Jordan Peterson’s Hitler And Holocaust Obsessions – The Forward

Interesting and I find nuanced profile of Peterson. But equally true, fairly or unfairly, one is judged by the company one keeps and one’s supporters:

Jordan Peterson is a public intellectual adored by neo-Nazis, white supremacists and conspiracy theorists. The neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer called Peterson, a Canadian psychology professor-turned-self-help-guru, “The Savior of Western Civilization.” Paul Joseph Watson, a prominent conspiracy theorist for Infowars, has tweeted, “Jordan Peterson for Canadian Prime Minister.”

Part of why people on the far right like Peterson is because he is not afraid to talk about the Jews, and he has a lot of people to talk to. Peterson is on a 50-city tour of North America and Europe to promote his best-selling new book, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.” His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers. He has answered questions about global Jewish influence several times, in person and online. In an April blog post, he attributed that alleged influence to Jewish intelligence —an old anti-Semitic dog whistle.

Yet Peterson rarely speaks about anti-Semitism itself, even though he says he’s been obsessed with the Holocaust since he was a teenager and lectures on it frequently. Critics say this omission may encourage anti-Semitism among Peterson’s followers, who range from avowed neo-Nazis communities like the Daily Stormer to frustrated young men looking for a scapegoat. In an interview, Peterson told the Forward he feels that he is battling anti-Semitism through his work.

“Part of your responsibility when you have a platform like that, especially when you present yourself as an academic, is to make sure that you’re giving those audiences the full truth,” said Jared Holt, a researcher for People for the American Way who studies far-right media. If Peterson were to be more forthcoming about the importance of anti-Semitism in the Holocaust, it “might allow some of his viewers to think about course correcting,” Holt added.

Peterson, 55, used to be an ordinary academic at the University of Toronto. His first and only other book, published in 1999, was a 600-page tome chiefly about Jungian psychology. He taught at Harvard in the 1980s before moving to Toronto; back then, his “audience” was his students. Now, he posts lectures on everything from Palestine to parenting, the Book of Genesis to psychobiology, on YouTube. Supporters gave him $70,000 through the website Patreon in April 2017, compared with $700 in April 2016. “12 Rules For Life” has sold over 700,000 copies since its publication in January, the Washington Post reported.

Peterson didn’t reach these heights because of his discourses on Jewish topics. His primary preoccupation is healing broken masculinity, and his main following is the young men with whom such a focus resonates. Peterson is nowhere near as toxic as various other internet cultures, like the “incels” who blame women — and sometimes murder them — because they’re not having sex. Yet behind the father figure role he affects lie darker preoccupations with Hitler, Marxists and the “radical left” on college campuses. That’s where his teachings can provide fodder for conspiracy theorists and bigots.

Peterson opposes Jew hatred, he says, and claims that leftist members of the media tried to hurt him by linking him to white supremacists. He has accused white supremacists of having a “pathology of racial pride,” and written that “identity politics” –- the idea that drives white nationalism — is “misguided.”

Peterson told the Forward he felt he had to answer the question of Jewish influence in order to undermine the far right’s anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Other scholars don’t think that’s a sound strategy.

He has addressed the subject several times in public and online, most recently in a blog post published on his website, when he talked about Jewish IQ. It’s higher than average, he said, and that’s true also for people in power. Therefore Jews are accurately represented among the cultural and financial elite of the world. Peterson didn’t mention anti-Semitism directly in this lecture, but he was thinking about it, he said.

“You can assume that they [Jews] are intelligent and have a culture of learning, or you can think that there’s some kind of cabal,” Peterson told the Forward. “So if I’m gonna hit the hornets nest, I might as well hit it on the side that takes the wind out of the sails of far-righters and their idiot anti-Semitism.”

Peterson’s willingness to answer questions about “Jewish success” and his interest in IQ literature is “suspicious” said Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of history at Emory University and author of “Denying the Holocaust,” who won a libel case in Britain against prominent Holocaust denier David Irving.

Lipstadt said that Peterson’s statements on Jewish intelligence reminded her of Kevin MacDonald, a professor of psychology who the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as “the neo-Nazi movement’s favorite academic.” MacDonald has written several books criticizing Jewish intellectual culture. (Peterson links to a critique of one of MacDonald’s books at the end of his blog post on Jewish intelligence.) Lipstadt said that MacDonald’s academic language obscures the anti-Semitism behind his opinions. She worries the same is true of Peterson.

“It’s not [Holocaust] denial, but when people start asking questions like that, I begin to get leery,” Lipstadt said. “The question is, is he a self-help guru who find the Holocaust a convenient way of attracting attention, or is there serious thought going on here?”

Likewise, Lipstadt wonders why Peterson rarely mentions anti-Semitism in his work on the Holocaust. Peterson more often attributes the cause of the Holocaust to human nature.

“Anyone who really diminishes the importance of anti-Semitism — who says, ‘Oh it was an afterthought, a cover’ — I think has got it wrong,” she said.

Peterson says he has been preoccupied with the Holocaust since he was a teenager. He once told an audience that he wrote an essay about Auschwitz at age 13. In “Maps of Meaning,” his 1999 book, he writes that he based his career on trying to understand what drove fascist regimes like the Nazis. “I could not make sense of the human propensity for belief-inspired violence,” he wrote.

Peterson thinks that peer pressure is nearly always stronger than one’s inner moral compass. Anyone has it within them to be Hitler if given enough power, he claims.

“If you think that you wouldn’t be tempted by having 20 million people worship you, then you don’t know yourself at all,” Peterson told the Forward.

He also believes almost anyone would have become a Nazi if they were a German living under Hitler — that “everyone participated” in the Holocaust.

“His audience is without a doubt a large chunk of people in the ‘alt-right,’ and that’s the kind of signaling that would appeal to them,” said Heidi Beirich, the director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “If you play fast and loose with the issue, you’re going to be seen as a possible ally in Holocaust denial.”

Peterson admits he has a dim view of human nature. But he has a much rosier picture of humanity’s potential to learn from its mistakes. He believes that sufficient Holocaust education is the key to preventing genocide. In fact, he says, the reason genocides continue to happen is that Holocaust education is not good enough. People don’t understand that it was a feature, not a bug, of human behavior.

“It hasn’t been transformed into deep and practical psychological knowledge,” Peterson added. “You can tell by the rise of publicly accepted anti-Semitism in the last five-to-10 years. Whatever we understood of that education, it wasn’t enough.”

Holocaust education is not a silver bullet, according to Sander Gilman, a professor of history at Emory University who has written extensively about anti-Semitism. Teaching about Nazism and the Holocaust is extremely important, Gilman said. But it doesn’t explain – and can’t prevent – modern anti-Semitism.

“If you have a fantasy that that is going to be a kind of vaccination against hate, that’s wonderfully naïve,” Gilman said. “The rise of anti-Semitism today has to do with situations today.”

Joe Flanders, an assistant professor of psychology at McGill University who was mentored by Peterson as an undergraduate, says that Peterson is “bizarrely preoccupied” by the Holocaust, along with the Cold War. But he pushed back against the possibility that Peterson’s views were evidence of any anti-Semitic feeling.

“He’s interested in how it’s possible for something so evil to manifest in the world,” Flanders said. “It’s an expression of the darkest part of humanity, which we don’t have access to now in the news cycle we consume these days.”

Peterson has repeatedly said that instead of being suspicious of Jews, the world should be grateful that there are so many Jewish geniuses.

“They’re a resource you don’t want to squander,” he said.

via Jordan Peterson’s Hitler And Holocaust Obsessions – The Forward

Enough with the Jordan Peterson hysteria: Michael Coren

Michael Coren’s “a plague on both your houses” is well argued and stated:

I’ve met Jordan Peterson twice; first on a TV show and later at a dinner party. He’s an intelligent and interesting man, with ideas on numerous subjects. Since then, of course, he’s become famous, and the mere mention of his name can divide a room.

I’ve no interest in providing yet another analysis of the Toronto academic’s ideas, but I will say that he is nowhere near as extreme and repugnant as many of his critics allege, and nowhere near as profound and original as do his supporters.

Peterson’s earlier claims were hardly fanatical. He wanted increased thought given to how we use and change language, and objected to the more sweeping linguistic demands of some in the trans community.

Agree or not, this was hardly outrageous stuff. But then the polarization began, and rather than flee from it, Peterson — perhaps because he had no choice — seemed to embrace the conflict.

He spent time and showed solidarity with The Rebel, a media platform that lost all credibility some time ago due to its far-right content and employment of figures rejected by respectable media. He made broadcasts that seemed increasingly strange and sentimental. There was a certain narcissism on display, a development of a public personality who, rather than offering informed reservations about language change, was now seen by his enormous number of followers as a philosopher-king, with answers to almost every dilemma.

It’s unfair to characterize someone entirely by those whom they attract, but equally unfair to dismiss the connection as immaterial. Anybody who has been on the receiving end of Peterson’s supporters realizes how abusive, intolerant, and angry they can be.

To his credit, their hero has sometimes told them to stop, but he also seems to be a product of their enthusiasms. There’s something exponential in all this, with Peterson appearing to be encouraged now to speak out on all sorts of things, often with very limited authority. But because it comes from him, it’s assumed to carry great weight.

Then there is the reaction, which is often grotesque. At a protest outside one of his recent talks, a violent demonstrator was found to be in possession of a garrote. This is the world gone mad! Peterson is called a racist and a homophobe, and that’s likely untrue, but the same can’t be said of all of his fan-base.

There is so much space and time given to Peterson and anti-Peterson, so much of it fat with empty hyperbole. And here’s the point. A self-defeating division has been created, where the chance of a moderate, sophisticated, and empathetic discussion has been made virtually impossible.

Peterson’s supporters are contemptuous of his opponents, highlighting the lunatics rather than listening to those from marginalized communities who have valid fears about what is being argued. His opponents refuse to give Peterson credit for anything he says, when in fact if we unwrap the showmanship and ludicrous zeal, the man sometimes asks essential questions.

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of older, privileged journalists dismissing, and sometimes mocking, minority sensitivities. They’re generally white men, and have been unchallenged in their careers. Sorry guys, times are changing, and about time too.

Equally, I’ve had enough of the hysteria brigade, screaming at every ostensible offence, urging censorship as a political weapon, and making no distinction between what is genuinely dangerous and what is merely challenging.

A plague on both of your bloody houses, and you should try to grasp that most Canadians are caught in the middle of this, and consider both of you to be problems rather than solutions.

Jordan Peterson is not some infallible figure. Some of what he says is absurd and wrong, his followers are far too often motivated by misplaced fear and nostalgia, and a lot of his most vociferous critics don’t even know what he says and need to learn that violence is entirely unacceptable, and that they usually play into Peterson’s hands.

So, there we have it. The difficulty with being in the middle of the road is that one sometimes gets run over, and I confidently expect that to happen now on social media and the like. Thus, I suppose, proving my point.

via Enough with the Jordan Peterson hysteria | Toronto Star

Jordan Peterson and the big mistake of university censors: Maher

One of the better commentaries:

Unfortunately, it is time for people outside the academy to stand up for the free speech rights of Jordan Peterson, the irritating University of Toronto psychology professor who has become a star by producing tedious YouTube videos complaining about people trying to silence him.

Peterson, who is wrong about almost everything, is right when he says, over and over again, that he has a fundamental right to speak. The well-meaning people who try to silence him are making a big mistake, and need to listen to people outside the ivory tower.

On Nov. 1, Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, showed first year Communications Studies students a video clip from TVO’s Agenda, in which Peterson debated the use of non-gender-binary pronouns with another professor.

The classroom discussion must have upset a student, because Shepherd was censured by faculty and diversity and equity officials, who said she was “transphobic” and had created “a toxic climate.”

Shepherd is afraid that the university may fire her.

“Universities are no longer places where one can engage with controversial ideas,” she told the Waterloo Record. “They are echo chambers for left-wing ideology.”

Shepherd is right and the scolds at the university need to stop their censorious ways, not least because they are playing Peterson’s game.

Peterson, who makes tens of thousands of dollars a month fund-raising online, became famous in basements around the world when he spoke out against a University of Toronto policy requiring professors to use non-traditional pronouns like “ze” to address non-gender-binary students.

He argues that the university shouldn’t force him to use language he doesn’t like—misusing the plural, for goodness sake—and that his academic freedom is imperiled by the social justice warriors running the universities.

I think he’s wrong. Professors should do what they can for students who fall outside traditional gender categories, who have a much tougher life than powerful straight white men like Peterson. If that means that professors need to spend a little effort wrapping their tongues around new words, too bad.

I think it’s difficult for many straight, cisgendered people to deal with trans people because thinking about gender identity threatens their own identity in some way, and it’s lazy and selfish for them to refuse to deal with their own issues. Because gender is so emotional, young trans people face huge challenges being accepted, which is a matter of survival.

Peterson is the very picture of white straight male privilege, griping about being told what to do by people that were once subordinate to people like him, ignoring the pressing needs of people who need to be accepted if they are to survive.

For that reason, though, he is performing a valuable function. When society changes, as it is changing now, thankfully, in the way it treats trans people, we need to have a debate about it. To have a debate, someone has to be right and someone else—Peterson, in this case—has to be wrong.

What is worrying is that universities are trying to stop the debate from taking place.

Activists, who are right to demand that society treat trans people with respect, are wrong to think that that respect should extend to silencing those who disagree with them.

This seems to be half the point of a lot of left wing campus activism in the 21st century: trying to prevent people you disagree with from speaking. It is mistake, because it plays into the hands of the troll army of hateful troglodytes who lose every argument so long as you don’t try to force them into silence.

I get it when the people you disagree with are actual Nazis, like Richard Spencer, and I can see why exuberant young people aren’t always scrupulous about the distinction between showing up to oppose a speaker they dislike, which is healthy, and trying to stop that person from speaking, which is not.

But there is something sick-making about the growing bureaucratization of safe spaces, the culture of human resources departments imposing itself on campus, the idea that the universities must protect students from being confronted by uncomfortable ideas.

You can’t learn to think without debating. Learning to think doesn’t mean having your head stuffed full of whatever orthodoxy the profs have settled on this week, because you can be sure that will change, and then what will you do? Go back to school for re-education?

Learning to think means learning to entertain opposing ideas, defend your views and discard the ones you can’t defend.

There is no room for compromise on this, and that means there’s going to have to be a nasty fight with well-meaning but mistaken censors.

Campus activists have weaponized fragility, imposing the safety culture of the elementary school where it does not belong.

An earlier generation of activists made gains by forcing society to confront their reality. They said Black is Beautiful, or We’re here! We’re Queer! Get used to it! Today’s activists seem to invest a lot of energy in prosecuting micro-aggressions, preventing offence, imposing orthodoxy.

There’s something disturbing about this, beyond its implications for free speech. As a society, we are becoming increasingly risk-averse, embracing safety as the highest value, wrapping our children in bubble wrap, helmets securely strapped to their chins, safe from sexism, transphobia, bullying and peanuts.

It’s hard to speak out against any of it. Helmets are a good idea. Transphobia is bad. Peanuts are life-threatening for some kids.

But the world is not an elementary school, and we’re not doing students any favours by pretending that they can go through their lives without ever having their feelings hurt.

via Jordan Peterson and the big mistake of university censors – Macleans.ca

Chris Selley, Simona Chiose: Two takes on the business interests of Jordan Peterson, hero of the anti-PC crowd

Interesting analysis of the business models supporting Peterson in both the National Post and Globe.

Peterson canbe judged to some extent by the company he keeps as detailed in the longer and more comprehensive Globe article:

On Sept. 1 last year, Peterson had 161 supporters on the crowdfunding site Patreon, contributing US$1,058 a month; as of this week, he had 3,609 supporters contributing an astonishing US$39,084 a month. That’s about three-and-a-half times his salary from the university. When Peterson was denied a research grant to study the link between personality and political beliefs, including belief in political correctness, Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media framed it as a left-wing conspiracy and launched a crowdfunding campaign on his behalf. It currently sits at 266 per cent of its goal: $195,230.

“It’s unbelievable. But all of it is unbelievable,” says Peterson, referring both to the money and to the last eight months in general.

Naturally, this outcome does not sit perfectly well with Peterson’s detractors on campus. “It does seem to me rather tacky that he has been posing as a victim of PC prejudice and representing himself as at risk of jail or dismissal from his job,” says Ronald de Sousa, an emeritus professor of philosophy at U of T. Lawyers’ opinions have convinced de Sousa that Peterson has nothing legitimate to fear from the law, and nothing except a “tut-tutting letter” — which he calls a “regrettable decision” — to fear from the university administration.

Physics professor A.W. Peet is rather more blunt: “He has been dehumanizing trans and gender-diverse people … for fun and profit.”

Rebel’s intervention certainly adds an edge. Peterson says he watches very little of the online news outlet’s output, which is not surprising: it is not known for its academic or journalistic rigour, or indeed for consistent sanity. At one anti-Peterson rally on the U of T campus, then-Rebel contributor Lauren Southern took the microphone as if she were an attendee, not a reporter; when organizers said they wanted to give trans people priority to speak, she lied and said she was one. Rebel contributors have included Paul Joseph Watson, a 9/11 Truther and friend of uber-conspiracist Alex Jones; Pizzagate delivery man Jack Posobiec, who was briefly Rebel’s “Washington bureau chief”; and Tommy Robinson, former leader of a gang of racist hooligans called the English Defence League. Peterson says he knows “for a fact” Levant isn’t Islamophobic, noting they were recently at a meeting with several moderate Canadian Muslims. But the network did spend the hours after the massacre at a Quebec City mosque torquing garden-variety confusion into a conspiracy theory that the killer was, in fact, Muslim.

Peterson says he would always prefer his work be associated solely with himself but that he’s “disinclined to look a gift horse in the mouth.” Peet has no qualms with crowdfunding academic research per se, but thinks there should be rules governing it — for example, when a third party like Rebel intervenes on a professor’s behalf. Such guidelines are under development at U of T, says spokesperson Althea Blackburn-Evans. But if they put any crimp in Peterson’s plans, he could easily make up the difference some other way.

If Peterson’s fundraising numbers are astounding, perhaps the astounded have underestimated the fury being inspired by modern preoccupations like white privilege and cultural appropriation, and by the marginalization, shouting down or outright cancellation of other viewpoints in polite society’s institutions. The biggest applause line at last weekend’s Conservative Party of Canada leadership convention came when winner Andrew Scheer promised to withhold federal funding from universities that “shut down debate.”

“It’s (bad) enough that the media elites find the views of many conservatives unfashionable or outré,” says one Conservative strategist, describing the mood among party supporters. “Now the trendline on university campuses seems to be to ban any expression of conservative ideas … or any questioning of liberal orthodoxy.”

Peterson is by no means appealing only to reactionaries or partisan conservatives, however. His YouTube channel, which has 290,000 subscribers, is not a source of Rebel-style rants and conspiracies. Recent videos include the first two of his ongoing 12-part lecture series, The Psychological Significance of The Biblical Stories. (Some of his crowdfunding money went toward renting the Isabel Bader Theatre at U of T for the series, but he says he made it back through ticket sales.) His Patreon account promises “lectures about profound psychological ideas.”

“History has shown that political correctness, and all that comes with it, is the first step on a very dark path,” says Philip Sibbering, a games designer in the U.K. who contributed to the Rebel-sponsored crowdfunding effort. Sibbering notes the intellectual intolerance of the Nazis, which all of society now rejects, and of the Marxists, which all of society does not. “Any research that could allow us to understand the root cause and effect that brings political correctness into being is vital.”

Stephen Kaiser-Pendergast, a film editor based in Los Angeles and another crowdfunding contributor, first discovered Peterson through his interviews with Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan, two prominent critics of political correctness. (The interviews have 185,000 and 1.9 million views on YouTube, respectively.) “Working in narrative film, I have a vested interest in any kind of remedy for politically correct thinking, which I see as among the most significant of threats to artistic expression,” he says. “However, I mostly remain on his (YouTube) channel for the academic material. I have had a lifelong interest in understanding human behaviour and I find Prof. Peterson’s channel to be a treasure-trove.”

Peterson has big plans, and money to make them happen. He plans to curate “a series of conversations with moderate Muslims about the possibility of developing a bridge between that faith and the fundamental beliefs of the West.” It began on Thursday when he interviewed Ayaan Hirsi Ali (though she is more of a former Muslim than a moderate one). [a rabid anti-Muslim activist would be a more accurate description]

Source: Chris Selley: Jordan Peterson, hero of the anti-PC crowd, just keeps winning | National Post

The Globe’s Simona Chiose also covers the story more in depth from a more critical angle, along with analysis of follower comments:

Prof. Peterson’s vociferous defence of free speech isn’t new to universities. What is new, however, is the way that social media has amplified the discourse – and “weaponized” and globalized this long-running drama. The professor’s unrelenting stance has earned him scores of angry critics, but the attention has also helped him rack up followers. He now has almost 300,000 subscribers on YouTube and thousands of patrons on Patreon, a crowd-funded subscription content site where he earns more than $30,000 a month. On Twitter, his followers hail from Shanghai and Berlin, St. Petersburg and Pune, Toronto and San Francisco. And under the guise of anonymity, these anti-PC warriors can harass their opponents through posts, memes and videos and organize campaigns on no-holds-barred message boards.

The existence of this parallel, online space is hardly mentioned in free speech debates or arises only in lateral mentions of concerns about “safety on campus.”

But an investigation into the controversy around Jordan Peterson shows how this world grows and operates. With his vast online reach, Prof. Peterson has attracted small volunteer armies willing to defend his views. The Globe and Mail reviewed hundreds of pages of discussions about Prof. Peterson and his views on anonymous message boards, including 4chan and voat – two of the least moderated or monitored online forums. The conversations, which range from immature to obscene, show that the professor’s critics were the subjects of “doxing” campaigns, where activists are personally identified and harassed online.

Prof. Peterson says he can’t be held responsible for the harassment that his critics endure online, however, and justifies his hardline position on free speech by saying it allows hateful views to be exposed to the cleansing light of day.

“It’s extraordinarily dangerous to drive hate speech underground,” he said in a conversation last fall. “There are a lot of terrible things that people shouldn’t say, but that does not mean you should stop them from saying them, because you want to know who is saying them and you want to bring discourse to bear on their perspective,” he said.

In short, Jordan Peterson has redefined the notion of the faculty celebrity and pushed the university into new territory, trying to decide what protecting free speech means in the age of Internet trolls.

How U of T’s Jordan Peterson has made money from online notoriety