by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Kyle Smith offers National Review Online readers an introduction to the provocative academic Jordan Peterson.
Peterson became a celebrated outcast by saying he wouldn’t do injury to truth (much less grammar) by submitting to a bill that he believes significantly restricts speech, citing his intent to continue to use accurate pronouns to refer to people rather than agreeing to everyone’s “preferred pronouns,” which often amount to preferred fictions.
Built around interviews with Peterson, his family, his friends, and his detractors (there is some overlap among these groups), the documentary The Rise of Jordan Peterson is a fair and even-tempered overview of how Peterson became perhaps the most popular professor in North America and the accidental leader of a movement, strongly identified with young men, built around taking responsibility for oneself and carving order out of chaos.
But first Peterson became a scourge of those who wish to control other people’s words and maybe their thoughts, the “Professor Against Political Correctness” as he billed himself in his YouTube videos. Provocative and at times pugnacious, Peterson proved to be the man for the moment. Students organized protests against him, and when he sought to speak in public they would drown him out with noise-making devices or speakers blasting death metal. Peterson is shown simply unplugging one such speaker and refusing to shut up.
The doc gives plenty of airtime to his ideological opponents, who in interviews say things such as “I was in danger of vomiting all over my keyboard,” as if their inability to control their own digestive tracts is Peterson’s responsibility. “You hurt my feelings, so I get to lock you up” is an idea that gains traction every day, and Peterson deserves praise for being the rare campus figure to call this absurd. The raving hordes who want ever more restrictive speech codes come off poorly in this movie, but that’s because the movie quotes them fairly.