The Marketing of Right Wing Ideas

Julie Hotard
9 min readMay 20, 2018

I wrote this article a few years ago. I update articles every now and then. Here, in August 2021, is one of the latest people to be catapulted to fame and fortune, in return for being willing to lean Rightward. He came to this with a large audience, most of whom lean Leftward, or used to lean that way. Such an audience for Right Wing ideas is, of course, very valuable to Right Wing power players.

A number of the people who are paid very well in return for being willing to lean Rightward, are writing on Substack now. That way they can just pay the Substack writer directing through subscriptions and no outsiders have to know who’s paying for Right Wing propaganda to be spread.

Other readers of that Substack assume the writer is just independently writing about what they really believe. Other readers don’t realize that they would never have heard of the writer if they hadn’t gotten catapulted to fame and fortune, due to their willingness to spread right Wing views much or all of the time.

For those few of you who haven’t heard of the massively popular “public intellectual” Jordan Peterson, here is an article explaining him and his work.

Here’s the best video I’ve seen about Peterson. It’s odd in presentation style, but the video creator makes excellent points.

The Twitterverse seems to be lit right now with logical critiques of the ideas in Peterson’s latest book, 12 Rules for Life. The favorite idea of the Twitterverse is Peterson’s ridiculous lobster theory — that since lobsters have hierarchies, humans should have exactly the hierarchies we currently have and should accept them as inevitable.

Peterson seems to think that lobster hierarchies justify the current status hierarchy in North America today, in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, religion etc. Of course, that’s silly. The faulty logic of it is being pointed out by many people.

There are reasons why Jordan Peterson is popular. He might not be popular though, if he weren’t such a strong promoter of the Right Wing status quo. As a Right Wing sympathizer, he of course has the support of Right Wing media and pundits. He also benefits from the tireless promotion of the “intellectual dark web” by mainstream media, including the New York Times.

Even aside from his Right Wing views, which bring him massive support and promotion, he is also popular because so many young white men today don’t have adequate role models or guidance. He provides that. In some ways, he does a good job, exhorting young men to stand up straight, to clean their rooms and to act responsibly. If he weren’t also promoting Right Wing political and social views, he’d be great.

Because he’s doing that, a lot of us would like to dissuade people from following Peterson. Yet Peterson satisfies some intense needs in our world today.

If we want to supplant Peterson’s influence, logic isn’t our best tool. Instead, someone is going to have to offer a better deal than Peterson does — a better and more appealing role model, and better and more appealing guidance for young white men and for others who need it.

Logic has its uses. I’m glad to see it used often. However, for most humans, logic isn’t very persuasive. For example, logic was not used much in the political marketing that recently gave Republicans control of all three branches of the federal government, most state legislatures and most governorships. The tools used to get all that power were: repetition of talking points, satisfaction of desires/needs, tribalism and emotional manipulation.

In short, Bannon and Cambridge Analytica gained all this power for Republicans by doing what marketing science told them. And it worked. They played mainstream media, Right Wing media and social media like fiddles. Among other strategies, they immersed all of these media in propaganda that bashed Hillary Clinton, getting likely Democratic voters to not vote for Hillary.

Just as most Trump supporters seem to be still supporting Trump, after all this time, so also will Peterson’s followers likely keep supporting him in the current atmosphere. Trump’s lies are frequently debunked by mainstream media. But his supporters don’t trust mainstream media. If they pay attention to it, it’s only to know what the supposed “fake news” and “enemy of our nation” is saying.

Similarly, most of Peterson’s supporters are not likely to seriously read or consider critiques of his books and videos. When outsiders to the Peterson tribe shoot holes through his logic, that won’t likely turn many tribal members against the father figure and role model to whom they feel such strong loyalty.

“Just say No” doesn’t work. When people have a need, they are going to say yes to something that satisfies their need.

I see the same mistake being made by some of the “new atheists.” Some of them have formidable intellects. Intellectually oriented people enjoy reading and hearing their analyses of religion, politics, culture and other subjects. However, logic doesn’t bring much comfort to people who are hurting. If new atheists want to pull people away from religion and toward atheism, logical analysis won’t likely be helpful for most audiences.

Need satisfaction, role models, guidance, imagery, tribalism/community and stories are more persuasive tools. Religions give people role models, guidance, hope, reassurance and a supposedly superior community. Right Wing political propaganda makes people — including racists — feel good about themselves and gives them a tribe in which they feel securely included. That’s why they are so persuasive.

Peterson does this for his tribal followers too. He makes people feel better about themselves and their lives. If the political Left or other alternatives to Peterson’s framework don’t offer satisfactions of such important needs, they won’t be able to compete with his appeal.

At first glance, it wouldn’t seem like a very big challenge for someone on the Left to offer to young white men and others a better purpose and meaning for their lives than a Right Wing group does. Yet here we are, in an atmosphere where, so far, apparently no one on the Left or Center can compete with Jordan Peterson on that front, in the personal mentoring area. Some people are trying to do this in the political and economic areas though, with some success. This article cites some examples of proposed policies in such areas.

Perhaps someone will yet appear who is up to the task of mentoring young white men and others in their personal lives, in constructive ways that are compatible with liberal values. Most personal growth book writers don’t talk about politics, perhaps in order to appeal to a wider audience. However, the progressive political movement could use some progressive writers who do claim their political position, while giving personal life advice, in order to compete effectively with the Right Wing. With people like Peterson, the Right Wing offers a complete package that includes personal life advice. A partial package from the Left Wing may not be able to compete, in terms of satisfying a number of different needs.

Perhaps such progressive personal life advisers have already appeared but have had problems marketing what they have to say. Perhaps some progressive marketing professionals can help them.

There’s a big problem with marketing constructive ideas and truth, as described by the quote below.

Yet positive inspiration does appeal to people. Many heroes and heroines throughout history have given people something to aspire to, rather than catering to their vices or confirming their existing biases. Videos and writings by and about such people can help to inspire us today. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks and Mary Wollstonecraft are just a few examples.

One of the differences between our time and some previous times in history is that we are absolutely immersed in Right Wing propaganda. Therefore, Right Wing voices get heavily amplified while other voices do not.

There are many Christians who are on the Left or Center politically, but their voices are not heard as easily, because they don’t get amplified by large network of Right Wing media outlets and other Right Wing organizations. There are also new atheists whose values are on the Left or Center politically, but their voices don’t get amplified often either. Right Wing propaganda surrounds us.

Help! Our Nation Is Drowning in Right Wing Lies and Propaganda. Here’s How to Change That

Right Wing media, pundits, organizations and politicians promote voices that instill or confirm Right Wing biases. Once Right Wingers have caused these ideas to get popular, even mainstream media like New York Times pick them up, perhaps thinking the ideas will be popular enough to bring clicks or good TV ratings. Thus mainstream media end up popularizing Right Wing ideas even more.

A case in point is the current tireless promotion of the “intellectual dark web” by mainstream media. By contrast, ideas that don’t fit into a Right Wing framework are on their own, and thus may not be able to compete in popularity with Right Wing ideas that are heavily promoted from every direction.

So any mentor who provides constructive non-Right-Wing guidance for young people in their personal lives, is going to have the deck stacked against them, in terms of marketing. They’ll need lots of assistance.

The Right Wing is organized to quickly and massively amplify the messages of people whose ideas fit in with their agenda. The Left is not. To illustrate this, I have revised the Native American story of the two wolves inside ourselves — one that is good and one that is destructive. In my revised version, when the little boy asks “But Grandfather, which one will win?” Grandfather replies “The one that is organized.”

Economist Paul Krugman has written about how organized the GOP is, in promoting and taking care of loyal people who spread Right Wing ideas.

Now I’m going to go off on what will seem like a far tangent and mention what I think may have been the best international political decision of all time, the Marshall Plan. Bear with me here. I’ll come back to let you know how this is very relevant to the subject at hand. Here’s a great new book on the subject, for any history buffs here.

This plan helped Europe to get back on its feet economically after World War II. Only 21 years elapsed between WWI and WWII. Since WWII, 73 years have elapsed, and there’s been no new World War in all that time. The Marshall Plan is probably the reason why.

Most people would rather thrive economically than fight military wars, if given the chance. That is why the Marshall Plan worked. That is also why many people have immigrated to the U.S. from war torn areas and then begin to live lives of peace and prosperity here in the U.S.

Most people in the U.S. would also rather thrive economically than fight verbal political wars of polarization, like we’re doing now, if given the chance. The policy proposals mentioned in the above Democracy Journal article have that as a goal — to help as many people as possible to thrive economically. Economic thriving can facilitate thriving in other areas of life too — as long as people don’t narrowly focus on money as the only purpose of life.

Right now, we’re in a period in our history where inflation-adjusted wages have stagnated for decades. Yet our society is highly focused on money and those who have it. This focus allowed someone to be elected president who had no qualifications for the job, in part because he was an apparent billionaire — a type of person worshiped in our society. Perhaps the focus on money is not so surprising. People often focus on what they want. And those whose wages have stagnated want more money.

The Left needs to offer people a better meaning of life and more inspiration than the Right does — not just politically and economically, but also in terms of people’s personal lives. So this is an important area for us to consider — how to do this, and what kinds of people are best suited to do different parts of it.

As mentioned before, non-Right-Wing providers of mentoring won’t be able to ride a wave of promotion by Right Wing media and pundits, as Peterson does. So another question is: Are these people already here but having trouble with marketing? The best people do not always rise to the top, if their work is inadequately marketed. So our society may already contain most of whom and what it needs. These programs and people may simply need effective marketing to bring them to public attention.