NYT On Jordan Peterson’s Popularity
Award Winning Psychology Professor Dr. Jordan Peterson has built up a massive online following for his cutting-edge views of personality and the psychology of religion. With a new book out—12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos—The New York Times columnist David Brooks looks into what makes Jordan Peterson the rising star that he is, especially with young men today. Some highlights:
But what’s most interesting about Peterson’s popularity, especially the success of his new book, “12 Rules for Life,” is what it says about the state of young men today. The implied readers of his work are men who feel fatherless, solitary, floating in a chaotic moral vacuum, constantly outperformed and humiliated by women, haunted by pain and self-contempt. At some level Peterson is offering assertiveness training to men whom society is trying to turn into emasculated snowflakes.
Peterson gives them a chance to be strong. He inspires their idealism by telling them that life is hard. His worldview begins with the belief that life is essentially a series of ruthless dominance competitions. The strong get the spoils and the weak become meek, defeated, unknown and unloved.
For much of Western history, he argues, Christianity restrained the human tendency toward barbarism. But God died in the 19th century, and Christian dogma and discipline died with him. That gave us the age of ideology, the age of fascism and communism — and with it, Auschwitz, Dachau and the gulag.
Since then we’ve tried another way to pacify the race. Since most conflict is over values, we’ve decided to not have any values. We’ll celebrate relativism and tolerance. We deny the true nature of humanity and naïvely pretend everyone is nice. The upside is we haven’t blown ourselves up; the downside is we live in a world of normlessness, meaninglessness and chaos.
And Peterson personifies the strong, courageous virtues he champions. His most recent viral video, with over four million views, is an interview he did with Cathy Newman of Britain’s Channel 4 News. Newman sensed that there was something disruptive to progressive orthodoxy in Peterson’s worldview, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. So, as Conor Friedersdorf noted in The Atlantic, she did what a lot of people do in argument these days. Instead of actually listening to Peterson, she just distorted, simplified and restated his views to make them appear offensive and cartoonish.
Peterson calmly and comprehensibly corrected and rebutted her. It is the most devastatingly one-sided media confrontation you will ever see. He reminded me of a young William F. Buckley.
The Peterson way is a harsh way, but it is an idealistic way — and for millions of young men, it turns out to be the perfect antidote to the cocktail of coddling and accusation in which they are raised.
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