There is clearly tremendous envy wrapped up in the reactions people have to Jordan Peterson. One doesn’t have to agree with all he says to recognize this. I find him a breath of fresh and necessary air. But it’s amusing — and a bit scary — to see how silly his critics become when you mention his name. It is even more amusing to see how so many of them clearly have never actually read anything he has written or listened to anything he has said. I give as an example something that happened when a very lovely young man I know posted something positive about Peterson on Facebook recently. The bullying pile-on was swift, angry, and not remotely fact-based. Included in the comments were that Peterson was against gender equality, that he belittled transgendered people, that he said young women who get drunk and who are sexually assaulted therefore deserved it, and on and on and on.
Sheer nonsense, of course. Not one of those accusations (and the others that were made in the same thread) is true. Further, someone used as an “argument” the acceptance of “Ms.” into our culture as proof that Peterson is wrong to be concerned about compelled speech. Well, “Ms.” was never compelled. It became accepted over time naturally. No one was ever threatened with an indictment by the state for refusing “Ms.” What concerns Peterson is the state attempting to control speech, not the natural and inevitable changes that take place in a language, and I share his concern. One need only a cursory knowledge of history to know that the state forcing sudden changes in word use is bad, bad news.
Many of his critics accuse him of being “alt right,” and as “proof” they point out he has “alt right” fans. I suspect he does have some alt right fans, but he can’t much control who likes him or doesn’t like him. Just as many of his critics haven’t actually read his work, I suspect his extremist fans haven’t either. (I had similar “fans” when I had my weekly Toronto Star column, and I did not like it, but I knew it had nothing to do with what I believed.) If you read Peterson’s work or listen to him, you will see he is more of a classical liberal.
What is interesting is that what Peterson is most concerned about is the stupidity of young males – another reason the accusation that he thinks girls who get drunk deserve sexual assault or that he is anti-gender equality does not hold up (that, and the fact that he has never said any such thing). One would think his concern that young males not behave like groping idiots might appeal to people, particularly on the left, particularly those who call themselves feminists. Well, it does to some, thank goodness.
All of this is on my mind because of tonight’s Munk Debate, which I will be attending and to which I am looking forward. And here’s a good (fact-based and not oozing jealousy) take on Peterson.