Movie review

The Rise Of Jordan Peterson

I bought this because of my interest in Jordan Peterson and because it received some good reviews as a dispassionate presentation of how a University of Toronto psychology professor suddenly became a world famous, polarizing “public intellectual.”

I was disappointed. I found it superficial and unenlightening. There are a lot of interleaved, ten second soundbites: Pro/con, “He is the ultimate father figure.”/“So, you’re anti-justice. Are you a Batman villain?” There’s a “what” to this documentary, but we are left to wonder why anyone holds such opinions.

This film doesn’t help in understanding the virality of a intellectual cultural phenom whose dozens of 2.5 hour University lectures attract ~5 million views each on YouTube. Or why an assistant professor of sociology will grade any paper mentioning Peterson with an “F;” seeming to confirm one of Peterson’s criticisms of the modern University.

Strictly as a documentary, it very nearly does manage to take no position. As an examination of Peterson’s ‘rise’ it is short on context or background.

Peterson’s objections to Bill C-16 gave him a viral blip when he publicly objected to compelled use of whimsical, invented pronouns: His corpus of prior work made him a phenomenon.

In fact, it’s the hundreds of hours of video he already had published that protected him from the SJW mob (and, until the Bill C-16 blip, was the motivation for the filmmakers to create this movie). There is no sign in this history of the patriarchal, sexist, transphobic, authoritarian, fascist thinking with which he is charged. A point which is not made evident in the film, despite a few truncated clips of his earlier work.

There’s much, much, much more explanation of Peterson’s rise in the video record preceding his tussle with the Canadian nanny-state. Peterson’s rise was propelled by the fact that he is a charismatic speaker and a powerful teacher.

The filmmakers’ attempt at even-handedness may be sincere, but the overall impression is more that Peterson promoted a free speech controversy as a way to enrich himself, not that he was risking his career. For an American audience, without a sense that freedom of speech in Canada is clinging to a cliff by one hand, the film is simply puzzling.

Supposed allies are shown expressing trepidation about Peterson’s outspokenness. This objection is to be expected from most Canadians, whose government has an uneasy relationship with freedom of speech and who are congenitally uncomfortable with controversy. See Mark Steyn, Lindsay Shepherd, etc..

And there are unanswered, factually incorrect slurs. A former supporter turned critic finds evidence of authoritarian impulses in Peterson’s collection of Soviet-era art (prominent in the movie). The reasons for this art are precisely the opposite of what is implied. If Peterson was asked for a response, it’s on the cutting room floor. Here is that response from an interview of Peterson:

[Tyler] COWEN: Let me start with a very lateral question. Why do you collect old Communist memorabilia and propaganda?

PETERSON: Well, part of it is dark comedy. Really, I spent quite a bit of time on eBay for a number of years. And I had read this article by a psychologist named James Pennebaker. He said that the past turned into history at 15 years. That’s when you start to see people commemorate events in the past. At that point, it was 2004, and I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting. It’s 15 years since the Soviet Union collapsed. Maybe I can go online and see what historical memorabilia is left over.”

So I went on eBay, looking up Soviet artifacts, and I thought that was so comical because there isn’t anything more capitalistic than eBay, right? Seriously, that was completely unrestrained capitalism. And then all this Soviet-era stuff was for sale. I thought it was absolutely comical that I could buy paintings of Karl Marx discounted on the world’s most intense capitalist platform…

Some of it is intensely propagandistic, and I’m interested in that because I’m interested in propaganda… So it was interesting to surround myself with these works that were battlegrounds between art and propaganda.

Here’s a vastly better look at Jordan Peterson from the Claremont Review of Books: The Jordan Peterson Phenomenon and it takes less time to read than it takes to watch the movie.

I was quite disappointed, and it caused me to wonder if those cancel culturists pressing theaters to scrub scheduled showings (that link also has a positive review, for contrast) had any idea what was in it. They couldn’t have watched it. Maybe that was just a marketing ploy by the producers.

2 stars anyway, because I learned more about his parents and his family because of the access Peterson granted.

Rainbows everywhen

87983-poppyIf Ye Break Faith With Us…
-Mark Steyn on 11/11/2001

[T]hough we can scarce grasp what they symbolize, this year the poppies are hard to find. Three Canadian provinces had sold out by last Monday, and by the time you read this the rest of the Royal Canadian Legion’s entire stock of 14.8 million will likely be gone.

Canada today…
Former Conservative party candidate apologizes for viral rainbow poppy tweet

The apology was mistaken:

Rather than having been suspended for rejecting the poppy during choir practice as Bird’s initial tweet read, Natalie outlined that she had been suspended for “rejecting the idea” of the rainbow poppy…

It’s worse that Natalie was suspended for “rejecting the idea.” The idea is the problem.

I do know why Cyara Bird apologized: Unless you enthusiastically support the appropriation of Remembrance Day at SJW whim, and embrace compelled speech, YOU are a bigot.

The LGBT+ folks already have a plethora of their own days, weeks, and months – with parades and celebrations.

Every other occasion for reflection or pride does not require fealty to a group of aggrieved, narcissistic activists who occupy the space at the very edges of the Bell curve of human sexuality.

Don’t be doubleplus-ungood

An interesting article at Wired, by Nitasha Tiku:
Three Years of Misery Inside Google, the Happiest Company in Tech

It is sympathetic to leftist Googlers, and that sympathy seems justified in the case of the doxxing described. However, it fails to mention that among the first things to happen to James Damore was doxxing and defaming from the left. It should be remembered he wrote his common sense, scientifically grounded memo in response to “sensitivity training” mandated for all employees. That the memo couldn’t be tolerated tells us all we need to know about Google culture.

The article ignores the deplatforming and/or demonetizing of numerous center-rightists who offend leftist sensitivities (Dennis Prager, for just one example). That Google can’t see this as a negative reflection on their culture tells us more than we need to know about their culture. Tiku doesn’t discuss harassment of conservatives by the left, which I must imagine constituted a “hostile work environment” long before this SHTF. We get little from her in that regard. We’re meant to think the majority of Googlers were harassed by a tiny group of conservatives, with little to no provocation.

It is further obvious that Google’s culture skews rigidly left based on political donations, its executives’ assistance to Barack Obama, and who the internal activist stars are. It’s clear from their push to hire based on sex, sexual orientation, skin color, and ethnicity that they agree with SJW tropes.

Still, this is a very interesting peek behind the Google curtain. Let’s look at some outtakes.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the former Montessori kids who founded Google as Stanford grad students in the late ’90s, had designed their company’s famously open culture to facilitate free thinking. Employees were “obligated to dissent” if they saw something they disagreed with, and they were encouraged to “bring their whole selves” to work rather than check their politics and personal lives at the door. And the wild thing about Google was that so many employees complied.

Complied???? “Complied” is fulsome BS. They were selected via policies guaranteed to ensure their willingness to complain about any social or political issue that made them want to run to their “safe spaces,” and then sensitivity trained. It isn’t possible for the SJWs to check their identity-group politics at the door in the first place.

The culture was, and is, far from “open.” It is characterized by internecine tribal struggles between privileged, brilliant people with generally very poor social skills, whose idea of free thinking is mostly modeled after 1984 leavened with touches of Rules for Radicals.

[T]o a remarkable extent, Google’s workers really do take “Don’t Be Evil” to heart. C-suite meetings have been known to grind to a halt if someone asks, “Wait, is this evil?” To many employees, it’s axiomatic: Facebook is craven, Amazon is aggro, Apple is secretive, and Microsoft is staid, but Google genuinely wants to do good.

Well, for a given definition of “good.” And that is The. Whole. Problem. “Evil” is whatever does not toe the Progressive line. The motto should have been “Don’t be doubleplus-ungood.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, members of one mailing list brainstormed whether there might be ways to “leverage” Google’s search results to surface ways of helping immigrants; some proposed that the company should intervene in searches for terms like “Islam,” “Muslim,” or “Iran” that were showing “Islamophobic, algorithmically biased results.” (Google says none of those ideas were taken up.)

Didn’t take them up. But they openly considered substituting their opinions as reality because they are so sure of their righteousness and so drunk on their power. No one with a grounded definition of evil, and a gram of introspection, would have dared bring that up unless it was preceded with, “One thing we cannot do…”.

For this article, WIRED spoke with 47 current and former Google employees. Most of them requested anonymity.

Wouldn’t need anonymity if “Don’t be evil” meant anything, would they?

I hate that argument because it’s often applied to fee speech: “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve got nothing to hide.” It’s quite clear from Google’s example that it’s other people who decide whether you have anything to hide. And a lot of those who work at Google want to decide to hide your opinion, or prevent you from forming it, and, at all costs, stop you from expressing it in the first place.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and head of communications Jessica Powell urged their colleagues to consider how they would have reacted if Damore had applied the same arguments to race, rather than gender. That persuaded them: The engineer had to go. In a note to employees, Pichai said he was firing Damore for perpetuating gender stereotypes.

If all else fails, play the race card. I don’t know Wojcicki’s or Powell’s race, but is smacks of cultural appropriation, doesn’t it?

Stereotypes can be valid, or we would see many more whites in the NBA, and many women’s world weight lifting records completely smashed. But, you can’t say those biologically male lifters doing the smashing aren’t really women. The same type of rational arguments DO apply to race. This is not how free thinkers react when there is scientific evidence, presented without vitriol. It is just a replay of the reaction to Murray’s The Bell Curve.

Pichai tried to assure the left without alienating the right. “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,”

Well, nobody said that. But claiming someone did indicates management’s attitude, which had to be double-reverse engineered from a faulty understanding of the word stereotype, and a “la la la, I can’t hear you” inspired ignorance. Ostriches.

Two days after Damore was fired, Milo Yiannopoulos, the former tech editor at Breitbart, shared the Reddit collage image with 2 million Facebook followers. “Look at who works for Google, it all makes sense now,” he wrote—as if these eight employees had been the ones who made the decision to ax Damore.

“As if?” They WERE the ones who forced that decision!

At the time, Google was run as a triumvirate, with CEO Eric Schmidt playing the role of resident grown-up. Schmidt argued that if Google stopped censoring search results, it would never get back into China.

The “grownup” is the one who wants to knuckle under to totalitarian demands to suppress information. I.e., to betray Google’s mission: https://about.google/
Google mission

It doesn’t say “except in countries with totalitarian dictatorships, that put millions into re-education camps because of their religion, and want to destroy the capitalist system that made Google possible.” I guess it’s not evil to interpret it as “useful to despots,” though.

“The legacy of the China decision was a giant dose of goodwill from Googlers around the world,” Schmidt wrote in How Google Works; it reaffirmed the company’s principles “governing how all tough decisions should be made.”

Schmidt takes credit for a policy he opposed. If you aren’t evil, it’s an easy decision.

As Google seemed to close in on winning the [Maven] contract, executives from the cloud team pondered how a deal with the Pentagon—especially one that could be linked to autonomous weapons—might reflect on Google’s non-evil brand. In September, a few weeks after the meeting with Mattis, they discussed spinning up some positive PR that would focus on the “vanilla cloud technology” aspects of the Maven contract. “Avoid at ALL COSTS any mention or implication of AI,” wrote Fei-Fei Li, a Stanford professor and Google Cloud’s chief scientist for AI.

Censor search in China and object to a US military contract. Fit those ethics together for me, will you? An ethical approach might have been not to do either one.

HR had become “weaponized,” they said; Googlers on both sides of the battle lines had become adept at working the refs—baiting colleagues into saying things that might violate the company’s code of conduct, then going to human resources to report them.

And what did they expect would happen after the cancel culture they encouraged became commonplace and was rewarded?

In early June 2018, Pichai finally published the AI principles that Google had promised its employees. They included a list of four applications of AI that Google would not pursue, including weapons, technologies that gather and use information “for surveillance violating internationally accepted norms,” and technology “whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.”

“Don’t be evil” notwithstanding, they entertained a project to co-operate with the Chinese Communists that would shove human rights under the jackboot, and surveillance violating internationally accepted norms. They had to write that down. I guess it depends on your definition of “norms” and “principles.” Is it a norm because China does it to a billion and a half Chinese?

Google asked for chaos, I’m glad they’re getting it. The moral is don’t let a bunch of middle school mean girls run your company via internal social media.

Your job

…is not to panic. Don’t do it… for the children.

The Extinction Rebellion death cult and the Green Ordeal climate-doom-mongers are attempting to instill existential fear in your children in order to influence you. And they aren’t above abusing vulnerable children like Greta Thunberg.

Here’s a non-hysterical look at what we know. And what we don’t.

Climate ‘limits’ and timelines
-Dr. Judith Curry

“Bottom line is that these timelines are meaningless. While we have confidence in the sign of the temperature change, we have no idea what its magnitude will turn out to be. Apart from uncertainties in emissions and the Earth’s carbon cycle, we are still facing a factor of 3 or more uncertainty in the sensitivity of the Earth’s climate to CO2, and we have no idea how natural climate variability (solar, volcanoes, ocean oscillations) will play out in the 21st century. And even if we did have significant confidence in the amount of global warming, we still don’t have much of a handle on how this will change extreme weather events. With regards to species and ecosystems, land use and exploitation is a far bigger issue.

Cleaner sources of energy have several different threads of justification, but thinking that sending CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 or whenever is going to improve the weather and the environment by 2100 is a pipe dream. If such reductions come at the expense of economic development, then vulnerability to extreme weather events will increase.”

Dr. Curry is a valuable resource if you are interested in climate science, and a valiant defender of free speech and the scientific method.

Her Week in review – science edition feature is an excellent curated overview of, well, what it says. An example.

Curry’s post includes this nice summary quote from Larry Kummer on the IPCC’s Special Report “Global Warming of 1.5°C”

“There is nothing in this Special Report justifying belief that the world will end, that the world will burn, or that humanity will go extinct. It has been misrepresented just as past reports have been (e.g., the 4th US National Climate Assessment). The disasters described the Climate Emergency and Extinction Rebellion activists are those of RCP8.5, the worst-case scenario in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment report – or even beyond it. RCP8.5 is, as a worst-case scenario should be, a horrific but not apocalyptic future that is improbable or impossible.”

Fifth column

Zuckerberg address takes on free speech, China

“The ability to speak freely has been central to the fight for democracy worldwide,” Zuckerberg says. And social media forms a sort of “fifth estate”…

He misspelled “column.”

“So this is one of the reasons that we don’t operate Facebook, Instagram or our other services in China.”

That, and the fact they’re banned in China.