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Why Is Jordan Peterson So Popular? (theatlantic.com)
11 points by ca98am79 42 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments



He is popular because he has a lot of interesting things to say, and in today's social environment quite a few of these topics are considered taboo, not because they are scientifically unsound but because they run counter to the unscientific identity politics pervasive in our universities and governments. In other words, he's a minority voice of sanity in a crazy world, and while many of his points are considered objectionable by a certain subset, for the rest of the world they are mainstream and entirely conventional. However, the silent majority has for a long time lacked a voice to champion orthodoxy, and he is that voice. It's a bit ironic that the far left consider him a radical, when he's a classical liberal, and shows just how distorted our societies have become.

I discovered Jordan Peterson a few months ago through Sargon of Akkad, which exposed me to a world of opinion which is almost completely absent in the mainstream media. In particular related to freedom of speech and identity politics suppressing free speech. However, that led me to his other interviews and lectures which are genuinely interesting for their own sake. In a world where most opinion is delivered through soundbites, his calm demeanour, lengthy and considered discussion, and deeper exploration of complex interesting topics is very welcome. Totally coincidentally, I bought "12 rules for life" from a bookshop on my lunchbreak today, which I hope is as interesting as his online lectures.

Across the Western world we have for decades been slowly drifting relentlessly toward the left, and I think people like Professor Peterson are part of the inevitable pushback against some of the really extreme excesses we are seeing, which are beginning to have significant negative consequences such as on our freedom of speech, thought and expression.


This is some incredibly transparent concern trolling.


It seems like a huge collection of straw men just got slain. The author's world sounds a bit like some version of an alt-right nightmare where there are thought police everywhere. This view of what the 'left' is, I simply don't recognise.


People like self-help gurus, this one found out a way to make cash on the internet instead of through TV or books.


Self-help is just a part of what he does; actually it is a recent part.

Years before the current controversy, Peterson has been publishing his university lectures on YouTube. They are quite fascinating, if you are interested in mythology or Jungian archetypes. Nothing political in the narrow sense of the word, just in general how people navigate between the "Chaos and Order", or less poetically, the eternal ambivalence of systems we create, which are both supportive and suppressive at the same time.

Among people whom I know which are impressed by Peterson, most of them found him through the controversy, but most of them stayed because of those lectures. That is his life-long work. The self-help is just a simplified extract.


I don't particularly find it controversial, he's advocating mostly mild, deliberately ambiguous stuff, similar to that of any other self-help guru, but he happens to be targeting younger crowd that likes to debate on the internet rather than yell at their TV.

For comparison, Dr. Oz was a skilled surgeon, but he chose to make more money selling fad diets or whatever it is that made him famous. So while his surgical abilities are objectively impressive, he is judged by how he presents himself.

I'm sure he has some real lectures, just like Dr. Phil actually has a psychology degree. But their public personas are what they're known for now, and they probably don't care that much because it makes them a ton of cash.

Edited: Fixed a word.


Is it weird the article is full of outright lies, qualified only by the weaseliest of hedges?

They did not make waves; they did not confront the students who were raging about cultural appropriation and violent speech; in fact, they forged close friendships with many of them. These people sound... hypothetcal, to be as kind as possible.

What they were getting from these lectures and discussions... perhaps the only sustained argument against identity politics they had heard in their lives. Perhaps? Yeah probably not though, and it's disingenuous to throw that in there with nothing to back it up.

That might seem like a small thing, but it’s not. With identity politics off the table, it was possible to talk about all kinds of things—religion, philosophy, history, myth—in a different way. They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by ideology. Pure bullshit. At best they would be switching one ideology for another. A very old mistake is to assume that you don't have a limited perspective and can see things with an "objective" God's-eye view.

campus free-speech zones where it could be monitored, shouted down, and reported to the appropriate authorities I'm not necessarily saying this doesn't happen, but putting it this way makes it sound like a big problem when it's just not that common.

As with Peterson’s podcasts and videos, the audience is made up of people who are busy with their lives—folding laundry, driving commercial trucks on long hauls, sitting in traffic from cubicle to home, exercising. More fiction.

The left has an obvious and pressing need to unperson him I'm sure that's not what that word means.

There are plenty of reasons for individual readers to dislike Jordan Peterson. The following paragraph is a convenient little bundle of straw men.

And in all this, not a single reason given why identity politics is bad or even what it is.


> Is it weird the article is full of outright lies, qualified only by the weaseliest of hedges?

Considering the author, not really. Both that and the particular ideological bent seem quite par for the course.

But even with that, this part still made me laugh out loud:

> When even Barack Obama, the poet laureate of identity politics, is moved to issue a message to the faithful, hinting that that they could be tipping their hand on all of this—saying during a speech he delivered in South Africa that a culture is at a dead end when it decides someone has no “standing to speak” if he is a white man

Like, on what planet is this a line anyone can say with a straight face? A big part of Obama's broad appeal—for which he was criticized almost as intensely by identity politics activists as his center-right economics were by economic progressives—was avoiding narrow identity politics. If you had to pick a recent leading figure in the Democratic Party to decribe as the “poet laureate of identity politics” (a term which in any case better applies to one of the thought leaders in that movement than any politician), it would have to be Hillary Clinton. Obama cautioning against going overboard with identity politics is decidedly not some surprising sign that things have recently gone far off the tracks, it's what Obama has always done.

The only basis I can see for this labelling is that it follows along with a lot of the racist lies told about Obama that went into high gear when we was nominated and higher gear when he was elected.


You act as if some great injustice has been done because this article doesn't present an empirical analysis of Peterson's following, but it never claimed to. It's obviously just an opinion piece. What you call "lies" are simply anecdotes and imagery that the author had the audacity to not back up with statistics and pie charts.

I wonder if you read every think piece so uncharitably, or just the ones that have the absolute gall to disagree with your worldview.


The claims that the left is vulnerable are entirety founded on this imagery. The article asks me to be afraid of a lot of things without bothering to explain why they are bad, so my reaction is not exactly disagreement but declining to be convinced.


There are three claims:

- The more people eschew identity politics, the more uncertain is the future of any political party (left or right) that builds its platform on it. That seems self evident.

- There is a significant, and possibly growing, number of people who eschew identity politics. No statistics are presented to support this, but considering the left's "It's Her Turn!" rhetoric failed to hold enough water to put "Her" in office, and actively turned some people against her, I don't think it's such an outrageous notion.

- Peterson is one of the driving forces behind the possible growth of the anti-identity-politics crowd. If you want numbers, just look at the statistics on Peterson's YouTube channel. Agree with him or not, his popularity is undeniable.

Pick apart those points if you wish. But calling the author a liar by pointing out that an image of a person folding laundry doesn't refer to a specific, literal person (you don't say?) is pure sophistry.


I don't see the first claim anywhere in the article. It's pretty explicitly about the left, not identity politics apart from the left. Is identity politics supposed to be about voting for people based on their demographics? Because that's not what the Wikipedia article says, so if you could point me to a definition of what we're discussing I think it would help.


> I don't see the first claim anywhere in the article.

Seriously? From the article:

> All across the country, there are people as repelled by the current White House as they are by the countless and increasingly baroque expressions of identity politics that dominate so much of the culture. These are people who aren’t looking for an ideology; they are looking for ideas. And many of them are getting much better at discerning the good from the bad. The Democratic Party reviles them at its peril; the Republican Party takes them for granted in folly.

Were you expecting the article to use my exact wording?

I won't bother defining identity politics for you because you clearly know what it is and how it relates to voting blocs.

It's obvious that you're only interested in derailing the discussion with endless pedantry, so have a nice day.


> It's pretty explicitly about the left, not identity politics apart from the left.

It explicitly addresses right-wing identity politics briefly, but mostly to note that one particular repulsive group practicing of those politics rejected Peterson as a kind of validation of Peterson through combination of guilt by association and affirming the consequent, and secondarily to further discredit left-wing identity politics by simple guilt by association.


Ok, thanks. I misread that as the alt-right group's endorsement of Peterson.




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