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Outselling the Bible

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‘Any critic of yours online gets absolutely lambasted by your followers,’ Cathy Newman told Jordan Peterson on Channel 4 News in January. After the interview, Newman received such torrents of online abuse that Channel 4 had to call in security specialists. Peterson, a clinical psychologist at Toronto University, was on the show to discuss the gender pay gap and to promote his new book, Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. The gender pay gap, he insists, is not a result of discrimination: he believes that women are by their nature more inclined to take jobs which, it so happens, are less well paid.

Peterson sympathised with his supporters’ contempt for Newman’s style of questioning, but distanced himself from the abuse. ‘If you’re threatening her, stop,’ he told his 300,000 Twitter followers (now more than half a million). But ‘the dark part of me thought,’ he said later, that ‘if I wanted to sick my internet trolls on Channel 4, then there would be nothing but broken windows and riots. And then there’s a little part of me that thinks – wouldn’t that be fun?’

Peterson is already enjoying himself. His meteoric rise has made Twelve Rules for Life a bestseller. Penguin, his British publisher, recently boasted that he is ‘outselling the Bible’, ‘the most influential psychologist since Carl Jung’, ‘more popular than Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘the biggest philosopher since Albert Camus’. (His only other book, Maps of Meaning, published in 1999, sold fewer than 500 copies in hardback.) His appearance on Channel 4 News has had eight million views on YouTube. In the fifteen days before the interview, his following across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube rose by roughly 35,000 users. In the fifteen days after, it increased by 253,000 users (40,000 more Twitter followers, 100,000 on Facebook, and 113,000 new subscribers on YouTube). His Patreon account now earns him over $60,000 a month from his supporters’ donations, on top of his professional salary. His recent promo-tour in London was extended twice, with four events that each sold out within 24 hours. He appeared on stage in front of a huge portrait of himself with a halo around his head. ‘Are you a prophet?’ someone in the crowd asked. He will be back in May.

Most of Peterson’s followers are young white men. His digressive lectures on YouTube offer lessons on philosophy, religion, evolutionary biology, the inevitability of suffering and the need to ‘aim at the highest pursuit you can think of, and act and tell the truth in that pursuit’. Meanwhile, his defence of traditional family values, individualism and free speech, accompanied by diatribes against ‘identity politics’, ‘radical left ideologues’ and ‘postmodern neo-Marxism’ have made him a favourite on the right, bridging the distance between Breitbart and the Spectator.

If suffering is inevitable and universal, he argues, then you are misguided if you see a connection between your suffering and your gender, race or class. For Peterson, identity politics is ‘just an excuse for failing to live your life in a respectable and noble manner’; Islamophobia is a ‘word created by fascists and used by cowards’; white privilege is a ‘Marxist lie’; and ‘each sex has its own unfairness to deal with, but to think of that as a consequence of the social structure – come on, really?’

For Peterson, the world’s hierarchies and inequalities are natural and ahistorical, existing outside society’s influence. Private property and the free market are ‘the articulated reflections of much deeper natural laws’, he says. The idea that society’s hierarchies might be ‘socio-cultural constructions’ or ‘a secondary consequence of capitalism’ is ‘absolute nonsense’. If women wanted or were suited to higher-paid jobs, he says, they would be in them, because markets, like the natural world, reward competence. Proof of gender discrimination – the absence of women in powerful and better-paid positions – thus becomes proof that it does not exist.

He occasionally concedes that sexism exists: ‘Oh, of course there is, it’s a multivariate problem.’ But he thinks the answer is not to increase equality between men and women, but to insist on the biological differences between them. ‘These biological differences,’ he says, ‘are by the standards of psychological and social science research, actually quite large. Especially the difference in interest between people and things.’

In July 2017, James Damore was fired by Google after he sent a memo to his peers, criticising the company’s diversity drive because women were suited to ‘people and aesthetics’, not coding. He immediately appeared on Peterson’s YouTube channel and revealed he was a ‘huge fan’. He was also interviewed by Stefan Molyneux, with whom Peterson regularly collaborates. Molyneux posts weekly rants on YouTube against ‘female evil’ and the ‘Matriarchal Lineage of Corruption’, and defends notions of white supremacy. Peterson praised Damore’s ‘spine of steel’ and intellectual acumen: ‘everything James claimed is solidly backed by well-developed scientific literatures.’ (He picks and chooses his scientific literatures, however, saying he’s ‘very sceptical of the models that are used to predict climate change’.)

It may be tempting to ignore Peterson and hope he sinks back into obscurity. But hundreds of thousands of people find meaning and guidance in his lectures; many say he has changed, even saved, their lives. His support, like his thought, is riddled with contradictions. He attacks identity politics while appealing specifically to young white men. He tells his audience to ‘grow up’, but thrives on their childish, trolling behaviour. He insists on the paramount importance of independence – ‘Don’t be dependent. At all. Ever. Period’ – but cultivates a network of young men who have become disconcertingly dependent on him.

Comments

  1. willyoung says:

    Tidy analysis. It’s also important to note that on almost all of his youtube videos you will find quite shocking white supremacist & anti-women comments that will have hundreds of likes.
    It makes me respond in a similar way to how I look at radicalised muslims. Yes, their actions are awful and their analyses and solutions can seem very strange, but being an undefined young man as they say can be a very painful thing, and in lieu of strong, positive, compassionate social and familial influences many will latch onto the latest shock-jock preacher for a time.

    But yes it’s quite incredible how contradictory the man is. One of his main ideas seems to be that all of the social justice movements are pathetic for blaming everything on the oppressive white male. Yet his pro-white male movement is all about blaming feminists etc for men feeling bad about themselves etc. He calls his enemies narcissistic which seems to be a very good description of him. His whole field of psychology is historically the tale of strong male figures full of self-conviction who get hold of a few ideas and arrange some studies to back them up. People are very drawn to self-conviction but there doesn’t always need to be any substance there.

    I’ve watched his talks and they are full of hollow self-help platitudes. I don’t understand how people have been ‘saved’ by them, as far as I can see there is very little content.
    The ideas about taking responsibility and making changes to your own life are admirable and can work to a degree, but why does he step outside of that and attack others so gleefully?

    It all seems like a big sales tactic, he certainly knows his audience, and knows that if he attacks a certain group he will boost his book sales.

    His grasp of history seems at best incredibly over-simplified, and at worst aggressively white-supremacist and anthropocentric.

    He’s very snidey as well; he will propose something like ‘maybe women shouldn’t be allowed to wear lipstick’, sounding like the leader of a group of angry boys on the playground, but then he backtracks and says ‘i’m not saying they shouldn’t i’m just asking the question’. That is a very slimy rhetorical tactic to get something very disagreeable to sound reasonable.

    • This is spot-on: he’s expert at self-promotion and carefully calibrates his dog-whistle statements to sound (barely) reasonable. The other online celebrity that he most resembles is Nicholas Taleb – the cavalier dismissal of anyone who disagrees, and the cultivation of a rabid following of foot soldiers who he uses as deniable proxies. Both are entertainers, not deep thinkers, and their primary purpose online is marketing their dreck.

  2. Simon Wood says:

    Good Lord, this old canard! I thought me and Reggie had dealt with it on “The Suburban Pirate” radio show of 2 February 2018. In this episode, I imagined that my own philosophy would be made into stock cubes and enrich people’s lives in that form.

    https://www.mixcloud.com/reggie-perrin/the-suburban-pirate-radio-show-feb-2-2018/

    However, I was lying in the bath yesterday after hearing the news of our impending war with Russia, when a concert came on BBC Radio 3 from Eton College Chapel. I thought there’d been a coup. I was further astonished to hear this passage read out from Jeremiah:

    “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

    Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.

    This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the Lord; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.

    Therefore will I discover thy skirts upon thy face, that thy shame may appear.

    I have seen thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, and thine abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?”

    Jordan Peterson’s similar, basic-training bootcamp injunctions against the temptations of special-snowflake uniquism are thus nothing new under the sun.

    I can’t be alone in wondering if we should make up our own minds from now on about everything, even if we’re wrong.

  3. jcwnorton says:

    There must be one woman who he must admire as he’s her all over: Ayn Rand.

  4. coachmarino@gmail.com says:

    It might be a tidy review, but it’s not correct, and both this and the reply above don’t have a clue.

    You can take individual quotes to shape your argument, but unfortunately that’s not how it works. So you don’t get to.

    As usual, it’s always important to go back to the idea that not only did this man used to teach at Harvard, he was a celebrated professor, and changing lives back then. His self authoring program has helped many non-white people achieve extraordinary levels of success. He has helped thousands of individuals improve their life prior to writing this book, way more than either of you idiots.

    What he is, is a scientist by trade. His science is psychoanalysis. His point is that any theory or idea worth anything must withstand scrutiny. That’s why it’s so important not to take him out of context.

    His morals and his values are to tell the truth. So it can’t matter that if the so-called alt-right celebrate it. Because it’s scientifically supportable. Science doesn’t have morals. Some things to bring up as examples.

    1) He was celebrated by just about everybody before like a year ago. Race, gender, none of that mattered.

    2) He had the foresight to start using Youtube ahead of a lot of other lecturers.

    3) He concedes that most of his ‘followers’ are young white men, but he offers that most of youtube’s viewers are young white men by a significant margin. So if you add that to the fact that the left and certain minority and feminist groups condemn him, his support of young white men becomes exaggerated.

    4) His opinion on the bill in Canada has turned up to be correct on multiple occasions. You can find his analysis in front of the Canadian parliament on Youtube of course. He has been told time and time again that the bill will not have the power that he thinks it will have, yet months later you had the Sheperd incident, and then you’ve had other professors face investigation and almost get fired because of the bill. So he’s been proven right, even though critics still say he’s wrong. He’s against the idea of compelled speech, and his argument is that the bill is directly linked to policies that surround it, and that those policies are contradictory, unsupportable by science, and bound to be misinterpreted. And he’s been proven right in at least two WELL CHRONICLED incidents in just a short period.

    5) Similarly he has been proven right and is building his audience and the audience of others on the acts of authoritarian and liberal knuckleheads. He’s just been right, you can’t dispute it.

    6) It’s simply incorrect that he doesn’t believe that there is sexism, or racism, or abuse against trans people. You can hear him discuss these problems all over the place if you just look a little. He’s simply saying it is not as responsible for things like the gender pay gap as reported. He’s saying it’s a multivariate problem, which of course it is, and cannot be discussed entirely over a short interview. He talks about agreeableness in that interview, and the Scandinavian result of their legislative attempts at equality (resulting in larger gaps in pay, leadership, and employment choices). In other interviews he talks about the fact that jobs like bricklaying, or machinist jobs, that are highly paid, hourly jobs, that often accrue overtime pay, which exponentially affects their total take home pay over the course of a year or career, and how these are never discussed in the debate, but affect the bottom line gender pay gap. It’s just not as simple as gender.

    7) In the Vice interview, he was doing what a scientist ought to do but would be afraid to do, that being discussing the parameters. His point was missed by young idiots. But the greater point is that there is an issue with abuse in the workplace, but there ARE NO PARAMETERS, so you can’t legislate it. And you can’t talk about it, so you can’t set parameters. So he engaged with the debate and the millennial idiot couldn’t even talk about it without giggling. They agreed that squeezing someone’s behind should be against the rules, but also that isn’t the line, so what is the line? What has to happen to a workplace in order to make it more conducive to men and women working together? He asks if there should be a uniform for women. The suit is the man’s uniform, it levels the playing field at the office. Should there be something like that for women? He’s speaking out loud like a scientist. This is how you arrive at conclusions. Not by making ridiculous statements with no backing or logical reasoning.

    8) Regarding climate change, he certainly believes climate change is an issue, but he thinks it’s super complicated, like the gender pay gap, and that there are no solutions on the book that have stood up to scrutiny. The climate models have many times been questioned, but even those that support the idea that climate change is both destructive and caused by man, get thrown out. But he questions it because THAT’S WHAT SCIENTISTS ARE SUPPOSED TO DO. And it should be mentioned that he’s against student protests about it. As an alternative, he brings up the example of a young man who noticed that there was a lot of plastic in the ocean, and that it was affecting the ecosystem. He also observed that the plastic was only in a certain area of the water, and has devised a system that may in the next 5 years clear at least 50% of the world’s oceans of plastic.

    His book is all of this boiled down into twelve rules for life. Don’t complain that your gender, race, whatever is holding you back until you have exhausted your choices, until you have ‘cleaned your room’ and made something of yourself. Don’t wave signs around about how unhappy you are about climate change if you’re unwilling to try and do some thing real about it (the example of the young man trying to wipe out the plastic in the oceans).

    You don’t get to take over the language to twist it around. Just because some of his fans can be construed by extremists as ‘dog whistles,’ doesn’t mean his positions are not informed or correct.

    By not talking about things, things get worse. I think the proof of that is Trump. You can make up stuff about gender, white privilege, or you can invent bias tests, but these things have never ever ever proven to improve division, they only make division worse. Instead you do things like recognize that systems of production or creativity, not capitalism alone, are always going to result in inequality. You are going to admit that females and males are biologically different and that gender expression and sexual preference are linked to biology. With that as a starting point, you can talk about solutions. By making things up and refusing to hear the other viewpoint, you only divide.

    • edtex says:

      this is incoherent and poorly argued.

      • Timothy Rogers says:

        It certainly looks like coachmarino (perhaps he is “life coach”? – that would be rich) doth protest too much. He cites a bit of Peterson’s advice, says (with great prolixity) that Peterson is right on the point, and offers no concrete evidence of how he is right. Regarding Peterson’s whole career, present celebrity,and the fawning adulation of his followers, P.T. Barnum got it right: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

    • RosieBrock says:

      Yes -the writer is incoherent. He writes a bad diatribe packed with non-evidenced statements. It is also far too long as a defence, always a sign of someone needing to be on the defensive. Peterson is simply an academic without a new idea, trying to carve a niche and make money. He spotted a gap – a need for an articulate guru for the right in the time of Trump, serving the insecure , often misogynist not so well-educated white male, who currently has an identity crisis. Petersen is a shapeshifter as well as slimy – becoming everything to all his people until it doesn’t suit. Then he will distance himself. Oh, and his favourite rhetorical device is to make a controversial statement, and then when criticised for it, say “but I did not say that I think that” or “I did not say that”. NB It was interesting to see the bloggers on Newman’s interview foam at the mouth and become almost orgasmic over their interpretation of the interview. A lot wanted to convince themselves that she had “fallen in love with him” at the end. I am no fan of the manipulative self regarding and biased Newman, but ‘in love’ – I don’t think so. His thought is thin gruel compared to most contemporary big thinkers, and his popularity interesting only insofar as it speaks of a social phenomenon -those seemingly lost, largely young, not that bright, white blokes looking for Daddy. It seems they are making Daddy a lot securer than he was two years ago.

      • Alices Restaurant says:

        NB–Be nice if there was something specific here besides self-serving “incoherent” personal attacks “laid on with a trowel”, it seems. No question he is the greatest force yet to challenge the postmodern cultural Marxist narrative–open borders uber alles and “Harrison Bergeron” equality.

        • RosieBrock says:

          He has not got a coherent philosophy to engage with. He has little substance. He does not challenge the Marxist narrative because he doesn’t understand Marxism. And, he does indulge in gross personal attacks when criticised – see today’s report on his childish responses to Pankaj Mishra.

    • gary morgan says:

      I endorse edtex’s remark and note that you say that “his science is psychoanalysis.” Leaving aside the vexed question of its status as a science, Peterson’s area of expertise is, in fact, clinical psychology. How you could’ve made such an elementary error as this seriously calls into question your ability to act as a judge in this.
      I find Peterson interesting but the cult surrounding him religiose and partial, as you have demonstrated.

    • gary morgan says:

      Two things are needful, technically: Occam’s razor, as you are far too verbose thus many points are lost here; a punctuation manual, since yours is eccentric, combining with prolixity to make a cocktail both unpersuasive and not good to read.
      Also see below about your mistake in regarding Peterson as a psychoanalyst, a crass error: he is a clinical psychologist, a very different animal. Did you not know this?

    • Chrisdf says:

      A rant from an over-excited epigone. Also TL;DR.

    • noyaux says:

      Why are you looking for a new master?

    • ring_pinson says:

      Oh, please, spare us. To knock a few of your points on the head:

      4) He was spouting utter nonsense on the Canadian gender law. The head of the canadian bar association has a completely different view than his: https://www.cba.org/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?guid=be34d5a4-8850-40a0-beea-432eeb762d7f As is common with Peterson, he’s sounding off on a subject he knows nothing about.

      7) Peterson is just using one of the tactics he loves the most here, which is ‘just asking questions’. Scientists do not just ‘speak out loud’ in this way. It’s a deliberate debating tactic he uses to get away with spouting needlessly inflammatory guff without having to bother justifying the position he’s taking. It’s quite tiresome.

      8) I’m a geophysicist, so I damn sure know a hell of a lot more than Peterson does about this subject. All he’s doing here is regurgitating standard talking points which ones sees all over certain climate-denialy parts of the right wing internet (which is not to say he’s a full on climate denier). Assuming the precis you’ve given is roughly accurate, and I really can’t be bothered to see for myself what he has to say on the subject, then none of those points have remotely any geophysical credibility to them. The fact that he seems to uncritically accept that ocean gyre cleanup nonsense should give pause for thought, as the scheme you’re talking about has been pretty thoroughly discredited by lots of oceanographers.

      More generally, his philosophy is by and large a complete nonsense. Very few serious academic philosophers take him seriously, and for good reason. A large portion of his ‘pull up your socks and sort yourself out’ philosophy, while folksy and sensible sounding, completely collapses once one begins to seriously consider the implications of the many and varied collective action problems in which one can find oneself throughout the course of life. In particular his exhortation to focus solely on sorting out your own house before you think about moving on to any bigger problems has the potential to exaggerate many of these problems. You use the example of climate change. Well, climate change is a classic example of a multiplayer prisoners dilemma which can *only* be solved through collective action, so in this heroic individual action will achieve precisely squat. In this case, waving placards calling for a carbon tax would probably be the more productive option.

    • Jacques Strauss says:

      What an utterly bizarre rant. There is only one point that merits a response: climate change. Peterson’s opinions on climate change are as irrelevant as my opinions on heart disease, as I am neither a cardiologist nor a heart surgeon. Clinical psychology does not give you a special insight into climatology.

      I might add his understanding of contemporary philosophy is quite dodgy. There is a good article about this: https://www.viewpointmag.com/2018/01/23/postmodernism-not-take-place-jordan-petersons-12-rules-life/

      • Lashenden says:

        Exhibit A for the prosecution; the persona currently called coachmarino: How strange the rhetoric of YouTube sounds when exported from it’s usual context.

  5. Simon Wood says:

    Yes. Or to put it another way, no.

    I wonder what the notoriously even-handed John Gray has to say about Peterson, stoicism, snowflakes and so on.

    Me and Reggie (“The Suburban Pirate”, above) studied hard the now famous (in the UK) interview by Cathy Newman of Peterson on Channel 4 television. In the end, we couldn’t see what the controversy – or “fuss” – what about, in that Cathy Newman laughed at herself in untangling the knotty (Ken Dodd, where are you now?) spaghetti of Peterson’s rigorous logic – it was a telling moment of “So what?”, kind of a magic moment. If Peterson believes in Jung, he’ll believe in that, too.

    Naturally, one thinks of Gramsci, hegemony and the nature of “common sense”. But then, the suburban pirate is always onto the next thing before you can say “Ayn Rand”.

    LRB is airport code for Liberal (I will argue here) but what’s the opposite of “Liberal”? Alt-right won’t do. I suggest Patriot.

    PRT.

  6. S Ram says:

    It seems Mr Jordan Peterson is not only a Clinical Psychologist but also an indisputable authority on Society, Philosophy, Race Relations, Gender Relations, Human Intelligence, Christianity, Capitalism, Economics, Postmodernism, Climate Science, Literature, Sociology etc.This all-knowing genius is also a best selling author, YouTube phenomenon, a father figure to many earnest young men.
    Even as he defends the near perfect epitome of human achievement-Western Civilization-from the incursions of Postmodernism,he fights heroically the folly of Socialism, exposes the dangers of Feminism, and puts transgenders who dare demand to be addressed by their preferred pronouns(a serious threat to liberal democracy and to all civilized people no less) in their place.He does this selflessly on behalf of his worshipful followers, despite unenlightened criticism from poorly educated and gullible critics.Only the envious and the untalented will deny him the description of “the western world’s most important public intellectual” by the venerable David Brooks of The New York Times, another farsighted and unimpeachable authority.Peterson far surpasses the Chomskys, the Hitches, or the Krugmans of the world.The West would do well to treasure and celebrate this man of unparalleled insight and immeasurable genius, a true prophet and a guiding light. Sceptics will only be harming themselves if they don’t heed to the teacher’s commandments such as the art of keeping the back straight, cleaning the room, and petting a cat whenever one can, among other highly original,life-changing and potentially revolutionary visions of the Master.

    Mr Peterson is an oracle who could only have been produced by the west, that teacher of all mankind.His theory of radical individualism is exactly what the west needs in this age of complex questions on Climate Change, Capitalism, Nuclear arms race, Income Inequality, Structural unemployment, Immigration, Artificial Intelligence, rapid technological change, Oligarchic Corporations, Environmental Collapse, Species Extinction, Authoritarian Governments, polarisation of politics, Institutional racism and sexism, changing gender relations,a whole host of intractable issues.Any attempt at politically addressing these questions perhaps through collective action is a fool’s errand according to Mr Peterson’s brilliant and pathbreaking worldview.Each individual should squarely face these challenges individually and come up with unique solutions that suit him.He should fight for himself (women, transgenders and other identifications not be considered here) and emerge victorious through struggle and pain. The individual needs to be sparing in fellow-feeling, human kindness and other weaknesses.
    One needs to calculate whether another person really deserves sympathy for his sorry state before we give into altruism.The victor alone is entitled to the fruits of his labour and need not bother about how he succeeds.Success, regardless of methods chosen and the effects caused, is proof of character and merit of the individual.One hopes with Mr Peterson’s sagacity and his burgeoning band of believers, this perfectly sane ideology of Jordanism is realized before the unbelievers’ eyes.This project has every chance of success, as Mr Peterson views are arrived at after careful analysis and research completely free from any hint of selective interpretations of studies, distortion of Science, Personal convictions or bias.This high standard of integrity and devotion to truth alone, even if it’s uncomfortable, is a unique quality other intellectuals in the Western world can only dream of attaining.

    For those who don’t yet see the light don’t despair, you’re still not irredeemably beyond hope.You cannot escape from Mr Peterson’s ever-expanding cult (Not even The London Review of Books, The Guardian, The New York Times could escape his spell).Embrace this Messiah and find a permanent antidote to chaos and doubt.

    For the still remaining doubters please don’t pester Mr Peterson’s devotees with disrespectful and rude questions about the Master’s possible errors.Revel in your ignorance and indulge in your juvenile blasphemy if you must, at these links:
    https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/a-messiah-cum-surrogate-dad-for-gormless-dimwits-on-jordan-b-petersons-12-rules-for-life/,
    https://thebaffler.com/latest/peterson-ganz-klein,
    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/02/jordan-peterson-enlightenment-nietzsche-alt-right.

  7. koquito says:

    I’ve not read your article, but you’ve taken Dr. Peterson out of context, strawmanned him and failed to appreciate his genius.

  8. whisperit says:

    Oh crumbs. Now look what you’ve done. You’ve only gone and let the bottom half of the internet in here.

  9. Graucho says:

    Newton’s 3rd law appears to apply to politics as well as kinetics.

  10. Tench says:

    Peterson is a strange case. When I saw his interview with Cathy Newman I was on his side, but then he gets interviewed by a kind of anti-Cathy Newman (calm, articulate, engaging with his answers) and the result is that he’s barely coherent:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqJeb29lkNY

  11. PaulJoppa says:

    I can attest to the virulence of the online abuse from my experience with the website Spiked, which has an unmoderated comments section, and also opposes intersectionality and identity politics generally, this time from the left. There is a worrying rise of biological determinism, red pill masculism, and the firm belief that white males are the new oppressed minority.

    • RosieBrock says:

      I really can’t see anything ‘leftish’ about Spiked. Its warped that’s for sure.

      • PaulJoppa says:

        It believes itself to be a libertarian left site which developed from the print magazine Living Marxism (LM). Its profile is indistinguishable in most aspects to the alt-Right.

  12. PigeonCake says:

    “For Peterson, the world’s hierarchies and inequalities are natural and ahistorical, existing outside society’s influence. Private property and the free market are ‘the articulated reflections of much deeper natural laws’, he says.”

    Forgive me but when refuting a claim, isn’t it necessary to actually do some refuting rather than just repeating the claim & hoping this alone is dog whistling to the right crowd…?

  13. Pressbaby says:

    But of course everyone here is ‘dog whistling’ to the ‘right crowd’. That is the one thing blogs are good for. The present blog is merely another example of this.

    The issue that was not discussed in the blog was the one issue that brought Peterson to prominence. That issue is compelled speech and the LEGISLATION thereof. It is possible to do this of course and history has many examples. The question then becomes: Do you see that as a problem? I am hearing not and that is terrifying.

  14. Pressbaby says:

    Brilliant argument! Now you are really joking? Cite an example of compelled speech and say it isn’t that at all. Next you’ll be erasing faces from pictures.

    Hope your next example works out better.

    http://nationalpost.com/opinion/christie-blatchford-its-1984-all-over-again-for-ontario-lawyers-arguing-against-compelled-speech

    And no worries here I suppose? Do it quietly and well, the end justifies the means.

    https://globalnews.ca/news/3923478/wilfrid-laurier-no-complaint-lindsay-shepherd/

  15. hag says:

    This is not the golden age of television, it is the golden age of social media. Right now it’s a rush, but only a few are profiting, and the returns are diminishing, even if iBallisticSquid, Putin and Griffin Peterson are still making hay right now.
    It will not last, I sayeth unto you, and it will start with the death of Facebook.
    Big data mining has peeked, not because we’re running out of resources, but rather because of data complementarity. (It’s getting harder to see the polyps through all those probes.)

    • hag says:

      Did I really say ‘peeked’ instead of ‘peaked’?
      A psychoanalytic scientist would have something to say about that, I’m sure.

  16. cgo says:

    Regardless of the political alignment of Peterson’s views, I fail to see the basis for the idea that hegemonic society exists the way it does because it is determined by biological factors. The myriad varieties of human society alone should provide reason to explore the historical dimensions of social phemonena. Peterson is unsatisfactory because his critique is ludicrously un-reflexive. I have not read anything in which he examines the foundations of his belief system. James Ferguson has some interesting stuff on dependency in “Give a Man a Fish”, perhaps it might be good to start there.

    The simple fact that he makes $60k a month saying what he says without prosecution puts paid to the idea that his speech is somehow suppressed. What does he think “oppression” is, if he is the one being truly oppressed.

    The troglodytes are out in full force, I see. Perhaps they will click onto a few articles and learn something new.

  17. GeorgeMKeynes says:

    Many thanks for the great links provided by those commenting. But one thing still sticks out for me and it’s in the original blog.
    ‘the dark part of me thought,’ he said later, that ‘if I wanted to sick my internet trolls on Channel 4, then there would be nothing but broken windows and riots. And then there’s a little part of me that thinks – wouldn’t that be fun?’
    I have known several academic psychologists in my time and remember once sharing a lunch table with several of them. I noticed that they became particularly exhilarated when they started talking about their childhood experiences of trying to blow things up in their garden sheds. Is this a coincidence? They were, of course, all men.

    • RosieBrock says:

      I think giving him oxygen is more than he deserves, but it’s fun, because he is a false prophet of feeble integrity for the alt right. I also think you have got something here George. Probably somewhat broad brush to infer academic psychologists are all of a type – obviously not, but there are damaged people everywhere. The discipline may well attract people with certain skills and certain psychological problems. Control is his underlying modus and performance his operandi. He shows signs of toddler temper tantrums, pre-pubescent sibling rivalry affective disorder and shame-based issues to do with adolescent sexual prowess and a mechanistic hyper-rejection response that is unmediated by any self-reflection.

  18. Geoff Kemp says:

    Samuel Earle’s article makes predictable and light-weight criticisms of Jordan Peterson, and in many ways his article, and the majority of responses to it on this blog, reflect prevailing orthodoxies that Peterson has dared to attack.

    Earle should have headlined his article with the opening sentence of his final paragraph: “It may be tempting to ignore Peterson and hope he sinks back into obscurity.” At least he has nailed his colours to the mast. Earle’s outrage, apparently shared by most respondents, has its source in a set of unexamined assumptions that have been rightly criticised by Peterson. It is well and good to accuse Peterson of intellectual cherry-picking, but his observations about patriarchy, the gender pay gap, the internal contradictions of identity politics, and so on, are valid, and are buttressed by more convincing evidence than his critics are able to muster. Earle seems perplexed that “For Peterson, the world’s hierarchies and inequalities are natural and ahistorical, existing outside society’s influence.” This betrays a shallow grasp of Peterson’s argument. Peterson does not discount historical and socio-cultural influences on human behaviour and institutions, but makes it clear that we cannot divorce them from our biological and psychological nature. This is the key point that seems to rankle his critics. He rightly points out that any social philosophy or theory, and its institutionalised expression, is ipso facto a product of human nature. The idea that human nature is a blank slate independent of biology that can be shaped to any form by social engineering is, to put it bluntly, stupidity of the highest order. Whilst positive discrimination in its various forms has its uses, the notion that an ideal society would consist of an equal number of people from every possible gender, class, ethnic and cultural group in ALL areas of employment is inane because it fails to recognise that a significant percentage of men and women make personal choices that have nothing to do with purported social repression and everything to do with their individual preferences. Yes, all gender or culture or class based barriers to social advancement should be removed. This does not mean an equality of outcomes. Some people are smarter than others. Some are more suited to some aptitudes than others. Some of these differences are undeniably a reflection of gender-difference, not proof of bias against a given gender. Peterson’s concomitant criticisms of Marxism and its rebirth as post-modernism are unexceptionable. RosieBrock’s claim that Peterson doesn’t understand Marxism shows that either she hasn’t investigated his analysis in any depth, or she has little grasp of Marxism herself. At the very least she should consider the possibility that power is not the only dynamic that shapes a given society, and that communist expressions of Marxism, far from getting it wrong, got it right.

    Earle’s main beef seems to be that Peterson’s ‘followers’ are “young white men.” How outrageous that young white men could possibly have the same claims to success and happiness as people from other cultures or ethnic backgrounds! How terrible that someone would dare to praise the achievements of Western culture, or suggest that its central tenet of individualism is laudable! Earle also conflates this observation with the idea that hierarchies are “a secondary product of capitalism” rather than a universal expression of human biology. To repeat my earlier comments, Earle fails to grasp the reality of the human subconscious mind, and assumes that hierarchies arose from some historical process that had nothing to do with the human minds that promulgated it! He also, like his apologists, assumes that hierarchies do not or have not existed in other cultures and social systems either now or in the past: he should read even some simple, basic anthropology or history. Human societies are hierarchical. Unless Earle believes in the tooth fairy, it should be obvious to him that Western capitalism, though far from ideal, encourages meritocracy as much as any other social system he cares to name, and more than most. I suggest he tries pedalling his viewpoint in a few non-Western countries and sees how he gets on.

    Finally, Earle makes much of Peterson’s so called “followers”. His comments in this area are not just lame generalisations, but ridiculous. Peterson, like most bloggers, posted material on youtube to express a point of view. The popularity of his message reflects a huge and troubling angst among young men (not just white men) that apparently gives Earle no pause for reflection at all. His implication is that the majority of these young men are alt-right trolls and therefore unworthy of further comment. What shallow, lazy analysis. But even lazier is his presumption that Peterson exercises some Svengali-like control over his “followers”, and sends them out on social media to do his bidding. Peterson’s request that his fans not threaten Cathy Newman was magnanimous, and was only made after Channel 4 tried to exculpate Newman’s incompetence by blaming Peterson and his followers for unmasking her agenda and the analytical incapacity it revealed. As an aside, I suggest that Earle and those who agree with him watch the Peterson-Newman interview again. It dramatises precisely the malaise that Peterson has had the courage to confront. Cathy Newman, like Samuel Earle, attempted to school Peterson with a smug set of assumptions that proved to be unexamined ideology. She was demolished by the weight of evidence and argument, not by Peterson’s trolls. Peterson’s life-coaching message, by its very nature, is simplistic -any program of self-development must be a practical dilution of underpinning ideas. However, the depth of learning and analysis that underlies Peterson’s views is formidable. He certainly would not be troubled by Earle’s evaluations, and would make mince of him in a reasoned argument.

    If the above sounds like fawning apologia, it is not. I find Peterson’s comments about climate change alarming, and would certainly challenge his position on this. I also believe that social progress must encompass both identity politics and individuality. No one should be defined by a group-identity unless they wish to embrace it, and their membership of that group should neither limit their ambitions, nor repress their individuality. I believe Peterson is right to criticise the absurdities of identity politics, since in the end it would result in as many different identity-groups as there are individuals in a given society. However, I also believe that members of some social groups (such as Australia’s indigenous people) have no choice in confronting a range of barriers that are discriminatory, systemic, and historical. Peterson is an important voice. We should engage with it, not dismiss it because it exposes some uncomfortable truths.


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