Sheesh. Jordan Peterson came out with a video in collaboration with the awful PragerU, and it’s basically an anti-education screed, relying on misrepresenting universities, students, postmodernism, Marxism, and all the things he hates uncomprehendingly. So I responded to it.
I include my sorta script down below, but I’m not sure how comprehensible it’ll be, since the video is just me commenting on still frames from the PragerU BS. You’ll probably find ContraPoints on Peterson’s incoherence more enlightening.
Jordan Peterson has come out with a new, short video under the auspices of PragerU — you know, the conservative YouTube channel that pretends that it’s a “university” — which I was informed of by the usual swarm of gloating right-wingers who email me to let me know when I’ve been totally pwned by one of their heroes. I was informed that it will give “people of my persuasion much to feel good about”, which was a peculiar way to say it, but after a moment, I realized that I am precisely the target of this video. Not by name, but I am the kind of person Peterson despises.
So a bit about me: I am a college professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, a small liberal arts college in the upper midwest. I teach biology, so maybe I’m not quite anathema. If I were a humanities professor, he’d be trying to get me fired and close down my discipline, but at least I’m not shy about pointing out where Peterson is babbling bullshit about science. Also, I do love my humanities and social sciences and arts colleagues, and consider their work to be an essential contribution to the legendary well-rounded education. I am also currently a member of my university’s Multi-Ethnic Experience Committee, which may be renamed the Diversity and Equity Committee in the near future, and I fully endorse that group’s work and think making the campus safe and supportive for all students is an important part of my job. And of course, in my personal life I actively support progressive causes and have a reputation as an SJW, which means Peterson fans, if they watch this at all, are only hate-watching it.
Anyway, Jordan Peterson has come out with this video titled “Dangerous People Are Teaching Your Kids”. “Dangerous People”, that’s me. Of course, what he’s actually doing in the video is reciting dangerous lies about universities and educators, and the title more accurately applies to him. It’s a rather slick video, gussied up with cartoonish art, and the weakest parts of the video are the ones where it switches to focus on Peterson himself, where he just sits there, expressionless, staring at the camera. He reminds me of that angry uncle, staring at you all tight-lipped and pissed-off that you dared to question him, thinking that he’d slap you good if you were his kid. Or alternatively, Quint’s speech from Jaws.
Y’know, the thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes after ya, he doesn’t seem to be livin’ until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white, and then – aww, then you hear that terrible high-pitch screamin’
Eww. Grim and dead-eyed. Switch to the cartoons! Quick!
You are currently funding some dangerous people. They are indoctrinating young minds throughout the west with their resentment-ridden ideology.
There are a lot of self-owns in Peterson’s video. When I see “resentment-ridden” on the screen, the most resentful people I know are the alt-right. He should talk to some of his colleagues — resentment is the last thing on most of our minds when we’re teaching. I see a lot of people who are so enthused about their field of study that they’ve committed their lives to it, and want to share it with the next generation. When we get together at educational meetings to talk about our work, we talk about inspiring students to engage, and enabling basic skills for progress.
They have made it their life’s mission to undermine western civilization itself, which they regard as corrupt, oppressive, and patriarchal.
There’s another one, and it’s revealing. He claims his critics want to destroy the civilization that he and they are part of.
Perhaps we have made it our life’s mission to undermine corruption, oppression, and the patriarchy. We would like to remove those three things from Western civilization to make it better. Peterson probably agrees that the first two, at least, are bad (he seems to like the patriarchy) and would probably think educating against them would be a good thing.
Does he think there is no corruption, oppression, or patriarchal thinking in Western civilization? Or is he saying that working against corruption, oppression, and the patriarchy is synonymous with Western civilization? I would think not, I hope. So why does he assume liberals believe that there is no good in Western civilization? It’s dishonest, to say the least.
Who is undermining Western civilization? Why, it’s the faculty.
If you’re a taxpayer—or paying for your kid’s liberal arts degree—you’re underwriting this gang of nihilists.
Those are the most cheerful nihilists I’ve ever seen. And look at them, they’re standing on a pile of money! If I had to capture just one big lie in this video, this would be it. College professors tend not to be nihilists — you don’t go into this business out of despair, but only with hope for the future. College educations are all about the future!
Furthermore, we tend not to be rich. Middle class at best, and not even that if you go by rich politicians’ definition of middle class. The educational systems’ share of taxes has been going down, down, down for decades, and tuition has been going up, up, up…but not because we’re pocketing that money. If anyone is profiting, it’s lending institutions and Republicans who can gouge money out of the schools because of attitudes like the ones Peterson is promoting.
You are supporting ideologues who claim that all truth is subjective, all sex differences are socially constructed, and that western imperialism is the sole source of all third world problems. They are the post-modernists, pushing progressive activism at a college near you.
That’s an interesting mix of truth and lies.
Yes, truth is subjective. It takes hard work to extract a coherent, consistent truth out of a body of observation and experiment, and it is all held to be provisional, subject to change with new data. That’s the way science works. That’s the way every discipline works. This shouldn’t be a point of contention, unless you’re claiming absolute knowledge and perfect truth, which isn’t something that can legitimately come from the mouth of a human being.
No one claims that all sex differences are social constructs. There are genuine biological differences. But they are more malleable and complicated than Peterson knows, and we social animals do build up elaborate social constructs of gender around them. Imperialism and colonialism are one source of the world’s problems; no one seriously believes that cultures untouched by empire are flawless paradises. Is Peterson endorsing imperialism? That would be interesting. The First Nations people he claims to study would probably find that a curious thing to say about their history.
You know, you can be a modernist, not even a post-modernist, and agree with those so-called ideologues. Francis Bacon would have told you that while God might hold the truth, men do love their lies, and that we struggle to work through the shadows.
And yes, it’s true, colleges do try to educate students to be activists for their causes. You have a poor understanding of education if you think the opposite, that they’re supposed to be passive acceptors of received wisdom.
They produce the mobs that violently shut down campus speakers,
A good education leads people to question and dissent; they should openly and loudly argue against foolishness. The violent mobs are generally on the other side.
When student activists protested Milo Yiannopoulos’s speech at my alma mater, the University of Washington, it was a right-winger who brought a gun to a demonstration, and shot a protester.
When Heather Heyer protested the neo-Nazis in the Charlottesville demonstration, it was an alt-right sympathizer who murdered her.
It’s part of that principle of free speech that Peterson venerates that allows for protest. The violence comes from his friends.
the language police who enshrine into law the use of fabricated gender pronouns,
ALL pronouns are fabricated; all of language is an evolving social construct. There is no language police. There are social mores that suggest that you ought to engage all members of your community with respect for their rights. Only assholes are resentful when they are informed that they are being disrespectful. And if you use your language to incite hatred and violence, then the real police have an obligation to stop you.
and the deans whose livelihoods depend on madly rooting out discrimination where little or none exists
Uh, no. I’ve known some of those deans. Finding no discrimination would make them so happy and relieved, and would be so wonderful for all members of the campus community. It’s the discrimination that is the problem, not the finding of it. They don’t get paid per lawsuit against the university, I guarantee you. Their livelihood comes from helping to make a comfortable and productive environment for all students, faculty and staff, and contributing towards making the campus an attractive site for prospective students.
This thinking took hold in Western universities in the 60s and 70s, when the true believers of the radical left became the professors of today
Damn hippies. It’s all their fault. I attended the university in the 70s, and that could be my picture, except that I didn’t let my hair grow quite that long. I do remember how the establishment despised all things counter-culture, and it seems a lot of them haven’t changed a bit since.
I’m a little grayer than that, but OK. Except, you know, this is always true, that one generation follows another, and it’s always the older generation that is resentful of that simple biological truth. Yeah, some people educated in the 70s became the professors of the 90s. Thanks for explaining time to us!
I should mention, though, that there was a wide range of beliefs even then, and some conservatives also became professors…like a certain Jordan Peterson. Stop hitting yourself like that, man!
And now we rack up education-related debt, not so our children learn to think critically, write clearly, or speak properly, but so they can model their instructors’ destructive agenda.
Why do our students rack up debt? Because conservative politicians hate supporting education. Don’t blame the educators for student debt.
Speak for yourself, Mr Peterson. Post-modernist analysis techniques are all about questioning the meaning, examining texts skeptically, and thinking more deeply, rather than accepting superficial interpretations. I’ve seen some of Peterson’s lectures online, and if we’re going to complain about babbling gobbledygook and demanding literal acceptance of nonsense, he wins.
As for writing and speaking clearly, my discipline has a two-year long communications curriculum. I’ve read parts of Maps of Meaning. Jordan Peterson would not pass.
We have an agenda of rigor and practice and appreciation of breadth of knowledge. We’re not the ones advocating destroying and closing down entire branches of the humanities and social sciences, Mr Peterson.
It is now possible to complete an English degree, and never encounter Shakespeare, one of those dead white males whose work underlies our society of oppression.
Oh come on. Please. This is ridiculous.
Shakespeare is not the be-all and end-all of English literature. He was a wonderful writer, and we encourage reading him, but there are thousands of wonderful writers whose work has also stood the test of time. The English curriculum does not have to stand frozen forever — and four years of undergraduate education is not the sole source of all knowledge for our students. We have to sample a subset of literature, and if an instructor chooses an alternative set of great writers, it does no harm to the standing of one left out that year.
We should not be about dogma. Even if Peterson would prefer it that way.
To understand and oppose the post-modernists, the ideas by which they orient themselves must be clearly identified.
First is their new unholy trinity of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Oh, boy. Here come the bad definitions. Right away, we get into trouble: his unholy trinity has nothing to do with postmodernism. Here’s a basic dictionary definition: “a late-20th-century style and concept in the arts, architecture, and criticism that represents a departure from modernism and has at its heart a general distrust of grand theories and ideologies as well as a problematical relationship with any notion of “art.”
Nothing in there about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Those are leftist, progressive values, I would agree — but they aren’t tied to his boogeyman version of postmodernism. “Postmodernism” is simply an empty word for a concept that he doesn’t understand, that he uses as an insult, because his similarly ignorant fans will sympathize with it. He’s just wrong.
But let’s see…what exactly is his beef with diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Diversity is defined not by opinion, but by race, ethnicity, or sexual identity.
Equity is no longer the laudable goal of equality of opportunity, but the insistence on equality of outcome.
And inclusion is the use of identity-based quotas to attain this misconceived state of equity.
All the classic rights of the west are to be considered secondary to these new values.
Once again, we’re going to see an argument that requires redefining terms to a way not used by these so-called “postmodernists”.
What doesn’t he like about diversity? I love being in a place where people have different histories and experiences, where different languages are spoken, where we discuss the art and literature and politics of the whole wide world. This is a good thing, and I don’t see why Peterson is calling this part of an unholy trinity — except that it’s a dogwhistle to his racist followers who want uniformity.
Equity still has the goal of equality of opportunity. We work to give everyone an equal chance. There is no dictum that we have to pass a certain number of brown-skinned students in our classes, all are on equal footing.
Inclusion means that all students have the same status here. There aren’t any quotas. If there are barriers to inclusion, we knock ’em down.
You know, you’re making a bad argument when you rely on lying about what the people you criticize do and think.
I would just ask Peterson whether he really thinks his “unholy trinity” is bad for the university, and what he’d replace it with. A white ethno-university where we don’t consider a student’s circumstances to give them an equal start, and where we exclude and ostracize people who don’t look like us?
That we value fairness does not mean we’ve abandoned all other rights.
Take for example freedom of speech, the very pillar of democracy. The post-modernists refuse to believe that people of good will can exchange ideas and reach consensus.
More misrepresentation. No, we think that. The question is…what about people who are not of good will? Does Peterson think they don’t exist? What about neo-Nazis? Are we supposed to believe they are people of good will?
Their world is instead a Hobbesian nightmare of identity groups warring for power.
No, my ideal world would be one of cooperation and diverse groups interacting amicably. We’re about social justice, remember. That portrait is closer to the far right, conservative perspective, where you have to march around chanting YOU WILL NOT REPLACE US and screeching about “White Genocide” because brown people exist.
They don’t see ideas that run contrary to their ideology as simply incorrect, they see them as integral to the oppressive system they wish to supplant, and consider it a moral obligation to stifle and constrain their expression.
OK, am I the only one exasperated by a tenured college professor whining about being silenced when his job is secure, he’s raking in tens of thousands of dollars per month, and his words get reported in all the major magazines and newspapers? The victim complex is tiresome.
Second is rejection of the free market, of the very idea that free, voluntary trading benefits everyone. They won’t acknowledge that capitalism has lifted up hundreds of millions of people, so they can afford for the first time in history afford food, shelter, clothing, transportation, even entertainment and travel.
Well, gosh, I learned something new. Before capitalism, no one in history had food, shelter, or clothing. How did they survive?
Capitalism has benefits, definitely. It also has weaknesses that can be exploited by the unscrupulous, and as we are witnessing now, can be so burdened with parasites — the obscenely rich — that it is in danger of collapse. Maybe Peterson’s real problem with us is that we lack the hyperbolic investment in the perfection of an economic system that he has. We lack his dogmatic religion.
Those classified as poor in the US, and increasingly everywhere else, are able to meet their basic needs. Meanwhile, in once-prosperous Venezuela, until recently the poster child of the campus radicals, the middle class lines up for toilet paper.
I keep hearing this from the right. When were they a “poster child for radicals”? Was it during the juntas of the 40s? The guerilla insurrections of the 60s? The economic crises of the 80s? The troubled mess of Hugo Chavez’s presidency? It’s a country that has long been plagued with political and economic corruption, foreign meddling, and the blessings and curses of an oil economy. Why is Peterson thinking this is relevant? Is Venezuela “postmodernist”?
Besides, if you asked most of us radicals what our ideal state was, most of us would answer “Sweden”.
Third and finally are the politics of identity. Post-modernists don’t believe in individuals. You’re an exemplar of your race, gender, or sexual preference. You’re also either a victim or an oppressor. No wrong can be done by anyone in the former group, and no good by the latter. Such ideas of victimization do nothing but justify the use of power and engender intergroup conflict.
This is nonsensical. Individuals are people with diverse patterns of ethnicity, race, sexual preference, gender and more. The point is to recognize the complexity of their makeup, not pretend it’s nonexistent.
The idea that one is all one thing or all another thing is counter to the whole idea of intersectionality. What’s the alternative? Erasure?
All these concepts originated with Karl Marx, the 19th century German philosopher.
Wait wait wait, “ALL of these concepts”? Peterson has such a muddled and vague notion of what the things are that he hates, that now I’m confused. So Marx invented postmodernism? He’s responsible for the collapse of the Venezualan economy? He told universities to enroll diverse student bodies? He hated Shakespeare?
This just doesn’t make sense. Peterson is incoherent, but he knows what magic buzzwords to say to appeal to the dogmatic Right.
Marx viewed the world as a gigantic class struggle, the bourgeoisie against the proletariat, the grasping rich against the desperate poor. But where ever his ideas were put into practice, in the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia, to name just a few, whole economies failed, and tens of millions were killed.
First of all, step onto any college campus in North America. You won’t find many people who want to implement the full Marxist model — we’re imbedded in our current culture, and we might want improvements, but revolution is terrifying. And I agree that authoritarian governments are deplorable and produce excesses unchecked by the will of the people (but sometimes, so do democratic governments, as we’re seeing firsthand). Soviet purges and the Great Leap Forward and the Killing Fields are what happens with despotic governments.
But he’s glossing over something with his examples.
We fought a decades-long cold war to stop the spread of those murderous notions, but they’re back in the new guise of identity politics.
Millions dead, blame Communism exclusively. But it seems to me that our war to stop those murderous notions was fought rather murderously — we were bombing the heck out of Southeast Asia for an awful long time. Those casualties count. As do the more recent casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, and … hey, wait a minute. We fought those wars to stop the spread of fabricated gender pronouns, campus diversity policies, and what the fuck, identity politics?
This is absurd. Peterson is building a case for his ideology on the back of the Chewbacca defense. Worse, it’s an offense: if Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must crush the political left. He’s equating campus liberalism with the Cold War Soviet Union, as if we’re armed with nuclear missiles.
We aren’t, are we? I haven’t checked the campus radical arsenal lately.
The corrupt ideas of the post-modernist neo-Marxists should be consigned to the dustbin of history. Instead, we underwrite their continuance in the very institutions where the central ideas of the West should be transmitted across the generations. Unless we stop, post-modernism will do to America, and the entire Western world, what it’s already done to its universities.
And there we go, the grand finale of his video is an explosion of bullshit. “Postmodern neo-Marxism” is a contradiction in terms. I’m not even going to try — I’ll just tell you to go watch ContraPoints, who deconstructs this whole pungent explosion of bloated rotting whale guts in detail, far more intelligently and entertainingly than I would.
I will mention that his dead-eyed lack of affect suggests that maybe he’s wondering how he ended up here, lying for PragerU. And I will point out that the man who is indicting North American universities as hotbeds of bad ideas is, himself,
I am Jordan Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, for Prager University.
…a product of those universities, a perfect example of bad educational practice, and is now reduced to shilling for a fake online “university”.
His video was a disgraceful mess, and it’s no wonder he looks like a zombie here. It was incoherent, inconsistent, and contradictory, built around misrepresentations and his own biases. His own misunderstandings of concepts like Marxism and postmodernism have been pointed out many times before, but apparently he doesn’t care to read them, or understand them, and his own scholarly failings just become more and more apparent.
I am PZ Myers, professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, speaking for myself and only myself. I am proud of the great education I received at DePauw University, the University of Washington, and the University of Utah, and my work as an instructor at Temple University and the University of Minnesota. And most of all, I am proud of my tolerant, thoughtful, activist students.