“I’m not hearing what you think. I’m hearing how you’re able to represent the ideology you were taught. And it’s not that interesting because it doesn’t tell me anything about you. I can replace you with someone else that thinks the same way. And that means you’re not here. It’s not pleasant. You’re not integrating the specifics of your personal experience with what you’ve been taught to synthesize something that genuine and surprising, and engaging in a narrative sense as a consequence. And that’s the pathology of ideological possession. It’s not good“. -Jordan Peterson
The above quote is taken from GQ UK’s interview with Jordan Peterson, wherein Peterson accuses the interviewer of being ideologically possessed, meaning that her intellectual structure is more or less hijacked by a set of beliefs relating to an ideology, and thus not her own.
I realize Jordan Peterson is a controversial figure, and frankly, I’m not interested in whether his claim of the interviewer’s ideological possession is correct or not. It does seem that he jumps to that conclusion a little too easily, but I digress. I do think the subject of ideological possession is one that is worthy of discussion.
In a world where our popular media is a difficult mixture of real information and absolute nonsense, critical thinking becomes a rather useful skill, if not a lifesaving one.
It is important to realize that news writing, for example, is a business. Facts, on the other hand, are not. They’re just facts.
It shouldn’t come to any of us as a surprise that news writers use a multitude of tactics to attract the attention of their audience. They need the clicks that gets them the views that gets them the next assignment and so on.
The facts, the real raw facts that have not gone through any sort of analysis are often too dry and border on being totally uninteresting. They then get dressed up with what’s “hot” and what the writer thinks about the facts. The actual facts, in this process, are often pushed many layers down, if not completely forgotten about.
This creates the opportunity for the news writers to put their own ideological bend on a story related to a fact. This is why we get nearly completely different version of the same story depending on which side of the political spectrum you choose your news source from. This type of writing creates an opportunity for a political ideology to create its own version of what is happening in the world, and channel it through its respective news organizations.
Sure, this might read like old news to some of you. But the important point to remember here is that a lot of us mistake news writing for facts. With regard to our increasingly agenda-driven media, it’s important to remember that news writing and facts have become two different things.
When we mistake news writing for facts, we accept the version of truth that is being funneled by the ideology running the particular news channel we tune into. We then build our opinions based on those “facts”, we base our actions on those opinions, and so on. We become mere puppets of an ideology that we had no part in creating. We just take them for their word, and build a life around a set of beliefs we had no part in creating, or even an idea of what they’re based on or where they lead.
This is what Jordan Peterson is warning us about. The danger here is the danger of having our lives stolen from us; for what is a life if not the creation of a unique and solid perspective at the basis of our being. An ideologically possessed person is one who just accepts a pre-packaged set of ideas and beliefs, instead of putting in the hard work required to create one of their own.
This happens to a lot of us. And maybe we move from one ideology to another, but we still remain possessed in the same fashion. And at the core of it is an unpleasant truth:
It’s not easy to read, read, read. It’s not easy to do our own research. It’s not easy to think, think, think. It’s not easy to form our own opinion. It takes work, and we don’t want to do the work.
So we give it up to an organization. We give it up to CNN, to Fox, to Vox or Breitbart. They’re happy to do the thinking for us. In fact, they keep reminding us to rely on them to bring us the facts. They encourage us to remain lazy. We don’t have to make up our own minds. They’ll do it for us.
We leave ourselves vulnerable to control or even to malicious intentions by giving up our core like that.
Our unique individuality is and should be our most valued possession. (No pun intended).
More than ever, now is the time for us to put in the hard work to get educated, to get informed, and to make up our own mind.
We can start by reading good and unbiased news. There are good news sources out there. But they’re boring. Associated Press and Reuters are good examples.
We can turn off the pop news. You know which sources I’m talking about.
We can pick up those serious books that are super boring to read. We can read history. We can read about the economy. We can read about food. We can read great works of literature.
We can use our judgement, and then use it some more, and then more. This way, we can train our judgement. We can strengthen it.
We can make up our own minds based on real information and our own judgement.
We can speak our truth.
We can take a real and committed interest in our lives, instead of giving it up to a political agenda or a corporation.
We can build a true and honest life. The more of us do that, the truer our society will be.