New York Times reporter Nellie Bowles devoted a 3,400-word attack on Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist, professor, YouTube lecture star, and author of the runaway best-seller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, who has become Public Enemy No. 1 for the intersectional left. The headline gave away Bowles’ dishonest take: “Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy -- He says there’s a crisis in masculinity. Why won’t women -- all these wives and witches -- just behave?”
Bowles reporting was recently subject to an embarrassing correction when she falsely characterized the brute fact that Palestinians pay terrorists as an example of “far-right conspiracy programming." This piece shows similar paranoia.
Ben Shapiro at The Daily Wire didn’t mince words in his takedown:
The piece is tailored to Bowles’ message: Peterson is a horrifying misogynist. Her evidence of this is that lots of young men listen to Peterson, and that Peterson believes in innate differences between men and women. She then proceeds to snip his comments, surround them with her suggestive perspective, and roll the whole ball of wax into an anti-Peterson grenade.
....He is the stately looking, pedigreed voice for a group of culture warriors who are working diligently to undermine mainstream and liberal efforts to promote equality.
Peterson made the mistake of letting Bowles follow him around a couple of days. She spun his normal human quirks and hobbies as sinister:
Mr. Peterson’s home is a carefully curated house of horror. He has filled it with a sprawl of art that covers the walls from floor to ceiling. Most of it is communist propaganda from the Soviet Union (execution scenes, soldiers looking noble) -- a constant reminder, he says, of atrocities and oppression. He wants to feel their imprisonment, though he lives here on a quiet residential street in Toronto and is quite free.
“Marxism is resurgent,” Mr. Peterson says, looking ashen and stricken.
I say it seems unnecessarily stressful to live like this. He tells me life is stressful.
Mr. Peterson illustrates his arguments with copious references to ancient myths -- bringing up stories of witches, biblical allegories and ancient traditions. I ask why these old stories should guide us today....But witches don’t exist, and they don’t live in swamps, I say.
Take it away, Shapiro:
....then we get to Bowles’ creepiest smear: the implication that Peterson actually believes in witches. Now, to understand what Peterson is saying here, you actually have to care about accurately portraying what he’s saying. Peterson is a deep believer in Jungian archetypes; he believes that ancient stories bear important truths. He is also a pragmatist in terms of his beliefs about truth: he doesn’t believe in absolute truth, but that what works is true. Therefore, Peterson doesn’t believe in dragons, because he’s not an idiot -- but he thinks that human society’s common speculation about dragons says something important about us.
Bowles also mischaracterized Jordan’s attitude toward “incels,” or “involuntary celibates,” who believe women should be treated as sexual objects and be forced into sexual relationships, particular Peterson’s use of the term “enforced monogamy.”
Shapiro pointed out Bowles’ distortion.
This is plainly dishonest reportage. First off, Peterson is using well-established anthropological language here: “enforced monogamy” does not mean government-enforced monogamy. “Enforced monogamy” means socially-promoted, culturally-inculcated monogamy, as opposed to genetic monogamy – evolutionarily-dictated monogamy, which does exist in some species (but does not exist in humans). This distinction has been present in anthropological and scientific literature for decades.
So, here’s what Peterson is not arguing: that women should be forced to marry men to cure the insecurity of incels. But that's what Bowles says he's saying, and then calls it "absurd."
Again, Bowles put a sinister light to the most benign things, when done by someone right-of-center.
When Mr. Peterson comes down the line shaking hands, the crowd cheers in a way that is not normal for a book tour. He is wearing a new three-piece suit, shiny and brown with wide lapels with a decorative silver flourish.
It is evocative of imagery from a hundred years ago. That’s the point. His speech too is from another era -- stilted, with old-timey phrases, a hypnotic rhythm. It’s a vocal tactic he came to only recently....
Under the slanted subhead, “The Horror of Women,” Bowles found someone to make the “Peterson is dangerous” argument.
To Naureen Shameem, who works at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, which is based in Canada, Mr. Peterson’s philosophies are part of a bigger global backlash to gender equality progress.
“It’s an old story, really,” she said. “In a lot of nationalistic projects, women’s bodies and sexualities become important sites of focus and control.”