McMaster professor Latham Hunter, who in 2015 blamed Jesus and Santa for making Christmas a ‘patriarchal construct’, attempts to smear Jordan Peterson in the Hamilton Spectator in her article Jordan Peterson’s intellectual hucksterism. Does she present any real arguments?
Jordan Peterson, a University of Toronto psychology professor turned influential YouTube philosopher, at an event in Toronto in May. His defence of patriarchy as sensible and stemming mostly from male competence has made him the pedigreed voice to many aiming to undermine equality. – MARK SOMMERFELD,NYT
Saying that competence hierarchies are natural and that in some, men are likely to be at the top (for example, in most professional sports), is not the same as defending the idea of patriarchy. Those who claim that there is a vast male patriarchal conspiracy are the same people who are undermining equality of opportunity.
Jordan Peterson’s recent speaking engagement in Hamilton prompted Coun. Matthew Green’s observation that Peterson is inflammatory and popular with the alt-right. And yet Peterson is frequently lauded as today’s most important public intellectual. In fact, Peterson is less an intellectual than he is a gifted motivational speaker for racists and misogynists.
Being popular with the alt-right is not the same as being alt-right. Peterson has a long history of opposing both fascism and communism. Coming from someone who claims Christmas is a patriarchal conspiracy, these claims hold little water. How about some facts?
Take, for example, an argument from his YouTube video “The Marxist Lie of White Privilege.” He criticizes the assertion that white people are more likely to be able to afford a place where they actually want to live than minorities. Peterson dismisses this as a wealth issue, and not a race issue, because what about China? He moves on, as if China were all the proof he needs. OK: it’s true that there are many countries in which the place you live is more a matter of money than race.
What’s your evidence that he is wrong? He made the argument that in many countries money is more important than race in determining where you live, and that this applies to the Western world. What is your counter argument?
It’s also true that in the Western world (where Peterson and his fans live), white people have more wealth due in large part to their inheritance of racial privilege. But that’s the sum total of his objection: it’s a wealth issue (because China!), ergo the idea of white privilege is simply a red herring to confuse us into thinking that we need to change our society so that it’s more equitable.
What is the evidence that Caucasians in the west have more wealth due to racial privilege? There are plenty of poor whites. How has racial privilege benefited them?
Here’s another: Peterson’s a great fan of hierarchies that preserve patriarchal power. He believes in the idea that women are linked to chaos while men are ascribed reason and logic: “It’s been represented like that forever. And there are reasons for it. You can’t change it. It’s not possible. This is underneath everything. If you change those basic categories, people wouldn’t be human anymore.” Yes! It’s always been that way, so it must be right! If we treated women as logical, reasonable beings, we simply wouldn’t be human anymore!
Peterson understands that hierarchies form naturally. When he says that order is archetypally male and chaos female, he is not wrong. For example, the ancient Taoist principles of yang (positive) and yin (negative) energy are male and female respectively. If the earliest mythology, Tiamat, a dragon representing chaos, is female, and is at war with the male principle, the storm god Marduk. Peterson is a Jungian psychologist. He believes that these archetypes are part of our collective unconscious, and that we deny them at our peril.
It gets better: he says that a world where white men are in charge is “predicated on competence.” Ahem: 2008 financial crisis, anyone? Brexit? Men have been at the helm of a vast number of incompetent decisions (nevermind all the wars). And yet we should stick with the beliefs of 1400s clerics and other witch hunters and say it’s women who create chaos? Progress, he says, is an “assault” on the “masculine spirit.” There is no logic here — only misogyny.
Claiming that the world is not organized based on competence is illogical. Of course there are exceptions, and not everyone starts from the same place. But to claim that the financial crisis, which was caused by greed, or Brexit, which was the result of disaffected voters in Britain, are evidence that the people who rise to the top to run our companies and are elected to government aren’t there because they are competent is ridiculous.
Naturally, the title of Peterson’s most recent book is “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.” He reassures young men that their resentment of things like feminism and equal employment is completely understandable given how those nasty postmodernists and their evil sidekicks, the Marxists, have made things so confusing by suggesting that there are an infinite number of ways to look at things, and that maybe the people in charge shouldn’t have so much power over the rest of us.
He is right to criticize the relativism of the post modernists. There are moral absolutes such as property rights that Marxists willfully violate. Marxism is evil. Peterson does not argue that the people in charge should have as much power over the rest of us as they do, only that Marxists and postmodernists shouldn’t. Look at Venezuela, and you will see why.
Recognizing the validity and importance of a broad range of perspectives is stupid! Progress is for wimps and rubes! Complexity is the result of intellectuals run amok! They took over academia, preying on innocent students, and infected society by making reality and truth unrecognizable to us! How can one know right from wrong under those circumstances? No wonder young men are alienated — it’s just not fair!
Nice straw man argument you’ve built there. Too bad it isn’t Peterson’s.
Peterson makes things easy for white men who felt they were losing their footing: just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get in gear, he tells them, because you should be in charge, as a matter of natural selection and ancient wisdom.
Again, bullshit. Admittedly, Peterson does advocate taking responsibility for one’s own life. Don’t you?
It’s right-wing gold: here is a man from the Ivory Tower who has emerged (shaking his head in exasperation, crying “What the hell?!”) to tell conservatives that they’ve been right all along — touchy-feely victim culture stuff like feminism really is an elitist load of crap made to humiliate conservatives in general and white men in particular.
He is entirely correct that victim culture is a load of crap.
White men make up the vast majority of his fans, and they’ve made him far richer than any professor: He makes $80,000 a month from regular donors. An online campaign recently netted him $200,000, and this is in addition to his YouTube channel revenue, book sales and speaking engagements.
Critics who thoughtfully, convincingly argue that Peterson’s arguments are not only socially destructive, but also pretty vapid and unsupported, are dealt a breezy Twitter or blog post from the great man himself about their inability to understand what he’s saying. The CBC’s Wendy Mesley interviewed Peterson and asked about a picture of him smiling with two young white males holding a giant Pepe the Frog flag, a symbol of the alt-right. He demurred: it was mere happenstance, and if people want to understand his views about the subject, they can watch the two-hour lecture about the “metaphysics of Pepe” he did recently with “an orthodox carver of icons.”
As I recall, he correctly pointed out that he is not responsible for what his fans do. Pepe is not a symbol of the alt-right. Pepe was an internet meme that idiots on 4chan decided to take over by associating the character with fascism so that others would abandon it. Since then, the Pepe meme has come to be a symbol of parts of the free speech/anti-political correctness community on the Internet.
That sounds really smart and all, but it still doesn’t explain why, if he’s so up on Pepe, he would allow himself to pose in what looks like an endorsement of the alt-right. Of course, no one will actually watch the two-hour lecture, but they will have gotten the impression that he understands Pepe on a deeper, more intellectual level than the rest of us, so we should stop insulting him with the idea that he was only posing with an alt-right flag.
He certainly does understand Pepe on a much deeper level than you do. Smearing anyone who uses the Pepe meme as alt-right is ignorant.
This is Peterson’s modus operandi: he uses his academic background first, to misdirect (go watch my video lecture if you really want to understand); second, to shame (if you were as smart as me you’d understand that I didn’t mean what my words suggested I meant); and third, to intimidate. The intimidation really is masterful: he speaks with complete, impenetrable confidence using words like “delineation” and “totalitarianism,” always cool as a cucumber, peering quizzically at anyone who could come up with something as ludicrous as an opposition to his ideas.
I’ve seen a number of interviews where the interviewer has caused Peterson to stop and rethink his position on something. If you have arguments against what he is saying, stop making vague attempts to slander his character, and present your arguments.
So, yes, he’s all over the academic posturing, but at the same time, he’s adept at throwing in some appealingly simple maxims that make him seem like a down-to-earth plain talker who’ll dispense with all that complex crap and tell you like it really is: “Sort yourself out, bucko!” and “Grow the hell up!” He’s a poor intellectual, but boy, is he a good huckster.
Sigh. If you want to criticize Peterson, you need to do better than this. Simply calling him alt-right and a poor intellectual isn’t going to convince anyone who doesn’t already agree with you. Peterson’s arguments are highly subjective, and there is plenty in them that can be criticized. He has thought carefully about a lot of what he says, so coming up with solid arguments against him won’t be easy. Screaming Nazi isn’t going to win any arguments.