Former associate professor at Harvard University, where he was nominated for the prestigious Levenson Teaching Prize, and currently (for about two decades now) professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, where he has been named one of the three life-changing teachers, is Jordan Peterson, the intellectual who grew up in harsh northern Alberta and has now become the most famous public intellectual today in the world since his original rise opposing the Canadian Bill C-16 which, he stated, is the first piece of legislation in Western history that has compelled people to use specific language–specifically, compelling people to use the preferred pronouns of transgender individuals. Just yesterday, Wesley Yang wrote an article titled The Shocking Truth About Jordan Peterson where he wrote that Peterson “by orders of magnitude, the most widely disseminated lecturer in the history of the world”, and interestingly, also that there are endless examples where “Peterson’s careful approaches to various problems have been twisted beyond recognition by various journalistic interlocutors.” So, considering such a controversial figure has appeared center stage in the rising Western intellectual phenomenon that has been termed the ‘intellectual dark web’ in a recent and widely disseminated New York Times article, and since I’ve followed Peterson very closely, why not discuss the man and his relevance?
Peterson, 55, since his rise in 2016 has a YouTube channel with over a million subscribers (almost all videos being hours long lectures and discussions) and a Twitter account with over 600,000 followers. He’s a long-time professor and clinician, and is an important academic in his field of psychology. After receiving his PhD in psychology at McGill University a few decades ago, his Google Scholar page lists that he and his work have been cited over 9,700 times, and his career work on psychology (specifically in its subfield of personality) is highly respected. In a recent journalistic hit piece on Peterson (of which there are many, especially on the ideological magazine Macleans), Zack Beauchamp had to admit the following;
I spoke to eight academic psychologists before writing this piece; the feedback I received on his published work was uniformly positive.
“His work in personality assessment … is very solid and well respected,” says David Watson, a psychology professor at Notre Dame.
Peterson’s most important influences likely include Frederick Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung (‘Jung’ pronounced ‘Yoo-ng’). A fuller and excellent explanation of Peterson’s profound psychological theory is offered here, which will probably only be useful once you’ve become familiar with the man. As I wrote earlier, his initial rise to fame was sparked in 2016 when he opposed Bill C-16, a piece of legislation which promoted compelling speech in order to require people to use transgender pronouns lest they be guilty of discrimination in a court of law.
As Peterson notes, after he had done this, many leftist lawyers came out of the “woodworks” (such as Brenda Cossman) to claim he had misrepresented the bill. In fact, all it does is “to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination”, and does not cite speech anywhere. However, as has been noted by a number of lawyers who have supported Peterson’s interpretation, this misses the gist. One such person was Bruce Pardy, a Law Professor at Queen’s University who wrote an article entitled Meet the new ‘human rights’ — where you are forced by law to use ‘reasonable’ pronouns. In it, he points out multiple facts pertaining to this issue. Pardy writes and explains the issue summarily;
Bill C-16, like provincial human rights codes, does not make specific reference to speech. In the Senate, supporters of C-16 fell over each other denying that the legislation would compel language. When Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould testified before the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, she specifically denied that the bill would force the use of gender-neutral pronouns. There are reasons to doubt her sincerity. First, human rights commissions say otherwise. Along with human rights tribunals, they have primary control over the meaning and application of code provisions, something the justice minister must know. Human rights commissions are not neutral investigative bodies but advocacy agencies with expansive agendas. In comparison, courts and governments play only a minor role in interpreting these statutes.
Second, Senator Donald Plett proposed an amendment to the bill that would have clarified that it was not the bill’s intention to require the use of particular pronouns. The minister flatly rejected it, as did Liberal and most “independent” senators. In fact, like its provincial counterparts, Bill C-16 will give transgendered and non-gendered people the ability to dictate other people’s speech.
Indeed, the human rights commissions in Canada have the authority to interpret the law and, therefore, the law essentially states what they consider it. And indeed, not being compelled to refer to trans people by their pronouns would, according to these commissions, constitute discrimination and therefore violate Bill C-16. Earlier, Pardy quotes the Ontario Human Rights Commission saying that “refusing to refer to a trans person by their chosen name and a personal pronoun that matches their gender identity … will likely be discrimination when it takes place in a social area covered by the Code, including employment, housing and services like education.” Indeed, in a video released by the CUPE BC (Canadian Union of Public Employees, British Columbia), the expert stated “It’s important to use the appropriate pronouns for trans people for a number of reasons. The first reason is that it’s the law. Recent changes to the BC Human Rights Code and the Federal Human Rights Act make discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression forbidden.”
This controversy marked the beginning of the rise of Jordan Peterson. Earlier this year, Peterson had a lecture at Queen’s University with Bruce Pardy and, in my opinion, it was simply astounding.
This was, indeed, only the beginning. Quickly, protests erupted against Peterson. One such protest involved a group of protestors who recorded their engagement with Peterson which was subsequently posted to the internet and then on YouTube with three million views and the title ‘Dr. Jordan Peterson gives up trying to reason with SJWs’.
Since then, many events have marked Jordan Peterson’s rise. In 2017, he began a lecture series on the psychological significance of the biblical stories, now numbering 17 lectures (see the playlist here), which have quickly become the most famous lectures on the biblical stories to ever be produced. If you type ‘God’ into YouTube, the third video that appears is Peterson’s lecture titled Biblical Series I: Introduction to the Idea of God. Whether or not he’s a Christian remains unclear to everyone, for reasons that become clear once you get to understand the guy, which is, impossible without watching much of his content.
Peterson has earned the ire of journalists and ill-informed critics who paint him as the archetype of the evil conservative (though he is a classic liberal) for challenging virtually every orthodoxy of the politically correct leftist culture. He’s become starchly anti-authoritarian by studying Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union for decades, and deeply opposes postmodernism (which effectively says that there is no grand truth narratives in life, that no ideas are above one another) and Marxism (developed by Karl Marx and states that there is a perennial conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (essentially, those in power and those who aren’t) where those in power are only there as they oppress those below them), and their paradoxical merging into postmodernism neo-Marxism. Peterson writes “It’s not as if I personally think that postmodernism and Marxism are commensurate. It’s obvious to me that the much-vaunted “skepticism toward grand narratives” that is part and parcel of the postmodern viewpoint makes any such alliance logically impossible.” Of course, these ideas encompass much of modern leftist thought, such as cultural relativism which states all cultures are equal (yes, people believe this).
From his talk with academic and fellow psychologist Jonathan Haidt on the perilous state of the university to his lecture titled ‘Identity politics and the Marxist lie of white privilege‘, Peterson’s intellectually compelling and highly dense talks which are full of discussions on psychology, mythology, biology, religion, etc, it wasn’t long before he would be targetted for destruction by those with an ideological axe to grind. A few months ago in January (of 2018), he released his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. We must remember once again that Peterson is a psychologist with decades of clinical experience, and thus his primary work has been to help people, which has consequently lead to the development of his other ideas in a psychological context. This book (one of the best on wellness according to GQ Magazine, though I wouldn’t put much weight on that since, well, this is GQ we’re talking about) sparked the increasing fame of Peterson, and the most significant event in his rise would occur, his interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4. This interview, half an hour, now has 9.9 million views and where Peterson, to put it straight, destroys Newman (though Peterson himself doesn’t like such descriptive language being used about him and his engagements).
So today, where his book 12 Rules for Life, since January, is still #1 on Amazon (and in the ensuing half year has already sold over a million copies to become an international bestseller), we live in an age where Peterson has become much more visible, and the criticisms against him much more ruthless and ridiculous. Two clear examples of hit pieces written about him, and their absurdity, will be noted. The first one was published a few weeks ago titled Is Jordan Peterson Enabling Jew Hatred? by ‘journalist’ Ari Feldman, where the cover photo for the article was a picture of Peterson besides Hitler. In it, Feldman cited an article on a far-right website calling him the Savior of Western Civilization and citing the comments of the famous Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt who, in a brief conversation between the two where Feldman tried to get comments out of Deborah, had quoted her calling some of his remarks “suspicious.”
Since publishing time, the article has been refuted and refuted and refuted and refuted and … In short, the Forward had to change the photo of Peterson beside Hitler and issue an apology, Deborah Lipstadt published a note on the Forward explaining she knew almost nothing about Peterson’s views and that Feldman failed to note that she had told him this in their discussion, and the alt-right website calling Peterson a ‘savior’ was actually a satirical piece and the same author had elsewhere referred to Peterson as a “Jewish stooge” (Peterson is not Jewish). Another website, alt-right.com itself has had the following comments to say about Peterson;
So we can conclude a few things: that a Jewish television producer put Peterson on the map, that Jewish-dominated mainstream media outlets give him incredible coverage and access, and that his fierce pro-Jewish stance indicates a loyalty to the Jews supporting and promoting him. This makes Peterson essentially a tool of the powerful Jews backing his weak, inconsequential pushback against radical leftism.
Indeed, Richard Spencer, the most famous alt-right figure around has, after initial hopes that Peterson was on their side in the beginning of his rise to fame, concluded that Peterson was not the guy who he thought he was and had “hit a wall”. Peterson himself has said (and bragged about) having had thousands of people email him and tell him that his lectures have stopped them from joining the alt-right, which also throws a lot of water on the endless line of crackpots who genuinely believe that, despite probably being the most significant single figure who has damaged the ranks of the alt-right movement, that Peterson himself must either secretly be one of them, their darling, or be pandering to them or … some other view that has no further credibility to be discussed. One of Peterson’s ’12 rules’ is “Tell the truth (or at least don’t lie)”. Peterson’s detractors would be in a spot of much more significant credibility if they followed this rule.
The second example is even more recent, a hit piece in the New York Times titled ‘Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy’. The biggest thing that emerged from this was that Peterson supported “enforced monogamy”, something that the author, Nellie Bowles, gave to light as a position that Peterson supposedly endorses the view that women should be redistributed to men and marauding incels so that no one is left behind. If that were true, it would be crazy, but indeed, it couldn’t be a more absurd misrepresentation of the facts. Peterson has had to embarrassingly explain a few facts to his detractors, many of whom still have no clue what they’re talking about even in light of these claims (some of whom still haven’t done the effort to find out they exist). Enforced monogamy is … just a societal pressure to keep people from being polygamous. Peterson writes “My motivated critics couldn’t contain their joyful glee this week at discovering my hypothetical support for a Handmaid’s Tale-type patriarchal social structure as (let’s say) hinted at in Nellie Bowles’ New York Times article presenting her take on my ideas.”
Ben Shapiro, in an article on The Daily Wire appropriately titled ‘The New York Times’ Runs A Comprehensive Hit Piece On Jordan Peterson. It’s Dishonest, Malicious Crap. writes;
This is plainly dishonest reportage. First off, Peterson is using well-established anthropological language here: “enforced monogamy” does not mean government-enforced monogamy. “Enforced monogamy” means socially-promoted, culturally-inculcated monogamy, as opposed to genetic monogamy – evolutionarily-dictated monogamy, which does exist in some species (but does not exist in humans). This distinction has been present in anthropological and scientific literature for decades.
So, here’s what Peterson is not arguing: that women should be forced to marry men to cure the insecurity of incels. But that’s what Bowles says he’s saying, and then calls it “absurd.” Because she’s a very objective reporter, don’t you see.
Here’s what Peterson is arguing: socially-enforced monogamy results in more pairings, and fewer situations in which multiple women choose one man, leaving other men without partners. This is statistically unassailable. Removing socially-enforced monogamy results in a hierarchy in which women choose the most desirable men, since many women can now have sex with one man. Peterson argues that this leads to a counterintuitive result as well: desirable men are less likely to settle down with one woman, making women less satisfied with their relationships with men as well.
Many, many outlets have now explained Nellie Bowles’ absurd, slanderous misrepresentations of Peterson on the issue of enforced monogamy. Here’s a fuller video of Peterson’s subsequent comments on this ‘scandal’.
Even more recently, a recent long-time friend of Peterson, Bernard Schiff, has turned on him and written an article in the Toronto Star explaining why he use to be a supporter of Peterson and now thinks he’s dangerous just four days ago. Earlier today, however, the Toronto Star has published a subsequent letter by Irene Taylor, a former associate of Peterson, who has explained some of the absurdity of the article and the kind of man Peterson really is. Just yesterday, though, a full-length scathing, devastating analysis of Schiff’s article appeared on the Toronto Sun, putting to rest any of the supposed credibility it’s had.
Schiff’s comments are similar to those who claim (and thus misrepresent) Peterson’s human-lobster analogies by claiming Peterson uses them as a one-to-one comparison to humans, or even worse, the outright lie that Peterson claims human and lobster brains are the same (i.e. PZ Myers and Vice) rather than Peterson’s mere scientific demonstration that organisms as distantly related and dissimilar to humans as lobsters have dominance hierarchies and, therefore, hierarchies are ingrained in biology and cannot be removed under absurd guise that they’re sociocultural constructs (or worse yet, those who lay hierarchies at the feet of capitalism). In a recent absurd article in the Washington Post titled Jordan Peterson needs to reconsider the lobster, the marine biologist Bailey Steinworth admits that Peterson doesn’t get any of his science wrong, and that every biologist would agree with what Peterson says regarding dominance hierarchies in nature, but oddly proceeds to complain that there are other examples Peterson could have used besides the lobster. Steinworth vindicates Peterson’s argument by admitting his science about the dominance hierarchies of lobsters is right, but complains that he didn’t use her personally favored comparisons.
So, what does Jordan Peterson really believe? You’ll quickly find out that most of the discussion on Peterson are ridiculous accusations and statements made by his critics, and lengthy refutations and addresses of them by those who are more charitable. His profound psychological theory is not discussed nearly as much, which is the primary reason of his fame. In the beginning of this post, we saw an article by Wesley Yang on the shocking truth about Jordan Peterson, a highly, highly recommended article. Yang explains;
So what does Peterson actually believe? He has consistently defended the moral position that the “individual is sovereign over the group,” a unique feature of Anglo-American political theory and practice that holds that citizens hold their rights against the state rather than through it, which is inscribed into our founding documents, and helps to account for the remarkable capacity of societies built around its doctrines to accommodate high levels of diversity while remaining democratic. The underlying sovereignty of individuals forces state power to operate against a hard constraint that limits coercion, and gives individuals the means by which to push back.
So, should we deal with more absurd articles, such as those by the likes of Paul Thagard, an ideological man whose claims to refute Jordan Peterson’s original book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief published in 1999 (both published by Routledge, one of the most respected academic publishers and has been highly received by academia) are demolished by his own quotations of the book that he straight out misrepresents while claiming at the same time they establish his representations of Peterson? Of course not.
Maps of Meaning is Peterson’s original monograph where Peterson outlines his philosophy, psychology and theory, which was the basis of his popular psychology classes at the University of Toronto. Peterson has released the entire book for free in PDF as well, thank God for that, and Peterson also releases all his lectures and talks for free as well. He is also one of the four reputed academics to have created the Future Authoring Program, where you spend time just outlining your plans for your future. This program has had measurably proven effects on increasing peoples outcome in life, such as significantly reducing the drop-out rate of students (interestingly, the effects are especially significant with minorities).
Peterson now has profound hours-long talks that receive hundreds of thousands and millions of views with many figures, including Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, Ben Shapiro, Steven Pinker, Camille Paglia, John Anderson, Maajid Nawaz and more (most of whom you likely don’t know but may very well love after seeing his talks with them). He’s received support from countless academics such as Denis Rancourt, Jonathan Stea, and Izzy Kalman besides those I’ve already mentioned. In this same time, he’s had an interview with Vice that Vice absurdly edited to make him look bad, a conversation with a Vox journalist (Vox is responsible for a few hit pieces written about Peterson, one of which has already been referred to earlier) where the Vox journalist doesn’t get very far trying to score a victory on him and an admittedly highly intellectual discussion he’s had with a BBC reporter who, despite also wanting to defeat him, ended up having a very interesting and productive conversation (though Peterson still won, watch and enjoy). He’s talked with Russell Brand (twice) and had a popular discussion on the podcast of the famous YouTuber h3h3Productions (which lead to this second one with them).
So, Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life is still #1 on Amazon after six months. In my opinion, his best lectures have been on tour promoting this book, perhaps most astutely his life-changing lecture at HowToAcademy which has received 1.2 million views.
The journalistic storm against Jordan Peterson has seemed to have calmed down recently. Many leftist thinkers have supported him and his rise. Less than two weeks ago, the most recent Munk debate was released on the issue of political correctness. The resolution was “Be it resolved, what you call political correctness, I call progress…” On the pro side was Michelle Goldberg (a New York Times journalist, so the astounding misrepresentation she had of Peterson wasn’t that surprising) and Michael Dyson, and on the con side was Jordan Peterson and Stephen Fry.
The most famous part of the 2-hour long debate, which was released two weeks ago and already has almost 2 million views on YouTube was where Dyson unbelievably called Peterson a “mean, made white man” to which he attracted scathing critique, both during and after the debate. Truly a racist remark, and the firestorm that would have been caused had Peterson called Dyson a “mean, made black man” is self-evident enough. Personally, I thought Peterson and Fry won, but I wasn’t the only one. The audience was polled before the debate, where 36% supported pro (Goldberg, Dyson’s resolution) and 64% supported con (Peterson, Fry). At the end of the debate, support for pro had dropped to 30% and con had risen to 70%, meaning that a sixth of pro’s entire support had evaporated over the course of the debate due to con’s arguments and evidence. Dyson, after the debate, decided to share Twitter posts of people who probably already supported his position before the debate almost self-declaring victory, to which I commented under …
Why is Dyson cherry-picking tweets from like the 6 people who thought he won? Did someone tell him yet that the audience support for his side of the debate dropped from 36% to 30%, and therefore almost a fifth of the people on his side abandoned him?
To which I enjoyed 41 likes and some retweets. So, where is the Peterson phenomenon going? Well, up. Join it while it’s rising. And watch some of his videos on YouTube. You won’t be able to stop.