Why is Jordan Peterson so unreasonably popular?

I think this article by Robyn Pennacchia comes closest to explaining Peterson’s appeal. There are a lot of meaty quotes in there if you want to see the evidence, including a great summary of his bogus transgender pronoun complaint, but the conclusion is excellent.

Peterson is telling young men the story they want to hear about themselves and the world around them. That they are “individuals,” that hierarchy and inequality are not bad things, that we live and have always lived in a meritocracy. That people aren’t clamoring for equality because they are good people who want people to be treated fairly and decently, but because they want to manipulate them and put them in gulags. That women are going to be just fine with jumping back into “traditional” gender roles and give them their patriarchy back. That women will not be put off by misogyny. That soon they will be living in a world where they can insult people — and yes, refusing to use someone’s preferred pronoun is insulting to them — and there will be no social consequences for that. That, rather than having enjoyed unearned privileges and advantages, those who have risen to the top of our societal hierarchy did so because they were simply the hardest and best workers. Because they were simply lobsters with more serotonin.

It’s an overly simplistic — and often intentionally vague — worldview that intellectualizes the basest id impulses of men, largely white men, who feel that they have been disadvantaged by the recent successes of white women and people of color and now feel left behind. He tells them they are logical, rational, critical thinkers — heroes, in fact. Even by doing things like talking a lot about the importance of IQ, he sates their desires to feel important and special. Take a moment and think of all the men you’ve ever met who were not doing much with their lives but very much wanted to talk to you about how high their IQ is (even though that’s ridiculous because most people probably don’t even know their actual IQ, for a variety of reasons). This is a thing. He doesn’t have to tell them they have a high IQ (because everyone thinks they have a high IQ), he just has to talk about how it is important, and that makes them feel good.

The thing is, he’s promising these men a world they actually cannot have without the permission of other groups of people. He’s not doing them any favors. If he really wanted to help these “lost men,” he’d help them thrive in the actual world they live in, rather than the way they want the world to be. He’d help them learn to adjust to a world in which the old hierarchies have been dismantled and understand that they’re no more entitled to be at the top of a hierarchy than anyone else is. Or help them learn how to function and love and improve themselves without needing to base that on being “better” than someone else, how to deal with the world in which women don’t want traditional gender roles, and help them to understand that life isn’t a zero sum game in which if someone who has been oppressed gets a right you have, you automatically lose something.

That last paragraph is familiar. It’s the same thing feminists have been saying to men, that everyone has been saying to MRAs, for years: the patriarchy is not your friend. A hierarchy that puts undeserving white men at the top does no one any favors. It’s almost a Petersonian thing to say, that if you want respect, you have to straighten up and earn it…and it’s ironic that his career is all about promising the opposite, that if you’ve got status, you must have deserved it, so don’t let women and minorities make you work for it.

Is the first rule of science communication “Be mealy-mouthed”?

Hot on the heels of The Sun, here comes Newsweek, touting that drivel about cephalopods from space by Steele et al.. I have dispensed enough scorn for that paper lately, so now I’m going to snarl at a few other targets: some of the critics.

Outside experts are unconvinced by the findings. Avi Loeb, the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University, told Newsweek the paper raised “an interesting but controversial possibility.”

Oh, fuck that noise. That’s the polite reservation of a privileged professor who would rather not offend a peer. It was not “interesting”. There is nothing interesting about the hypothesis. This is antique bullshit biology by a dead astronomer who knew nothing of the subject, and it’s been kicked around for years by his (ma)lingering acolytes. It is not compatible with any of the evidence, and it doesn’t even make sense: it contradicts all the available evidence.

It is also not “controversial”. It is fucking wrong. I know it goes against years of science training, which tells everyone to fudge and hem and haw and avoid saying anything that might someday be used to say you were wrong about something, but get over it. Learn to speak plainly and honestly. This kind of dim politesse is exactly what allows science denialists to misquote you.

However, it offers no “indisputable proof” that the Cambrian explosion is the result of panspermia, he said.

Aaargh. First day of my introductory biology course, where I talk about the basic principles of science, the first thing I tell them is that THERE IS NO PROOF IN SCIENCE. We deal in probabilities, in consilience, in building an evidential case to strongly support a hypothesis, and everything is provisional.

The problem with the squid panspermia hypothesis isn’t that there is no proof, it’s that there is no evidence. None. The dithering pontifications in the paper in question are all evidence-free speculations based on wishful misinterpretations of inappropriately collected and interpreted data.

I bet that Harvard professor would say exactly the same thing over a beer at the local bar with his colleagues, but put ’em in front of a journalist and suddenly all of their well-earned confidence turns into cautious cowardice.

And thus do all the phony hucksters and pseudoscientists thrive in the loamy fertilizer of tepid, timid compost dribbling from the jaws of hesitant academics.

Bari Weiss, official sycophant to Marie Antoinette

There are good reasons I’m incapable of watching Bill Maher any more — I’d have to rip the big screen off the wall and throw it through that expensive big picture window in our living room. This week, he had Bari Weiss on, because of course those two are made for each other.

“This week we opened the American embassy in Jerusalem which did cause a riot, as predicted, and of course people are blaming both sides,” said Maher.

During the embassy opening, a taunting event all but designed to inflame tensions, Israeli forces brutally massacred at least 58 Palestinians protesting along the Gaza border—including women and children. Many were killed by sniper fire hundreds of yards away. Weiss, however, saw no connection between the protests and the embassy launch.

“Bill, I love you, but the riots were not caused by the embassy move,” said Weiss. “They’re not linked. When Hamas attacked Israel in 2008, when Hamas attacked Israel in 2012, when it attacked Israel in 2014, the embassy was in Tel Aviv all of those times… They intentionally moved up the day so that it would coincide with the day of the embassy move so that we would all be disgusted and heartbroken when we saw this horrible split-screen of Ivanka Trump, looking like she was at a country club, next to poor, desperate people dying in Gaza.”

The first line set me back. How can you blame both sides when one side is being gunned down by snipers, and the other is armed, at best, with rocks? When one side is killing children?

But Bari Weiss managed to top it. How horrible that the Palestinian people planned their protest strategically? Why didn’t they schedule it for a day when it wouldn’t make Ivanka Trump look bad?

Talk about missing the whole point…it reminds me of the furious complaints when Black Lives Matter protests inconvenience people. How dare they march where people would notice! Couldn’t they just march down streets in the middle of nowhere that weren’t full of busy white people trying to get to a football game?

Just remember that Martin Luther King Jr. also protested strategically.

Let us remember not just King’s words, but also his actions. King was in his 20s when he helped coordinate the Montgomery bus boycott, which lasted more than a year and brought the city to its knees. Too often today, we hear that protests for justice and equality are being done “wrong.” They’re too intrusive; they’re too loud. But one wonders how the country can laud King, whose efforts shut down public transportation in an entire city, but chastise Colin Kaepernick (also in his 20s) for his peaceful protest of taking a knee at a football game.

It was King’s desire that we each examine our role in the fight for civil liberties, justice and equality. It is not enough to consider ourselves simply “allies” in the fight. Instead, we must put our heads down, listen more, and do the work of improving the lives of a marginalized community to which we don’t belong. Then, and only then, might someone in that community determine that we are worthy of the term.

“Accomplice,” not “ally,” should be the goal. An ally is one who acknowledges there is a problem. An accomplice is one who acknowledges there is a problem and then commits to stand in the gap for those less fortunate than themselves, without hope or expectation of reward. An ally is passive; an accomplice is active.

When you’re more concerned about exposing the superficiality of Princess Ivanka and Slumlord Jared then you are about people being shot in the street, you’re being an accomplice, all right — to the wrong side.

I just had an idea for a movie: SQUIDNADO!

I got email this morning…and so did every member of the science & math division at the University of Minnesota, Morris. This happens every once in a while, since our official email addresses are all publicly accessible, and anyone can grab them and spam the heck out of us all. What was unusual is that this email was directly addressed to me, personally, and the sender decided that he needed to put me in my place and flaunt his erudition to every one of my colleagues.

I am unperturbed by his effort, because in every case, without exception, the loon just ends up exposing his inanity. I mean, you’ve got to realize that trying to harass an entire university division is a poor decision in the first place, right? That thinking that most of the faculty are at all interested in your disagreement with me is somewhat delusional? That you’ve immediately put the wrong foot forward by arbitrarily spamming a whole mob of disinterested people with your long-winded and ultimately pathetic excuses?

You should have known that I’d happily post your email to my blog, where people can opt-in and choose to read the whole thing voluntarily. So yes, I include every word of the thing below.

It’s from Ted Steele, who wrote that very silly article, Cause of Cambrian Explosion – Terrestrial or Cosmic?, in which he proposed that squid fell to earth in comets. I laughed at it in my article, Squids from SPAAAAAAAAACE!, and what has irritated him is that my criticisms were picked up by that prestigious newspaper, The Sun, in an article titled ARE YOU SQUIDDING? Are octopuses aliens? Bizarre new theory suggests the sea creatures’ eggs arrived on earth on a comet from outer space. So the real concern is that a bunch of working class blokes are going to be reading their paper down at the pub, looking for topless pics and anti-immigrant rants, and they’re going to stumble across this weird American egghead who thinks Ted Steele is full of crap.

I think he should be more concerned that The Sun finds his work amusing than that I think it’s garbage. But read on. He’s indignant.

[Read more…]

“Grave of the Fireflies” is a timely movie, all the time

You all follow Movies with Mikey, right? He’s a guy who really loves the movies, and does these wonderful analyses of pop culture — between him and Lindsay Ellis I’m learning to see movies with a fresh eye.

Anyway, he’s started a new series, “Lessons Animation Taught Us”, and it’s…interesting.

Much of it is about how children and adults see these kid’s movies with a different eye. Lessons learned:

  • He really liked Disney’s “Sword in the Stone” as a kid — I didn’t care for it myself, but I read TH White’s book first, which I found much more vivid than the movie — but it’s really the story of an abused child deprived of all agency and trapped in a fate he didn’t want.

  • “Dumbo” is horrifying. It’s the story of an abused, tortured child told through the lens of a racist culture. Don’t show it to your children.

  • But the movie we are all obligated to see, and the one we should take more lessons from, is “Grave of the Fireflies”.

    Let that one sink in for a moment.

    I took my daughter to see that one when she was a teenager. We thought, ah, Studio Ghibli, it’ll be fun and quirky and thoughtful and beautiful. It’s a about a 3 year old girl dying slowly of starvation after the firebombing of Japan in WWII. We walked home afterwards in a kind of shocked silence.

Mikey is right, though. Americans should actually all see the consequences of our actions abroad.

The Science, Space and Technology Committee is run by dull stupid clowns

You must have heard about the gaggle of stupid Republicans who had a meeting to deny climate change and tell a climate scientist their favorite pet hypotheses to excuse humanity from any responsibility, right? It was reported in Science magazine. These rich twits really did that.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said he was bothered that established climate science has not been questioned more by the committee, which has accused federal climate scientists of fraudulently manipulating climate data and subpoenaed their records.

“I’m a little bit disturbed by, No. 1, over and over again, I hear, ‘Don’t ever talk about whether mankind is the main cause of the temperature changing and the climate changing,'” he said. “That’s a little disturbing to hear constantly beaten into our heads in a Science Committee meeting, when basically we should all be open to different points of view.”

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the committee, entered into the record an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal yesterday that claimed sea levels are not rising because of climate change, a view that rejects thousands of scientific studies. The piece was written by Fred Singer, who is affiliated with the Heartland Institute in Chicago, Illinois, which promotes the rejection of mainstream climate science.

“To solve climate change challenges, we first need to acknowledge the uncertainties that exist,” Smith said in his opening remarks. “Then we can have confidence that innovations and technology will enable us to mitigate any adverse consequences of climate change.”

At one point, Smith showed a slide of two charts that he said demonstrated how the rate of sea-level rise does not equal the sharp spike in the consumption of fossil fuels. When Smith pointed out that rates of sea-level rise have only increased slightly compared with the rate of fossil fuel use, Duffy pointed out that his chart was from a single tide gauge station, near San Francisco, and that sea levels rise at different rates around the world. Smith did not show rising atmospheric CO2 levels or temperatures, both of which have climbed steadily in recent decades as emissions have increased.

The champion, though, was this bozo.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) questioned Duffy on the factors that contribute to sea-level rise, pointing out that land subsidence plays a role, as well as human activity.

Brooks then said that erosion plays a significant role in sea-level rise, which is not an idea embraced by mainstream climate researchers. He said the California coastline and the White Cliffs of Dover tumble into the sea every year, and that contributes to sea-level rise. He also said that silt washing into the ocean from the world’s major rivers, including the Mississippi, the Amazon and the Nile, is contributing to sea-level rise.

“Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up,” Brooks said.

I’m just going to sit back and let Rebecca channel my rage. She does it so well!

It’s too hard to ban guns, so we should ban doors

There was another school shooting in Texas today; 10 people are dead. The Lieutenant Governor of the state has come up with a novel solution for this ongoing problem.

We may have to look at the design of our schools moving forward, and retrofitting schools that are already built. What I mean by that is that there are too many entrances and too many exits to our 8,000 campuses in Texas. … Now that will take a lot of work and a lot of money, but we have to do the work and do the money to protect our children the best we can.

That’s a new one to me. The problem isn’t that we have too many guns, it’s too many doors.

I think the real problem is that there are too many wingnuts in Texas.