Sunday 28 October 2018

So, what do you think about Jordan Peterson Now?

I have blogged about Jordan Peterson half a dozen times over this past year; and these posts gathered quite a lot of comments (by this blog's modest standards).

I haven't qualitatively changed my views - but I do know a lot more about him, not least via Vox Day's blog, than I did last time I wrote.

I always thought that he was a net-harmful cultural influence (mainly because of the way that people respond to him) but I would now consider that JP quantitatively does a great deal more harm than good. This took a while to unfold, because Peterson is doing a soft-sell, playing a long game; so the balance of evil/good has incrementally increased as his fame and influence has spread. 

I am curious to know what readers currently think about this chap, who is clearly an international commercial phenomenon - apparently his lectures sell out everywhere, yet it costs more to go and see him talk than it costs to go to the opera!

So - what do you think? 


Chiu ChunLing said...

I find Peterson annoying. I personally do not find his voice aesthetically appealing, nor do I find his discourse particularly insightful, profound, or courageous, and I also find the degree of fame and influence he has gained by merely being a competent and reasonable (rather than raving and insane) talk therapist to be an alarming commentary on how low our standards of public discourse have fallen.

Is he doing any real harm?

Are there people being misled by Peterson from a position of certain truth to grave error? Or are there people merely bringing to Peterson their existing error and not being set straight?

I've seen that he certainly leads many people from serious error towards truth. But my impression is that people who hold to more certain truth than Peterson proclaims are not so impressed with him as to be yielding up their superior claims. Instead, what I see is that people who are confident they know more than Peterson is ready to teach a general audience find it irritating that the general audience is going to him rather than them.

I frankly blame the audience for that. Peterson makes them better rather than worse, but he doesn't make them any better than they are willing to aspire to be. And they generally aren't willing to aspire to very much.

That said, I don't follow him closely.

But I doubt he's doing anyone as much harm as their envy of him is doing to themselves.

The link to Vox Day's ranting on the subject has made me a bit sadder today. Not a lot sadder, because it's not like I regard Vox Day as a great prophet anymore than Jordan Peterson. But the clear inability to sustain any logical coherence on the subject, and his inability to recognize that he's being incoherent, isn't cause for cheer in any man.

Seijio Arakawa said...

My impression of Peterson’s Great Pronoun War rise to popularity evolved from ‘this is the innocent target of a political witch hunt’ to ‘shrewd fellow, he seems to be making the most of a bad deal’ to ‘he might have looked at the Internet popularity of recent witch hunt victims and fanned this deliberately to gain some name recognition outside of Canada’. My respect for the man plummeted correspondingly; before this, I assumed he had above-average integrity for a Professor of Psychology. I did not get through any of his pre-popularity lecture videos because they were very long and about things like Dostoyevsky whom I would rather just read directly.

One thing that formed my impressions quite powerfully (if latently) was a YouTube video of Peterson parading up and down St George St. shouting incoherently into a microphone about how someone had confidentially informed him of an imminent threat to national stability from alt-right groups, while some SJWs and anti-SJWs struggled passive-aggressively in the background to try to disable his speaker system or keep it from being disabled. Peterson’s get-up and manner of shouting made me think mostly of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. There was just a certain lack of dignity to the whole thing that gradually festered in my mind.

Second was the whole pronoun thing, which seemed like such a weak and incoherent hill to die on. So, you will not say a word about the insanity of the consensus being pushed around ‘transgenderism’, but them making you use pronouns, now that is a bridge too far?

The nail in the coffin was checking back recently to find a video of Peterson speaking in a voice that sounded like he was about to start either crying or shouting at any moment, about how the upcoming Ontario Election was the most Important Election Ever. So, I reasoned, the man has lost a lot of emotional composure, and his popularity has been donated to a local psy-op to convince disaffected young men to vote for Doug Ford (local populist candidate the sum of whose spiritual philosophy is “taxes are bad”) rather than scheming to overthrow society. Or to learn something about Reality beyond the issues of the present Ontario Election.

So I went from thinking of him as the most interesting man at the local psychology department (in retrospect, a low bar, I know...) to just another day at the Mass Media.

David Stanley said...

I am almost exactly the same age as JBP (and Tom Cruise....!.) and the point I realised he was a fraud was when he spoke about how terrifying it was being a teenager during the Cold War. He was living in a remote town in Canada whereas I growing up near an RAF base in England knew no panic or drama around this period. He was using drama like a hysterical teenage girl to make his point. Or, as Vox has stated, he is mentally ill and hyper emotional. As such he is not a good role model for anyone. He is also on an insane diet and associates mainly with Jewish atheists,homosexuals and advocates of hallucinogens.

Francis Berger said...

I became interested in Jordan Peterson shortly after he declared his opposition against the Bill C16 gender pronoun legislation. This was back in 2016 when he was a still a relatively unknown University of Toronto professor. At the time he struck me as sincere and genuine, and I admired the stance he took against the PC insanity that has all but conquered Canada. In fact, I was initially drawn to Peterson simply because he was Canadian. I spent a great deal of my life in Canada, and it was refreshing to finally see someone – anyone – oppose the suffocating and oppressive PC culture infesting that country. Thus, my interest in Peterson and his apparent ordeal was, initially, more national/cultural in nature than anything else.

In the months that followed, I watched some of his lectures online. His psychological/self-help material left me cold, but I was intrigued by his criticisms of communism, leftist radicals, and “Marxist-Postmodernists” (his term, not mine). His appreciation of Solzhenitsyn and Dostoevsky also struck a chord with me. I read his Maps of Meaning, which I enjoyed in the same manner I had previously enjoyed Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. That Peterson offered this book as a free downloadable PDF file on his website suggested he might be one of those rare individuals not purely driven by the desire for material gain. After he began his lectures on the psychological significance of the Bible, I began to consider that perhaps Peterson’s ultimate goal was to re-awaken people to Christian truths; hence, perhaps he was a net good. This is not to say I agreed with everything he promulgated regarding the Bible, but that he was willing to launch a series of lectures on the Bible, of all things, was encouraging to say the least.

It was around this time (January 2017) that I wrote you, Bruce, and asked for your thoughts regarding Jordan Peterson. I was curious to see if you were as favourably disposed to Peterson as I was at the time. You responded by stating that Peterson’s work and stance mirrored your own before you became a Christian, and that it was a stance you ultimately rejected as being “just another variant of the mainstream secular PC leftism.” I acknowledged your perspective and vowed to do more research and thinking about Peterson, but I was not totally convinced that Peterson was just another variant of PC. I continued to hold out hope – perhaps, just perhaps, there was more to Peterson than that. Ultimately, this hope vanished the more objectively I looked at Peterson.

I more or less began to disregard Peterson with the publication of his 12 Rules for Life. I tried reading it, but could not make it past chapter three. After Peterson hired publicists and agents, launched his magical mystery tour, and began making appearances on every legacy media channel on the planet, his mainstream secular leftism became too obvious to ignore. His incessant appeals to engage in dialogue with what he terms “the sensible left” and his constant waffling on Christianity were what finally did it for me. Peterson is, as you describe, engaged in soft-sell, long game tactics. He purposefully makes himself difficult to pin down in an effort to widen his appeal, but in the end, he truly is nothing more than “just another variant of the mainstream secular PC leftism.”

For me, Peterson no longer matters. I now regard him as little more than the faint cloud of smoke one sees lingering in the air after the fireworks show has ended. But I often wonder how I allowed myself to become so enraptured by the fireworks in the first place . . .

Bruce Charlton said...

Thanks to all for the comments - which I have found very interesting.

(@Seijio - I hadn't realised you lived in GlennGouldsville! I visited once in 1980 - I had an aunt living in Markham. UofT got in early with the Leftist/ Big Money stuff - directed at my friend David Healy -

Given that JP is now seen to have been a mainstream Leftist all along; it seems to confirm that there is literally nobody with significant mass media visibilty and impact who is anything else; their exclusion procedures are watertight (plus, sadly, there aren't very many people who even need excluding).

e.g. I used to think that the ex Chief Orthodox Rabbi in the UK, Jonathan Sachs, was a man of integrity and honesty despite having a column in the (London) Times - - but it turns out I was wrong about him as well.

The corruption continues...

The Crow said...

Like most Canadians, JP has a voice that could be mounted on an orbiting satellite and used as a death-ray against invading aliens. See, a Canadian would read that preceding sentence, and consider it a serious proposition. JP is a stereotypical example.

Lacking sufficient sensitivity to even realize he is under attack, he appears unruffled.
But like most Canadians, appearances are as deep as it gets.
Then again: after being around these characters for 30-odd years, what do I know?

Matthew T said...

Well, you know, all the commenters nailed it, and especially Mr. Berger, above. Speaking as a Canadian, we conservatives here - meaning actual, Christian conservatives - are heartsick and utterly demoralized with being the world's laughingstock and experiment house, and so when Peterson stood up over the pronoun stuff, I really wanted to believe in him. I really wanted to believe that we could produce a countercultural leader of our own. From the belly of the beast, Toronto academia - the most unlikely hero imaginable, like Bilbo Baggins!

The bloom came off the rose mighty quick when I listened to his bible series and I was like (if you'll excuse the language) what in the bloody hell is this nonsense?

To answer the question then, does he do more harm than good? Not sure; like other commenters I certainly agree that any good he does isn't really very good.


Having said all of that, here is something interesting, and hopefully you will find it intriguing too, which is this: earlier this year I attended a conference here in Canada at which I had the opportunity to meet Dr. John Patrick. If you don't know who he is, you might like to - he is the real deal, on our side, passionate about the field of medical ethics and Christian worldview generally:

Well, anyway, because, during the course of one of his talks, Patrick mentioned having met Jordan Peterson at some public event in recent months, I made a point to approach him at break time.

I said, "So you met Peterson, eh? What's he really like?"

He replied, "Well, I'll tell you something - I told Peterson, 'You know everything that's going on is leading you inevitably towards Christ, right?' And Peterson replied, 'Yes, I've begun to see that the logic is inescapable.'"

SO - assuming that this anecdote is accurate (and there's no reason to doubt a man like Patrick), the question is: what is Peterson waiting for? What's holding him back?

I'll tell you this: IF Peterson became an actual, bona fide Christian renegade, ACTUALLY rebelling against The System, THEN the good he could do for our side would be impressive!

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Although I keep hearing his name, I haven't yet been able to work up enough interest to read or listen to a single thing by Jordan Peterson.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I'll contradict that.

If Peterson became an unabashed Christian, speaking from a position that regarded the truth of Christ's divinity as essentially unassailable, then the good he could do would be no more (and considerably less) than many other sincere and eloquent Christians that have been quietly erased from the public sphere.

I fully accept the implications of Dr. Charlton's observation that the mass media is entirely controlled by overtly demonic forces, though I dissent from the view that this indicates that absolutely every public figure is particularly, consciously aligned with evil. A person can only be deeply good to a very limited degree before being abolished from the public view by those who control the media. They delight in scandal and in oppression.

In that sense, I do see the widespread public recognition as a sign that Dr. Peterson is not worth the effort of disappearing, as has been done to so many real threats to those in power. And yet, Peterson is and remains a challenge to them rather than a collaborator. He remains an indisputable evidence of the essential unreasonableness of their agenda.

They just can't get rid of him without making themselves look even less reasonable.

If he were a bigger problem, or adopted more easily marginalized and dismissed ideas, then they would erase his public influence. The first step, of course, is to get those who should be naturally favorable to him to turn on him as a traitor...

Hm...perhaps there is more to Peterson than I thought, Lol

Chiu ChunLing said...

By the way, I overcame my sads about watching Vox degenerate into incoherence enough to actually reach the part about Peterson's well-reasoned and extremely lucid comments about the Kavanaugh debacle, though I encountered them in reverse. The pertinent ones are:

Now, I agree with Peterson's initial tweet for entirely different reasons. I think that now would be an absolutely brilliant time for Kavanaugh to step down, after having been confirmed but before the public has had time to forget the slanderous debacle of the hearings, with a public statement to clarify that the Democrats had utterly and intentionally fouled the entire process. It's genius. Of course, I'm just going from what Vox Day posted, he may be attributing to Peterson something entirely different from what the man actually tweeted.

However, regardless of whether one thinks that this is a brilliant strategy to actually push back against the Democrats and force them to accept public accountability for their reckless undermining of the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, one has to ask, what precisely is the objection to merely doing it for the reasons Peterson (in Vox's report) suggests?

It is that Kavanaugh (rather than Peterson) would be giving up a station of power and prestige to take a moral stand. Now, I think that only an idiot would even want to be in such a position (rather than having publicly renounced it) when this all goes from pear-shaped to cow-patty land. But granted Peterson's assumption that it is possible, by doing everything one can to restore the legitimacy of government, that being on the Court could be an enviable position in the future, why exactly is it wrong to say that Kavanaugh might have a duty to give up his own position in that body for the sake of pushing back against those undermining it?

Or, returning to the premise that being allowed to hold a position of significant public visibility and influence is proof that one is not a sufficient danger to the Marxist agenda, shouldn't that apply to Kavanaugh as well as Peterson?

Also, I liked Peterson's comments about Twitter more than I thought I would from merely hearing about them in passing. Again, assuming that Vox Day has reproduced them accurately.

I think that Peterson should step down from being a Twitter celebrity. I applaud him for considering doing so, and openly expressing his perception that it is an inherently evil platform. I think that it doesn't matter so much whether he actually does so as that he says he's considering it and clearly expresses why it would be a good thing.

Just dropping off social media doesn't really do much good (other than for oneself). What one needs to do is express why everyone should.

Chiu ChunLing said...

In particular, I think that Kavanaugh should make a public statement that he is inclined to consider resigning if a more suitable (and by suitable, I include Constitutionally conservative and Originalist) nominee can be found.

The effect of such a pronouncement would be hilarious. Kavanaugh would basically be pointing out that the Democrats had adopted the line of attack that he was insufficiently morally pure, he would be inviting finding someone even less inclined to compromise with evil (which, given his position on the value of stare decisis compared to the original text--rather than the intent, which can always be argued--shouldn't be hard).

He wouldn't even need to actually resign, merely threatening it with a clearly specified reasoning such as Peterson expressed (except that I would clarify that we were looking for someone more 'acceptable' in the sense that the Democrats overtly chose to attack, rather than catering to their assumed and known ideological agenda) would have so much delicious effect as to render actually going through with it something best postponed until they really came up with some particular possible nominee scary enough to make the Democrats absolutely beg for Kavanaugh to stay on the court.

I mean knees and face on the ground and humbly petitioning in language suitable to address a categorically superior being.

Seijio Arakawa said...

@CCL It's generally a mistake to out-clever political movements or the media in a way that relies on them to be self-consistent or remotely logical. Since memory of the past is optional in politics, there is no reason for the response to a hypothetical Kavanaugh resignation to be in any way consistent to the response to a Kavanaugh nomination.

Compare: arguing with the Hydra on internet forums. Commenter A says you are wrong because A, you say A is wrong because X, commenter B pops up to say how dare you insinuate that he thinks A because he was clearly disagreeing with you because of B....

@BC "(@Seijio - I hadn't realised you lived in GlennGouldsville! I visited once in 1980 - I had an aunt living in Markham. UofT got in early with the Leftist/ Big Money stuff - directed at my friend David Healy -"

I have grown up and been educated (in a sense...) in Toronto and hope to keep living here. The trend of things makes this a tough commitment. But there are some genuinely numinous nooks and crannies.

I paid detailed attention to your materials on the Healy affair and to Healy's own blogs. Unfortunately it is not very hopeful reading and I could only digest the information in small doses. My impression is that, while other fields may be more corrupt, the medical bureaucracy seems to have a very high concentration of Mouth of Sauron types who operate via shock-and-despair rhetoric rather than any particularly convincing deception. Healy refutes their deceptions on a factual level but the rhetoric he is refuting wasn't meant to persuade the doubtful so much as demoralize them.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Seijio. Looking back on the Healy Affair, I can see that it was a small part of a big picture; but I did not realise that at the time.

But it is interesting, and significant, that psychiatry - esepcially psychopharamcology - has been a cutting-edge for this kind of bureaucratic collusion. It is part of the totalitarian agenda of methods of mind-control.

Of course, a lot of money is made from systematic, long-term psychiatric abuse - but the long term strategy seems to be more about control than cash; so long as we realise that the 'control' being sought (as with the sexual revolution) is mostly to do with promoting chronic and escalating disruption and conflict as justificaion for ever-more intrusion of The System.

One problem is that that Leftism is so pervasive - that all those who analyse, critique and expose the problems in psychiatry hold views (Leftist, secular, hedonic-utilitarian) that are themselves a root cause of the problems; so the focus is (like a Hollywood movie) always on the evils of Big Bad Business, on 'capitalism' - rather than The System, the unified and demon-driven Global bureaucracy.