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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Ah, men! This is the ultimate exclamation of women, frustrated, puzzled and baffled by the other half of the human race, forever a riddle wrapped in ambiguity, ambivalence, anticipation — and admiration and affection. The exclamation has never been static. That frustration and bafflement is once more examined and re-examined, stretched and shrunk, applauded and animated with vigor and vitriol.

The latest provocateur is a Canadian psychologist and “public intellectual” who writes with fresh insight into the nature of the male animal. Jordan Peterson is a true phenomenon, a professor at the University of Toronto whose books and lectures are sold out and whose multiple videos are played and replayed on social media. Depending on whom you ask, he’s the archetypal victim or brainy hero of the polarized times when an innocent conversation between a man and a woman can explode with awesome effect and considerable collateral damage. One profiler calls him, with the exception of President Trump “perhaps the single-most loathed person by the intellectual classes in Canada and the United States.”


A Canadian who can’t vote in an American election, he fantasizes in one interview that, had he voted, he might have entered the voting booth intending to vote for Hillary Clinton only to change his mind at the last moment to vote for Donald Trump. He thinks the president might have won because in a classic choosing of the lesser evil, Americans preferred the “unscripted impulsive lies of Trump better than the conniving scripted lies of Clinton.”

Some women voted for Hillary because she was a woman and some men for Mr. Trump because he was a man running against her, but in this scenario sexual differences weren’t as crucial as how those differences were embraced by the angry campaign rhetoric, mixed with left-wing identity politics and right-wing resentment over being called a “deplorable.” This continues to tear apart attempts at intellectual dialogue on the actual differences between men and women.

Mr. Peterson’s best-selling book, “12 Rules for Life,” tells men “to stand up straight with your shoulders back,” and “accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open.” He warns against getting stuck in the “unconscious paradise of childhood,” and as the stern moralist tells them to learn from Old Testament stories, beginning with Moses and those famous original 10 rules.

Jordan Peterson is not a fan of either contender of 2016. It’s the identity politics, which Hillary defends, that he loathes. He thinks identity politics corrupts the culture at a time when men, both white and not, need a strong moral doctrine to guide them through their lives and in their relationships with women. (#MeToo-ers could find illumination here, too, but they won’t.)

Political correctness perpetuates everything fraudulent about sexual nature, he teaches. The shoddy thinking of “confirmation bias,” which reinforces trendy ideas without proof or evidence, ruins everything it touches. He has particular scorn for mandated use of “gender-neutral” pronouns and refuses to use them despite academic pressure and legal pressure to do so.

Prof. Peterson is tarred for his ideas with inflammatory distortion. He is accused of sexism, racism and fascism, and it’s clear from the slurs that the left fears those ideas, beginning with an acknowledgement of the crucial and obvious biological differences between men and women, to his respect for scientific evidence, the free speech that enables debate, and his appreciation for the great books, ranging from Socrates and Solzhenitsyn to the Bible.

In the Atlantic magazine, Caitlin Flanagan argues that the left is trying to “unperson” him because he is influencing young people with intellectual “kryptonite” against identity politics, and his emphasis on how to think rather than what to think.

The young men on campus contemptuous of safe spaces with cookies and coloring books to soothe anxiety, who despair of “trigger warnings” preventing insight into the human condition, who despise rabble-rousers shouting down visiting lecturers with a different point of view, who are weary of the LGBTQ domination of discussions of morality, find the professor and others of the “intellectual dark web” of ideas refreshing. Theirs is “a parallel curriculum” to what they’re fed on campus and in the mainstream media.

Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan, among others, are bound together not through their politics, which are extremely varied, but through their collective iconoclasm and dedication to the free flow of ideas often giving voice to what many feel in their gut but haven’t found the language to express. They communicate through radio shows, podcasts, YouTube, videos, speeches and interviews with a vast audience online and in sold-out lecture halls. They talk mostly to men, but women are beginning to listen to Mr. Peterson’s common sense, too.

The left hates him and is often irrational in its opposition because it has “entered its decadent late phase, and it is deeply vulnerable,” writes Caitlin Flanagan. People who respond to Jordan Peterson aren’t looking for ideology but ideas. Amen to that.

• Suzanne Fields is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.


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