Twisting the words of Canadian academic Jordan Peterson has become sort of an unofficial sport of late.
The whole craze began when the psychology professor — currently on the bestseller list for “12 Rules for Life” and a constant bugbear of the cultural left — was interviewed by Cathy Newman of the U.K.’s Channel 4. By trying to make him look like an irredeemable sexist and retrograde bigot, Newman actually turned Peterson into a kind of cultural hero — and his following increased exponentially.
Well, Newman may have swung and missed — as have many others — but The New York Times isn’t your average liberal media outlet. They decided to take aim at Peterson with yet another hit piece, published Friday and unsubtly titled “Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy.”
And once again, Mighty Casey (or, in this case, Nellie Bowles) has struck out.
“Jordan Peterson fills huge lecture halls and tells his audiences there’s no shame in looking backward to a model of how the world should be arranged,” Bowles’ piece began.
“Look back to the 1950s, he says — and back even further. He tells his audiences that they are smart. He is bringing them knowledge, yes, but it is knowledge that they already know and feel in their bones. He casts this as ancient wisdom, delivered through religious allegories and fairy tales which contain truth, he says, that modern society has forgotten.”
Oh gosh, not that. He wants to take us back to segregation, Levittown, open sexism and tomato aspic!
Except he doesn’t, as Peterson ally Ben Shapiro points out.
“In Bowles’ model, then, Peterson is calling for the masculine to overcome the feminine,” Shapiro writes.
“He is, you see, a sexist. But this ignores that Peterson’s entire ouvre is attempting to find a balance between what he describes as the ying/yang of femininity and masculinity. When he calls for young men to be better human beings — to cultivate themselves — he’s challenging them to find that which makes the masculine worthwhile.”
Bowles is also fond of taking Peterson quotes out of context. Consider these paragraphs:
“Most of his ideas stem from a gnawing anxiety around gender. ‘The masculine spirit is under assault,’ he told me. ‘It’s obvious.”’
“In Mr. Peterson’s world, order is masculine. Chaos is feminine. And if an overdose of femininity is our new poison, Mr. Peterson knows the cure. Hence his new book’s subtitle, ‘An Antidote to Chaos.'”
“‘We have to rediscover the eternal values and then live them out,’ he says.”
If this was all there was to Peterson’s theorizing, this man wouldn’t have a book deal, much less a job in a book store. Yet, you may notice that no context is given by Bowles. Peterson’s theories have to do with archetypes — not necessarily with individual members of a specific gender — and striking a necessary balance between the two forces.
This, you might think, is somewhat important if you want to examine Peterson’s role as the “custodian of the patriarchy.” That didn’t seem particularly necessary, however, given that the title was just that — a title, and little more.
Oh, and you didn’t have to read much further to find this one:
“Mr. Peterson, 55, a University of Toronto psychology professor turned YouTube philosopher turned mystical father figure, has emerged as an influential thought leader,” Bowles writes.
“The messages he delivers range from hoary self-help empowerment talk (clean your room, stand up straight) to the more retrograde and political (a society run as a patriarchy makes sense and stems mostly from men’s competence; the notion of white privilege is a farce). He is the stately looking, pedigreed voice for a group of culture warriors who are working diligently to undermine mainstream and liberal efforts to promote equality.”
This sounds a lot like Peterson is running some sort of retrograde Essalen. Except, the main tenets of this “cult” actually sound fairly reasonable. Cleaning up your room, standing up straight and acting like an adult are all good things, particularly for a generation of men consumed by Peter Pan syndrome. If you’re truly interested in classifying this as sexism, it’s a lot closer to misandry than misogyny
So, what else? Peterson thinks “the notion of white privilege is a farce.” This may be an evil, fringe idea inside The New York Times newsroom, but it’s generally a lot less controversial outside of it. As for the claim that Peterson is gathering “culture warriors who are working diligently to undermine mainstream and liberal efforts to promote equality,” as Wikipedia editors might say, . This is an opinion, not a fact — and, as Shapiro noted, it’s not exactly the most informed opinion, either.
“This is plainly untrue,” Shapiro wrote. “He has never said that a society run as a patriarchy makes sense and stems from men’s innate competence — he has said that in a free society, free choices lead to hierarchies of competence. He is not looking to ‘undermine mainstream and liberal efforts to promote equality’ — he’s arguing that such efforts to promote equality of outcome ignore equality of rights.”
The article goes on like this, but there’s nothing quite as risible or hypertension-inducing as those first mephitic paragraphs.
One thing remains clear, though — The New York Times isn’t going to give a fair hearing to any conservative dissident, no matter how famous they may be.
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