In what we assume was an attempt at balance, The Guardian gave space today, to a Jordan Peterson apologist. The result, predictably and sadly, was The Guardian scoring on its own goal.
J.Oliver Conroy – winner of the best name that sounds like someone James Joyce invented contest – lays out the case for how Peterson is misunderstood.
Peterson, he tells us, is as likely to berate men as women.
He’s as likely to be apolitical as he is to berate “Neo Marxists” and the dreaded “Neo-Marxist Postmodernists.”
He’s a bit of a nerd and quite charming.
And then Conroy gives us quotes from people who, we don’t doubt are sincere, expressing their gratitude for Peterson’s words of “wisdom.”
On the edge of suicide or some other existential nightmare they found in Peterson a lifeline. Unable to socialise successfully they read Peterson’s books and voila, they got a job, got laid and became happy or happier or less unhappy.
All well and good.
But none of that changes everything else that’s true – Peterson is still a demagogue and if he manages to say one thing that’s true or useful it does not diminish the damage done by saying any number of things that are not only false but make use of the same rhetoric as any other fascist goon or populist thug.
But, says Conroy:
“Although Peterson’s fans are probably more diverse in their ethnicities, genders, and walks of life than described, critics nonetheless like to highlight his following among young white males. It only requires a little empathy to see why such men – grappling with addiction, unemployment, depression, and a feeling of uselessness and failure – desperately crave the paternal encouragement and affirmation Peterson provides.”
“Probably more diverse.” Well there’s an entire universe contained in those words and clicking on the link brings you to an equally vague set of assertions courtesy of Esquire which reports:
“It is often alleged that Peterson’s audience is almost entirely made up of angry young white men. But the one I saw at the Toronto Public Library twelve days before the talk in San Francisco was mixed in age and sex and no less racially diverse than Toronto itself, which is among the most diverse cities in the world. I spoke with Hispanic and Indian and Asian and black men and women at each of the various events I attended, as well as one transgender man.”
Let’s grant the premise but then let’s also grant that San Francisco* is likely to be full of such crowds and that there’s no guarantee that the audience isn’t as likely to find Peterson to be either a neo-fascist carnival barker with delusions of grandeur or that he’s just another in a line of self-help gurus who resonate with the it’s all about me and my chakra culture of Northern California. In other words, the “diversity” of the audience tells you nothing, including just how genuinely diverse or homogeneous the views of the crowd are.
But then, crucially, notice what Conroy leaves out from the Esquire article (emphasis added):
“Peterson’s fame on these subversive platforms is often used to paint him in ominous tones. “I have something in common with Nazis,” he told me, “in that I am opposed to the radical left. And when you oppose the radical left, you end up being a part of a much larger group that includes Nazis in it.”
If you’re not vomiting because you find yourself on the same side of the oven door as Nazis then you can just go fuck yourself. And if you aren’t appalled by someone who blithely admits to being on the same side as the Nazis (as if it’s just some sort of abstract statistical footnote) then you can go fuck yourself as well.
And as a historical fact – and yet another example of how Peterson is an a-historical hack – we can’t emphasize enough that one can be on the left and be in opposition to both Nazis and Stalinists or Maoists. A not unimportant distinction that is lost on pointy-headed con men like Peterson and of course, Nazis who are not known for their subtle grasp of political nuance and moral shades of gray.
Notice that Conroy does not offer any statistical breakdown of Peterson’s fans but does tell us to take his word for it at the expense of his “critics.”
Then notice that he then claims these same critics “like to highlight his (Peterson’s) following among young White males.”
And he’s correct – Peterson’s critics do highlight that core cadre because they tend to be the loudest, most expressive of violent ideologies, the most expressive of misogynistic fantasies, and the first to go from Peterson is a genius to Jews will not replace us in the click of a mouse or amid the flicker of tiki torches
But then Conroy brings home his point which we paraphrase:
These poor White boys are fatherless and unemployed and wrestling with addiction and Pater Familias Peterson is there with the tough love they need.
So, first the appeal to non-existent authority – the absence of evidence.
Then the dismissal of the critics because they are wrong and miss the deeper point.
Which gets us to a plea for sympathy wrapped in the cloaks of our common post industrial waste land lamentations – addiction, unemployment and a captainless ship.
Except of course there’s no evidence presented, the critics are not wrong to highlight Peterson being a fellow traveler and/or useful idiot of the far right, and the fact that the neoliberals and the Wall Street aristocrats have gutted the country while true is not a justification for supporting a third rate demagogue who plays fast and loose with the facts while ginning up a volatile base prone to expressing all the greatest hits of the Luftwaffe and the Waffen SS.
And lest you think, dear reader, that we exaggerate, Conroy saves the best for last and sticks the landing.
“When news consumers get around to reading or watching Peterson’s work for themselves, they often find his ideas far less radical than characterized – and feel betrayed by the media and cultural elite’s representation of Peterson”
Ah yes, the “cultural elite” who are just a pack of liars and snobs trying to keep the virtuous common man down and obedient. And then take note that he ends with the standard code of the neo-fascist – the stab in the back – the betrayal. And of course no one who isn’t a liar or a fool won’t recognize “cultural elite” as code for Jews – in exactly the same way that Mouth of Sauron, Stephen Miller meant Jews, when he attacked Jim Acosta as being part of and expressing the views of the “cosmopolitan elite.”
In other words, J. Oliver Conroy enters through the front door of liberal reasonableness and exits through the back door of a reactionary populist making excuses for Peterson’s neo-fascist cult, its unsubtle racist rhetoric, his mysogony, and his third rate pseudo-intellectual swampgas mixed with demagoguery, and the cheep hucksterism of a carnival barker jacked on bennies and a crippling fear of failure.
What exactly The Guardian was really thinking escapes us.
What J. Oliver Conroy is thinking is perfectly clear.
And what we mean is also clear: They shall not pass!
Read Conroy’s apology for fascism here:
*To be clear the Esquire article covers an event in San Francisco where Peterson was promoting his most recent book. While the crowd was undoubtedly “diverse” Conroy and Esquire are being disingenuous and lazy and thus avoid any serious examination of the audience’s views and professional and ethnic makeup. In this case “diversity” is an easy way to dodge the responsibility of both actual journalism and actual analysis.