Professor Peterson’s Mysterious Covid Omertà
An indefatigable denouncer of historical tyranny, Jordan Peterson seems to have missed the animal coming down the Western street where we all live. Was it just his horrific illness, or something else?
Jordan Peterson has been an unmitigated treasure of Western civilisation, into possibly its final decades. His presence has in the past promised that we should at least go out serenaded by grace and brilliance, reprising the glory days. It was also possible that he might help to save us, but the day is now far spent.
He has plumbed the potentially fatal problems of that civilisation to a depth that, for all they had been partially described and diagnosed by others, took on a new clarity in the embrace of his fierce and gentle sentences. He is a brave, brilliant and extraordinarily coherent warrior of words. He has his tens of thousands of hours of clinical practice as a psychologist to erect as a shield around himself, but still you have to say that he is brave, brilliant and extraordinarily coherent. And still you have to say: He speaks like a man, not like a psychologist. He was, is,devastating in argument, dazzling to watch and listen to, a source of envy for his gifts as well as sympathy for his exposure and admiration for his heroism.
He became, in the shortest imaginable time, the world’s best-known public intellectual. He has taken the battle to the enemy, which confirms that he knows who the enemies are (not to be taken for granted), but one way or the other they certainly know who he is. For a time, after his sensational entrée to the global crucible of ideas in 2016, he remained at the eye of the storm, smiting all who incurred his forensic irritation, and sustained a serious psychological battering by stirring up against himself some of the nastiest beings in the universe. His family clearly suffered immeasurable strain and stress as a result of his exposure. He became ill. His wife became ill. His daughter, who had been ill for years, found health in time to take care of them both. He went away. He came back. We waited for him to talk about the elephant that had entered the room while he was away, but he did not.
And then he did, and it was not exactly what we expected.
This essay is not intended to be a criticism of Jordan Peterson, a man who, though I have occasional minor points of disagreement with him, I regard as perhaps the most vital force of nature in the human family of the contemporary moment. My purpose is to raise a question, based on examination of the evidence, concerning the possibility that something is up with Jordan Peterson apart from the obvious. I raise it because I am confused, if not bereft, on account of something that has come to my notice, at first gradually over the past year, and then suddenly about ten days ago.
The obvious is that he has been very ill. The ‘something’, has to do with the way he has spoken, and not spoken, about the elephant that is Covid.
Hugo Talks is a reliable and usually on-the-button website that frequently raises issues about vaccines and other ominous aspects of what is happening to our world.
This item is based on a clip extracted from one of Jordan Peterson’s periodic Q&As, in which he answers questions sent in by viewers of his videos. This one, though recently published on his website (June 5th), dates back to February, and has Peterson delivering what seems to be rather thoughtless advice to ‘Get the damn (Covid) vaccine!’
Hugo cuts up pretty rough, nominating Peterson as ‘Shill of the week’ and mocking his claim that he had ‘no particular insights with regard to this pandemic.’
Since his return at the turn of the year, as Hugo says, Peterson has said very little about Covid, which on its face is indeed odd. As Hugo says: ‘This is the biggest world event of his lifetime and — what? — he’s got nothing to say about it? If you were to look as his channel, there’s not a mention of it. You’d think it was not happening at all. No mention of it in all those interviews with his BBFs, Russell Brand, Stephen Fry, and Hollywood actors like Matthew McConaughey.’
‘He’s supposed to be an expert on Communism, totalitarian regimes. So . . . what? You expect me to believe that he’s not seen the totalitarian, draconian, digital future that the elite psychos have planned for us, coming around the corner?’
Hugo plays a brief clip of Peterson responding to some kind of question pertaining to Covid. He doesn’t include the question, and only part of Peterson’s response:
‘But you . . . But I don’t think it’s obvious that what you’re doing is wrong. It’s obvious that it’s really complicated. And so, I would . . . My response to this is to suspend judgment for six months from now. Fearing as I do the loss of civil liberties, and wary as I am for what it means about how we’re going to handle infectious diseases in the future. I’m wearing the masks when I’m required to. So . . . that’s the best I can do with that. I have no particular insights with regard to this pandemic. It affected me and my family in the same way it affects everyone else. It throws us into psychological disarray in all the same ways, and brings up all the same moral questions, and I wish I had a better answer, but I don’t. So . . . I mean I’ve got the vaccine, so that’s a particular answer on my part. But I understand the position of those who don’t want to take it. And I would be unwilling to compel them by force, that’s for sure, because that’s not the right approach, although I would encourage people to ‘get the damn vaccine, let’s get the hell over with this.’ And I did that, I put my body on the line to do it. That’s my decision. I’m not saying it’s right. It’s what I decided to do.’
One might be inclined to ask: Why not leave things like that? Jordan Peterson has spoken and his answer is (reasonably) clear, some would say unambiguous. But I became curious as to what the question had been — this is by no means clear from the answer. What was the questioner ‘doing’ that was not obviously wrong? Was it a question about vaccines?
The Q&A stream from which it is taken was recorded on February 6th 2021:
The relevant answer comes in at 1.20.45
The question is actually about wearing masks. The questioner feels that being forced to wear masks is a violation of personal rights: ‘But I want to respect the private rights of businesses to decide what they require. How do I act? I feel weak, as you say, if I don’t stop wearing them I’m participating in a lie, and if I don’t stop there’s no end.’
This obviously occurs somewhat before the section posted by Hugo. Peterson introduces his answer as follows:
‘Look, everybody is torn apart by this situation. And no one really knows what to do, and that includes me. You know . . . I think, by and large, the entire human race has done a remarkable job of dealing with this pandemic. The cities, our cities are not burning down, Our economies are not in tatters We’re not completely out of our minds. And really that’s quite an accomplishment. Now, are cities partly in tatters, and are we partly insane? Yes, definitely. And do we know that all of what we did was good? Well, it certainly wasn’t. But we stumbled by not too badly, and with any luck this is going to come to an end. So, I guess my advice, and this is the advice I follow myself, is . . . I think it’s time to suspend judgment for six months. Sometimes you don’t know what to do. And, you know, your conscience is bothering you, because being forced to wear masks obviously is a violation of your personal rights, and so is being locked down, and we’ve sacrificed our civil liberties in a dreadful manner, and God only knows what we’re going to do when the next infectious disease cycle begins. Because we don’t know where the boundaries are. Like, what if we have a particularly bad influenza? Are we going to be locked down again? The precedents are in and we have to deal with that, and that is a very terrifying issue. And to the degree that it’s terrifying and it’s a real threat, you know, you’re tortured by your conscience. (At this point the stream is punctuated by advertising, following which he continues exactly from the point where Hugo’s extract began.)
‘But you . . . But I don’t think it’s obvious that what you’re doing is wrong . . . ‘ Et cetera.
At the end of that (already cited) section, Peterson goes on:
‘So, give yourself a break. Of course you have moral qualms, and you should. And so should all of us. But let’s not forget . . . I would close that by saying, let’s not forget we did a pretty damn good job with this so far. It looks like a mess on the ground but it could have been a hell of a lot worse, and I’m really amazed that it wasn’t. I know the cards haven’t all fallen into play, and who knows, maybe one thing it could do is alert us to the presence of our real enemy. Because we have lots of proximal enemies and they tend to be other people. But we have a real enemy and that tends to be infectious disease. And AIDS didn’t quite teach us that, and the pandemic wouldn’t either, but it would be a good thing to learn. Maybe we could aim our future selves at an increasingly disease-free society for everyone in the world. And it has to be for everyone because we’re all the same body, as it turns out. So getting a handle on infectious disease around the world, that’s an unwarranted good, and it might have extremely beneficial effects politically too, especially if Randy Thornhill is right and the worst of tyrannical authoritarianism is driven by concerns that arise as a consequence of infectious disease prevalence. It’s a radical hypothesis, and maybe it’s true. And so, if we got rid of infectious disease to the degree that we could — if we made that public enemy number one, we might simultaneously be doing the best possible thing to limit the attractiveness of totalitarian ideology. Well, you can watch Randy Thornhill’s discussion with me if you want more information about that. It’ll be released within the next two months. It’s a killer theory, so to speak.’
It is worth noting in passing that Peterson, in answering his follower’s question, does not balk at aspects of it that would certainly irritate a Covid believer — the assertion by the questioner, for example, that ‘if I don’t stop wearing them I’m participating in a lie . . .’ It’s also interesting that his reference to vaccines seems to be an afterthought, as though he was addressing the subject for the first time anywhere, and not just as an international public intellectual but as an actual human being.
On its face, the end section of his answer seems to be based on a bizarre proposition: that totalitarianism arises because of genuine fears about infectious diseases. Randy Thornhill is an American entomologist and professor of evolutionary biology at the University of New Mexico. Working with three colleagues on a 2010 paper, Thornhill found that in Western nations ‘the marked increase in the liberalization of social values that began to occur in the West in the 1960s and 1970s (e.g., civil rights, women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, anti-authoritarianism, etc.)’ was preceded by a dramatic reduction of ‘infectious-disease prevalence.’ This reduction, it was concluded, was the result of ‘a generation or two earlier of widespread availability of antibiotics, child vaccination programs, food — and water — safety practices, increased sanitation and vector control.’ Conversely, Thornhill and colleagues write: ‘Populations characterised by a high prevalence of infectious diseases’ foster what they call ‘value systems’ characterised by ethnocentric attitudes, adherence to existing traditions, behavioural conformity, xenophobia and neophobia (the tendency to avoid or retreat from an unfamiliar object or situation).
This seems dubious, for a start, the result of confusing correlation and causation. Of course it is axiomatic that regions which have remained more or less virginal in the context of migration and mass movements of people from outside have been prone to suffer most when pathogens inevitably arrive, by virtue of having no internal immunity to such invasions. But it would be bizarre if researchers managed to mould such history into a polemic against societal cohesion and conservatism. In another paper, Thornhill, Cory Fincher, and Devaraj Aran found that a ‘high prevalence of infectious disease’ regionally predicted more conservative political values. The study favourably cited an earlier researcher who had studied US states and found that the ‘tightest’ political cultures are in the states ‘with the most disasters and pathogen prevalence.’
We shall have to await Professor Thornhill’s conversation with Professor Peterson, which has still to be posted, but on the face of it, this thesis is made nonsense of by Covid. Almost from the outset, SARS-CoV-2 revealed itself as a ‘left-liberal’ pathogen, with liberals leading the way in enthusiasm for lockdown, face masks, vaccines and all the other fixtures of the Time of Covid. (See my article of November 2020)
Another point arises from Peterson’s full reply. As a speaker and writer, as Hugo observed, he has been known most of all for his dissections of the mechanics of totalitarian tyranny — Nazism, Communism et cetera. It is strange that, in framing the Covid/lockdown situation he sidesteps all possibilities that this may be relevant here. The key to this evasion is his use of the term ‘civil liberties’, which he fears the loss of.
This is odd. People who use the term ‘civil liberties’ concerning Covid tend to be those inside the Covid tent pretending they’re reluctant to impinge on people’s freedoms, or those outside who have swallowed the propaganda pill whole.
‘Civil liberties’, you might say, is the heading of a column of political concerns that, in the West, mostly lists leftist concerns about the actions or intentions of conservative governments. In general, the phrase has been used in reference to the rights of people who have fallen into general disfavour in society — terrorists or paedophiles, for example — whom civil libertarians still wish to defend in the context of their entitlement to due process and so forth. It’s also a phrase used by left-wing groups in what now seem the harmless days of agitation in the 1970s and 80s, and by organisations like Amnesty International, in the days before it became a Marxist revolutionary movement. In that context, it has to do with fair trials, due process, police brutality, usually due to the actions of ‘bad apples’. People sometimes talk about the scarcity or lack of ‘civil liberties’ in Belarus or Hungary, though not so much these days about China. The phrase is never used to describe outright suspensions of freedoms and rights. You would not speak of Nazism as exhibiting a diminution of civil liberties. Its use has largely died out in the era of SJWs and Cultural Marxism, mainly because the most active, powerful and vocal agitators do not find the concept convenient, since they are generally in favour of the withdrawal of ‘civil liberties’ from those they disagree with.
So it’s become an ambiguous and rather quaint phrase, that fails to capture what has happened in the Time of Covid, which has seen a complete takedown of fundamental rights for entire populations, the suspension — on, let’s say, a quasi-permanent basis — of the constitutions of most Western countries that used to have the like.
What we have lost in the past 15 months is not ‘civil liberties’ but the unthinking expectation of freedom, the automatic entitlement to presume that our governments would not merely avoid impinging on our most intimate freedoms but that they would move against any attempt to question them from any quarter on any basis whatever. Even if some means were available by which these invasions may be ended or curtailed, no mechanism had been proffered or proposed by which any limit on further incursion might occur in the future. All this is already deadly serious even before you get to the — at best — reckless imposition of untested vaccines and the campaign of bullying surrounding and promoting them.
And, by the way, every ‘civil liberties’ type person I know has caved on every aspect of Covid. Every one.
Early in 2020, it was reported that Jordan Peterson was very ill and had spent more than a week in a drug-induced coma at a Russian clinic. It was reported also that his condition related to a physical dependence to the drug clonazepam, a tranquiliser of the benzodiazepine class, used to prevent and treat seizures, anxiety and panic disorders, and the movement disorder akathisia, a restlessness of body and mind that is generally recognised as a side-effect of antipsychotic medication. It appears that these factors had their roots in some form of depression exacerbated by his wife’s serious illness with cancer. His alarming state first came to notice in September 2019, when he was admitted to a rehab clinic in New York state, having failed in an attempt to come off his medication. It appears that he ended up in Russia in some desperation, having failed to obtain relief otherwise. It was repeatedly reported at the time that Peterson was close to death.
While it may immediately appear bizarre that a man known for delivering stern lectures about the necessity for rigorous self-inventory, responsibility and personal discipline might succumb to something like a tranquiliser, it is important to stress that there is a difference between physical dependence and mental addiction. An abrupt cessation or dramatic dose-reduction by a benzodiazepine user can result in extreme physical and mental symptoms, not excluding seizure and death. It is also said that Peterson’s attempts on his own to wean himself off clonazepam may have complicated things. It is believed that his collapse in the Russian clinic may have arisen from a botched attempt to have him do cold turkey. Mikhaila Peterson said her father had been given ‘an emergency medical benzodiazepine detox, which we were only able to find in Russia.’
These details are important to any understanding of Jordan Peterson’s frame of mind through 2020, which cannot have been improved by his contracting a further respiratory infection in July 2020. Perhaps inevitably, this was diagnosed as Covid-19.
This news became public almost immediately from an interview with his daughter Mikhaila with British tabloid The Sun. Mikhaila said her father had contracted the condition in a Serbian hospital, where he’d been recovering from his treatment in Russia. It is unclear whether this is a separate diagnosis from an outbreak of pneumonia he is said to have suffered in the Russian clinic.
‘He was put on a whole bunch of . . . kind of pre-emptively, he was put on anti-virals and things,’ Mikhaila Peterson said. ‘I don’t know if that was necessary, because his symptoms weren’t that bad — he didn’t have a cough, he had a mild fever, but they just put him on everything.’
When he re-emerged in public around the turn of the year, Professor Peterson looked and sounded alarmingly frail. He was little more than skin and bone His voice was thin and high-pitched. Always prone to emotional hiatus, he now broke into weeping at the slightest cue. In some of these conversations, Peterson gave some graphic accounts of his life over the previous year — the cancer suffered by his wife Tammy, which brought her to death’s door for several months, his own debilitating illness, which reduced him to a physical wreck, every morning prompting the thought that he should drag himself along to the nearest emergency room.
It would be ludicrous to judge his attitude to Covid without weighting for these tumultuous events. When he delivered his first brief judgement on Covid, masks and vaccines in February 2021, he was barely ‘back’ for much more than a few weeks.
It is often not understood that physical illness can lead to severe emotional disturbance that is as much physiological as psychological, even when not complicated by the effects of medication. Anxiety at what may seem an incurable condition can lead to exponential complications of this kind, and the introduction of drugs can bring this into a rapid downward spiral. I had direct experience of this over the course of the year prior to Jordan Peterson’s collapse, so had been extending Peterson’s silence on Covid maximum latitude on the basis that illness can sometimes leave your nerves in tatters.
Certainly, he seemed to return to the fray too soon. He seemed determined to make up for the time he had lost. He published another book, recommenced doing interviews and discussions on YouTube.
I do not go along with Hugo’s idea that Peterson is some kind of shill. I have watched him too closely for too long. But, still, there are troubling aspects to all this.
On its face it is extraordinary that a man who has devoted his life to looking closely into things should appear to have done so little looking into Covid. How can he say he has ‘no particular insight’, especially since he claims to have had the ‘disease’? And if he has ‘no particular insight’ what on earth is he doing urging people to ‘get the damn vaccine’? Having appeared to avoid the issue hitherto, why dive in to issue a fairly direct endorsement of the actions and demands of the globalised authorities.
It is unlikely that, in the key early months of the ‘pandemic’, Peterson was in anything like the requisite frame of mind for studying and analysing what was happening. He’s also not been doing his clinical practice — which previously took up about 20 hours a week. This has undoubtedly cut him off from a primary source of insight.
But there has been enough off-mainstream talk about the subtexts of Covid for the dogs-in-the-street to know that there are moves afoot to alter the very nature of human existence, and the human mind, under cover of the ‘pandemic’. As Hugo says, Jordan Peterson had made such issues the core of his mission. He knows how it goes.
Has he not heard about the dodgy infection tests or the even dodgier modes of mortality certification in use by governments and ‘health’ authorities? Doesn’t he know that the survival rate among those who have had the condition —whatever it may be — is 99.96 per cent, about the same as a mid-range influenza? Hasn’t he noticed the obviously centralised orchestration of what is supposed to be an organic ‘pandemic’? Does he have a view of curfews, of robo cops? Does he worry about the occlusion of the human face by the now ubiquitous cloth muzzle? What about censorship, cancelling of dissenting experts, the one-voice tenor of media coverage? As someone who has expressed dismay about the meltdown of media ethics, does it occur to him that anything he thinks he ‘knows’ about the Covid situation may be drawn from the walls of lies the corrupt media have built into the world? Does it not concern him that the ‘vaccines’ are mostly not even vaccines and are being live-tested on humans in a climate of tacit coercion? Was he unaware, when his remarks on vaccines were published on his site on June 5th, that thousands of people — far more than in any vaccine programme in recent history — had already died after receiving a substance that was supposedly designed to save their lives? Is it not obvious to him that something is wrong, perhaps even that this amounts to some kind of sustained attack on the human species, maybe even a criminal operation orchestrated centrally, but at any rate clearly beyond oversight by any of the traditional agencies in place to protect the human population?
For all that, his remaining silent on its own would have been cause for raised eyebrows but not necessarily for alarm. There certainly appears to be a strong reluctance among academics to speak about something controversial until it has been history for some considerable time. Petersons ‘six months’ to consider his verdict on Covid might be a way of playing for time.
As regards divining Professor Peterson’s position, there may be an issue with regard to the broader climate among American ‘conservative’ intellectuals. Several such, who might have been expected to see the pandemic as a major event in the vindication of their worldviews, instead seemed more or less to chime in with the dominant narrative. I’m thinking of people like Stephen K. Bannon, Victor Davis Hanson, Steve Turley and Rod Dreher — all of whom spoke from the outset as though it were self-evident that the ‘pandemic’ amounted to the return of the Spanish flu. One thing that recurringly springs to mind is that Americans of many hues have a weird attitude to health matters, doctors, and, above all, medication, i.e., ultimately, Big Pharma.
But Peterson, a Canadian, is the real puzzle. The Covid 'event' is indeed arguably a culmination of all his talk about tyranny, totalitarianism, Communism, Nazism etc. Even more bizarrely, Peterson lives in Ontario, perhaps — along with Ireland — the most locked-down state in the world. Even allowing for the industrial fraudulence of the certification of Covid mortality, Canada has had fewer deaths per capita than Ireland, which had no excess deaths in 2020.
Another theory to add to the others here relates to what might be called a ‘comity of experts’ — the idea that experts of different disciplines, in part because they wish not to cross lines into areas in which they lack expert qualifications, agree not to be seen applying even basic common sense in public to aspects of any issue other than those in which they are ‘qualified’. This syndrome is really a kind of ‘conspiracy against the laity’, in the sense that it ensures that any multi-faceted problem is unreachable by anything other than a consensus of all the multi-disciplinary experts who may commentate upon it. So, is it necessary to be a microbiologist in order to walk unmolested down the street? By this culturally accelerating logic, laypersons may never attempt to critique any aspect of something deemed to be the province of ‘experts’, and no expert may critique outside his own area of expertise, so that the whole — the totality of the elephant, as it were — is immunised against criticism other than by, in a sense, a conspiracy of experts.
If I were Jordan Peterson’s friend or brother, I would long ago have sat him down and asked him to think about Covid from the beginning, contextualising it in the concerns he has been speaking about in public for several years. I would urge him in the strongest possible terms not to come down on the side of clearly corrupt authorities in the matter of the vaccines. And I would certainly be telling him that there’s a difference between ‘Clean your damn room’ and ‘Get the damn vaccine!’
Among the troubling aspects of this injunction is its banality, in contrast to other things he’s said, like, ‘There are some things worse than death and that’s the death of your soul.’ I don’t mean Peterson has corrupted his soul by taking the vaccine, or even by telling everyone to take the damn thing as well, but that he was previously not the kind of man known for getting out of bed to say such things. ‘Life without truth is hell,’ he says, or ‘You know in the deepest part of your heart that if you don’t tell the truth the world falls apart.’ I don’t mean to suggest he has told lies but that there was a time when Jordan Peterson used not to open his mouth to say the same things as political hacks and journaliars. Perhaps this is the most shocking, the most inexplicable thing.
I flick through his 2018 book, 12 Rules for Life: An antidote to chaos, in search of an answer. On page 108 I come across this:
‘Pay attention. Focus on your surroundings, physical and psychological. Notice something that bothers you, that concerns you, that will not let you be, which you could fix, that you would fix.’
I’m not being snide, quoting a man’s words back to him as accusations. I’m talking to myself, in the words of the Master.
It is not as if Peterson is naïve about the medical or pharmaceutical industries. In a conversation with Bret Weinstein in February, (actually recorded on February 17th, 11 days after the Q&A in which he addresses the Covid issue ) Jordan Peterson says:
‘I suspect, if you did the statistics properly, that medicine, independent of public health, kills more people than it saves. I suspect that if you factor in phenomena like the development of superbugs in hospitals, for example, that overall the net consequence of hospitals is negative. Now that’s just a guess, and it could easily be wrong, and it also could not be wrong. That’s where my thinking about what we don’t know has taken me, with regards to the critique of what we do.‘
Weinstein; ‘The fact that it’s even plausible is a stunning fact.’
Peterson: ‘Well, you know, medical error is the third leading cause of death. And that doesn’t take into account the generation of superbugs, for example.’
Weinstein then brings up the Wuhan lab leak story of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, suggesting that the likelihood that recent reports are true means that we now have to factor in gain-of-function manipulations of viruses in the balance sheet of damage caused by medicine.
Peterson nods, something about halfway between non-committal and agreement. He responds: ‘I know that that’s something that you’ve been tracking and pursuing. I don’t have an opinion about it because I don’t know enough about it to have an opinion. So . . .’ With that he changes the subject.
Later in the conversation he refers with obvious familiarity, to the Covid situation in Israel and says he has been hoping that the roll-out of the vaccine there would show it’s possible to bring infection to a halt. Weinstein says he believes ‘we’ went too easy with lockdown in the beginning, enabling the virus to get out of control. Half-assed measures and politicisation, he says, have ‘robbed us of the kinds of controls that we might otherwise have instituted’. He then hands Peterson on a plate an opportunity to address the issue in conditions about as safe as it is possible to imagine: conversing with a Covid believer who raises what is for sure a fascinating issue — the strange ideological complexion of Covid, and why, in America, supporters of Donald Trump are less likely to wear face masks. This is a topic I have written about on this platform and elsewhere:
Peterson, looking troubled, again ducks, bringing the discussion back to a more general discussion.
He did the same thing in an interview six weeks later, with the British comedian Stephen Fry.
Professor Peterson was by then looking and sounding a great deal better, though several allusions to his health suggested that he is not yet out of the woods. I had been avoiding the exchange, due to an acquired aversion to Fry, whom I admired in the period of his comedic partnership with Hugh Laurie back in the 1980s but went seriously off after 2014, when he piled in alongside the mendacious Panti Bliss and other LGBT zealots in seeking to destroy me professionally and personally in the wake of a TV attack on me by Mr Bliss. But I am glad I finally caught Fry’s conversation with Peterson, because it is very good. I even managed to sit through a painful five minutes at the beginning where Fry tries to pass himself off as an advocate of finding common ground between viewpoints.
The conversation flitted erratically around the theme of the differences between rationalism and empiricism, straying inevitably into religion, with Fry providing his most coherent and comprehensive account of a notorious interview (with Gay Byrne) several years ago in which he called God a ‘monster’. Peterson was probing Fry’s pronounced atheism, though not in a hostile way. It was fascinating to observe that, of the two, Peterson — a defender of religion, though not (quite) a believer — is closer to being a rationalist, whereas Fry, a confessed empiricist, is the atheist. Fry undoubtedly comes off best in the conversation, as well as revealing himself as a far more complex character than his public image normally allows.
The subject of Covid arose only once between them, being tangentially raised by Fry. He was talking about the comparative behaviours of mice and humans and described an experiment he had come across involving a herd of mice, in which the mice were placed on a sheet of hard plastic and floated on a stretch of water. Because the mice did not know what was happening, they scuttled aimlessly around the sheet of plastic, the randomness of their movements causing the plastic to maintain equilibrium in the water. A bunch of humans in a similar situation, Fry said, would all rush to the same end of the plastic and therefore drown. In introducing the story, Fry alluded to its relevance to the Covid situation, seeming to imply that, because we now know so much about disease, we are placing ourselves at greater danger than when the human race was relatively ignorant of such matters. It is an interesting thesis, but Peterson was having none of it. When Fry had finished, Peterson paused as though thinking then smiled almost theatrically and. . . changed the subject.
There is another interesting — and possibly relevant — exchange at 1.19 in the Weinstein/Peterson exchange, about the difference between the conditions governing human relations in the real world as compared to online. In the real world, Peterson observes, because the people around you are more or less fixed, you have to get along with them in repeated interaction. Online, if you don’t like what people say to you, you can just up sticks and move to a different community.
He goes on:
‘That’s another thing we should talk about, because another thing that’s happening online is that . . . I’ve detected this also recently . . . that the online environment is also making everyone acutely paranoid. And I think the reason for that is that it’s easy for our thinking to go astray. And, as we talked about earlier in this discussion, other people [in the real world] tap you back into shape. You’re surrounded by a kind of random assortment of people in the real world, ‘cos you didn’t select them. So, because it’s random, it provides you with what is in essence relatively unbiased feedback information. But online you can choose your compatriots, and it’s likely to be the case that, at your weakest point psychologically, you choose the least demanding compatiots, and so your craziest ideas are the least likely to be challenged.‘
This is an interesting thesis, not least in the context of Peterson’s history and present situation. This particular response reads as possibly a commentary of some kind on his own psychological journeying under the attrition of onslaughts from all quarters in the years between 2016 and 2020. It reads like the commentary of a man who has been bruised, who perhaps has started to question the value of throwing himself under the wheels of the juggernaut of public discourse in its present form.
In this context it is also a little odd, considering that Peterson built most of his reputation online, that he broached the ‘concept’ of paranoia as a pronouncedly online condition. It is a strange thing to hear from someone who regards YouTube as a more important development than the printing press. The way he introduced it gave it the air of something like an insurance policy: as though he was building a defence against something — perhaps even some kind of anticipated online backlash against his relative silence on Covid . . .
There are differences between the clinical and cultural meanings of the syndrome broadly known as paranoia. The word derives from Greek and its etymology from two separate words — ‘para’, meaning ‘beside’ and ‘nous’ meaning ‘mind’, implying a state slightly slipped from rationality or even empiricism. Paranoia and anxiety are common. They can be part of the typical range of human experience or signs of a serious mental health diagnosis. The lower registers of the word are no more than allusions to a state of refined sensitivity to the fight-or-flight instinct. Clinically, the word suggests delusion, a clinging to false beliefs, persecution complex, fear of constant surveillance by unjust authority. Clinical paranoia, which has links to schizophrenia, a condition affecting about one per cent of the human population, is rare. Emil Kaepelin, the founder of modern scientific psychiatry, saw only 19 paranoiacs throughout the whole of his career. (He died at the age of 70 in 1926.)
There are substantial differences between pathological and non-pathological paranoia. Culturally, the word tends to suggest someone whose opinions seem to be governed by anxiety, or even merely hyper-vigilance. The label is used ideologically as a term of abuse or marginalisation, though it is arguable that civic alertness is actually best exercised nowadays in a disposition of low-level paranoia. In contemporary culture, the word can be used to describe someone who tends to mistrust governmental motives and actions, which can hardly ipso facto be deemed a pathological inclination. Paranoia, in all its incarnations, has to do with perception, which rightly understood suggests a capacity to understand reality correctly. In the modern world, what we call paranoia may, far from indicating mental illness, be a necessary tool of survival and apprehension in a world that very often is not what it seems.
Perhaps only the ‘paranoid’ can, in these conditions, look through or between the drapes of propaganda, to see the jackboots of the puppet masters moving underneath the curtain. Perhaps, in a culture in which nothing is as it seems, only those whose ‘suspicion antennae’ are tuned slightly high are capable of seeing what it happening.
Specifically, in this context, it may be that only those who are able to decipher the mechanism of the ‘conspiracy theory’ trope are able to see through the walls of lies. The phrase ‘conspiracy theorist’ trips off every second tongue and flips the sinister, paranoiac meanings of ‘conspiracy’ to the word ‘theory’, and of course the ‘theorist’. It’s an ingenious occult phrase, possessing the power to quash or disable at birth any potential stab at the truth about what is really going on in the public realm. In the Covid context alone, the ‘conspiracy theory’ spell-smear has provided covering fire for the Covid project, and has ensured that, for the past 15 months, affected members of the general public have steadfastly refused to listen to information and analyses that might have enabled them to save their livelihoods, their societies and, in many cases, their lives.
Those who would acquire immunity to the spell need first to achieve a kind of indifference to being called ‘conspiracists’ — and thus acquire the ability to go beyond normative commentary to perceive that the vista we are being enjoined to see as reality is merely a wall of facade scenery, as in a theatre play, portraying a verisimilitude of reality, with behind it something entirely other but infinitely more real. Perhaps Jordan Peterson intuits this but does not have the energy or (in a related sense) immediate daring to embark on the elaborate deconstruction that would be necessary to describing it. Perhaps this is why he has asked for time.
Meanwhile, back at the conversation: Bret Weinstein proposes that, for his part, he would tend to choose communities that are less likely to agree with him, because that is where he meets the most challenge — the alternative, he says, is ‘the end of growth’.
Peterson interrupts again: ‘I’ve had the experience of being in an environment where a very large number of people don’t agree with me, vociferously. And what I would say is that a little of that goes a long way! Even if you are a courageous thinker — I’m not going to put myself in that category, but even if you’re someone who wants to be able to tolerate dissent — there’s a limited amount of dissent that you actually can tolerate. You are going to seek out an environment where most people agree with you, where some people agree with you some of the time. There’s an amount of novelty that you can tolerate, but it’s not that large! And so, even people who have been trained to look for evidence that disproves their own theories, they’re only going to be able to tolerate a tiny bit of that at a time. It’s too destabilising.’
Peterson refers routinely to his ‘cancellations’, asserting that he continues to be ‘cancelled’ in all kinds of ways. It is indisputable: Cancellation takes many forms, but he has suffered more onslaughts, hit-jobs and professional assassination attempts than almost anyone I can think of. And yet he has survived all attempts to remove him from the public stage. This appearance of immortality is a function of his stature and the scale of his phenomenality. But perhaps what he is suggesting here is that there is a level of destabilisation beyond which it is not possible to survive. And maybe in the end you have to give in . . .
Despite his recent trajectory, Jordan Peterson is actually quite a mainstream figure, and clearly anxious to remain such. He rightly values the reach he has obtained into the ‘normal’ world. He also wishes, understandably, to protect his academic credentials from any suggestion of irrational or, worse, unempirical thinking. Perhaps, also, he genuinely doesn’t feel qualified to comment on any of the medical end of the Covid smorgasbord, having been out for the count for most of the critical period at the start, when he might have been in a position to incrementally read his way into the various relevant subjects and disciplines, and hear the varying viewpoints that were emerging almost from the beginning of the crisis in March 2020.
From a certain angle, Peterson appears to be suspended between the hypnoidal grid and his own experience of reality, relying for his information on the mainstream because the time has not yet come when he feels he should start to examine the situation critically from a professional perspective. I get this, but also perceive a problem: Once you buy in, even temporarily, to the mainstream narrative, you have surrendered your mind to propaganda, which may in the long run prove difficult to dissolve or set aside, and in the shorter run lead to irreversible decisions and actions, some of which may prove life-changing. There is no reason, given the totalising nature of the propaganda that has saturated the cultures of the world for the past 15 months, to assume that someone would be capable of achieving immunity to it just because he had been vocal and articulate on the subject of such manipulation, and attendant tyranny, seen in a historical context. What the past 15 months has ‘achieved’ in this regard is nothing less that the erection around every human occupant of the propagandised zones of an alternative version of reality which, by virtue of its ubiquity and the near total nature of the constructed consensus within it, suggests itself strongly and consistently as the sole and irrefutable reality. That, after all, is what propaganda sets out to achieve, and there has never in history been a propaganda operation to compare with this one, a globally synchronised edifice of falsity and misdirection, in which each of the individual parts corroborate all the others, and dissent is kept to an absolute minimum and banished to the periphery of the culture.
And yet, there seems to be something else, something in Peterson’s various responses characterised not exactly by evasiveness so much as by something like loathness — a word you don’t see or hear much but one having a special capacity to capture reluctance and dread.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that what ultimately motivates Peterson is a desire — perhaps unconscious, a function of his recent physical weakness — to reposition himself in the ideological firmament by shaking off his ‘far right’ designation, another occult smear tactic employed by powerful leftist interests, of which an intrinsic charge of conspiracism represents a significant element. In other words, he fully understands Bret Weinstein’s question about the odd ideological hue of Covid. He surely knows also that these charges are universally and entirely devoid of sincerity or reason, but in all cases are strategic instruments of silencing and marginalisation. Ultimately he must know that the only way he might succeed in repositioning himself is to abandon his mission altogether.
It hardly needs to be spelt out that Jordan Peterson’s omertà on the subject — if such it be — would be greatly to the benefit of the engineers of the present plandemic, that it would suit them if he did not have anything forensic to say about Covid, for it is likely that any such statement would garner enormous traction and attention and, couched in a certain way, possibly serve to undermine the walls of lies. I would say that the only reason his comments about the vaccine did not gain traction was due to the careful edifice of equivocation he had built around them.
It is important to stress that cancellation is not primarily intended as punishment, but as deletion. The point is to remove the inconvenient voice, if necessary permanently. To remove Peterson was, at the status he had attained, next to impossible without the use of lethal force. This might have been extreme, might have attracted too much attention. Hence, the next ‘best’ thing: his outright marginalisation through serious illness, accompanied by an implicit warning that the next time might be fatal. Is this implausible? Is it even paranoid?
Only if you haven’t been paying attention.
So, let us indulge ourselves a little and try to imagine what paranoiacs might make of the Peterson/Covid mystery —aside from embarking on the same road as Hugo and deciding that JBP has simply sold his people down the river by becoming a shill for the Combine.
What would a paranoid theory of Peterson’s position on Covid look like?
It is, first of all, possible that he knows something momentous that he cannot say, something dark and ominous and possibly unspeakable. That would be one explanation for his demeanour, and in some ways it would fit better than anything else the way, after listening to minor or glib or recreational theories about Covid, he shrugs, smiles thinly and yanks the discussion by the scruff to another topic.
But a true ‘paranoic’ of the contemporary moment, informed by observation and listening, might wonder if there might be more to it.
What if Jordan Peterson had been subjected to some kind of occult attack, sometime in 2019, being struck down with a condition that mirrored the symptoms of benzodiazepine dependency? And what if he somehow came to be aware, or at least suspicious, that this is what occurred?
If this seems unlikely, then consider two things: the importance (to the Combine) of taking Peterson out of the game that was about to kick off, and the remarkable pattern of mortality among significant figures who have resisted the plandemic in certain places — like Tanzania's President John Magufuli, who famously carried out PCR tests on a goat, a tree and a papaya fruit, and announced that all three had come back positive for Covid. President Magufuli died, allegedly of ‘the virus’, in March 2021, aged 61.
There is something about Peterson’s odd evasion of Covid that resonates with these events, which of course have been more or less ignored by the international media, except in so far as they have given opportunities for slyly relishing the idea of ‘Covid deniers’ dying of ‘the virus’.
Perhaps Jordan Peterson has been paying more attention than his responses have so far indicated. Perhaps he has added two and two and arrived at an answer that others might think paranoid but might be regarded by those who have a sense of the total crookedness of what is happening as no more than prudent. Perhaps that is why he has been reflecting on the topic of paranoia: Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
The paranoid theory fits what’s been happening more generally: the official insistence on pushing a dangerous vaccine long after it’s been shown to be dangerous; the apparent indifference to the happiness or even safety of those the entire Covid programme has purportedly been directed at ‘saving’; the incongruity of police officers dragging elderly, rosary-hugging people away from street protests because they plead to live the few years left to them.
In other words, the more ‘paranoid’ the theory (about pretty much anything) the most closely it fits the patterns of cruelty, mendacity and ruthlessness that have formed the dominant note of the story of the past 15 months, and will likely continue for a lot more than the six months Dr Peterson has granted himself.
That deadline, by the way, will just about bring us into August. If Jordan Peterson is thinking of saying something round about then, he might do well to first ask himself this question: What if all this is intended to be permanent? Wouldn’t that change everything?