Jordan Peterson’s crusade

U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson‘s conduct has increasingly been the subject of public and media criticism. He has gone from refusing to let students choose their own gender pronouns to a much broader critique of university culture. Recently, he proposed to start a website where people could report which of their professors and classes are “indoctrination cults”.

See:

Dr. Peterson is an interesting man and one of the most compelling speakers I’ve been exposed to. I feel like he has seriously lost perspective and become inappropriately convinced that he is being subjected to persecution. If he could abstract himself from his own situation enough to think about it more objectively, I think a section from one of this lectures would lead to him rethinking his conduct:

So life is suffering. What does that do to people? It makes them resentful. These are pitfalls of being. Except being has a structure. One of its fundamental structural elements is suffering. But suffering produces other characteristics of being: resentment is a characteristic of being. People feel resentful when they believe that they’ve been taken advantage of. And if you feel resentful, it may be that you are being taken advantage of. It may also be that you should screw your head on straight and look at things properly. And it may also be that you should talk to somebody to find out if you’re being taken advantage of or if your head just isn’t screwed on straight.

Dr. Peterson started on the comparatively defensible ground of being concerned about how potentially oppressive institutions might unjustly constrain speech, but from the beginning he has been targeting the oppressed rather than the strong. Now he has drifted into the company of aggrieved enemies of supposed “political correctness” who have inverted their understanding of politics to see themselves as oppressed while those like the transgendered are elevated by structures which he must now resist. It’s a dynamic where exposure to people who disagree with you can tend to deepen your conviction that you are actually right, leading to you being more and more isolated and increasingly unable to comprehend the discussion you’re taking part in.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

9 thoughts on “Jordan Peterson’s crusade”

  1. “To be clear, Jordan Peterson is not a neo-Nazi, but there’s a reason he’s as popular as he is on the alt-right. You’ll never hear him use the phrase “We must secure a future for our white children”; what you will hear him say is that, while there does appear to be a causal relationship between empowering women and economic growth, we have to consider whether this is good for society, “‘’cause the birth rate is plummeting.” He doesn’t call for a “white ethnostate,” but he does retweet Daily Caller articles with opening lines like: “Yet again an American city is being torn apart by black rioters.” He has dedicated two-and-a-half-hour-long YouTube videos to “identity politics and the Marxist lie of white privilege.””

  2. The Professor of Piffle

    The dangerous underside of Jordan Peterson’s crusade against the humanities

    by Ira Wells

    Nov. 27, 2017

    Earlier this month, Lindsay Shepherd, a graduate student and teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University, was summoned by her supervisor to a meeting to discuss a video that she had shown to students. During a tutorial on gendered language, Shepherd had played a five-minute clip from an episode of TVO’s The Agenda, in which Jordan Peterson, a University of Toronto psychology professor, argued that forcing people to use “ze,” “zir,” and other non-binary gender pronouns constituted an infringement of free-speech rights. Peterson’s opponents in the TVO debate countered that his refusal to address students by their preferred pronouns was tantamount to discrimination, abuse, and violence.

    At the meeting, which Shepherd recorded, faculty members as well as a member of the Gendered Violence Prevention and Support office, attempted to browbeat her into accepting the proposition that she had committed an act of transphobic violence: by refusing to adopt gender-neutral pronouns, they suggested, Peterson was questioning non-gender-conforming people’s very right to exist; by broadcasting this view to her class, Shepherd had created a toxic learning environment and legitimized an opinion that now contravenes the Human Rights Act. Shepherd asserted that she doesn’t even agree with Peterson. Through tears, she said she simply wanted her students to bring their critical thinking to bear on his views. No matter. Shepherd’s failure to condemn Peterson, her supervisor told her, was akin to failing to condemn Adolph Hitler. The university’s president, as well as the professor responsible for the meeting, have subsequently apologized for the conversation.

    Laurier’s initial handling of the incident was a coup for Peterson—who managed to embarrass the institution without raising a finger. Peterson first came to public prominence in the fall of 2016 with a YouTube series titled “Professor Against Political Correctness,” which held universities “responsible for the wave of political correctness that has rolled across North America.” The videos—which, taken together, have clocked hundreds of thousands of views—established Peterson as the most prominent academic proponent of the belief that universities have become cells of intolerant leftist groupthink, catering to snowflake students for whom every disagreeable opinion inflicts trauma. Judging from the media fallout of the Laurier incident, the takeaway for many Canadians has been: See? Peterson was right all along.

  3. “Peterson’s immense popularity on the far right lies precisely in his intellectual validation of those traditional power hierarchies as natural and necessary—a message perfectly attuned to those who feel dispossessed and threatened by movements for sexual and racial equality. Most of Peterson’s videos offer variations on the theme that human behavior is the product of an ancient “male dominance hierarchy” that separates winners from losers—and that any attempt to question or subvert this hierarchy will result in unhappiness for the individual or chaos for society.

    Peterson knows what he stands for. He is fighting for the souls of our students, and his message, while deeply alienating to some, is immensely seductive to many others. We have an intellectual obligation to meet this threat directly and expose him for exactly what he is: a YouTube star who offers a wafer-thin intellectual validation for the political retrenchment of traditional hierarchies. Peterson is calling for war within the humanities. We should happily oblige.”

  4. I got an email yesterday from the Graduate Environmental Students Association, which said in part:

    “GESA is a voting member of the University of Toronto Graduate Students Union (UTGSU). As such, we will have a vote on a motion being proposed at the upcoming council meeting on December 4th. This motion calls for the termination of Dr. Jordan Peterson’s position at U of T in response to violations of several University policies including but not limited to harassment, discrimination and disruption.”

    This is sure to feed his persecution complex, and probably has little practical importance. The student unions don’t have the power to fire tenured professors. Still, in combination with the outrage from many faculty members, the university administration must be feeling some pressure.

  5. Hundreds sign open letter to U of T admin calling for Jordan Peterson’s termination

    Signees allege professor’s actions constitute “gross misconduct,” violate U of T policies

    Jordan Peterson doxxes two student activists

    Psychology prof tweets Facebook profiles of students protesting event

    Jordan Peterson: “I don’t think that men can control crazy women”

    U of T psychology prof says he’s “defenceless” against “female insanity”

  6. Christie Blatchford sits down with ‘warrior for common sense’ Jordan Peterson

    Another psychology question then: What about all the people now who are identifying as transsexual, genderless?

    We’re in a psychological epidemic. This happens all the time. Freudian hysteria was a psychological epidemic; you very seldom see Freudian hysterics now. Multiple personality disorder is a good example; you don’t see any cases of that anymore.

    Have we seen the gender thing before?

    Not in living memory.

    I remember no people like that in my whole life. I know gay people of course, and drag queens, but they seem remarkably well adjusted.

    I think that one of the things the web has done is enable people who have personality disorders to validate their particular pathology, because they find all sorts of people who are like them.

    There’s an epidemic of self-diagnosis among young people, there’s a race to multiply pathology, there’s a glorification of disorders like borderline personality disorder, which is rare. When being the most oppressed victim gives you the highest status, then it’s a race to the bottom.

    We’re not helping young people figure out a noble and difficult pathway forward, where they bear responsibility and march forthrightly into adulthood. Quite the contrary. We’re saying, ‘Well, the system is corrupt and there’s no point in taking part in it. You’re going to be victimized no matter what you do.’ And so the race is on for who gets to play the victim card with the highest degree of status. And it’s really bad, it’s especially bad for adolescents because they’re trying to sort their identity out, they’re already a mess.

  7. A Field Guide to Jordan Peterson’s Political Arguments

    Peterson came to fame opposing a Canadian human rights law based on the mistaken belief that the law would force professors to address trans students by their preferred pronouns. He and his supporters lost that debate and their fears about the law have not come to pass. Never the less, Peterson and his supporters are insistent that PC culture, identity politics, postmodernism and “cultural Marxism” have run amok and that the libs are gunning for them. So here’s a quick field guide to the confused arguments you’ll hear from supposed worshippers of facts and logic.

    So to be clear, the entire premise of Peterson’s rise to fame is based on a slippery slope argument that conflates including gender identity in discrimination laws with “compelled speech.” And Peterson has consistently failed to answer his critics on the grounds of civil rights law. But as we know, if you cry about free speech hard enough, you can get a ton of media coverage and online sympathy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *