A Pickle About Peterson

Question:

Dear Bitches,

I'm running into a recurring problem: Jordan B Peterson. It's not hard for me to see the guy is a grifter who makes a fortune on "triggering the libs" and appealing to alt-right trolls. As someone who tries to work against oppression and take a progressive approach to helping my community, I find he and his messages really conflict with trying to make our community and our country a better place for everyone. I've had an increasing amount of people in my extended social circle become Peterson fanboys. I try to explain to them the issues with his viewpoints, and the violence his messages have on various groups of people, but they think he's full of great self-help advice and make excuses for the terrible things he says about women, trans people, and any advocate for social justice.

I run in some fairly left circles and haven't ever had to deal with acquaintances falling in with a right-wing cult of personality like this. I don't expect everyone to share the same worldview as me, but I'm really troubled to see people I used to work with and friends-of-friends take up his beliefs and go further down a slope to the alt-right. I'm worried what will happen if his fanbase keeps building this momentum.

We're in a time where there are more and more demagogues like Peterson in the media. What can I do as a male ally to help people I know from taking up his ideology and moving into hateful prejudices? I'm willing to have difficult conversations with people, but I don't know how to get through to them with this. I'm also willing to cut toxic people from my life, but is that the right thing to do here? 

Signed: Ally With a Cause


Answer:

Dear Ally, 

Fucking Jordan Peterson. Unfortunately, he, like so many like him (Ann Coulter, Cassie Jaye of the Red Pill Fame, Donald Trump, etc) have realized that appealing to the lowest common denominator of society is not only generally easier than fighting the good fight, it's quite a bit more profitable too. 

These are the people who charge thousands of dollars for appearances, books, punditry, and more to simply spout the controversial beliefs of the right-leaners. People pay to read them, see them, or hear them, because they believe it "takes guts" to say out loud what a ton of racists and misogynists think, and since most people can't articulate offensive content whenever they feel like it, they pay to watch the few who can and pass it off as "supporting free speech." 

Fuck that. 

You have two options: Call them out, or call them in. I would suggest choosing your option based on how far gone someone is. If they truly believe people like Peterson are correct, and have held beliefs like his for a long time, they likely need to be called out. The public record is real, and the Internet is our friend in 2018. I don't want to get all medieval and suggest a public shaming, but if someone is violently racist or misogynistic, the public deserves to know, and so does their employer (especially if they're paid via public dollars.) Keep the receipts, and let people know what an asshole that person is. 

The second option is definitely better when it comes to furthering the conversation. Calling folks in is an options when you know they mean well, but they need some education. Think of this tactic for your friend who says, "Well, Christie Blatchford did kind of have a point," or "Peterson should have the right to say what he wants, even if I don't agree with it." Calling someone in is about education, coming from a place of love, and believing you can help them see the light. For these conversations, arm yourself with facts. To the friend that wonders about #metoo and due diligence, talk about how few sexual assaults are reported to the police (less than 10%), or how many allegations are false (less than 8%). To a friend who argues about the grammatical correctness of "they" as singular, remind them how often they actually use that term (as I just did, since I didn't know the gender of the person I'm speaking of.) Everyday Feminism has an awesome guide on how to call someone in, so read up on that and start challenging that oppression.