Sunday, December 23, 2018

Jordan Peterson is leading a lobster cult

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian psychology professor who has developed an amazing cult following. Millions have heard his message, and thousands say he changed their lives.

A lot of what he says is very sensible, and I think he is doing more good than harm, so I don't want to criticize him too much. But he is a slippery character.

He seems to have mastered mind control techniques that make a great cult leader. He convinces right-wingers that he is a right-winger, left-wingers that he is a left-winger, and Christians that he is a Christian. He is none of those things. He appears to be wired into a great many sources of wisdom, such as academic research, the Bible, great literature, great thinkers, and psychotherapy experience. Some of this is interesting, but often he is just bullshitting. He is expert at appearing reasonable, decisive, and emphatic all at the same time.

He apparently honed these techniques with 20 years of being a professor and psychotherapist.

He first got wide attention by protesting a Canadian law about use of gendered pronouns. But seems like a principled political stand is really just a combination of his stubbornness and his antiquated worldview. Ten years ago almost everyone would have objected to the Canadian law, so he is getting credit for being ten years behind everyone else.

Nevertheless, I am in awe of how he has used the issue to gain publicity for himself. I am also in awe of his use of mind control techniques. He says he now makes about $1 million a month from his videos, speeches, books, and interviews.

To a flavor of Peterson, here is a sample from his most famous interview:
Newman: “Let me get this straight. You’re saying that we should organize our societies along the lines of the lobsters?”

Peterson: “That is so untrue that it’s almost unbelievable. I use the lobster as an example: We diverged from lobsters’ evolutionary history about 350 million years ago. And lobsters exist in hierarchies. They have a nervous system attuned to the hierarchy. And that nervous system runs on serotonin just like ours. The nervous system of the lobster and the human being is so similar that anti-depressants work on lobsters. And it’s part of my attempt to demonstrate that the idea of hierarchy has absolutely nothing to do with sociocultural construction, which it doesn’t.”
This is genius. His followers love this stuff. He smoothly blends science with psychobabble, and does it with a style that impresses you that he is the master and the interviewer is a novice student. He is the cult leader, and others are mere lobsters.

No comments: