You can tell just how dangerous our gatekeeping media mandarins think Dr. Jordan Peterson is by the number of hit pieces in establishment media organs on the man and his new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. NBC called him part of the “alt-right” even though he explicitly denounces identitarian politics and has counseled young men away from that particular abyss. “The Stupid Person’s Smart Person”, he’s been called, taking a swipe at both Peterson and the people he disclaims are his “fans”.
To be honest, students or maybe even disciples would be more accurate, as Peterson’s message is fundamentally a moral one, telling people that they’re best off being as honest and responsible as possible.
I was thinking of going to hear him on the Detroit stop of his current lecture tour, but it sold old before I pulled the trigger, in part because I’m already pretty familiar with his work and 12 Rules and wasn’t sure I’d hear anything new, but also in part because I’m lazy and I procrastinate, something for which I’ve found Dr. Peterson’s advice helpful. I tried getting media access, but I’m not high enough in the media pecking order.
As I said, I wasn’t sure I’d hear anything new, but I did want to check out Dr. Peterson as a phenomenon. Why does his message resonate so much with young men? To find out, I drove down Woodward to the Fillmore and hung out with the folks waiting to get in the event.
It is hard to express just how optimistic it made me to see hundreds of people lined up around the block to be told to be more responsible.
Also, it was clear that Dr. Peterson’s appeal is far broader than just young men. By my estimation, about 30% of the crowd was female and the ages of the people of both sexes skewed mid to late 20s but also included people of a variety of generations, including some folks older than me and I’m in my 60s. There were couples (and lest you think that Dr. Peterson appeals just to incels, the ladies looked pretty good) and families. Mothers were there with there sons and there even were some unaccompanied single women. One woman, l’m guessing she was in her late 40s or so, told me she flew in from the United Kingdom and bought VIP tickets to the lecture because it was her only chance to see Peterson talk (his tour has had only a single stop scheduled in Old Blighty). When I asked her what his appeal to her personally was, she said, “I voted for Brexit. Women voted 80/20 against it. Dr. Peterson is in the vanguard of the fight for free speech.”
Most people were not political, though. I asked two questions. What do they think Dr. Peterson’s appeal is to his broader audience, and what is it about him that appeals to them personally? Almost all responded “his honesty” to the first question. Some said, “the truth.” More than a few said they could point to tangible improvements in their lives and relationships with others after following Dr. Peterson’s advice. Perhaps surprisingly, most said they had fathers in their lives growing up, though a couple alluded to having less than stellar father figures. One young black woman told me that Dr. Peterson has an ability to articulate things that she already knew were true. She was not the only one to say something like that.
There were some beggars camped out on the sidewalk, hoping for handouts from the folks lined up. As the late arrivals straggled into the theater, the mendicants decamped and I noticed that one was using an Apple iPhone as she walked down the street. At first I thought that the most generous thing anyone in line could have done would have been to give her a copy of 12 Rules. Then I realized that she’s got a hustle going and she likely would have just sold it to a Peterson fan for the cash money.
Nicholas Nassim Taleb says that you have to have some skin in the game. As I drove home I realized that the kindest thing someone could have done for the beggar lady would have been to try to sell her a copy, if only for $1. Then she might have actually read it and maybe absorbed some of Dr. Peterson’s age-old wisdoms.
I’d say more but I have a room that needs cleaning.