An attack on Jordan Peterson by a former friend
Furious denunciations of Jordan Peterson from the Left are a dime a dozen but there is a more reasoned article here by BERNARD SCHIFF, an old associate of Jordan Peterson which has a serious claim to uncover Peterson's feet of clay. His obviously intimate and long term association with Peterson gives his words some claim to authority.
I am not going to attempt a systematic reply to the article. That would be absurd when Peterson himself is far better placed to do that. So I just want to offer a few notes:
Some of the accusations Prof. Schiff makes are serious ones. He actually hints that Peterdson is behaving like a Fascist dictator. But his principal claim is that Peterson is not a systematic thinker and that he therefore is prone to serious self-contradictions and inconsistencies.
But his own knowledge of the sort of things that Peterson discusses looks very shallow at times. I was amused that he repeats the ignorant Leftist accusation that HUAC and Joe McCarthy were somehow one and the same. He says:
"In the 1950s a vicious attack on freedom of speech and thought occurred in the United States at the hands of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee".
How a Senator could be part of a House committee is an abiding mystery and yet to conflate the two is a common Leftist mistake that shows how utterly shallow and unscholarly Leftist thought usually is. HUAC was a Democrat creature established in 1938 which ran to 1975. It was initially chaired by Martin Dies Jr. (D-Tex.). McCarthy was active from about 1950 to 1954 and had no association with HUAC.
Another accusatory paragraph from Prof. Schiff:
Jordan has a complex relationship to freedom of speech. He wants to effectively silence those left-wing professors by keeping students away from their courses because the students may one day become “anarchical social revolutionaries” who may bring upon us disruption and violence. At the same time he was advocating cutting funds to universities that did not protect free speech on their campuses. He defended the rights of “alt right” voices to speak at universities even though their presence has given rise to disruption and violence. For Jordan, it appears, not all speech is equal, and not all disruption and violence are equal, either.
That is a fairly absurd paragraph in several ways. It's hard to believe but Schiff really is saying that the Alt-Right should not be heard because that provokes Leftists to attack them! Prof. Schiff admits to being a Leftist but that is singularly one-eyed for a Leftist academic. You could justify the Nazi attacks on Catholics with that sort of argument. "He who controls the Streets is the only one with any right to be heard" is the underlying argument.
And what about Peterson's wish to de-politicize academe is inimical to free speech? It is an argument about keeping politics out of a certain venue, not an aim to completely muzzle one kind of speech -- which is what Leftists aim to do when they ban or obstruct conservative speakers from campus. Peterson is consistently defending free speech, on campus or off.
And Prof. Schiff's other arguments are of that sort. He sees things from a completely Leftist perspective, with all the limitations that entails, where a broader perspective would see Peterson's ideas as quite reasonable, defensible and consistent. Schiff is simply objecting to Peterson's conservatism, nothing more. Any competent conservative writer could show that Peterson's arguments are not inchoate, inconsistent or unreasonable -- JR