jordan peterson is the dan brown of buttheads*

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This post originally appeared on the KatyKatiKate Facebook page. I'm reposting it today because The Atlantic decided to publish a piece with the thesis that the left is scared of Jordan Peterson because he just makes too much sense, and we're threatened by the quantity of sense he's making, and our children are learning what extensive sense he makes, I felt it was time to reintroduce my antithesis:

Jordan Peterson is the Dan Brown of Buttheads Who Prefer Nonfiction.

OF COURSE Jordan Peterson is popular right now. Of course people are buying his bestselling book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos."

To a certain kind of person, Jordan Peterson is as reliably satisfying as a Dan Brown book and has the same relationship with true facts, which I would label as #casual because I'm feeling sweet today.

Like Dan Brown, Jordan Peterson is a professor who decided to start writing books.

Like Dan Brown, Peterson is a savvy participant in pop culture and can place his volksy, paternalistic theories to scratch the itch of the dissatisfied zeitgeist. Like Dan Brown, he is pedigreed and just square enough to come across as legit.

Like Dan Brown, Jordan Peterson takes real facts and places them in wildly fallacious and suggestive contexts.

Ask Jordan Peterson why some people have a pee-pee and some people have a hoo-ha, and he’ll say “Well, there are biological differences between sexes.”


Correct. A real fact placed in relevant context!

Then ask Jordan Peterson why women have historically struggled to reach equal representation in government, and he’ll say, “Well, there are biological differences between sexes.”

Uh… judges?

Technically true, but whatchu trying to say, hombre?

He's done nothing but report the same true fact, but in the second example he did it in a way that suggests that women are biologically unsuited to power, politics, or government. But he didn't say that outright, and the reason he didn't is so that if you ask him, "Are you saying that women aren't as good at politics as men?" He can back away from you spinning a finger around his temple and say, "Woah, woah, woah, crazy lady, I didn't say that!"

Jordan Peterson’s self image is basically Harvard Symbologist Robert Langdon. PROVE ME WRONG. He LIVES to mansplain how concepts that have derogatory or harmful meaning to real people in contemporary contexts are ACTUALLY totally fine because #RandomIrrelevantFact. "Ahhhh, okay, I see, Professor Peterson. The Klan hood isn’t actually a symbol of racist hate and murder. It’s just that we sheep were too stupid to know WHY we were offended by a Klan hood. Because we should have known it’s ACTUALLY a Spanish priest’s robe! Which is definitely where my head SHOULD HAVE GONE, since I live in a Spanish Archdioce-- OH WAIT."

I’m not saying that it’s factually inaccurate to cite multiple interpretations of the same symbol, fact, or study. But I am saying that it’s academically (and socially) irresponsible for him to dismiss the humanity and lived experiences of people whose lives he’s never lived because he read a book about Spanish priests and that hood looks the same from his point of view.

(Me: It looks like it’s more fun for you to score points off of people who are offended by violent racism than it is to acknowledge your role in white supremacy and a legacy of bloody racist oppression.

Him, backing away, spinning his finger next to his head: Woah woah woah, crazy lady!)

The Spanish priests don’t legitimize the Klan; the Spanish priests reveal Jordan Peterson’s intellectual pettiness, and his willingness to recontextualize known facts out of fucking order, in an attempt to minimize the humanity of people with whom he disagrees.

(To be clear, that Klan/Spanish priest example is from The Da Vinci Code, not Peterson’s work. However, Peterson has made similarly “whaaa?” arguments. Oh, you'd like an example?

“I know it feels like you’re being oppressed by the patriarchy ladies, but ACTUALLY what’s happening is, see these lobsters? We’re evolutionarily linked to them, and lobsters live in social hierarchies too, so the whole idea that you’re being actively oppressed by a patriarchy is impossible, sweetie, despite your PERSONALLY HAVING BEEN FIRED for daring to ask for a raise so that you'd be paid equally to Joe, who has less education, less experience, and less responsibility than you. Because see, lobsters.”)

Like Dan Brown, Jordan Peterson is all about the male hero archetype. Men are, according to him, innately predisposed to orderliness, ingenuity, interesting ideas, assertiveness, strength, and #winning.

Woah! I just realized something! Those are all qualities that are highly prized by our society, too! I can think of TONS of famous leaders and successful heroes who exemplify these qualities and who happen to be men. What a shocking coincidence. Nothing to do with the patriarchy I’m sure. Because see, lobsters.

Side note: If you tested Flint citizens you would find that they’re predisposed to lead poisoning but that’s not a fucking personality trait now is it, JorJor? No. No it is not. These people have been poisoned by their environment and if you don't acknowledge the deleterious impact of the environment that shapes a person, then go back to ROOM, you rubbernecking tourist.

He cites studies that examine the personalities of people who have been socialized by patriarchal constructs that he claims do not exist. Then, SHOCKINGLY, the results of those studies REINFORCE THE PATRIARCHAL CONSTRUCTS, and then he hails them as proof that the construct is good and right, because this study concludes that women are best-suited to “aesthetics, industriousness, gregariousness, and agreeableness,” AKA raising babies, pouring your fucking coffee, and being easy for him to handle AKA the jobs that people expect women to do , and have encouraged and rewarded in us since birth.

Show me how his precious studies divorce the human being from gendered, socialized expectations that have, like a fucking brick wall, become the thing that we have to grow around if we want to find the sun.

Show me how the study factors in that wall when it determines the shape of the tree, because if it doesn’t, then its conclusion, that “trees just like to grow sideways. I guess we’ll keep planting them next to walls” is bunk. It’s fucking bunk.

At his core, Peterson assumes that unless he has experienced it, it does not exist.
At his core, Peterson prioritizes the comfort of people like him over the lives of people who are not like him.
At his core, Peterson thinks kids today are too whiny and entitled.
At his core, Peterson would have us believe that “equity” is a dog whistle, code for “suppression of liberty.” And in some ways, he might be right about that. As they say, when you’re accustomed to privilege, equity feels like oppression.
At its core, Peterson’s dogma states that equality is as oppressive as inequality. As if 100 pounds of chains and 100 pounds of grain both weigh the same, so they must be equal when carried down the street.

He shuffles facts like a 3-card-monte huckster who wants to BEAT YOU because in his mind, that’s the only way he gets paid.

Today, right now, there’s a guy reading Peterson’s book. He’s nice enough, about 22, has lots of friends, always polite. And he likes this book. It makes sense. People have been telling him that he needs to work on being more sensitive to how he talks to women at work and that seems like a lot of work and a LOT of apologizing. Girls like pretty things and being nice, so this book makes sense. Boys are strong and decisive, so this book makes sense. Chaos is bad and change is scary, so this book makes sense. Jordan Peterson’s entire career is based on telling the wrong people that they’re right. His work is a warm cup of cocoa to fearful bigots: “There, there. You’re wonderful. Everything about you is wonderful. It’s the postmodern neo-Marxists, they’re the problem. Linda in HR? She’s one of them. You just keep being who you are.”

Jordan Peterson would rather write a book legitimizing disrespect than learn how to respect others. And Jordan Peterson’s work is a balm for people who would rather read a book legitimizing disrespect than learn how to respect others.

Like Dan Brown, he’s a flashy pseudo-intellectual with a stylist, a publicist, a soupcon of substance, and a big crowd of fans with stupid faces who think that because he said it, it must be true.

And like Dan Brown, this Canadian canker sore is going to fester, ooze, and finally vanish. He’ll morph into a punchline sooner rather than later. I’m more than happy to let him do that.

But you know what isn’t going to fade away? The core tenets of his rhetoric: that equity is dangerous. That respect is less important than pride. That trans people need to ignore their identities to keep others comfortable, even at the expense of their lives. That feminism causes school shootings. That oppressors need not change, except to become more proud of their oppression. That a man stands up to interlopers who ask him for fair and equal treatment, because that’s just not how we do things in these parts.

Sorry, team. But racism, sexism, transphobia - these aren’t disco and double-knits. They’re not just going to go out of style like Dan Brown’s unbearable prose. They’re not just going to become hilariously dated like Jordan Peterson’s argument that the patriarchy isn’t oppressive because lobsters.

We’re going to have to kill them. The -isms, I'm saying, not the lobsters. 

We’re going to have to get our hands dirty. Sure, the good professor claims to have incontrovertible evidence that women are too agreeable to advocate for themselves, that we're too sweet to ask for equity and too ill-informed to make compelling arguments for our own humanity.

But if Peterson knew his asshole from the chalice symbol embedded in the Last Supper, he'd be able to see that the chaos he so wants to vaccinate our society against with his 12 rules for life isn't chaos at all. It's just progress. And whether he knows it or not, Jordan Fucking Peterson, the Dan Brown of literate buttheads, is a fucking fan of progress.

How do I know?
Because lobsters.

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  2. Still kicking ass, I see. This is the best of your posts that I have read, so far. Keep writing, keep thinking.