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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
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(THREAD) I just watched @rustyrockets interview @jordanbpeterson, and want to say that—among my many objections to Peterson—I resent his framing retrograde cultural philosophies as post-postmodern. This thread details how Peterson's schtick is destructive. I hope you'll share it.
1/ For those who don't know Peterson, he's a pre-Modernist thinker whose embrace of some mid-20th c. philosophical, lit-critical, and psychological dead-ends—an ideology frozen in the 50s—has made him a hero among the alt-right. He's part of the so-called "Intellectual Dark Web."
2/ Just as I'd have less problem with Bill O'Reilly if he copped to being a retrograde boor whose head as to key matters like gender equality and civil rights is stuck in the suburbs of his childhood—so we'd know to ignore him—Peterson's dangerous because he disguises what he is.
3/ Peterson owes his success to a growing hostility to postmodernism that's not wholly without merit. But instead of seeking a new evolution from postmodernism that acknowledges all we learned from it—and we've learned an immeasurable amount—he aims to pretend it never happened.
4/ But because severely retrograde conservative thinkers who clearly articulate what they believe are quickly shunned—"Let's return to the 50s!" is a rallying cry for dead-enders, and everyone knows it—he frames his attack on postmodernism as an evolution rather than devolution.
5/ I don't say any of this as a postmodernist. I'm not a postmodernist. I teach metamodernism at University of New Hampshire and, like many post-internet cultural theorists, I know that metamodernism is the post-postmodernism of the digital age. And Peterson is no metamodernist.
6/ The public's lack of familiarity with why terms like "postmodernism" and "metamodernism" matter to our collective day-to-day may seem reasonable—I'm sure many have already tuned out of this thread—but they're the very reason the alt-right is taking over America. They *matter*.
7/ And whether we will allow a charlatan like Peterson—who uses marketing techniques to obscure what he is—to disguise a devolution from postmodernism as an *evolution* from postmodernism lies at the heart of whether sane America will be able to withstand the alt-right's advance.
8/ For the purposes of this thread—because this topic and this debate matters to all Americans, not just academics—I'm going to be a bit reductive about postmodernism. I will not be capturing every nuance of a cultural paradigm that's governed American culture for a half-century.
9/ The first thing to know about postmodernism is that it's a cultural paradigm—it helps govern how people who grow up within it structure their feelings and develop systems for their logic. These structures and systems form a paradigm that determines much about American culture.
10/ The second thing to know about postmodernism is that it *inarguably* has overstayed its welcome. For reasons that should be obvious from the preceding tweet, *any* cultural paradigm begins to be destructive rather than generative if it maintains its dominance for too long.
11/ So when people on the Right criticize postmodernism, in the very broadest sense their critique is historically reasonable and well-timed rather than retrograde—it *is* time for us to advance beyond the cultural paradigm of the Television Age. We're in an entirely new age now.
12/ Beyond that, the Right's critique of postmodernism falls apart because the Right (especially the alt-Right) *isn't* hostile to postmodernism because they seek an *evolution* from postmodernism—but because they wish and have always wished postmodernism *never happened at all*.
13/ In politics, we often say the Right wants to "undo the 60s" and everything after. Well, intellectually, the 60s equals "postmodernism"—and so in philosophical circles the desire to pretend postmodernism never happened is simply a high-brow way of being politically retrograde.
14/ Peterson knows that explicitly arguing for a return to the 1950s (or before) will permanently marginalize him both politically and intellectually. It will invigorate Trumpists without (as both he and Trumpists want) *mainstreaming* their fundamentally retrograde philosophies.
15/ And the reason Peterson's deception works—pretending he wants an evolution rather than devolution from postmodernism—is because smart, well-meaning, inquisitive folks like Russell Brand (a metamodernist) are looking for anyone who can articulately discuss post-postmodernism.
16/ The other reason @rustyrockets and others give Peterson more of a platform than his retrograde thinking deserves is that smart, well-meaning, inquisitive folks are starting to realize how damaging the internet has been to human culture. So they want a pre-internet philosophy.
17/ Unfortunately, that's a non-starter for many reasons—many of them historical. While many cultural paradigms can co-exist harmoniously, paradigms usually become culturally *dominant* because of a significant technological advance. And they do so by *incorporating* the advance.
18/ If history is precedent, no cultural philosophy can become dominant and therefore politically and intellectually influential if it depends upon ignoring the most significant technological advances of its time. And Jordan Peterson is leading a revolution back to the Stone Age.
19/ Mention the technologies and tech-enabled subcultures that will shape culture this century—like AI, XR, blockchain, cryptocurrency, bioengineering, modding, remixing, and post-irony—and all Peterson has is the not unreasonable observation that some of these can be dangerous.
20/ But you know who else says that the cultural paradigm of tomorrow should be predicated on the potential dangers of technology, rather than the ways technology can be generatively and profoundly integrated into a healthy cultural philosophy? American voters over the age of 75.
21/ American voters over 75 don't need to have their pre-modernist philosophies packaged as post-postmodern—but young people do. So one reason Peterson is actually dangerous is that his intellectual disingenuity gives him a way to unite young and old. That's politically powerful.
22/ Conservatism in America is dying—literally. It's most popular among those who won't be around in twenty years. So what conservatism most needed in 2018 was a demagogue who could, by means of deception, create a voting bloc that incorporated old conservatives and new recruits.
23/ Jordan Peterson is that demagogue. He has teens talking about Freud, Jung, Campbellian monomyths and—whether they realize it or not—pre-Aristotlean monism in a technology-enabled cultural environment that *isn't at all effectively spoken to* by any of these thinkers or ideas.
24/ What's worse, Jordan Peterson increasingly has in his intellectual if not yet political corner those well-intentioned lapsed progressives who see and are understandably troubled by the grimy underbelly of postmodernism's interaction with the internet. No *wonder* he's a star.
25/ Here's where I must be slightly reductive about postmodernism by saying that its two most influential features are "deconstructive thinking" and "dialectics." The first was key in the TV Age, and the latter was long incredibly important to empowering marginalized communities.
26/ Deconstructive thinking enables us to see every angle of a topic from all perspectives, which in theory—and it's a very sound theory—lets us understand better what we're looking at. Dialectics puts in zero-sum combat the individual perspectives we encounter in deconstruction.
27/ Deconstructive thinking powered the civil rights movement, women's rights movement, gay rights movement and much else. It forced those individuals most empowered by American culture up to the 1960s to acknowledge that many were having a *very* different experience of America.
28/ If deconstruction was the "reflective" side of postmodernism, the dialectic was its "propulsive" side—it gave us something to *do* with all we'd developed via deconstruction. For instance, it taught us that women and male allies would need to take on the patriarchy and *win*.
29/ So I hope it's *blindingly* obvious why conservative white men like Jordan Peterson not only want postmodernism to go away, they want to pretend it *never happened*. They want to reduce our myriad new perspectives and truths to one so any dialectical struggles are immaterial.
30/ Dialectics requires that two sides of an argument—or two forces—be in intellectual and/or philosophical combat. That's why Peterson doesn't just say that women are fundamentally different from men, he also says those differences should cement in our culture a new (old) order.
31/ So Peterson would say deconstruction went too far—gave us far too many perspectives, when all we needed was Jungian archetypes pitting Light versus Dark, Good versus Evil and so on—and dialectics are unnecessary because timeless myth says such battles should end in *balance*.
32/ In other words, Peterson offers clear guidance amidst the chaos of the internet by saying that it's okay for women to be [what he thinks mythos establishes as] women and for men to be [what he thinks mythos establishes as] men and the result will be *balance* and *harmony*.
33/ Folks like @rustyrockets like the sound of that. Balance. Harmony. Clear truths that clear away the uncertainty that's the natural byproduct of "deconstruction." And that harmony would replace dialectics—thus allowing all of us to live comfortably together. That's the theory.
34/ One major problem with that theory is that balance is only "restored" and harmony only "achieved" if in every situation we create a binary—a *single* dialectic—and then enforce a very, very, very old view of how the combat implied by that dialectic should turn out in the end.
35/ The very old have seen the BS of the world, and want to settle their hearts by living their last years in the comfort of simple truths. And what Peterson knows is that angry young white male virgins want the very same thing. They're scared and angry and want *simple answers*.
36/ That's why Peterson's retrograde thinking *can't handle* the boggling complexities of the internet, the necessary vagaries of social exchanges, the multitude of overlapping systems in any heterogeneous society, or the "negative capability" known as "uncertainty" by laypeople.
37/ Jordan Peterson is pop psychology for children. But he's articulate, very polished, (seemingly) very earnest, and willing to dialogue on almost any topic and (almost) always cordially, so his vapid ideas seem both profound and also an *evolution* from our contentious culture.
38/ For instance, in a lengthy discussion with VICE on the subject of the MeToo movement, Peterson outrageously says "we don't know the rules" for workplace interactions. But we do—they're just complex, dynamic, and cross-disciplinary. Which means they're a thing made for adults.
39/ Want to know the rules for workplace interactions? Read your employee handbook. Talk to female friends and family members. Read accounts of civil litigation involving workplace harassment. Develop an ethical code that's dynamically transferable to novel situations. Get wiser.
40/ Any adult who can watch Peterson say for *an hour*—*over and over again*—that adult humans have *absolutely no means* of determining how to act in the workplace and must therefore devolve to ancient archetypes and still think he's a dynamic thinker is in some way intoxicated.
41/ Here's the reality: deconstruction without reconstruction can indeed be dangerous, as it divides reality into ever and ever smaller bits without leaving us with any hope that our fractured senses and environments can in some way, sometime in the middle term, be reconstituted.
42/ Here's another reality: the dialectical model is incredibly powerful. But like any activist model, it achieves diminishing returns beyond a certain point. Treating every political or cultural rift as a dialectic is no wiser than responding to all slights with a hunger strike.
43/ One question metamodernists ask is whether there are certain situations in which we need a post-dialectical model to continue to progress as communities. Another question metamodernists ask is how we can *reconstruct* systems after we've done any/all necessary deconstructing.
44/ But *unlike* both postmodernists and pre-Modernists like Peterson, metamodernists don't see the "shape" of our eventual endgame as being a polar spectrum—a two-dimensional battlefield across which two incompatible and competing ideas or forces contest until one is eradicated.
45/ Postmodernism seems to promise perpetual war; pre-Modernism promises an authoritarian imposition of one person or group's truth. Metamodernism reconstructs systems by taking all the important lessons postmodernism offers and building off them toward a new model for progress.
46/ More simply, metamodernism takes all dialectics in a situation and overlaps them so that (a) each one remains visible and retains its full integrity, and (b) they coordinate with one another in ways that create truly "new" solutions. The result? Polar spectra are transcended.
47/ The goal is not, as with Peterson, a "balance" that requires the forceful imposition of discredited, simplistic worldviews. It is also not the eradication of worldviews—with a few exceptions—that results from the perpetual use of dialectics in the face of diminishing returns.
48/ I want to be clear: I suspect Peterson is earnest. And along the way toward a deeply destructive structure of feeling and system of logic he *does* impart some extremely useful—and many would say inarguable—truths about what it means to treat others with respect and kindness.
49/ But what those who find Peterson compelling (and who aren't retrograde authoritarians) fail to see is his *endgame*. And in those rare interviews in which he's pressed to do what he hates—because it wounds his ethos—which is imagine the endgame, his dangerousness is revealed.
50/ There is much about my background that should make Peterson enormously compelling to me—and in spots, he is. But as an attorney and an activist, I know that both the means *and* the ends ought to be sound when we're discussing something as encompassing as a cultural paradigm.
51/ Peterson oscillates between inquisitive and dictatorial modes—shifts that can't be missed by those who do or used to argue for a living. But many of Peterson's questions have answers—those that don't are usually good ones for which dictatorial Peterson has a bad prescription.
52/ Peterson's penchant for "reimagining the field" is healthy and necessary—indeed a practice implicit in metamodernism (or frankly in any cultural paradigm that evolves from another—as metamodernism does from postmodernism). It's everything that comes after that's kind of shit.
53/ As a committed metamodernist but also a artist, scholar, and activist, I instrumentalize metamodernism daily—I use it to reimagine problems so that I can come up with new solutions to them. Indeed, the cultural paradigm undergirding this unusual Twitter feed is metamodernism.
54/ Twitter sort of sucks—and the postmodern solution would be to start a new social media platform and then enter a dialectic exchange with Twitter in which either Twitter or the new platform is destroyed. Peterson's pre-Modern solution would be to get off of Twitter altogether.
55/ And in a hypothetical world in which everyone simultaneously agreed to get off Twitter—and simultaneously agreed about every other way in which a civil society can construct itself—Peterson's unworkable, insipid, essentially empty MAGA-like philosophy would be a real success.
56/ The metamodern solution to Twitter being shit is to "mod," "remix," or "game-break" Twitter—refuse to avail yourself of its most enticing and hyped-up features while misusing the platform in almost every way it can be misused. Essentially, act like the platform doesn't exist.
57/ That's the deductive side of things. The *inductive* side of the solution for Twitter being shit is developing an idiosyncratic personal "poetics" as a writer that embraces all the contradictory dialectics that exist inside of you as a unique, special, complex, dynamic human.
58/ That's the deductive (two-dimensional) and inductive (three-dimensional) side of the metamodern solution to Twitter being shit. There's also a collaborative—four-dimensional—piece, in which one considers how digital interactions change over time at the level of *communities*.
59/ And because metamodernism seeks to overleap polar spectra (binaries with only two ways of looking at things)—and because even polar spectra are fundamentally two-, three-, and four-dimensional—the metamodern solution to Twitter being shit *also* considers the fifth dimension.
60/ Long ago, pre-Aristotle, there were thinkers called "monists" who actually believed the world was one-dimensional—a single unchanging holistic reality best exemplified on a piece of paper as an unmoving dot. Jordan Peterson is a monist—he wants a return to one-dimensionality.
61/ That may be the best way of explaining why Peterson's philosophy turns to shit the second you have *the internet*—a fundamentally five-dimensional space—or a deconstructed, post-postmodern, heterogeneous culture, which is also (in different and similar ways) five-dimensional.
62/ Metamodernism is the dominant cultural paradigm of the digital age—and as such it gives each and any and all of us idiosyncratic ways to find hope and purpose in deconstructed and often (it seems) decaying systems. Peterson offers a dead end that lives more in 1318 than 2018.
63/ But here's the *real* rub: Peterson's vapid half-pre-Aristotlean, half-medieval pop psychology *will defeat postmodern activism* over the next decade. And the reason for that is that it is new and too many young people today feel that postmodernism has overstayed its welcome.
64/ Whether we want this to be so or not, I fear the choice in America over the next few years will be between embracing a multiversal, five-dimensional post-postmodernism or being stuck—forced to eat—tired, one-dimensional, fundamentally fascist pap that looked new for a second.
65/ The scary thing is that every time we progressives fight Peterson's gleaming new thousand year-old turd with postmodern models that have outlived their usefulness *if they remain unalloyed by anything new*—deconstruction and dialectics—we produce new, *young* alt-Rightists.
66/ I wish that wasn't so—I wish that cultural sub-paradigms like deconstruction and dialectics, that produced so much good, could produce the same level of good in perpetuity. But that's not how cultures evolve—it never has been, and by and large that's been a very *good* thing.
67/ Many postmodernists on the Left will argue that postmodern activism is still effective—and in thinking so, will think anyone who wants it to evolve must in some secret way be an enemy of progress. And *that* will be the internal battle progressives fight over the next decade.
68/ Because—though postmodernism has had decades more as a dominant cultural paradigm than its immediate predecessors—postmodernism won't be fully sloughed off for metamodernism for another decade, the danger of Peterson's well-hidden MAGA winning in the short term is very great.
69/ My advice (and view): it's okay to agree with Peterson on the first 1% of his worldview—that postmodernism must eventually be supplanted. But the key is to note that what Peterson wants to supplant it with would already have seemed passé by 1690. It's a *total joke* in 2018.
70/ I wrote this thread because this feed has a number of followers who (like me) are fearful of the future, and because if progressives aren't given an alternative to postmodern solutions we may—by default—allow Peterson and his intellectual ilk to thrive and ultimately succeed.
71/ In the short-term, the danger Peterson will be confused by some for a metamodernist is high—as Peterson's inquisitive mode looks a lot like the early stages of metamodern thought. But those who like him are quite simply ignoring the moments he's let his dictatorial side show.
72/ I urge those who love Peterson to find those moments in his online lectures and videos when he's either (a) angry, (b) piqued, (c) flummoxed, (d) on a roll, (e) using humor as a rather flip weapon, (f) tired, (g) before a "friendly" audience, or—rarest—(h) offering solutions.
73/ In those moments when he's mild-mannered, graceful, articulate, understanding, and seemingly sensitive to the complexities of a problem, ask yourself—a hard but necessary task—what solution to that problem the methods of thinking he's provided would naturally lead one toward.
74/ I believe that many times the methods of thinking he proposes and the solutions they lead to will seem equally bad as the methods of thinking we now use in online exchanges and the needless, directionless strife they cause—so some will go Peterson's way just because he's new.
75/ I hope this thread will cause both the curious and those—even Peterson fans—exhausted by postmodernism to Google "metamodernism" and find there a very different way.

Peterson *isn't* a metamodernist—but I think, if we wish to continue to *hope*, many more of us must be. /end
SOURCE/ Among the many articles about Jordan Peterson and (far more importantly) videos of Peterson that I watched to gather an understanding of how and why Peterson's pop-psychology reductions are so dangerous to continued progress in America is this one:
SOURCE2/ And here's the deeply distressing, often fact-free, and *absolutely infuriating* VICE interview with Jordan Peterson about workplace interactions (and the #MeToo movement) that I mentioned in the thread on Peterson to which this tweet is appended:
PS/ I neglected to mention that another time in all his lectures that Jordan Peterson is exposed as retrograde is *any* time he talks about *anything* outside his discipline—in the VICE interview above, every single thing Peterson says about the law and criminal justice is false.
PS2/ Key terms in metamodernism: reconstruction, collaboration, dialogue, generative juxtaposition, propulsive paradox, over-leaping polar spectra, "both/and" thinking, "romantic response to crisis," multiple and overlapping subjectivities, five- and six-dimensional reasoning...
PS3/ ...simultaneity, the collapse of distance, juxtaposed metanarratives, interdisciplinarity, hybridity, engagement over exhibitionism, affect with effect (as opposed to the dominance of the purely affective), New Sincerity, intertextuality, borderlessness, remixing, modding...
PS4/ drift, ethical systems hacking (a conceptual term rather than one involving cyber-activity), flexibility, dynamism, ego-free activism, a willingness to be humiliated/laughed at, "informed naivete." If these terms seem close to you already, you may be a metamodernist.
PS5/ Please don't read this thread as saying that everything Peterson says is wrong. He says many things *any* psychologist would say, and many of those things are quite useful. This thread is about his idiosyncratic (but fundamentally reductive and borrowed) cultural philosophy.
NOTE/ A good deal of what Peterson says *even within his discipline* is wrong. He tells Russell Brand (see video above) that "most transgender people desist by the age of 18," which is his way of saying—outrageously—that it's a faddish choice. Here's what a 2017 UCLA study says:
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