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recently I found Jordan Peterson on YouTube.
>Tl;dr: he's a douche fascist nutjob and I've been listening to him to satisfy my own anger masturbation. sorry for the wall of text but I enjoy writing.
I had innocently typed 'postmodernism' into the search bar and the first page of results showed his name numerous times. Having never heard of the guy I put on a 40 minute video of one of Peterson’s lectures, titled simply ‘Post-modernism (sic) vs. Modernism’, which I ended up listening to three times back to back but not because it was a good lecture. I have since listened to hours upon hours of him speaking and now, frankly, feel guilty for it.
I have, I think, a decent working knowledge of postmodernism as I had taken classes on it, read quite a bit about it and written about related topics while at university, but that was a while ago. I wasn’t a philosophy major at the time so the larger framework of postmodern philosophy was a little lost on me, I was used to seeing the trees but not the forest so to speak. Now, in this case I was looking for a kind of refresher on the basics, a 101 level course, for the sake of wasting some time in a productive but leisurely way on a Sunday afternoon.
Peterson does not offer what I was looking for though, instead I’ve come to think of him as an utter sophist and his speech the ranting of angry white males. He makes extraordinary claims about postmodernism, which should be laughable to anyone with a basic understanding of it: that it is an ideology, that it is essentially Marxism and extremely leftist, that it denies any kind of objective truth or reality, that it is equatable with various social justice movements. It takes a while to fish out the core arguments Peterson has about postmodernism – or what he calls postmodernism, because I don’t think he has any real idea of what he's talking about – and so I've clocked up probably a large number of hours listening to him speak. I could spend my time now refuting him and explaining why he is wrong on almost every count but that is not the point here.
Instead I have come to the conclusion that Peterson is nothing more than a hack, in more ways than one. If you search Google for 'youtube postmodernism' it delivers a number of video results from YouTube. These are the videos I was intending to find when I struck upon Peterson, reasonable and informing videos of an educational nature. But on YouTube itself Peterson is the overwhelming result delivered and he is aware of this, not quite boasting but certainly acknowledging his apparent popularity on YouTube in one of his speeches. However, i am sure, like book sales these results can be manipulated: who is to say that a bot can’t watch a video?
Peterson himself, like Sam Harris, is a psychologist, and seems reasonably knowledgeable about many biological facts of life, facts that mark women as different from men for example, but anything remotely social he despises and barely wishes to consider any validity to it. The whole transgender debate he kicks up could be boiled back down to "nature vs. nurture", however Peterson does not wish to consider for a second the nurture side of the argument, for him there is only nature and then there are evil Marxist philosophers (he uses the alt-right buzzword ‘Social justice warriors’) trying to start a revolution. But why would a man so uninformed on the topic of postmodernism continue to stand up on stage and talk about it? And why would it be so apparently popular?
As I said, his speech is that of an angry white male -which he calls free speech-, and it is to them he speaks. If he has any authentic support it is from them: people who feel angry about the contemporary world and feel out of place within it and disturbed by many modern features of the world. Indeed Peterson stepped into the spotlight by kicking up a fuss about legislation affecting transsexuals, typifying the AWM stereotype. Peterson is obviously not interested in the pursuit of knowledge about postmodernism, he has not produced a single written document on the subject, an intellectual cop-out as it means his ideas cant be reviewed by his peers; he is apparently only interested in the acquisition of an audience. What he then manages to do, is take all that anger and frustration about the modern world and turn it against the Humanities as they exist in universities.
Peterson is not the first conservative to take aim at the liberal bastions that undeniably are universities and specifically the humanities departments within them. Indeed, he seems to take all his pronouncements on postmodernism from a book titled ‘Explaining Postmodernism: scepticism and socialism from Rousseau to Foucault’ by Stephen Hicks, published back in 2004. Peterson has thus taken up the mantle of the conservative crusade and stepped into the limelight to continue the relentless assault upon any attempt at explaining the world from a structuralist perspective which he names ‘social constructionism’.
When you search google for 'war on the humanities' you will find news articles about funding being cut by governments following austerity policies. No more money to art, philosophy, social research; the so-called 'less profitable' fields. You will also find articles defending the humanities, arguing that they are essential to proper functioning democracies: it was only in brutal places and times like Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany where the humanities were wiped out, and it was deliberate of the rulers then to wipe them out so that they could solidify their rule. Also you will find that studying in the humanities will teach a person to think critically and to be able articulate his/her ideas properly in writing at least. What benefit would Peterson gain from attacking the Humanities? simple, more money to his own field: psychology.
Although my argument here becomes conspiratorial, -fuck it!- what i've researching now for more than a week or two leads me to the following conclusion: whether or not Peterson is conscious of it, he is continuing an effort of the political right wing to eliminate the Humanities all together from educational institutions and by extension produce a population that thinks less critically and is more subservient to power. He is therefore my enemy and the more I learn about him and try to understand him, the more I find myself agreeing with Žižek, a true enemy is not simply a friend that you do not understand. Following from that, why the hell should I tolerate him?
For that matter, should I not feel enraged at Peterson? It is the endless ironies that Peterson like many of his ilk perpetually produce that is truly incendiary. They speak in echo-chambers, claim their free speech is being denied, accuse their opponents of pseudo-science, regard culture as a warzone etc. all amounting to towering hypocrisy. YouTube exists for entertainment, to satisfy emotional needs, isn’t anger one of those needs? Why should I feel guilty for listening to him for hours on end? Is he not there simply to satisfy my ‘anger masturbation’?