Jordan Peterson and the Failure of the Left

Jordan Peterson and the Failure of the Left, by Carol Horton.

I’ve always identified strongly with the left-leaning side of the political and cultural spectrum. …

If you follow the news stream, it seems that virtually every right-thinking left-leaning (pun intended) journalist, blogger, and social media maven agrees: Peterson is an alt-right wolf in professorial sheep’s clothing, a self-serving charlatan who dresses up old-school misogyny, racism, and elitism in faux-intellectual, fascist mystical garb.

I don’t buy it. I’ve read and listened to enough Peterson to make up my own mind and that’s not how I see him at all. Rather than being forthright about this, though, I’ve tended to cower silently in my alienated corner, fearful that revealing my rejection of the stock anti-Peterson narrative will cause my progressive friends to denounce me and the social media mobs to swarm. …

The hyperbolic uniformity of the leftist attack on Peterson is emblematic of the growing tendency to reduce left-of-center thought to the status of a rigidly simplistic ideology. Increasingly, what passes for progressive political thought today offers little more than a scripted set of weaponized hashtags (you must be pro- #metoo and anti-patriarchy, no further thought required). This narrowing of our public discourse is disturbing, and worrisome on multiple, mutually reinforcing levels. …

No doubt, I’m not the only person who’s wondered what all the fuss is about, decided to take the time to listen to one of Peterson’s YouTube lectures, and come away feeling that the Left’s commentariat is trying to sell me a fake bill of goods. The gap between Peterson’s obvious intelligence and the Left’s scathing denunciation of him as an alt-right idiot is simply too large for many of us to ignore. …

The Left’s attack on Peterson is so unrelenting, so superficial, and quite frequently so vicious, that many of us who work and/or live in left-leaning social environments feel scared to speak up against it. We don’t want to alienate our friends, damage our professional reputations, or attract the attention of fire-breathing activists.

The left is now brittle, stupid, dishonest, and repulsive:

The problem here is not simply that this is unpleasant for people like me. More importantly, our silence further impoverishes everyday political discourse by eliminating more nuanced left-of-center voices. This, in turn, reinforces the already powerful trend toward weaponized hashtag ideology instead of serious political thought. It also drives more people to right-of-center alternatives or away from politics altogether. …

It may be that I’m actually not as alone as it seems. Although I can’t prove it, I suspect that there are many others who feel as I do but are keeping quiet, as they don’t want to risk the blowback that comes with countering the often frightening force of today’s ideological tides. …

I’m much more concerned with — and disgusted by — the endless stream of tendentious and dishonest articles from leftists critics that grab onto such statements and blow them out of proportion, while aggressively erasing everything else the man has ever said or done from the record. …

I find it even more aggravating that such distortion is typically coupled with a predictable string of gratuitous insults (Peterson is a misogynist, a racist, a transphobe, and so on). Then there’s the self-righteous hand-waving towards some grandiose, yet utterly vague political project (“abolish patriarchy” etc.). If I didn’t have a longstanding commitment to equalitarian politics, I’d be so turned off by these dynamics that I’d want nothing more to do with the Left whatsoever. …

The real difference between conservatives and leftists:

Conservatives of this stripe mistrust radical movements that are ready to rip apart a cultural fabric that took generations to weave in pursuit of some idealistic vision of social justice. They believe that there is such a thing as ‘human nature,’ and that it’s highly fallible, and inevitably bedeviled by problems such as envy, corruption, and greed.

Consequently, such conservatives have no faith in leftist visions of a transformational ‘revolution’ that will definitively destroy oppression and establish a truly just society. Instead, they see them as dangerously naïve, and likely to produce violent anarchy and/or repressive authoritarianism. While acknowledging the realities of social injustice, they believe that political reforms need to be cautiously incremental — in a word, conservative.

hat-tip Scott of the Pacific