Who is Jordan Peterson? I have no idea.

Who is Jordan Peterson? My first exposure to him was the Cathy Newman interview. Folks are asking whether he is the intellectual giant some are suggesting, and even whether he is really qualified to be a public intellectual.

We could ask the same question re Alain de Botton, of course. Yet what Alain De Botton does is fine. So, I am not bothered too much about Jordan Peterson's credentials re his role as 'public intellectual', which I am sure are perfectly OK even if he is not quite the intellectual giant some are suggesting. For neither is Alain de Botton. However, unlike Jordan Peterson, Alain de Botton is not saying stuff that odious right wing folks really want to hear.

As I say, the Cathy Newman thing was my first exposure to JP and I thought he was alright, actually. Not that I agreed with him, but he was calm, polite, patient, and made a case while being constantly misrepresented and feebly challenged by someone - Newman - who clearly felt very strongly that JP was wrong but had little expertise and tackled him in the style of a Daily Mail journalist (e.g. heavy reliance on strawman and anecdotal evidence). That doesn't make JP an intellectual giant, but it shows that if you want to challenge him you need to up your game.

Having read another fairly flimsy article about JP I came away with the impression that his ideas are pretty banal. He bashes postmodern bullshit, of course, but then so do I. It's easy to do.

Of course, in the eyes of some right wing folk, postmodern bullshit just is left wing thinking. That is why it's important that folk politically to the left also criticise such bullshit very publicly and make it clear that being left wing and being a postmodern bullshitter (and/or an identity politics SJW intent on gagging critics of Islam on campus) are not at all the same thing.

So what do I know about Jordan Peterson? Not much at all at this point. And I guess neither do you. But we certainly shouldn't make a judgement based on hackery that aims either to puff him up or to poison the well.

Talking of poisoning the well,  this particular piece on JP reads like a hatchet job. I have read enough similar pieces about e.g. Corbyn to know that by selective use of evidence, half-truth, anecdotal evidence, and guilt by association it's possible to create a highly misleading portrait. I wouldn't draw any conclusion on JP based it.


Martin Freedman said…
Check out https://samharris.org/speaking-of-truth-with-jordan-b.-peterson/
ficciones said…
Are you familiar with Corey Robin's thesis in The Reactionary Mind, that conservatism's core motivating idea is the defence of hierarchy - especially the sense that one's birthright higher in the hierarchy has been lost or stolen? Peterson's essentialist thinking appeals to alt-right, "redpilled" men's rights types and conservatives in general because he seems to be offering "natural" reasons why society is rightfully stratified along gender and racial lines.

I think that for a large proportion of young men in Western countries, men who have wasted their teen and early adult years eating cheetos, playing video games and sh*tposting on places like 4chan, placing the blame on feminism and affirmative action - that is, "social engineering" - offers them an excuse for listlessness and failure in life. They're an easy audience for an essentialist who tells them that they're the naturally smart, strong, aggressive ones, and that "cultural marxism" is to blame for their fall from grace.

I agree that the interviewer did a horrendous job, and that Peterson's ideas deserve a more fair hearing and more intelligent critique. However, his example of the lobsters really was, I think, in keeping with the conservative reach for innate biological reasons to vindicate stratification - it's an example of the naturalistic fallacy in operation in political thought.

I think it's a good thing that Peterson offers homey, down to earth advice to young men about cleaning their rooms and getting their act together - but at the same time he promotes dangerous scapegoating that seeks to place blame on the non-male and non-white population, and the sneaky leftists who have aided and abetted them.