So when the Prophet was asked about what the most sacred of struggles is, he responded that a word of truth in the face of an unjust ruler is the highest form of Jihad (Musnad Aḥmad 18449)
Ladies and gentlemen, somebody needs to speak out against the emperor. He is naked. And so is the empress.
And another prophet, the one we call Jacques Lacan, pointed out that the street bum madman who thinks he is emperor isn’t necessarily any more mad than the emperor who thinks he’s emperor. The only difference is that other people share the latter’s belief.
If you’re a follower and worshipper of Jordan Peterson on his anti-postmodern anti-feminism, shared by Camille Paglia, you have been worshipping a false god, an idol. You have been sold a golden bull. But Moses is here to cast it into the fire.
Gifted but Highly Over-rated
In my opinion, nobody is more over-valued than the great internet phenomenon Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychology professor. As a psychologist and university teacher he is pretty good, even great. As a political commentator and interpreter of our time, he is simply not. Camille Paglia, who joins him for this talk, is also talented and interesting, but ultimately a poor and unreliable guide to understanding culture, politics and society of today.
So here’s the talk I want to comment upon, where JP and CP discuss for about 1h 40m. They talk mostly about postmodernism, social justice warriors, political correctness, feminism and university life.
Here is the talk in text if you don’t have the time to watch the video.
I’ll comment and show you they’re wrong about most things they are saying – including almost all of their central arguments. Some good stuff is in there, but most of it is just plain wrong, incoherent, and very poorly argued.
I’m going to use a somewhat mean method to get my message across here: machine-gunning a recorded talk with text. I realize that this isn’t 100% fair, and it can come across as overly antagonistic or even caustic. They get to talk and I get to think and write before I comment.
But since these thinkers have gained great influence, becoming some of the most dominant intellectual voices on the internet, they should be able to take it. If they want, they are free to respond in text with clarifications or counter-arguments, as can others who might want to rush to their defense.
My Main Point
So before we go, here’s my claim in four points:
- Both JP and CP misdiagnose the current social justice and postmodern movements, describing the key insights and social dynamics of these incorrectly.
- Both fail to take the perspectives from which these social, cultural, and political currents emerge, and thus they also fail to present solutions to very real problems. In effect, they deny very real problems.
- Both fall into the exact same traps that they accuse their adversaries of: collective blame, essentialism – and here and there you can even find clear cases of misogyny, exactly corresponding to the bitter, antagonistic feminism they try to critique. There is essentially good feminism (smart, balanced, science-based) and bad feminism (antagonistic, bitter, sloppy, male-bashing), just as there is good anti-feminism (seeing men’s interests, looking at things more psychologically, checking facts) and bad anti-feminism (antagonistic, bitter, sloppy, female-bashing). JP and CP represent bad anti-feminism. They think that if you just remove the evil and inexplicable abomination of postmodern neomarxist politically correct feminism, all will be well.
- Both make clearly false and incoherent statements, many times, and in general – which shows that the high claims to intellectual authority of these two figures should not be taken seriously. In some cases, they reveal outrageous incompetence. At the risk of being tedious, I’ve gone through many of their mistakes, 47 to be precise. This is because I have been asked to be specific about my refusal to share in the choir of praise.
One thing I do like about JP is that he urges people – and men in particular – to toughen up and speak their truth, clearly and directly. A sound advice.
A pro-JP friend, who I told about some of the arguments I’m going to present, actually asked me to have some mercy and not criticize without also lifting Peterson’s strong points. And of course, there are strong points. I have positively referenced JP in this earlier post, where I bash some of the sicknesses of political correctness and feminism.
But if JP and CP are flat out wrong about most of what they’re saying, should I refrain from pointing it out, in order to protect the frailty of their message? No. That’s not how this works. Their stuff should be robust enough to survive a critical listening. If it’s not, it’s not.
When someone is on the wrong side of the truth, when someone is deep into falsehood and distortion, as Jordan Peterson and Camille Paglia manifestly are, the truth can show no mercy.
Here’s my truth about Peterson.
Alright, are you ready?
Marathon of Academic Incompetence
Let’s start here: poorly concealed misogyny. Listen through the whole talk and count the negative statements about women as a collective, and the negative statements about men. The results are staggering and terrifying – and this can hardly be a coincidence. There are many more negative statements about women.
Now, I’ll go through the talk in sequence. It’s going to be a marathon, so keep up. The reason it’s long is simply that they make so many mistakes. Just saying, I had to skip about half of my objections just to keep the text from swelling.
In the first part, they make mistakes, but it’s more about pomo (postmodernism) and the universities than about gender issues. If you want the juiciest stuff, where they talk more gender and reveal their misogyny, you can scroll down to Part 2 two directly.
- Paglia, 4-6 min. She tells us that a “foreign French import” of poststructuralist thinking came into American campuses, and that this had nothing to do with the “authentic” 1960’s revolution, which was closer to the movement known as “New Age”. “Careerists” became the poststructuralist university professors.
- This is also a “bad-guy theory” about a foreign invader, not a sociological explanation.
- She says: “It was elitist, not progressive” – These are not opposites. False inference.
- So: false authority, false inference, false facts. Low quality stuff.
- Paglia: 9:20-10:00. She tells us that because she teaches at art schools, she knows that not all of cognitive reality is linguistically mediated as the postmodernists claim, for instance ceramics isn’t, it’s more bodily and visceral. This is used as an argument against the postmodern position that language is fundamental to human activity and understanding.
- She needs to read up.
- (Some due credit: Paglia is right about “the end of oppositional art”. And about bureaucratization of academia. And about fragmentation of teaching, to some extent. These are commonly held positions, which I also share.)
- Peterson: 15-16 min. He suggests that pomo is a radical relativism and interpretationalism and the only thing that is real to pomos (postmoderns) is power. He wonders what the connection between pomo and neomarxism really is, given that pomo is relativist and neomarxism has some rather absolute values.
- Paglia: 21:00. She claims that one must understand neoclassicism and classical theory in order to write about Western society (which she says Foucault didn’t).
- Peterson: 21:30-22:30. He tells us that psychology is science-based and thus protected from the madness of pomo and neomarxism, which makes no quality distinctions.
- Peterson: 24:30. He tells us he learned from Robert Zapolsky (the Stanford primatologist and behavioral biologist) that zebras are black and white, mainly using camouflage stripes to hide in the herd, not hiding in grass (being visible from miles away). He means that pomos are like these zebras; they hide in the herd from lions like himself.
- Paglia: 27:40. She says that you shouldn’t do French Lacan in English, because English doesn’t need it, it being a richer language than French.
- English doesn’t need to look at its underlying structures and assumptions? Why ever not?
- Paglia: 28:00. She says that the US universities should be more like the British departments and that separate departments are “totalitarian”.
- Totalitarianism means something else. She’s making some inference here she needs to clarify. Sloppy.
- Peterson: 32:00. He says he doesn’t understand the hatred from which pomo critique stems and why they just want to “demolish” patriarchy, etc.
- Peterson: 33:30. He tells us there is no sense of bad motherhood and no sense of good fatherhood in today’s society (referring to generalized, abstracted archetypes), which means that we’re stuck with overprotective institutions.
- Google a corresponding popular term for bad fatherhood on a political level, one used all the time.
- What? Why aren’t you doing it? How come you cannot find a term like that?
- Sloppy reasoning. Incorrect inference.
- Paglia: 35:50. She thinks there’s no cure for the culture’s ills, except if men start demanding respect as men.
- This is an exact inversion of the bad kind of feminism. This is bad anti-feminism.
- Peterson: 36:15. He and others have shown that pomo PC values correspond with both femininity (high agreeableness), negative emotions, and personality disorders, and goes on to note that women with harmful relations to men may dislike all masculinity because they can’t distinguish between its positive and negative types.
- Yes, feminism is often a trojan horse for good old bitterness.
And then they start to talk more about women and gender – this will be the main focus of the comments from here on. There’s lots of other preposterous stuff going on, but let’s skip past most of it for the sake of brevity. After all, you get the picture from Part 1.
- Peterson: 39:10. He says he feels helpless because he cannot hit women, or implicitly threaten to hit them.
- Peterson: 39:30. He says it’s the responsibility of the collective category “women” to tell off their “crazy harpy sisters”. These purportedly undermine the masculinity of culture, which “really is fatal”.
- Doesn’t make sense to give collective responsibility to broad categories.
- Peterson sounds like… a fanatic – of the kind he accuses pomos of being.
- Paglia: 40:15. She says that the fall of masculinity leads to the decline of Western culture.
- Paglia: 43:40. She says women of today are unhappier because of lacking traditional roles.
- It goes for a developmental axis as well, more modern countries having happier women.
- Peterson: 46:20. He says that gender differences, according to research, are maximized in the Scandinavian countries, where equality has progressed the farthest.
- Seriously, he just ignored the fact that his and Paglia’s main argument against feminism is wrong.
- (Due credit: The thing Peterson says about male and female dominance hierarchies and the differences between them is true and important.)
- Paglia: 49:00. She says she likes a TV show where women have toxic arguments and guys settle the matter with a good fistfight and then they’re friends.
- No, physical violence creates toxic, pathological, and sad relationships between men.
- Besides, this is an overtly misogynous and sexist remark. It says she prefers guys to girls.
- Peterson: 49:35. He says that girls are mean bullies because they go after the reputation of the victim, as happened to his daughter.
- First of all, most bullying among guys follows a similar pattern: teasing, freeze-out, etc.
- And here he joins Paglia in overt misogyny.
- Paglia: 50:40. She says that men tease one another and this toughens them, so they don’t take things so seriously, whereas women are over-sensitive.
- Might be true to some extent, but again, a generalized, loaded, misogynist remark.
- Paglia: 52:10. She says that everybody should be better educated and learn about the Stone Age, etc., in which case we’d come closer to her conclusions.
- Paglia & Peterson: 54:20-55:50. She says that we should appreciate the development that has happened throughout history, and the sacrifices made by men. Peterson joins her and says men’s sacrifices made progress possible and that we have a great society.
- This is classical conservatism. Nothing wrong with that, but it should be called for what it is.
- But she doesn’t.
- Paglia: 56:15. She says our culture is falling apart because a strength or spirit has been lost.
- This flow of classical conservatism goes on for a while on both sides…
- Let’s call these two what they are; classical conservatives. Clever ones, updated ones, but still.
- Peterson: 01:01:55. He says that most people who were abused as children don’t spread the abuse to their children. This proves, he says, that patriarchy doesn’t exist, because if it did it would spread exponentially until all people were abused by bad fathers and men.
- Basic logics fail. His conclusion doesn’t in any way follow from his stated facts.
- Not sloppy. This is incompetent. Painfully, inexcusably incompetent.
- Paglia: 01:02:50. She says that it’s important to examine the transfer from the traditional extended family structure to the modern nuclear family. She thinks Freud is a good place to start.
- Paglia: 01:03:55. She says that contemporary therapeutic psychology doesn’t talk enough about childhood, as psychoanalysts used to back in the good old days.
- … and why doesn’t Peterson point out this obvious mistake, seeing as this is his field of expertise?
- Paglia: 01:04:35. She says that it’s taboo today to ask about how childhood experiences may play a part in causing homosexuality.
- Peterson & Paglia: 01:05:30. He says that he opposed a legislation which said you had to call transgender people by their preferred pronoun, which he thinks is “compelled speech”. Paglia thinks that is “absolutely Orwellian”.
- Will they mind if we call Peterson a girl and Paglia a boy?
- Paglia: 01:05:55. She says that her own writing of a book was “the greatest sex change in history” and that this justifies that there should be no regulations on uses of the English language. True story, that’s what she says. Go back and listen.
- No, that wasn’t the biggest sex change in history.
- What about grammar; grammar does tell her how to use language? Does she hate that too?
- Peterson: 01:07:30. He says that having older parents with more resources makes people spoiled, which is psychologically harmful.
- So all in all, even if he’s right about something in part, he is still wrong overall.
- Paglia: 01:09:15. She says that it’s the upper middle class who institute hyper-sensitivity and inject it into universities.
- (Intermezzo: they say smart and good things about child development).
- Peterson: 01:13:30. He says that women are bitter about the role they have in modern life and jumps to remembering that many cultures have had bride abduction as part of the marriage ritual.
- Bride abduction still goes on in some places, like Kyrgyzstan, watch this short Vice documentary.
- It leads to women killing themselves in misery. It’s a huge problem over there.
- Paglia: 1:15:00. She argues for “the freedom to risk rape”.
- Paglia: 01:17:00. She argues that men hunt women and want sex, which she says women do not understand.
- Paglia: 01:19:00. Paglia says American society has a chaos in the sexual realm.
- She’s wrong.
- Paglia & Peterson: 01h 19-21 min. They talk about consent and emphasize the responsibility of women to understand that men may want to rape them.
- This of course puts the responsibility of men’s actions on women’s shoulders.
- Paglia: 01:21:50. She want to stop all interference of universities into what students do with one another. That, she adds, is “fascism of the worst kind”.
- Apparently, they don’t hold themselves to the same standards.
- Peterson agrees to this phrasing, “fascism of the worst kind” specifically, arguing that it is a new kind of fascism.
- I’m not going to tell you which one of these two I made up. You will have to guess.
- Peterson: 1:23:00. He wonders how anyone could be naive enough to create parallel “legal systems” at the universities, because it obviously wouldn’t work.
- Social work, it works the same way.
- Psychiatric care, it works the same way.
- Union rights, it works the same way.
- Civil society committees, it works the same way.
- In churches and major corporations, it works the same way.
- Just saying.
- We hear very little such alternatives.
- Peterson: 1:23:25. He says the legal system is awesome because it evolved over a long time.
- There are many things that evolved over a long time that aren’t very good.
- That’s why sexual misconduct is being transposed to other realms than the strictly legal one.
- You can read this article on how the justice system fails rape victims, if you like.
- Paglia: 1:24:10. She says that it’s taboo to say that women should be responsible for their own choices.
- Implying, then, choices that lead up to someone else raping them.
- Implying, then, that she wants women to be responsible for the choices of male rapists.
- It doesn’t make sense.
- Paglia & Peterson: 1:24:10. They agree that the refusal to hold women responsible for risking being raped is “such a betrayal of authentic feminism”.
- I disagree.
- The right to being raped is not authentic feminism.
- Paglia & Peterson: 1:25:00. They argue against verbal consent because sex is not a verbal thing.
- Would it be so bad if people talked a little more about it? Might avoid some misunderstandings.
- Peterson: 01:32:00. He says that, for feminists, the patriarchy is evil and so is traditional motherhood, which leaves women only with the professional role, which then is patriarchy, just run by women.
- Reveals lack of basic understanding of feminism.
- Paglia: 01:34:15. She argues that the West is like ancient Rome, which she claims fell to bureaucratic control and multiculturalism.
- Peterson: 01:39:30. He says that victimization of groups may cause them to commit genocide. This is said in the context that pomo PC culture creates new venues of victimization and blaming.
- On the closing note Paglia calls out: “We agreed on everything! I knew it!”
And that, my friend, closes this marathon of harrowing academic incompetence. All in all, these were 47 points pf critique, a handful of which would have shot dead an academic discussion of normal standards. (13 + 37 points, but three were interludes with due credits).
Forty-seven points of severe, fundamental faults. That’s either incompetence, dishonesty or the tunnel vision of the fanatic. You decide which one, or which combination of the three.
If you’re one of the many people who have been unable to see through the thin veneer, unable to see these people for what they are – standard conservatives, misogynists, hysterical anti-feminists – this means that your critical thinking has also been curtailed.
So do the right thing and say a painful goodbye to your YouTube father figure, Jordan Peterson. He told you to speak the truth. But he doesn’t tell you the truth, not even close. And neither does Paglia.
By the way, the correct answer to their question, what comes next, after this wave of pomo?
It’s that you accept good feminism, make sure none of it is driven by blame or hatred, and then add another layer to it: masculinism. Then you proceed with a both-and perspective. And you use developmental psychology to get at the core of the issues, reducing the gender antagonism in society, as discussed in my upcoming book, Nordic Ideology.
The core failure of the intellectual projects of Peterson and Paglia comes from a lack of understanding of developmental sociology. They have both failed to see the simple and fundamental progression: from traditional, to modern, to postmodern, to metamodern.
None of these positions (modern, pomo, etc.) are perfect. They all have pathologies and sicknesses of their own. Pomo has sicknesses. But Peterson and Paglia think that pomo itself is a sickness. To them, if people just “stop doing it”, stop being pomo, everything is going to be fine. But that’s not going to happen, as society developmentally generates a huge onslaught of pomo in late modernity. You can’t tell someone to stop being at a certain developmental stage.
So basically, Peterson and Paglia offer us no path ahead.
What’s next? Metamodernism is next.
Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, and the upcoming books ‘Nordic Ideology’ and ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of World History’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his Facebook profile here.