Movie review

BUMPED. Update at the end.

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 via of the access Peterson granted.

**************

Update: March 10th, 2020
I’ve watched a Q&A with the filmmakers arranged by Columbia University (the filmmakers have established a presence on thinkspot, Peterson’s Patreon replacement), wherein they explained how they approached the filming. And where they answered some of my objections. I was impressed with their commitment to truth. I withdraw my suspicion of ‘marketing ploy.’

I can be persuaded by speech to change my speech.

So. I re-read the favorable review at Quillette. I watched the film again. I’m changing my rating.

If your expectations are informed by some knowledge of Peterson: That the pronoun controversy only triggered ‘The Rise,’ and that that ‘Rise’ would have been a two-day wonder, and only in Canada, and flaming out in a dog-pile of SJW hatred except for the preexisting, deep background of his lectures – then the movie is well worth watching for the peek into his life and family.

I’ll give it 4 stars on that basis.

Jordan Peterson was always the guy who would calmly expose Cathy Newman. We just would never have known it but for Bill C-16.

Real empathy

Ann Althouse is sarcastic about trans-female athletes:

Today, the pressure to be empathetic toward transgenders is so great that I believe women, known for our empathy and our desire to appear compassionate, will let go of competitive sports and return to the inclinations that dominated back in the days when I went to high school. It’s a trade-off, a trade-off between the potential for athletic victory and the feeling of being kind and inclusive. The latter is something quite valuable and within the reach of all women. The former is a dream, and it’s only a dream for an elite few among women.

I find her reasoning sarcastically oversubtle as well as specious.

True empathy would not involve women giving up on sports, just giving up on winning (which she does mention). More women should enter sports to ensure the transgenders can boost their self esteem and have a legal way to seriously injure real women in the MMA. That’s how women can be most empathetic, and such self-effacement is easily within the reach of even more women than currently play sports.

After all, without women, who are the female impersonators going to defeat?

Update: 3:20PM.

I finished this post and then read a few comments at Althouse, where she resists admitting sarcasm. If that is accurate, here’s exactly what Althouse supposes women will forgo, and that is very, very sad:

Update: Feb-18-20 3:43PM
Later visit to Althouse: She took quite a bit of flack in comments on her post; compelling a second post in defense of the first. She claims Glenn Reynolds’, “So, traditional-gender-roles folks, you have the trans crowd to thank for returning us to the 1950s!” correctly interprets her point.

To me that sounds like sarcasm was the point, but she refuses to entertain such interpretation. She goes to a lot of trouble to say she was simply making a neutral prediction that female empathy will overcome female competitive drive in sports: Because the majority of females in sports will prefer to abandon competition in favor of “compassion and empathy” for transgenders.

Right there you have evidence that transgender women aren’t women. Where’s the transgender empathy for real women?

Who needs some empathy? Female impersonators? Or real women denied success because the female impersonators got permission from cowed bureaucrats to deny their (the impersonators) biology?

Althouse isn’t, she says discreditably, taking a position on the question of transgender “women” competing with actual females, she is just predicting an outcome based on her estimation of actual female psyches. For a retired female law professor, she proposes a surprisingly dim, pinched, and patronizing view of actual females.

For a female law professor and less than obscure blogger: Eschewing any position on anti-scientific, misogynist aggression against females is, in fact, a position. That the aggression is transgender doesn’t dial the female empathy obligation up to 11.

To invoke one of her themes, I call it “civility bullshit.”

EUtopia Lost

Well worth 50 minutes. (32 to Q&A, but worth watching those too.)

A ringing, hopeful, and needed defense of Enlightenment values. Brexit is but the framework. This speech at Hillsdale is cast in a defense of individual rights and free trade. Excellent and amusing speaker.

Peterson fans will find echoes of his themes of individual responsibility and meta-narratives tied to political events in ways he almost never mentions.

“Lessons from Brexit” – Daniel Hannan at Hillsdale.
70,500 views
Jun 11, 2017

If you enjoyed that, this is a worthwhile followup.

All whimsy were the LGBTQI2S

Faced With Gender Propaganda at the Hockey Rink, One Coach Says No

After having assisted on his son’s hockey team for three years, the father has been removed from all positions because he questioned the necessity of a mandatory gender identity training course imposed by Hockey Eastern Ontario (formerly the Ottawa District Hockey Association) following a 2017 legal settlement involving a transgender hockey player…

In part because of past abuse scandals, the coaching of children in hockey (as in most other sports) is now regulated by government and oversight bodies…

And there are still those who insist that Jordan Peterson’s warnings about legal consequences from the whimsical Canadian pronoun law were overwrought.

Emphasis mine:

[A]mid a parade of variously configured pink and blue male/female stick-people, the concept of “polygender” is introduced to define “people who identify as multiple genders simultaneously and can be several genders all at once. Or they may alternate between their varying gender identities depending on the day or the week.” Coaches also get a slide on “genderqueer” individuals, who exist in an undefined extra-dimensional gender space that allows them to “reject gender altogether”—though this is not to be confused with “agender” (it gets its own slide), a label that applies to those who are merely “genderless.” Later in the presentation, there are hockey-themed quizzes (“Drag and drop each puck in to the corresponding net”) to test coaches’ understanding of these rarified terms.

It should have had pictures of genitalia, then you could drag and drop any picture onto any other picture and you’d be correct. Of course, then there would only be two different pictures no matter how many times they were repeated.

In response to Doe’s question about “polygender” kids who, Egale claims, can switch genders on a daily basis, for instance, Isen replied: “It is not outside the realm of possibility that the personal choice of what dressing room may feel the most comfortable and safest for any gender diverse person may shift over time as they navigate their own path toward affirming their identity while also navigating their own vulnerability to the possibility of transphobic harassment or bullying in those spaces.”

Navigating the path safely means government enforced fealty to a group of narcissistic activists who occupy the space at the very edges of the Bell curve of human sexuality.

We can be civil, nothing more is required, without having to agree with their opinion. Or being forced to use their pronouns, share bathrooms with them, or date them.

This is not about the hurt feelings of a tiny minority. It rests on the contention that there’s no biological difference between males and females. THAT Is a non-trivial attack on the West’s foundational concepts:

“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.””

― Theodore Dalrymple

The re-education camps come to hockey in Canada via academic Newspeak; “integrative anti-oppression education”.

Canonical

God Fearers
An Open Letter to Christian Readers of Jordan Peterson & Roger Scruton by James Bryson

This should be widely read. It is an astute connection of Peterson and Scruton with current religious, cultural and political issues. The only objectionable error is referring to them as ‘conservative,’ when they are both liberal in the classical sense. Other bits with which one might take issue are matters of opinion. The author’s take is as an orthodox Christian writing to Christians.

The analysis is also interesting because while Scruton and Peterson are both “defenders of the faith,” their defense is often unsatisfying to the orthodox, triggering to the Unitarian wing, and anathema to Liberation Theologists such as Pope Francis.

The orthodox generally focus on Peterson’s refusal to publicly avow Christ as Savior. The latter two groups object to his defense of Western civilization generally.

The orthodox critics make two mistakes here. One, if you want to interest the great unwashed in the possibility of salvation through Christ, how can you object to raising people’s curiosity about the meta-narrative of the idea? Two, if you wanted to preserve the West’s intellectual canon – which is heavily predicated on your faith and inextricable from it – why attack your obvious, and effective, allies? What’s to fear: Doctrinal impurity among those who would otherwise disdain to glance at your religion? Let them come to understand what you helped build before imposing a litmus test.

Feeding a hunger for meaning, demonstrating that people will spend dozens of hours deeply exploring the West’s foundational texts is a threat to those ‘Christians’ who take Christ as optional; to those who believe they can perfect mankind – given secular power. Not to you.

The author largely dismisses such criticism. He does, however, offer his own challenge to Scruton and Peterson:

I promised to say a word about where Scruton and Peterson might be pushed from an orthodox Christian point of view. They do not need advice from me, especially since it’s the authenticity of these men—that they are what they seem and mean what they say—that holds our attention. So I preface these criticisms by saying that I do not think for a minute that they should change who they are or radically alter the course of their arguments. Instead, I suggest that Scruton and Peterson should simply continue to become more deeply who they already are.

This brings me to something Peterson and Scruton have in common: the Kantian “as if.” Peterson says he acts “as if” God exists—that “he’s afraid” he might. This simply won’t do when it comes to God. The way to convince men of integrity and seriousness, like Peterson and Scruton, is to meet them where they are strongest and most convinced—that is, as moralists.

Neither would ever countenance the idea that you should treat your wife “as if” she were your wife—”as if” you had made a promise to love and cherish her until death do you part. Nor should you treat a friend merely “as if” he were your friend. Friendship and matrimony must be grounded in an indubitable reality, or else they are nothing at all. When put to the test, “as if” arrangements will show themselves to be mere fantasies projected onto the screen of unreality. One need only appeal to the pragmatist in Peterson to make the case: How well are marriages doing in our “as if” culture? How abundant is friendship, good will, and respect for the rule of law?

The whole thing falls apart if it’s not real; that is, if it’s not true. No amount of willing or acting “as if it’s true” will do. God must be the ground of all reality through Christ his Mediator—the eternal and incarnate Logos. There is no other way to see and accept the goodness of being that Scruton and Peterson defend. This is something we believe, but it is also possible to know it, just as it is possible to know ourselves even as we are known. This does not demand a leap of faith in an existentially absurd sense—it’s a deeply rational vision, both logically and intuitively, and it is one that we, Scruton, and Peterson already share. But we need to make ourselves continually aware of it. This is what we call the sacramental life.

This is interesting but, for me, unconvincing. “As if” doesn’t seem to me to indubitably apply equally to a wife and to God. One still calls for that willing suspension of disbelief. I also find “How well are marriages doing in our “as if” culture? How abundant is friendship, good will, and respect for the rule of law?,” circular, in context. Peterson and Scruton would certainly answer, “Not as well as they should be,” but that doesn’t prove anything. Nonetheless, it’s the best offering I’ve seen.