Jordan Peterson is no demagogue. He is a public intellectual arguing certain perspectives, many of which those on the left (and some on the right) find objectionable.

Side note: my arguments are based in the ideas relevant to the discussion, not on the people themselves. Political philosophy has only been brought in to the extent that it is relevant to some of the points which you yourself brought up. I’ve no interest in discussing Trump, Kavanaugh, or other prominent political officials. As far as politics goes, I would argue that we need to shift our focus to something deeper than surface-level political affiliations.

On Peterson’s academic rigor: Peterson is a peer-reviewed psychologist who has been cited far more times than the vast majority of figures in his field (in terms of his academic influence). He has taught at Harvard and U of T. He is a successful public speak, though I would not automatically assume that someone with such rhetorical skills is a demagogue. He has been interviewed by a variety of people of various platforms and from various countries. He speaks what he believes to be true and responds to critiques of his positions in various formats. Indeed, I believe his response to Bernard Schiff was far more sympathetic than my original response. Peterson may lose his temper on occasion (such as when he called out Pankaj Mishra) but who never loses their temper?

On dog whistles: You demonstrated nothing here. Peterson goes deeper than mere political factions.

On Peterson and Trump, again: I dispute your claim that virtually all his policies are defended. On Steven Bannon: politics are indeed downstream from culture. While there is much I would oppose about what Bannon is doing and the disconnect between what he says and what he does, I would need you to flesh out what you are getting at here. Jordan Peterson has said, on Bill Maher’s show, that it is to easy to simply criticize and mock Trump. What is needed is a deeper and more nuanced approach to political discourse. If he were on a right-leaning panel, I think he would have been a little more critical of Trump. He seems to want to bring balance to discussions. BTW, if you want to blame anyone for the election of Trump and the prominence of Bannon, blame Hillary Clinton -she did far more to damage the Democratic brand than anyone else (which is why she was able to ‘snatch defeated from the jaws of victory’).

On the Alt Right: Peterson opposes identitarian politics. He has spoken out against the Alt Right numerous times. I linked you to a video which shows that the Alt Right does not like Jordan Peterson. The views of the Alt Right run contrary to the views Peterson has expressed in his lectures and in his 12 Rules for Life as well as Maps of Meaning. He is not attempting to normalize violent radicals on either side of the political spectrum. Rather, he has argued that what is needed is to shift the Overton Window back to the center. I think you are getting carried away here. Bannon and Trump are not even responsible for the actions of the Alt Right.

Modern conservatism has nothing to do with the Alt Right. In advocating for a rational centrism, Peterson talks to moderates on both the right and left to oppose extremists. I would argue that the Alt Right and Antifa have far more in common with each other, the major difference between these two groups is that one is far more odious in terms of ideology whereas the other is far more prone to street violence.

Your claim: “Peterson is not attempting to moderate those people, but rather dissociate modern conservative policy from them, despite the massive overlap of shared policy positions” is refuted by the very video you linked to in your first response. That was a clip from a lecture Peterson gave on a twenty-first century conservatism. He was reaching out to conservatives, proposing a reasonable conservative platform (he did the same, more or less, when he spoke about a left-wing case for free speech). Jordan Peterson is touring with Dave Rubin and is on good terms with Ben Shapiro. All this considered, one can easily dismiss the idea that Peterson is at all sympathetic with the authoritarian, racist, antisemitic Alt Right.

On Liberalism and Conservatism: Historically, liberalism (a political outlook born in the Enlightenment) emphasized the freedom of the individual whereas conservatism emphasized the importance of traditions and institutions. The real benefit to civilization is the discourse were proponents of both positions can partake. We can discuss economics if you wish, but I would dispute your use of the word ‘corporatist’ here. Moreover, the history of capitalism is far longer than the mere time from the Industrial Enlightenment with Adam Smith to the present. Important antecedents go back to the ancient stamps and records found in the Fertile Crescent and Mohenjo Daro. The intellectual formulation offered by Smith came much later (this, by the way, seems to be the history of successful intellectual ideas — they are bottom-up and often resulting from tinkering, not top-down and resulting from abstract theorists in institutions). Classical liberals read and draw inspiration from the Anglo-American liberal political philosophic tradition and the English common law tradition.

I would dispute your referring to the US as a corporate or ‘corporate fascist’ state. Having read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine and No Logo, I think I understand some of the though processes behind these remarks. We do have problematic elements in our society, such as the notion of corporate ‘personhood,’ but the US if far from fascist. If you dispute this, read Hitler’s Table Talk or study the policies of Mussolini in Italy. I would also argue that, if leftists fear that the US is becoming more fascistic, the common-sense solution is to stop advocating for policies which would strengthen the central government. Bottom-up federal societies survive and are far more stable (look at Switzerland and, to a lesser extent, San Marino).

The current power structures are built upon the foundations of what came before. I would dispute your claim that this somehow simply invalidates classical liberalism or any ‘pre-modern’ outlook. Science and technology change at a rapid pace, human nature remains basically the same.

Peterson is not a libertarian. I was not going to refer back to my critiques of the education system but feel I must give your critique that they constitute only ‘vague attacks.’ My experience, coupled with reading detailed analyses from a variety of academics, writers, think tanks, and articles have convinced me of the serious inadequacies of the state of modern university education. The Humanities must return to an emphasis on the great book tradition, the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric), the study of human nature, and practicality beyond the walls of the ivory tower. This is before even addressing the increasing presence of bureaucracies, diversity deans, ideologically-based departments, student loan bubble, and irrelevant postmodern Franco-babble.

You keep citing ‘refusal to talk about policy stances on their face. It’s a deferment to vague, uncited, unproven psychological personality profiling to categorically defend, dismiss, or analyze political partisan leanings (left vs right).’ Peterson quite often cites sources in his written material (especially his books) and references key sources in his speeches. You could critique him for not explicitly citing references after every statement he makes, however you would also have to do this with other intellectuals as well. Having watched those clips of Chomsky earlier, I do not recall he would fare much better under such a judgment. Moreover, if you give a talk somewhere and half of it is composed of citing and clarifying sources, your message would get lost and have little or no impact.

I do not know how much further we can go on in this conversation because you have demonstrated little more than the fact that Jordan Peterson has biases (as we all do). Each time you cite a specific example, it does not hold up to rigorous scrutiny. An obvious example is the use of the term ‘enforced monogamy.’ A term used by anthropologists to refer to socially-enforced monogamy as a stabilizing force in society was used by Nellie Bowles in a smear piece. While critics of Peterson may want to link him to incels and arguing that he is suggesting any kind of state-enforced monogamy, this whole theory falls apart under the weight of both evidence (as I mentioned above) and common sense. Has there been anyone (particularly in the past few decades) in the West who has seriously held such views?

As for your experience, I actually wish you the best in your attempts to dissuade the left from violence. The right needs the left, just as the left needs the right. Without one, the other becomes increasingly problematic as balance is lost. Moreover, neither outlook has a monopoly on reality. Given that we will face a countless number of serious problems going forward, it will be the dialogue between those who think differently who will change things. This is why the Intellectual Dark Web has been so significant — people who hold quite different and conflicting views can come together to gain greater insight. As a conservatarian pragmatist, I become aware of my own shortcomings through deep conversations and amend my views when necessary (admittedly not always a pleasant process). Leftists and liberals have valuable insights but also series blind spots. The same can be said for conservatives and libertarians. This is why dialogue and free speech are fundamental.

On Climate Change: I have my own problems with climate change skeptics and I do wish Peterson would flesh out his views to a point of greater clarity here. While I share his skepticism toward the politicization of environmental politics and the problems associated with political bureaucracies, there is far too much at stake here. If Jordan Peterson is going to continue speaking on such matters, I think he needs to be challenged by those who know the relevant literature. Peterson does understand the practical shortcomings of simply adopting radical energy policies and how that would put certain countries at severe disadvantages. Perhaps Peterson and Vaclav Smil could have a conversation about this and related topics.

I think we agree more than disagree on the climate change issue. There are far too many people who simply reject clear evidence for business or other reasons.

You mention Don Trump Jr. I know very little about him and cannot comment at any real depth here.

“Peterson discusses policy with a staunch adherence to a subjective, biased, unsubstantiated cultural lens to attempt to normalize violent conservative policies. It seems like a man who studies demagogues, culture, speech, and rhetoric knows what he is doing and the effects of his words.” I do not think your statement here has been demonstrated. Moreover, everyone is going to be subjective at some level. You have not demonstrated in the least that Peterson has, at any time, attempted to normalize violent ‘conservative’ policies. Bringing this back to Bernard Schiff, he seems to be fear-mongering. There is a very real threat of people who become famous letting the fame carry them away from reality. I do not discount that possibility from happening to anyone. However, I think Schiff fails to substantiate any of the claims he has made beyond his own personal leanings. I have mentioned examples of where he needs to engage with Peterson at a deeper level. Here is another example: “He is a biological and Darwinian determinist. Gender, gender roles, dominance hierarchies, parenthood, all firmly entrenched in our biological heritage and not to be toyed with. Years ago when he was living in my house, he said children are little monkeys trying to clamber up the dominance hierarchy and need to be kept in their place. I thought he was being ironic.” Having viewed Peterson’s lectures on the relevant subject matter, all I can say is that Schiff presents a low-resolution and rather cartoonish interpretation of what Peterson may have said (again, based in what he teaches and is on YouTube). I do not want to go too far down the road of conjecture here because, it would just be my interpretation of Schiff’s claim about the things Peterson has said. All I can really do is advocate that, those who are interested, should compare Schiff’s interpretation of what Peterson said with the Peterson material available online. Side note, Schiff seems to have left out Peterson’s emphasis on the importance of female selection as a key element in human evolution.

I would also point you to Schiff’s interpretation of the Cathy Newman interview. Newman had her own conception of Peterson — a strawman she sought to attack, ultimately failing to do so. Schiff then goes on to misrepresent the whole ‘enforced monogamy’ thing.

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