Just a couple of remarks in reply to numerous critiques of my comment on Jordan Peterson in The Independent.[1]

The leitmotif of my critics in mentioning the link between Peterson and the alt-right is that I am wrong, displaying my basic lack of acquaintance with what I criticize: Peterson is a radical liberal (he supports welfare state, etc.) worried about the threat that Political Correctness, identity politics, LGBT+, etc., pose to the freedom of speech and other fundamental values of a free democratic society. In locating him within the alt-right, I act as a Politically Correct and postmodern dogmatic ignoring simple facts.

I find this line of attack very strange. Whatever one thinks about my theories, one constant in them is my critical rejection of postmodern deconstructionism and of the dismissal of modern science as yet another ”discursive practice,” the “truth-effect” of which is to be historically relativized. Furthermore, a year or so ago, when I questioned Political Correctness and some aspects of LGBT+ movement (and some other things problematic for today’s “radical Left,” like the predominant stance towards refugees), I was not only submitted to a long series of extremely brutal attacks, but I was also gradually excluded from the public media. So, now my only access to media in English are three digital outlets: The Independent, Russia Today, and a channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books (which was kind enough to publish this reply – I was not able to post it on The Independent’s site, since it was cut off as too long for a comment). The days when I was able to publish comments in The Guardian and occasionally even in New York Times are long gone, and even In These Times now refuses to publish me. The comic aspect of all this is that I am often attacked for the same text from one side for my alleged Eurocentric racism and from the opposite side for my alleged hatred of the Western tradition… Part of this comedy are many reactions to my text in The Independent: reading them one gets the impression that I am just attacking one side and not indicating how both sides are resorting to the same strategies of lying in the guise of truth.

This brings me to Peterson. I see two levels in his work. First, there is his liberal analysis and critique of PC, LGBT+, etc., with regard to how they pose a danger to our freedoms, and although there are things I disagree with at this level, I also see in it some worthwhile observations. The difference with him is that, while critical of many stances and political practices of PC, identity politics and LGBT+, I nonetheless see in them an often inadequate and distorted expression of very real and pressing problems. Claims about women’s oppression cannot be dismissed by referring to Fifty Shades of Grey, the story of a woman who enjoys being dominated (as one of my critics claims), the suffering of transgender people is all too real, etc. The way racist and sexist oppression works in a developed liberal society is much more refined (but no less efficient) than in its direct brutal form, and the most dangerous mistake is to attribute women’s inferior position to their free choice.

But I do wholeheartedly disagree with Peterson when he enters the domain of conspiracy theories. What I find really problematic is that he interprets PC (and his other targets) as the extreme outgrowth of “cultural Marxism” (a block which comprises Frankfurt School, the “French” poststructuralist deconstructionism, identity politics, gender and queer theories, etc.). He seems to imply that “cultural Marxism” is the result of a deliberate shift in Marxist (or Communist) strategy: after Communism lost the economic battle with liberal capitalism (waiting in vain for the revolution to arrive in the developed Western world), its leaders decided to move the terrain to cultural struggles (sexuality, feminism, racism, religion…), systematically undermining the cultural foundations and values of our freedoms. In the last decades, this new approach proved unexpectedly efficient: today, our societies are caught in the self-destructive circle of guilt, unable to defend their positive legacy…

I see no necessary link between this line of thought and liberalism. The notion of “cultural Marxism” manipulated by some secret Communist centre and aiming to destroy Western freedoms is a pure alt-right conspiracy theory. And the fact that it can be mobilized as part of a liberal defence of our freedoms says something about the immanent weaknesses of the liberal project. First, there is no unified field of “cultural Marxism”: some of today’s representatives of the Frankfurt school are among the most vicious denigrators of “French thought”; many “cultural Marxists” are very critical of identity politics, etc. Second, any positive reference to the Frankfurt School or to “French thought” was prohibited in Socialist countries where the authorities were much more open towards Anglo-Saxon analytic thought (as I remember from my own youth), so the claim that both classic Marxism and its “cultural” version were somehow controlled by the same central agent has to rely on the very suspicious notion of a hidden Master who secretly pulls the strings. Finally, while I admit (and analyse in my books) the so-called “totalitarian” excesses of Political Correctness and some transgender orientations which bear witness to a weird will to legalize, prohibit and regulate, I see in this tendency no trace of the “radical Left” but, on the contrary, a version of liberalism gone astray in its effort to protect and guarantee freedom. Liberalism was always an inconsistent project ridden with antagonisms and tensions.

If I were to engage in paranoiac speculations, I would be much more inclined to say that the Politically Correct obsessive regulations (like the obligatory naming of different sexual identities, with legal measures taken if one violates them) are rather a Left-liberal plot to destroy any actual radical Left movement. Suffice it to recall the animosity against Bernie Sanders among some LGBT+ and feminist circles, whose members have no problems with big corporate bosses supporting them. The “cultural” focus of PC and #MeToo is, to put it in a simplified way, a desperate attempt to avoid the confrontation with actual economic and political problems, i.e., to locate women’s oppression and racism in their socio-economic context. The moment one mentions these problems, one is accused of vulgar “class reductionism.” Walter Benn Michaels and others have written extensively on this, and in Europe, Robert Pfaller wrote books critical of PC’s patronizing stance and has now started a movement “adults for adults”. Liberals will have to take note that there is a growing radical Left critique of PC, identity politics and #MeToo…

This is no place to develop extensively my views. To anyone interested in them, I propose to take a look at my book The Courage of Hopelessness, which has just appeared in the US. And a final note. I neither participate in Facebook nor do I tweet, but I was informed there are anonymous persons who are active in both media pretending to be me. All such cases are fakes. So I was surprised to learn that Peterson is challenging me to a debate, in response to a tweet operating under my name. If he really wants to, I am ready to do it during my next visit to New York next October.

[1] See http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/jord.an-peterson-clinical-psychologist-canada-popularity-convincing-why-left-wing-alt-right-cathy-a8208301.html