Self-Help Guru Jordan Peterson Can’t Help Himself

When the barrel of own responsibility backfires.

When Jordan Peterson first entered the realm of mainstream recognition, none would know just how much his literature would become influential to directionless men looking for guidance. If vapid, Peterson’s words found themselves an audience where the well-being of men — supposedly taking a backseat to demands of quelling toxic masculinity — took centerstage, as simultaneously a way to hold themselves accountable for personal failings, and a good excuse to further deepen Peterson’s own treasury.

Recently though, the tables seem to have turned against Peterson’s brand of self-accountability. Dealing with his wife’s numerous health issues — among which is a cancer diagnosis — Peterson hooked himself on the addictive anti-anxiety drug clonazepam, and has now checked himself into a rehab facility in New York after he couldn’t cope with severe withdrawal symptoms, said his daughter Mikhaila in a recent YouTube video.

The circumstances for Peterson’s battle with addiction are unfortunate, which is why it is important to put the emphasis on his frequent patronizing tone when addressing men battling depression, nudging them to instigate an initiative of self-reform, all-the-while blaming those whom’s men’s misfortune had nothing to do with–feminists, advocates of progressive economic and social policy, and the like. Peterson couldn’t deal with the fallout of his wife’s cancer diagnosis without resorting to medication, proving that externalities can overpower a person’s own will no matter how firm, despite Peterson’s claim to the contrary.

Bari Weiss characterized the Intellectual Dark Web — who Jordan Peterson is a part of — as an outcast of thinkers whose affinity for the fringe of stances is somehow untolerated due to an innate disagreement with their ideas–time and time again however, proponents of this group find themselves struggling under the crushing weight of a realization that even their idols cannot live up to their purported ideals. Peterson who purged any trace of green in his own diet said that it completely upended his mental woes on the Joe Rogan podcast, a year later, that claim warrants harsh scrutiny. The only two logical conclusions to make up from the failure of his meat-savvy diet are either Jordan Peterson was not fully forthcoming about his struggle with anxiety, or that the claim he made was bogus from the start–no matter what, this puts an even deeper dent into Peterson’s idea of only relying on self-instigated change to solve a problematic externality.

That Jordan Peterson found himself in a position where he’s acting as right-wing men’s own self-help coach was a bit of an accident. The roaring dragon of uttermost chaos made his objection clear to Canada’s Bill C-16 — which protected gender identity and expression under discrimination law — only to then suddenly find himself midst a culture war where a group of intellectuals made the case for why the pursuit of progressive reform is eroding each and every foundation of Western civilization, with the other side claiming it is but a thin veil for an elaborate grifting scheme. The latter turned out to be a more accurate assessment of the situation given that Peterson made up to $67,000 a month from Patreon prior to leaving the platform according to a generous estimate.

How did Peterson come to amass such a following? A lot of it has to do with a foundational set of ideas published in his book “12 Rules for Life”. While Peterson’s international best-seller remains a point of pride for his fanbase, critics have emphasized how so much of its power hinges on vagueness, and intentionally-obtuse interpretations of widely-accepted common phenomena. Editor of Current Affairs Nathan J Robinson didn’t mince the slightest about Peterson’s convolutions, saying that it’s “a tactic for badgering readers into deference to the writer’s authority.” Robinson further explains that readers correlate their inability to understand the text as definitive proof Peterson comes from a place of wisdom: “Nobody can be sure they are comprehending the author’s meaning, which has the effect of making the reader feel deeply inferior and in awe of the writer’s towering knowledge, knowledge that must exist on a level so much higher than that of ordinary mortals that we are incapable of even beginning to appreciate it.”

Part of Peterson’s allure also comes from the massive area of ideological overlap he strikes when he simultaneously says that white men have a greater urge to act upon their inner angst, just as he blames the political left for not reaching out, feminism for short-circuiting a lengthy process of social convalescence, and chalking up their issues to some form of self-bred toxic masculinity. Among other conceits, Peterson made the claim that “violent attacks are what happens when men do not have partners […] and society needs to work to make sure those men are married.” Professor of philosophy at Cornell University Kate Manne made the contrary case, arguing that “the sexism on display […] is one tool among many to make forceful, domineering moves that are typical of misogyny,” further adding that “Peterson is very close-mouthed about the prevalence of domestic violence, marital rape, and intimate partner homicide in the context of the idea of enforced monogamy.”

Refuting Peterson’s claims then wouldn’t seem much of a problem given how much of his ideas rely on a confluence of intentional vagueness meets factually incorrect assessments of the social order–however, that doesn’t seem to be much of a deterrent for a new generation of right-wing extremists for whom Peterson’s working theory of white male angst is an excuse to pick up a gun, and shed innocent life.

The ideal course for Jordan Peterson coming out of rehab would be to urge his followers to adopt a more charitable view of the subjects he so demeaned based on a failure of the social order to protect them–after all, he’s as a victim of the opioid crisis as those he tasked firstmost with self-reform. But given the controversial figure had plenty of time to atone for inspiring the hateful acts of right-wing extremists, and didn’t do so, chances are he’ll continue business as usual, with his fans denying his fallibility just as hard as they do for his intellectual impotency.