The Swamp logo

Why Everyone is Wrong About Jordan Peterson

by Chris Hearn about a month ago in opinion

The Polarizing Doctor is Neither Evil or a Saint

Image by Gage Skidmore/Flickr

How on earth did Jordan Peterson get to be such a controversial figure? How did he even become famous, for that matter? It seems that he is constantly in my social media news feeds, and the extreme polarization that comes with the guy boggles my mind.

Sadly, there appears to be no middle ground when it comes to Peterson. He's either loathed and hated, called an alt-right bad guy...or he's worshipped as some kind of brilliant Messiah.

Quite frankly, both of those views are wrong. And I'm not sure how this one guy has been able to create such a divide.

A few years ago, Jordan Peterson came to give a talk at a local venue here in Winnipeg. Oh man, the outrage that some displayed. There were efforts by angry people who feel that he is dangerous and says horrible things that are unforgivable to have the show cancelled. There were threats of protests that didn't really materialize.

So, why were people upset? Well, there is no doubt, he has made controversial statements. He first rose to fame after he challenged the minefield that is pronouns when it comes to gender. Indeed, that was a polarizing idea right there, and has been called transphobic. What he railed against was "compelled speech" after gender expression and identity were added to the Canadian Human Rights Act...AND the Criminal Code. To be honest, his protest is rather justified. The idea that using the wrong pronouns COULD get someone in legal trouble is a tad scary. He didn't say that he WOULDN'T use requested pronouns. He did feel, however, that criminalizing the use of the wrong pronouns amounts to compelled speech and that is bad. Yes, obviously controversial. But not worthy of the hate he has received. In fact, his argument is a very liberal one.

The Winnipeg Free Press quoted Liz Kessler, one of those who were very against Peterson having a platform in Winnipeg as saying:

"He’s spreading a message that’s really hateful. It's full of misogyny, transphobia and racism. It’s actively encouraging people who might believe a woman’s place is in the home, that we’re inferior to men, and it’s encouraging racists to come out of the woodwork."

It's not that I am a big fan of Peterson, exactly. I'm not going to defend everything he has said. People like Liz have their interpretations related to what he has stated. If there is one thing Peterson does it is challenge deeply held beliefs and narratives presented by the "woke" (for lack of better word) Left. And this tends to get people pretty riled up. And I think Peterson knows this, and, sort of likes it. I'm not going to write off what she said necessarily even though I think there is a ton of hyperbole in there. Her views on this are pretty extreme, as so many views of Peterson are.

Anyway, I felt that, given all the furor he seems to inspire, it would be a good thing to check him out. What awful things will he say? Will there be protests? What is it like to see this guy speak? Who would show up? What was the Jordan Peterson experience going to be like? So, I got my ticket to see for myself.

I headed to the venue to find one lone protester out front. I didn't notice anybody even paying attention to him in the short time I was outside. I hope the person wasn't harassed. He had every right to protest.

So, I got to my seat. The theatre was half full. Behind me were a group of 5 younger guys...in their 20s. They were all dressed in a business casual sort of way. Being the type of person I am, I thought I would eavesdrop and see what they were saying. Were these the alt-right Neo-Nazis that those who wanted the show cancelled insisted would be there?

No, all they were talking about was economics, and all decided they weren't a fan of Donald Trump. Sigh. Not the big, bad Proud Boys I was promised. In fact, I didn't really see anyone that I would feel was concerning. And, to my surprise, there was a large number of women at the event. Males dominated, but not by much. I mean, I had been told over and over again that the only people who liked him were bitter white males. Well, it didn't really seem that way.

So, the big moment came. First off, controversial media figure Dave Rubin introduced the man. Then, out came the good doctor. I was surprised when I saw him. When I had seen him on TV he came across as this strong, confident guy. The man I saw on stage looked older and frail. Not long after, Jordan Peterson dropped off the map for a short while as he dealt with a long standing addiction, which could explain why he appeared as he did.

The talk itself was absolutely free of anything that I would call controversial. He tended to ramble quite a bit. It wasn't the most organized of presentations. It was just him, on stage, saying his bit. He was actually rather inspirational, taking a Steven Pinker approach to everything. He wanted to tell us all that the world is a far better place than many believe it is. Toilets for example. Millions upon millions of us around the world have them. Yup, he talked toilets and how they have improved human existence. He talked about very positive, uplifting things. The man that I saw on stage was no alt-right demon. He was an inspirational speaker that talked about how good the world truly is.

At the same time, he wasn't overly brilliant. Sure, he's a doctor and all, but he didn't come across as a gifted genius. He was basically another guy with a whole pile of opinions, like so many of us. These opinions can be taken or left. He merely presented his views.

So, all those people who wanted to cancel this event and fear mongered over what would happen if he was allowed to speak were completely wrong. This was no scary event. At all. And I feel irked that there were people who wanted to prevent me from hearing this guy. I mean, I actually left the place feeling pretty positive about my lot in life, and the general state of the world. I was reminded that it isn't all doom and gloom and that there is much to be thankful for. But, people seriously did not want me to hear that. They wanted this event cancelled. I don't know what they expected? They seemed to think he would jump on stage and scream hateful things for an hour to an angry audience frothing at the mouth with seething rage. He didn't. Not at all. No hate. No vitriol.

Now, I get that he has said some things that people don't like or agree with. And, indeed, some of his stuff is a tad head scratching and I don't agree with it. But, you know what, that can go for a lot of people. Like pretty much everyone, some of his ideas are crap and other ideas are fairly decent.

I do not see Peterson as a genius of our times. He isn't. Some treat him as though he is. And I often wonder why. He's also not some evil force. The polarization that has been generated around him is unnecessary. So is the stardom. Again...just another dude with a whole bunch of opinions.

opinion
Chris Hearn
Chris Hearn
Read next: New Mexico—It's like a State, like All the Others!
Chris Hearn

I'm a 47 year old writer, amateur photographer and amateur dad living in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

See all posts by Chris Hearn

Find us on socal media

Miscellaneous links