The PC Game: U of T’s Jordan Peterson and the war on progressives

I probably won’t be the first person to tell you about Jordan Peterson, the U of T professor who has been in the news lately for his refusal to use gender neutral pronouns in the classroom. With his protest, Peterson has become the latest brave soul to step out against the “PC culture” running amok on university campuses across Canada. Of course, he’s doing it by disenfranchising an already marginalized minority group of students who are susceptible to feeling depersonalized and victimized, but he’s a brave man.

While his defendants claim that Peterson’s  protest isn’t really about gender neutral pronouns, but instead the proposed federal Bill C-16 – a bill that would make gender-based discrimination a hate crime – the reason for his protest doesn’t really matter.

Screenshot from Jordan Peterson's YouTube channel. He launched a game called “PC Pokemon.” In a rambling, 21-minute-long intro video, filmed from an unflattering angle in his grown-up neckbeard nest, he explains the game’s purpose of defeating players of the “PC game.”

Screenshot from Jordan Peterson's YouTube channel. He launched a game called “PC Pokemon.” In a rambling, 21-minute-long intro video, filmed from an unflattering angle in his grown-up neckbeard nest, he explains the game’s purpose of defeating players of the “PC game.”

There seems to be a growing contingent of people like Peterson who also feel that millennials are too sensitive, too entitled, and too fragile for the rigours of academia and the real world that follows. I would argue that by requesting trigger warnings, safe spaces, and inclusive syllabi, students have not been coddled, but instead have fought to claw back historical white male privilege in academia. That’s entirely positive progress, not a dangerous step back as Peterson would argue. I’m in my sixth year of studies (quick sorry to my parents) at Mount Royal University – otherwise known as the epicentre of Hatgate 2016 – and I would like to tell you that Jordan Peterson, and anyone else that claims “Politically Correct (PC) culture” has gone too far, is a top-notch asshole.

Often people in privileged positions insist that everything in an academic institution should be up for debate, all voices should be equal, and all opinions need to be heard. You often see it paraded as egalitarianism, but really it’s just people who don’t want to admit systemic disadvantages that exist in the capitalist world we live in. It’s like being an all lives matter supporter, it avoids looking at actual issues that exist in the system. It’s just a distraction that hopes to appease minority groups without solving any of the issues they have. Until we let minority groups have a turn to lead the discussion, PC values will remain important.

This is where I really take issue with Peterson and similar people hand-wringing over the importance of free speech, it’s often just a thinly-veiled excuse to maintain the status quo, hegemonic hivemind, and it often comes at the expense of minority groups. In this case it’s non-binary, non-conforming, or transgender students that already fight an uphill cultural battle for acceptance. Mr. Peterson wants to make his protest solely about vague language contained in Bill C-16, but to use students as a pawn for his message is cowardly and downright shameful.

Luckily, the backlash has been swift and quite wide-ranging, with students gathering for counter-protest and even some faculty speaking out. Still, Peterson refuses to back down from his protest. In fact, he seems to have doubled down on combating what he calls “radical leftists,” and he seems to have quite a bit of support.

He’s now taken to his YouTube channel to launch a fun game called “PC Pokemon.” In a rambling, 21-minute-long intro video, filmed from an unflattering angle in his grown-up neckbeard nest, he explains the game’s purpose of defeating players of the “PC game.” I wouldn’t recommend watching the video, instead I watched it for you and it felt like I was being virtually trepanned by boredom. Luckily for you, my masochistic tendencies are quite strong, so 50 minutes, five breaks, and three beers later, I can report back with the contents of the video.

The “PC game,” for those not in the know, are people (read: entitled millennials, progressives, etc.) who act like a victim anytime they perceive themselves to be oppressed. It’s the classic bootstrap rhetoric that is loved by “self-made” individualists occupying the right wing political landscape.

Peterson details the players of the “PC game” with 8 steps that essentially boil down to the classic remarks made at the expense of lazy millennials, “SJW’s,” and anyone else that dares fight for a more inclusive academic environment, or y’know, not being a wage slave for the rest of their life. Peterson then goes on to channel his inner Alex Jones, claiming that activist-trained “PC types” have infiltrated the highest echelons of academia, in turn forcing his roguish, Randian individualism to be quashed by a radical fringe of people looking for basic human decency. He blames this on, direct quote here, “radical left-leaning departments, and those would be the women studies departments, and those sorts of places.” And of course, he claims that by stifling free speech, SJWs are going to awaken a violent beast inside the right wing that will take violent measures to fight back.

Peterson’s arguments epitomize neo-liberal waffling. He tells transgender and non-binary people that Bill C-16 won’t help them, that society isn’t ready for this change, and they should just wait. It’s like having an annoying friend that responds to all invites with “maybe,” but they never actually consider coming out. It would just make everyone’s life easier if they stood up and actually said “no.” If all marginalized groups sat on their hands and waited for society to figure itself out, I doubt any societal progress would ever get made. Ultimately, that’s why the players of the “PC game” are so frightening to Peterson and the ten-thousand people who’ve watched his video, they’re sick of his shit.

Confusingly though, Peterson’s plan to fight back the players of this “PC game,” that he actually calls “insurgents” at one point, essentially equates to putting stickers he’s selling on Ebay on any posters advocating a progressive viewpoint.

Really Jordan? That’s your big solution to SJWs? A bunch of stickers you made in five minutes in Photoshop? If I knew that was all it took to stop an ideological movement, I would’ve made anti-Trump stickers 8 months ago! As if rhetoric against progressives wasn’t already strong enough in Alberta, now I’m going to have to deal with a bunch of individualist knobs running around putting ugly stickers on anything they deem too “PC.” Great.

At least the video features around a minute of instructions on how to use stickers, in case you didn’t already know. I think it’s supposed to be funny, but Peterson has the personality of a used condom and it just comes off as more cringey than anything. Sadly, that is much more preferable than when his video gets down right scary. That’s what happens when he explains his view of “PC culture.”

“You want to continue to let the ‘PC game’ poster continue to broadcast its evil message, but you want to register your opposition, and more importantly you want to show that someone is paying attention.  I don’t think people who are playing these games are particularly brave, so I think if proper attention is called to what they’re doing they might wander back into the darkness that initially spawned them.”

If there was any doubt how Mr. Peterson really felt about the students asking him to use their pronouns, or of progressives in general, saying that he wants them to go back to “the darkness that spawned them” clears it all right up. This isn’t an uncommon view at all, but that doesn’t mean it’s any more correct just because it’s more popular. This is reactionary ideology at it’s finest, but I remain optimistic that humanity, and academic institutions will continue to step towards an inclusive society.

As for Mr. Peterson, in a recent interview with CBC’s Carol Off, he argues that he’s not a bigot, and maybe he’s right. He might be a great guy who I’ve totally misunderstood, but unfortunately for him I tend to think that if you walk like a bigot, talk like a bigot, and refuse to identify marginalized students like a bigot, chances are, you’re a bigot.

 

Editor: Robyn Welsh, robyn@vamp.media