Supposed 'Free Speech' Warrior Jordan Peterson Sues University Because Silly Professor Said Some Mean Things About Him - 2018-06-22
I have to admit that until earlier this year, I'd never heard of Jordan Peterson. I first heard about him when he was on Russ Robert's Econtalk podcast, and it was sort of a weird discussion to go into blind, without any knowledge of Peterson. That's because throughout the podcast I found him to be extremely defensive, as if he was constantly under attack and had to parry away an onslaught of criticism. Other than that, I thought he had a few interesting ideas, mixed in with some nutty ideas. Soon after, I suddenly seemed to be hearing about him everywhere. In the last two months, the NY Times did a giant profile on him (in which he does not come off very well). He then played a major role in another bizarre and silly profile of what has been dubbed the "Intellectual Dark Web" -- a network of hilariously self-important people who seem to think they're oppressed for having thoughts out of the mainstream... even though the NY Times article goes on to describe how they all (with Peterson leading the pack) have massive followings, pack stadiums, sell insane numbers of books, and make crazy amounts of money from crowdfunding.
A core piece of that NY Times editor Bari Weiss article was the ill-supported claim that "free speech is under siege" and that these members of the "Intellectual Dark Web" were the renegades being shunned for speaking the truth that no one wanted to hear. To me, it seemed more like they were a bunch of self-important semi-hucksters who lots and lots of people were listening to, but who some people have criticized -- and they take that to mean that free speech is under attack. The more I read and watched about Peterson in particular, the more frustrating everything around him became. He certainly spews a lot of pseudo-intellectual nonsense, but so do many of the people who are angry at him. Many of the critiques of Peterson are, at best, sloppy and inaccurate. And Peterson has perfected playing the obtuse victim.
He's obviously very intelligent and is able to key in on the inaccurate representations of him, and uses that as a wedge to try to discredit those who are criticizing him. But the debates always seem to be more about misunderstanding both sides, and Peterson often appears to embrace the idea that he's a victim in all of this because people do such a poor job attacking his ideas (even if they're nutty and borderline nonsensical). This now famous interview between Peterson and Channel 4's Cathy Newman is a good example of this -- as is the also famous video of Peterson debating some angry students. In both cases, the criticisms that people are making of Peterson's ideology and viewpoints are a caricature -- and Peterson seizes on the misrepresentations, but does so in a fascinating way. Rather than trying to increase understanding and agreement, both sides just dig in and speak entirely at cross purposes. It's entertaining for people who support Peterson, who get to mock the silly misrepresentations of his critics, as well as for those who dislike Peterson, who get to mock his appearance of evading and sidestepping direct questions. It's all theater, and no one comes out of these any wiser. No one is trying to move towards more understanding. They all seem to embrace the misunderstanding as evidence of just how wrong the other side is.