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.

The poster child for the invulnerability of white men

It’s James Watson. He’s got a Nobel prize, which means he gets to lecture incompetently about black people and women, write a bestseller full of sexist garbage about Rosalind Franklin, and basically push all the boundaries in a regressive direction, and what happens? He gets publicly shamed one week, but the next week everyone invites him back to praise him. It’s kind of amazing. You would think some of this stuff would stick, but no. He was just recently lauded in a meeting at Cold Spring Harbor.

No, really, look at all the white people joining him on stage and applauding! I guess he did contribute to a global community, of sorts, mainly by driving a lot of people away.

You will be pleased to know that the circle of life continues unending, because after that bit of public shaming, Eric Lander has apologized, predictably. I further predict, though, that we only have to wait a few weeks, possibly a few months, and there will be another event at which Watson will be fulsomely praised by a group of oblivious white guys, to begin the cycle anew.

Maybe it’ll be his funeral, who knows? I’m pretty sure that event will not be the quiet, dignified interment attended by a few loving and bereaved family members, but an opportunity yet again for distinguished white men to ignore all the careers he’s stunted, institutions he’s poisoned, and racist garbage he’s peddled with the authority of his Nobel. I am not looking forward to that at all, and rather hope he lives forever with his reputation.

Do not yield

I like a Democrat who will not yield. Maxine Waters ripped into a Republican who wanted to repeal anti-discrimination laws.

Mike Kelly, by the way, made his moolah running car dealerships, and auto dealerships are rife with racial discrimination, which is why the law was passed in the first place.

The House then voted to nullify existing anti-discrimination laws. Because of course they did.

Bigots don’t know they’re bigots, I guess

It’s useful to look at who your friends are. Who is defending the Intellectual Dork Web? Why, it’s the far-right conservatives, of course, like David French of the National Review Online. He’s got an angry defense, primarily of such right-wing luminaries as Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson, that is dotted with the usual buzzwords: “Identity politics! Political correctness!” But it’s also interesting to see what ideas he thinks are worth defending from the Identitarian PC Hordes of his imagination:

My email inbox is often a clearinghouse for dissenters from corporate America. They’ll forward me all manner of corporate communications in which their bosses establish definitive company political positions on all manner of hot-button political and cultural topics unrelated to their business. Banks, insurance companies, and technology companies produce statements about gun rights, fund Planned Parenthood, and conduct “diversity training” sessions that would make an Ivy League gender-studies department stand up and cheer. An employee “transitions,” and rather than relying on the good will, manners, and professionalism of an otherwise collegial and functional office, the company brings in “trainers” to teach a roomful of people in no uncertain terms that gender is different from sex, the man they worked with for years is a woman and always has been a woman, and dissent from these highly contentious positions is pure hatred and bigotry.

And everyone knows what happens to bigots in the workplace.

They rise to CEO positions, get appointed to the Supreme Court, elected to the Senate, or become President of the United States? Is this a trick question?

Curious, though, that what has steam coming out of his ears is gun legislation (we need more of it, I would think that’s obvious), Planned Parenthood (a good organization that provides necessary services to women), and … trans people’s rights? He seems most irate that we aren’t just shutting up and trusting in the good will, manners, and professionalism of an otherwise collegial and functional office, which would be hilarious if it weren’t so harmful.

Remember, this tirade is primarily in support of Ben Shapiro, that man of good will, manners, and professionalism, who has declared that “(1) Being trans is a mental disorder and trans folk need psychological help, (2) If you are born with X genitalia you are X gender, (3) Forcing people to treat trans people as their preferred gender is ‘thought policing.’” If we’re supposed to rely on the good will, manners, and professionalism of Ben Shapiro and David French, that’s a pretty good argument that the offices of the National Review need some diversity training.

I haven’t forgotten, either, that Jordan Peterson was launched into notoriety by his ill-founded protest against pronouns and laws that would give trans men and women equal protection under Canadian law. Bigots, all. Shouldn’t we be calling them out?

This is America.

It is 2 am and I am wide awake. I’ve had a nightmare.

It’s my own damn fault. I’ve been watching this video a couple of times a day for the last several days, and I think it’s doing things to my brain.

That transition…it hurts so good. It starts sounding a bit like Simon & Garfunkel, light and happy, and Glover is mugging like an old time minstrel, and then wham, we get a rumbly throb, an act of unspeakable violence, and “This is America”. Oh, sure, pop music has to have a catchy hook so it sticks in your brain, but this is more like a 2×4 upside your cranium. As the song goes on, it keeps on alternating between shuckin’ and jivin’ in the foreground and casual crime in the background.

That’s the dichotomy that jars me out of my sleep. I dream about this video, it’s in the forefront of my mind, but I’m thinking about all these other events going on recently.

I see Lauren Southern, her conventionally pretty white face blown up to ten times the height of a man on a video screen, her amplified voice indignantly declaiming to a crowd about how her free speech has been taken from her.

This is America.

Gina Haspel, the woman who helped cover up the CIA’s record of torture, is asked in her senate confirmation hearings if she would obey a direct order from the president to torture someone.

“I do not believe the President would ask me to do that.”

Oh my god. She really said that.

This is America.

The New York Times runs a really long piece on a collection of apologists for the status quo, people who represent nothing but the shabby id of white people, and puts on the pretense that these are radical intellectuals. No one on the NYT staff notes the irony.

This is America.

The NRA, a criminal terrorist organization, announces that their new president is Oliver North, a convicted criminal who sponsored terrorism in Central America. His first major speech representing that organization denounces the survivors of the Parkland shooting, a group of high school kids lobbying for gun control, as “civil terrorists”.

This is America.

Bitter old white guy on Fox News sneers at John McCain to defend torture.

“…it worked on John [McCain]That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’ The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to.”

I don’t even like McCain. I detest McCain. And oh my god, Cheney is back?

This is America.

That video by Donald Glover is great art, it’s shaking me up. But I shouldn’t blame it for my loss of sleep — it’s only the musical accompaniment to the real nightmare. This is America.

This is where I live.

Can’t sleep. This is America.

I still think the Intellectual Dark Web moniker is going to increase the ridicule

Henry Farrell has an interesting take on the Intellectual Dark Web. He argues that their sense of resentment is in some ways justified, because they actually have been displaced from the respect and appreciation their views might once have had. In other words, their shitty opinions no longer get the old beard-stroking regard they would have 10 or 20 years ago.

The traditional safe spaces for pseudoscientific speculation have been taken over, almost literally. The New Republic — which Ta-Nehisi Coates has asserted had perhaps two black staff writers or editors in its heyday and was certainly overwhelmingly white — is now being edited by the leftist multicultural barbarians. Slate has moved away from reflex contrarianism toward a more robust liberalism. And William Saletan, to his genuine credit, has written a serious mea culpa for his previous flirtations with race-IQ theorizing.

Today, contrarianism on race and gender is liable to get fierce pushback in the publications of mainstream liberalism. Intellectual ties to the right can win you toleration if you are David Frum, Ross Douthat, or David Brooks. You may be recognized as a member of a minority that needs to be acknowledged, and as a possibly unreliable ally against Donald Trump Republicanism. However, you are unlikely to enjoy real love or deep acceptance.

In absolute terms, dark web intellectuals enjoy far more access to the mainstream than genuine leftists. But in relative terms, they have far lower status than their intellectual forebears of 20 or even 10 years ago. They are not driving the conversation, and sometimes are being driven from it. This loss of relative social status helps explain the anger and resentment that Weiss describes and to some extent herself embodies. It’s hard for erstwhile hegemons to feel happy about their fall.

There is also an irritating but genuine grain of truth deep beneath the layers of whining. Campus leftists and their allies in the media are often no more open to alternative perspectives than the New Republic white male elite of two decades ago; they can behave badly too. But where dark web intellectuals veer from analysis of that phenomenon into self-pity is in their consistent tendency to treat all skeptical criticism of their purported commitment to truth-seeking as further symptoms of political correctness gone mad.

In that sense, it’s kind of a promising development that they now have to get their photos taken while lurking in the bushes at dusk. The flip side, though, is that while the intelligent, educated people have had enough of their bullshit and are willing to rip into them when they open their ignorant mouths, that gives them an additional cachet with the ignorant…and there’s more of them than there are of us. Hence, all the buckets of money being poured over them.

Oh, christ, another self-appointed set of thought-leaders

If it were the Onion, it might be funny, but this is the New York Times promoting a group calling themselves the Intellectual Dark Web. They aren’t particularly intellectual, they’re not part of some “web” of something or other, but they are rather dark. Can we rename them the Dark Dorks?

The list of members consists mainly of people who are demonstrable assholes. They include:

  • Sam Harris
  • Eric Weinstein
  • Christina Hoff Sommers
  • Dave Rubin
  • Jordan Peterson
  • Heather Heying
  • Ben Shapiro
  • Douglas Murray
  • Joe Rogan
  • Maajid Nawaz
  • Bret Weinstein
  • Michael Shermer
  • Camille Paglia
  • Steven Pinker
  • James Damore

Etc., etc., etc. You know, if you really wanted to compile a list of the worst people in America, the shallow populists who poison the discourse with conservative toxins and Libertarian lies, that wouldn’t be a bad start. These are not particularly smart or interesting people — they are good at inflaming other assholes and acquiring a following, but that’s about it. And now they’ve got a great big long article in the New York Times, with grimdark portrait shoots of them standing about in the shrubbery at night.

And just what is the dark intellectual foundation they’re trying to promote?

Here are some things that you will hear when you sit down to dinner with the vanguard of the Intellectual Dark Web: There are fundamental biological differences between men and women.

Yes? So? No one argues against that. What we argue against is the idea that you can find consistent, biological differences in their minds, or that one gender is the lesser to the other.

Free speech is under siege.

Jesus fucking christ. You’ve got the NY Times spewing your bullshit everywhere, where is your loss of free speech? The whole basis of your sleazy legitimacy is that you’re a bunch of people with large followings!

Identity politics is a toxic ideology that is tearing American society apart.

Say the status quo warriors who want everyone else to shut up about their bigotry, while howling non-stop about their precious identity.

And we’re in a dangerous place if these ideas are considered “dark.”

Uh, these are the people who named themselves the dark web. Not anyone else. Typical. They’re complaining about being victimized by their own term!

Quick, let’s start the Shiny Happy Web! All it takes is declaring yourself special, and people will think you’re a movement. Let’s pass on the dismal dishonest ideas, though, OK?

Wave! Wave like your life depended on it!

Because it just might.

Police in California detained four women on potential felony charges after a white woman called 911 because the woman of color didn’t return her wave.

Kells Fyffe-Marshall explained how the four women, three of whom are black, were surrounded by 7 cop cars during the ordeal and were told that a helicopter was even tracking the women.

Wow. Detained on potential felony charges because they rented an AirBnB while black.

So, when are these scaredy-cat racist white people going to get surrounded by cops for calling in a false accusation? Or maybe even better, when will the police learn restraint?

So now Native Americans are “creepy kids”?

I can imagine how the faculty and staff at Colorado State are feeling about this PR disaster. The cops pulled two native American students out of a tour group because someone else in the group phoned in a complaint.

Police body camera footage and telephone recordings captured an incident in which two Native American teenagers were pulled from a Colorado college tour and questioned after another tour member reported “odd” behavior by “creepy kids.”

The accusation: “people were worried because you were real quiet”. Quiet. That’s a crime now? They behaved politely and didn’t cause any trouble…clearly a case for cops.

I blame the racist woman who called this in, but I also blame the police: they should have asked her what they were doing, and when she said they were “real quiet”, they should have said that that’s not a problem, and if you’re going to call up the cops with such bullshit complaints, she’s the one who ought to be pulled out of the tour group and questioned. But no, they take two quiet young men aside and frisk them and ask for proof that they’re actually invited members of the tour.

The CSU president has published a statement about the incident.

Two young men, through no fault of their own, wound up frightened and humiliated because another campus visitor was concerned about their clothes and overall demeanor, which appears to have simply been shyness. The very idea that someone – anyone – might “look” like they don’t belong on a CSU Admissions tour is anathema. People of all races, gender identities, orientations, cultures, religions, heritages, and appearances belong here. As long as you want to earn a great education surrounded by people with the same goal who come from every part of our state, our country, and our world, then you belong here. And if you’re uncomfortable with a diverse and inclusive academic environment, then you probably have a better fit elsewhere.

It would be unfair to penalize the child of the woman who made the baseless complaint, but I hope she at least feels unwelcome at CSU.

We are, in fact, in a battle with hate within our communities. While much of what we have been speaking about is born of ignorance, we can educate against ignorance. The hate that is in the hearts of white supremacists as they attempt to frighten and isolate people across this country is not ignorance. It’s a malignant choice. The increase in racist and anti-Semitic symbols and language and demonstrations across America’s college campuses has been well-documented. We at CSU have simply chosen to deal with these issues in a more open manner, and that comes at a potential reputational cost to CSU for being public when such things occur. But history has shown us that hate grows in the face of silence. Hate is not made uncomfortable. Hate does not shrink from fear. What affects hate is our willingness to shine a bright and unwavering light on it and to face it and confront it.

There is no place for hate at Colorado State University, and we will not be silent when we see it.

Now…chew out the cops, too. Don’t accept the excuse that they were just doing their jobs, because part of their job should be recognizing when exercising pointless authority causes more trouble than it solves.

Yet another under-reported hate crime

The Quinault nation has some of the most beautiful land in the country, a long strip of the coast of Washington state. It’s one of my favorite places to visit, and if I had my druthers I’d be there right now. Heck, I’d be there all the time, although as a non-Native I’d probably have to live a little further south, like my brother who lives near Grays Harbor. But I’d visit those beaches frequently!

But don’t be fooled. Like everywhere in the country, hate is rising, and Indians are one of the targets.

Hate crimes or abusive behavior against Native Americans, while rarely gaining much public attention, appear to be quite common. According to a joint 2017 study by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard University, 39 percent of Native Americans surveyed reported they had experienced offensive comments about their race or ethnicity. Meanwhile, 34 percent said they or a family member had experienced violence for being Native.

Barbara Perry, who conducted one of the first national studies on hate crimes against Native Americans, said few of these kinds of incidents ever get formally reported to the authorities. Perry said victims have grown weary of being ignored or seeing their cases bungled.

“They’ve come to the point where they don’t see the value in reporting,” said Perry, who has written a book on hate crimes against Native Americans and is a chairperson for the International Network for Hate Studies.

Read the whole story, which focuses on the murder of Jimmy Smith-Kramer, a Quinault native who was intentionally run over by a drunk white man in a pick-up truck. The attitude seems to be part of American culture.

In 2013, the Quinault Nation sued several local school districts, accusing them of discriminating against tribal students by dissolving the local athletics league and barring tribal teams from competing in local athletic contests. The exclusion was not only a racist snub, the tribe alleged, it damaged the chances of tribal athletes in the Taholah School District of being seen by college scouts looking to sign up scholarship athletes. The banning of tribal teams came after years of the athletes enduring taunts and slurs.

The suit alleged that dissolving the athletics league violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits agencies that receive federal money from discriminating on the basis of gender, race, color or national origin.

“The racial harassment and disparate treatment to which Taholah student-athletes have been subjected is severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive,” the suit claimed.

According to the suit, tribal children had been called “dirty Indians,” “wagon burners” and “sand niggers” at games hosted by Mary M. Knight High School, a defendant school where the student body was 93.9 percent white.

The schools are where the problem is expressed early. What is wrong with these kids? What is wrong with their parents?