I recently read an anti-Jordan Peterson article written by Laurie Pennie.
Who is Laurie Penny? According to the article, she is “an award-winning journalist, essayist, public speaker, writer, activist, internet nanocelebrity and author of six books. Her most recent book, Bitch Doctrine, was published by Bloomsbury in 2017. ”
In other words, she is an unemployed attention seeker. The problem is that if you are going to be described like this, the description should begin with “activist.” For it is the activist dimension of her persona that is dominant; her activism dictates to her journalism, public speaking, and writing. It defines her.
This is significant. For as I have argued before, activists are simply modern day propagandists. And propagandists don’t take an intellectually honest approach to things. That would defeat the purpose of their existence.
Sure enough, Penny does not disappoint as she is a rather skilled propagandist. She wrote an essay that is over 5000 words long that doesn’t contain any substantive argument. Instead, it is essentially a 5000 word ad hominem attack.
Doubt me? Let’s sample from the beginning, middle, and end of the “essay”:
But no matter how long I stared at the magic-eye picture of jumbled platitudes, masturbatory nightmares about being devoured by an all-consuming mother figure, and occasional sensible tips about making your bed, it failed to resolve into a work of epoch-defining insight.
And then there is this:
Few have led with the obvious fact that neither the man nor the message make coherent sense. 12 Rules disproves, by its very success, one of its central tenets: the idea that we live in anything resembling a meritocracy. The book is messy as hell. It is full of insipid platitudes, trite homilies, and self-regarding detours delivered with the assurance of a man who fully expects to see his childhood finger paintings in a museum someday. At best, he sounds like someone who wandered off into the Desert of the Real without a sunhat.
Can there be more?
You might suspect 12 Rulesof having been authored by a bot, but it’s too pompous. No self-respecting AI could replicate its level of paranoid hubris.
Don’t stop there, Laurie:
Peterson is playing a role, but he’s not a grifter. On the contrary, his hallucinogenic body of work suggests that he has been liberally sampling his own product. He believes what he’s saying, and in this intellectual climate that sort of authenticity carries weight, even if what you’re actually saying is a paranoid mess of evolutionary psychology, horrified homophobic superstition, and religious mysticism.
Got any more?
Peterson has worked out the secret to monetizing his own persecution complex: If your audience is angry and lonely and you tell them that’s justifiable, you can take that muddle of meaning, blend it, and serve it through a candy-colored straw to those who are prepared to swallow anything and call it a juice cleanse.
He might most generously be read as a prose poet, or a performance artist trying to express the insipid conundrum of modern masculinity via the medium of YouTube televangelism.
How about some fear-mongering?
None of this is to say that Peterson himself is a fascist. An obsession with hierarchy does not make a person a totalitarian, just as a devotion to proto-eugenic thinking combined with a rigid religious morality does not make a person a Nazi. They do, however, have real gateway appeal for anyone considering a career in neo-fascism,
And tell us how you really feel…
Peterson is not actually, much as we might like to believe it, a performance artist pulling an extended prank on the public by seeing just how much hokum he can spout while dressed as a respectable intellectual. He is for real, and we apparently have no option but to deal with his paranoid rants and temper tantrums for the foreseeable future.
Don’t despair. Pennie has an option:
We cannot continue to take Jordan Peterson seriously as a scholar and still respect the Western philosophical tradition in the morning. Jordan Peterson is a very silly man. He is also a very serious warning about how our intellectual culture has been downgraded. Engaging in any serious political conversation with him can only debase both our conversation and our politics. There is much to be gained, though, by seeing him clearly for what he is: the yammering sidewalk mystic of our age, the canary twittering madly to alert us to the imminent collapse of political coherence, with all that is solid melting into airtime.
You get the picture. This is essentially the meat and potatoes of her “analysis” (we’ll ignore the places where she seems upset because Peterson happens to be a white male) and it hardly qualifies as a substantive argument. Yet this is the type of material that resonates with intellectual lightweights who try to posture as intellectuals simply by signaling where they stand in the culture wars.
What strikes me is the seething anger that must lie behind those attacks and choice of words. It’s as if Peterson has come to personify the entirety of that dreaded toxic masculinity (the root of all eeevil) and Penny is trying to nuke it with her……lexicon. But try as she may, in the end, the point of her 5000 word ad hominem amounts to little more than this – Jordan Peterson makes me so mad, so very mad, that we all need to ignore him(!).
Which allows us to end with the most ironic sentence in Penny’s propaganda:
He is also a very serious warning about how our intellectual culture has been downgraded.
Nothing more amusing than a propagandist lamenting the state of our “intellectual culture.”