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Samizdata quote of the day

“A free society is only maintained to the extent that everyone is a dissident.”

Jordan Peterson.

20 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks.


    If the general population are not prepared to defend expressing dissenting beliefs (beliefs that dissent from the establishment line) then liberty dies.

    A few people expressing dissent are not enough – they can be victimised, be driven from their jobs, lose their bank accounts, be forced to give up their children (that happened to Katie Hopkins) and-so-on.

    Only if other people, lots of people, are prepared to say (and to stick to) “I stand with this person – if you try and persecute them for expressing their beliefs, you have to get past me” can liberty live.

    I speak from experience – I have been attacked in the past (from page of the Guardian, death threats on the telephone, Central Office antics – the normal stuff) and a colleague, Councillor King Lawal, is under attack right now.

    One does not have to be a Christian, as King Lawal is, to defend his right to peacefully express his beliefs. And YES I would also defend the right of a atheist Gay Rights activist to peacefully express their beliefs.

    By the way – I am guilty of all seven of the 7 Deadly Sins.

  • Stonyground

    Why is the establishment line always so popular anyway? Why, during the Wuflu hysteria, were people who were sceptical of government propaganda being labelled as Covidiots? People who uncritically believed politicians, people who lie constantly about everything, calling other people idiots.

  • 13times

    I’m not a dissident, nor am I a crawler to authoritarian power. I’ve lived my whole life as I’ve seen fit, and legally so. In large part, things have worked out just fine. I’m neither rich nor poor. Nor am I a hedonist or a stoic. I don’t aspire to dissidenthood nor do I dream of someday manning the barricades. The notion that I’ve got more to do than vote, behave in a civil manner and generally be a Good Samaritan (volunteer) to my fellows is nonsense.

    LARPing dissidenthood. Keyboard and video buttinski’s. That’s what really happens.

    I’ve no special inclination to “Fight the Power,” or COEXIST or whatever hackneyed phrase happens to be popular today. I’m tired of being pressed by the famous and infamous to adopt their creeds and act on their advice. I’m not looking for approval from YouTube celebrities.

    If the world turns to sht around me, it’s because others desire it to happen.

  • Tony Harrison

    To be fair, credit to Dr Peterson, he has paid a heavy price for his views

  • Kirk

    Dissent does not make for a free society. That’s a damnable lie, and if you bother to think, you’d recognize that fact.

    Dissent, in and of itself, is a null concept. You can dissent all you like, but if what you’re dissenting in favor of is wrong, wrong, wrong… What does the fact that you’re dissenting do?

    Dissent, when tolerated by a society, is a marker of that society’s freedom of thought. Nothing more; nothing less. If it’s allowed and tolerated, that’s something to note and observe. It doesn’t mean the society is free, and it does nothing to keep it that way.

    I never cease to be amazed at the essential stupidity demonstrated by many of these platitudinous “feel good” statements. Dissent isn’t even in a logical category with “things that make a society free”; the statement is a null concept.

    Were you to say “Tolerance for dissent is a hallmark of a free society…”, then you would not be far off from being right. The presence or non-presence of dissent is meaningless to a “free society”, as that is something that’s not even on the same axes as the things that characterize and keep a society free.

    What does? Being able to speak truths, and have those truths be freely discussed by one and all, then have those truths be recognized and the effects of their implications in society be implemented easily…

    In other words, you can dissent all you like, the way most of us are here and now, but if the rest of society ignores what we say, and does nothing about the truths we speak? How does that have a damn thing to do with this “free society” you speak of in this vapid terminology? Dissent is meaningless in the face of apathy.

  • Alan Peakall

    The first time that I heard Noam Chomsky’s voice was when I turned on the radio midway through an interview conducted of him by a friendly presenter handing him soft-ball questions. From the content I initially thought “This might be Noam Chomsky“. When the interviewee began an answer “There is a lot of dissent, but you have to go outside the mainstream to find it“, I then thought “That can’t be Chomsky – no one as clever as he is reputed to be would say something so vacuously tautologous”. Of course it was Chomsky.

  • “The past is rewritten so fast you don’t know what will happen yesterday”.

    Soviet era Joke

  • Paul Marks.

    I repeat, contrary to some of the comments here, if you do not stand up for the right of other people to dissent – then you will lose your own freedom. Indeed you deserve to lose your own freedom if you will not stand up for the freedom of other people – including people you disagree with.

    A Thomas Hobbes style person – who thinks in terms of only defending their own life (not defending the lives of other people unjustly attacked, either by private criminals or the state, even if it means they lose their own life), is a waste of space.

    Ditto someone such as David Hume who writes with indifference about the “Euthanasia of the Constitution”. A man does not write with indifference about the end of fundamental liberties – he defends fundamental liberties, to the bitter end if bitter it must be.

    Defend the right of other people to dissent – even if you disagree with what they say. Do not let them stand alone – isolated.

    The international Corporate State can destroy an isolated individual – but it can not destroy a person if lots of other people stand with him-or-her.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    13times: I’ve no special inclination to “Fight the Power,” or COEXIST or whatever hackneyed phrase happens to be popular today. I’m tired of being pressed by the famous and infamous to adopt their creeds and act on their advice. I’m not looking for approval from YouTube celebrities.

    Well, marvellous for you. If you don’t want to challenge anything, and like a caterpillar, munch your way through the leaf of life, then knock yourself out. Be a part of the “great, silent majority” that allows zealots to tear through the corporate, NGO and government world, “debanking” people, imposing “woke” rubbish on companies, etc.

    Kirk: Dissent does not make for a free society. That’s a damnable lie, and if you bother to think, you’d recognize that fact.

    You live in the US. I remember reading Jefferson was supposed to have said: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” By “dissent”, in the case that I think Peterson was using it, he was talking about the need, in a healthy and vigorous public not to take things on trust without plenty of evidence, to challenge dogmas and those promoting them, to ask difficult questions, and push back against bullies. In particular, the job of challenging things, of being willing to play “Devil’s Advocate” when confronted with conventional wisdom, isn’t somethning we can outsource to a small group. Sounds pretty bog-standard sense to me. Your scorn, not to mention your sheer rudeness, is unjustified. As for the apathy point, well, I’d argue that apathy is often created in a culture where people don’t want to “rock the boat”.

  • Kirk

    @Jonathan Pearce,

    OK, so “dissent” means “free society”? Really? What the hell does that have to do with anything, anything at all?

    The presence of dissent is meaningless. I can dissent against anything; you’d likely have protestors in Eden, holding signs saying that God was oppressing them by denying them the right to eat the fruit of their choice. You can literally dissent against anything, to include cancer treatment when you’re in Stage 4 and dying from it. The dissent is pointless; the fact that it exists doesn’t mean anything at all, because all it indicates is that you are really too stupid (in all too many cases…) when you’ve got things as good as they can get.

    Presence or absence of dissent is meaningless; all it means is that the public is in alignment with the way things are going. You’ve got damn little “dissent” with the way the Biden administration is using the machinery of state against anyone who opposes their abuses, here in the US. They’re actually actively persecuting anyone who is speaking out effectively against them; do you see that having any effect? The fact that it exists isn’t doing a damn thing to rein in the abuses, and we’re watching “freedom” die in front of us while many “dissent” while the vast majority just sits there, apathetic and uncaring while evidence of millions of dollars in payments to the President by foreign powers comes out.

    Dissent alone is meaningless. It’s not a marker of “freedom”, it’s merely a marker of dissatisfaction and the expression of that dissatisfaction. You can’t do a damn thing with it, so long as that “dissent” is out of alignment with what the rest of society is doing. Note the utter inefficiency of the “dissidents” in the Soviet Union; did any of them put an end to it? Did they take a role in reforming the essential corruption of it all?

    No, they did not. “Dissent” is merely a sop to the consciences of the usual gobshite ineffectuals that infest public life, so that they can be “transgressive contrarians” that never, ever accomplish anything or take responsibility for it all when their soi-disant “brilliant ideas and programs” get realized.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Kirk, you need to calm down before you have heart attack.

    The presence of dissent is meaningless

    Speak for yourself. Really? I would have thought the fact that a society contains lots of people willing and crucially, able to disagree with this or that without being crushed is a quite a useful sign of how open and tolerant it is.

    Note the utter inefficiency of the “dissidents” in the Soviet Union; did any of them put an end to it? Did they take a role in reforming the essential corruption of it all?

    The existence of such dissidents, coupled with the sheer fucking uselessness of the Soviet economy and society, meant that when the system collapsed, it collapsed with what, to the supposedly “foreign policy realist crowd”, was surprising speed. Those dissidents had, after all, played a role in fostering cynicism about what a mess it was. More to the point, they also were important in changing opinion in the West about what Russia was really like. That counted.

    You’ve got damn little “dissent” with the way the Biden administration is using the machinery of state against anyone who opposes their abuses, here in the US

    Wow, I guess all those shows such as Fox, much of the internet, etc, going on about the corruption and sheer awfulness of Biden and his colleagues must be a figment of my imagination.

    I also go back to the point about apathy. Apathy comes from the attitude of “it’s not my job to make a fuss” mindset.

  • Kirk

    Look… The raw and unpleasant fact is that “dissent” is and of itself meaningless. It’s an activity; cattle on the way down the chute in a slaughterhouse can “dissent” all they damn well please, but that’s not going to do them the slightest amount of good.

    You can be all proud and happy that “dissent” exists in your society, but if you’ve got dissent that doesn’t do a damn thing about changing the situation, then what? There was tons of dissent in the Soviet Union; did any of that help the situation? Did it prevent Russia from manifesting the way it did?

    It’s like you lot confuse signs and symptoms with the underlying reality of things. Dissent that doesn’t get discussed or paid attention to by society? Meaningless; its presence or absence tells us nothing. Meanwhile, a society that has zero dissent can be very “free” in reality. Take examples like Finland and other monocultural Scandinavian countries. How much “dissent” was present in those nations before the consensus elite decided to bring in Third-Worlders? How much “dissent” is tolerated from those who object to that little piece of brilliance?

    In terms of “freedom”, the whole concept of “dissent” is totally meaningless. It’s not even remotely congruent to the measure of it, based on historical evidence. How much “freedom” was there in the UK when the various sectarian Protestant sects were in vogue? How much “dissent” did they allow, in their new colonial communities?

    Is a society free because it has dissent? Is it unfree, because it lacks it? Neither case is true, so what then does “dissent” have to do with “freedom”?

    The real question is, are the dissenters actually right about what they’re dissenting over, and does anyone else listen to them and then do anything about it. You can have tons of dissent, and accomplish zero effective change, and you can have zero dissent, and be utterly wrong. Both cases can happen under tyranny or freedom.

    The act of dissent is null, in other words. What happens afterwards is what’s important to the measurement of this thing, “freedom”.

  • Paul Marks.

    Johnathan Pearce and Kirk – Thomas Jefferson used far harsher words, how the tree of liberty needs to be fed on the blood of tyrants and petty tyrants (officials) and how a Revolution every few decades was required.

    Even by my standards Mr Jefferson was hard core – I do not want to kill people.

    All I want, and what we must have, is when someone dissents, someone expresses an opinion the powerful do not like – they get DEFENDED, that we do not allow them to be isolated and victimised.

    This is not a complicated point – a person “dissents” (is a dissenter – expresses an opinion that the powerful do not like) and the powerful move to victimise them (drive them from their job, close their bank account, deny them payment services, and-so-on), we say “no – we-stand-with the person you are trying to victimise”.

    300 years ago, 1723, there was the Great Dissenting meeting here in Kettering.

    I am an Anglican (and a Tory – or “Old Whig”, but let us not complicate things) – the religious opinions of the Dissenters are not mine (their religious opinions were closer to those of my council colleague King Lawal than mine), but that does not mean I would have supported vitimizing the people who went to the meeting in 1723 – or right now in 2023

    A free society depends on the freedom to dissent – to NOT be punished for peacefully expressing your political, religious or cultural opinions.

    You examples of the persecution of dissent in Finland and elsewhere do not prove that dissent is not important – they prove the exact opposite.

    People should be allowed to dissent in Finland and elsewhere.

    As it happens the former Justice Minister of Finland has the same, Biblical, view of homosexuality and “Pride” that my council colleague King Lawal has – of course it was wrong that the former Justice Minister of Finland was persecuted.

    And it was wrong that anti mass immigration campaigners in Sweden were persecuted – especially as even the establishment in Sweden (the very establishment that persecuted them) now admits that they were CORRECT.

  • Paul Marks.

    “Yes this open door mass immigration was a bad idea – Malmo and other places are really bad these days”.

    But you, the Swedish establishment, called us “Fascists” and “Nazis” (and persecuted us) for saying in the past what you are saying now!

    “Oh stop whining, we have admitted you were correct – what more do you want”.

  • bobby b

    Remember those old cereal commercials in which a bowl of cereal is set out next to a plate of bacon, eggs, fruit, and toast, and the narrator tells us that the cereal is “part of this complete breakfast”?

    Dissent is part of freedom. If you have dissent, you still may not have actual freedom, but you really can’t have freedom without the ability to express dissent.

    Dissent doesn’t cause freedom – it signifies it.

  • Paul Marks.

    The freedom to dissent, to express opinions that the powerful do not like, without being punished – is freedom.

    But what has happened is that the powerful pretend to be dissenters – and that has been going on since at least the 1960s.

    They, the powerful, persecute dissent – but they pretend they are “rebels” (when they, in fact, control everything), “fighting for freedom” when they are really crushing freedom.

    A corporation such as Google is a good example of this – they are past masters at pretending to be rebels standing for freedom, when they are really crushing freedom.

    For example, they put on television advertisements (like one I just one I just watched) saying they are proud to support the English ladies Association Football team – but the advertisements do not show the English women Association Football team – the advisements show other young women (suitably “diverse” – which means not-white) with a background song that is not English – the song is American, some sort of inner city accent that is very hard to understand – but the last line I could understand.

    “I do not care if I offend”.

    That is the most incredibly hypocritical thing for Google, or any of these “Woke” corporations, to say – as if anyone took them at their word and used offensive language (say used the “N word”) – Google and co would savagely persecute them.

    “You do not understand Mr Marks – we are giving a voice to the powerless”.

    No you are not – you support the voices of the powerful (the various fashionable “victim group” ACTIVISTS of race, sex and sexuality, who are not victims – they are victimisers) – you hate the powerless (who you call “Rednecks” and so on), and wish to utterly destroy them.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    If we have compulsory schooling, perhaps part of the English lesson could be devoted to dissent- one student has to voice a controversial opinion on a subject chosen at random. It might not be serious- Smurfs should be jailed for promoting Toryism (their skin tone is blue). I belong to a Toastmasters group, which practices what I call Psychic Innoculation on Public speaking- which simply means that we practice speaking before small groups so that we overcome our fears about speaking in public. It works! I have become an Auddict- an audience addict! I am not safe in front of any microphone! So we could get young people used to speaking before other people. A lot of people are simply shy, and proper schooling could remedy that. Whilst it is true that dissent might not be enough, dissent could be the spark that does affect society.

  • Paul Marks.


    Eton used to be like that – free debate.

    Now even teachers at Eton (“Masters” as they are called) are sacked if they express non “Woke” opinions, even out of school time.

    The private schools are just as bad as the state schools – that may not fit with my ideology, but I have to admit it because it is the truth. The private schools are also “Woke” indoctrination centres.

  • Todd Turley

    Paul Marks began this thread on the wrong track with his rational points about “dissent,” and then Kirk went completely off the track in dissension.
    Peterson’s quote states “…to the extent that everyone is a dissident.”

    Different part of speech, different word, different root.

    Peterson’s limitation is in terms of “everyone” possessing the qualities of a “dissident” (‘one who sits apart’ from dis- and sedere).
    Most of the comments focus on ‘to dissent’ (v.i.) with some nods to the noun form ‘dissension.’ It comes from dis- and sentire: ‘to feel apart.’
    Both words have their noun and verb forms, and both relate to political opposition. However, the common and general possession of the attributes of a dissident as a necessary element of a free society is a different discussion than the value or impact of expressing contrarian political opinions.

    Although Pearce misquotes Peterson, I think he comes closest to the mark: “By ‘dissent,’ in the case that I think Peterson was using it, he was talking about the need, in a healthy and vigorous public not to take things on trust without plenty of evidence, to challenge dogmas and those promoting them, to ask difficult questions, and push back against bullies. In particular, the job of challenging things, of being willing to play Devil’s Advocate when confronted with conventional wisdom, isn’t something we can outsource to a small group.”

  • Kirk

    The point I’m trying to get at is that “dissent” has nothing to do with “freedom”. Dissent is in an entirely different category, and is essentially meaningless when evaluating the “state of freedom” in a society.

    Tolerance of dissent? That’s a different thing, entirely. It’s also irrelevant to freedom. Do note, for example, the way that anyone espousing pacifist or anti-conscription views were treated in the environment of WWI England or the United States under that POS Wilson.

    Would you say that either society was “free”? Try saying that it was immoral to conscript the unwilling or unfit for war, to one of the White Feather sisters, or say that the war itself was immoral to one of Wilson’s minions. Eugene Debs paid the price for dissent, in full.

    This sort of thing is the same sort of vacuous bullshit someone who doesn’t bother to think about things spouts whenever they get asked something silly in the street. The fact of “dissent” is meaningless, unless you make it mean something. You can rail all you like about the injustice of things under Wilson, but did anyone do anything? Nope.

    Same shit, different day; look at what’s happening here in the US, right now: Is today’s FBI any different than the one that did Wilson’s bidding during the first Red Scare? All that differs is the target…

    The real question is what gets done about it. The asshole establishment types in DC did nothing about the extra-legal establishment of the FBI under Wilson and indeed, worked to legitimize it. They should have shut it down, deported the POS scion of Napoleon’s who’d helped establish it, and then put every one of those creatures of Wilson in prison for conspiracy to deprive American citizens of their civil rights. I expect similar inaction after the Biden Krime Krewe is out of office.