By Jonathon Van Maren
Many of you have probably already heard the story of the teaching assistant at Wilfred Laurier University who was sanctioned earlier this month for daring to show her class a video featuring part of a debate—because that debate included University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson. Her outraged supervisor, after comparing Peterson to Hitler, informed her that Peterson’s position on transgender pronouns—he won’t use them and opposes coerced speech—made him “transphobic.” But there was one particularly stupid facet of this story that stood out to me: One professor warned the chastised assistant that Peterson is “highly involved with the alt-right.”
I’ve been noticing this crop up a lot more often lately—media outlets casually referring to Peterson as “alt-right,” a descriptor that is both asinine and dangerous. Dangerous, because the casual application of a term that has come to be synonymous with neo-Nazi to anyone that dissents from the ever-shifting dogmas of post-modernism will gut the term of any meaning and actually assist in normalizing genuine alt-right figures like Richard Spencer. I would have thought the Left learned their lesson when they realized that terms like “racist” were becoming utterly impotent through overuse and their willingness to smear ideological opponents at will. (As one conservative columnist wryly it, “A racist is someone winning an argument with a liberal.”)
But calling Jordan Peterson “alt-right” is also asinine because ironically, he is actually a very effective antidote to the alt-right. The ideologues of the alt-right essentially prey on young white men who are often frustrated, unsuccessful, and upset with a society that has purged many of the jobs that men once performed. The alt-right tells these young men that their failures are not their fault—rather, these failures can be laid at the feet of the Chinese globalists, or brown immigrants, or Jewish capitalists. The alt-right takes frustration and turns it into toxic, racially-charged resentment.
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson does precisely the opposite. Rather than feeding into the resentment of men who feel like useless failures, he tells them to grow up and become men. He tells them to quit porn, to date with the intention to marry, to control their impulses, get skills, and get a job. He tells them to stop whining and make something of themselves, and by the tens of thousands, they are actually listening to him. He has become, as one writer put it over at the National Review, “YouTube’s Father Figure”—a generation of young men who grew up without fathers in the home to tell them how to sort themselves out are now going to Peterson for the guidance they craved.
So not only is Peterson not a member of the alt-right, his work is robbing the alt-right of adherents. Lazy ideologues in the media need to stop throwing this term around, and they need to stop using it as a club to beat anyone they disagree with, or they will render it meaningless. And when they do that, they will perhaps realize that it was not Peterson who was providing cover for the alt-right. By using it as a lazy smear, and by lumping people like Peterson into the same category as men like Richard Spencer, they will have done more to mainstream the alt-right than anyone else.
Comment: I agree that Jordan Peterson is not Alt-Right. My brother likes him, and that is a bad sign…