Oh what a day!
What a lovely day!
Just when you think that the world is really going to shit, just when all is mired in hopelessness, and off-brand Nazi knockoffs frolic freely around a capitalist-ruined climate dystopia so miserable that it makes you wish for the apocalypse to just hurry the hell up and get it all over with because then at least we might get the relative coherence of an Immortan Joe to relieve us of the Dadaist gibberish that we have now—just when things seem really at their worst, just then, some rays of light appear.
Finally! An easy way of spotting a Jordan Peterson fan:
A quick update for those out of the loop:
Jordan Peterson is a Toronto-based university professor and psychologist who has seen a meteoric rise in recent years by applying pseudo-scientific reasoning and pop philosophy to the field of male-centred self-help. There’s a bit of a mental health crisis in modern masculinity, and many young men—set adrift from old expectations and roles by modern capitalism and the decline of the old industrial order—are looking for guidance. Which is fair enough. Young men, privileged as they are in structures of the patriarchy relative to other demographics, are still victims of that very same patriarchy. They seek a path, a purpose, a teacher. Jordan Peterson is one of the self-appointed mentors who have stepped in to fill this vacuum, crashing into bestseller lists by pairing up sage, never-before heard advice about the importance of cleaning your room and standing up straight with regressive and misogynist overtures to the need for ‘traditional gender roles’. As per this wonderful Current Affairs piece:
Jordan Peterson appears very profound and has convinced many people to take him seriously. Yet he has almost nothing of value to say. This should be obvious to anyone who has spent even a few moments critically examining his writings and speeches, which are comically befuddled, pompous, and ignorant. They are half nonsense, half banality. In a reasonable world, Peterson would be seen as the kind of tedious crackpot that one hopes not to get seated next to on a train.
But we do not live in a reasonable world. In fact, Peterson’s reach is astounding. His 12 Rules for Life is the #1 most-read book on Amazon, where it has a perfect 5-star rating. One person said that when he came across a physical copy of Peterson’s first book, “I wanted to hold it in my hands and contemplate its significance for a few minutes, as if it was one of Shakespeare’s pens or a Gutenberg Bible.” The world’s leading newspapers have declared him one of the most important living thinkers. The Times says his “message is overwhelmingly vital,” and a Guardian columnist grudgingly admits that Peterson “deserves to be taken seriously.” David Brooks thinks Peterson might be “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now.” He has been called “the deepest, clearest voice of conservative thought in the world today” a man whose work “should make him famous for the ages.” Malcolm Gladwell calls him “a wonderful psychologist.” And it’s not just members of the popular press that have conceded Peterson’s importance: the chair of the Harvard psychology department praised his magnum opus Maps of Meaning as “brilliant” and “beautiful.” Zachary Slayback of the Foundation for Economic Education wonders how any serious person could possibly write off Peterson, saying that “even the most anti-Peterson intellectual should be able to admit that his project is a net-good.” We are therefore presented with a puzzle: if Jordan Peterson has nothing to say, how has he attracted this much recognition? If it’s so “obvious” that he can be written off as a charlatan, why do so many people respect his intellect?
Let’s not go into how so many people have been bewitched by this man right now. Suffice it to say that the entirety of that piece is worth reading, but the most salient part comes here:
Having safely established that Jordan Peterson is an intellectual fraud who uses a lot of words to say almost nothing, we can now turn back to the original question: how can a man incapable of relaying the content of a children’s book become the most influential thinker of his moment? My first instinct is simply to sigh that the world is tragic and absurd, and there is apparently no height to which confident fools cannot ascend. But there are better explanations available. Peterson is popular partly because he criticizes social justice activists in a way many people find satisfying, and some of those criticisms have merit. He is popular partly because he offers adrift young men a sense of heroic purpose, and offers angry young men rationalizations for their hatreds. And he is popular partly because academia and the left have failed spectacularly at helping make the world intelligible to ordinary people, and giving them a clear and compelling political vision.
Because the self-help stuff is how it all started, but since then Peterson has gone completely off the deep end, becoming a glowering parody of ‘intellectual’ ultra-masculinity, adopting an only-meat (or maybe even just beef? I don’t know. Who cares?) diet, presenting ever-more extreme versions of his talking points, and consorting more and more with the alt-right circles that have embraced him as one of their own.
Not everyone is as spellbound by him, mind you, even on platforms that have many areas quite favourable to his views, such as Reddit. Peterson hosted an ‘Ask Me Anything’ last year that didn’t quite go exactly as he probably hoped it would. Here, have a read.
Anyway one of Peterson’s main iconic… Um, ‘theories’? I’m not sure you can really call it that. ‘Word-collections’? ‘Crayon-diagrams’? ‘Bus-stop-ravings’? Whatever you wanna call it, one of his most well-known pronouncements is the idea that human societies are naturally programmed to create hierarchies because hierarchies are inbuilt into lobsters and therefore any human means of societal redress that aim to limit the damage done by oppressive hierarchies are fundamentally destined to fail. In his own words:
Lobsters exist in hierarchies. They have a nervous system attuned to the hierarchy. And that nervous system runs on serotonin, just like our nervous systems do. And the nervous system of the lobster and of the human being is so similar that antidepressants work on lobsters. It’s part of my attempt to demonstrate that the idea of hierarchy has absolutely nothing to do with sociocultural construction. Which it doesn’t.
Rigorous. As. Fuck.
But that’s how we end up with this:
Well up until quite recently Peterson was pretty active on Patreon, claiming to be the ‘second most highly funded creator’ on the popular crowd-funding site. Indeed he was apparently making $66,000 a month there. Following Patreon’s decision to ban anti-feminist YouTuber Carl Benjamin for racist language, however, Peterson quit the site in righteous protest. And thus, lobster t-shirts!
$34 T-shirts to be precise. And $48 hoodies.
Small price to pay, really, for being able to spot one of Dr Peterson’s fans in the wild. I dunno about you, but I’d rather save myself the grey hairs of getting caught in a conversation with one. I had a close call just the other day in fact. I was on a plane, and just there, straight across from my aisle seat:
Boom. Dude looked perfectly normal when I saw him getting on. Shortly after he picked up the hardback, cupped his chin and furrowed his brow, and then started underlining choice lines. With a pen! Shouldn’t that be one of the twelve rules for life? ‘Use A Pencil If You Must Highlight A Passage In A Book, You Monster’?
Either way, some of the Twitter replies to Peterson’s Lobster Line have been less than generous.
Good addition to your snake oil business.— Don Seymour (@seymourdon) March 18, 2019
I have a hard enough time getting laid as it is— Jeff Farnum (@DukeEggplant) March 17, 2019
Nietzche meets QVC— Aunt Olive (@HelpfulOlive) March 18, 2019
How about these tee shirts, prof? pic.twitter.com/5QGWqw5x7m— Catriona (@Pufferaground) March 17, 2019
An extremely deep thinker, a philosophical titan, a keen eye for the serious ills befalling civilization— S. Lynn Murphy (@Saxypunch) March 19, 2019
with a merch shop
amazing dude, can't wait to wear this to work and become the alpha male of the office. ill be ceo within a week of wearing this— 𝕲𝖔𝖉 𝖆𝖓𝖉 𝕬𝖓𝖎𝖒𝖊 (@my_dad_is_car) March 18, 2019
Anyway, my dudes. Get a better idol. If you’re genuinely just looking for guidance, that is. If you’re just fash looking for fash justifications, fill your boots I guess. But if you are adrift, there are much better sources out there. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing either! Go to the gym, meditate, eat an apple. But don’t give this dude any more money.
Header Image Source: Getty Images