In an op-ed for The Atlantic published Thursday, Caitlin Flanagan explains “why the left is so afraid of Jordan Peterson.” The must-read piece is itself an example of what so obviously terrifies left-wing critics of Peterson: an intelligent, well-reasoned, and unflinching critique of identity politics, an ideology, Flanagan suggests, that has become even more militant — and vulnerable — as its “doomsday clock ticks ever closer to the end.”
Flanagan begins by describing her first encounter with Peterson’s teachings, which came by way of her teenage son, who was for some inexplicable reason watching a video of “a psychology professor at the University of Toronto talking about Canadian law”…? But it wasn’t just her teenage son who was following Peterson. “It turned out a number of his friends — all of them like him: progressive Democrats, with the full range of social positions you would expect of adolescents growing up in liberal households in blue-bubble Los Angeles — had watched the video as well, and they talked about it to one another.”
Nothing strikes more fear in the heart of ideologues than people in their own airtight bubbles rejecting their prescribed ideology. And it turns out that it isn’t just her son and his friends, it’s millions of bubble-wrapped teens and college students, many of whom voted for Hillary.
So what was so appealing about Peterson? “What they were getting from these lectures and discussions, often lengthy and often on arcane subjects, was perhaps the only sustained argument against identity politics they had heard in their lives,” writes Flanagan. “That might seem like a small thing, but it’s not. With identity politics off the table, it was possible to talk about all kinds of things — religion, philosophy, history, myth — in a different way. They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by ideology. All of these young people, without quite realizing it, were joining a huge group of American college students who were pursuing a parallel curriculum, right under the noses of the people who were delivering their official educations.”
In other words, Peterson’s popularity demonstrates that even the Left’s iron-fisted stranglehold on academia has failed to choke out the true “resistance.”
Flanagan boils down why the movement to take down Peterson is so vicious and unhinged: “It is because the left, while it currently seems ascendant in our houses of culture and art, has in fact entered its decadent late phase, and it is deeply vulnerable.”
“In the midst of this death rattle has come a group of thinkers, Peterson foremost among them, offering an alternative means of understanding the world to a very large group of people who have been starved for one,” writes Flanagan, who underscores that this group is emphatically not the identity politics-embracing Alt-Right, as Peterson’s critics often attempt to claim. Peterson’s followers are “people who aren’t looking for an ideology; they are looking for ideas. And many of them are getting much better at discerning the good from the bad. The Democratic Party reviles them at its peril; the Republican Party takes them for granted in folly.”