Features, Media

Jordan Peterson and the Failure of the Left

Like most people, I’d never heard of Jordan Peterson until a short time ago. In my case, the first signal of his arrival on the cultural scene was a friend’s series of Facebook posts vividly denouncing him as a reactionary cult-like leader. Seeing a Canadian psychology professor be the subject of such alarm piqued my curiosity. As an American ex-academic, I tend to stereotype Canadians as almost laughably polite, and professors as largely contained in their own hyper-specialized, politically irrelevant bubbles. The vision of a wild-eyed Canadian psych prof with a fanatical alt-right following on YouTube was an intriguing challenge to my priors.

Soon, I found myself going down the Peterson rabbit-hole with countless others. I listened to several of his lectures on reinterpreting Bible stories as archetypical myths. Contradicting my friend’s warnings of hate-filled right-wing propaganda, I found Peterson’s discussions intellectually engaging, personally meaningful, and a refreshing departure from the standard discourse on such issues. I read up on Peterson’s battles over Canadian hate speech legislation and watched his infamous Cathy Newman interview. Here again, I found Peterson’s commentary to be largely thoughtful and thought-provoking. I tuned into his podcast discussions with Sam Harris, and started exploring Harris’s work as well. I even bought and read 12 Rules for Life, and put Maps of Meaning on order at my local public library.

Although my newfound interest in Peterson might seem to put me in good company—he’s selling out 5,000-plus seat lecture halls regularly and 12 Rules for Life is now a #1 bestseller—this isn’t the case at all. On the contrary, it puts me into a pretty isolated, alienated, and uncomfortable position. The reason for this is simple: I’ve always identified strongly with the left-leaning side of the political and cultural spectrum. And, as anyone who’s been following Peterson’s bizarrely rapid rise to fame knows, his growing popularity has been strongly countered by progressive commentators, who keep sounding the alarm against him at increasingly higher volumes.

If you follow the news stream, it seems that virtually every right-thinking left-leaning (pun intended) journalist, blogger, and social media maven agrees: Peterson is an alt-right wolf in professorial sheep’s clothing, a self-serving charlatan who dresses up old-school misogyny, racism, and elitism in faux-intellectual, fascist mystical garb.

Breaking My Silence

I don’t buy it. I’ve read and listened to enough Peterson to make up my own mind and that’s not how I see him at all. Rather than being forthright about this, though, I’ve tended to cower silently in my alienated corner, fearful that revealing my rejection of the stock anti-Peterson narrative will cause my progressive friends to denounce me and the social media mobs to swarm.

It’s not that I’m an uncritical Peterson devotee. Although I find both his work and the furor surrounding him quite fascinating, I don’t share his way of thinking about the political issues (such as socio-economic inequality) that most concern me at all. That said, I would never look to someone like him, who I see as a classical conservative, to provide thought leadership on such matters. That’s the role of the Left. And in my view, the Left is doing an abysmal job on that front.

‘The Left’ is admittedly an overly broad and imprecise term. Still, it’s certainly possible to identify a dominant leftwing discourse in the U.S. and Canada today. And within that discourse, a stock anti-Peterson line indisputably exists. The Left faces many challenges, and the issues surrounding Peterson only represent one. Still, it’s important. The anti-Peterson crusade is an instructive example of a larger dynamic that needs to be named, discussed, and hopefully, addressed.

The hyperbolic uniformity of the leftist attack on Peterson is emblematic of the growing tendency to reduce left-of-center thought to the status of a rigidly simplistic ideology. Increasingly, what passes for progressive political thought today offers little more than a scripted set of weaponized hashtags (you must be pro- #metoo and anti-patriarchy, no further thought required). This narrowing of our public discourse is disturbing, and worrisome on multiple, mutually reinforcing levels.

The Downward Spiral

First, it’s unconvincing to everyone who’s not some sort of true believer or faithful follower (or, more cynically, a journalist looking to please an editor demanding yet another Peterson hit piece). No doubt, I’m not the only person who’s wondered what all the fuss is about, decided to take the time to listen to one of Peterson’s YouTube lectures, and come away feeling that the Left’s commentariat is trying to sell me a fake bill of goods. The gap between Peterson’s obvious intelligence and the Left’s scathing denunciation of him as an alt-right idiot is simply too large for many of us to ignore.

Second, the Left’s attack on Peterson is so unrelenting, so superficial, and quite frequently so vicious, that many of us who work and/or live in left-leaning social environments feel scared to speak up against it. We don’t want to alienate our friends, damage our professional reputations, or attract the attention of fire-breathing activists.

The problem here is not simply that this is unpleasant for people like me. More importantly, our silence further impoverishes everyday political discourse by eliminating more nuanced left-of-center voices. This, in turn, reinforces the already powerful trend toward weaponized hashtag ideology instead of serious political thought. It also drives more people to right-of-center alternatives or away from politics altogether.

Peterson is just one example of this larger trend. Viewed as such, the situation he represents is extremely concerning, and even dangerous. We desperately need a revitalized Left that’s capable of speaking to today’s pressing issues of socio-economic inequality, environmental devastation, and spiritual malaise in informed, intelligent, and inspiring ways. Instead, we’re inundated by shallow ideological crusades dedicated to demonizing thoughtful conservatives like Peterson, who actually have some important ideas to offer—just not on the issues that properly concern the Left.

Repositioning Peterson

Given my life-long identification with the social democratic (or, in U.S. terms, left-liberal) side of the political spectrum, I’ve reflected quite a bit on why my response to Peterson seems so out of step with dominant left-of-center discourse. It may be that I’m actually not as alone as it seems. Although I can’t prove it, I suspect that there are many others who feel as I do but are keeping quiet, as they don’t want to risk the blowback that comes with countering the often frightening force of today’s ideological tides.

Beyond this, as a former political science professor, my thinking is informed by an unusual (and unusually long) education that exposed me to quite a bit of classical political philosophy. This enables me to contextualize the political dimensions of Peterson’s work in ways that are likely unfamiliar to most people.

Specifically, I see him as part of a tradition of conservative political thought that’s deeply committed to trying to understand the fundamentals of what was classically called ‘the human condition.’ This is not the sort of conservativism that most Americans and Canadians think of when they hear the term ‘conservative.’ For example, it has no necessary connection to the sort of uncritical championing of corporate capitalism favored by conservatives today. Rather, it is concerned with issues such as the fragility of cultural norms that help provide individuals with a sense of purpose, and enable societies to remain relatively peaceful and functional.

Conservatives of this stripe mistrust radical movements that are ready to rip apart a cultural fabric that took generations to weave in pursuit of some idealistic vision of social justice. They believe that there is such a thing as ‘human nature,’ and that it’s highly fallible, and inevitably bedeviled by problems such as envy, corruption, and greed.

Consequently, such conservatives have no faith in leftist visions of a transformational ‘revolution’ that will definitively destroy oppression and establish a truly just society. Instead, they see them as dangerously naïve, and likely to produce violent anarchy and/or repressive authoritarianism. While acknowledging the realities of social injustice, they believe that political reforms need to be cautiously incremental—in a word, conservative.

Not Stupid

Although Peterson’s professional work is rooted in the study of Jungian psychology rather than political philosophy, his worldview fits quite well into this tradition of conservative political thought.

For example, Peterson is concerned with how postmodern anti-foundationalism undercuts longstanding cultural norms. He sees the ‘social justice’ Left as filling the resulting vacuum with shallow anti-oppression platitudes. He believes that human existence is inevitably full of suffering and that it’s not easy to chart an ethical course through life. The upside is that the struggle to do so provides a vital sense of meaning and purpose.

These are not stupid concerns.

More examples could be given, but the basic point is this: Although I’ve never considered myself a conservative, I’ve learned a lot from studying conservative political philosophy and take its insights seriously. Given this orientation, when I hear Peterson rearticulating classically conservative concerns in a new way, I find it interesting. I don’t agree with everything he says, and would not look to him to speak knowledgeably on every issue.

But I like the fact that he’s discussing how we might understand some of the foundational narratives (e.g., Bible stories) that have informed our culture for generations in new ways. I find it not only interesting, but in many ways resonant with my own life experience. The Story of Job, the Sermon on the Mount—these are not idiotic topics to engage with. Notwithstanding the scorn of the leftist commentariat, the deeper issues they raise remain relevant.

I realize that Peterson has at times said things that I disagree with and might even find offensive. But I’m much more concerned with—and disgusted by—the endless stream of tendentious and dishonest articles from leftist critics that grab onto such statements and blow them out of proportion, while aggressively erasing everything else the man has ever said or done from the record.

I find it even more aggravating that such distortion is typically coupled with a predictable string of gratuitous insults (Peterson is a misogynist, a racist, a transphobe, and so on). Then there’s the self-righteous hand-waving towards some grandiose, yet utterly vague political project (“abolish patriarchy” etc.). If I didn’t have a longstanding commitment to equalitarian politics, I’d be so turned off by these dynamics that I’d want nothing more to do with the Left whatsoever.

Breaking Out of the Box

If I’m feeling this alienated and fed up, I suspect there are many others who feel the same way. What worries me is that the likely response of many—if not most—of these people will not be to fret about the need for a more deeply thoughtful Left. Instead, they’re going to jump on the anti-PC bandwagon, and either vote for right-of-center candidates or not vote at all.

This is particularly true if left-of-center forces continue to let the populist, authoritarian Right and its fellow travellers take the loudest, strongest, and most politically visible stance on issues of socio-economic inequality. While calls to abandon identity politics wholesale are misguided and unrealistic, a reassessment of how they’re currently playing out is long overdue. The extent to which the ‘intersectional Left’ has jettisoned any serious consideration of class issues is beyond dismaying. The middle and stable working classes are eroding, and the ranks of the precariat and hardcore poor are growing. Yet when it comes to popular discussions of how to address these problems, there is near-silence from the Left.

Yes, I am aware that many individuals and organizations are working enormously hard on such issues. Yet, as far as I can see, the culture war dynamics that have engulfed Jordan Peterson are overshadowing their efforts. Rather than meeting someone like Peterson with intelligent questions and challenging discussions, the Left prefers to hurl insults and champion trendy hashtags. It’s good clickbait. But it’s a bad way to win elections or create the conditions that increase the possibility of positive change.

This situation looks particularly pathetic in light of the fact that Peterson himself has recently started to make the case that we are very much in need of a “reasonable Left.” He recognizes that his classically conservative aversion to societal risk-taking needs to be counterbalanced by those who are willing to take creative chances in pursuit of a brighter future. As far as I can tell, Peterson is willing to dialog with the Left. But the Left, on the whole, is not interested in anything but blanket denunciations.

Rather than vilifying Peterson, I’d love to see left-of-center writers, thinkers, and political commentators engage with his ideas in challenging, but also thoughtful and respectful ways. Personally, I see him as a worthy interlocutor for those of us who believe that our societies need paradigm-shifting reforms, but reject the drive towards destruction for destruction’s sake that currently animates the most extreme fringes of the Right and Left alike. If we hope to see a better future, the Left needs to break out of its increasingly stultifying discursive box, stop denouncing everyone who won’t dutifully recite the latest list of hashtag slogans as ‘alt-Right,’ and open up to the possibility of a new paradigm.


Photography supplied by Andy Ngo.

Carol Horton is an independent writer interested in the intersection of spirituality, politics, and culture. She is the author or editor of five books and holds a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago. Carol’s website can be found at www.carolhortonphd.com and you can follow her on Twitter @CarolHortonBks

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    • Théo C says

      That was indeed excellent.
      As I come from the Left, I guess Carol Horton and I would agree on most things, and yet, I have been called ‘alt-right’ hundreds of times in the last two years.
      I hope she realizes what she is going into and is ready to stand strong in the leftist backlash.

          • Peter Kriens says

            I think that is unfair. Although I sometimes feel like this as well, the NYT undoubtedly also has many opinion articles that take another view. VOX, Vice, The Verge, Guardian, etc. are much more polarized.

          • If only!! The mainstream media don’t do reporting or journalism, they just mouth government policy and/or cover up government treachery.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          I agree with Killer! And those many forums include Quillette, where Doug called me a liar in a comment thread about a month ago.

          As for Peterson, he may be on a slippery slope to self-parody. Dragons and Witches and Lobsters, Oh My!

          ‘….You may say well dragons don’t exist. It’s, like, yes they do—the category predator and the category dragon are the same category. It absolutely exists. It’s a superordinate category. It exists absolutely more than anything else. In fact, it really exists. What exists is not obvious….’ https://newrepublic.com/article/148473/jordan-petersons-tired-old-myths

          Hmm,,,,,, The term predator wasn’t invented until the 1920s, which is when the field of animal ecology got started. The term refers to a role or mode of behavior in an ecosystem or food web, NOT to a specific category of animals. For example, some medium-sized mammals like foxes and wildcats are both predators on small mammals AND prey to larger [‘top’] predators like wolves.

          Don’t get me started on lobsters and serotonin!

          The only way that Peterson gets away with this pseudo-knowledge is that his audience seems incapable of separating shallow thinking from critical analysis. It is useful to compare Peterson’s self-help writings [12 Rules] with those of an earlier hero on the Right: Russell Kirk and his 10 Principles [paraphrased]:

          Peterson: clean your room, stand up straight……
          Kirk: respect tradition and convention, be prudent…..

          These shallow thoughts are actually bromides–trite, worn-out advice that a father might give to his son who is going off to attend college/fight a war/get married/etc.

          I recommend the recent article in the New Republic that I linked to above for a more detailed critique of Peterson.

          • Ligneto says

            Oh so before the 1920s people didn’t avoid snakes since the word “predator” wasn’t invented yet? That’s brilliant!

          • Jan B says

            The dragon is an archetype. The fact that archetypes appear in our myths, stories, movies, songs, and conversations means that they “exist” in a way that is not limited to the “factual.” I suppose people immersed in social realism may not understand archetypes, but it doesn’t make the one who talks about archetypes stupid.

          • Skip says

            I couldn’t agree more. I came across Peterson and the Intellectual Dark Web (a major misnomer) circuitously via the atheist Sam Harris. It seems to me many of the icons of the IDW are simply academics who for whatever reason (my cynicism suggests $$$) have found a new path to enhancing their repute (notoriety?) and exposure outside the traditional channels of academe.

            This is not to say some of the notions and arguments aren’t interesting and worthy of consideration, but too many seem merely amorphisms or trite ideas cloaked in impenetrable jargon decipherable only by the well initiated. But I’m a political animal and the IDW’s general lack of content useful to policy prescriptions likely colors my view. OTOH, it led me to this website, which I find most enjoyable.

          • Alastair Fraser says

            Having mostly a math background and work experience, I do not consider myself a writer or communicator but I can recognize a ridiculous idiot when read or hear one. Jack; This comment is shallow and idiotic.

          • William Berry says

            Hmm… Watch out for that pseudo knowledge business. It’s a slippery slope alright. Sam Johnson used the word predatory in his 1755 Dictionary when defining such words as mouse (verb).

          • Jonathan Wright says

            If you don’t think dragons and witches are real, you have not experienced any sort of the life that I have. Empiricism seems to have the unfortunate draw back of destroying imagination and therefore destroying metaphor. The real power in literature, lecture and life is in metaphor.

            It seems to me that what unites critics of Peterson is that they have experienced a life without any real suffering. Once one spends some quality time in the daimonic abyss, one can appreciate a speaker like Peterson.

            Btw, if you want to speak with someone that has experienced a life or death struggle with a dragon, go find a heroin addict

          • Doug says

            Actually, in the case you’re referring to, I demonstrated that you were lying. Big difference between that and simply labeling someone a liar.

          • Zachary Reichert says

            That’s adorable. You keep being you.

          • CJ says

            Your claim about the word “predator” dating to the 1920s is wrong. Here is a reference dating the etymology of predation/predator to 1862, for example: http://www.etymonline.com/word/predator

            The science of ecology — and the word — also dates to the 19th century.

            Your claim that predators can themselves be prey is irrelevant to the idea that the concept of predating exists in human thought.

            And, even if you were correct about its origins, your claim that “predator” dates to the 1920s is completely irrelevant as the concept of predators is surely as old as humans. There are concepts and thoughts that existed prior to the words we now use to describe them.

            Also, when Peterson says that witches exist, he is talking about the concepts associated with witches, the archetypes.

            You are a classic example of someone who engages in confirmation bias, deliberately interpreting argument in a silly way to avoid having to confront views that challenge your preconceptions.

          • So worn-out in fact that society today is suffering from the inability to follow this simple advice.

          • Yohan Oresund says

            Hi Jack, Peterson is talking about behavioral archetypes. One example would be the trickster character like the ones portrayed by the Joker or Loki. Those characters don’t exist in a literal sense, but we’ve all encountered people in our lives that stir up chaos, just for the sake of stirring up chaos. Same thing with ‘witches’, ‘dragons’, the bully, the damsel in distress, etc.

            Here’s the deeper question, why do humans like to explain life through stories and characters? It seems somehow we get utility from interpreting the world as a narrative, and that may be an evolved adaptation. Who knows?

            For your predator comment, even if it was true that the word ‘predator’ was created in the 1920’s (it wasn’t), how does that alter underlying the reality of the biosphere? Bacteria and viruses existed before those words did, before language existed and before human beings existed. That’s frankly a nonsensical argument.

            Peterson used lobsters and serotonin as an example of shared physiology between life forms that are far apart in the evolutionary tree. And nervous systems don’t just exist in lobsters and humans. They exist in almost ALL multicellular animals. I know, EVOLUTION, right?

            His example shows that adaptation to dominance hierarchies is very, very old, and that said hierarchies probably aren’t the construct of white, Christian, wealthy, European men in order to oppress others.

            My question to you – which part of this ‘knowledge’ is ‘pseudo’?

          • Aaron says

            You know you just did what that article was all about, right?
            Also, you don’t understand metaphysical discussion. He talks in heavy symbolism, no need to get all flustered if you don’t get it.

          • james says

            Peterson: clean your room, stand up straight……is neither a bromide nor shallow, if you’ve actually paid attention to Peterson. The left is full of people who are habitually incapable or unwilling to do those things but steadfastly insist they can engineer the world’s most prosperous economies in a way that will make the average person better off rather than worse off. Despite the fact that the economy is many orders of magnitude more complex than one’s room. Peterson is explicitly saying that one should not be treated as credible in such claims when they can’t even order their own room or lives well. And he is absolutely correct. The fact that you’re actually ignoring his point instead of refuting it is a very good indication that you are aware that his point is very damaging to the left and that you don’t have an even half decent intellectual response to it.

          • I think Jack’s comment was a good example of the debate-is-war team on the left, as opposed to Carol’s debate-as-a-way-to find-out-stuff-I-don’t-know-already team. We might call them the unreasonable left and reasonable left, respectively.

            The term predator wasn’t invented until the 1920s

            Yes, and gravity was only discovered in the late 17th century. But it probably existed before then.

            Don’t get me started on lobsters and serotonin!

            God forbid, because you obviously missed the point. Humans are not very like lobsters, we know. Peterson knows. We’re widely separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution. But lobsters have dominance hierarchies, regulated by serotonin. So do humans. So do pretty much all social animals. So when we come to the claim from the unreasonable left that hierarchy in society is a socio-cultural creation of the patriarchy, which could be done away with altogether if only we continua-ed la lutta with more vigour, community organising and re-education camps, Peterson has a reply : “No it’s not.” Dominance hierarchies are ubiquitous in nature, even in creatures as unlike us as lobsters. Hierarchy is unavoidable. Because biology. Get rid of the existing hierarchy and you create another one instantly. Whac-a-mole. So yes please, don’t get started on lobsters and serotonin. You’ll only embarrass yourself.

          • Emma_Dee says

            That article in New Republic was tendentious, and shallow. As is your comment. Your comment is also snide and immature. But then, those are all defining characteristics of leftism, aren’t they?

            Just because Peterson’s advice is not new, does not mean it is worn out. As long as men and women bring babies into the world, and those babies need training to become fully human, basic rules will be evergreen.

          • Keithindy says

            Are they trite, worn out advice if they advance your life in a positive direction.

          • Jack,

            I couldn’t extract any meaningful point from your fragmentary post.

            “The term predator wasn’t invented until the 1920s…”

            And this makes his juxtaposition of dragon and predator invalid? Enlighten me.

            I would also recommend to others, especially on the Left, who haven’t encountered Peterson’s thinking firsthand, to avoid searching for articles (like the one cited by Jack) to inoculate themselves from new thoughts by attempting to justify the standard prejudiced Leftist view of Peterson, and instead simply to view some of Peterson’s YouTube videos for themselves.

            N.B. Oh and Jack, the first rule of a pedant is not to be wrong about the object of your pedantry:

            predator (n.)
            1862, from Latin praedator “plunderer,” from praedari “to rob” (see predation). Originally Predatores (Swainson, 1840) used of insects that ate other insects.

          • Victor Erimita says

            Peterson is talking about archetypes in the Jungian sense, not literal, physical “dragons, witches,” etc. If you don’t see that, it’s goung to be difficult for you to understand what he means. Of course most of his lefty critics (hopefully not you) have no interest in understanding what he means and use silly, transparent misinterpretations like asserting he believes in literal dragons to attempt to discredit him. Those who understand what he actually means see this as the shallow pot shottung that it is and dismiss it as garden variety bubble thinking (or nonthinking).

          • Broken_Zebra says

            He is speaking about a superordinate IDEA. I mean it’s in the quote. It’s an archetypal category. Why you are prattling on about the term predator is your own total and shallow misreading.

          • CBJ says

            Take it easy on Jack, he may just be a humanities grad student.

          • Landen says

            The only thing this comment proves is that you’re either unable or unwilling to understand the arguments he is making.

          • From personal experience, some people need “bromides” – to be reminded of “obvious” things that they seem to have lost sight of.

          • Texas says

            No, you are completely wrong. I would attempt further debate on the subject, but I really believe you are an enlist who sees yourself smarter and more enlightened than most. Therefore, any disagreement or facts I might offer to the contrary would be wasted, pearls before swine, as Dr. Peterson might say.

          • Daco Beastly says

            My question to Jack Mehoff is as follows: Did you make your bed today?

          • Why do you say your article is better because it’s not ! I completely disagree ! I thought it to be snappy but empty. Like an empty box of chocolates , you’d think it would have sweets inside but totally empty ! I know why you liked it, because you kind of write like that as well, eye popping, self absorbed, borderline arrogant with numerous expressions( hmm….Oh my, Don’t get me started!) Perhaps you think it’s funny and interesting but it’s very tired and old or as they call it in the bizz : Shitty Gonzo ! “These shallow thoughts ” is the only statement that rings true in your whole statement !

          • Jack B. Quick says

            Doug called you a liar a month ago!

            Mr. Nimble, why doesn’t your quote include any reference to what Peterson is talking about or how he defined his terms? I wonder. What does Peterson mean by “dragon”? “Dragon” and “predator” are the same “category” of what? How does he define “exist”? Posting a public thought free of any context can make anyone look foolish. But then, being the kind of person that goes through the trouble of cherry-picking that quote, Mr. Nimble most likely knows this. I realize this is probably not news to most of you.

            Referring to Peterson as a “predator”, that’s dramatic. Describing all his audience as “incapable of separating simple thought from critics analysis”, it feels like projection as there was literally no analysis of the presented evidence in Mr. Nimble’s post. I guess if Mr. Nimble believes that Peterson’s entire audience is comprised of simpletons, then it would explain his use of the ol’ ad hominem as if it was an impressive argument.

            And Doug! Please, stop calling Mr. Nimble a liar!
            (Unless he actually is, in which case, do it more.)

          • Jack B. Quick says

            I assure you, the problem is not with Jordan Peterson’s audience, but with those who are so worried about what he’s saying that they cannot listen to it.

            The problem with taking things Peterson said out of context is that it took him over 20 years to formulate these thoughts and articulate them to people. To understand why dragons exist, why postmodernism is dangerous and why many of us suffer far more than we have to, you have to understand his entire philosophy. It is all interrelated.

            Unfortunately for many people on the left, they can’t pay attention to anything longer than a headline or a buzzfeed article.

          • ingeniero residente says

            The origin and first time of known use of terms are not really implying the invention of something if they are just to name discovered things already existing before getting that name. This is actually a clear example there of people (you) being wrong about such basic stuff and of course it could seem ridiculous to need a professor to point that out but it’s more ridiculous to get even resentful against him instead of a better simple thank you.

          • Peter Robinson says

            Peterson: clean your room, stand up straight……
            Kirk: respect tradition and convention, be prudent…..

            Are these supposed to be equivalent?

            No, please do share your thoughts on ‘lobsters and serotonin’, the world needs to hear more from you if we are to survive this madness.

          • RoseJ says

            Debate is proscribed in our universities,

      • CentristGal says

        @ Theo C

        You do get stronger. The best thing is to never sink to their level and be drawn into the game of insults and put downs that they use to bait and humiliate. Be calm and rational at all times. Sometimes I comment on the Guardian – (now there’s a cesspit of irrationality and vitriol!) – mainly because I live in hope that perhaps some of their younger readers (the more intelligent ones) might discover that there are alternative views to the ones they are being indoctrinated with at university and being force fed by the G.. They really are mindless drones; yet they believe they are critical thinkers, and accuse ‘right wingers’ of being unable to think rationally! Their argument is undermined by the fundamental difference between themselves and classical liberals/centrists – we acknowledge cognitive biases, but believe in free speech and open dialogue to overcome them,. We WANT to have the discussion to work through the problems. Instead, the Guardian exhibits the bigger and more disturbing habit of shutting down all dissent. This in itself speaks to their totalitarian tendencies and zealousness. Any view that seriously undermines the orthodoxy by virtue of unassailable logic or scientific data/statistics, is moderated out. They silence you, and not for any troll-like behaviour. Yet it is not uncommon for them to leave in comments (enthusiastically up voted by their comrades of course) calling for the murder, guillotining, and extermination of their ‘enemies’, whether that be Christians, conservatives or climate change deniers. I really am looking forward to the day it goes bust.

      • Michael says

        Good point and wise warning. I “came from the Left” myself, where I was when I was in university over 40 years ago. Your recognition of what the Left truly represents became quite clear to me then and I left the Left and have never looked back except to wonder why it took me that long to see it for what it was then and remains. At its core, there is no “good” in the “good intentions” their public relations’ expertise convinces so many to blindly believe, and the author here seems to hope exists.

    • Romain Dupuy says

      I really like this piece as i feel 100% in your situation. Born and raised in France, in a socialist family, and having spend years as an active communist, i can talk hours on how the “left” society works, and especially don’t work. Some ideas and elements like free education, healthcare, and minimum wage are amazing on the paper, but when an entire society is pulling the ropes toward their profit, leaving the middle class to pay for the bills ( richer classes escape tax, and lower class are just not asked to contribute )… it just cannot work. And if you add to that that most socialist countries in the world has the tendency to tax the entrepreneurs higher than the salary men…there is here a clear dysfunctional system.
      What we need is not a stronger left, the left had its chances through socialism, communism, social democratic states…there is so many proof of the left not being viable, it is almost impossible for me to even think i used to believe in it.

      We need a strong center, a vocal one. A true social-liberalism. One that fight for free healthcare and education, but also protect entrepreneurship. A center that embrace innovation, but support tradition. A center that would not allow “exceptions niches” that profit to the Rich and the poor, and kill the middle class, but reform the tax system to be EQUAL, JUST, and REWARDING.

      The good on the Right and the left need to join forces as they both agree on the basic socio-economics needs of the society, they just feel they belong to an opposite end of the center.

      There is no left or right leaning center….there is ONE center. A socially just and fair center, that also support the people that create, make and grow.

      I hope i am making any sense… i get carried on a bit, and my English might not be as clear as i hope for ( not my mother tongue )

      • Jérémy Dallard says

        Excellent commentaire, meme situation pour moi, et content de voir que je ne suis pas le seul en France 😉

        • Romain Dupuy says

          Merci, ca fait plaisir de ne pas se sentir seul. Le centre est la seule solution 😉

          • Alex says

            @Romain Dupuy

            >Merci, ca fait plaisir de ne pas se sentir seul. Le centre est la seule solution.

            In France, ‘center’ means ‘not in my backyard’ or ‘I can eat my cake and have it’.

            Good luck with that.

      • You just defined pretty much the idea of e.g. Finnish Center party and Moderates and Swedish Moderates “We need a strong center, a vocal one. A true social-liberalism. One that fight for free healthcare and education, but also protect entrepreneurship. A center that embrace innovation, but support tradition.”. Unfortunately they do not always follow their ideology, but they are perfect examples of how the Nordic countries have “tackled” socialism.

      • kris says

        Well said, it was perfect English compared to many National speakers who contribute on the internet

      • John davies says

        Thank you for articulating so clearly the issues the left has abandoned and the centre should support: protecting entrepreneurship, addressing the class issues, and respecting tradition while supporting innovation.

        • ccscientist says

          Across my extended family we have a dozen entrepreneurs. Consultants, small business owners. The best thing that could possibly happen to minorities would be to embrace opportunity–as the hispanics have in my area. They don’t just cut grass, they are taking over all the trades, own their own trucks and equipment. Painters, roofers, tree services, concrete. Get out of the way, they are in business.

      • Vic says

        Great thinking! Couldn’t agree more with your sensible view on the way we should be going in order to achieve a prosperous and just society. We have tried the Left way (the very hard way – I was born and lived my young life in a socialist country) and we have been experiencing the predatory unforgiving capitalist free market as of now and what we need is to look for the centre from where the enterprising, creative and risk taking as well as those in need of welfare and assistance can grow and enjoy life…

    • Skip says

      Hmm. My post was in response to Jack B. Nimble. I still haven’t mastered Quillette’s rather awkward comment application.

    • Frederick L. says

      What a wonderful refreshing article Carol! All of the best and God’s Speed!

    • Micha Elyi says

      “That was excellent.”–Jacek

      I disagree. Ms. Hortons cracks such as “the sort of uncritical championing of corporate capitalism favored by conservatives today” revealed her to be a shallow thinker and quite unobservant. Sure, she used big words in her essay and seems to know at least a little about Carl Jung. But big words and learned-sounding phrases aren’t Big Thoughts.

    • “This is particularly true if left-of-center forces continue to let the populist, authoritarian Right and its fellow travellers take the loudest, strongest, and most politically visible stance on issues of socio-economic inequality.”

      And yet all through your article you ascribe ‘authoritarianism’ to the left. You are afraid they will attack you. You are afraid of being vilified. You are afraid the leftist people you call friends will disown you… or worse.

      You project the very thing the left does: shut down debate, ‘my way or the highway’ thought police, and the lack of civil discourse to the people who are more likely to not do that at all.

      I have never seen people on the right do to leftists what they do to people they simply do not like. When the ‘hive mind’ strikes, they go to take out their opponent, destroying them forever.

      But that is not authoritarian to you?


    • Cynthia says

      I don’t know why it is “excellent” as you say, simply because she writes “The hyperbolic uniformity of the leftist attack on Peterson is emblematic of the growing tendency to reduce left-of-center thought to the status of a rigidly simplistic ideology. Increasingly, what passes for progressive political thought today offers little more than a scripted set of weaponized hashtags (you must be pro- #metoo and anti-patriarchy, no further thought required). This narrowing of our public discourse is disturbing, and worrisome on multiple, mutually reinforcing levels” but does not give substance as to what exactly that discourse would be – thereby not answering in this article the substance necessary to start the dialogue. Back to square one. [Just want to add that her statement too “Consequently, such conservatives have no faith in leftist visions of a transformational ‘revolution’ that will definitively destroy oppression and establish a truly just society. Instead, they see them as dangerously naïve, and likely to produce violent anarchy and/or repressive authoritarianism. While acknowledging the realities of social injustice, they believe that political reforms need to be cautiously incremental—in a word, conservative” is backed by historical accounts and history itself.

      I agree with her at the end of this article where she invites the discussion. Let’s go there!!

    • Isaiah Abrams says

      I’m a person of the right, and I appreciate this piece. I cannot fathom, though, the conformist social pressure that the author describes as existing on her side of the fence. It doesn’t exist over here. When you set the individual as primary, you expect and tolerate individual differences, but in appearance (what y’all call race) and in ideas.

  1. Would love to see Peterson debate thoughtful Marxists on, say, the Zero Books YouTube channel. The reason why the backlash against Peterson has seemed so uniform is because his ideas unite the far left and the neoliberal diversity left in opposition to anything which smacks of tradition, the past, and religion. So both technocratic Vox wonks and hammer-and-sickle Twitter come to despise him – that’s a lot of people. And his only defenses in legacy outlets come via National Review and Fox News, making it harder and harder to overlook the polarization. Much of the backlash against him is also a zero-sum culture war over the very idea of a biological human nature, and growing anxiety over evolutionary psychology and the sneaking terror that human beings can be reduced to number, labor and machine. The notion that a wide array of mental faculties can be represented by IQ inspires the desire to smack the messenger hard. It’s distasteful stuff. But is it true? One can only hope that someday intellectuals will be brave enough to accept that some distasteful things are true, and that we can rise above them without denying the ground beneath our feet, or rather, the primitive anxious-status-driven human brain, which obviously rules our politics and culture at the moment, almost as if the much-maligned “lobster man” metaphor was trying to tell us something about the serpentine, material, violent foundation of the mammalian brain, sitting atop a more ancient “reptilian” brain, as any serious analyst of the world might tell you…those incredulously telling us that the lobster metaphor is bunk also unironically find themselves flummoxed that a man like Trump is President…maybe human beings aren’t angels at all, and have deep evolutionary roots into the very shadowy hells that Carl Jung wrote his corpus in analysis of? Maybe understanding that hell and that hierarchy is key to eventually surpassing it? Maybe you have to go through darkness to achieve a true answer? No, just lie to yourself and stay pure as a lamb forever, at the cost of ever finding an answer…

    • We need to make it happen. Doug Lain has actually sent emails to Peterson for a debate but he hasn’t got an answer.

      I really wanna see him debate Lain and even John David Ebert. It would be absolutely amazing.

      • chava says

        Or Slavoj Zizek, maybe it will turn out fruitful. They are even on the same page regarding some issues. There are still sensible leftists outthere, although campus academia leftists in the US seem somewhat out of touch with real world.

        Also the whole PC thing is very much an Anglo-American thing not traditional associated with the left and increasingly compatible with the corporate world as well.

        • transilvana says

          I’m going to disagree with this – summoning institutions to design what people are allowed to think, feel and most importantly say, even against contradictory evidence, is a staple of all marxist-leninist inflected regimes from China to Cuba to USSR and Eastern Europe.

    • From what I have been able to glean, Peterson was approached by Zero Books to do an interview/debate. Peterson initially agreed, then his handlers cancelled, apparently due to scheduling. It seems that the position from the Peterson camp is that the date will be reset.

      Personally I think the Munk debate, where the Yes side embarrassed itself and Dyson played a pitch -perfect race-baiting halfwit, showed a weakness in Peterson. He is far stronger in interviews and long-form lectures than in the time-limited cut and thrust of the debate style.

      • Pirkka Jokela says

        These debates might be interesting, but in my opinion the biggest problem with all current political dialogue is people talking past each other and the debate format exacerbates this problem.

        I am hoping Peterson and Harris will spend enough time together to get past this problem, but it takes a lot of time and has to be done on a person to person basis.

        • dirk says

          I agree Pirkka, debates are nice where the speakers differ, say 10 , 20 or 30 degrees, not where it is 180 o, then it becomes purely a mudfight (slippery, no grips, funny only) like the one of Peterson-Newman.

        • I am hoping Peterson and Harris will spend enough time together to get past this problem, but it takes a lot of time and has to be done on a person to person basis.

          Harris and Peterson still talk past each other in interviews. They really need to engage with each other outside of a public discussion just to get to know each other. That seems to have worked wonders with Harris and Maajid Nawaz.

          • dirk says

            I would love to have Peterson and Harris debate on the merits and the truth of the Gilgamesh epos.
            May one expect any useful or new outcome of it?

        • eric winters says

          I’m not a big fan of debates where there must be a “winner” and “loser.” A discussion is more interesting and valuable.

          • Keithindy says

            Just what I was thinking, we need discussion to bridge the divide and engage the audience in thought.

      • doug deeper says

        So you just want to see if some Marxists could take advantage of Peterson’s perceived “weakness” as brought out by Dyson, and “defeat” him. Frankly I think Peterson takes on way too may debates and forums. Sometimes it is unwise to walk into a lion’s den where there is not a way of winning with reason. If you think Dyson exposed a Peterson weakness, and you want to see him shed more blood, I think this is why he should avoid Zero Books and debates with Marxists. When really trying to maintain personal integrity it is a genuine waste of one’s precious time and energy to go into a house of hate. Marxists are not open to learn. Peterson is constantly trying to learn as a genuine classical liberal does. This leaves one vulnerable when debating unscrupulous leftists who revel in ad hominem attacks and hucksterism BS. And if in a room with them they will disrupt to the point of de-platforming. Marxists believe in “whatever means necessary” to win. This is why debating them is wasteful as we saw with Dyson’s antics.
        The author sounds like a very polite woman who likely does not realize what she will have to endure if she actually starts to speak her mind. Standing up for Peterson if you are on the left takes enormous personal strength. At best you will be expelled from all the nice leftist parties just as has seemed to have happened to leftists Sam Harris, Eric & Brent Weinstein, and is now happening to Steven Pinker. But they are strong, most open minded leftists do not strike me as having that kind of strength. To have the strength to be open and vulnerable, yet stand strong for enlightenment values takes a special kind of person in the best of environments. The left today has created an environment that will eat up their infidels.

        • To repeat what I said rather than what your Cathy Newman imitation wants to pretend I said, I don’t think Peterson’s strengths are evident in debate format.

          All the Dark Webbers claim that leftists won’t engage them, implying a fear or unwillingness on the part of the left. Zero Books is reaching out to help dispel this false suggestion.

          • doug deeper says

            My “Cathy Newman imitation?” Why are you so rude? … oh yeah you are a Marxist I take it. Marxism threw out personal integrity, intellectual integrity and bourgeois manners in favor of “by whatever means necessary” along time ago.

            If the rules are respected, as opposed to letting a cheat run rampant as Dyson was allowed to do at the Monk Debate, then a debate is fine. The best boxer in the world will be defeated by an inferior cheat who head butts, holds and rabbit punches. Same reason a great businessperson never does business with the mafia. A fair debate is fine and I believe Peterson will be brilliant. But Marxists are not known for abiding by rules of fairness.

            I thought an extraordinary debate on “truth” was the one between the two classical liberals, Peterson and Sam Harris. It was a very rigorous and difficult debate I believe for both, but it was fair. I think a lot of people learned a great deal from that.

            If you know of Marxists who would respect the rules of fair debate, no demagoguery, ad hominem attacks, etc.; and the debate would not be with an audience with enough Marxists to shout Peterson down, or better yet no audience to interfere at all, then yes a debate between Peterson and a Marxist would be illuminating.

          • The rudeness was all yours in taking what I said and twisting in Newmanesquely.

            Nice argument by the way. It seems to be a staple among folks with a commitment to “reason and empiricism:. Let’s call it argumentum ad Marximum shall we?

            Classical liberal: “Disagree with me? Or say something offensive to my delicate sensibilities? YOU KILLED ONE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE YOU MARXIST YOU!!!”

            Me: “Um. OK.”

        • Marxism is a cult. I don’t think it’s worth engaging them in debate any more than an evolutionist debating creationists.

          Marxism is distinct from socialism. In many ways socialism was the first victim of Marxism and most people seem to think they are one and the same.

        • MarkM says

          The ultimate irony in this article is its’ characterization of Peterson as a classical conservative. Maybe he is when you speak in terms of Chesterton’s fence, but I think you actually identified him better. Peterson is far more a classic liberal than he is a classic conservative. Now, the progressive movement has strayed far from its’ classic liberal past – which may actually explain the sound and fury which has accompanied Peterson’s moment of fame.

      • Deafening Tone says

        @mjw51: you shouldn’t underestimate Peterson’s capacity to get better in debates. He hasn’t done many. In fact, when he began his foray into the public sphere, he wasn’t that good at interviews either. He got MUCH better, very quickly–if only because he had to.

    • This is the best reply by far. As a traditional Marxian leftist who has plenty of contempt for the bourgeois PC left as well as the right, the very polarising nature of the debate means that both the PC left and the Right are very eager to pigeonhole anyone who disagrees with them as being in the opposing camp. Peterson has a very pat and simple caricature of the Left, and he isn’t keen on debating anyone who deviates from this.

      Zero books, Jacobin, the Baffler and Current Affairs are the only publications who critique the alt-light/alt-right in a way that has the potential to appeal to working class people. And barely anyone has heard of them.

      I suspect this all has to do with our monkey brains. As slightly modified chimps, we are hardwired to be tribal in our outlook by default. A tribe of chimps will fight and kill for no better reason than the opponents hail from another tribe. There are differences in class and status within chimp tribes, but these are set aside whenever there is a war with an outside group. Class is infinitely scaleable and variable, most people self-identify as “middle class” rather than as part of a have/have-not dichotomy, so the “us and them” sense of urgency is not as apparent as in the case of race where people identify as “white” or “of colour” (or cis or trans, etc). The PC left and the alt-right reinforce each other’s tribal identity. To subvert both at the same time is an extreme challenge.

    • Robert Paulson says

      I usually skip the hit-piece and go straight to what people are saying on the comments. I find it even more disturbing just how credulous many readers of leftist and liberal outlets are (not that readers conservative/right-wing outlets aren’t either), but I find it more disturbing since NYT and East Coast legacy media and the like are supposedly mainstream and whose readers are presumably educated and intelligent.

      The comments section of the recent NYT hit-piece on him were so full of bile and hate it felt like I was reading Breitbart. It was clear that the people doing the spewing had only read about him from the article or in other outlets that confirm their biases and not actually read anything the man has said.

      • jan jansen says

        Same here. I was surprised by the NYT comments as well. Usually it is a bit better. Even when Geert Wilders wrote about an NYT opinion piece immigration there were positive comments. I wonder what causes these dynamics.

      • John Winward says

        A recent Guardian article on Peterson is headed “the rightwing professor whose arguments are riddled with ‘pseudo-facts’ and conspiracy theories”. The actual article, of course, doesn’t attempt to even present, let alone refute, any of his facts or conspiracy theories.

        • These kinds of articles signal that Peterson is off-limits for talking about in polite society. Anyone who does will be labeled and ostracized. That’s why they don’t engage his arguments – they don’t need to. All they need to do is communicate that he’s Anathema to their audience.

          • Robert Paulson says


            Exactly. The function of this kind of rhetoric is to signal to the masses that this subject or person is now off-limits and that those to transgress risk being non-personed.

      • @shedeition_com says

        It’s knee jerk. They take their opinion from other progressives who tell them what to think. I doubt 95% of them have ever actually heard Peterson speak or read anything of his – or even read the hit pieces. It’s just straight to the comments to virtue signal with the comrades. Instead they take their opinions of what Peterson is saying from bad take hit pieces and their fellow cult members, without ever actually looking at what he did actually say and mean,.

        The reason Peterson is so popular is that he is the Arthur Miller of our time. Even if we don’t understand what he’s talking about half the time or agree with all he says, we resonate with him standing up to the modern witchhunt, (our modern day House Comittee of unAmerican activities ) and telling the zealots to take a hike. It takes guts to do the right thing at the risk of being destroyed and we secretly thank Peterson for doing it for us.

  2. SkyPanther says

    A good read, though Dr.Peterson is a classical liberal. (He has stated it a few times) It is interesting that classical liberals are now regarded as “conservative”; not that there is anything wrong with conservatism.

    • jan jansen says

      I would also call him a liberal (but I went through the process of understanding the conservative moral world view, which few liberals even seem to make an effort to do). In any case, by his stated political preferences he is no more to the right than say Obama. Some say that he is rightwing compared to European standards, but we never call Obama “right-wing” over here.

    • MarkM says

      As a someone who regards himself as fairly conservative, I could not agree with you more. From my perspective, Peterson takes the very tools that the Left has historically used to drag down the culture and establish their narrative and uses them against where he thinks they have fallen into fascism. It is actually a fascinating dynamic from my side of the aisle.

  3. Rich Giordano says

    Nodding all through your piece. Today I read the Times piece by Nellie Bowles and various echoes of that incredibly awful piece. It reinforced a line from the Cream song Politician that has been sticking in my head for some time “ I support the left but I’m leaning to the right” More leaning away from your description.

    • mcasey6 says

      I agree. The Bowles piece was a pure, sleazy hatchet job. I could not believe the Times published it. Not a whisper of objectivity or fair research in the piece. Like a Trump 3 am tweet extended into a long form Times article.

  4. Pingback: Jordan Peterson and the Failure of the Left – Foggytown's Micro Blog

  5. Couldn’t agree more. I remember how Occupy Wall Street got derailed and neutered by SJW’s. The **vast** majority of privilege in western society is wealth privilege, but SJW’s completely leave it out of the equation and focus on fracturing the left with witch-hunts and demands for ideological purity. This leaves the left splintered and ineffective at a time when we most desperately need to unite against resurgent fascism and unfettered corporate greed. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but if the 1% set out to invent a plutocrat-friendly version of left-wing activism that would pose no threat to them, they couldn’t do better than SJWism!

    • Conspiracy theorist, eh? You’re going to totally ignore the decades-long trend in Leftist thought leading up to the natural conclusion that is identity politics?

  6. Karen O. says

    Excellent article – you are definitely not alone. As a left-leaning feminist woman, I’ve had to hide my fascination with JBP and continue to explore with much interest his many thought-provoking lectures on Youtube. One doesn’t have to agree with everything he says in order to explore his ideas and learn to see things from his perspective, many of which are refreshing in these times. The “left” has , in many respects, lost its way, and JBP is capable of illuminating our way to find some answers.

  7. LAW says

    This is almost my exact experience with Peterson. I consider myself liberal, but find myself increasingly concerned with the fact that you’re not even allowed to have a conversation on a large number of social topics. It’s nice to see someone intelligent who is willing to make certain arguments that deserve to be made, even if they’re “wrong”.

    Furthermore, I find myself disgusted with the way he gets treated by most media. The Cathy Newman interview was ridiculously unprofessional, to the point where she lets Peterson completely embarrass her. The NYT profile of Peterson from this weekend is the same, sprinkled with completely unnecessary personal insults towards the professor.

    The thing these outlets don’t realize is they are drumming up enthusiasm for Peterson by being so cartoonishly over the top in their denouncements of him. It’s why I originally looked him up, it’s why the author looked him up, and I can imagine it’s why millions of others did the same. He said he has found a way to “monetize social justice warriors”, and they continue to play right into that by acting completely irrational.

  8. Alex Ribe says

    Thank you so much for this piece. Seriously, I have chills. I recently posted on an Female Lawyer FB page about how I find him interesting and some of what he says resonates with me and was seriously bullied by dozens of commenters – people said they feel sorry for me, questioned my legal skills, told them they were tired of telling me how offensive I was. I felt completely alone and nobody would even try to understand my thoughts. I am incredibly grateful for this article.

    • jan jansen says

      I hope you have the courage to stand your ground and the wisdom to see when it is no longer worth it. As Peterson often discusses, disagreeable people provably make better managers etc. It is a good sign that you experience this.

      • jan jansen says

        it also sounds like your opponents don’t even bother to come up with an argument by the way.

    • Craig Colgan says

      This is an important take. This is how bullying works. It isolates. It’s abusive and humiliating. What’s happening in America and Canada is just very sad.

    • Jeremy Smith says

      Liberal women are vicious. Think about it. During the presidential election and after, who had the most vile, intolerant voices? Liberal women. Proven by at least one survey by Pew Research. Has anyone ever witnessed a male version of that Cathy Newman interview? If this is equality to the Left then it needs to die.

      • JJ Keller says

        Donald Trump had the most vile, intolerant voice, and still does.

        • Baron Von Plow says

          Trump is far more reasonable and tolerant than progressives. His worst crime is that he sometimes notices differences between groups. To leftists this is “hateful,” but progs will actively try to ruin the lives of everyone who notices such things, and advocate violence against them, and would happily kill them if they could get away with it.

  9. dirk says

    What strikes me more than anything, is Peterson’s fascination for Carl Jung. Was Jung a scientist, basing his theory on observations , facts and statistics? Or a prophet and philosopher, expressing speculative, deepdown essentials? Nonetheless, I came to know him (only 6 weeks ago) through the column in a Dutch rightwing newspaper, dealing on that famous interview with Cathy Newman, and by the same token, came to know Quillette.

    • hamr says

      I have been following JBP for years, and I understand what you are saying about Jung, but his refences to Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn’s writing, also seem to explain quite a bit of his points.

      • And Buddhism 101 4 Noble truths of suffering and 8 fold path of cessation of such are easily indistinguishable from what JP teaches.

  10. Szczepan says

    “Conservatism is the struggle against obscurantism and progress” – me.

  11. WG says

    Great article Carol. Interesting times indeed. The avalanche of poisoned prose aimed at Dr. Peterson over the past few weeks has been startling, although not completely unexpected. Since discovering Peterson’s thoughtful work I’ve begun to question my identity as a conservative, which was handed down through my family. I still hold to certain traditional conservative values, like protected national borders, but some of the centre-left ideas offered by folks like Peterson and Dave Rubin are compelling. I think Rubin’s onto something when he talks about the importance of people from both sides of the political spectrum meeting in places like this forum, to engage in stimulating open discussions with a friendly heterodox group.

  12. Liam says

    “It may be that I’m actually not as alone as it seems. Although I can’t prove it, I suspect that there are many others who feel as I do but are keeping quiet, as they don’t want to risk the blowback that comes with countering the often frightening force of today’s ideological tides.”

    I’m anonymously raising my hand.

  13. “What worries me is that the likely response of many—if not most—of these people will not be to fret about the need for a more deeply thoughtful Left. Instead, they’re going to jump on the anti-PC bandwagon, and either vote for right-of-center candidates or not vote at all.”

    Do not worry. Evo, Correa, Lula, Fernandez (just to mention heads of state), left-wing parties around the world, and their supporters are not going to stop being leftists just because of Peterson. Their parties will continue combating poverty, producing AIDS drugs despite what Western pharmaceuticals say, defaulting on debts, creating regional monetary funds, not trading in dollars, holding on to nuclear weapons, stonewalling the WTO, in short, opposing the imperial project of the US and its allies.

    The global left is not cowered by hashtags, alienated, afraid, or isolated. The global left is not pro-Peterson, anti-Peterson, or has even heard of Peterson. Really, Anglospheric “Leftists” have to take a look outside their bubble.

    • transilvana says


      you forgot Maduro, Corbyn, whoever is ruling Cuba nowadays and other leftist “luminaries” who are digging the left into the ground all around the world. Producing AIDS drugs? Please.

      The left is terminally compromised by its refusal to confront its own mistakes and crimes. Until it does so, the specter of the tens of millions of people it killed or otherwise destroyed will haunt it and erode its credibility. Rightfully so.

      • Constantin says

        “Capitalism is terminally compromised by its refusal to confront its own mistakes and crimes. Until it does so, the specter of the tens of millions of people it killed or otherwise destroyed will haunt it and erode its credibility. Rightfully so.”

    • Hey, frankly a lot of American conservatives support stonewalling the WTO and opposing the US imperial project too. We’d be able to solve all our problems at home if we stopped this war and world police bullshit. The globalists at the US government have spent six trillion of our dollars on wars since 9/11 and have fuck-all to show for it. Just imagine if we had invested that money in ourselves instead.

    • Jeremy Smith says

      LOL, all those leftist parties and leaders are unbelievably corrupt and fleecing the people. It’s the same old story. The leftist elites in power ransack the country and help out their friends and families while the poor fester in favelas. Even in the US we have Maxine Waters living large in a $4 million mansion while her inner city constituents are racked by crime and poverty.

  14. As many other commenters have said here, you are not alone, Carol. There maybe the odd glimmer of hope though. Dr Peterson recently gave an interview to Russell Brand – who is certainly left-of-centre, and who is genuinely appreciative of Peterson’s insights and open about the influence the Doctor has had upon him. And Brand most definitely has a large following.
    Majiid Nawaz also interviewed Peterson a few days ago for LBC Radio in London – he has a weekly slot on the radio, and it’s a popular show. Nawaz is a prominent campaigner for the reformist wing of Islam, a founder member of the Quillam Foundation and has co-wrote a book with Sam Harris. Like Brand, he is openly respectful and engaged by Peterson, and this was evidenced in the lengthy interview.
    This is not in any way to dispute your findings regarding the inability of the left to engage with Peterson in an adult way, Carol, but perhaps the worm is turning. And the increasing desperation in the articles that have surfaced in the last couple of weeks is perhaps indicative of a change. The fascist, misogynist, racist and nazi ad-hominems and slurs have been all been wantonly applied but Peterson’s book still flies out of the Amazon warehouses and the stadium tour dates continue to sell out. What mud is there left to sling?

  15. Steve says

    I began to hear of Peterson soon after the inauguration in 2017. Since the election year, I began reading more and more political writing and ranting on the extremes. I would bounce back between videos from Ben Shapiro to Blog posts on Jezebel. It was fun, kind of a hobby. Peterson emerged from all of that as a sort of explainer to all this vitriol. Carol Horton’s point about the left bombarding Peterson with blanket criticism is spot on from what I have read. The Jezebel (and other former sites from the Gawker family) comment sections are rife with the exact statements described above. It belittles us. The best point made in the above article is how people may react by disengaging or voting to the contrary just to shut-up the condescension from the Left. I am in secondary humanities education which is overwhelmingly liberal. I keep my mouth shut and my ears open. If critics would simply listen or read carefully, then I am more likely to take their criticism seriously.
    I do not agree with everything Peterson says, but I do find that he is an incredibly necessary voice that provokes political discussion, not right wing ideology.

    • jan jansen says

      Same here. I often use Google News search and then compare headlines, texts and comment sections of the different ideologically flavored outlets. Sort of a hobby 🙂

    • dirk says

      Fully agree with that last sentence, Steve.

    • @shedition_com says

      “The best point made in the above article is how people may react by disengaging or voting to the contrary just to shut-up the condescension from the Left.”

      And this is why we have Trump and Brexit. It’s as much the fault of the left as the alt-right. If the left continue to point fingers at everyone but themselves they will continue to get more hysterical and continue to be denied power.

  16. Jefferson says

    Good on those who are doing the noble work of building bridges and attempting to cross the divide with honest discourse.

    But have a backup plan, because this might not end well.

  17. Peter says

    To those of you on the left who wrote above saying you think there should be more discourse between left-leaning liberalism and conservatives, I totally agree. But as a conservative it is difficult to come across such opportunities. Firstly, thank God for Quillette and secondly, I sincerely hope that you guys represent a much bigger number of similar thinking people who are currently silent.

  18. This is just a difference between American and Canadian/British traditions. It makes sense when you remember that the founding documents in the US fundamentally reflect a classical liberal (Lockean) viewpoint. So that, in the US, classical liberalism is conservative in that it typically references the constitution and the founders. In Britain/Canada, the emphasis is on the broader intellectual movement usually featuring Hobbes/Locke/Mill.

    • EK says

      There is more Leveller than Locke in the founding of the US.

  19. Yohan Oresund says

    I first encountered Peterson through watching Dave Rubin or Joe Rogan. I downloaded his Biblical lecture series to my phone and spent last summer binging through them on road trips.

    As a four-horsemen style atheist, I came to appreciate his take on the psychological symbolism of the old testament stories. The guy is obviously bright, curious, and has a deep concern for ‘aiming up’ as he would put it. He’s said at least a dozen things that made me hit pause, go back 15 seconds, and re-listen.

    The vitriol coming from the left about this guy amazes me. They assume there is some kind of boogeynazi lurking underneath his public persona. Of course, not many of his critics have taken the time to absorb, process and intelligently criticize what he actually has to say.

    The most disturbing thing to me is that even though Peterson has pumped significant amounts of benevolence into the world through his private practice and his future authoring program, he is seen a red-eyed devil to be dispensed with. When did progressives start opposing benevolence?

    I feel that the Leftist blogging-industrial complex has become a star at the edge of the universe, while cosmic inflation is pushing them away from me (and planet Earth) at an accelerating rate.

    I don’t know what comes next, TBH. Where do we go from here?

    • “The most disturbing thing to me is that even though Peterson has pumped significant amounts of benevolence into the world through his private practice and his future authoring program, he is seen a red-eyed devil to be dispensed with. When did progressives start opposing benevolence?”

      Through his lectures, his clinical practice, book, self-authoring, future-authoring etc… and now his YouTube exposure, it is a safe bet to assert that Jordan Peterson has helped more individuals overcome hardship and personal troubles than all the smearing SJW authors combined. Seriously. Many of them have never done a single thing to help an actual stranger in need. JP should be a shining beacon of light to SJW’s everywhere on how to actually pull real people out of the abyss in the real world. No virtue signaling required.

      • Laura Menard says

        Brilliant observation. thank you.

      • Daniel says

        Not sure when progressives began opposing benevolence, but Bernie Sanders (who, according to his 2013 tax returns, is in the top 2% of income earners in the US) only donated 4% to charity. Apparently the actual practice of benevolence is strictly a matter of spittle-projecting, inflammatory rhetoric among some progressives.

        • Leftism is about donating *other people’s* money. Charity is wrong because all benevolence should come from the government.

    • Johan says

      From Johan to Yohan…The left is eating itself. No more arguments. In Europe the social democratic parties are imploding all over the place. When they stopped caring about the working men and women, the salt of the earth tax paying kind of people, they started walking downstairs. Now they are in the basement and the lights are out.

    • Earl Kralik says

      Yohan, what you wrote about appreciating Peterson’s take on the symbolism in the old testament resonated with me for the same reasons.

      I’m atheist, but was raised Catholic, and I’ve always dismissed the old testament as completely worthless. Peterson made me stop and reconsider it in terms of archetypes that have echoed from our distant ancient origins through a filter of natural selection.

      Is his analysis correct? I don’t know, but it’s fascinating to consider. I still think that most of the Bible is just noise, but thanks to Peterson I’m beginning to understand why it has propagated through the centuries. No priest or teacher could ever convince me to appreciate it in that way.

    • Most of the articles produced by the “Leftist blogging-industrial complex” aren’t this well-written. You have some great turns of phrase in here, Yohan.

    • augustine says

      “I feel that the Leftist blogging-industrial complex has become a star at the edge of the universe, while cosmic inflation is pushing them away from me (and planet Earth) at an accelerating rate.”

      That’s just beautiful

  20. Mark says

    Interesting article.

    I’m one of those who has left the Left. I’ve been moving away from the Left for years, but the treatment of Peterson opened my eyes to the pathology of the Left. One need look no further than the recent Munk Debate in which Peterson participated. He was personally attacked, and the opposing debaters had little interest in actual debate, preferring the Left stance of personal attacks and screeches of “white male privilege”.

    I’ve watched a lot of his videos. The number of hit pieces that blatantly lie about him, maliciously misquote him, and attack him in general is concerning, and it only solidified my own concerns with the Left. Since I’ve listened to so many of his videos, I can easily pick apart the hit pieces. However, some of my friends have been sucked in, telling me Peterson is a “misogynist, racist, etc.”. I’ve defended him to my friends, and suddenly I realised I sound like the very Right I used to laugh at about the “liberal media”. How misguided I was. This pathology by the Left will continue to drive people away, as it did with me.

    If the author follows Peterson, then she’ll know she needs to speak the truth. I’d suggest to many of the commenters here that they, too, have a moral obligation to call out their friends, colleagues, and enemies when it comes to the lies told about Peterson.

    • Johan says

      Mark, you’re a good good example of…”the left it eating itself”. Today’s crazy people propose even crazier ideas that the crazy people of yesterday proposed. Never ending story…
      Crazy…is built into the today’s left. More new of this. More new of that. Day in. Day out.
      A Mecca for crazy…Honey for narcissists…

    • Mark Schirmer says

      We might disagree on politics, for I have not left the left. But many leftists’ tendency to debate by naming rather than engaging shows their shallowness and bigotry, not his. We should expect more from the left, because they claim moral superiority. So we should expect that they will logically and substantively engage. They largely do not. Many, not all, but many have decided that no reasonable arguments exist that might impinge on their worldview. Any argument that undermines their slogans must be wrong and evil, because they are so correct. This article represents what the thoughtful left should say about Peterson – often wrong, but attempting to engage honestly. If we believe in compassion, then we on the left must give opponents the benefit of the doubt rather than assuming an underlying evil.

    • AC Harper says

      I’d argue that there’s a number of social attitudes ‘driving’ the Left. Children and young adults encounter ‘Leftism for Idiots’ in schools and higher universities, largely as a given set of ‘obvious’ opinions that are not debated. The promotion of self-esteem (all shall win prizes) divorced from any striving has resulted in a generation of young shallowly informed people who fear criticism. The worst ‘media celebrities’ are perhaps narcissists who are hyper-aware of dissenting opinion. They feel they have no option but to arrack dissenters to defend their own self-image.

      Yet if you take Jordan Peterson’s views as essentially ‘Save yourself first, then save the world’ that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn what ‘equality’ (or some other left leaning concept) means to you. It just means you do the thinking first before you engage with others.

    • Fen says

      It’s not simply driving people away, it’s radicalizing them. I’m pleased you recognize what the Left is doing to Peterson, but this has been the experience of most conservatives in Leftist territory for at least a decade. The author is frightened she will be disinvited from society, list dear friends and be denied opportunity for her thought crimes? Welcome to our world.

      You cannot imagine the degree of hatred I have for the Left, from what they have done to me simply for disagreeing with their narratives. I will never trust them and never reconcile with them. I look to this cultural cold war turning hot. I want them destroyed as much as they want abominations like the Nazi destroyed.

      I was not always this way. The Left radicalized me. And now that they are losing ground and are on their heels, they want everyone to abide by the Law of War? After cheating for over a decade? Heh.

      The Left has given momentum to a pendelum that will destroy both sides.

      • Aaron says

        “The Left radicalized me.”

        “The Left has given momentum to a pendelum that will destroy both sides.”

        Self-fulfilling prophecies are self-fulfilling. “Tidy your bedroom” is essentially “take responsibility for your own space” and would include, imo, your mind.

        Your radicalisation is your responsibility and noone elses.

        IMO, society needs much more forgiveness and gratitude.

  21. Pingback: 23 May: Carol Horton: EoP Re: Quilette: Jordan Peterson and the Failure of the Left – EoP Legal Submissions

  22. Lawrence S. says

    This is the only #metoo movement that’s got legs.

  23. KD says

    But the Left doesn’t believe in “equality”–it believes in “diversity”, e.g. ethnic nepotism. It wants more bureaucracy, and more racial/sexual/ethnic/LBTPDQ set asides for identity groups that vote liberal. That’s about it–“so radical”–which is why every Fortune 500 company is supportive of their agenda.

    How can you support open borders immigration, and the current corrupt H1-B visa system, et. al., which is flooding the labor markets to drive down wages, and pretend you support “equality”? You support Capital shafting workers and unions.

    The American Left all just narcissism and virtue signalling, people who want to feel good about themselves because they are “good people” and not the “bad people”, and backed by corporate money and power.

    It you want a political party that is actually helping average people and average workers, they have names like “Law and Justice”. That is why the populists are demolishing the social democrats in Europe, and why the populists are just beginning to win in America.

    • Johan says

      KD. I just wrote a similar peice. Strange…

  24. Peter B. Murphy says

    Holy smoke! An intelligent piece of writing followed by intelligent comments. I am in shock, not used to such sensibility.
    Peterson is a wonderfully provocative figure,
    and deserves praise, as wellc critical examination.
    His criticism of the unself-critical left is long overdue.

    • derek says

      Yes. I want to read or reread many of the books he refers to. There are many available discussions where he disagrees and visa versa, and they are very interesting. I have been forced to rethink many things, and has sharpened up my understanding of the issues.

      But vigorous and arrogant ignorance seems to be what people want.

  25. Jom says

    Seems like the author and some of the commentors need to man up and admit they got red pilled.

    • kris says

      The exact same response people are complaining about vociferously “They got red pilled” which means precisely nothing. If youve got something to contribute lets hear it otherwise you dont belong on this site.

  26. Todd says

    I just love how you people manage to utterly ignore the volcanic evil manifest in today’s NRA/GOP/fundamentalist anti-Humanist, anti-science cult politics.

    The Trump – GOP mob is nothing less than massive moral and political perversion cum mainstreaming of corporate criminality of the highest order.

    “Marxism is a murderous ideology”?

    How fucking absurd.

    Your denial of the current horror is preposterous.

    • WG says

      “today’s NRA/GOP/fundamentalist anti-Humanist, anti-science cult politics”

      You’re madly off in all directions Todd. Can you please explain why you think Marxism isn’t a murderous ideology?

    • hamr says

      Ok, Todd… where between 100 & 200 million do you set the murder count, for marxist ideologies?
      Go troll somewhere else.
      Rational conversation/discourse, is this site.

      • Constantin says

        Are you just making up numbers now?

        Even the “Black Book of Communism” or whatever that entirely fabricated piece of transparent propaganda is called only got to 100 million.

        How about the 20 million a year that capitalist ideologies kill? How about that murderous ideology?

        • Johan says

          Constantin…I am not talking dead people here. Living people, Constantin, where do they want to go…emigrate to. Think…Constantin. Where do living people want to move to get a better life?
          …Exclusively to well functioning capitalist countries. Sweden, Germany, US, Canada…..Venezuela? Constantin…Venezuela…give me an honest answer.

    • Exercise for you Todd. Try and understand how it is possible to hold the following 3 beliefs in your head without conflict:

      1. Ending TPS for people from Honduras and El Salavador (failed states with very high levels of violence) … people that have live din the US for many years and have built stable families and lives … is pure evil. Straight to hell (if you believe in such things), pure unabashed evil. There is not a single argument one can make in favor of such a policy.

      2. Anti-physics, anti-chemistry based environmental pollution policies (based on the deep belief that the Earth is ours to poison as we see fit … and it doesn’t matter if we poison it anyways) are insane. Madness.

      3. Jordan Peterson is absolutely correct about the threat of cultural Marxism and reliving the great evils of the 20th century. His prescriptions for individuals with underprivileged lives is really, really good and offers a much better path out of nihilism than anything the left currently offers.

    • transilvana says

      yes, marxism-leninism is a murderous ideology. I’m a survivor, wanna tell it to my face that the murderous left doesn’t exist? And the left is extraordinarily anti-science these days. As for anti-humanist, duh, marxism is the most anti-humanist ideology in disguise.

    • Can’t engage with Peterson’s arguments, so engage in whataboutism and change the topic to one you know you can win: ZOMG TEH FUNDAMENTALISTS ARE COMING TO CLOSE DOWN ALL THE ABORTION CLINICS WE PUT IN BLACK NEIGHBORHOODZ! WHARRRRRGARBL”

      “Volcanic evil”? I thought only morons dealt with black and white moral stands.

  27. I have had a similar experience. I’ve always seen myself as a liberal/left of center since I became aware of the political spectrum. I’d listened to many hours of his YouTube lectures before I saw the various misrepresentation of his ideas and labels the extreme left has been giving him. It reminds me of when I briefly joined a born-again Christian group in my youth where stock, illogical answers were given to questions of science vs fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible (e.g. “you’re majoring in the minor”, “evolution says if I shake a bag of rabbit bones a million years a rabbit will emerge”). Today it’s just a pattern of blatant misrepresentation of his ideas, name calling, inability to distinguish between description and proscription, and the numbing repetition of the words “patriarchy”, “white male privilege” to explain everything that’s wrong with society.

    And don’t get me started on “cultural appropriation”.

  28. roylofquist says

    Boilerplate. You can substitute any number of names for “Jordan Peterson”, try McCarthy or Goldwater or Nixon or Reagan or Bush or Palin or Trump or…, and get the same politics of personal destruction that the left has been engaged in since 1917.

  29. Yohan Oresund says

    Hi Todd,
    The piece was about Jordan Peterson, and the comments so far seem germane to that subject. I wasn’t aware we were supposed to be talking about the “NRA” or the “GOP”, and that not doing so comprised some kind of heretical misstep.

    When I hit , the first match on “Marxism” is your comment. That means no one here said that.

    I’m wiling to engage you on that point, however. If you say Marxism isn’t murderous, what are your thoughts on the ~100 million people that were chewed up and destroyed by the machinations of Marxist regimes in the 20th century?

    I’m trying (and failing) to understand why you put so much virulence into your statements.

  30. hamr says

    I very much enjoyed this essay.
    But… as I was reading it, I presumed that this content was from a man.
    As a..man.. that has followed JBP for years… I was forced ( by my presumption) to look at myself.
    I was caught, in my own cognitive dissonance.
    And then I thought more about the essay topic.
    I feel shame and remourse, even though I try to be open.

  31. hamr says

    roylofquist…does your lack of self awareness, negate your understanding that you provided the point of the essay?
    Go troll somewhere else…

  32. Susan says

    Reagan said “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.” I am old enough to remember when one of the constituencies of the left was the “working man”. Now the constituencies all seem to be upper class, the “non-deplorables” I guess.

  33. S. Munn says

    Grateful to read so many likeminded folks express their agreement with Horton. Lots of dittos…

    And I must say, kudos to Claire Lehman and her team for continually sharing interesting, thought provoking, quality content. Quillette is setting the standard for intelligent discourse and the sharing of important ideas, in my humble opinion. As a patron, I feel like this is the best investment I’ve made to date…

  34. R O says

    Looks like a lot of folks on the Left here are joining the IDW (Intellectual Dark Web) by speaking up here. Congratulations on starting to find your way to the exit from the asylum that the inmates are running; keep following the “good threads” out of the labyrinth.

    Keep in mind that a lot of us conservatives never bought into the RINO/Trump populism action/reaction progression. Garet Garret and Russell Kirk were more our kind, and any of their inheritors that we can find, but that has been tough for a long time. Catholic social thought of the last century or so should give you many insights that you may be surprised to find congenial, too.

    Keep thinking!

  35. hamr says

    Any CDN, or others, that is interested, check out, Janice Fiamengo,bor Diana Daviso

  36. Daniel John says

    Thank you for this. You’ve described, while not exactly, pretty damn close to my experience in discovering Dr Peterson over the last several months. The media caricatures and the small-minded ‘outrage’ from the left frustrate me immensely, on a daily basis. This kind of discourse is not how things get better. I worry about the environment my young children are growing up in, I hope I can impart on them the importance of independent thought.

  37. Joshua Richmond says

    What a dumb piece. You start by saying you find Peterson’s ideas “intellectually engaging” and “personally meaningful,” and then proceed to not discuss his work at all, but rather all the problems with “discourse” on the Left. Instead of saying “I don’t necessarily agree with everything Peterson says,” can you name any actual position he holds that you do agree with? Any points he makes that are really worth considering? Because as far as I can tell, everything he says is either so obvious as to be banal (clean your room, stand up straight) or flatly wrong. Maybe everyone on the left is dunking on him not because they can’t handle opposing viewpoints, but because he’s genuinely bad and has nothing worthwhile to contribute. You haven’t made a case that would make me reconsider that stance.

    • WG says

      “Can you name any actual position he holds that you do agree with? Any points he makes that are really worth considering? Because as far as I can tell, everything he says is either so obvious as to be banal (clean your room, stand up straight) or flatly wrong.”

      Peterson has posted dozens of hours of his University of Toronto lectures on YouTube and you’ve checked out, what, half a book review? You sound intellectually lazy. Open your mind and check out what he has to say, in his own words.

      “Maybe everyone on the left is dunking on him not because they can’t handle opposing viewpoints”

      So, vicious smears and character assassination are “dunking on him.” Got it.

      • hamr says

        Hi, wg..can you present a ‘pal’ reviewed study ( or citation ?)

    • Johan says

      Joshua Richmond…”Banal”…
      Joe Rogan #958 ends with Joe saying: “This is my favourite podcast of all time” to his guest Jordan B Peterson. 3 hours of deep thought. It is a year ago now.
      Joshua, I know you won’t listen to it…Identity before argument…that’s you. Not very original. At the end of the podcast JBP describes people like you. The walls ned constant reinforcements for the likes of you.
      For truly curious people, here’s the link: https://youtu.be/USg3NR76XpQ

      • hamr says

        Johon: was very good. equal to the Weinstein bros interview

    • Meh says

      It does seem like Peterson is filling a void, similar to how Trump was filling a void. They may not be the best person to fill it, but the void is large and ready to collapse.

      Peterson points out SJW silliness, and can maintain civility, so the non regressive left flock to him. But of all the people included in the IDW, he is the least rational. He rails against LGBT re-definition of language, but then proceeds to redefine the word ‘truth’. He says the left should harden up about name calling and minor offenses, but then scolds them for calling the right names. When his theories get challenged he says he isn’t smart enough to have worked out the details.

      Just because he is declared enemy of the regressive left should not automatically make him a friend of free thought. If Milo was even tempered, civil, and professorial, would he be an IDW darling?

    • Peter Kriens says

      For a start, lookup the Cathy Newman interview with Peterson on Youtube. I think she had a similar opinion as you seem to have.

    • Yohan Oresund says

      Hi Joshua,
      I can offer some criticism of Peterson, from the point of view of an overall admirer.

      1) He relies on Jung an AWFUL lot, and many people are rather skeptical of Jung’s approach. Is it science? Is it mysticism? Jung himself says he doesn’t know in his own biography.

      2) He uses specific psychological terms in a vernacular way without elucidating them carefully. Terms like ‘agreeableness’ or ‘neuroticism’ have a very specific definition in the Big 5 model of psychometrics, but the lay listener thinks he is generalizing. He got in trouble again with ‘enforced monogamy’ – his pedagogy should have been much clearer.

      3) Although he is a skeptic of the literal interpretation of biblical stories, he does reference those stories often to serve as metaphorical examples. That leads some people to think he is heavily biased towards an Old Testament worldview and trying to push a kind of ‘crypto-Christianity’.

      4) He doesn’t spend enough time delineating between the metaphorical and symbolic views of the masculine and the feminine with his other observations of human nature. If someone is mad that chaos is characterized as feminine, they should get mad at the Sumerians (and later Babylonians), who invented the concepts of Tiamat and Marduk.

      If you ask what I explicitly agree with, here are some examples:
      1) The danger posed by Marxist regimes and government-enforced equality of outcome is a real thing, and history is crystal clear.
      2) Evil is not exotic and novel, it is banal and resides in every human. Evil is a feature of human nature, not a bug.
      3) In the face of #2, strive to contend with your darker parts (the Jungian ‘shadow’), integrate it into your whole personality and aim up anyway, despite that flaw.
      4) The notion that there is a such thing as ‘up’ and ‘down’, and people are hardwired to intuitively understand those ideas, across cultures and epochs.
      5) Doing tiny things to better your situation can compound over time and affect your family and eventually your community in a positive way.
      6) However bad something is, there is always a way to make it worse, and be mindful of that.

      • Joshua Richmond says

        Thank you, Yohan, for offering a thoughtful response that includes an actual positive defense of Peterson’s views. Your answers clarify why I take such issue with Peterson. Count me as a Jungian skeptic, for one thing. But mainly, his views seem to either be common sense dressed up in scientific language (of course people can do small things to improve their lives and communities) or tenuous as best (any one person’s limited ability to change their life outcome is no replacement for a government-sponsored safety net.) His caricatured framing of socialism as a “Harrison Bergeron”-esque dystopia of equality should set off alarm bells for any actual leftist.

        I think a lot of liberals and leftists do a terrible job at arguing with Peterson. The blow up over “enforced monogamy” was silly and an example of genuine Liberal Hysteria. The Cathy Newman interview was just frustrating. But just because people make a lot of bad anti-Peterson arguments doesn’t mean what he has to say is actually helpful or smart. He should not be anyone’s self-help guru or intellectual lodestar.

  38. Just Amazed says

    Glad to have you in the pro @jordanbpeterson “fan club”. Wish you and the others who are starting to distance themselves from the far left had been more vocal when the name calling (sexist, racist, etc etc) of reasonable voices on the right began. Seems most on the left were perfectly willing to accept that characterization of those with whom they disagreed politically. Hopefully Dr. Peterson is leading us to a place where a conservative college student doesn’t have to excuse herself from the company of her liberal friends when her preferred candidate wins an election.

  39. Dr. Horton, Jordan Peterson is not a stupid man. That is without doubt. My specialization in cultural cognition overlaps with his. Indeed I find his explanation of cognitive phenomena to be quite complex and much in line with my own understanding. However, Peterson is blind to his own biases and though he says he wants to identify his mistakes so he can correct them, he resists them at every turn. Take, for example, his ideas surrounding postmodernism. He doesn’t understand it as well as he thinks he does, as he cannot see the frames he uses to iew the world, preferring instead to dismiss his own frame as his and rather simply declare it to be reality. He then proceeds to argue that since his reality is simply THE reality, which also just happens to correspond to a patriarchal view of the world. It is little wonder that right wingers who revere patriarchy would be attracted to him. It gives them solace to know that the patriarchy they’ve inherited is he “real” reality to which everyone should (and must) conform. He could use his understanding of cultural cognition to lend legitimacy to other perspectives and narratives of the world, but he only grants that courtesy to “other” cultures, and dismisses the variations within his own. So, while I understand that there is much to respect in his work, his political narrative based on traditional patriarchy is not one of them. Nor is the fact that he is blind to his own biases in this matter. He should know better, but either chooses to ignore his own shortsightedness in favor of adulation by less knowledgeable persons, and has decided that their adulation confirms his narrative is a validation of the grift he iin which he s engaged. I sincerely hope you reconsider your support for him, regardless of whatever “the left” has to say.

    • Jake Barnes says

      I’ve never heard him say that everyone must conform to his reality. He’s stating that there is a mind-independent reality. We may experience it differently, but there’s a reason we take the elevator and not the window. Put differently, not all perspectives are equally accurate. I fail to see how you can dispute such a claim. If you don’t reject it, you have to grant equal respect to flat-earthers or creationists and give them equal say in things like making legislation.

    • Johan says

      Dr “Rainbow”…I have never met Jesus. Nor will I. I guess Jesus was free of bias. Your demands of Jordan Peterson are over the top.
      On JBP:s take on postmodernism…It doesn’t matter. It’s a mirage. Constantly moving and changing. Nobody can explain it. Focault, Derrida, Lacan…they are all dead and burried. Demagogues of their day. No books of theirs will ever be reprinted…
      From now on…let reality, what you see and hear, what people acctually are saying be the determinator…

    • Shlomo Muller says

      Dr Olivaw,

      In his book, Maps of Meaning, Peterson articulates his understanding of reality and our relationship to it. Peterson does not by any stretch think that his perspective is the only legitimate one. In fact, as is pointed out in this very article, he makes the case for why the left is needed to counter conservative tendencies. In Maps of Meaning, Peterson goes so far as to say that thought is adaptive (in the tradition of Jean Piaget, who is one of the often unmentioned major influences on his thinking. By “thought is adaptive”, I don’t mean that thought serves a purpose, but rather that thoughts interact and adapt to their personal environment and are true to the extent that they conform and work in that environment. Peterson is, in a very real sense, a subjectivist, only he doesn’t think that the subjective is a limitation in any way, as he is a pragmatist epistemologically) and that objective reality is nothing other than inter-subjective reality (i.e. Mutually subjective reality). If you’re looking for a absolutist ideologue, I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong guy. Ironically

    • kris says

      Its rare to see an intelligent critique of Peterson without the usual insults and smears. But to say he is blind to his own biases is unfair to say the least. He is one the most self critical intellectuals I have ever heard or read and often expresses doubts about the absolute truth of what he is saying as truth is his main objective and what motivates him. Everyone has biases either conscious or unconscious and I am sure you would be the same, as am I.
      “It gives right wingers solace to know that the patriarchy they’ve inherited is the “real” reality to which everyone should (and must) conform”
      With all due respect that is complete nonsense. It is not right wingers who demand conformity, that is the sole domain of the left dogmatists. No one is saying the Patriarchy is the only reality but we are just sick of people who deny its entire legitimacy simply because it was conceived by white males. Are you saying that none of the traditions of patriarchy have any value in the modern world?

      • Johan says

        James Brown…”It’s a man’s world…”
        If I look out my windows, I see Stockholm. Everywhere buildings, roads, railway tracks, cars, street lights…Everything man made.
        Camile Paglia, old school feminist, says that if men where like women, we would still live in grass huts…Paraphrasing.
        Women make children, men the rest. Nothing will change that. I promise. In Sweden the feminists governments gave it a shot for 50 years. Men and women didn’t change.
        No surprise for a normal person not wearing ideological spectacles.

    • Ian says

      It is almost impossible to say whether Jordan Peterson’s interpretations of specific postmodern thinkers is “right” or “wrong”, since most of them made no attempt to write clearly and by their own standards these categories would not apply to interpretations of their thought anyway. What he is right about, and what he is mostly interested in, is how postmodernism as a cultural phenomenon has spread through academia, been applied to other disciplines, fused with identity politics victimology, and been used to suppress free speech. And from the point of view of someone who works on a university campus, his analysis is spot on.

      With respect to his “biases”, he discusses extensively the relationships between personality, psychometric indices, and political viewpoint, and that successful companies and societies have to integrate multiple perspectives. I think he has been much more open and explicit about how his specific personality traits are coupled to his political viewpoints that most people on the left are able to acknowledge.

    • William Reed says

      Dr. R Bwinbwin Olivaw,

      Peterson argues for an objective reality, not his reality. You are arguing objective reality does not exist, and you instead rely upon the idea that perceptions are the reality. That’s the problem with Postmodernism, and he understands the dichotomy just fine.

  40. I absolutely can’t bear the word “contextualize.”

    Otherwise, excellent – well done. I doff my hat.

  41. I wonder how a conversation between Peterson and Chris Hedges would go. Perhaps with Dostoyevsky as a starting point. I read a lot of Hedges before getting into Peterson. There are areas of overlap for sure. Great article by the way, thank you for speaking up.

  42. Jeff says

    I’m a Liberal as well who is afraid to express their opinion. What the left media has done to JBP, the dishonesty and characters attacks, has made me reconsider where I am on the political spectrum. I still believe that corporations gaming the system is a huge problem and that we have to find better ways to help people who are at the bottom, but I now call myself a Moderate. The Left has lost it way and has become puritanical, tribalistic and unwise; they are disparaging people and doing character assassinations instead of engaging in thoughtful discussion and debate. They are whipping up authoritarianism on the Right and it’s dangerous. Neither political wing have all of the answers; we need both people on the moderate-left and the moderate-right for society to function. So I’m a Moderate now, I just can’t call myself a Leftist anymore; I’m too disgusted with them.

  43. Johan says

    I am from Sweden, the most extreme country in the world according to worldvaluesurvey.org (http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/WVSContents.jsp?CMSID=Findings). Sweden is the most modern left-leaning, feminist country there is. Top right hand corner…No conservative debate has been possible for 4-5 decades. Main strem media with SVT (our BBC) as the dominant outlet has set the agenda. Not the politicians. SVT would destroy your reputation if if you tried to describe reality…The first and only Orwellian State. Denmark make fun of us.
    33 years straight, Sweden has let in more immigrants from 3rd world countries (mainly muslim) per capita, than any other western country. Not a word to question these volymes where allowed. If…you would be labelled a fascist brown rat, and subsequantly destroyed…For…forever.
    Nowadays, this last month, everything has changed. A complete change, a paradigm one, has taken place.
    Within less than a week politicians and their allies, SVT and all other main stream media, has started to describe reality. Suddenly you are allowed to discuss real problems. Imigration being the most important.
    For decades this has been taboo. No explanations are given to this massive paradigm shift. No excuses from politicians or the cadre of journalists why they didn’t allow free debate for 50 years. Nothing…
    Toss a coin…A new tomorrow. Orwell wrote fiction. Sweden is real.
    The left has run Sweden since 1945. Their corruption of truth has finally become obvious to the Swedish people. The Emperor is without clothes.
    But Jordan B Peterson they would never invite to a debate in the state run television. He would morally execute them. They know that…

    • Susan says

      Interesting Johan. I hope we hear more from you. All I ever hear is how the Swedish government is arresting someone for an anti-immigrant facebook post.

    • hamr says

      Thx , Johan. So, the vids on you tube are ‘real’; then…

    • dirk says

      Sweden and its left leaning, feminist ambience is a special case in any discussion on Peterson. There, you can see that leftist ideas are the luxury of pacifist people, wholy among themselves, You are different?? (sexually, race, class or otherwise) I stay nice, and give you the benefit of the doubt. Sweden never had colonies, has one religion, no wars in more than 100 yrs (though, preparing for one just now), very weak class differences and hierarchy (also historically, maids at the same table as the boss), permissive, sex neutral education etc. They even have a special term for this soft,calm, apolemic attitude,that can’t even be translated, I forgot it, but I can imagine that in this upnorthern state, there is no place for a Dr Peterson on TV or university. Some people would easily get a heartattack. Am I right Johan?

      • Johan says

        Dirk, you are pretty much right. But there is a lot more to it. Swedish people are hard working and industrious. That’s their culture.
        The ruling elite (hate this expression. They are quite stupid) is a two-headed Hydra…The cadre of state employed journalists working for 2 TV channels and 3 radio ones…and the politicians. The Social democratic party has been in power 90% of the time since 1945. This Hydra has decided what was allowed to be debated.
        I don’t care one bit about “fake news”. Sweden’s dominating problem has for decades been “UNTOLD NEWS”. If you don’t report what you see, the facts, you end up living in an Orwellian reality.
        One example…gang rapes was unheard of. Where would you find a friend or two who would agree with you, if you proposed to go out gang raping girls a Friday night. The idea is preposterous. Impossible.
        Ten years ago, suddenly, gang rapes started occurring. Nowadays it happens all the time. Media hasn’t published one single photo of one of these scumbags. Untold news…The feminist government looks the other way, talking about why female football players make less money than their male counterpart…Everybody knows who is raping.
        The government even stop publication of those rape statistics. The journalists agrees. They think the people people cannot handle the trouth. Become racist…
        Today the status of Swedish politicians and journalists can’t get lower. They are deeply despised.
        Luckily the Swedish culture is pretty much intact. The Hydra has lost.
        Dirk, the word you are looking for is “lagom”. Translates approximatly to “moderate”.
        Swedes call themselves citizens of “landet lagom” (the country lagom).

        • dirk says

          Thnks Johan, so -lagom- was the term, oh yes. What you describe, the looking away, the cherishing of low expectations, was also the rule in the NL until about 2000, now we have Geert Wilders with his freedom party, and about 15% of the voters. Their propaganda was just now here on TV. Geert certainly doesn’t look away, he also has a court case for insulting the ” allochtones”.

    • I’m very interested in what is happening in Sweden (recently finished Murray’s book The Strange Death of Europe) and the rest of Europe. How would you describe people’s feelings on the issues you mentioned above? Are people actually in favor of more immigration in general or are ordinary people fed up but afraid to speak up? I look forward to more of your comments, Johan.

      • dirk says

        An anecdote on this K, although not from Sweden. Aftr 10 yrs work in Mexico I came back in the NL and saw that things had changed a lot there, something you don’t notice if you live all the time together. With my (left leaning) friends I was looking a program on TV about immigration. A politician I never heard of shouted : -The Netherlands for the Dutch people-, – Yes, of course-, I reacted, to the utmost surprise and disgust of my friends. What was wrong?? I had lived in Mexico and could undrstand very well their feelings for Mexico for the Mexicans (and not for the gringo who was buying up their properties and lands). I often joined my Mexican friends and shouted with them for more autochtony. So, I thought that this was quite logical, and that Holland was there also for the Hollanders. How mistaken I was, within a month I knew more, had learned the new situation, and wouldn’t be any more so stupid to say the wrong things.

  44. Lim says

    I had a similar experience, in that I only heard about the guy after my social media filled up with angry denunciations. I read some of his writing and I’m not really buying most of what he’s peddling, but it’s still distressing to see how thoroughly otherwise sensible people have bought into the no-platform ideology. There’s no such thing anymore as ideas that are merely unpersuasive, or wrong. Everything you don’t agree with is either “dangerous,” or “harmful,” or “toxic.” Crap, people, you can read a book you don’t like and still come away with your mind intact. It’s not the goddamn Necronomicon.

  45. “…The gap between Peterson’s obvious intelligence and the Left’s scathing denunciation of him as an alt-right idiot is simply too large for many of us to ignore.”

    EVERY intelligent person realizes this, conservative or progressive. All it does is severely damage the credibility of every single hit-piece author. Jordan doesn’t even need to open his mouth.

    Also, Jordan is most definitely a classic British liberal, not a conservative. Yes, he fits the bill of your description – make incremental changes by pruning corruption out of competence hierarchies, but don’t tear the system down. There is no need for ‘paradigm changes’. That is classic British liberal.

    I think the great end result of Jordan Peterson might be that he shines a very bright light on how corrupt and extreme both political parties in the US have become. The horseshoe theory is very much expressed in political parties today. I’m not sure if anything will happen as a result of his light, but I am very curious to find out.

  46. Steve Manning says

    I was a lefty when younger but consider myself to be more of a liberal now. Unfortunately in current times being liberal now means you are on the right. The main problem I see with the left is they are more concerned with doing what is “right and fair” then what actually works. They do not care how ineffective or damaging a policy might be as long as it falls in line with their gender/race agenda.

  47. John says

    “Within less than a week politicians and their allies, SVT and all other main stream media, has started to describe reality. Suddenly you are allowed to discuss real problems. Immigration being the most important.”

    And not a moment too soon. If they’re willing to engage in rational discourse then your country has a chance to save itself.

  48. You are not alone at all Carol. I have been on the left- sometimes very far on the left indeed- all my life and the reactions to Peterson in both social and legacy media has at times had me close to foaming at the mouth. You have articulated almost perfectly my reactions to both Peterson and the way he is vilified by “the left”.

    I agree that Peterson is a classical conservative and feel certain that it is only a widespread misunderstanding of the differences between conservatism and liberalism that causes him to claim “classical liberal” status and for many to reinforce that.claim.

    I do however think that Peterson’s more wild-eyed claims about “Cultural Marxism” manifest an obvious unfamiliarity with either postmodernism’s deeper levels or the rich tradition of Marxism in its multiple forms. It is not a question of disagreeing with Peterson, which I do, but a question of his fundamental ignorance of the things he claims to critique.

    There is a difference between the PC-SJW-intersectional “left” as it manifests on social media, in real-life encounters between educated people like Peterson and the outrageous ignorance of people, academics included, who insist on parroting cliches and slogans and the actual textual traditions in both Marxism and poststructuralism.

    Let’s just say that many of these SJWs are to the traditions they betray with their adolescent posturing as the genuinely misogynist-racist alt-right followers of Peterson are to Peterson himself.

    • WG says

      Peterson lectures on the temperamental basis for right wing and liberal belief. My understanding is that he claims to be a classical liberal based on his temperament.

      • augustine says

        No, he says he is basically liberal by temperament and philosophically conservative by effort of intellect and reasoning. I think that sort of balance allows him to enjoy his inviting and curious perspective, described amply in this thread by others, in either direction.

  49. Marxwell Sharpnerd says

    You are obviously just trying to be contrarian and ignoring all of the dangerous, dictatorial and downright misogynistic and weirdly violent rhetoric. At best he’s just Jung wannabe. Nothing intellectually engaging because even his best thoughts have been thought and presented by better thinkers than him. At worst he’s a complete piece of shit. Anyway, you’re wrong and Peterson is a fucking idiot.

    • d n h says

      congratulations. you just proved the author’s point.

    • WG says

      Examples please, your ad hominem is boring. Nothing intellectually engaging here because your best thoughts…hmm…there don’t appear to be any best thoughts. Only politically correct BS.

    • Johan says

      Maxwell, no way you can be this stupid. You are not illiterate…I guess you’re just another impotent Troll.
      Go watch some porn and try again…You might get lucky…

    • Yohan Oresund says

      Marxwell, could you provide some examples of his ‘weirdly violent rhetoric’?

      • Yarara says

        Apeman gets it

        Dont feed the trolls, keep Quillete on a decent level 🙂

  50. Laura Menard says

    “Instead, they’re going to jump on the anti-PC bandwagon, and either vote for right-of-center candidates or not vote at all.”

    Carol, I think you might be underestimating how many leftists are anti-PC and have given up voting. Liberals without a political party. I have been following JBP for many years. To hell with leftist litmus test.

  51. d n h says

    I understand that the author’s including an example of disagreement is necessary, but the statement “calls to abandon identity politics wholesale are misguided and unrealistic…” beckons further explanation. What possible purpose can identity politics serve?

    • I find identity politics personally distasteful, but I happen to have the ear of someone who is interested in them, and through many, long conversations I’ve come to understand a significant problem with attitudes like mine (wishing that people wouldn’t participate in them). Identity politics are just a subset of the Special Interest Group, of which there are many. Everyone else is playing, have been for years. You can choose to sit on the sidelines, stick to your principles, but I’ve found that, in order to justify doing so, one has to adopt a pretty nihilistic worldview. I would say I’m still on the sidelines, but, since coming to this realization, I find that I am no longer sitting down.

    • augustine says

      The distinction between identity and identity politics is part of the problem. Various aspects of our social existence concern us, including aspects of race, gender and sexuality. I think most on the left or right would not deny this (it would be very radical or nihilistic to say that these things have no import in our lives/identities) but civilization seems to require that we do not make them into political values explicitly. Some folks who have cultural capital think we should do the opposite and right now they are going for broke, over-emphasizing that which does not need to be promoted as a public cause.

  52. dan says

    I feel like I could have written this exact article, word for word, if you replaced political science professor with math teacher.

  53. barael says

    For those inclined to despair and/or masochism, read the comment on Jezebel’s latest hit piece on Peterson. Some of them are now convinced that not only is Peterson adored by “incels” but Peterson himself has actually threatened to shoot up a school unless he gets laid. Oh, and that he is intellectually a 4-year old.

    • Yohan Oresund says

      The comments section of Jezebel’s and Salon’s articles on Peterson is simply horrifying.

  54. Racism is still a thing, no matter how much less so than 50 years ago and so is sexism. Because these truths are self-evident, any kind of left politics, because of its insistence on individual equality, will have to contend with these pernicious holdovers that many who label themselves “classical liberals” would prefer to maintain or ignore.

    So in that sense, “identity” can’t be totally expunged from any kind of left politics.

    However, the recognition that socialism calls for equality for all and calls for dispersion of economic and political power without regard to race or gender needs to be affirmed as already including the demands that are presently atomized into heavily tribalized “identity politics”.

    Inasmuch as most modern leftism includes the embrace of liberal values, it has to include recognition of “identity politics” as a distortion of liberalism that has come about due to the intransigent hypocrisy of “liberals” who would continue the tradition of the American “founders” and imperialists like JS Mills in talking about individual rights while denying them to vast swathes of humanity on the principle of racial and/or gender differences.

    • Peter Kriens says

      I do not consider these truths self evident, which I guess, makes them by definition not really that self evident. I will stand up for equal rights and as a society we should try to give kids equal opportunities regardless of where they come from but after that you’re on your own. There are too many variables in play and I do not consider victims the best judge of their own situation. On the contrary. Too much psychological research shows we’re seeing ourselves much better than we really are and others much worse. If victims can decide the punishment we’ll all be fighting to be a victim.

      Despite taking its time, the liberal model has shown to give people equal rights for the law. I think our society allows everybody women, colored, or white enough opportunities to pursue happiness. Yes, there will always be unfairness but the idea that we get committees that will decide quota scares the shit out of me. In practice, such a model will become a lot more unfair than the current situation. Which, by the way, has probably never been better anywhere in history.

      • augustine says

        “If victims can decide the punishment we’ll all be fighting to be a victim.”

        Spot on.

        Agreed also that current times are, in terms of peace and prosperity, probably the best ever, a fact completely lost on liberal social activists. It seems peace and prosperity are conditions under which they thrive but paradoxically aggravate them most. Lol.

    • transilvana says

      the left is not about “individual equality”. Not anymore.

  55. Dave grabovs says

    Maxwell’s response is the whole flowchart of the leftist argument against Peterson in one paragraph. I’m fascinated by this one two rhetorical punch I keep seeing: first, the insistence that Peterson is peddling dangerous reactionary rhetoric, then an abrupt pivot to bash him for not saying anything new or profound. Is he just serving up Intro to Psych lectures or is he a crypto Nazi? Seems to me it can’t be both.

    The reaction to Peterson is truly bizarre. I’m sick of being a coward and biting my tongue about it just because I don’t want to get called racist or misogynist. I’m going to make an effort to stand up for truth and if that means my leftist “friends” hate me then I’ll make some new ones who don’t make me feel like I’m in a cult.

    • Johan says

      “NEW’ should be banned. Homo sapiens has geneticaly been around for 200 thousand years, probably more. Mankind is the same. We do not need new ideas. Everything of worth has been said. A century ago, new ideas about mankind was invented. Marxism invented “the new man”. New ideas kept coming. Never ending.
      Stalins “house-geneticist”, Trofim Lysenko invented “Lysenkoism”. The rejection of Darwin and Mendel couldn’t turn wheat into rye. Nor did barley manage to turn into wheat.
      French postmodernism, radical feminism that denies biological differences, trans pronouns…the list is endless.
      NEW is not what Jordan B Peterson is about. The human condition is what he getting at. And that does not change. It is a constant. Hence all of his archetypes. There are no archetypes about LBTQ that I’m aware of.
      Rosseau started it all with his his nonsense about “The Noble Savage”…(I don’t care what John Locke said).

    • augustine says

      You will lose friends. Those you meet anew you can assume to be liberal/left until otherwise demonstrated. None of that is necessarily good or bad but it could be called personal progress. One downside of conversations with more conservative people generally is that they are conspicuously more schismatic and idiosyncratic than liberals. Upside: they are more keen to discuss issues regardless.

      You are the one who is curious about the nature of things or you probably wouldn’t be on Q in the first place. If intelligent people you know cannot at least meet you at some agreed threshold of curiosity about the world, just move on.

  56. Fiip says

    It’s not an argument between left and right anymore. It’s an argument between people who want the freedom to pursue ideas and discussions wherever they may lead in a civilized manner – and those who want totalitarianism so that their intellectually precocious fantasies won’t fall apart through the most innocent of errant jokes or heretical comments.

    It’s a top-v-bottom argument in a 2-dimensional political spectrum – not the 1D left-right split as the msm would have you constantly believe. I agree however that a reasonable left within the top part of the spectrum is sorely lacking. Also I find it interesting as a economically right-leaning individual now having to argue on behalf of previously ‘leftist’ positions within the class-economic realm, as I don’t necessarily disagree with the various criticism of the current system we have (due their complete abandoment by the left in favour of only identity politics as stated).

    • transilvana says

      Orwell said it at some point: “the true distinction is not between right and left, revolutionaries and reactionaries. The true distinction is between totalitarians and liberals”

    • “Also I find it interesting as a economically right-leaning individual now having to argue on behalf of previously ‘leftist’ positions within the class-economic realm, as I don’t necessarily disagree with the various criticism of the current system we have (due their complete abandoment by the left in favour of only identity politics as stated).”

      I’d be interested in seeing you develop this a bit more, if you have the time and are so inclined.

  57. John Winward says

    A very fine article, and articulates my reaction to Peterson much better than I could myself. The best reaction to Peterson (or “the rightwing professor whose arguments are riddled with ‘pseudo-facts’ and conspiracy theories”, as the Guardian calls him).

  58. Richard Fisher says

    Interesting article.

    JP talks some quasi-mystical type woo, and he can have some postmodernist type issues with what constitutes ‘truth’ – from a man who distains Postmodernism as I do I find this strange – but he is not some far Right nutter. Right yes, Conservative yes, but Alt-Right no.

    The reason I think that some of Alt-Right have become fans is because of his Christianity, his stance on gender being binary, his criticism of Islamism, and his rejection of the efforts of the Authoritarian Left, but none of those positions themselves are ‘Alt-Right’. I think it is also true to say that there is a vacuum in American society in particular, a perceived absence of male role models and JP appeals to the younger man who doesn’t believe that all aspects of masculinity are toxic, who holds to traditional conservative values and who offers some superficially insightful and profound psychology and philosophy that works for them.

    He’s writing The Secret and Chopra for those who aren’t new age leftists, offering some sort of spirituality and direction in the form of lobsters which in the eyes of his fans turn out to be crustaceans of significant appeal.

    JP is obsessed with archetypes and he makes some ridiculous claims such as ‘sacrifice was when people first discovered the future’ and that ‘sacrifice is making a bargain with reality’ – things that seem to me to be unnecessarily contorted. He also makes claims based upon evolutionary psychology – a field that I think is very interesting – that don’t stand up to analysis.

    For those who doubt how woo JP can be, enjoy this quote. ? He has no idea what the Copenhagen Interpretation and the term ‘observed’ means in this context. This is top woo.

    “Now you may know that there’s an interpretation in quantum physics, for example, called the Copenhagen interpretation, and not everybody agrees with it, but according to the Copenhagen interpretation no event is an actualized event until it’s perceived. And the person who formulated that hypothesis, John Wheeler, is one of the most renowned physicists of the 20th century and he believed, before he died, quite firmly that whatever consciousness is played an integral role in Being. Now it seems to me after studying this for a very long period of time that the entirety of Western civilization is predicated on the idea that there’s something divine about individual consciousness and after studying that for such a lengthy period of time and trying to figure out what it meant, I think I found out what it meant. I think I found out that the reason that our archaic stories say that human beings, men and women, are made in the image of God is because consciousness plays a central role in Being itself. Modern people think the world is somehow simply made out of objects and then they look at the world and then they think about the world and then they evaluate it and then they act, but let me tell you as a neuroscientist […] that is wrong. There’s no debate about it, it’s just wrong. […] The facts of the matter seem to be something more like this: the world is actually made of potential, and that potential is actualized by consciousness.”

    • Susan says

      Since it now takes about five seconds to get labeled “alt right”,eg. JBP, I just ignore the label and listen to what the person has to say. So far, so good.

  59. transilvana says

    Thank you very much for this article. I’m dying to share it far and wide. But I am afraid because I work at a US university and don’t have tenure yet. QED.

    • Kat says

      Your comment made me think of Hans and Sophie Scholl, two german resisting students during WWII, who had to throw tracts in their university’s corridors to share their ideas, and pray not to get caught.
      Spoiler alert: they got caught and were sentenced to death.
      The fact that you are even facing that kind of concerns about sharing a COMMON SENSE article, not controversial at all, in a university, where intellectual debate should be enforced the most, says a lot about the people in charge…

      • transilvana says

        interestingly enough, Sophie Scholl is my Twitter avatar….

        the pressure in the academic world is insane – compounded by the fact that we all bump into each other all the time and peer-review is what gets you hired, fired, promoted or ostracized. One is permanently at the whim of one’s colleagues, especially in the humanities where all evaluation is subjective. The current imperative is to deny that there is any issue with freedom of expression in academia and to proclaim political correctness as non-existent/an alt-right conspiracy theory.

  60. Jim Mason says

    I am unsure of why abandoning identity politics is shortsighted or unrealistic.

    To me, it is the surest path to acceptance of all people, by all people, on the content of their character not their specific group.

    Wasn’t that always the goal? It was always mine.

  61. That was well written. I particularly like the repositioning section, a perfect outline of Peterson as a conservative.

    The lefts behaviour when it comes to intellectual discussion has become abysmal and is exactly why we are getting politicians like Trump. You can only call someone a homophobic racist bigot so many times before they react and will vote against you.

  62. Wonderful article from someone on the other side of the political spectrum. How refreshing!
    As a classical conservative, as you describe it, Carol, I see the need for incremental change rather than revolution. As Peterson says, it seems that any time the latter has been tried it has ended up close to hell on earth. You seemed to be implying that a more revolutionary approach can be justified at times. Could you clarify your thought on that?

  63. Charles White says

    One aspect of Peterson’s philosophical development that seems to be continually over-looked by both left and right is that his political beginning was as a youth member of the New Democratic Party (Canada’s main socialist party). He volunteered for Grant Notley, the current Alberta NDP Premier’s father, and considered Sandy Notley, Premier’s mother, his early educational influence introducing him to the Russian classics. Peterson says he left the left due to its becoming increasingly ideological and less concerned with the human condition. However, he did not embrace the right, for similar reasons.

    He is pretty much a political agnostic which allows him to critique ideologies. It is this freedom of thinking that makes him dangerous to both sides of ideologues.

    Kudos to the author of this article for being a left winger open to ideas. I would be interested in an article by her regarding the points she disagrees with Peterson about, because I am sure they would be well articulated and researched.

  64. William Reed says

    You nailed it. I’ve been waiting for a piece like this from a left-minded person. You need a bigger voice in the public discourse. I digress, the left-leaning media will not ever let you speak, and if they do, you’ll be castigated and labeled alt-right pretending to be a liberal.

  65. ga gamba says

    This essay and many of the comments fascinated me. Ostensibly many on the left here cherish freedom or liberation, which is a good thing, yet they feel trapped or even imprisoned by what their movement has become. People feel alone and fearful.

    Make no mistake, this is a tragedy. This is your gut instinct’s warning, and it should scare the hell out of you. That you feel discomfited by the dogma when the left is in opposition, holding only cultural power (which is potent), what do you think will happen if and when it takes all power? Will the leaders and the foot soldiers who have established this presently oppressive movement suddenly see the light and lighten up? If we go by history this seems very unlikely. Unconstrained they’ll run roughshod over you and everyone else. Perhaps their desire to do good in genuine, but the task of redistribution equitably is beyond any group’s talent. They’d have as much luck controlling the weather.

    Think for a moment of something as simple as bread on a shop’s shelf. We take it as a given there’s always bread on the shelf. Even in countries that don’t have a historical bread culture like Thailand, Japan, and Korea the people take bread on the shelf as matter of fact. It’s always there. And not just one type. Dozens of varieties. Who has an appreciation of how mind boggling complex bread on shelf is?

    Does the government’s (or people’s) committee of bread dictate to the farmers grow x tons of wheat? Did it have to battle with the committee of noodles for an allocation of the famers’ output? Did it even decide how much fertilizer, how many machine hours, or how many labour hours to allocate to each farm and coordinate those factors of production with the other authorities? No. Each farmer figured that out for him/herself.

    Proceed through each stage from the transportation of grain to the milling, the mixing, the baking, the packaging, the delivering, and the selling (or distribution to the people). Consider the facilities, the transmission of gas and electricity, and all the other inputs involved. For added enjoyment, toss in the occasional flood, drought, locust plague, hail storm, fungal outbreak, typhoon, and other calamity destroying crops and damaging transport networks and facilities. And don’t neglect risk. Each owner (the capitalist) in the stream of production pays everyone else (employees, suppliers, government) before putting money in his pocket; the capitalist is paid last. The committee of bread had no say so at all because it doesn’t exist. Yet, without the committee of bread’s diktats how did all this bread arrive on the shelves in a reliable manner that we never, ever need to worry about bread? This is the miracle. For most of mankind’s history food insecurity plagued our ancestors’ minds and often gnawed at their children’s stomachs. When was the last time you worried to yourself: Do I have enough food stored to get through the winter and spring? I’d wager that most here have never fretted over this.

    Redistributive regimes toss a spanner into the works. In their fixation of establishing equity they lose sight of the more important goal: bread on shelves. And our incredibly complex system provides much more than bread on shelves, doesn’t it?

    “But that’s not real socialism!” some may protest. How do you redistribute without an overarching bureaucratic class to assess, impose, and monitor? (Even Trotsky himself, near the end of his life, realised the bureaucratic class of the Soviet Union had become the oppressor class.) What happens when people’s bread bakery #107 becomes “too profitable” or acquires an “unfair” amount of the means of production? What happens when the workers at people’s bread bakery #207 realise they may work fewer hours than the others yet their needs will be provided for? Inequality (of money, resources, and free time) is re-appearing then, isn’t it? When everyone is consumed with evaluating their own equality in relation to others’ equality, it’s an endless game of grievances to be resolved by ever heavy-handed action.

    In closing I’ll offer two examples of bureaucratic diktats made for the benefit of the people that went haywire. In Maoist China it was decreed rice production be increased, and the way to accomplish this was by planting each plant closer together. Starved of nutrients the plants died. If we consider life a process of moving ever forward until one’s death, the Great Leap Forward’s famine accomplished this feat at breakneck speed. In Venezuela the gov’t decreed price controls on bread for the benefit of the people. Rather than lose money the bakers stopped baking bread and shifted production to items that weren’t under price control. The government responded by sending the officials out to monitor the bakeries, arrested some bakers, and, as the way to end bread queues, ordered those queued to go home. Eureka! No bread queues for anyone to complain about anymore. One would think tax revenue would be better spent than by having officials running around monitoring bread and breaking up queues, but once insane policies are decreed, insane action is required to enforce them. Keep in mind, in both China and Venezuela much more than rice growing and bread baking went off the rails.

    It’s said wisdom is knowing the difference between can and should. Yes, we can impose socialist redistribution under the guise of fairness or equity. Should we?

    • transilvana says

      I appreciate the bread on the shelf, because I grew up without it.

    • WG says

      Here in Canada we’ve had a federal government with marxist/PoMo leanings for three years (which I’m sure you’re aware of). For the Trudeau Liberals, subjecting all government policies to gender analysis has been a big focus, and diversity (Diversity is our strength!). Foreign policy has largely consisted of hectoring other countries (such as China and India) over their lack of feminist credentials. Meanwhile premiers are at each others throats over pipeline issues and the country’s in crisis mode. Business savvy folk are angry and/or nervous as deep deficit spending mounts and the economy slows. Open borders, of course. We’re the world’s first postmodern nation, cause Justin says so.

      Hearing Peterson talk about Trudeau always makes me smile. JP has nothing but contempt for Trudeau.

    • Susan says

      When the USSR fell, a former citizen said -Yes, they could make a bicycle, but when a part broke there was no replacement part to be bought because some state bureaucrat would have had to decide to organize that business. No window shield wipers or toilet paper either.

  66. Jacob P says

    Just wanted to say that I appreciate this thoughtful piece. I found this article smart and engaging. I lean heavily to the right, but truly welcome this type (reasonable) of discussion. So thank you.

  67. Troy Pasulka says

    An absolutely brilliant articulation

  68. Alexander says

    When Jordan Peterson delivered his Maps of Meaning lecture to a class full of students, he stopped half way through to say this:

    “You are not required to believe what I am telling you, by the way. If you have an argument about why some of this doesn’t make sense — then, you know, follow that sucker. Because I am trying to tell you what I have reached with regards to bedrock presuppositions, and I haven’t been able to put prybars underneath them. But that doesn’t mean you won’t. And, you know, you should try, anyways”.

    Here’s this moment:

    I’ve listened to a fair bit of his opponents online, and, unlike Peterson, none of them seem to have any inclination to encourage any kind of questioning of their own convictions. They always go like “Oh, come on. But I AM right! And you ARE wrong!”

    It was a breath of fresh air to hear Stephen Fry during the recent Munk encouraging us not to be afraid of being doubtful. But even so, Mr. Fry was in the same camp with Peterson…

    I live in the former Soviet Union. Over here, DOUBT used to be a crime (and, in some places, it still remains so, to a degree). Expressing doubt was punishable. Often — by death.

    One would think that people in the free West wouldn’t be scared of being doubtful. But guess what – many of them are. And I suspect that the most scared of doubt are those who, deep inside, stand on shifty sands — and they know it.

  69. Steve says

    “I would never look to someone like him, who I see as a classical conservative, to provide thought leadership on such matters” [i.e., socio-economic inequality]

    “Peterson, who actually have some important ideas to offer—just not on the issues that properly concern the Left”

    Right you are, since we can all agree that leftist ideas have been overwhelmingly effective in addressing socio-economic concerns. *cough* Venezuela *cough*.

  70. horn says

    It’s quite similar to the attacks the Left did on a much more well-written and well-researched book, The Bell Curve and Charles Murray 25 years ago – an 845 page book that was out, read, reviewed for ~6 months before certain people in the media decided to blow 3 paragraphs completely out of proportion surrounding IQ results [which did not say white people did best, but Asians] while ignoring the then & now very salient issues of assortive mating and government assistance not helping those most in need.

    Every day we hear the Left complain about the ‘elite,’ the ‘Global 1% or 0.1%,’ the rich getting richer without acknowledging Murray/Herrnstein warned this would happen during Clinton’s first term.

    More importantly, the simple fact that gov’t programs like jobs retraining, free education, et al, simply do not help someone with a 75 IQ [or however you wish to define it] as they do someone with a 100 IQ or 120 IQ. Below a certain level of intelligence not only can you not perform most jobs but you can *never* negotiate the byzantine bureaucracy required to get all the gov’t assistance that you require.

    At least half the book discusses ‘Class structure in American Life,’ yet liberals have utterly ignored the solutions presented that would actually help most low-income, low-education Americans buy giving them MORE money, not less, and giving less to the rich, smart kids of rich parents who don’t need a handout from the government.

  71. Rob says

    The capture of the left by identarian zealots is a tragedy. As someone who is repulsed by dogma, conformity, and dishonest arguments, I’ve always found myself more comfortable on the left than on the right. For most of my adult life, when I resorted to reason instead of emotion, facts instead of narrative, and independent thinking instead of tribal pieties, I was attacked by the right.

    That changed several years ago. The identarian movement that has erupted from radical campus culture is as closed-minded and tribal as the far right. They’ve become a mirror-image of one another. Now when I cite the science around behaviour and evolution, it’s the identarians who hiss “shame, shame.”

    The pushback didn’t start with Peterson. Other rational thinkers have been raising the alarm or years. Jonathan Haidt, Mark Lilla, Steven Pinker. The latter was roasted by the identarian left for exposing the lack of scientific credibility around their sacred belief in the blank slate. In the struggle between facts and narrative, the narrative won out. The science challenged sacred narratives, so it must be incorrect and motivated by malice. That’s when I knew the left had become as irrational and tribal as the right.

    The sad thing is that, as the author points out, the moral panic whipped up by the identarian left, and the deep cleavages it’s opening up in society, have made it almost impossible to pursue the common interests of citizens when it comes to health care, education, pensions – the stuff that actually affects most of us in our day-to-day lives.

    On a more personal note, I resent the fact that just because I applaud the efforts of Peterson, Pinker, etc. to shine the light of reason and empiricism into issues clouded by the bewildering folly of identity politics, I’m lumped in with the deeply bitter troglodytes of the right. Surely we can oppose both. Or have our politics become so degenerate that it can only represent binary Us vs Them allegiances?

    • WG says

      One hopes the open-minded center left/right alliance will continue to grow.

    • “That changed several years ago. The identarian movement that has erupted from radical campus culture is as closed-minded and tribal as the far right. They’ve become a mirror-image of one another. Now when I cite the science around behaviour and evolution, it’s the identarians who hiss “shame, shame.”

      “I resent the fact that […] I’m lumped in with the deeply bitter troglodytes of the right.”

      I was pretty much with you up until “far right”. I feel like the “far right” is almost mythical at this point. Who/Where/What is the far right? Where do its members congregate? What do they believe? How many make up the far right? Do any of them have influence in any legitimate/mainstream spheres of public discourse? Do they represent a legitimate concern for public safety? More so than the black bloc and antifa, groups who put out articles and videos on how to riot and who are actively training members in personal combat? The far right seems like a bogeyman used to scare useful idiots into buying into increasingly totalitarian policies prescribed by leftist writers, of which there seems to be no shortage (unlike the mythical far right troglodytes).
      Maybe I’m in a bubble in my liberal city, but I don’t see any far right troglodytes anywhere. I’ve looked. Where do troglodytes live? Under rocks? In caves? I’ve seen the videos of riots on college campuses. Whatever the politics of the people organizing and attending these events, it seems plainly obvious they aren’t the ones instigating violence (though, to be sure, they seem only too happy to engage in it once it has been initiated).

      You find the current identity politics-oriented left unpalatable, and so they reject you; which puts you in the defensive position of having to argue for space to discuss ideas that should be well within the bounds of acceptable discourse. I guess we have that in common. But I don’t see the utility in conjuring demons out of thin air while a contingent that holds very real cultural and institutional power is dug in and fighting to not only hold that power but exclude the rest of us from the conversation. One thing seems obvious to me: the longer these people are able to exert this kind of pressure and control, the more so-called “far right troglodytes” we’ll have to contend with.

  72. Rob says

    Those on the dogmatic right who claim Peterson as one of their own should keep a few things in mind:

    * Peterson has said that when economic disparity gets too great, society needs to step in and fix it.

    * He has expressed support for Canada’s universal public health care system.

    * He has said that he isn’t interested in pursuing a career in politics, but if he did his natural home would be the federal Liberals. That’s Canada’s centrist party, though it would be to the left of most Democrats on the U.S. political spectrum. It’s also the party of Pierre Trudeau (though Peterson doesn’t have anything good to say about Trudeau).

    So economically Peterson seems to be centre-left. Socially, centre-right.

  73. Johnny says

    One of the best articles I´ve ever read. 100% with you on this. The left that you refer to or more accurately those who have hijacked the left are as intolerant as the far right. We need to be able to have intellectual discussion again where people aren´t scared to say something because it doesn´t fit in with a particular group´s agenda. For me JP fundamentally defends free speech and calmly dispatches those that attack him with logic and reason.

  74. Kat says

    Thank you so much.
    It is heartwarming to see that it’s really a minority of the Left that has gone hysterical and that there are still sensible people like you on board.
    Thank you for taking the courage to denounce the pression put on your side to silently accept very radical ideas. I wish more people sharing your views would do it.
    I never dare to call myself a conservative because of all the demonization that has been done about the right-of-center way of thinking, but by reading your definition of Peterson’s form of conservatism, I realised that these are actually the values and ideas that really appeal to me.
    And that someone outside of my own echo-chamber like you gives credits to those ideas and acknowledge their validity, even though you don’t necessarily agree, really helped me see that NO, I am not some kind of neo-nazi. My values weigh as much as any others, and they are not extremist.
    Again, thank you.

  75. Daniel Jackson says

    I gave a standing applause in my office, by my self. That’s how much I liked this article.

  76. Jay Ryan says

    Thank you, Dr. Horton, for an intelligent, informative and reflective article. Your article hints at themes developed in “The Closing of the American Mind” by Allan Bloom, which I believe was recently the subject of a Quillette piece. I was a young child in the Vietnam era of the 1960s when the New Left vowed to burn down the USA. I grew up a nominal liberal, with my opinions downloaded from the media, as is true with many young people today. But my personal disgust with the wild emotionalism of campus leftists led me to consider conservatism during my college days in the Reagan era. In this manner, I was “red pilled” 15 years before “The Matrix.” The concept is old though the useful term is new.

    I disagree with your characterization of contemporary “corporate conservatism.” Like most, I would instead agree with your representation of classical conservatism as favoring incremental change, rather than the run-amok, radical change demanded by the left. Have you read “Amusing Ourselves To Death” by Neil Postman? The author (like Bloom, a classical liberal from New York City) contends that the television news media has shortened our collective attention span to “sound bites” and reduced public discourse to sloganeering. This is abundantly evident on the left, where ad hominems and straw men have replaced substantive refutations for at least the last half century. Today’s SJWs are really nothing more than the tools of media propagandists, since they have not come upon their opinions honestly, through reflection and consideration of both sides of an argument.

    You are right to fear speaking out against the hysteria of your “fellow travelers.” But consider that the same fear also exists for the same reasons in oppressive regimes. We’re seeing history repeat itself today since another youth backlash against the left is presently occurring, just as it did with “Young Republicans” like me during the Reagan Revolution 35 years ago. Jordan Peterson is playing a large role with truly opening minds and giving young people nourishing food for thought in place of the intellectual famine offered by the left.

  77. Johan says

    Constantin. Guess you like Chomsky. I don’t.
    He says there never has been any real capitalism anywhere. State capitalism, yes. But no real capitalism.
    Do what you want with my information.
    But I guess information is not your cup of tea…

  78. Hutch says

    I cannot believe the extent to which main stream media will put out hit pieces on Peterson.
    Most recent example: http://archive.is/diqYx

    The recent Munk Debate points so clearly to how people are more interested in trying to label Peterson and frame his arguments out of context. Right out of the gate, The female journalist tried to paint Peterson in a negative light as opposed to making an argument on its own.
    It’s embarrassing.

    The quip, out of context, about Peterson’s “make up” quote of the edited vox interview was something else.

    I enjoy most of Peterson’s works and ideas. However, in my opinion, his analysis of archetypes in biblical texts can be David Icke territory and fails to account for simple imagination.

    Even if I was 100% against everything Peterson has said, I still find it abhorrent that lazy journalists fail to counter his arguments or even try. They just keep flinging mud and showing just how truly devoted to their collective ideologies they are.

    • Keithindy says

      Reasoned debate doesn’t get you many click throughs.

      Mudslinging and muckraking has always sold newspapers.

  79. William says

    Hmmm… Sam Johnson used the word predatory in his 1755 Dictionary when defining other words such as mouse (verb). You might watch that slippery slope yourself.

  80. The main problem is that the left does not understand conservatives at all. Jonathan Haidt’s expiriments ask liberals and conservatives to fill out questionnaires about their values, then to predict how someone from the opposite tribe would fill out the questionnaire. He finds that conservatives are able to predict liberals’ answers just fine and seem to have a pretty good understanding of their worldviews, but that liberals have *no idea* how conservatives think or what they value.

    If one side understands the other better, and by extension probably their arguments better too, and still holds their position…that speaks to the strength of their position. When faced with questions such as “One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal” or “Justice is the most important requirement for a society,” liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree.

    • augustine says

      That is by design. Liberals see greater success in pushing their agenda unilaterally. They don’t owe it to anyone to consider other viewpoints. Don’t expect that to change any time soon. This strategy does, however, leave the Left vulnerable to a tipping point and mass exodus of people who see through this tactic, along with all the similarly unreasonable narratives.

  81. Jack B. Nimble says

    @Alistair Fraser– Thanks for the name calling!
    @Ligneto– Thanks for providing an example of the shallow, lazy thinking I was criticizing above!
    @Jonathan Wright –Don’t talk to me about suffering. This is shallow thinking.

    It’s not my job to fix Peterson’s lazy thinking for him. However, when he said ‘predator,’ a better word choice would have been ‘monster’:

    Definition of monster
    1 a : an animal or plant of abnormal form or structure

    a mythical monster, sea monster

    b : one who deviates from normal or acceptable behavior or character

    2 : a threatening force

    the same monster — Destiny … that rolls every civilization to doom —W. L. Sullivan

    3 a : an animal of strange or terrifying shape

    visualize this scaleless monster, eight or nine feet long, sprawling in the shade by the side of the mud pools —W. E. Swinton

    b : one unusually large for its kind

    4 : something monstrous; especially : a person of unnatural or extreme ugliness, deformity, wickedness, or cruel…….. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/monster

    Poor word choice is an symptom of shallow or sloppy thinking. That was the main point of my original comment.

    Sure monsters are archetypes in fiction [horror stories, Beowulf, etc., etc.] and pop culture [Halloween]. I don’t believe in Jungian archetypes, but a person can understand and accept the power of myth and story-telling without buying the particular myths that Peterson is selling.

    Oh, and the business about witches? I’m agnostic about that.

  82. D234 says

    Carol, I look forward to an actual political critique. I found this interesting though, as an exercise in strawman bashing and srawman defending. I am not concerned overmuch with the overblown rhetoric of some journalists or commentators, left or right in their critiques. I enjoy Jung far more than Peterson but acknowledge in both cases that their mythic insight does not compensate for their deeply flawed historical, political and cultural misunderstandings and reinforcement of what I consider dangerously reactionary ideas and actions of their followers.

    This is not abstract, not generalized. I do not live in a leftist bubble. I live in a world where numerous alt right young and old fashioned old males relate tales to me in which they reference Peterson and explain to me calmly that Peterson’s work proves that gender identity and social construction are not biologically true and therefore the hunting parties they organize to beat up lesbians are justified; the transgender people who talk to children deserve the punching out they received from a church elder; that the mythic irony of violence is the reason it must be pursued; that the reassertion of male rights is inevitably leading to civil war; that “leftists and liberals” (notice the lack of distinction) will lose this war because churches and leaders of industry have the power of the war machine that “gays and liberals” lack; That the hate crime murder of a family friend is “too bad, because some blacks are ok;” That at least we’ve got Trump but Obama “should have been shot or sent back to Africa with the rest of them;” That bitches want it, and “our hot bitches will beat up a les too cause they know what’s right;”and so on.

    I’m a white straight precariat working class overeducated male who doesn’t live in a filter bubble and these are a very small sample of real conversations and real experiences, not online posturing, found in average american suburbs and cities and small towns, voiced by average, increasingly reactionary ” little men” as Reich described them. Almost every white male in America has similar experiences, often compartmentalized and dissociated from the public sphere as part of whatever “good ol boy” apologia their class and social network uses to hide or explain them away. But these are words and actions meant to provoke terror and dissociation and I have personally seen them repeatedly succeed in doing just that.

    They also succeed in galvanizing some people to actively and concretely fight for justice.

    Unfortunately these explicitly reactionary and traditionalist words and actions and memes succeed now as they have in the past, in part because “well meaning” people find something of value in the intellectual pretensions they cloak themselves in or in the perennial but insufficient call for civility and free speech.

    Peterson is a minor and derivative thinker putting an appealing twist on old verities while calling out minor left transgressions as if he’s revealed for the first time that the emperor HSS no clothes. But the fact that he has built a following in which these ideas are being used with real and dangerous consequences is why this matters. His followers and apologists are feeding movements which are, quite literally, terrifying.

    A genuine critique of Peterson and his opponents will take these real consequences and broader reactionary trends seriously and not dismiss them as inconsequential or a mere “misunderstanding” of Peterson or other traditionalists.

    In particular, Carol, as a political scientist you have access to the substantial literature of critique of not only Peterson’s work but of antecedent ideas, movements and what political psychology can tell us of these emerging consequences. I know you to be a serious person. I hope that your next piece will grapple with these concerns more seriously.

    I’ve written in the first person here to be clear that I am not interested in standard internet rhetorical tactics. But it is important to realize that my experiences are not unique, not unusual, not exceptional. They are similar to the daily experience of millions. To dismiss people who are galvanized to fight back by direct exposure to the violence, bigotry and hate directed at them and the people they love as “leftists” or “Social justice warriors” as some have done in these commentaries is to indulge in at best irrelevant and at worst deliberate misdirection.

    I am writing of your towns, your neighbors, maybe you. What are you doing about it?

    • Hutch says

      You can be an asshole by failing to treat people with human decency and use any ideological cloak as an excuse.

      Far leftist ideologies and those ideas espoused by Peterson can be abused. That’s not to say Peterson deserves to be pulled down by those abuser especially when he has publically denounced them.

      The knee jerk reaction to Peterson makes it clear that the parts of the left does not want to engage in honest debate but would rather smear him.

      Peterson is incredibly misunderstood by both the far left and far right. They seek to react and not think about his arguments.

      Stephen fry put it eloquently in that most people don’t have the ability to deal with big ideas gracefully. That’s the problem, coupled with the fact that human decency is in rare supply.

      Your comment reflects this problem.

      • D234 says

        What big idea am I not dealing with gracefully?

        • Hutch says

          Not to be rude but you’re not dealing with any idea at all.

          Your entire comment can just be summarised as an opinion of: Jordan Peterson is giving an already established assholes an excuse to continue to be assholes and that his ideas are reactionary.

          It’s as if you think every person who could conceivably find merit in Peterson’s arguments must automatically be an asshole.

          Petersons primary contention that collectivist thinking can stray too far is perfectly reasonable. It finds application against either side. Be it white euphemists and the far left.

    • Jungian psychology is about confronting and integrating The Shadow, which is bigoted, violent, racist, sexist, hateful, etc. These emotions and attitudes have always existed. I know I am an evil man; I know I have ancestral sin. This is something that “leftist” or “Social Justice Warriors” tell me every day. What am I doing about it? I can’t fix my town or my nation or the world, but I can fix my self and the people I love.

    • Peterson gets people out of the alt-right. He has made a clear and understandable defense of classical liberalism and western civilization in an era where both are under massive ideological and cultural attack. Liberal politics has been hijacked by a deeply resentful identity movement that is not interested in equal opportunity for all. It is instead interested in exacting justice for past perceived wrongs upon racial and identity groups it has determined responsible. Like white men for example. Peterson had the audacity to claim that tbis ideology is intensely dangerous, as it smacked of Maoist struggle sessions and the soviet purging of the middle class, while also risking to push white men into embracing the opposite of liberal identity politics. Hard Right ethno nationalism and Nazism.

      This struck a chord because it is true. The modern left has deeply underestimated just how much rage has been building over its actions and Peterson spoke out at a critical moment.

      Now, I’m going to tell you something may surprise you. The alt-right mostly detests Peterson. If you know where to look for alt-right commentary he’s routinely pilloried there. He opposes race realism, he doesn’t support ethno-nationalism, says Jews are demographically disproportionately successful not due to conspiracies but due to competence hierarchies, and has called Nazism an evil ideology. Peterson also said that he received numerous letters from individuals who were moved away from the far right by his ideas. Probably has something to do with his emphasis on personal responsibly, which both the left and the far right vehemently oppose.

      The great irony of calling JP “alt-right” is that he’s probably changed more minds of people who otherwise would be alt-right than anyone.

      Richard Spencer doesn’t like Jordan Peterson

    • Lee Moore says

      I do not live in a leftist bubble. I live in a world where numerous alt right young and old fashioned old males relate tales to me in which they reference Peterson and explain to me calmly that Peterson’s work proves that gender identity and social construction are not biologically true and therefore the hunting parties they organize to beat up lesbians are justified……But it is important to realize that my experiences are not unique, not unusual, not exceptional. They are similar to the daily experience of millions.

      Interesting. There are millions of people worrying about gangs of alt right males organizing hunting parties to beat up lesbians ? How does this work exactly ? Despite all the hype, there are hardly any alt right males – probably 100 lesbians for each alt right male. Why don’t the lesbians beat up the alt right males instead ? And why are millions quivering in fear at the activities of a few thousand alt righters, most of whom are sitting in their Mom’s basement masturbating, not going out lesbian-hunting. You’re living in la-la land.

      I am writing of your towns, your neighbors, maybe you. What are you doing about it?

      She’s cleaning up her room. A worthy and achievable task.

      Those aren’t giants you’re charging towards. They’re windmills.

      • Bertie says

        Very well put. When D234 claims “I do not live in a leftist bubble”, methinks he protests too much.

        If the legions of alt-righters were really going around beating up lesbians, the least we know is that our delightful Fourth Estate would be chomping at the bit to cover it, since it would validate the pathological biases they have toward conservatives already.

        • Yes, the “hunting parties beating up lesbians” remark is a gross give away. Such things exist only in the imaginations of the “over-educated”. If D234 really believes in such imaginary enemies, he is a “small man” in the revolutionary ranks indeed.

          Let us pray for D234’s red-pilling.

      • Yarara says

        “Despite all the hype, there are hardly any alt right males – probably 100 lesbians for each alt right male. Why don’t the lesbians beat up the alt right males instead ? And why are millions quivering in fear at the activities of a few thousand alt righters, most of whom are sitting in their Mom’s basement masturbating, not going out lesbian-huntin ”

        I heard a “bronies” convention gets more attendance than an “alt-right” convention…. 🙂

    • “the hunting parties they organize to beat up lesbians are justified”

      Man, I needed a good laugh.

    • Brett Hilder says

      Actually you do live in a Leftist bubble.

      You hate anyting that you perceive to be from the right because you don’t apply intellectual rigour to your views or those of others. Unsubstantiated claims of terror you attach to an opposing point of view are signs of ideological capture, and adhering to ideology is simply lazy.

      Incidentally, the worst cases of sexual abuse including in volume are perpetrated by Left wing men. They make President Trump look like a saint.

  83. Stephen Alexander says

    So I’m a big jbp fan. First attracted by 1) he’s Canadian 2) his ideas resonate with my life experience 3) he has courage far greater than common 5) he genuinely wants to help -and has a background of service 6) he has a deep reservoir of well researched work supporting his current work 7) he is a careful, thoughtful and respectful person when properly challenged 8) he brings a critically necessary dialogue forward. He has the potential to tilt the world to the better. So can we all dispense with the ad hominem b.s. and continue with honest dialogue. I am now, unfortunately, completely disenchanted with the left, which is being misrepresented by extremist actors with excess power in the media and academia. It’s time for the moderate left to regain control and regain their self respect. Moderate Leftists that currently feel uncomfortable with their situation – time to challenge and take charge. For the good of us all.

  84. Lim says

    The lack of moderate voices is a by-product of social media and online discourse taking over for all other forms of discourse. The world of Twitter et al rewards:
    — Extreme brevity. Even without character counts, long, careful arguments that deal in nuance won’t be read.
    — Speed of response. The incentive to get the first hot take out before the topic grows cold rewards knee-jerk responses. It effectively renders anybody who takes more than a few minutes to make up their mind moot and invisible.
    — Snarkiness. Did it allow you to have a happy lil’ chuckle at your political opponents? Retweet.
    — Emotional Impact. Primarily outrage and its constant companion, self-righteousness (but let’s not forget fear!) We’ve all seen the studies that show that outrage is by far the most likely emotion to provoke clicking and sharing.

    The biggest, loudest, dumbest, most perpetually-panicked voices are being pushed to the forefront like never before. All political views are being reduced to caricatures of themselves. It’s easiest to notice when it’s people you don’t agree with sounding like lunatics, but this phenomenon goes beyond Left / Right divisions and infects everything. Trust me, if you think “at least my side doesn’t sound crazy” you are mistaken.

    The prospects for “regaining control” in this environment don’t look good for either side. Although if people stopped clicking on every sensationalist confirmation-bias bait link and stopped jumping every time some attention-seeking would-be pundit ham-fistedly pushed their buttons, that might be a start.

    Learning to listen to points of view you don’t share without the superstitious fear that it will hypnotize you into becoming a monster would be a nice step too. Maybe don’t accuse everybody who disagrees with you of being a literal nazi (if you’re on the left) or a stalinist/maoist (if you’re on the right) and engage with the things your interlocutor actually said, and not the terrifying things it vaguely reminds you of.

    Wishful thinking, I know.

  85. “The hyperbolic uniformity of the leftist attack on Peterson is emblematic of the growing tendency to reduce left-of-center thought to the status of a rigidly simplistic ideology. . . . Second, the Left’s attack on Peterson is so unrelenting, so superficial, and quite frequently so vicious, that many of us who work and/or live in left-leaning social environments feel scared to speak up against it. We don’t want to alienate our friends, damage our professional reputations, or attract the attention of fire-breathing activists.”

    When people–even people of the left–are afraid to speak up, we have a totalitarian moment. This moment has been coming for many years, so I hope it is not too late to turn it back. I fear that it is too late.

    “Conservatives of this stripe mistrust radical movements that are ready to rip apart a cultural fabric that took generations to weave in pursuit of some idealistic vision of social justice. They believe that there is such a thing as ‘human nature,’ and that it’s highly fallible, and inevitably bedeviled by problems such as envy, corruption, and greed.”

    This is a far more common form of conservatism than most leftists think; the idea that “corporate capitalism” is all that conservatives have to offer is a caricature, but a convenient one–a straw man. G. K. Chesterton’s advice that we should not tear down a fence until we find out why it tis there is the basic attitude of most conservatives. If more people of the left talked to conservatives instead of talking down to them or vilifying them, we would not be where we are now.

  86. Johan says

    Is that all you got, Jack?
    – Go and make your bed.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      I have commented elsewhere on Peterson’s use of the lobster example with specific reference to the Cathy Newman interview:


      BTW, I was permanently banned from commenting at The American Conservative, although not for that particular comment. It seems that I stepped on too many sacred toes at Rod Dreher’s blog.

      I’m actually neutral or ambivalent about no-platforming, provided [in the US] that the 1st amendment doesn’t apply. At least the Marxists will explain their motivation for banning speakers, although I disagree with their reasoning. People on the right, like Rod Dreher often engage in no-platforming while simultaneously claiming that it mostly happens on the left.

  87. This is the most insightful and objective political piece that I have read in several years. I wish I could have said it so eloquently. Having been in academe for over 25 years, I support his criticisms of academic hypocrisy and identity based policies. However, I disagree with many of his other positions. Nonetheless, progress necessitates meaningful discourse of all ideas irrespective of origin.

  88. Jan says

    The left sleeps well at night while children are confiscated by the state because their parents were reluctant to inject them with permanent life altering hormones. They have dinner parties while girls are mutilated and sent off to foreign countries to be forcibly married. They ignore terrorism and the collusion between governments and corporations. Basically they are cheerleaders for untested radical experiments which threaten two thousand years of progress. It does not bother them that women in Europe are told to stay inside at night or they might be raped. Their progressivism is pathological. It destroys and maims under the banner of altruism. Look no further than progressive cities overburdened with crime and addiction. After destroying the black community with their ’empathy’ they are now keen to finish off the rest of us with their ‘kindness’. Peterson is a real liberal. He knows the difference between helping and devouring. He recognizes the reality that leftists are projecting all their own darkness onto the world rather than facing it. People like Peterson and liberals from the Kennedy days are now cast as far right by the many headed hydra of liberal media, education and pop culture. Leftists are so far gone that simple introspection is impossible. Asking them to consider something outside of their playbook cause real world violence on their part. They bless Antifa’s blatant Naxi fascist tactics while keeping a safe distance from a dictionary or a history book. In short Peterson is trying to warn us that the modern left is malignant, conceited and dangerous, which is obvious to anyone outside their ech chamber.

  89. Christopher Chantrill says

    By the way. Peterson is being attacked from the alt-right as well as the left.

  90. lifeatan says

    I am a big fan of Peterson. After reading this I feel very sorry for people on the left that are afraid to voice their opinions among their friends.

  91. Ken says

    All major economic problems in the US (and the world ingeneral) stem from the left’s economic “leadership”. This is to be expected since the left’s only idea on the economy is to deny people their economic liberty, centralizing as many economic decisions into a few bureaucratic hands in DC. To confuse this with leafership is a massive intellectual and moral failing.

  92. Theo says

    I would say if you want to see Jordan Peterson engaged in an intelligent give-and-take, back-and-forth with a person of the left, watch the youtube clips of his discussions with Camille Paglia. Your brain will swell to twice its normal size with the new ideas you’ll be thinking watching two public intellectuals engaged in discourse.

  93. Lee Moore says

    The distinction between unreasonable and reasonable left explains why Carol hears what Peterson is saying and Jack doesn’t. Peterson, despite his claims to choose his words very carefully, often speaks metaphorically. Which is fine and illuminating to a charitable listener who wants to understand him. But baffling and enraging to those whose only purpose in listening is to find a soundbite to misrepresent.

    Unlike Carol, I’m not a lefty. But like Carol I hear plenty of things from Peterson that I don’t think he’s right about. He’s not some kind of mystical guru whose every word is infused with holy incense. He’s a very interesting and intelligent fellow, with interesting ideas and a compelling way of expressing himself. A fair amount of what he says is reasonably standard conservative fare, in the sense that Carol describes. But it’s remarkable because it had been assumed that this sort of conservative was extinct. But it seems they’re not.

    If I had to disagree with Carol on a specific it would be on her view of Peterson’s political position as regards economics. Peterson seems centrist rather than rightist on things like redistribution and welfare. His opposition to equality of outcome has to do with the totalitarian means required to attempt it, not to the desirability of keeping inequality within reasonable bounds.

    • Keithindy says

      There’s no way to ensure equality of outcome. Give a group of 100 people a million dollars each, are you going to get equal outcomes? Or will some people blow the money in a month, some give it away, and other use it widely.

      We can do our best to provide equal opportunity, access to education, heath care, wellness resources, but individuals will do with it what they want.

      Old adage, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      I personally don’t care about Peterson’s politics even though some people enjoy speculating about what he really thinks – classical liberal? reactionary? centrist? What does it matter? Same about his wardrobe.

      I do care when people assume on limited evidence that Peterson’s views somehow define the political center in the US, Canada and Europe. Peterson says that, if he had been able to vote in Nov. 2016, he would have voted for Trump. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTVXCxbC2to What does THAT say about his political views?

      Look, I could say that Peterson is the most original and important thinker since Einstein, but how would that affect people’s understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of his ideas? He certainly doesn’t lack defenders, especially on this website. But anyone who wants to understand Peterson’s place in contemporary thought has to read both his defenders and his detractors.

      As it happens, I think he is right on the multivariate analysis of the ‘gender-pay-gap,’ at least in a narrow technical sense. And I’m always intrigued by people who treat religion as myth rather than as history or revelation.

      But I don’t comment on his discussion of religion because it is not my field. I’m an academic biologist [retired] and from that perspective there’s lots to dislike in Peterson’s attempts to gather up bushels of biological facts and use them to buttress his psychological arguments. I call that mis-appropriation of information ‘pseudo-knowledge.’ That is the perspective from which I criticize Peterson.

      Here’s another example: Peterson claimed in a lecture that depictions in ancient artwork of two intertwined snakes anticipate the modern discovery of the DNA double helix.


      But snakes coil around each other to mate, since they have no appendages with which to clasp a partner. So intertwined snakes can be interpreted as fertility symbols, but the rest is Peterson’s fanciful invention. Besides, the two DNA strands in the double helix are anti-parallel, so to anticipate the DNA molecule, the intertwined snakes would have to be oriented head to tail!!

      • As to voting for Trump, your link demonstrates that he said that he’d have walked into the voting booth intending to vote for Clinton, and then probably would have flipped on impulse to Trump. Which indicates to me a pretty centrist position – Trump as the lesser of two evils, but extremely marginally. The fact that you interpret this as wild eyed right wingery :

        “What does THAT say about his political views?”

        indicates much more about where you stand than where Peterson stands. About half the voters went for Trump, if you think they’re all crazy right wingers your dials must be set pretty far to the left.

        But I agree with you on snakes and DNA. I remember listening to that and thinking “Whoa ! That’s getting way overexcited.” Which I think is an insight into his character. He’s not a steady eddy dull academic, he’s a rather creative, even emotionally volatile, man. His extreme control during interviews by hostile lefties trying to goad him is not his true character but an act of will requiring great effort.

      • Johan says

        @Jack B Nimble. If somone votes for Trump in the presidential election doesn’t say anything about anyones political views when the only alternative was Hillary.
        Jack…your reasoning abilities…a bit dull.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          I’ll ignore your suggestion that preferring Trump to Clinton says nothing about a person’s political views. Instead, if you go to Wikipedia and search for:

          List of Republicans who opposed the Donald Trump presidential campaign, 2016
          List of Democrats who opposed the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, 2016
          List of Hillary Clinton presidential campaign political endorsements, 2016
          List of Donald Trump presidential campaign political endorsements, 2016

          you will find that the number of prominent Republicans who opposed Trump and/or endorsed Clinton is much larger (roughly 10X) than the number of prominent Democrats who opposed Clinton and/or endorsed Trump. Ditto for the number of traditionally Republican-leaning newspapers that endorsed Clinton versus the number of traditionally Democratic-leaning newspapers that endorsed Trump. This refers to the general election, not the primaries.

          If that doesn’t convince you that Clinton was the more establishment/centrist candidate then I don’t know what would. Peterson in that short video clip even says that Clinton was the more establishment/experienced choice. Does that video make Peterson sound impulsive? Absolutely! Centrist? No.

          • Lee Moore says

            The fact that Clinton was the establishment candidate doesn’t make all Trump voters right wing ideologues, it just means the establishment picked such an astonishingly loathsome candidate that even a blowhard like Trump could beat her. And the fact that lots of senior Republicans defected to the other side merely demonstrates that Democrat leaders are less sensitive to the stench of an awful candidate than Republicans.

            In reality Trump is, by traditional standards, not very right wing at all. Sure he’s a boorish loudmouth, but on most measures he’d be to the left of all of the GOP Presidential candidates since Gerald Ford.

  94. Chester Ehite says

    “Rather than being forthright about this, though, I’ve tended to cower silently in my alienated corner, fearful that revealing my rejection of the stock anti-Peterson narrative will cause my progressive friends to denounce me and the social media mobs to swarm.”

    You are a coward. Stop that. Grow a g.d. backbone.

    Exactly the sort of thing Peterson himself would say to you. Keep watching him and learn.

  95. Keithindy says

    It’s interesting how many times I’ve heard people on the left afraid of speaking their mind for fear of being made an outcast.

    I never felt that when discussing anything with anyone on the right.

    • dirk says

      It’s even worse Keithindy: Peterson somewhere said, talking about how people could commit the gruesome crimes as in WWII:
      “Peer pressure is always stronger than the inner moral compass”, how does he know ? (and I think he might be damn correct), not by evidence , experiments or statistics, but by inner conviction, intuiton, compass.

  96. Mark says

    Our political discourse would be a lot more pleasant with more people like you on both sides of the isle. Thank you.

    • Ken says

      Our political discourse would be a lot better if the left’s ideology wasn’t founded on the anti-American ideal of denying people their basic human rights, such as life (the left supports abortion) and liberty (particularly religious, speech, economic, and educational liberties), which are both prerequisites for the pursuit of happiness.

  97. Miss Daddy says

    Canadians really are laughably polite.

  98. Pingback: Halfway Through Destroying The Village To “Save” It, The Second Thoughts Kick In : The Other McCain

  99. Robert Sendler says

    Hey Carol, Victor Frankenstein would like to warn you about creations that sort of don’t meet your expectations…

    And my Basic Training Instructor says “hope” is not a plan…

  100. When asked why the Soviet Union no longer had a fifth column…I think it was Khrushchev who nonchalantly replied “Oh, we rounded them up and shot them.”

    Bezmenov – “When they see the reality of their beautiful world of social justice and equality they wont like it very much. They will dissent and no dissent can be allowed. They will be squashed like cockroaches.”

    The reason the left isnt responding effectively to Peterson and others like him is that they are intellectually bankrupt. They resort to ad hominems because they dont have a case. It is as simple as that. You all might want to step back and think about that.

    More Bezmenov – “No matter how much information you give them they cannot draw a sensible conclusion. Take them to Siberia and show them the gulag. They will not believe it. They will believe it when the military boot is crushing their balls, not before.”

    The people driving the left dont care about inequality, paytreearky, misogyny or any of the crap they gibber on about. It’s about power. Nothing more.

    • That Bezmenov interview is terrifying. It needs to be seen and studied much more widely.

    • augustine says

      Yes, that video is an eye-opener. Devastating and 100% relevant today. Bezmenov is easy to listen to in his manner and voice, even for that time duration.

  101. frankdn says

    Ms. Horton, for her reluctance to toe the hate-Peterson line, fears alienation from her friends. I’d suggest she take a close look at the people she fears and see them for who they really are… then ask herself if she really wants to be friends with them.

  102. Very honest take on Mr. Peterson and probably quite relevant. The below quote, I think speaks to the left’s failure or more accurately progressive movements having been compromised by the conservative movement’s ability to message us all, as per George Lakoff’s body of work, using their particular moral/political values to draw in their supporters and repel progressives at the same time. As well, the idea that while progressives rail against conservative values, which they should, they allow themselves to be compromised as they don’t know how to speak to their own moral/political values, so instead they attack without reason or understanding and continue to lose ground.

    ” This is particularly true if left-of-center forces continue to let the populist, authoritarian Right and its fellow travellers take the loudest, strongest, and most politically visible stance on issues of socio-economic inequality. While calls to abandon identity politics wholesale are misguided and unrealistic, a reassessment of how they’re currently playing out is long overdue. ” 

    ” Rather than meeting someone like Peterson with intelligent questions and challenging discussions, the Left prefers to hurl insults and champion trendy hashtags. It’s good clickbait. But it’s a bad way to win elections or create the conditions that increase the possibility of positive change. ”

    Exactly right! Progressives continue to lose elections around the world while conservatives are embracing their authoritarian father figure values. Progressives must embrace their moral/political values or we will continue to suffer under the heel of conservatism.

    • Bruno Behrend says

      “embracing authoritarian father figure values.”

      The use of that language indicates that your suffer from what Peterson would call “ideological possession.”

      First, you ignore / reject the idea that these “values” you denigrate have any value at all. They do. Lots of it.

      This is why Peterson is so popular.

      Second, your “moral / political values” while perhaps having some value themselves, also have faults. (Your fellow travelers hatred of free speech being the most egregious – and unforgivable – flaw.)

      It isn’t as if your side’s (and yes, it is a “side”) “values” haven’t absorbed every major institution in the West. Sane humans are simply reacting to the massive overreach, and we couldn’t pick a better standard-bearer than Peterson, whose decency and overall centrism are virtually unassailable.

      The smugness in your post illustrates the problem. You are a bit more polite and well-spoken, but the dismissal and disdain creep through.

      You, and the author, seem to retain enough integrity to at least contend with Peterson’s ideas. Now take the next logical step and admit that his rise is due to the fact that he is at least half right in a 100% progressive (at least half wrong) world.

      To retain your liberalism (deceny), you must shed your progressivism (indecent and totalitarian).

      Just sayin’

  103. Bruno Behrend says

    The author is too smart to be a left. She’s a liberal. That is no longer left.

    Progressives are left, as are their totalitarian fellow travelers.

  104. JP Noel says

    It seems to me the emergence of Peterson only demonstrates how far the intellectual right has fallen since the days of Hayek, Friedman and Nozick. Peterson’s thinking (or at least the reaction to it) is driven more by emotion than it is based on reason, as evidenced by both the cultish adoration of his fans and the virulent responses of his detractors. It is also hard to see how the sense of victimhood he seems to promote in young white men belongs to the classical liberal tradition he is meant to follow. He is certainly an engaging speaker, but his skillful rhetoric and entertaining use of historical references, if made for social media, can’t hide just how muddled his thinking can be.

    • Johan says

      @JP Noel. Being a snob doesn’t change peoples minds. Put Hayek on YouTube and see what happens.
      Absolutely nothing.

    • Yohan Oresund says

      I take exception to the idea that he promotes a sense of victimhood in young white men. He hammers the point home again and again that one must bear the burden of existing (and the suffering that comes along with it), and try to become a better person in the face of it. “Stand up straight”, “Clean your room”.

      But he also points out that there seems to be a curious kind of fixation on ‘toxic masculinity’ and ‘whiteness’, especially on college campuses. I feel he is simply pointing out the realities of the current year, rather than feeding some sense of resentment.

      You can point out that Peterson is no political science or economics heavyweight (a claim he never makes) or a ‘conservative’ thinker (again, a claim he never makes). But if you want to categorize him as a ‘Sowell-lite’, why is that such a bad thing? Why is it a bad thing that he has garnered 1.1 million followers on youtube, or that Kanye West tweeted a snippet of one of his videos?

      I mean, look at the discussion we’re having now. We wouldn’t be having it if the messenger was too lofty or inaccessible. I admire the fact that he has put himself out there to help spark dialogues about important ideas.

    • “It is also hard to see how the sense of victimhood he seems to promote in young white men belongs to the classical liberal tradition he is meant to follow.”

      He *seems* to promote? God, you people are cowards. He doesn’t “seem to promote” anything of the sort, and you know it or you wouldn’t have qualified your comment. His whole schtick, if you could encapsulate it in one catchphrase, is “Make your bed.” If that isn’t clear enough for you, the advice he’s giving his (mostly) young male audience is one of personal responsibility. It seems pretty obvious to most people who follow his work why this is resonating particularly well with young men, but as I’m operating under no illusions this comment will amount to anything more than wind in your ears, I’m not gonna bother elaborating further. His videos and writing are widely available. Your ignorance is of your own damn making.

  105. It fills me with pleasure to see the left attacking Jordan Peterson with such gusto. 99.9% of them haven’t read a word he has written, nor could they summarize or precis any of his ideas. It is enough to know that somewhere out there, some right wing young men like him to understand that he is SATAN. And yet lefties think they are the very soul of rationality and scientific objectivity. Ha ha!

  106. a scott says

    We need more reasonable opinions heard like this one.

    On the other hand, what is missing from this view is what makes professor Peterson an unusual academic conservative –

    1. He finished his book in 2015 and stirred the pot as hard as he could before releasing it in 2018. 2. He wrote an article in “the Hill”, headline political news site, stating as a fact pertaining to the state of New York; “Authorities there now fine citizens up to $250,000 for the novel crime of “mis-gendering” — referring to people by any words other than their pronouns of choice (including newly constructed words such as zie/hir, ey/em/eir and co)”. This is simply false. Worse, he must know he is speaking falsely and intentionally misleading weaker minds. Theoretically, if an employer continued to mis-address an employee in a manner that demonstrated this sort of ill-intent, it would apply. I can’t find one publicized incident of such a fine before or after his writing, and it’s difficult to imagine today that such a fine would not be publicized – if not tweeted out by the president.
    3. He chose to write this, and release protest videos against transgender rights, as an October 2016 surprise in terms of the US election, mirroring the Trump campaign’s primary theme of “east coast lefty craziness”.
    4. He at times claims to be a scientist, a practicing psychoanalyst, a teacher, a historian, a legal scholar, a philosopher, among other things. Jack of all trades, master of any?
    5. His Jung/Campbell lectures are terrific, his talk w/ Russell Brand on some of these ideas is by far his most relaxed and engaging public interaction.
    6. I’ve seen some 1-1 sessions on youtube which suggest him being a competent listener.
    7. As a pundit impressive given the time and space to lecture his ideas – he is also good at a rhetorical battle mode, I recognize as a psychologist’s practice of turning the conversation towards what the patient is trying to do. He chooses silly interviewers and then holds them up as examples of what the crazy lefties are trying to do. This is not an intellectual exercise, its sophistry. I have yet to see a public conversation where he appears to learn something, at least Buckley would nod now and again to recognize a point by Chomsky, Baldwin, or Muhammed Ali. Perhaps that’s the times, but that makes Peterson no better than his times.
    7. He is no scientist (1% of the population are born with some physical gender-related “abnormality” which amounts to a solid “scientific” rebuttal to there being no place in our language for this small percentage amounting to millions of individuals; wolf and dog behavior the obvious and available consideration for behavioral evolution – females often lead packs and rejected males not allowed to mate – and he’s talking about lobsters).
    8. He is certainly no historian with regard to U.S. culture and communities, which tends to be the practical landing pad for most of what he says. He’s made a deep study of Stalinism, though, that’s for sure. Stalinism, Hitlerism, and drawing certain conclusions which are neither here not there.

    In short, I agree his strengths and weaknesses are overlooked in this call for referendum on his moral purity. And this is a problem, because in a binary construction (which almost never truly happens in nature) he’s being accepted in areas he shouldn’t be, and dismissed in others.

  107. jsolbakken says

    I’m one of those eeeevil right wingers who came over here from Instapundit. Are you experiencing an Instalanche?
    As an eeeevil right winger who nevertheless would like to engage in civil discussion with Lefties who can handle such without pointing and shrieking, I would like to say that JBP is an interesting guy, but just because he is interesting doesn’t mean that anyone has to swallow what he says whole and examined. His greatest value is like that of all interesting people, he is a conversation starter for those who like to think and wrestle with ideas and make up their own minds about things.

    If there is anything wrong with the Left, it is that the Left does not have much use for people making up their own minds. You can deny it all you want, but that is my empirical observation of the Left. Not universal of all Lefties, but enough to be noticeable as a pattern.

    As for equality, I can right-splain to you what’s wrong with Lefty notions of it: Equality of result is part of the unalterable human condition. Achieving equality of result is like time travel to the past, even if you could figure out the calculations, it would take too much energy to actually accomplish, perhaps all or most of the potential energy that exists in the universe, you’d have to convert all the matter that exists in to energy, and most people would consider that to be madness, and impractical. As Bill Gates would say, not cost effective.

    And then, morally, I don’t think there is moral virtue in equality in and of itself. So what if somebody has a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost while I have to struggle through life with the humiliation of driving a used Honda? If certain persons are destitute of basic needs like food clothing & shelter, they can be helped by various means. But it would take massive amounts of energy to achieve “equality,” and then massiver amounts of energy to maintain the “equality,” and frankly its a bat excrement idea and not morally necessary and not cost effective for humanity as a whole.

    But Lefties are very irrational and have an emotional distaste for the appearance of inequality, so it looks like as long as the Left holds the lion share of power in the world that humanity will suffer the costs of catering to their irrationality.

  108. L. Davis says

    Puzzled by your repeated claim to be too afraid to speak up for fear of losing friends. a) you’ve written this and b) the consequences of not speaking up are far worse than the consequences of doing so.

  109. British satirist Tom Walker (aka: Jonathan Pie) was correct when he said the Left has lost the art of persuasion. Absolutely everything is now framed in terms of shaming and name-calling. If you’re not 100% already on-board with whatever “woke” theories are trendy with the Left this week, you’re labeled a lot of horrible things, and summarily kicked out of the human equation. For failing to parrot back to the Social Justice Zealots what the SJZs want to hear coming out of your mouth.

    This is not a paradigm founded on inquiry.

    This is a paradigm founded on dogma. Strict, absolutist dogma. They already have all the answers.

    It’s the very antithesis of the Enlightenment.

  110. dirk says

    World news from a small country on the Northsee (part of the giant Atlantic Ocean), the NL: in my newspaper, the NRC, (for elderly intellectuals from the left and the right) Peterson today was called a “male chauvinist pig” (though this was immediately contested by another weatherman). Name calling is now no longer something to shun by our elite and intellectual journalists.

    • Johan says

      @dirk. They are desperate. No arguments left.
      The Swedish social democratic party (mostly in power since 1945) is in Free Fall…They don’t know how to adress voters anymore.
      Dirk, we should fell good now…

  111. Ford Peterson says

    I am profoundly moved to find a self-confessed lefty (Horton) with a willingness to actually talk about it. Peterson’s view of the world is rightly defined by the individual vs the collective. Western culture has thrived in an environment where the sovereign is the individual and not the collective. In truth, even the lost lefty-of-left and righty-of-right are classical liberals to the core. I have never heard Peterson advocate for one to the exclusion of the other. Quite the contrary, he is vocal about admiring the virtues of each respective view of the world, and passionate about avoiding each extreme’s darker nature–informed by all of human history. Peterson is respectful of those who embrace a mutual respect and forced to navigate the choppy waters of angry young mobs of ill-informed juveniles.

    Politics today should be a dialog about steering our culture. When the dialog ends, civil society ends. Peace and safety will be gone except for the dialog. Silencing the dialog is to end civilization as we have come to love it. The current trend of shouting down politicians, activists, and commentators when the discussion gets hard is not useful to our mutual goals. Quite the contrary. Silencing reasonable voices is an absolute certain recipe for a most unfortunate, violent, catastrophic failure of civil society. Hideous death and destruction will soon follow–human history informs us that this is true. Any party participating in the successful silencing of thoughtful narrative is GUILTY of attempted genocide of Western culture and all the achievements of the past 300 years. Own it! Stop attacking it! Engage with those that compassionately and passionately embrace those who are our neighbors. Seek that common ground that leads to citizens thriving in our western world. Expand our community to include the entire planet–an admirably useful goal.

    • dirk says

      Expand over the entire planet, are you serious Ford? Are you a globalist/fundamentalist?

  112. Ford Peterson says

    Globalist buzzwords… I’ve heard it said that study (Pew) showed that if given the chance, over 2 billion people would move to the west. Basic economic data suggests that many billion more would be better off by doing so.

    Extract that fact. I’m hinting that we don’t want them here for very practical reasons. But there is no stopping the expansion of human capital without anybody moving anywhere. The west has a 300 year head start. That journey started with the first step.

    Peterson (no relation by the way) advocates for the journey to begin with practical self improvement. History says the second step may be to stop killing to gain marginal improvement/prevent retreat.

    So yes…the whole world.

  113. dirk says

    Thanx, O.K. that’s clear, I mean, the intention expressed.

  114. Ford Peterson says

    What is unfortunate is that my comment can be viewed as racist and xenophobic. So nobody is willing to discuss it. When they spin it with a hate-filled intent, the affect is to silence discussion. The truth is quite practical and has little to do with my thoughts, nationalistic, globalist, fundamentalist, misogynist, paternal, isolationist, (all weaponized rhetoric words by the way), or otherwise. 330 million already occupy America. Consider the ensuing bloodbath if the streets filled with 2.3 billion!

    The militant left fails to recognize that the west is exceptionally fragile. Peterson points this out to his peril in terms of love and appreciation from the left. Think about it…An expertly placed weapon detonated at the right time and the cities of the west will be dining on their pets by the weekend and their children the next. Social changes need to happen with an exceptionally slow advance–as in generations long advance. The advance of freedom and protections of vulnerable populations are well meaning and excellent. But the jury is out as to whether civilization is better off. Many believe that the expansion of population, through reproduction, migration, improved life expectancy, or otherwise, is a universal improvement for civil discourse. Yet not one study exists (beyond the reading of recorded human history–murderous human history) that the principle can be expanded forever. Advanced societies have already slowed reproduction considerably. The implications in 100 years remains to be seen by our great-grandchildren. Willy-nilly demands by social warriors are temper-tantrums of juveniles lacking both education and experience. All involved need to call them out accordingly.

    • Johan says

      @Ford Peterson. You forget the smartphone. The easy access to all information in the world for everyone. The Internet…
      Instant satisfaction is not uncommon within mankind. Young men especially. I know. I live in Sweden.
      Within 10 years I predict European closed borders to Africa and the muslim world. Hundreds of patrol boats in the Mediterranean and some form of massive camps, almost concentration camps, in Northern Africa. People can leave those camps only if they go home.
      It is going to be messy. Like the Roman “Limes”. The borders will be protected. Otherwise the Europeans will get violent and collapse is not far away.
      10, 20, 30 years ago the world was much poorer.
      No smartphones. No migrants…

  115. dirk says

    Absolutely not my intent to silence discussion and dialogue, why should I? Besides, I think that any community or culture should at least TRY (!!) to expand over the globe, that’s the innate imperial drive of strong nations or cultures, which, Harari explains, often has more advantages than disadvantages.

  116. Eric says

    What is striking about the article is that the author admits that deviating from the standard leftist thinking is opening herself up to attacks from people on her side. If you state ‘I read Peterson’s stuff. I don’t agree but he makes reasonable arguments ‘ is enough for your supposed allies to launch attacks against you personally, maybe your side doesn’t really believe what you think they believe.

    The left has undergone a fundamental shift. From fighting for ideals of equality to a mess of identity politics where ideals are based upon your race/gender/sexual preference. Any deviation from the party line is handled by extreme ostracisation.

    This won’t end well.

  117. ccscientist says

    I would like to compliment the author: this is the first time ever that I have seen a left-leaning author give a correct description of a classic conservative mind-set. It is almost always a caricature (neanderthal nazis).

  118. Conservationist says

    Very interesting article. The author bobs and weaves in her discussion but I think she finds herself really questioning her belief system, and the “elite” who dominate it. If one cannot say some thing to a friend without being banned, then that one is no friend.

    All this discussion about archetypes and legend and myth that result in what we know as common knowledge, which the Left today is dead-set on exterminating, made me think. If one were to read the Old Bible with the interest and political disengagement that one might read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Silmarillion”, one would find a story of creation, treachery, heroism, evil, good, loss and victory that is stirring. They both, in a sense, are theological tracts, one simply because of its structure and content, but theological nevertheless. Both are wonderful tales, conveying beauty and tragedy. There are lessons to be learned from these tales that relate human experience in troubled times. One at least of these books will be ignored, probably imprecated, by a great many modern Americans. They become so shallow they no longer cast a shadow.

  119. Pierre Pendre says

    Progressives fear Peterson precisely because he’s not even right wing never mind alt-Right as anyone who watches his television and YouTube appearances can see at once. He evaluates society according to the evidence as a scholar should. Progressives regard their beliefs as the new orthodoxy but Peterson’s skewers them for being the mere “social constructs” – i.e. artificial categories – that they are. The Left invented the concept of the social construct in order to deconstruct the validity of traditional behaviours and attitudes. It’s been a useful weapon in support of the grievance industry against conservatives and it outrages them to have it used to deconstruct their own myths. Peterson talks common sense based on empirical evidence which is why people respond positively to him. He relates to their experiental understanding of the world and his explanations of it contradict the Left’s politically motivated constructs. Calling him alt-Right looks desperately inadequate as a response. Peterson is not just smart, he’s reasonable and a reasonable arbiter of the way we’ve developed and have adapted to a rapidly changing society. Feminists in particular hate him because they fear he will attack their gains by re-enthusing alienated young men. But getting young men to re-engage wth society is to everyone’s benefit, especially of those feminists who subscribe to the inane theory of “toxic masculinity”. Do they want to live in a safe world or not.

  120. Thank you for the essay. I have been captivated by Prof. Peterson along with many others. Politically, I have been challenged by reflecting on a traditional upbringing in what used to be called a ‘blue-collar’, democratic party dedicated family by the unpleasant finding that neither exists anymore. ‘Blue collar’ sensibilities have been scorned, ridiculed and labeled conservative. The Democratic Party left me when it made life a disposable item.
    The points you make, I share. Jordan Peterson is articulate and has made a very deep (therefore lasting) connection about human society, particularly Western society that I think resonates profoundly and broadly. The shrillness of the left from Hollywood elitists and the well-financed leftist media are clearly reacting from deep shock. Not only did they not deliver the election to the rightful heir to Obama (by the way, everyone believed they would) which then went incredibly wrong, but people (young people) are listening to a reasoned counter-leftist (counter-nihilist) argument.
    The dressed up nihilism of the left is a siren song to those who are overwhelmed with modern life and its multiplying complexities. Ironically ‘better’ education has not protected us from it and it has had an amazing run, unchallenged by reasoned argument. In fact, it disdains reasoned argument, it must. What remains very encouraging about Peterson is that he offers a reasoned and not superficial account of his thoughts and work. You can listen and make a reason based decision to agree or to disagree. The wonderful part is that many people find this enlightening and refreshing.

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  122. Will End says

    Another possibility, the Overton Window has passed you by as it has so many others. Consider the people that believed they were ideology X or Y and then without paying attention they found themselves somehow outside of their long term faction of identification.

    What happened to them? How does that happen? What does that feel like? See, the “left” is not going to reform. That isn’t what we’re seeing out of the “left”. I put that in quotations because as you yourself pointed out that isn’t actually what it is… its something else. And to avoid screeching from its defenders, I won’t bother naming it is and what we know it has been for a long time.

    But the point is it won’t reform because it can’t. If you understand the politics that bind the “intersectional” movement together then you understand that it is existentially obligated to wage holy war on anyone that undermines what are core tenets of the belief system.

    Welcome to the outside.

  123. dtjarlz says

    I think of Jordan Peterson as, “Rudolf Steiner funded by the Koch brothers”. I don’t really know how accurate this is, but it helps me put him in context.

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  125. martti suomivuori says

    Coming from another culture (from Finland) I see a pattern in the way discussions are carried out in the public forums that are dominated by Americans. In our tradition, a discussion consists of presenting a view while others listen and take note. Who is talking is of course important but the main goal is to keep the message he is presenting as the primary issue.
    On the other side of the Atlantic, a discussion is a debate and you are supposed to win it without changing your arguments.

    This kind of culture of course makes it very difficult to find new answers let alone compromises.

    What Jordan Peterson the phenomenon has taught us is the dull savagery of the Leftist mob who feel they have the monopoly of the Truth, with no respect to what a man with scientific and clinical knowledge and a very well thought out and grounded ideas of what the human condition is. It is shocking. We see the fury of the young Komsomols and Pol Pot’s murderous thugs in the violent protests of the privileged, upper-middle class youths of the Academy.
    Who feeds this rage? Where did it come from? Is its likeness to the Bolshevik revolutionary youth just a coincidence?

    I never was a paranoid regarding international plots and stratagems. Here I actually think I see one in action.

    About lobsters and men, I am sure that a clinical psychologist is well read in the subject of how neurotransmitters regulate an individual’s emotional state whether it is a mammal or an arthropod. He most certainly knows that there are differences between species in how even the same molecule works in the nervous system. His alpha lobster is a shorthand for the well-known fact that the tail wags the dog and that you can actually change the balance of your neurotransmitters by changing your pose.

    He talks with images. It takes a certain openness to understand what he is saying.
    This openness seems to be totally lacking in the Academic Komsomols of the New Left.
    Among other things, like manners, for instance.

    • dirk says

      @Martii: I recognise your issue very well, maybe, because I am also from a Northern European country (though, not so northern as you of course). The situation is, we (Scandinavians) have, for a long period of times, learned to live with different kinds of people , with different ideas, from differen classes and tribes, and to come after discussions to some kind of compromise, but, what I understand in my old age, this certainly is not the rule in the rest of the world, at the contrary, there are countries (the USA, the Arab countries, Iran, Italy, maybe, Hungary, Japan) where this never was needed to have the country run. They can do without, it depends where you live!

  126. RoseJ says

    Dr. Carol,
    “Many of us who work and/or live in left-leaning social environments feel scared to speak up against it.” Speaking up is the job description for a PhD.
    I appreciate your candor but it’s exactly the reason the Left wins the Bullying Cup each year.
    Their goal is control, by force if necessary.
    See: The Long March Through the Institutions.
    Also see Genesis 3:16. “You shall desire to control your husband.” It’s a curse.

    • Andrew Eden-Balfour says

      So basically just like the right and center.

    • dirk says

      @RoseJ: that means, in a country like Egypt (with some famous universities and about 100 million people, many of them highly educated) it is not possible to start and end a proper PhD?? And what about the former Sovjet countries? I think, to speak up is sort of western luxury, to live with and to follow some sort of self-censuring and control is as yet the rule in most nations of this planet.

  127. AliHolif says

    So thankful to see someone from the left take on the absurdity into which progressives have devolved. “Damn the torpedoes…full speed ahead!”

  128. Andrew Eden-Balfour says

    Not really though.

    A lot of the criticism of Dr Peterson has been fair. I only see an inflated sense of entitlement here that has the mindset of being above criticism and that your ideas are infallible.

  129. Ronnie Wright says

    Thanks for the article. I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one that feels this way. I’ve been a radical leftist activist for decades but now I consider myself an Independent. I doubt I will be voting for anymore Democrats.

    The left has become so toxic that it’s absolutely disgusting and I’m so over all the racist sexist comments they make about EVERY white man on the face of the earth.

    The left can kiss my ass. I’ve had enough of them.

  130. Aly says

    I fully respect the openness of the article.

    I probably align more with Peterson than this author but I did find him a very interesting read.

    One thing I would like to point out, is that I think the author has fallen prey to some of the misinformation on the majority of the thought of the right. He claims the majority of the right are fanatical capitalists where capitalism can do no wrong. This might be part of the oversimplified ideology of hate that he talks about in this article that he is falling prey to.
    I’m a right leaning libertarian with friends in all places of the spectrum. I’m probably the most fanatical of anyone I’ve met in terms of praising capitalism and even i would never claim capitalism is infallible or doesn’t need restraints. That is a lie that needs to stop being spread.

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  132. Mike says

    You’re concerned that liking Peterson could damage your professional reputation, and that concerns me.

    Have you considered that today “professional reputation” has possibly become more about perpetuating the “right” ideas than talent in one’s profession, and the people who bestow (and deprive one of) a good reputation are essentially frauds, as well as their acolytes?

    Say it ain’t so! It is a difficult thing to consider, that you might have been respected just for pleasing the right people rather than your skills, as hard as it is for the woman who discovers she’s been promoted just because she has big tits. But that’s how we believe it is here on the right, that our degraded status among the chattering class is strictly political, as is the exalted status of those with the other view.

    Hopefully you’ll transcend this and not face any social penalty for writing such an honest and thoughtful article.

  133. dirk says

    I wonder how many radical lefts of once are on Quillette. Probably more than 50% of the total. The other ones are conservatives as of old, I suppose. Bien etonne de se trouver ensemble, they say in France.

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  135. Stuart Pidd says

    “For example, Peterson is concerned with how postmodern anti-foundationalism undercuts longstanding cultural norms. He sees the ‘social justice’ Left as filling the resulting vacuum with shallow anti-oppression platitudes.”
    I assume he wouldn’t find room for the grievances of BLM (for instance) in that group. But from the article it’s hard to tell.

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  137. Thomas Paine says

    Ms. Horton. i respect your bravery on this well written article. It’s hard to go against social norms to say what is correct rather than what is expected.

  138. Your article clearly showing where the problem. The Left should understand and lefg name calling hashtag politics, or there is no hope for this Left.

  139. Leo Buzalsky says

    This article actually demonstrates why people do find Peterson to be dangerous. The author describes some of the things he says as “refreshing,” “fascinating,” or “interesting,” but does not, from what I noticed, describe what Peterson says as being factually correct or accurate. Thus, I saw nothing here to debunk the idea that “Peterson is an alt-right wolf in professorial sheep’s clothing.” Instead, the author’s use of the fluff words I documented give Peterson the impression of a sheep. So if he is indeed actually a wolf, which I will stress the author failed to debunk, then isn’t the response justified? I can agree if Peterson is actually a sheep that the treatment is inappropriate. But now show that he’s not actually a wolf. (Yes, I recognize it is difficult to demonstrate a negative. The author could then instead show that claims that Peterson is a wolf have insufficient supporting evidence. But given his popularity with the alt-right, all I can do is wish this author good luck with that.)

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  141. Gabrielle Deakin says

    I fully identify with the sentiments expressed in this article. Peterson has made me think and engage with the complexity of moral, social and political issues in a way that is both intellectually stimulating and disorienting. The end product has been to destroy some cherished certainties. I am listening a lot more to ideas and trying to work out where I stand on them, rather than subscribing thoughtlessly to a pre-packaged set…. is this dangerous? Is it dangerous to stop demonizing those with different priorities and to realize that their concerns have some validity?

    Peterson’s own firm certainties are the only things in his thinking that can really be criticized… but this is the nature of the lecturing/ debating platform: ideas are presented with as strong a case as can be made for them, and it is up to us, the listeners to weigh and contrast them and decide where the better arguments lie. Peterson plays this role so much more admirably than do his critics. It has been illuminating to me to see just what we do to original thinkers, the demonisation, the constant baiting attacks, the personal slurs. The poor fellow is visibly struggling under the heavy weight of so much viciousness… and at the hands of those purportedly champion fairness. And the logic of those who attack him as dangerous is more than questionable. His rise to fame owes as much to the anti-Peterson campaign as to the ideas he shares….

  142. James van den Heever says

    Thanks, excellent article that sums up much of my thinking as somebody who would call himself a left-leaning conservative. Peterson is a breath of fresh air, and I cannot believe the left’s reaction. More power to your elbow!

  143. Graham Mitchell says

    I respect Jordan when he answers with an “I don’t know” to a question. You can feel he is still grappling honestly with the issue and will not “fake” it.

  144. Katharine Verkooijen says

    Be courageous. Speak out. If some of your leftist friends denounce and demonise you, then were they really your friends? You might find that you speaking up gives the others in the group who you think mightshare your unease, the courage to speak out as well. Only in that way will it be possible to bring back into being the left-centrist position which is not just about killer hashtags.

  145. Indie Wifey says

    well, carol, welcome to whatever club this is – makes me feel likewise alone but also a part of something that sits well, finally and once more, within both my brain and gut

    my only wish is that the term that’s taken hold to describe the philosophical school from which all this radiates, “intellectual dark web,” were better crafted. its syllable heavy and a tad spinal tappy in its rather visual, kinda gothy inferences

    thanks too for quillette’s existing – even old school talk forum. very cool, very needed. kudos to you all!

  146. Jon Minton says

    This is a great article, and of course has generated a lot of response. The response to Peterson from many of his critics is pathological and highly counterproductive. There was a debate on PC with him and Steven Fry on one side and Michael Dyson and Michelle Goldberg on the other. Michelle made it clear she was concerned with most of the excesses of student activism, like no platforming, that Peterson was, and greatly admired Steven Fry and found nothing disagreeable about him or his position. But she wanted to be on whatever side of the divide Peterson wasn’t on, so instead shared the side of the stage with a grandstanding showboat who barely gave her any opportunity to speak, and kept laying racist and homophobic barbs at Peterson and Fry with absolute glee. It reflected the kind of politics you would hope people to have grown out of by the time they could tie their shoelaces.

    Peterson himself can act like something of a small frightened animal when his politics are attacked directly, and as a result become a parody of himself due to a kind of flight or fight response. The recent interview with Russell Brand was a brilliant example of how the ‘reasonable left’ can coax him out of his hole with lots of kind words and gentle behaviour, and get him to accept many left wing concerns as valid and important, and admit that many of his own positions are largely idiosyncratic personal preferences rather than incontrovertible ‘facts’ or ‘laws’.

  147. Dr. Horton, the fact a person with expertise in political philosophy has been willing to explore Jordan Peterson’s thinking with an independent mind but afraid to speak out about it says everything about why so many people on the Left have been pushed to the right, or at least to Libertarianism. I have lost all interest in trying to communicate with the brainwashed bots and their ad hominem attacks, and my only hope is that other people are realizing that the identity movement has no soul, no compassion, and no ideas worth following. You still seem to be willing to try to negotiate with them as a fellow member of the Left. Good luck with that. I found a home in the IDW crowd, who have banded together as a group that can at least explore issues in an atmosphere of thought and mutual respect. If the Left thinks their thinking is shallow, perhaps they’d like to drop their weaponized hashtags and engage in a respectful conversation.

  148. Alan Sokal is my hero. Jordan Peterson is a new Sokal and I love him.

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