Jordan Peterson, the divisive and controversial clinical psychology professor from the University of Toronto, turned political activist is hoping to harness the power of AI to police and intimidate his ideological opponents. This popular and polarizing YouTuber is fundraising upwards of $50 000 a month to create an AI system with the potential to troll the internet for ideological views counter to his own. According to Peterson’s twisted logic, this is necessary to counter the impending threat of post-modern neo-Marxists that he thinks and feels have the potential to create another Maoist-Stalinist state-sponsored murdering machine. You may think Peterson sounds overly paranoid but think again. The guy’s house, located in a quiet neighbourhood in Toronto is plastered with propaganda posters from Stalin’s and Mao’s campaigns. This father and grandfather claims that they are reminders that this threat is omnipresent. I don’t know about you, but most fathers and grandfathers I know adorn their walls with family pictures and kid’s drawings, with the odd Snap-On calendar in their garage or workshop. So there is obviously something else going on beneath the surface of this clinical psychologist turned political activist.
His appeal among alt-right members is obvious: from references to crazy women hijacking the political agenda to his paranoid extrapolations that Maoist radical leftists have not yet killed millions of people. Add into the mix his obsessive references to psychological trait theory that shares its philosophical roots with eugenics which guided Nazi ideology to justify the holocaust, and it’s looking pretty damn attractive for an alt-right sympathizer. And to build his army, he pounds the pulpit preaching that radical feminists and trans activists, via their identity politics propaganda, are taking over the world and castrating untold millions of lost and alienated young men along the way. Taken together, Peterson’s playbook sounds like a wet dream for the Tyler Durdens of the alt-right movement.
Peterson is pounding the masculine drum once again and re-awakening the Tyler Durdens of the world that Robert Bly birthed in 1990 with the release of his book Iron John. It is not by accident that Chuck Palahniuk, author of the Fight Club, wrote his sibylline novel in 1995. Like all perceptive artists, he had his finger on the pulse of this misguided and conflicted movement.
I know because I was there, witnessing grown men exchange their business suits for tribal war costumes, and painting their bodies and faces with Dollar-Store face paint while running around the forest with hand-carved spears hunting for the elusive masculine warrior. And after a few hours of running barefoot through the woods, Bly’s motley crew of academics, techies, businessmen and carpenters would return to the campfire, cold, hungry, bruised and scratched, and ultimately disappointed. And under the setting sun, over burgers, beers and Johnny Walker, the bitching sessions would begin. Their fire and fury towards the injustices of a legal system hijacked by radical feminists that allowed their exes to empty their precious bank accounts would reach a hyena pitch as they pounded the table with their misplaced anger and rage. And in the wee hours of the night around the campfire, as the Johnny Walker took effect did they begin to tell their true stories of injustice: abusive, absent fathers, bullying at school, rejecting and bullying siblings, and horrendous stories of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of older men. Then honest drunken tears would flow, and sincere drunken hugs were offered. And the next morning over coffee and burnt campfire toast, the shame of revealing too much vulnerability kicked in, and the men returned to bitching about their exes, brainwashed estranged kids and those bloody radical feminists who are taking over the world.
The difference between Robert Bly and Jordan Peterson is one of awareness. Unlike Peterson, Robert Bly was not the conflicted narrator in the Fight Club; he was a poet inviting men to experience what he felt was missing in his life. Whereas Peterson, as political activist, is inviting impressionable young men, with questionable science mixed in with obscure Jungian metaphysics, and misinformed legal conclusions, to act out his inner conflict for him. Hopefully, before his Big Brother AI machine kicks in, Peterson will put the archetypal gun to his head and end our misery. And then take all that free money to provide ideologically neutral community-based outreach programs for all the young men he claims to care so deeply about.