Streetwise Professor

January 23, 2022

Jordan Peterson, Vaclav Havel, and the Power of the Powerless in an Age of Covid

Filed under: History,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:50 pm

Jordan Peterson has resigned his tenured position at the University of Toronto. Peterson provides an explanation of his decision in this long article in Canada’s National Post. I will not excerpt: I strongly recommend you read it in full.

I concur 100 percent with Peterson, especially in his dissection of modern academia in its current diseased–and probably fatally diseased–state. I often say that I am glad I am getting old, and on the downslope of a long academic career. I can’t imagine beginning an academic career today. Indeed, I can’t imagine that I would choose to embark on one–or that I would even be given the opportunity, given my various disqualifications (most of which are utterly out of my control). It’s been a great run, but the devil take the hindmost. (And he is doing so, as Peterson describes.)

Peterson’s diagnosis that the rot extends far beyond academia–and to the corporate world in particular–is also spot on.

It is indeed a dreary picture. What stands out most is the endemic dishonesty. Or more accurately, the assertive belief that honesty and truth are fictions, and the war on anyone who dissents from this smelly orthodoxy. We live in an Orwellian world, and academia and corporations are on the cutting edge of it.

The friend who alerted me to Peterson’s article asked me how will this all play out? How can we live in a world built on lies? How will we defeat it?

I responded that the best model (best in the sense of most accurate, not most desirable) is life in the USSR or the post-War Soviet Bloc. A life in which an official line is vigorously–indeed, viciously–enforced and that independent thought is relentlessly suppressed. A life in which many ordinary people cooperate with–often gleefully–with authorities to point out and punish wrongthink.

In such a world, people develop split personalities. Preference falsification is rampant. People realize they are being lied to incessantly in matters large and small. They also realize that pointing out the lies draws brutal retaliation. Loss of jobs. Loss of friends. Cancellation. Social death. Or worse. So they repeat the official mantras in public, or remain mulishly silent, and hate themselves in private for doing it. At most they communicate their recognition of the absurdity through indirect forms of humor. They limit honesty only to the most trusted.

And that is one of the most devastating effects. The need to be extremely guarded atomizes society: who can you trust, actually? Very few. And betrayal inevitably occurs, because the relentless pressure of the system incentivizes it.

Perhaps the best description of this dystopia is Vaclav Havel’s 1978 essay The Power of the Powerless. Havel described how oppressive systems are morally corrupting, and force those who dissent perforce construct inner personal spheres of honesty and truth and outer spheres of dissimulation. True believers and opportunistic lackeys enforce the party line: out of self-preservation the intellectually honest give superficial assent, but privately–usually very privately–dissent. Knowledge that the tall stalks fall to the scythe leads all but the bravest to lay low. And all the time the honest wonder how many others share their disgust. And they keep wondering because the entire system is optimized to make it impossible to know. Silence begets ignorance begets silence.

It is a grim world. A world antithetical to humanity and human development.

The only reason for optimism is that eventually the internal contradictions of a system built on lies become so obvious that everyone knows that everyone knows that everyone knows . . . that the system has failed. The mechanism of preference falsification breaks down, and mass dissidence spontaneously breaks out.

A system of lies cannot live forever.

Alas, as the experience of Russia especially, but much of the Soviet Block as well, demonstrates is that even after the House of Lies falls, much damage has already been done. Social trust destroyed is not easily restored. Longstanding habits of suspicion of institutions and other people are not readily transformed.

We are not in Havel’s Prague circa 1978. Yet. But we are on the road to it. Academia is furthest along that road, as Peterson describes in detail. But COVID–or more accurately, governments’ responses to the (to them) heaven-sent disease–has accelerated the pace of the journey for the populace at large. The poison of lies–official lies–has seeped into every cell of the body politic. The official enforcement of lies–with the eager cooperation of a disturbing number of our supposedly fellow citizens–becomes more intense as the falsity becomes more apparent. Continued compliance with the COVIDicracy will only cement our fate. Non-compliance and dissent now is our last, best hope.

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  1. having dinner or having conversations with people–about Covid and masks. Telling. When I say masks don’t work, and the vaccine doesn’t work, they offer justification. We are sitting in a restaurant, they get up to go five feet to the bathroom and put on their mask. As if somehow, the virus only spreads when you are standing up

    Comment by Jeffrey Carter — January 23, 2022 @ 7:03 pm

  2. Apparently solo drivers wearing masks is pretty common in CA.


    It’s a four-hour event, so the video takes awhile to load. The talks begin at 56:40 minutes with Ryan Cole.

    In the crowd, one sign says, “Make the Nuremberg Code Great Again.” I think they’ve got the right idea.

    The speakers include some of the front-line physicians who have fought the good fight for early treatment, including Peter McCullough, Robert Malone, Pierre Kory, and others of personal moral strength.

    Non-compliance and dissent seem to be on the march.

    Comment by Pat Frank — January 23, 2022 @ 7:33 pm

  3. “And my students, undergraduates and graduates alike, were positively predisposed toward me” LOL. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it? Sounds like they all hated him.

    ”I can now teach many more people and with less interference online” Maybe he should check out UATX, that up and coming liberal-ish institution, assuming it still exists after those long ol’ weeks of bitter infighting, recriminations, histrionic resignations etc, and presumably zero custom.

    @Pat – a 4 hour video?? You really have far too much time on your hands.

    Comment by David Mercer — January 24, 2022 @ 6:32 am

  4. “I can’t imagine beginning an academic career today”: nor can I. Nor could I at the time; I only fell into it because I was head-hunted.

    I’m proud of persuading my daughter not to do a PhD. But, but, but: she works in tech. They’ve got it bad and that ain’t good. Dissolution of the Universities: that’s been my recommendation for a couple of decades now. But spare my pension, Mr Axeman, if you please.

    Comment by dearieme — January 24, 2022 @ 1:36 pm

  5. @3 David — not wise judge others by the standard of your own attention span.

    I presently have a manuscript under journal submission, and two others in advanced stages. And from your time spent?

    Comment by Pat Frank — January 24, 2022 @ 3:09 pm

  6. @Pat – but that’s your actual job, isn’t it? Are you suggesting that you watched a 4 hour long conspiracy video on Stanford’s dime? I’d be careful advertising this fact to the world, given you’re only untenured.

    @Deari – back in the day I recall my Prof literally begging me to stay on for a doctorate (star performer and all that), but there was absolutely no way. Just one look around the lab told me all I needed to know about those who did – a mix of no-hopers, oddballs and sexual deviants (present company excepted..ish). My advice to that generation today is, uniformly, complete your degree, then go and get a proper job.

    Actually I have idly wondered why Craig opted for this career to begin with. I mean, to choose academia after leaving the navy complaining about poor leadership and drug misuse…

    Comment by David Mercer — January 25, 2022 @ 3:08 am



    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — January 25, 2022 @ 5:30 am

  8. I am an academic in the UK and I fully endorse the professor here.
    I would not recommend a career to anyone in academia these days.
    It is woke and driven by a dreary conformism that stifles honest and sincere debate and disagreement. As I am not of the “left” persuasion, I keep my opinions at the university pretty much to myself. mask mandates? No evidence for them. Vaccination? Not a preventative and given the experimental nature, potentially a health hazard. Lockdowns? Not good at anything other than wealth and human destruction.
    Do I articulate the above in my workplace?
    For the very reasons cited here about the way things are going in the USA.
    We’re with you, America!

    Comment by Peter — January 25, 2022 @ 6:45 am

  9. Don’t remember how I arrived to Peterson’s letter, but I couldn’t stop till read it all. All true. And one senses he was severely censoring himself, to keep the letter fit for public eyes. Much remains behind – and multitude of people could add their own $0.05. Could, but only Petersen did.
    I was ashamed when I finished reading – of my own self-preserving silence. You are right – experience of Soviet double-think, double-life, double-face hypocrisy and “fig in a pocket”, as we said, stamps a person forever. Old notions that I thought I’ve happily forgot for these past decades, arose to rule.
    One note to your- mostly correct – post.
    The Soviet mentality developed during 70+ years. By the end, there was none, no one in the whole country who sincerely believed official propaganda nonsense, doubly so – the propagandists themselves.
    Here in the US…I despair at the thought it might take 70yrs to for society to see sense. Even if it’s 50 – it will eat up the lives of the whole next generation, and the country might never be able to rise out the ashes.

    Comment by Tatyana — January 25, 2022 @ 7:55 am

  10. @6 David — manuscripts describing analytical work I did on my own time and my own dime.

    Such as, “Propagation of Error and the Reliability of Global Air Temperature Projections

    That one upends the entire global warming narrative in operando since 1989. And shows the IPCC for the collection of incompetents and self-servers it surely is.

    If you ever took the time to go through the data at https_://, you’d be far less dismissively jocular about mRNA conspiracy theorists. And likely regret your decision to get jabbed.

    You? In a lab!? The mind reels.

    @9 Tatyana — maybe it’s time that *you* started a blog. 🙂 Where you can describe for the ignorant and the deluded the realities of living under the control of Jacobins.

    Comment by Pat Frank — January 25, 2022 @ 5:52 pm

  11. Pat, way ahead of you…since 2008. [all you have to do is to click on my name…]

    Comment by Tatyana — January 25, 2022 @ 6:48 pm

  12. @Pat – oops, caught you out again, didn’t I? Let’s hope the IT dept aren’t checking your browsing history, otherwise you could be leaving to spend more time with your prejudices, just like Peterson.

    And that paper again, the one with the priceless comment from one Francess Thomas!! I’d forgotten about that – it’s brightened my day all over. Actually, if you ever write a book on your pet subject I’d honestly take that comment and stick it on the front cover – it speaks directly to the demographic you’d be targeting.

    Comment by David Mercer — January 26, 2022 @ 3:05 am

  13. @12 David your blind addiction to glib fatuities has apparently made you dyslexic.

    The paper you so mindlessly deride falsifies the climate disaster porn that apparently lends central meaning to your life. Otherwise why be so foolhardy as to jape what you don’t understand?

    That applies to your cheap shot at Jordan Peterson as well. Prejudices? Clear evidence that you’ve never apprehended his work or his discussions.

    Comment by Pat Frank — January 26, 2022 @ 11:40 am

  14. I know I’ve posted this before, but guys, the vaccine works like gangbusters:

    People who are not vaccinated are going into intensive care at a rate 13 times higher than people who are. Possibly more, because there are believed to be tens of thousands of fake vaccine passes in circulation and for sure some of the people counted as vaccinated in intensive care are in fact not.

    It’s not even close.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — January 27, 2022 @ 3:40 am

  15. It’s hard to conclude Peterson’s wrong when you read of stuff like the University of Northampton slapping a “trigger warning” on Orwell’s ”Nineteen Eighty-Four”. This has been done because, supposedly, it contains ‘explicit material’ which some students may find ‘offensive and upsetting’.

    The kind of people who seek to censor ”Nineteen Eighty-Four” are, of course, actually in the book.

    Comment by Green As Grass — January 27, 2022 @ 4:49 am

  16. And yet, HF, there are internet intellectuals who analyse the numbers and say that the vaccine efficacy is poor. (I find these chaps far more rational and persuasive that the uncritical retailers of government “narrative”.)

    “People who are not vaccinated are going into intensive care at a rate 13 times higher than people who are.” Such a claim has been made occasionally in Britain and has been shown to be untruthful each time. A couple of our government ministers have had the decency to withdraw the claim. He who takes observational data at face value, without taking a sceptical look at it, is playing the fool.

    Comment by dearieme — January 27, 2022 @ 4:50 am

  17. It’s been some time since I’ve checked this blog. I’ve been busy building a company now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But that time is coming to an end, in a good way, and I’ve kept a naughty and nice list, David. Your projection, and obsession, with trolling Craig has been amusing to watch for those who know how to spot an arrogant, pedantic, loser. You tend to make attacks personal against Craig and here is the best part of just YOU, David, you follow the former USSR playbook to a T 1. Attack the credibility of the man, not the idea 2. Never ever address the topic at hand, especially and absolutely not with substantive content. So David, my friend, your time will come, and remember, words have meaning, actions of consequences, and karma has memory.

    Comment by Jason — January 27, 2022 @ 6:21 am

  18. It turns out that a Kraut has also had the decency to withdraw this bogus claim, though he did try to wriggle out of it by blaming a computer.

    Comment by dearieme — January 27, 2022 @ 6:22 am

  19. @dearieme: I’m happy to trust the French state to keep track of the vaccine status of 3500 people – after all, I trust them do do far more difficult and dangerous things on my behalf and there’s limited scope for them to get this particular measurement wrong (it’s a simple yes/no survey from hospitals already well-practiced in sharing statistics with the state). As for “government narrative”, the number that I’m quoting is the very one that the government is using in order to dismantle restrictions, so on the contrary, let’s all hope that they’re NOT wrong about it…

    Incidentally, yes, the German data were suspicious given that they were claiming a 30-fold difference in infections between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, since the vaccine doesn’t actually prevent infection. But if that is the standard for being unreasonable, then the French claim a factor of 3 on that measure seems very much in the realm of possibility and actually gives me more confidence, not less.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — January 27, 2022 @ 7:57 am

  20. Yet the British data say that the vaccine perhaps gives a little bit of protection to people at little or modest risk (<60) while giving negative protection to people at higher risk i.e. it makes them likelier to die.
    Many analysts have pointed this out: here's one who happens to be open on my screen at the moment.

    Comment by dearieme — January 27, 2022 @ 8:39 am

  21. Spanish Froggie: it’s exactly the other way around, amigo.
    It is the VACCINATED that are getting hospitalized in record numbers. Because so called vaccine made them susceptible to new infections – bith by it’s inherent (intended?)design and by weakening their immune reaction to infections.
    What’s more, criminal forced vaccinations of minors, especially young boys, led to 10 times more hospitalizations (of said minors) and horrific rate of heart decease complications afterwards. To see it, one just need to compare last year figures with this year: last year children and teenagers were not required to get shot.

    Criminal – is a mild term for what is truly genocide on planetary scale.

    Comment by Tatyana — January 27, 2022 @ 10:53 am

  22. Anyhow, back to Peterson. Anyone read his latest book – Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life (to add to his previous 12, which clearly weren’t enough for this day and age)? I just thumbed through a copy in my local bookstore. Looks like a bit of mixed bag TBH, although I did like his Rule VIII, a kind of appeal to our inner interior decorator. Maybe I’ve got the man wrong after all. That said, I swear several of these rules appear to have been plagiarized from fortune cookies in my local Chinese restaurant, and there was this long, rambling section on Harry Potter which frankly lost me (in my defense I was speed reading).

    Maybe I’ll pick up a copy from a charity bookshop in a month or two and give it my full attention. I’ll be damned if any of my hard-earned ends up in his pocket. The same goes for Pinker’s latest book, after I found out about his association with UATX, albeit shortlived (even by their standards).

    Comment by David Mercer — January 27, 2022 @ 10:55 am

  23. “i was speed-reading”
    no, mercer, you’re constitutionally incapable of a sustained effort. those of us with attention span longer than a fly’s (in other words, anybody but you) experienced threads here, wher time and again Pat Frank dunks you in deep doodoo for being unable to read thru a sentence or short paragraph. even in this here thread!

    no wonder lefties suck at science. (as in engineering. in building. in design): it’s easier to be a perpetual rebel
    on a second thought, even if you apply yourself, clever people are beyond your reach. it’s nature, not nurture.

    Comment by Tatyana — January 27, 2022 @ 12:57 pm

  24. This new Niel-Fenton study from UK data …

    … shows that mortality among the “unvaccinated” peaks about 3 days after “vaccine” roll-out in each age group. Deaths among the vaccinated group is nearly flat.

    Timing of the roll-out varied with each age group. And the mortality spike migrated with the date of each roll-out.

    The reason is that the British Office for National Statistics classified those who had the mRNA jab as “unvaccinated” until 14 days after the jab.

    This convenient definition assigned the proximate mRNA-related deaths to the unvaccinated population.

    At the same time, it artificially lowered the death rate in the mRNA-jabbed group.

    That sort of manipulation can only be deliberate.

    Way back, when I was arguing religion and science on the web, I read of a test of birth control methods in Brazil. Among them was a Catholic group testing the rhythm method. This group had a significant number of pregnancies; much more than those testing the birth-control pill (99% effective).

    So, the Catholic group decided that the pregnancies in their cohort occurred because those women were not applying the rhythm method correctly. And so they removed that group from their statistics. The result? The rhythm method proved 99% effective, just like the pill. Huzzah!

    Those enrhythmed people must have trained the generation of statisticians in the British Office for National Statistics, because the dishonest methodology is identical.

    Comment by Pat Frank — January 27, 2022 @ 1:00 pm

  25. @Pat: That paper is certainly interesting food for thought. Let’s see what happens when it hits peer review, though I much prefer analysis on the numbers in intensive care rather than mortality, on the assumption that there are fewer reasons to need a breathing machine than for a mortician, and therefore fewer of the mentioned confounding variables.

    @Tatyana: Yes, well, we’re not doing the child vaccination thing here, on account of it being a poor risk/reward and a poor use of money. Those countries mandating child vaccinations are in serious need of some street protests…

    @Dearieme: That does indeed paint a worse picture, but isn’t it a bit convenient that the source data was only available “by accident”, i.e. only to the author…

    In the meantime, I’m sticking with correlation = causation 🙂

    Comment by HibernoFrog — January 27, 2022 @ 1:47 pm

  26. ‘the source data was only available “by accident”, i.e. only to the author…’

    It wasn’t available only to the author, it was available to anyone who spotted UKHSA’s unintended release of info and acted in a timely way. As he says in his earlier piece “This was soon corrected by the UKHSA in an update, but not before many had downloaded the document…”

    Comment by dearieme — January 27, 2022 @ 3:27 pm

  27. A safe and effective multi-drug treatment for Covid-19 (and any of its variants) has been available since May 2020.

    McCullough, et al., Multifaceted highly targeted sequential multidrug treatment of early ambulatory high-risk SARS-CoV-2 infection (COVID-19)

    In light of an available and effective drug protocol, the Emergency Use Authorization of the mRNA product is strictly illegal under US law.

    Distribution of the mRNA product is also illegal. The US government is presently a criminal enterprise. The 20,000 or so mRNA deaths and several tens of thousands of lifetime injuries, and risks of early death or possible dementia, have all been for nothing. But profits and power.

    Active suppression of effective treatment has caused hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of unnecessary deaths from complications due to Covid (95% with one or more comorbidities).

    The US government, Joe Biden, Anthony Fauci, Rochelle Wallensky, university administrators, medical licensing boards nationwide, hospital administrators and doctors, all have blood on their hands. It’s mass murder of civilians on a scale we’ve not seen since Mao’s heyday.

    One can only hope for legal recompense. The leaders deserve life in jail. The rest, public testimony and apologies in a truth-commission setting.

    Comment by Pat Frank — January 27, 2022 @ 6:17 pm

  28. Anyhow, back to Peterson. Alas, the more the picture gets filled in, the more boringly predictable it becomes:

    ’Word salad of nonsense’: scientists denounce Jordan Peterson’s comments on climate models

    I think he needs to append a couple more Rules for Life e.g. not going totally off reservation (can we even say this now?), and not being a complete tool. Just a thought.

    I bet his publisher is livid, although, who knows, maybe self-help books are a big thing within the climate denial community. Pat?

    @Tatyana: Are you Francess Thomas? The same crazy cat woman written style, the same unrequited love…

    Comment by David Mercer — January 28, 2022 @ 2:46 am

  29. Hiberno: congratulations! Catalonia saw sense:

    Comment by Tatyana — January 28, 2022 @ 8:25 am

  30. @ 27 David — Peterson is correct about the uncertainty of climate model projections. I know, because I’ve done the work.

    Michael Mann, one of Peterson’s critics and distinguished professor of climate at Pennsylvania State University hasn’t done any actual science since he worked on lanthanide ceramics back in the early 1990s.

    His work on proxy paleo temperature reconstruction, climate modeling, and the air temperature record are demonstrably pseudoscience decorated with advanced math. I know, because I’ve done the work.

    Comment by Pat Frank — January 28, 2022 @ 10:56 am

  31. “A life in which an official line is vigorously–indeed, viciously–enforced …”

    Prof: It may FEEL like life in the old Soviet Union, but that is merely how it FEELS.
    The problem with analogizing to the Soviet system is that there is no Politburo, no CC, no OFFICIAL ideological apparatus determining “the official line”.

    Instead, we have the extraordinary and rather novel phenomenon ofa bottom-up movement, a mob mentality that persists more than a day or two which agitates, fumes and then erupts, inundating the bureaucracy in a flood of bile, targeting administrators with volleys of ordure and petrifying all who fear incurring the wrath of anyone in the mob, even the most timid mouse who, prompted by her friends, squeaks back at the tiniest offense committed by the guy lecturing. Maybe not all the kids who make up the mob agree with what is happening but woer betide anyone who tries to stand in the way!

    I think the best analogy is 1789-1792 and the way the Paris mob terrified anyone in the Assemblée nationale (and then the Assemblée législative) who incurred its spite.

    Comment by Simple Simon — January 30, 2022 @ 10:59 am

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