Or, How Dare You Not Perform Our Fashionable Contortions.
In times of extremism, moderation itself can come to seem the greater enemy to those ideologically possessed, in part because it is the true danger: The public will tend to move toward it by default, and thus the instinctive recourse by those who sense the fragility of their extreme doctrines to resort to coercive means to prevail in arguments they would not otherwise win.
Here is the Achilles’ heel of the campaign to oust Jordan Peterson from the margins of respectable society: You don’t have to outsource your judgment to journalistic authorities in the age of the internet. You can see for yourself. Millions of people have, of course, done exactly this. Contra any framing of Peterson as a dissident or pariah, he in fact provides an articulate defence of ideas and impulses that are much more popular than those of the keepers of the orthodoxies of the “mainstream” institutions intent on de-platforming him.
And here is the strange paradox and tension of our moment. A hyperbolic rhetoric of political purism nearly surreal in its intensity has not just captured our universities, but large segments of the popular press. Glamour magazine names Linda Sarsour to its Women of the Year list. Esquire.com runs a column claiming that “powerful white men, however outfacing liberal or progressive they may appear, are the architects of structural racism and white supremacy in America.” And the New York Times laments, in the wake of a mass shooting, that the underlying cause of such extreme events is that “boys are broken,” implying that the swamp that feeds such monstrous excrescences and which must be drained — is masculine identity itself.
These bizarre doctrines, incubated in the furthest reaches of the political margins (and until recently confined there)… have since become viral memes infecting the thinking and rhetoric of a certain strand of progressive activist, and through them, an ever-growing swathe of the media-making class. The resort to them is indicative of a profound failure of the political imagination. You can hear this in the visceral contempt with which Peterson’s “young white male” audience is described by his journalistic detractors, (most of whom are white, and many of whom are male). And yet this crucial piece of hearsay, linchpin of the Peterson narrative, is not true.
The whole thing is worth a peek.