Laurie Penny: An Intellectual Lightweight Lashes Out At Jordan Peterson

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.

Finished yet?

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.”

This entry was posted in Jordan Peterson, Social Justice, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Laurie Penny: An Intellectual Lightweight Lashes Out At Jordan Peterson

  1. verbosestoic says:

    I came across it from my normal site reading, and while I didn’t read it in detail that was my impression as well: she spent lots and lots of time mocking Peterson and saying how bad it all was, but didn’t bother to engage with the material in any way to show that. Contrast that with Vox Day’s criticism, who at least went into detail on what Peterson was actually saying, whether you agree with his interpretation or not.

  2. Dhay says:

    Here’s a comment from Counterpunch:

    As a leftist myself, it is uniquely frustrating to see that it is conservative writers who are overwhelmingly the only ones satisfyingly and comprehensively dissecting identity politics (with a few liberal exceptions like Kipnis), which ensures that they get to direct the emerging narrative in a certain direction. Meanwhile, the core features of identity politics – guilt and lifestylism – continue to dominate progressive movements, something which has a deeply divisive effect on their typically multicultural composition.

    More generally, the modern urge to centre during any political discussion one’s own identity has been fuelled by these sorts of developments. For instance, during the recent Westminster attack, Oxbridge journalist Laurie Penny felt the need to tweet the following edgy comment: ‘Thoughts and atheist prayers with everyone in Westminster right now’. Identity politics forces itself to the centre even in times of serious political and religious tension, when many were speculating about the killer’s motive, race and religious beliefs. Instead of offering simply her ‘thoughts’ to those in Westminster, Penny insisted on prioritising her own identity as an atheist; an irrelevant, insensitive and – as the backlash to her tweet demonstrated – fairly offensive thing to do. The rash incompetence of much of Penny’s other tweets, and indeed some of her journalistic work, is likely not helped by the contemporary culture of gaining traction and attention not through careful scholarly work – be it peer-reviewed research or investigative journalism adhering to certain standards of social science data collection and analysis – but rather through re-tweets, YouTube views and Patreon funds.

    Short summary: she’s very much a lightweight.


    On a sideways note, aren’t two of the Four Horsemen unemployed attention seekers: though I suppose Sam Harris might call himself a self-employed attention seeker; Richard Dawkins, from 1995 until retirement in 2008, seems to have been only nominally working for the University of Oxford as its ‘Professor for Public Understanding of Science’; they have both long been writers, not scholars.

  3. Isaac says:

    Is Pennie the same person who famously humiliated herself in a very public debate falsely claiming that her opponent was avoiding property taxes?

    And ALSO famously humiliated herself when actor Ryan Reynolds rescued her from being hit by a moving car, and she reacted online with anger that people were praising him?

    This woman is a living warning to young girls about the consequences of radical feminism.

  4. Il. Meyer says:

    After reading part of Laurie Pennie’s article she strikes me as the type of person the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright described as “educated beyond their capacity.”

  5. nsr says:

    She sounds like a typical narcissist who’s adopted feminism as a means to draw attention to herself.

  6. Ilíon says:

    *Anyone* who describes themselves as an “activist” ought to be viewed with at least a modicum of suspicion and kept at arms length.

  7. Ilíon says:

    Is the name “Laurie Pennie” or “Laurie Penny”?

  8. Dhay says:

    The sentence immediately following the second quote is:

    There is, in short, absolutely no way this would be taken remotely seriously if anyone who wasn’t a white guy had written it.

    I observe that if you change that “white guy” and the implied “privileged, heteronormative cis”, the sentence then applies to those more extreme SJW articles which are the occasional target of S2L posts.


    It’s fun to see what those acid comments can be adapted to target. As regards the fifth quote, I note that Sam Harris’ success was built upon his post-911 book, blog posts and articles telling us to be scared, very scared indeed, of Muslims (with Christians, allegedly, no better):

    Harris has worked out the secret to monetizing his own persecution complex: If your audience is angry and anti-Muslim 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.


    Harris sells Buddhism to those prepared to swallow LSD as a juice cleanse of their old, outmoded ways of thought in preparation for Buddhism. That “mishap with magic mushrooms” which Jordan Peterson (and Laurie Penny) so graphically relate (“I spent the next six hours screaming. Non-stop screaming as loud as I could.) also happens with LSD. Six hours of screaming. But it’s just a juice cleanse, he intends to persuade his beloved daughters to take a cleanse.

    Be scared, very scared indeed, of Harris.

  9. Michael says:

    Is the name “Laurie Pennie” or “Laurie Penny”?

    Thanks. I corrected it.

  10. Jim says:

    Why exactly am I supposed to care here? She’s pretty right – Mr. Peterson *does* have a monetized persecution complex. He goes around playing the victim and his followers send him huge amounts of money. Pretty clever if you ask me.

    And his other major criticism is that he takes just enough information from different fields outside his area of expertise to sound like he knows what he’s talking about, but to actual experts in those fields it’s just nonsense. Sounds kinda like Dawkins, Harris etc.

  11. TFBW says:

    Summary of what Jim said: “I don’t care if Penny’s article lacks substance: I agree with its sentiment.”

  12. Ilíon says:

    .. with subtext: “When leftist are persecuting you, if you dare to say that leftists are persecuting you, that just proves that you have a “persecution complex”.”

  13. Jim says:

    Who is being “persecuted” in any meaningful sense? Has he been fired from his university? Seems like he’s claimed to be on the verge of being fired, repeatedly. Has it actually happened?

    Most of what I’ve heard about him is his landlubber’s description of a lobster fight, which, if he had grown up along the coast, he’d know is about as meaningful as a fight between two pigs in a pen one week from the slaughterhouse.

  14. Kevin says:

    “Who is being “persecuted” in any meaningful sense?”

    That’s what I’m wondering. Precisely what has Peterson done or said that indicates he has a persecution complex? I’ve seen leftists treat him with hate, and he mentions that they do so, but that’s all I’ve seen. And I would not characterize a correct description of events as having a persecution complex.

  15. Jim says:

    “Precisely what has Peterson done or said that indicates he has a persecution complex?”

    I think it’s something along the lines of claiming that he’s about to be fired for exercising free speech when there’s been nothing to indicate anything of the sort.

  16. FZM says:

    That’s what I’m wondering. Precisely what has Peterson done or said that indicates he has a persecution complex?

    As far as I can see, largely nothing. If his persecution complex relates to the laws that they have brought in in his home state in Canada, it wasn’t a persecution complex, it was an illustration of the potential implications and consequences of having laws of that kind. Then he gets popular because lots of people agree that the law is highly controversial.

  17. JV says:

    Is this the same website that dunked on sam harris back in the day? How can you flip flop and defend peterson ?

  18. Michael says:

    Is this the same website that dunked on sam harris back in the day? How can you flip flop and defend peterson?

    You are not making any sense. Perhaps you should try again when you are sober. Start by trying to figure out the main point of this posting.

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