I was 8 years old when I first heard him- I was in the back of my mom’s minivan in a supermarket parking lot. I remember what caught my attention, too. My father being a musician, I learned pop stars don’t write their own songs at an early age- and while I didn’t quite know the differences between how Britney Spears’ lyrics and (most) rappers’ lyrics came to be, all I knew was that the voice on the radio sounded like he meant what he was saying more than the other voices did.
After my parents bought me the Eminem Show (the clean version), it resonated with me for a very simple reason. While I shared precisely zero of the issues in his life and I couldn’t articulate exactly what it was about the world that bothered me, I did have the vague intuition that it could blow me, and it was clear he shared the same sentiment. It is usually not advisable to tell large amounts of people (or any) to blow you- they tend to find it crass and off-putting- but I learned that if you managed to say as much while using the right words arranged in the right order and delivered in the right way, you can bring the world to its knees and come pretty damn close to having that demand accommodated.
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I didn’t have many political views at 8, I just knew that both sides wanted him to go away, but instead, he kept getting bigger and bigger because he was better at utilizing language than they were. They had time and money and power and prestige and he defeated their arguments in 16 bars a pop until they were ultimately forced to accept there was nothing they could do about it.
Now he’s reduced to kneeling 2 years too late for a cause that was still dumb 2 years earlier. A formerly unparalleled cultural critic whose opinion’s are now indistinguishable from the median 13-year-old girl on Tik Tok. Way to have your finger on the pulse, Marshall. At least you took a stand against the side that’s really running things.
I wouldn’t say I ever regarded Sam Harris as an idol necessarily, but he was at least a (parasocial) friend. I’ve greatly benefitted from his app (as have multiple family members I’ve gifted it to), his commentary on psychedelics accompanied me the first time I tried LSD, and I remember one particularly low moment in my mid-20s (I think this also involved LSD) listening to his “There is Only Now” speech on Youtube as I desperately tried to shake myself out of a particularly nasty bout of depression. Regardless of how one-sided those “interactions” were, experiences like that tend to cultivate a sense of closeness with someone.
With that out of the way, what am I supposed to say here that hasn’t already been said by people both intellectually and morally superior to myself that still bounced off of him due to laughably ironic hubris cloaked in a logic of such rapidly deteriorating quality a decent chunk of high schoolers could shatter it without breaking a sweat? Sam was overly invested in being right about something he ended up being wrong about, and it’s fair to say he is not taking it well. I can relate. I thought I was in love with this girl in college- they say “when you know, you know,” and I knew that she was special. I will now give Sam the same advice I would give to my 21-year-old self if I could:
“Boo fucking hoo. That thing you thought was special (Younger Me: the Girl; Current Sam: the System) was anything but. The longer you hold onto your delusions, the more foolish you appear. This is clearly unnecessary, so you shouldn’t do it. To err is human- to spiral out of control because you can’t fathom that you possess the same capacity to err as other humans is embarrassing. Your public displays of suffering on behalf of a misguided ideal don’t make you look profound, they make you look gay and stupid. It’s honestly not that big of a deal. Grow up. However, I do have to warn you, the ratio of apologies people owe to you versus apologies you owe to others is not what you currently expect it will be.”
At least I was 21 when I was imploding over my own ego, to do so at Sam’s age is undignified, to say the least.
All things considered, Louis CK is still probably the greatest comic alive, and the bone I have to pick with him is the smallest. Still- his calling for open borders on Rogan was as stupid as when any genocidally-resentful Antifa freak says it. God doesn’t randomly sprinkle equally deserving people and countries with different levels of well-being which makes them have good lives or bad lives, Louis. There is a relationship between how those lives are led and the well-being that subsequently comes from that. You don't get to make people’s lives shittier because other people that did a shittier job at making their lives not shitty would like to decrease their lives’ shittiness at the expense of others’ lack thereof. Some people with great lives in the US are shallow assholes that don’t appreciate what they have and some people with bad lives in Mexico are fine people that got dealt a bad hand. True. Also true: many very good people in the US that are trying their best are struggling already and the top problem I’d say Mexico tends to have would be the murdering. Then the raping. Then the kidnapping. Then the drug dealing and associated crimes therein. You’re not stupid and you’re not a liar, so stop acting like eliminating the border wouldn’t come with horrific costs to people who did nothing to deserve them.
It was fascinating listening to his 6-hour super podcast on the presidents with Shane Gillis because there were these flashes of genuine insight interspersed with takes on history that can only be described as childishly naive. He talked about FDR like he was just some swell fella helping the disadvantaged instead of the reality that he was one of the Top 2 (next to Stalin) shrewdest political operators of the 20th century who conquered half the world and changed the structure of the country so deeply it still makes geniuses believe fairy tales 75 years after the fact.
Again, I’m not claiming Louis has faltered in his domain of expertise, but as far as “Philosopher-King”, that doesn’t quite reach the criteria we’re looking for.
It’s not a controversial statement to claim that Peterson is not at his peak. But goddamn, people making snide comments on Twitter should’ve seen him in his prime. I’ll be honest, when I saw him live in 2018, that was the first time I intuitively understood the whole Hitler thing. Even the whole “when he looks at you, it feels like his entire attention is on you” dynamic, it was fucking wild. I’ve never seen that absolute command of an audience, don’t anticipate seeing it again anytime soon, and am only half-joking when I say he could have convinced me along with the 1000 or so other people in the room to commit atrocities if he wanted to. The ingredients to create that type of charisma don’t come together every day, it was lightning in a bottle. We’ll come back to this concept shortly- first, let’s get his latest transgressions out of the way.
This Anon bashing has gotta stop. It’s stupid, and everyone knows it’s stupid. The reason it’s created such a controversy is because people who have an affinity for Peterson are stunned at the decline in logic (precipitous, but not quite Harris-esque) regarding this particular subject. We know why you don’t like Anon’s- they say mean things to you. I get it. I’ll even make a note in your defense. I would also never claim that I would handle your level of fame better than you. However, everyone else gets it too, and this performance like your hostility to anonymity is purely objective is utterly transparent. You need to stop ranting about it like it’s an unambiguous evil when everyone knows why anonymity is necessary (including and especially you) and have an adult conversation about it instead. You like throwing a solid podcast or 47 at problems, right? Try expanding the Overton window of people you’re willing to talk to that’s been static for half a decade and have one with an Anon- being in a whale’s belly can’t be that comfortable, accept the hand that’s being offered to you.
Back to the “lighting in a bottle” thing. One of the inherent characteristics of the concept is that it doesn’t last. Why would you expect a 60-year-old man to stay on the cutting edge of every conversation at the rate people half his age can, anyway? I find his recent takes frustrating too, but I can’t help but notice an undercurrent of “Daaaaaddd, you’re embarrassing me in front of my cool internet friendssss” vibes when he makes a wrong move (and yes, they are getting more frequent). Or it’s as if he’s a character in a TV show the writers took in a different direction than you expected in a way that didn’t honor the original intent of the character. Trust me, I relate to this sensation- I’m the one describing it. However, you’re not a child, and he inhabits the same reality you do, so what’s really going on here?
How much can you bitch, really? The figures you chose to take all the risks in representing your interests aren’t representing them in the precise manner you would have chosen if you were in their shoes? Well that’s the tradeoff of outsourcing your agency then, isn’t it? No risk, no influence. You can sneer at normies who watch sportsball all day- it’s natural to have a worldview that frames yourself as superior to people you don’t particularly admire, and you can go right back to doing so when you’re finished reading this essay… but as of this second, you’re going to have to admit the sport you’ve chosen to spectate just has less physically imposing and more verbose participants; because aside from that, there ain’t that much of a difference.
Now, taking our (my) past idols in totality, what you may have noticed is that they all share the same point of failure, namely that their minds are Libbed-out. None of them are evil, they’re doing what they think will help: Eminem wants cops to stop killing black people, Harris wants people to listen to the experts, Louis wants people who haven’t had great opportunities to have better opportunities, and Peterson wants women in Iran to be happy or whatever it is he wants right now, idk.
I don’t mean to snipe at Peterson in that last bit, my point is that the worldview all of these men have internalized (what Academic Agent calls the “Boomer Truth Regime”) is interacting with a reality that it is simply not equipped to survive. It’s like a conceptual spacecraft used in the Cold War that is forced to go on missions day after day where it is forced to sustain g-forces it was not engineered to endure. 1945 Liberalism can’t sustain missions on a 2023 planet. With clever minds come clever tricks and you can keep pulling the floors, ceilings, and walls together as you improv a survival strategy, but that shit is not going to last.
Here’s another observation:
Jordan Peterson- 60
Sam Harris- 55
Louis CK- 55
Eminem- 50 (114 in rapper years)
Why would men of these ages be equipped to constantly update their mental models at a sufficient rate to guide our civilization to the future? It is not only unfair to them but outright cowardly for us to rely on them to do so. There is a biological “Flippening” in life that occurs when children attain a greater capacity to respond to the world than their parents. Like many uncomfortable and/or painful things, this is both natural and good. The duty of a notoriously neotenous generation is not to condemn figures we’ve revered for their current shortcomings as they brush against their limits, but to pick up the slack we probably should have been picking up for a while now.
Because let’s get one thing abundantly clear: flawed- even tragically- even fatally flawed heroic figures are superior to those who nitpick from the sidelines on how they go about their business. Does this mean you can’t criticize JBP on the Anon issue? Not at all. He’s wrong, so by all means, do so. However, it does mean that however low he drops in your mind, you’re still beneath it. The greater your idols’ gaps in capacity, the greater the moral indictment on you for failing to fill them.
Regardless of if my list contains idols of yours or not, you’d do well to recall your own along with why they earned that status from you in the first place, which is this: they embodied characteristics you wished to model in yourself. No more, no less. That is not to trivialize the honor of earning such a distinction, but it does mean that they are fundamentally the same as you- that is, they are flawed men. Be grateful for their triumphs, forgive them for their faults, and let them go. You sought out the strengths of these men when you were weaker in the past, now you’re witnessing their own weaknesses emerge due to their shortcomings in the present. To paraphrase a villain: the present betrays them, because it belongs to you. And the longer it takes you to internalize that fact, the greater you betray yourself, along with any virtue you’ve admired in them that you’ve been looking forward to deploying in the future.
I will give you the best and worst news you’ll ever hear in your life: that future doesn’t exist, because it’s today. There is no other time and there is no one else. Now go out into the world and embody the virtues you’ve had the good fortune to observe in others over the course of your life as best you can. If you’re lucky, maybe a child observing the best version of yourself over the next five years will call you out on not living up to your prime in twenty.
I understand why the Online Right gets after Peterson. I mostly sympathize with your complaints. That said, taking shots at his struggles with benzo’s while his wife had cancer was/is a piece of shit move that the vast majority of halfway normal people find viscerally repellent. You wonder why you lose to your supposed inferiors on a perennial basis? Easily avoidable mistakes like this are why. I’m not claiming any semblance of moral superiority either, I’m just not a retard. Giggle with your friends or win, your choice.
This resonates a lot with me. But I haven’t been following Sam that much lately; could you please update me on what he was wrong about and refusing to admit?