Some employees at Random House Publishing asked the company not to publish Jordan Peterson’s new book. Apparently, several employees broke down crying.
One employee had this to say about Peterson:
“He is an icon of hate speech and transphobia and the fact that he’s an icon of white supremacy, regardless of the content of his book, I’m not proud to work for a company that publishes him.”
I’m tired of this. Whatever this is.
I’ve stood on the sidelines and watched this culture war brew. I’m done. You guys want to talk about this stuff? Fine, let’s talk about it.
But I’m going, to tell the truth, as I see it.
Jordan Peterson was, for a time, the central figure and lightning rod in this culture war. The irony of it all?
His ideas aren’t radical at all. That’s the state of society right now. Basic personal responsibility is now counter-culture.
It’s ridiculous. I’m done with it.
I’ve studied a lot of Peterson’s work. More than any of those Random House employees at least.
Today, I’m going to try to analyze why people seem to hate him so much. I’ll use the same format as his mega-best-selling book.
Without further ado, I present 12 Rules for Hating Jordan Peterson.
Rule 1 — Mischaracterize Everything He Says
Peterson hit the crescendo of his career during the now-infamous interview with British reporter Cathy Newman. Instead of letting Peterson share his views and engage in a good-faith debate, she literally mischaracterized everything he said.
He’d make a statement. Then she would say, “So you’re saying that” and then replace what he said with a statement of her own to make him come across as a misogynist, racist, bigoted, or mean.
There was an amazing exchange in the interview where Jordan used Newman’s own logic to defend his stances:
Newman: Let me move on to another debate that’s been very controversial for you. You got in trouble for refusing to call trans men and women by their preferred personal pronouns.
Peterson: No, that’s not actually true. I got in trouble because I said I would not follow that compelled speech dictates of the federal and provincial government. I actually never got in trouble for not calling anyone anything.
Newman: Right. You wouldn’t follow the change of law which was designed to outlaw discrimination.
Peterson: No. Well, that’s what it has been said it was designed(emphasis mine) to do.
Newman: Okay. You cited freedom of speech in that. Why should your right to freedom of speech trump a trans person’s right not to be offended?
Peterson: Because in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive. I mean, look at the conversation we’re having right now. You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that? It’s been rather uncomfortable.
Do I agree with all of Peterson’s views?
No. But his words have been mischaracterized to such a degree that people who don’t actually read, watch, or listen to his work have an entirely different image of him than the one he portrays in his actual work.
Newman was one of many people who decided to portray their own version of Peterson’s ideas instead of trying to accurately explain his views before debating them.
Rule 2 — Don’t Actually Study His Body of Work
Most people who hate Jordan Peterson have spent little to no time reading his books, watching his videos on YouTube, listening to his podcast interviews, etc.
They get their impression of him from what the media tells them. This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to Peterson.
Most people get their impressions of influential people via a bad game of telephone the media likes to play.
You remember ‘telephone’, right? One person would whisper a statement in the next person’s ear, then that person would whisper to the next. By the end of the game, the last person would say the statement out loud. Often, the final statement wouldn’t resemble the original.
The media plays telephone and intentionally distorts the message.
You can see this clearly when they put a single word or a small phrase in quotes, then write an entire paragraph around the quote adding their own context. They do it all the time. They’ve done it a ton of times.
Nellie Bowls did this in a New York Times Article where she said he advocated for “enforced monogamy,” which would lead some people to think that he believes women should be forced to marry against their will, which isn’t what he said at all.
Many have called him a transphobe for “refusing to say someone’s pronouns” when really, he advocated against the government forcing him to do so.
Most people genuinely believe the out of context sound-bites and snippets because they’ve never engaged with his work.
If you actually engaged with his work, you’d be hard-pressed to see him as some evil right-wing monster. You might disagree with his opinions. Hell, you might think he’s a quack. But you wouldn’t hate the guy.
Rule 3 — Judge Him on the Lowest Common Denominator of his Followers
Jordan found himself in hot water when he took a picture with a young man holding a flag with Pepe the frog on it. For the uninitiated, Pepe is a character known to be associated with the alt-right troll types who hang out on Reddit and 4-chan.
Again, the media seized on moments like this to paint the caricature of Peterson that many people now judge him by — cult leader of the alt-right building a massive army of angry white men.
But there’s a problem with that narrative — all of his fans aren’t alt-right trolls. Most of them aren’t.
I had a period of time where I dove deeply into his work. I’m black. He has fans of all races, genders, sexual orientations, etc.
Are the majority of Peterson’s fans men. Yes, but so what? What’s actually wrong with that?
Many have made the argument that newer generations of men have become a lost generation with no guidance — addicted to video games, porn, and Reddit.
Is it really so bad that these young men want to get their shit together?
Isn’t it a good thing that someone is trying to wrangle them in and make them better?
Again, take it from someone who’s engaged with his work and who’s surely not an alt-right troll white male.
The idea that ties Peterson’s fans together most is the urge to have responsibility for themselves and get their acts together. That’s it.
So why is it so controversial?
Rule 4 — Have Disdain For Personal Responsibility
Here’s where we get into some dicey territory.
Peterson does often talk about ‘postmodernist-neo-Marxists’ who are trying to destroy society.
He does play on a trope that is often associated with the right-wing. He does paint a caricature of a lot of leftist thinking and tries to ‘own the libs.’
Some said that he was making a slippery slope argument by drawing a line from pink-haired college kids shutting down conversation speeches to Solzhenitsyn’s gulags.
But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here.
As a self-improvement writer who advocates for personal responsibility, I feel the disdain for my messages — even on this platform.
Society has become increasingly more politically correct. Too politically correct. Society had coddled some people’s minds and turns them into over-collectivist thinkers who hate individualism.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Ideas like political correctness and equality are inherently good, but they’re being used as Trojan horses for counterproductive ideas.
This is happening in front of our eyes, right now. You see it. I see it. We all see it. But only some are willing to talk about it.
I’m going to talk about it.
I don’t care if the platforms I write on are trying to throttle my message. I know they are. But you never throttle messages that don’t have truth and usefulness to them.
This anti-personal responsibility movement understands how liberating personal responsibility is. Say what you want about some of the hyperbole Peterson used. But make no mistake about it.
The core message of personal responsibility and sovereignty scares Peterson haters the most.
Rule 5 — Become a Political Mascot
In another interview, Peterson talked about how tribalism has turned people, not into ideologues, but team members. See, at least you can gain some ground with an ideologue — someone who has strong convictions and beliefs.
Team members don’t have strong convictions or beliefs. They will adopt the beliefs of the team with no analysis whatsoever. This is what’s so frustrating with our political climate right now. People will bend themselves into the most insane logic pretzels to keep in line with the team.
He goes on to say “If I can guess your stance on every single issue, you’re a political mascot, not a person.”
Not all, but many of his detractors are political mascots.
For reasons to deep to analyze in a single blog post, milquetoast personal responsibility and individualism have become associated with the right.
The Smithsonian Museum went so far as to label the following traits or concepts as products of Whiteness
- Time management
- Hard work
- Delayed Gratification
- Decision making
Do you see what’s going on yet?
Now you have a clearer picture of the ideological chessboard we’re playing on in 2020.
Peterson was the queen. You could argue opposition successfully took him out of the game.
This war will continue to happen. The nuances of political ideology are eroding to nothing and there seem to only be two teams.
Rule 6 — Reduce People to Their Immutable Characteristics
Martin Luther King Jr said that he looked forward to a day where people were judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.
Woke ideology argues the opposite. It centers everything in your life on your immutable characteristics first.
I’ve had a few people on Twitter comment that I wasn’t being specific enough in my language when I talk about this ideology.
I’m not talking about liberals as a whole because liberals aren’t a monolith.
I’m talking about people who have a parasitic mind-virus called wokeness. Wokeness ranks people in terms of their level of oppression.
Some people have called this the ‘oppression Olympics.’ You gain oppression points based on your characteristics. And the only group that doesn’t get any oppression points is ‘white males.’
So when someone like Jordan Peterson makes a statement about refusing to be compelled by law to use someone’s pronouns, a free speech argument, ‘team woke’ transforms it into a conversation about trans people.
They use this sleight hand trick all the time to the point where you can’t criticize or even have an honest discussion about an idea or concept that even mentions a marginalized group.
Peterson made the mistake of trying to have nuanced conversations involving people in a number of these groups — LGBTQ people, women, and people of color.
He often makes the argument that there are so many different variables to judge people that you come to the logical conclusion to treat everyone as individuals.
Again, this is the antithesis of wokeness, which is why the woke hate Peterson.
Rule 7 — Take Your Personal Problems Out on Someone Else
“You don’t hate capitalism, you hate your dad.”
Tucker Max said this in reply:
This describes every single extremist in any group I’ve ever met. They use a movement as a cover for their own unresolved emotional issues. I’ve never seen an exception.
This describes many of the people who hate Jordan Peterson.
Most of this political outrage happens because people have unresolved problems they don’t want to confront. It’s that simple. Working on your problems and taking responsibility is hard. It takes courage and it’ll open be painful.
People would rather create scapegoats than deal with their pain head-on. At the height of his career, Peterson became the scapegoat for tons of people.
Maybe his fatherly aesthetic made those with father issues-particularly upset.
Who knows the exact problem each Peterson hater used him as the scapegoat for, but as someone who studied his work in good faith, there’s just no logical explanation for all that hate.
The illogical explanation makes all the sense in the world. Once you understand that cardinal rule that emotions drive behavior and decisions much more than logic, everything makes more sense.
Peterson and his message hit such an emotional nerve in people that they started hating him. The fact that he pointed the mirror at people probably cut the deepest, because, for many people, the thing they hate most and the deepest unresolved problem is the person they see in the mirror.
Rule 8 — Fear the Truth in the Ideas You Disagree With
People are afraid of ideas they disagree with because they’re afraid of changing their minds. If you thought something wasn’t true, you wouldn’t fear it. You fear the ideas that conflict with the ideas you’ve used to build your identity.
Nobody is afraid of an idea that’s so wrong it doesn’t resonate with anyone. We’re most afraid of the ideas that have truth in them. Was Peterson right about everything? Not even close. But he was waking people up that were asleep.
The ideas people fear most are the types of ideas that wake people up.
For one, his ideas went against collectivist thinking, which needs to keep people asleep and brainwashed to believe. Once you start to believe in yourself, collectivism goes out the window.
Second, a lot of the overly woke types know they’re wrong, but the cognitive price they’d have to pay is too high, so they dig their heels in. So, instead, they try to suppress this type of information.
The people who were afraid of his ideas the most spent the most energy trying to suppress them, which is a fatal flaw censor types always make.
They made the same mistake with Donald Trump.
Nassim Taleb says it well:
“Information is antifragile; it feeds more on attempts to harm it than it does on efforts to promote it.”
They’re making the same mistake with all of these ‘aggressive center’ types of people and ideas.
Some of the hottest influencers with the widest reach right now are the ones who are calling people back to the center. In the warped world we live in now, centrist thinking, classical liberalism, whatever you want to call it, is trying to be suppressed.
Which is helping it spread like wildfire.
Rule 9 — Use Ad Hominems Instead of Good Faith Debate
There was a point in time where I got really into JBP. But since then, I’ve seen many solid counter-arguments to his arguments.
Oftentimes he’d go into incoherent rants and used word salads — combinations of smart-sounding words that don’t mean much.
While I do understand the problem of woke thinking, he probably painted with too broad a brush when combining a bunch of different ideologies together — postmodernism, Marxism, Leninism, socialism, etc.
You can attack his ideas all you want.
Everyone’s ideas should go through scrutiny. But Peterson’s haters instead chose to personally attack his character by adding additional context to his words instead of debating with him in good faith.
This ‘mind-reading’ ad hominem tactic has been used so much that many potent words have been diluted in their meaning — racist, misogynist, homophobe, lib-tard, socialist, snowflake
It’s honestly tiresome. But it will keep going on because of Rule 8. We’re afraid.
Rule 10 — Be Emotionally Fragile
I’m sorry, but bursting into tears because Jordan Peterson is publishing a book with your publishing company is weird.
Much of the behavior we’re seeing lately isn’t normal. It’s fragile.
Again, there’s nuance to this conversation and I don’t want to be yet-another-pundit creating a caricature of the pink-haired overly woke college kid who feels threatened by 98 different microaggressions per day, but there’s always an element of truth in the hyperbole.
We are becoming more emotionally fragile as a society. Jonathan Haidt is spot on with his thesis in his most recent book The Coddling of the American Mind:
“A culture that allows the concept of “safety” to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.”
Well adjusted people don’t hate Jordan Peterson or get brought to tears over the utterance of his name like he’s Beetle Juice.
Sure, you can dislike him. You can think his ideas suck. You can even believe he’s kind of a crappy human being.
This is a product of the emotionally fragile society we’re building. I’m not going to contribute to it. Will you?
Rule 11 — Operate Under Perverse Incentives
In 2020, hate has become an industry, a huge one.
Matt Taibi writes about it in his book, Hate Inc:
“Two data points stood out after 2016. One involved those polls that showed confidence in the media dipping to all-time lows. The other involved unprecedented ratings. People believed us less, but watched us more.”
The media has always had the incentive to distort the truth and arouse negative emotions, but we’ve gone to a new level in recent years.
For one, establishment media is dying. People trust the mainstream media less and less every day. They know this. But, in the short-term, outrage and clickbait will keep them afloat, even if it permanently tarnishes their brand.
Enter Peterson. Once the media realized hating Peterson paid handsomely, they fed the golden goose until he OD’d on Kolanapins. I wonder if they regret it. I wonder if any of the outrage peddlers regret their actions. A pillowcase full of cash does make for a nice place to rest your head at night, though.
Charlie Munger has a quote, one of my favorite quotes:
“If you know the incentive, you know the outcome.”
Once the incentive was set, outrage articles about JBP equal clicks, it was game over.
Rule 12 — Make People Out to be More Than What They Really Are
I do believe that some people legitimately see Peterson as a force of evil. A gigantic force of momentum that has to be stopped. But, he’s just a man. A mortal. Nothing more or nothing less.
I think that’s a lesson even he himself had to learn.
I’m not a mind-reader, but I’m sure the sudden and massive level of fame partially caused his downfall and drug addiction. As much as the hate against him was misguided, he leaned into it, intentionally sought it out, and profited handsomely from it.
He once said that he “learned how to monetize social justice warriors.”
Well, be careful what you wish for.
To be looked at as a God by your followers and as a Devil by your detractors, dealing with the incessant praise and criticism all at once, isn’t hard for a God to deal with, but it’s hard for a man.
Hating someone you don’t personally know or don’t even engage with shows that you have drunk way too much of your team’s kool-aid. For a moment in time, the zeitgeist as a whole got too over-invested in him because they forgot that he was just a human being with flaws like everyone else.
The ultimate lesson in the rise and fall of Jordan Peterson is that, at the end of the day, we’re only human.
When I look at everything happening in society today — the outrage, the brainwashing, the tribalism — I try to understand that we’re all flawed humans doing the best we can to navigate the world.
And then I try to have compassion. Have compassion for Jordan, for yourself, and for the people around you.
That’s a great rule to follow.