By Jonathon Van Maren, August 2, 2017
August 2, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Since the publication of my 2016 book The Culture War, I’ve found myself giving quite a few lectures on the various insanities that have become cultural dogmas over the past several decades. From the abortion extremism of the progressive Left to the systematic breakdown of the family, from the pandemic-level consumption of online pornography to the transgender craze, it often seems as if Western Civilization — or whatever’s left of it — is spinning out of control. That is why, when I was asked if I could give one good reason for optimism, I had to pause for a moment.
There are many, of course. Pro-life organizations continue to grow and dissuade women from having abortions. Recent developments on the political front indicate that the voices of social conservatives are still being heard. Academics and government officials are beginning to realize that hardcore pornography is having horrifically adverse effects on children. But one answer sprang to mind: Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.
Most of my readers will be familiar with Dr. Peterson’s story. A professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, Peterson became an overnight sensation when he released several videos on his YouTube account, explaining why he opposed Bill C-51, which purported to enshrine legal protections for transgender people into Canadian law. In reality, Peterson pointed out, these laws could be used to police speech — and even worse, could compel people to use the recently-invented “transgender pronouns” for those who refuse to identify as either male or female such as “ze” or “zir.” Such infringements on such an essential right were unconscionable, said Peterson, and he would not be using those pronouns regardless of what the state demanded of him.
The reaction to Peterson’s videos was at first predictable. He was accused of violence by a fellow panelist on The Agenda with Steve Paikin. Transgender activists insisted he was a bigot and a transphobe. His university sent him a letter warning him that his refusal would violate the rights of transgender people. Media outlets pilloried him as a man using his position to express his hatred, and quoted progressives and LGBTQ activists saying the same thing. It looked as if the standard media-lynching we’ve seen so frequently over the past several years would again succeed — those brave souls who are willing to articulate opinions contrary to the current progressive generally run afoul of the tolerance buzz saw and see their careers and reputations destroyed, or worse.
Instead, something remarkable happened. Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, an academic who dared to stand up to the transgender lobby, didn’t get fired. He got famous. His YouTube account, where he posts his lectures and other musings, has over 355,000 subscribers. Thousands of fans flooded his Patreon account with donations, from which he now earns over $30,000 a month from over 5,000 fans. He became one of the most on-demand interviewees from Sam Harris’ podcast to Steven Crowder’s YouTube show, among dozens of other media outlets. Even a photographer’s photo essay of Peterson at his Toronto home accrued over 300,000 hits in a matter of days. For the first time in a very long time, an academic stood up to the politically correct progressive lobby — and won.
Dr. Peterson’s success is even more remarkable when you consider the positions he articulates. Abortion, he said in response to one question, is “clearly wrong.” Pornography is “deadening” and men should stop watching it. Young men need to “grow up” and get their lives together. Young people should pursue children and marriage. Even more than that, he warns his audiences that they are not good people — that each of them harbors demons within, and that this fact should drive them to become better people. None of this would have been particularly radical fifty or so years ago. In 2017, it’s as if Peterson is taking a machine gun to a field of sacred cows — and yet, his popularity only grows.
His appeal defies common tropes. Considering the mocking analyses of the millennial generation that permeate discourse on the Left and the Right — much of it warranted — I was shocked to witness a lecture hall at the University of Western Ontario packed to the gills with young people, all thrilled to listen to a nearly two-hour lecture that pulled no punches and was filled with stern advice. Peterson, it seems, is telling young people to sort their lives out — and many respond by rising to the occasion. In fact, one writer over at the National Review called Peterson “YouTube’s New Father Figure” — a generation in which thousands of young men grow up fatherless and thus without the guidance a father gives are finding Peterson’s firm rebukes and encouragements exactly what they’ve been looking for.
Those progressives who deride Peterson as a hatemonger may want to think twice, too. The burgeoning alt-right movement, which is made up predominantly of angry young men who despise the suffocating culture of political correctness and often respond by engaging in vile Internet memes and crude misogynist harassment, is being robbed of many followers by Peterson. I’ve seen this for myself — young men attracted to the alt-right as an outlet for their frustrations instead gravitating toward Peterson’s calls to grow up and become better people. Peterson is not a hatemonger — and it turns out that his work can be quite an effective antidote to those that are.
Considering all this, it is nearly impossible to see Dr. Jordan B. Peterson’s rise as anything but encouraging. He stood up to the enforcers of political correctness, and he won. He has not only withstood the attempts of cultural Marxists to destroy his career and reputation, but has uncovered a massive audience of young people who are fed up with political correctness, too — and were simply waiting for someone to articulate why with the intelligence and insight Peterson provides. In their failure to destroy Peterson, progressives have revealed both a fundamental weakness — intellectual bankruptcy — and a deep fatigue of their constant demands and social engineering in a much wider swathe of the population than they must have expected.
So who knows? Perhaps one day, decades hence, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson’s stand will be seen as the tipping point — the moment that politically correct progressives finally met their match.