Jordan Peterson, bestselling author, clinical psychologist, cultural critic, former Harvard Professor, and currently a professor at the University of Toronto, is touring the land. Many people react negatively to Peterson and his views without being able to put their finger on the explanation. It's a bit like how you can't stand Queen but find it hard to tell people why. So to help anyone in that situation, here are 12 reasons:
1. The presumption of his bestselling book's title: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
Not suggestions, not guidelines but "rules or commandments", as they're known in some circles. In life, as in tennis, apparently, there are rules about which, by definition, there will be no argument.
2. "Antidote to chaos" is a terrible mixed metaphor.
3. He's a professor of psychology. I'm sure there are likable and thought-provoking professors of psychology who have interesting ideas about life and the world. I've just never been lucky enough to meet one.
4. His middle name is Bernt. He must love that this ultimately derives from a word meaning "strong bear", but if you're going to have a name that's made for puns, could you at least put it at the front where we can all see it.
5. That said, the name Jordan Peterson is ridiculously euphonious. It sounds like a name a Hollywood agent would come up with when promising to make Harvey Schittsikker a star.
6. He's a guru. Gurus are dangerous. They either develop small fanatical followings that turn bitter and act out because not everyone agrees with their guru, or they develop large fanatical followings that spread out across the world. And they attract fans like Peterson's who will flock to social media and troll in the most violent and vicious terms anyone who criticises the object of their adoration.
7. He's made a career and a fortune out of stating the obvious. "Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient." Kahlil Gibran couldn't have put it better. Also, see next number.
8. "Stand up straight with your shoulders back." Really? Really? Tell that to James Dean. And Beethoven was notorious for slouching.
9. Apart from a couple of talkback caller-level gibes, most of what he says is inoffensive to the point of dullness. As controversialists go he's pretty bland.
10. At other times, however, the writing works itself up to fever pitch: "To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order."
11. Grandiloquent prose seems to be a pattern. The gig guide on his website promises a "return sojourn to the remainder of Europe" later this year.
12. "Humans diverged from lobsters" he has famously said. No they didn't. Any common ancestors we had diverged long before we could have the sort of relationship Petersen claims. It's part of his argument to justify elites – lobsters have hierarchies, and humans have hierarchies, therefore lobsters are human. Or something like that.
To simplify what's wrong with his claim: basically lobsters evolved from creature X and we evolved from creature Y. Creatures X and Y indeed had a common ancestor but the X & Y lines diverged* millions of years prior to our making an appearance. The idea that because something occurs in the animal kingdom it is legitimate for humans is a dangerous one. It would lead to chaos for which there is no antidote.
*In an interview widely available on YouTube, Peterson says we "divulged" from lobsters but that's just sad.