The Meteoric Rise of Professor Jordan Peterson

A brave Canadian psychologist is saving psychology from political correctness.

Posted Feb 04, 2018

Facebook/Fair Use
Source: Facebook/Fair Use

We often hear people say they wish they had the fortune to purchase Microsoft or Apple or Amazon before those companies began their meteoric rise on the stock market. I am thrilled to be able to claim a similarly rare pleasure. If psychologists were traded on Wall Street, I would now be rich.

There is a decent chance, of course, that you still haven’t heard of Jordan Peterson. After all, the general public doesn’t get as excited about psychology professors as they do about the solar eclipse, the Super Bowl, or President Trump. But if you care about psychology, especially the way it’s influencing education, culture, politics, history, and general mental health, do a search on Jordan Peterson. You will discover that he is currently the most sought-after psychologist in the world. He went viral not only in cyberspace, a “relatively” easy accomplishment, but also in the concrete worlds of print and TV.

Professor Peterson has been interviewed by Cathy Newman on British Channel 4 News. In a perfectly titled opinion piece in the New York Times,The Jordan Peterson Moment, David Brooks described him as possibly being “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now.”[1] Like a rock star, he’s filled huge theaters. And his new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, has become the number-one bestseller on Amazon. In fact, a couple biographies of Peterson have already cropped up on Amazon! Amazingly, he has skyrocketed from relative obscurity to international celebrity in a couple of weeks!

His flight to fame, though, was more than two weeks in the making. Peterson has been winding up the spring for a few years by posting lectures on his YouTube channel. A little over a year ago, he became politically vocal in response to a Canadian bill that he argued would legally compel him to use particular gender pronouns. He spoke out and became the subject of local news. The tipping point came a couple of weeks ago. The catapult was released, sending him into Earth orbit.

And by the way, lest you think of Peterson as a right-wing homophobe, he has no objection to calling people by the gender pronouns of their choice. He just doesn’t want the government to be able to punish you if you don’t.

How I became aware of Peterson

Eight months ago I was contacted by a member of the Jordan Peterson Study Group (Facebook) who discovered my non-politically-correct writings on bullying and freedom of speech and thought I might be a good fit for the group. (Peterson has no involvement in the group. It is a forum of people who study his work.) I looked into it, and I was immediately hooked.

I was awed by Professor Peterson’s knowledge of psychology, psychotherapyphilosophy, research, religion, politics, history, arts, and literature, coupled with a gift with words, a passion for truth, and the courage to speak out against the political correctness that has commandeered academia, especially within the social sciences.[2]

For someone like me, who has been fighting an incredibly lonely war against antibullyism — the ultimate in political correctness — Peterson was a breath of fresh air. Here is someone with the intellect and integrity needed to save psychology from political ideology and to return it to a field of science. I have spent many enjoyable hours listening to his lectures and been a frequent contributor and commenter on the Jordan Peterson Study Group.

Why Peterson’s time has come

In my previous article, I noted that society tends to correct itself when it goes in a destructive direction for too long, and that we are now in the early throes of this correction.

With the admirable intention of creating a society in which no one feels offended by anyone else, academic psychology has been campaigning for the noble-sounding, but nebulous goal of “social justice,” based upon left-wing political ideology rather than upon science and well-established wisdom. Academia has become increasingly oppressive, shaming into silence anyone who dares to defy its left-wing political agenda and denying faculty positions to anyone who expresses conservative sentiments.[3] It has successfully fought for laws, most notably anti-bullying laws, that undermine the precious right to freedom of speech, defines as hate speech any utterance that doesn’t conform to official diversity etiquette, and requires schools and other organizations to apprehend and punish anyone who displays insufficient sensitivity. Unfortunately, one area of diversity that academia stopped championing is diversity of opinion.

A few decades of teaching children that no one is permitted to hurt their feelings, and that it is society’s responsibility to protect them from each other and to punish anyone who upsets them, has produced a generation of what I’ve been calling “emotional marshmallows” and others have been calling “snowflakes.” Our young adults have learned to think like victims, blaming others for their difficulties rather than taking personal responsibility for their feelings and problems. They have learned that it’s legitimate to denounce as “bullies” — and even to physically attack — anyone who dares to challenge their beliefs. It’s even become acceptable to express the idea of killing bullies.[4]

A society dominated by a victim mentality cannot flourish for long. While its citizens may feel comforted by laws that protect their feelings and by the belief that they are not responsible for either their misery or for ending it, their chances for achieving successful, happy lives are eroded.

And this is the social soil that has become ripe for someone like Jordan Peterson. The massive support he gets from young adults — especially males — is an indication of their hunger for truth and responsibility. Feeding them with good science and the wisdom of the ages, he dispels the irrational, counterproductive beliefs with which they have been inculcated and provides them with instructions for taking charge of their lives. His teachings offer salvation not only for individuals, but also for society as a whole.

For the sake of us all, may Professor Jordan Peterson enjoy continued success. And for those of you who are fans of psychology, do yourselves a favor and visit Jordan Peterson’s YouTube channel, offering a rich education in psychology totally for free.

There is one more thing I hope for. The idea of antibullyism sounds so obviously virtuous that even anti-political-correctness-activists like Peterson may not bother to question it. May he take the time to look into it, so he can realize that the nefarious process he is combatting in higher education has been incubating in lower education. Young people do not suddenly turn into "snowflakes" the moment they enter college. They have been raised for fragility since pre-K.

[1] The precise quote is, My friend Tyler Cowen argues that Jordan Peterson is the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now, and he has a point.

[2] For an excellent example of Peterson’s brilliance, watch his interview on British Channel 4 News with Cathy Newman.

[3] For a wealth of information about this trend in academia, visit Jonathan Haidt’s Heterodox Academy.

[4] I recently received the following comment to one of my articles on PT:
“You know what I wish? I wish the number of victims murdering their bullies would skyrocket. I for one would love to be in the jury of a bullying victim who “borrowed” the family gun and killed his tormentor instead of herself/himself. I’d see to it the verdict was not guilty or I would hold out for a mistrial.” Do a search for "should we kill bullies" and you will be surprised at how seriously this question is considered. You can buy a teeshirt that says, "The only good bully is a dead one." The website, http://www.bullykillers.com, will perform mock killings of your bullies. Only one article about this site was critical in any way, suggesting it adopt a less aggressive-sounding name, but did not suggest there is anything wrong with the premise of their service.

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Note: I would not be criticizing antibullyism if I didn't also provide a better alternative. For three free manuals that enable individuals and schools to become resilient to bullying, please sign up for my newsletter mailing list.

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