11 Dec After Jordan B. Peterson’s most cretinous followers hurl ugly abuse my way, I luck into a civil, thoughtful discussion, re: JBP, the corruption of Identity Politics/Liberalism, and politicized economic theories, from Marx to the Pareto Distribution.
Hot damn, that was a good conversation!
So good, in fact, that I’ve decided to reproduce the bulk of it, the major substantive exchanges, in their entirety. I’ve opted to go this route for the simple reason that I can find few better examples of my case against modern “liberalism” and the shit-show that is the corporatized and nightmarishly illiberal American mainstream media (or MSM).
Rather than assuming the participants in this conversation would condone my bandying their names about on my website, I have anonymized their identities. So, without further ado, thanks again, “Boris,” “Lenny,” and “Doc,” for an outstanding conversation!
INSTALLMENT THE FIRST: BORIS, LENNY, AND I GET THE BALL ROLLING:
James Charles O’Donnell III (post on Boris’s page) — Helloha, Boris, and thank you for recommending Peter Coffin! I particularly enjoyed his analysis of the Jordan B. Patriarchy phenomenon.
Boris — I likes me a good analysis of rhetorical methods! Dang, that Peterson guy is creepy. If only he were a quarter as talented and creative as Dave Sim…
Maybe Doc and Lenny would like this video, too.
Lenny — Boris: um. This video gets a lot wrong about JP and his rise to prominence. I wouldn’t base my opinions about the JP phenomenon on this unless you don’t care about being misinformed.
Boris — I don’t know much about this JP guy beyond the fact that some folks find him mesmerizing. I read a random excerpt from a book of his, and thought it was well-written and interesting. In videos, though, he always seems to put me off.
What do you think Coffin gets wrong about why Peterson is so popular? Peterson has this predatory vibe to me: “you and I always knew there was something basically wrong with the world, but come here, kid, and I’ll let you in on the Big Secret”. A flim-flammer, like our era gobbles up. The scapegoating thing Coffin mentions seems on target as well.
Lenny — Boris: Right from the start the guy doesn’t understand the Channel 4 interview or why it was a flashpoint and defining moment in JPs ascent into the popular Zeitgeist. It was not that the interviewer was unprepared. It was that she had a predetermined narrative of JP, and when she couldn’t get him into that narrative things unraveled for her. ‘so what you believe’ For many, including the Intelectual Dark Web, and Youtubers this is the problem with Manistream Media. It includes producers who have guests on in order to push a predetermined narrative. That’s why that interview became important to JP’s ascent. Not just that JP owns the interviewer or even that she loses arguments on multiple levels. This video misses the point of the whole Channel 4 interview so it’s hard to believe any of it.
And this criticism that JP says a lot of stuff that doesn’t make the point to purposely obfuscate is ridiculous. He’s an academic. He takes a long time to say things because he tries to present actual proof, literary, science based, and theoretical to make his point. He likes to hear himself talk. That’s what professors do. It’s like he’s trying too hard to make him seem like the devil.
JP says a lot of interesting things as a lot of professors do. The reason he is big right now is that the left has abandoned a lot of people with social justice ideology. And not just Conservatives. Liberals too. Working class people. A lot of those people that voted for Trump. His book targeted young males bc right now many young men are flailing. But he has become a target because he is challenging leftist Marxist orthodoxy, Post modernism, and social justice ideology. And many on the left don’t know what to do about it.
There’s plenty to criticize him on. There’s lots of things he thinks that are complete theory but these take downs of him really don’t get to the the reason he or Trump have risen. Liberals still think Trump is a joke but he’s also the President. That’s serious, that’s not a joke and there’s a reason for it. There’s a whole swath of the left that are seeing the world they want it to be and not how it is. And that is bc many people live in liberal bubbles or they’re not really interested in the truth, just to be right.
James Charles O’Donnell III — Lenny: If I may chime in, I think you’re correct about the “liberal bubble” and the corruption of the media, with its predetermined (and often false) narratives. In my analysis, the institution has deteriorated quite badly since the Telecom Act of 1996, signed by that towering figure of right-wing accomplishment, Bill Clinton. Today’s corporate media, owned by a handful of right-wing billionaires (thanks to that law) does nothing but peddle conservative ideology while posturing as liberal… when it’s actually purely corporate, neoliberal and neoconservative in the extreme.
The corporate media offers us a burlesque of liberal values, wrapped in an ugly, off-putting bastardization of Identity Politics. This has had the effect of making right-leaning Americans hate/misunderstand traditional liberalism (tolerance, reason, education, idealism)… and that’s by design. A major feature of the modern American political landscape is that no mainstream media institution — not even NPR/PBS — comes close to faithfully representing traditional, respectable liberal values… or traditional, respectable conservative values, for that matter.
Today’s media exists to: 1) slander/ignore genuinely progressive ideals; 2) stoke class resentment (encouraging reactionary paranoia and hatred in “Red State” land); 3) hawk senseless, genocidal, and illegal wars; 4) boost the “trade” pacts that have decimated the middle class; and 5) divide Americans along religious and cultural flashpoints.
I also agree with you that the Channel 4 interviewer was out to “gotcha” Mr. Peterson, but I agree with Peter Coffin, too: she had simply failed to do her homework (she was arrogant, thinking he’d be an easy takedown). In addition to watching some Jordan B. Peterson videos, I’ve read some analysis of his written work, which had a fair amount that was positive to say about his message — as well as some well-articulated, well-founded (IMO) criticism.
So far as my own response to the philosophy that this self-styled guru is peddling, I confess it’s been profoundly negative. By the time I’d gotten to my third JBP video, I was running out of patience with the man and his followers. At least in YouTube comment sections, his fans seem openly misogynistic, very crude, and adolescent, on average… and Peterson himself seems subtly (if consistently) misogynistic, intellectually sophisticated, and occasionally adolescent (petty, defensive, dishonest, and hostile).
To be perfectly frank, I think Peterson’s message is a regressive, establishment-supporting, and ultimately dangerous one, brimming with victimhood and loathing. And I assure you that I began my exploration of the JBP phenomenon with an open mind, hoping and expecting to find a bright new voice on the scene.
(He’d come highly recommended by a terrific young friend I’d met through our Occupy Wall Street activism, back when President Obama was bailing out Wall Street on Main Street’s backs and ensuring decades of resentment from the working class, misdirected at liberalism — even though pretty-talking Obama governed like Bush/Cheney on steroids, like a radical-right Republican, by historical standards… complete with “Kill List” and the end of habeas corpus. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of corporate subservience that was the Obama presidency.)
Regardless, I wish that more of Peterson’s followers were as respectful and thoughtful as you seem to be. Only that’s not what I have found. Here’s the conversation I’ve been having with his followers on YouTube.
(I hope you can see beyond the vehemence of my initial comments. I pull no rhetorical punches, generally, and I was truly running out of patience, as I said earlier. But I sincerely hope you’ll be able to move past the invective and consider the substance of my criticism of the man… without feeling too defensive. Like I said, I agree with much of where you’re coming from. Jordan Peterson, not so much.)
END PART I
NEXT: With the arrival of “Doc,” our discussion of Identity Politics and the monolithic, corporatized, “mainstream” media (MSM) takes off!