Jordan B. Peterson’s DIY Cult: When Malicious Nonsense Passes for Worldly Wisdom
How Peterson's insipid "intellectualism" grooms the unsuspecting.
Jordan B. Peterson is mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. He has announced his bold decision to publicly martyr himself—like all good cult leaders—by choosing death over retracting a recent tweet that got him suspended by Twitter. “The suspension will not be lifted unless I delete the hateful tweet in question,” he announced. “And I would rather die than do that.” Death wasn’t one of the options in Twitters’ terms of service agreement, but Peterson is nothing if not self-importantly melodramatic. He sees himself as a cultural lightning rod absorbing the charged bolts of wokism that is setting ablaze traditional values. In reality, he’s just an embittered crank.
I’ll return to the silly reason for all his pearl-clutching theatrics in a moment. (There will be a big surprise when I do.)
First, we need to understand why when Jordan Peterson says something—even something as juvenile as the tweet that got him suspended—it’s important. Pied Piper Peterson has a large following of cultish devotees that are deeply influenced by his words. He has 4 million followers on Instagram, 2.1 million on Twitter, 1.5 million on Facebook, 5 million subscribers on his YouTube channel, and his books have sold millions of copies. He is guru to many disaffected young white men who feel under attack just for being born male and white. He articulates their self-doubt, anger, and frustration. If only Uncle Jordan’s hearty bro advice wasn’t so lazy and superficial.
Now his infectious influence has spread even wider, becoming a pandemic of bad ideas and limp thinking. He recently joined fellow conservative gadfly Ben Shapiro’s (see my article about Ben Shapiro here) Daily Wire+ where their ads describe Peterson as “The smartest mind in western civilization” and “one of the most important minds in history.” That’s taking hype to a dizzying new level, a little like proclaiming Fifty Shades of Gray as the greatest work of literature ever written.
As to why I refer to his followers as cultish: the essence of a cult member is to embrace someone’s teachings and opinions without rigorous critical analysis. To be fair, cultish loyalty is common among all religions, political parties, and sports teams. We’re all guilty of it sometimes. People want to belong to something that makes them feel free, moral, smart, and safe among like-minded. Often they are willing to trade away actual freedom, morality, intelligence, and safety in order to feel that way. Your basic blue pill versus red pill scenario from The Matrix: the red pill shows you reality and the blue pill allows you to live in blissful ignorance.
Jordan B. Peterson is the blue pill.