May 23, 2018

JORDAN PETERSON AND THE FAILURE OF THE LEFT:

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.

It’s not that I’m an uncritical Peterson devotee. Although I find both his work and the furor surrounding him quite fascinating, I don’t share his way of thinking about the political issues (such as socio-economic inequality) that most concern me at all. That said, I would never look to someone like him, who I see as a classical conservative, to provide thought leadership on such matters. That’s the role of the Left. And in my view, the Left is doing an abysmal job on that front.

‘The Left’ is admittedly an overly broad and imprecise term. Still, it’s certainly possible to identify a dominant leftwing discourse in the U.S. and Canada today. And within that discourse, a stock anti-Peterson line indisputably exists. The Left faces many challenges, and the issues surrounding Peterson only represent one. Still, it’s important. The anti-Peterson crusade is an instructive example of a larger dynamic that needs to be named, discussed, and hopefully, addressed.

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.

Leftist politics is basically Mean Girls.

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