Kiev and opened several Chekas and found the bodies of those recently executed; Shulgin composed nominal lists of victims using funeral announcements published in the reopened Kievlyanin; one can’t help noticing that almost all names were Slavic. … Materials produced by the Special Investigative Commission in the South of Russia provide insights into the Kiev Cheka and its command personnel (based on the testimony of a captured Cheka interrogator): “The headcount of the ‘Cheka’ staff varied between 150 and 300. … Percentage -wise, there was 75% Jews and 25% others, and those in charge were almost exclusively Jews.” Out of twenty members of the Commission, i.e., the top brass who determined people’s destinies, fourteen were Jews.
Peterson’s remark that “high IQ is associated with Openness to Experience, which is in turn associated with liberal/left-leaning political proclivities” is simply insufficient for a serious analysis of the fact that many intelligent and capable Jews cohered, as Jews, around each other in late-nineteenth-century Russia with the primary goal of destroying Russian culture and the Russian state, and engaging in the mass murder of perceived historical oppressors and enemies—something infinitely more extreme than the term “liberal/left-leaning political proclivities” could ever possibly convey. Solzhenitsyn cites I. O. Levin as writing:
There is no doubt that Jewish representation in the Bolshevik and other parties which facilitated “expanding of revolution” — Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries, etc. — with respect to both general Jewish membership and Jewish presence among the leaders, greatly exceeds the Jewish share in the population of Russia. This is an indisputable fact; while its reasons should be debated, its factual veracity is unchallengeable and its denial is pointless; and a certainly convincing explanation of this phenomenon by Jewish inequality before the March revolution … is still not sufficiently exhaustive.
One could reasonably and similarly surmise that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn would concur with the assessment that Jordan Peterson’s explanation of Jewish “over-representation in positions of authority, competence and influence (including revolutionary movements)” as being due to the association of “high IQ with Openness to Experience, which is in turn associated with liberal/left-leaning political proclivities” is, to say the least, not sufficiently exhaustive. And it is at this point that we pass the floor to Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Jordan Peterson references Fyodor Dostoevsky in almost every interview, talk, or text he delivers —perhaps even more than he refers to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. His admiration for Dostoevsky is considerable and is made clear in 12 Rules for Life. In 12 Rules, Peterson refers to the Russian author as (p.68) “incomparable,” and (p.137) “a wise and profound soul” possessing “great generosity of spirit.” Peterson describes Crime and Punishment (p.83) as “perhaps the greatest novel ever written,” and Dostoevsky himself (p.136) as “one of the great literary geniuses of all time.” He adds to the latter praise that the author “confronted the most serious existential problems in all his great writings, and he did so courageously, headlong, and heedless of the consequences.”
Perhaps even more so that was the case with Solzhenitsyn, Fyodor Dostoevsky has been pilloried in recent decades as an ultra-nationalist anti-Semite who believed Jews “had harmed and continued to harm the foundations of Russian society and culture.
Peterson, it will be recalled, has described anti-Semites as individuals who “claim responsibility for the accomplishments of [the] group [they] feel racially/ethnically akin to without actually having to accomplish anything [themselves].” Clearly an important point needs to be reconciled by Peterson: namely the outstanding literary accomplishments and political stances of Dostoevsky (even in Peterson’s own gushing estimation), and Peterson’s assertion that anti-Jewish critique rooted in nationalist sensibilities is merely a form of psychological escapism for those keen to avoid accomplishing anything for themselves. Surely it is self-evident that Dostoevsky, like Solzhenitsyn, was a man not only of accomplishment, but of remarkable, extraordinary accomplishment. What were Dostoevsky’s attitudes to Jews and the Jewish Question, and how would he respond to Jordan Peterson?
The two most septic academic treatments of the Russian author are David Goldstein’s 1981 Dostoyevsky and the Jews,[B1]David Goldstein, Dostoyevsky and the Jews (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981).and Joseph Frank’s 2002 Dostoevsky, The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871–1881. Both writers exude Jewish identity in their treatment of Dostoevsky’s published and private writings on Jews, an emotionality that appears remarkably commonplace among Jews as a whole. Reviewing some material penned by Jews on the Russian writer, I was struck by their similarity to the fraught sensitivity of Anthony Julius to the work of T. S. Eliot. The core problem is that, while Jews (and also apparently Jordan Peterson) often comfort themselves with the delusion that their critics are intellectually and socially inferior, they appear to experience great psychological trauma when faced with the reality that their harshest and most insightful critics are often men of great ability and genius. An excellent example of this phenomenon, along with the Jewish obsession with historical enmities, can be observed in these comments, posted at a Jewish website as part of the question “Should a Jew read Dostoevsky?”:
There was a period, while I was in college I think, when I was very into Russian short-story writers and playwrights. I read quite a few, and was very impressed — until I came to Nikolai Gogol, and a story in which described the glory of the Cossacks. I couldn’t read any further; the Cossacks were murderous butchers who slaughtered my ancestors. Of course, if Jews were to shun all writers who hated us, we would be left with slim literary pickings; a quick thumbing through Allan Gould’s What did they think of the Jews? shows that we would lose a great deal of Western culture, including figures like Lord Byron and Joseph Conrad and Jack London.
Similarly, Haaretz writes of Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky biography: “As a Jew, Frank cannot be nonchalant about the primitive anti-Semitic elements in Dostoevsky’s writing,” describing Frank’s exploration as a “painful saga.” This is fully in keeping with observations made in my 2014 essay “Reflections on Aspects of Jewish Self-Deception,” in which, referring especially to the works of academic activists Anthony Julius and Robert Wistrich, I noted:
Jewish-produced accounts of anti-Semitism often begin or conclude with maudlin claims that the subject is ‘difficult,’ ‘emotional,’ or ‘trying’ for them to approach. At the extreme end of the spectrum one finds Anthony Julius who describes studying the subject at the conclusion of Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England as “immersing oneself in muck. Anti-Semitism is a sewer.” Wistrich refers to his “long-standing concern with the nature of anti-Semitism,” and describes his study of the subject as a “difficult enterprise,” which was “painful, often shocking.”
Goldstein and Frank, like Julius, are quite typical of Jewish literary critics who emerged from elite colleges in the mid-to-late twentieth century. In The Professionalization of History in English Canada (2005), Donald Wright notes that between the 1940s and early 1960s many WASP literary academics were taken aback by the aggressive and highly antagonistic attitude of their Jewish students. In just one example, a Canadian academic named Frank Underhill included in one student report the following comments: “He is a Jew, with a good deal of the Jew’s persecution complex, and this makes him unduly aggressive and sarcastic in discussion and writing.”[B2]Donald Wright, The Professionalization of History in English Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), 95
Having read the majority of the offerings from Goldstein and Frank, I don’t think I could improve upon “unduly aggressive and sarcastic” as suitable descriptors. The same could be said of Peterson’s lazy dismissal of anti-Semitism as a tool of the unaccomplished.
Jews hardly feature in the fictional canon of Fyodor Dostoevsky, making him in some ways a less obvious target for attack than Solzhenitsyn, who was once berated by Jewish activist academic Mark Perakh because “a disproportionately large number of unattractive Jews appear in his work.” Perakh’s stance reminded me strongly of the activism of Anthony Julius in relation to representations of Jews in English literature. On this point, I’ve commented previously:
What Julius, and the horde of other Jewish literary ‘scholars,’ are really asserting here is their antagonism towards anything but positive reflections of Jews in literature, which is not only arrogant and unreasonable, but also further indication of a pathological level of ethnocentrism. Their efforts have the dual function of staining the legacy of the English literary past, and shackling authors in the present, who would feel constrained to avoid having a negatively portrayed Jewish character in their works.
The primary grounds for the Jewish attack on Dostoevsky appear to be the character of Isai Fomich Bumstein in The House of the Dead [for the sake of accuracy I should note my own 1980s Soviet Union edition/translation bears the less common title Notes from the Dead House]. It can be asserted with reasonable certainty that Isai Bumstein is Dostoevsky’s only real attempt to include a fully-fledged Jewish character in his works. Since The House of the Dead was strongly autobiographical, we can also assume that the character was based on a real Jew encountered by the author during his detention in a Siberian work camp. It appears, however, that Isai Bumstein, despite cutting a solitary figure, is one Jew too many for some.
Isai Fomich is described as the camp’s jeweler and foremost moneylender. A figure of fun, but with dark and even satanic undertones, Dostoevsky describes this, the only Jew in the camp, as “the spitting image of a plucked chicken. He was a man, no longer young, about fifty, short and weak, cunning yet positively stupid. He was arrogant, impudent, and at the same time a terrible coward.” Bumstein was confined to the jail for murder and uses his talent in making and trading jewelry to “wriggle out of his hard labour.” The book’s most extensive discussion of Bumstein takes place in the build up to a Dante-esque scene of claustrophobic horror in the local bath house, in which Bumstein takes a prominent and quasi-demonic role reminiscent of the Judge in the final act of Cormac McCarthy’s 1985 Blood Meridian (although no literary scholars seem to have discovered the link between the characters — despite McCarthy’s known affinity with Dostoevsky; further parallels between these two characters may be found in their unusually pale complexions, supernatural cunning, and numerous authorial allusions to their hairlessness).
Bumstein’s first act on entering the gaol is to barter for the “filthy, ragged summer trousers” of a fellow inmate, which he then takes in pawn and negotiates interest on. Sullen on entering the jail, he now “suddenly roused himself and started feeling the rags with his fingers in a most business-like manner. He even held them up to the light.” The deal concluded, “Isai Fomich re-examined the things he had taken in pawn, folded them carefully, and stowed them away inside his sack.” With the other inmates later in his thrall, he sings a song that he later confesses to be obliged to sing as a Jew in “moments of triumph over foes.”
Bumstein is described by Dostoevsky as having an easy time in confinement, enjoying privileges and all the trappings of elite status:
He was not at all hard up and, in fact, even lived quite prosperously, saving his money and lending it at interest to the whole prison. He had his own samovar, a good mattress, cups, and a complete set of crockery. The town Jews did not snub him and, on the contrary, they patronised him. On Saturdays, as allowed by the rules, he would go out under guard to the town’s synagogue.
Bumstein’s final appearance in the book takes place in the local bath house where eighty prisoners are essentially crushed into a space twelve paces by twelve where they must steam and wash themselves. The scene is oppressively and horrifically claustrophobic and is punctuated by the figure of Bumstein looming over all, “laughing his head off from the highest steam-shelf.” Impervious to the heat and noise bringing everyone else to near senselessness, “it seemed that no heat was enough to satisfy him.” The Jew uses his money to hire five attendants in succession to beat him with birch twigs, all of whom near the point of unconsciousness before rushing to revive themselves with cold water.
Bumstein “could indeed feel that he was indeed ‘on top’ of all the others. He had outdone them all. It was his moment of victory. And over all the noise, his shrill, mad voice was heard shouting out his aria: ‘La, la, la, la.’ It crossed my mind, that should we one day meet again in Hell, the scene would be very much the same.”
Dostoevsky’s The House of the Dead, like several of his other works, is indeed a work of literary genius. That such a great work also contains a very memorable, unflattering, and all too believable portrait of a work-shy Jewish moneylender is a source of much contemporary Jewish psychological disturbance. Another crucial problem is that, although Jewish criticisms have revolved around accusations of the employment of stereotypes, the book’s strong autobiographical origins, together with Dostoevsky’s commitment to realism, render the portrayal of Isai Fomich Bumstein all too difficult to dismiss or dispel. As this commentary in Haaretz concedes, “Dostoevsky, more than all the great authors of 19th-century Russia, derived his inspiration from real life, even from the front pages of the newspaper, to the point where the critics of his day felt that this excessive realism harmed his work.”
In “On the So-Called Jewish Question,” Jordan Peterson appears to contrast high IQ individuals who (relatedly) score highly on Openness to Experience and political liberalism with presumably lower IQ individuals who seeks solace for their personal lack of accomplishment in group identity, ethnic nationalisms, and, one assumes, anti-Semitism. Kevin MacDonald has already saliently pointed out that Israel is hardly typified by Openness to Experience and political liberalism, despite being populated with the group Peterson seems to regard as epitomizing the high IQ/Openness/liberalism trifecta. It’s interesting, though, that the life, career, and ideas of his hero Dostoevsky also offer a strong rebuttal to Peterson’s poorly thought out schema. Dostoevsky was certainly an ardent Russian nationalist with a keen sense of ethnic identity, but was also “perceived as a courageous and independent critic of the czarist government, unafraid of denouncing its misdeeds and corruption.” Dostoevsky was no blind authoritarian; and he was certainly no unaccomplished basement-dweller in search of identity.
In his later writings, published in his journal Diary of a Writer, Dostoevsky began to write with some regularity on Jews, and in at least one issue wrote at length specifically on the Jewish Question. The opinions put forth in these pieces contrast sharply with that offered by Prof. Peterson. In fact, Dostoevsky, reflecting arguments that were common in post-Enlightenment Europe, argues that it would be suicidal for Western civilization to abandon its religious, ethnic, and historical identities (White “identity politics”) in favor of modern fads (he names socialism, but one could as easily substitute Peterson’s dubious strain of liberalism).
[Jews] maintain their own close-knit identity. If the Jews are given equal legal rights in Russia, but are allowed to keep their ‘State within a State,’ they would be more privileged than the Russians. The consequences of this situation are already clear in Europe. … What if there were only three million Russians and there were eighty million Jews? How would they treat Russians and how would they lord it over them? What rights would Jews give Russians? Wouldn’t they turn them into slaves? Worse than that, wouldn’t they skin them altogether? Wouldn’t they slaughter them to the last man, to the point of complete extermination? … When only anarchy remains, the Yid will be in command of everything. For while the Jew goes about preaching socialism, he will stick together with his own.
Offering Jews full citizenship rights would be beneficial for Jews because they would still operate as a cohesive group in a nominally individualist society. This goes to the heart of Peterson’s liberal/individualist ideology. It can only work if everyone adopts it. When cohesive, ethnically networked and highly competent groups with their own interests remain in a nominally individualist society, they easily dominate the individualists and are able to shape the culture to conform to their interests. These interests need not, and often are not (e.g., policy toward Israel, mass immigration of non-White ethnic groups), the same as the interests of the individualists.
And on that note, we make way for Carl Jung.
Jordan Peterson references Carl Jung in almost every interview, talk, or text he delivers, and these references are especially frequent in his lecture series on the Biblical stories. In 12 Rules for Life (p.131), Peterson describes Jung as both a “great psychiatrist” and a “psychoanalyst extraordinaire.” Jung’s ideas about the subconscious and archetypes form the backbone of much of Peterson’s self-concept and public work. One therefore wonders what Jung would have made of Jordan Peterson’s “On the So-Called Jewish Question.”
To begin with, Jung would almost certainly object to Peterson’s implicit assumption that Jews are easily integrated parts in the machinery of Western civilization, equal or even superior in suitability to all others. Jung believed that Jews, like all peoples, have a characteristic personality, and he would have stressed the need to take this personality into account. Even in his own sphere of expertise, Jung warned that “Freud and Adler’s psychologies were specifically Jewish, and therefore not legitimate for Aryans.”[C1]B. Cohen, “Jung’s Answer to Jews,” Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, 6:1 (56-71), 59. A formative factor in the Jewish personality was the rootlessness of the Jews and the persistence of the Diaspora. Jung argued that Jews lacked a “chthontic quality,” meaning “The Jew … is badly at a loss for that quality in man which roots him to the earth and draws new strength from below.”[C2]Ibid, 58.
(B. Cohen, “Jung’s Answer to Jews,” Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, 6:1 (56-71), 59.) Jung penned these words in 1918, but they retain significance even after the founding of the State of Israel. Even today, vastly more Jews live outside Israel than within it. Jews remain a Diaspora people, and many continue to see their Diaspora status as a strength. Because they are scattered and rootless, however, Jung argued that Jews developed methods of getting on in the world that are built on exploiting weakness in others rather than expressing explicit strength. In Jung’s phrasing, “The Jews have this particularity in common with women; being physically weaker, they have to aim at the chinks in the armour of their adversary.”[C3]Ibid.
(B. Cohen, “Jung’s Answer to Jews,” Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, 6:1 (56-71), 59.)
Jung would probably have been doubtful regarding Peterson’s claims that Jews obtain positions of influence solely on their intellectual merits and because they score high on Openness to Experience. Jung believed that Jews were incapable of operating effectively without a host society, and that they relied heavily upon grafting themselves into the systems of other peoples in order to succeed. In a 1934 essay titled ‘The state of psychotherapy today,’ Jung wrote: “The Jew, who is something of a nomad, has never yet created a cultural form of his own, and as far as we can see, never will, since all his instincts and talents require a more or less civilized nation to act as host for their development.” This process of group development often involved ‘aiming at the chinks in the armour of their adversary,’ along with other flexible strategies.[C4]T. Kirsch, “Jung’s Relationship with Jews and Judaism,” in Analysis and Activism: Social and Political Contributions of Jungian Psychology (London: Routledge, ), 174.
Jung also believed (in common with a finding in Kevin MacDonald’s work) that there was a certain psychological aggressiveness in Jews, which was partly a result of the internal mechanics of Judaism. In a remarkably prescient set of observations in the 1950s, Jung expressed distaste for the behavior of Jewish women and essentially predicted the rise of feminism as a symptom of the pathological Jewess. Jung believed that Jewish men were “brides of Yahweh,” rendering Jewish women more or less obsolete within Judaism. In reaction, argued Jung, Jewish women in the early twentieth century began aggressively venting their frustrations against the male-centric nature of Judaism (and against the host society as a whole) while still conforming to the characteristic Jewish psychology and its related strategies. Writing to Martha Bernays, Freud’s wife, he once remarked of Jewish women that “so many of them are loud, aren’t they?” and later added he had treated “very many Jewish women — in all these women there is a loss of individuality, either too much or too little. But the compensation is always for the lack. That is to say, not the right attitude.”[C5]Ibid, 177.
(T. Kirsch, “Jung’s Relationship with Jews and Judaism,” in Analysis and Activism: Social and Political Contributions of Jungian Psychology (London: Routledge, ), 174.)
It is likely that Jung would also have taken issue with the spirit of Peterson’s brief essay; namely, that it takes the form of a smug defense of Jews against alleged anti-Semitism. Peterson clearly locates Kevin MacDonald’s analysis of Jewish group behavior through history in the realm of “reactionary conspiracy theories.” Jung, meanwhile, was cautious about accusations of anti-Semitism, and he was “critical of the oversensitivity of Jews to anti-Semitism,” believing “one cannot criticise an individual Jew without it immediately becoming an anti-Semitic attack.”[C6]T. Kirsch, “Jung and Judaism,” Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, 6:1 (6-7), 6. It is certainly difficult to believe that Jung, who basically argued that Jews had a unique psychological profile and had developed a unique method for getting on in the world, would have disagreed with the almost identical foundational premise of Kevin MacDonald’s trilogy. In fact, Jung believed that playing the victim and utilizing accusations of anti-Semitism as a sword against their critics were simply parts of the Jewish strategy—a useful cover for concerted ethnocentric action in “aiming at the chinks in the armour of their adversary.” For example, after the war, in a 1945 letter to Mary Mellon, he wrote, “It is however difficult to mention the anti-Christianism of the Jews after the horrible things that have happened in Germany. But Jews are not so damned innocent after all—the role played by the intellectual Jews in pre-war Germany would be an interesting object of investigation”[C7]S. Zemmelman (2017). “Inching towards wholeness: C.G. Jung and his relationship to Judaism.” Journal of Analytical Psychology, 62(2), 247–262. Indeed, MacDonald notes:
a prominent feature of anti-Semitism among the Social Conservatives and racial anti-Semites in Germany from 1870 to 1933 was their belief that Jews were instrumental in developing ideas that subverted traditional German attitudes and beliefs. Jews were vastly overrepresented as editors and writers during the 1920s in Germany, and “a more general cause of increased anti-Semitism was the very strong and unfortunate propensity of dissident Jews to attack national institutions and customs in both socialist and non-socialist publications” (Gordon 1984, 51).[C7a]As anti-Semitism increased during the Weimar period, Jewish-owned liberal newspapers began to suffer economic hardship because of public hostility to the ethnic composition of the editorial boards and staffs (Mosse 1987, 371). The response of Hans Lachman-Mosse was to “depoliticize” his newspapers by firing large numbers of Jewish editors and correspondents. Eksteins (1975, 229) suggests that the response was an attempt to deflect right-wing categorizations of his newspapers as part of the Judenpresse. This “media violence” directed at German culture by Jewish writers such as Kurt Tucholsky—who “wore his subversive heart on his sleeve” (Pulzer 1979, 97)—was publicized widely by the anti-Semitic press (Johnson 1988, 476–477).
Jews were not simply overrepresented among radical journalists, intellectuals, and “producers of culture” in Weimar Germany, they essentially created these movements. “They violently attacked everything about German society. They despised the military, the judiciary, and the middle class in general” (Rothman & Lichter 1982, 85). Massing (1949, 84) notes the perception of the anti-Semite Adolf Stoecker of Jewish “lack of reverence for the Christian-conservative world.” (The Culture of Critique, Ch. 1)
These sentiments largely echoed comments Jung made in November 1933 to Esther Harding, in which he expressed the opinion that Jews had clustered in Weimar Germany because they tend to “fish in troubled waters,” by which he meant that Jews tend to congregate where social decay is ongoing. He remarked that he had personally observed German Jews drinking champagne in Montreaux (Switzerland) while “Germany was starving,” and that while “very few had been expelled” and “Jewish shops in Berlin went on the same,” if there was a rising hardship among them in Germany it was because “overall the Jews deserved it.”[C8]See W. Schoenl and L. Schoenl, Jung’s Evolving View of Nazi Germany: From the Nazi Takeover to the End of World War II (Asheville: Chiron, 2016). Perhaps most interesting of all in any discussion of Jewish acquisition of influence, it appears that in 1944 Jung oversaw the implementation of quotas on Jewish admission to the Analytical Psychology Club of Zurich. The quotas (a generous 10% of full members and 25% for guest members) were inserted into a secret appendix to the by-laws of the club and remained in place until 1950.[C9]S. Frosh (2005). “Jung and the Nazis: Some Implications for Psychoanalysis.” Psychoanalysis and History, 7(2), (253–271), 258. One can only assume that, like other quotas introduced around the world at various times, the goal here was to limit, or at least retain some measure of control over, Jewish numerical and directional influence within that body.
Although he was, like Peterson, a proponent of psychological individuation and the cultivation of the individual subconscious, Jung would be unlikely to agree with Jordan Peterson’s dismissal of “identity politics.” Jung in fact believed that mass national movements under strong leaders could pave the way for energetic rebirth and renewal. In a radio broadcast from Berlin in 1933 he remarked:
Times of mass movement are always times of leadership. Every movement culminates organically in a leader, who embodies in his whole being the meaning and purpose of the popular movement. He is an incarnation of the nation’s psyche and its mouthpiece. He is the spearhead of the phalanx of the whole people in motion.[C10]S. Frosh. (2005). “Jung and the Nazis: Some Implications for Psychoanalysis.” Psychoanalysis and History, 7(2), (253–271), 257.
In fact, Jung believed that “identity politics” was a positive that should be pursed to exclusionary lengths, and that multiculturalism would have potentially disastrous effects on Whites. For example, having spent some time examining the state of mental health in the United States, Jung attributed the “American complex” to the fact Whites were “living together with ‘lower races, especially with Negroes’.”[C11]N. R. Goldenberg, “Reply to Barbara Chesser’s Comment on “A Feminist Critique of Jung” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 3: 3 (1978), 724. Jung undertook two trips to Africa with the express purpose of studying what he viewed as the most “primitive” human psychologies.[C12]Adams, M. V. (1997). “Jung and Racism.” Self & Society, 25(1), 19–23. He afterwards asserted that “there is a danger in the mixture of races,” that the mulatto is “apt to be a bad character,” and that “miscegenation is the cause of many cases of insanity.”[C13]Ibid.
(Adams, M. V. (1997). “Jung and Racism.” Self & Society, 25(1), 19–23.) Many Whites living among Blacks are confronted with a “source of temperamental and mimetic infection,” by which he means that the former will too readily begin to adopt the negative behaviors of the latter—a type of cultural contagion.
Conversely, for the astute, interacting with Africans and thoughtfully observing the deep differences between the races could provide a positive reinforcement of identity. Jung himself remarked that, while travelling through Africa, “I could not help feeling superior, as I was reminded at every step of my European nature.”[C14]J. Collins. (2009). “SHADOW SELVES.” Interventions, 11(1), 69–80.
This is a striking comment because it expresses the fact that the sense of racial difference is something that impresses itself on the subject from an external experience. This contrasts radically with post-modern and psychoanalytic theories of racial thought and “race prejudice,” which root the sense of racial difference in the inner world of the subject. This latter way of thinking is most radically the case in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew, where the French philosopher argues that the anti-Semite is not someone struck by the observation and experience of Jewish behavior, but rather someone whose inner anxieties and inadequacies drive the search for an external cause onto which to project the inner flaws. This is both pseudo-science and pseudo-psychology.
Examining Jordan Peterson’s assessment of the Jewish Question, we can only conclude once more that Peterson’s ideas share more in common with the post-modernist thought he claims to struggle against, than with the traditional Western intellectual tradition he claims to defend. Just to reiterate, this is Peterson’s account of the origins of anti-Semitism in the individual:
You can claim responsibility for the accomplishments of your group you feel racially/ethnically akin to without actually having to accomplish anything yourself. That’s convenient. You can identify with the hypothetical victimization of that group and feel sorry for yourself and pleased at your compassion simultaneously. Another unearned victory. You simplify your world radically, as well. All the problems you face now have a cause, and a single one, so you can dispense with the unpleasant difficulty of thinking things through in detail. Bonus. Furthermore, and most reprehensibly: you now have someone to hate (and, what’s worse, with a good conscience) so your unrecognized resentment and cowardly and incompetent failure to deal with the world forthrightly can find a target, and you can feel morally superior in your consequent persecution.
This could have been lifted directly from Sartre, Horkheimer, or Adorno. It’s pure Jewish psychoanalysis, mobilized for political ends. And it is the kind of thought that provides legitimacy and ideological firepower to the marginalization of White interests and the continuation of White cultural collapse.
Jung, of course, remained for a long time disturbed about the potential for such a cultural collapse among Whites, and he was particularly anxious about the experience of Whites forced to co-habit with large African populations. He warned: “the European, however highly developed, cannot live in impunity among the Negroes. … Their psychology gets into him unnoticed and unconsciously he becomes a Negro. There is no fighting against it.” “Identity politics,” with ethno-racial foundations was, to Jung, a matter of racial and civilizational survival.
We turn finally to Friedrich Nietzsche.
Like these other figures, whose thought is sanitized and claimed by Peterson, Nietzsche possessed views of Jews quite at odds with Peterson’s own hasty conclusions. Robert Holub’s 2015 Nietzsche’s Jewish Problem: Between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Judaism (Princeton University Press) convincingly demonstrates that, at best, Nietzsche could be described as ambivalent towards the Jewish Question. Nietzsche was undeniably in tune with Wagner when it came to animosity towards those aspects of modernity most closely linked with the rise of the Jews in Germany: the hegemony of journalists, the press, newspapers, new ‘trends’ in art, and the stock market. He was a critic of both Berthold Auerbach and Felix Mendelssohn, whom he argued produced works typified by foreignness, jargon, mawkishness and internationalism. At Basel, one of Nietzsche’s closest colleagues was the historian Jacob Burckhardt, described in one dedication as “my honored friend.” Burckhardt was unequivocally opposed to Jewish emancipation and believed that everything of worth in European culture was due to its Greek and Roman heritage rather than the Jewish tradition. He would have balked at the idea of Europe as a ‘Judeo-Christian’ cultural entity—a favorite piece of Jordan Peterson’s nomenclature—and he was firmly convinced that Jews were responsible for the worst manifestations of modernity. Early in his career Burckhardt wrote to a friend that the presence of Jews in a theater would be sufficient to entirely destroy his enjoyment of the event.
Like the others reviewed here, Peterson references Friedrich Nietzsche in almost every interview, talk, or text he delivers. In 12 Rules for Life (p.59), Peterson describes Nietzsche as both “great” and “brilliant,” and calls him (p.85) “perhaps the most astute critic ever to confront Christianity.” In much the same way as he cites Solzhenitsyn, Dostoevsky, and Jung as his ideological forerunners, Peterson holds up Nietzsche as a prescient and thoughtful thinker whose work was characterized (p.37) by its “brilliance.”
Between 1868 and 1873 Nietzsche gained a grasp of the fundamentals of the Jewish Question, and during this period he continually articulates a natural and impulsive distaste for aspects of Jewish culture and behavior. His letters to his mother show that he associated Jews with unsavory business practices, tastelessness, and low cultural attributes. Writing to his mother about a tour around Switzerland in 1872, he describes his fellow travelers before commenting “unfortunately there was a Jew among them.” In 1872 these feelings and ideas came closest to intellectual expression. In January and February of that year Nietzsche delivered two lectures, ‘The Greek Music Drama’ and ‘Socrates and Tragedy.’ Despite their fairly innocuous titles, the lectures dealt with key aspects of the Wagnerian cultural program: that modern opera had become greatly distanced from its ancient cultural roots, and that Jews were having a deleterious impact on contemporary art and culture. Nietzsche, taking his cue from Wagner, argued that genuine tragedy was mysterious, instinctive and profound. It was also able to be conceived and appreciated only by Europeans. By contrast, ‘Socratism,’ identified with rationalism and dialectic, eradicates instinct and with it art. ‘Socratism’ had also become a historical force in its own right, in the form of this-worldly Judaism. Nietzsche would conclude his second lecture by stating:
Should the Teuton have nothing else to place at the side of that vanished artwork of the past except the ‘grand opera,’ something akin to the ape appearing next to Hercules? This is the most serious question of our art: and anyone who, as a Teuton, does not understand the seriousness of this question, has fallen into the Socratism of our times, which, to be sure, is neither capable of producing martyrs, nor speaks the language of the wisest Hellene. This Socratism is the Jewish press: I’ll say no more.
Wagner had of course taken even further steps against Jewish influence — but the older man possessed significantly more stature and legitimacy. Nietzsche sent his lecture notes to Wagner on February 4, and the composer replied cautiously. Wagner, who was fully aware of the damage that could be wrought by Jews on lone targets like himself, responded: “I say to you: that’s the way it is. … But I am concerned about you, and wish with my entire heart that you don’t ruin yourself.” The important point here is that the framework for discussion is not about how Jews obtained elite status in society but about what Jews tend to do with their elite status and influence. To the Wagners, as with Solzhenitsyn, Dostoevsky, and Jung, the Jewish Question is primarily about the hostility or culturally antagonistic behavior of a powerful Jewish elite. This contrasts sharply with Jordan Peterson’s statement that Jews are “smart people working hard for our mutual advancement.”
Cosima, Wagner’s wife, wrote to Nietzsche expressing concern. Starting by citing Goethe (“Everything significant is uncomfortable”), she said that his “boldness” and “bluntness” surprised her. In a later letter she makes her concerns more explicit, stating that she wanted him to take some “maternal” advice so that he should “avoid stirring up a hornet’s nest”:
Do you really understand me? Don’t mention the Jews, and especially not en passant; later, when you want to take up this gruesome fight, in the name of God, but not at the very outset, so that on your path you won’t have all this confusion and upheaval. I hope you don’t misunderstand me: you know that in the depths of my soul I agree with your utterance. But not now and not in this way.
According to Cosima’s diaries, Nietzsche was summoned to a meeting with Wagner and her on February 12 to discuss the lecture. We can only speculate at what precisely was said, but Nietzsche dropped the Jewish reference from the published version of his lecture, and nothing similar to it would ever again appear in his speeches or published writings. He would continue to attack the evils of the press, newspapers, financial affairs, the stock exchange, modernity, urban life, and cosmopolitanism — but he would never again mention them in conjunction with Jews or Judaism. Holub argues that the episode taught Nietzsche that he should not mention the Jews by name and certainly not attack them in print. He would thereafter adopt the same “cultural code” that many anti-Jewish intellectuals were forced to utilize as a means of fighting the culture war without being labelled “anti-Semitic.”
Ultimately, however, the greatest of Nietzsche’s “replies” to Jordan Peterson may lie in his personal example. Like Jordan Peterson, Nietzsche came to surround himself with Jewish fans, and courted Jews with occasionally exuberant philo-Semitic statements. Nietzsche also possessed an ego and arrogance that led to antagonism towards Wagner, his artistic mentor, rather than appreciation for sage advice. Nietzsche distanced himself from Wagner and from the Jewish Question for the remainder of his life, beginning in the mid-1870s. In early drafts of Untimely Meditations (1876) probably dating to around 1874, Nietzsche searched for criticisms of the composer. Among them was the accusation that Wagner was a tyrant who could not appreciate the validity of anyone but those among his most trusted associates, causing him to be blind to “the validity of Brahms, etc., or the Jews.” He also accused Wagner, ironically in view of the latter’s crucial advice, of a grave political error in attacking the Jews “who now possess the most money and the press in Germany.”
The point here is that one can secretly be aware of Jewish power, and even agree that it is often expressed negatively, but still follow a philo-Semitic path for personal advancement. Nietzsche’s example here is fitting. His dedication to Voltaire of Human, All Too Human (1878–1880) marked the final stage of his break from the Wagnerian cultural mission. The rationalist Frenchman was anathema to the German romantic. The Wagners read the book, only to find it “strangely perverse” and full of “pretentious ordinariness.” The reason behind the change in quality of Nietzsche’s writing was, in their opinion, his growing association with the Jewish philosophy student Paul Rée. The association dated back to 1873, and Rée had accompanied Nietzsche on visits to the Wagners on a couple of occasions during those years. However, in 1876 Cosima’s suspicions were raised by aspects of Rée’s personality. In October 1876 she wrote in her diary: “In the evening we are visited by Dr. Rée, whose cold and precise character does not appeal to us; on closer inspection we come to the conclusion that he must be an Israelite.”
Wagner was extremely insistent that the Jew had ensnared his young former friend. Cosima around this date wrote to her husband that Nietzsche was essentially just a mirror that reflected the ideas or thoughts of whoever surrounded him. Nietzsche’s writings, borrowing heavily from Schopenauer and indeed Wagner himself, were “just reflections of something else, they did not come from within.” Wagner replied magnificently: “And now they are Rée-flections.” Cosima would later write to a friend that Human, All Too Human bore an undeniable Jewish imprint:
The author has undergone a process that I saw coming for a long time, and that I struggled against with my meagre powers. Many things came together to produce that deplorable book! Finally, Israel intervened in the form of a Dr. Rée, very sleek, very cool, at the same time being captivated by Nietzsche and dominated by him, though actually outwitting him: the relationship of Judea to Germania in miniature. … I know that here evil has been victorious. … Wagner himself asserts about Nietzsche that a flower could have come from this bulb. Now only the bulb remains, really a loathsome thing.
Like Nietzsche, Jordan Peterson appears to have heavily associated with Jews for some time, a fact that may have caused Peterson to engage in his own “Rée-flections.” The foreword to 12 Rules for Life was written by a Jewish man named Norman Doidge, who met Peterson at a party organized by Jews Wodek Szemberg and Estera Bekier. As a piece of writing, it is highly patronizing and places Peterson fully within the category of useful goy. He is also presented as a rough-edged, quasi-rural figure in contrast with the ordinarily sophisticated and, one assumes, Jewish urbanites who normally attended such parties. To Doidge, Peterson “had the enthusiasm of a kid,” and “there was something boyish in the cowboy.” Indeed, Doidge uses the phrases “cowboy,” “rural,” “folksy,” and even “cowboy psychologist” more than ten times in five paragraphs (p.9), which is really an extraordinary set of descriptors for someone who, to “goy eyes” doesn’t merit any of these descriptions and doesn’t appear remotely “of the land.” That he evokes such sensations and impressions in Jews, however, is extremely interesting in showing that Jews see Peterson as the quintessential “other”—as a paradigmatic goy.
This is not to say that the foreword is not flattering of Peterson. It is. But the ways in which it is flattering are interesting to say the least. Take, for example, Doidge’s remark that he “had never before met a person, born Christian and of my generation, who was so utterly tormented by what happened in Europe to the Jews, and who had worked so hard to understand how it could have occurred.” How has Peterson “worked so hard to understand how it could have occurred”? Thus far, he appears to have written less than 2,000 words regurgitating Sartre, devoid of footnotes illustrating any serious reading in the subjects of Jewish history or anti-Semitism. “Working hard,” we must assume, is in reference less to gaining an understanding of historical European-Jewish relations than advancing an understanding of Jewish victimhood and blamelessness—an understanding that Jews of course find highly beneficial.
Peterson is a favorite of Quillette, an online magazine founded by Jewish academic Claire Lehmann that postures as advocating for “free thought” and putatively ‘dangerous’ and ‘subversive’ conservative ideas. In reality, Quillette, which has promoted the paper-thin analyses of Kevin MacDonald by Nathan Cofnas (without allowing MacDonald to reply), advances standard neoconservativism and has posted a large number of articles condemning anti-Semitism (see, for example, here, here, and here) and defending Israel (see their archive here). The magazine should best be seen as a stellar example of a growing phenomenon I’ve discussed previously—a slow shift of Jews from the traditional Left (where extensive, unpredictable anti-Israel sentiment is making it a cold house for Jews), to a new milquetoast center that defends and promotes Israel, babbles about free speech, and attracts the unsophisticated with token gestures to the Right (opposition to the more extreme expressions of the LGBT agenda, objections to trans terminology, and baiting the odd Muslim) without ever broaching matters of race or immigration in a meaningful way, and certainly without ever acknowledging the Jewish Question as a reality. Indeed, in a telling turn of events that brings us almost full circle, Quillette posts pieces from the Russian-Jewish writer Cathy Young (born Ekaterina Jung), who has previously written an article attacking “the anti-Semitism of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.” Such facts illuminate the sheer oddity of Peterson’s role in these matters—a figure just edgy enough to attract the masses without endangering the status quo; just compliant enough to merit promotion; and just enough of a “folksy cowboy” to entangle himself with a clique that trashes his own heroes because they weren’t quite so compliant.
I’ve written previously that a key weakness of Nietzsche appears to have been his incomplete understanding of the nature of Jewish influence in German culture and society, and his egotistic willingness to accept Jews as friends and associates if he perceived them to be useful in advancing his own personal fame and fortunes. Perhaps, the best assessment of, and reply to, Jordan Peterson thus comes via Nietzsche, from the Wagners:
A flower could have come from this bulb. Now only the bulb remains, really a loathsome thing.
[A1] Jung is perhaps the most important figure in Peterson’s thought, understandable given their overlapping professional interest in psychology and psychoanalysis. The Canadian has most notably brought these interests to bear in his series of lectures on the psychological significance of the Biblical stories.
[A2] All quotes taken from Anthony Storr (ed), The Essential Jung: Selected Writings (London: Fontana, 1998). These traits are so manifest that Europeans/Christians have struggled for many centuries with their distaste for the God of the Old Testament. An excellent recent example of the Christian attempt to wrestle with this problem, and an overview of the history of debate on the issue, is Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan’s Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God (Michigan: Baker Books, 2014).
[A3] Baron, S. W. (1934). “The Historical Outlook of Maimonides.” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Vol. 6, No. 5, 24.
[A4] See John Doyle Klier, Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) and Derek J. Penslar, Jews and the Military: A History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013).
[B1] David Goldstein, Dostoyevsky and the Jews (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981).
[B2] Donald Wright, The Professionalization of History in English Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), 95
[C1] B. Cohen, “Jung’s Answer to Jews,” Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, 6:1 (56-71), 59.
[C2] Ibid, 58.
[C4] T. Kirsch, “Jung’s Relationship with Jews and Judaism,” in Analysis and Activism: Social and Political Contributions of Jungian Psychology (London: Routledge, ), 174.
[C5] Ibid, 177.
[C6] T. Kirsch, “Jung and Judaism,” Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, 6:1 (6-7), 6.
[C7] S. Zemmelman (2017). “Inching towards wholeness: C.G. Jung and his relationship to Judaism.” Journal of Analytical Psychology, 62(2), 247–262.
[C7a] As anti-Semitism increased during the Weimar period, Jewish-owned liberal newspapers began to suffer economic hardship because of public hostility to the ethnic composition of the editorial boards and staffs (Mosse 1987, 371). The response of Hans Lachman-Mosse was to “depoliticize” his newspapers by firing large numbers of Jewish editors and correspondents. Eksteins (1975, 229) suggests that the response was an attempt to deflect right-wing categorizations of his newspapers as part of the Judenpresse.
[C8] See W. Schoenl and L. Schoenl, Jung’s Evolving View of Nazi Germany: From the Nazi Takeover to the End of World War II (Asheville: Chiron, 2016).
[C9] S. Frosh (2005). “Jung and the Nazis: Some Implications for Psychoanalysis.” Psychoanalysis and History, 7(2), (253–271), 258.
[C10] S. Frosh. (2005). “Jung and the Nazis: Some Implications for Psychoanalysis.” Psychoanalysis and History, 7(2), (253–271), 257.
[C11] N. R. Goldenberg, “Reply to Barbara Chesser’s Comment on “A Feminist Critique of Jung” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 3: 3 (1978), 724.
[C12] Adams, M. V. (1997). “Jung and Racism.” Self & Society, 25(1), 19–23.
[C14] J. Collins. (2009). “SHADOW SELVES.” Interventions, 11(1), 69–80.