The name "Jordan B. Peterson" inspires either great awe or great ugh. A bearded middled-aged man is not exactly what we all think of when we think of a Youtube Sensation in 2018. His channel recently surpassed more than 1 million subscribers, his talks at rock star-style concert venues from earlier this year were sold out, and when he posts one ordinary picture of an overcast street on Instagram, 18,000 people go to like it. Makes you wonder, does he know about Insta filters?
His newest book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote To Chaos, is currently the No. 1 International (as well as National) bestseller on Amazon. Its antecedent, a post on Quora, has generated almost 5 million views to date. By the way, Jordan B. Peterson is not a musician or a celebrity -- he's a professor of Psychology -- with a camera on his home computer.
For those unfamiliar with his brand, JBP was kicked into stardom in late 2016 when he publicly denounced the gender pronoun law in Canada, citing a conflict of morality (and of philosophy) between democracy and tyranny. A couple of videos surfaced online shortly thereafter of university students shouting him down at a rally. It went "viral," as the digital-age saying goes, and a star was born.
I don't actually dislike him. I've read his book cover to cover and I admit I like it. I also admit I read Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code cover to cover and liked that too. I mean, JBP is no Dostoyevsky or TS Elliot (both of whom gets frequent mentions in his lectures), but he is as good (or maybe even pretty great) of a writer for a clinician and academic. Clean up your room, he says! Last Sunday I spent 8 hours straightening out my apartment from top to bottom like I'm back living with my parents again. Stand up straight, he says! He sounds more like my college ballet instructor than some devilish patriarch. Any moment I expect he'll post a video reminding me to not talk with my mouth full.
For all the forthrightness however, JBP also has his moments of weakness. On his much watched interview with Cathy Newman (which just passed 10 million views) he stumped Newman when she asked, "Why should your freedom of speech trump a trans person’s right not to be offended?” His response, “Because in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive. I mean, look at the conversation we’re having right now. You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that? It’s been rather uncomfortable.” Newman was suddenly dumbfounded. She couldn't formulate the words back to him. But instead of letting the viewer decide in that moment, he slides in a snide, "Gotcha." It was one of the few unsportsmanlike moment I've witnessed from JBP, though to his credit, he did keep his cool during the remaining 30-odd mins of the heated interview.
Peruse the Youtube comments that follow and very quickly you'll see them degenerate into vulgarity and petty jabs at Newman. What a conundrum this must be for a man who believes in individual transcendence and freedom of words. What a pity. But this is not to say that JBP's videos are not also full of positive comments. Just as a casual observer, his followers often leave very intelligent and thoughtful notes, more than the vast majority of channels I follow elsewhere. So there's that too.
Love him or hate him, he is a product of our time, in every sense of the word. With the democracy of Youtube, viewers now choose their own content of consumption. 1 million + people have chosen JBP with more flooding in. He has a book deal. He's touring the world on talks where ticket prices average around $50 a pop. He is no friend of the Far Left. He is vehemently opposed to being with the "Alt Right." For all the decries from the University of Toronto, it looks like JBP's position as professor is more than secure. According to Reddit, he surpassed $66K annually from the online membership platform Patreon. What to make of him? If only there was a singular narrative.
In more than one interview, Peterson himself said that traditional media was dead. He's living it. And that's something worth noting.
Bits & Pieces
A place for experimentation, a place for pieces unpolished and unpublished, a place to work out thoughts and ideas for larger collections. Typos aplenty. Enjoy (or not).