Thursday, August 09, 2018


At The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan has elevated Jordan Peterson to demigod status, portraying him as the man whose words will destroy "identity politics" and the left as a whole.

Flanagan isn't on the right-wing media circuit, but her piece reads like something you'd find at Townhall or the American Thinker. It portrays the left as all-powerful -- able to ban Peterson from all morning chat shows in the U.S. and to destroy the careers of editors engaged in wrongthink -- but also extremely fragile and destined to collapse any minute now, like the paper tigers they are. This is reminiscent of the way the right talks about Democratic politicians -- they're both impotent (Barack Obama can't utter a coherent sentence without a Teleprompter!) and all-powerful (Obama fundamentally transformed America into a socialist pro-Muslim hellhole!). Peterson is the man who's crushing the omnipotent but decaying left -- it's not much of an exaggeration to say he's Flanagan's Q, subverting the dominant paradigm with his sub rosa, samizdat utterances.

Flanagan describes the effect Peterson had on her teenage son and his friends after they discovered his YouTube videos:
The boys graduated from high school and went off to colleges where they were exposed to the kind of policed discourse that dominates American campuses. They did not make waves; they did not confront the students who were raging about cultural appropriation and violent speech; in fact, they forged close friendships with many of them. They studied and wrote essays and—in their dorm rooms, on the bus to away games, while they were working out—began listening to more and more podcasts and lectures by this man, Jordan Peterson.

The young men voted for Hillary, they called home in shock when Trump won, they talked about flipping the House, and they followed Peterson to other podcasts—to Sam Harris and Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan. What they were getting from these lectures and discussions, often lengthy and often on arcane subjects, was perhaps the only sustained argument against identity politics they had heard in their lives.

That might seem like a small thing, but it’s not. With identity politics off the table, it was possible to talk about all kinds of things—religion, philosophy, history, myth—in a different way. They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by ideology. All of these young people, without quite realizing it, were joining a huge group of American college students who were pursuing a parallel curriculum, right under the noses of the people who were delivering their official educations.
And this is big and hugely subversive because the left needs only a nudge before it collapses utterly, according to Flanagan:
... there is no coherent reason for the left’s obliterating and irrational hatred of Jordan Peterson. What, then, accounts for it?

It is because the left, while it currently seems ascendant in our houses of culture and art, has in fact entered its decadent late phase, and it is deeply vulnerable.... When the poetry editors of The Nation virtuously publish an amateurish but super-woke poem, only to discover that the poem stumbled across several trip wires of political correctness; when these editors (one of them a full professor in the Harvard English department) then jointly write a letter oozing bathos and career anxiety and begging forgiveness from their critics; when the poet himself publishes a statement of his own—a missive falling somewhere between an apology, a Hail Mary pass, and a suicide note; and when all of this is accepted in the houses of the holy as one of the regrettable but minor incidents that take place along the path toward greater justice, something is dying.

... When even Barack Obama, the poet laureate of identity politics, is moved to issue a message to the faithful, hinting that that they could be tipping their hand on all of this—saying during a speech he delivered in South Africa that a culture is at a dead end when it decides someone has no “standing to speak” if he is a white man—and when even this mayday is ignored, the doomsday clock ticks ever closer to the end.
Flanagan's a better and smarter writer than the folks at C-list right-wing sites, but I don't see how there's much difference between her fantasy of of the end of leftism and the "Imagine No Liberals" worldview at those sites.

Because of Peterson and his allies, Flanagan says, leftism is on the run -- a few YouTube videos here, a few Joe Rogan podcasts there, and the left has been overwhelmed.
Whatever was happening, it was happening on a scale and with a rapidity that was beyond the ability of the traditional culture keepers to grasp. When the left finally realized what was happening, all it could do was try to bail out the Pacific Ocean with a spoon.

As I said, Peterson is Flanagan's Q.

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