Vox Day vs. Jordan Peterson, a year later

A year ago when Vox Day began his crusade against Dr. Jordan Peterson, I predicted it would not be successful. Vox’s approach of writing a book, titled Jordanetics, to expose Dr. Peterson was likely doomed from the start. Although it has generated awareness and many people know the book exists, including even Dr. Peterson himself, Peterson’s popularity and reputation has not been hurt. It’s not to say the book does not make some good points, but it has not changed people’s opinions in a way that would make them want to disavow Dr. Peterson altogether.

Politics, but also PR, in general, is won by appeals of emotion instead of facts. You have to look at how political operatives work: they don’t try to expose their opponent’s intellectual shortcomings and inconsistencies but rather their moral and ethical ones. This is why politicians are done-in by scandals, because character is more important in the eyes of most voters than policy. It shouldn’t be this way, and it’s one of the downsides of democracy, but people are easily swayed by these things. Some examples include John Edward’s infidelity, Mitt Romney’s comment about the half of America not paying taxes, or Newt Gingrich consulting for the failed mortgage lender Freddie Mac. The revelation of Trump’s Access Hollywood tape was possibly the closest at any point during the general election of him losing, and it forced him to issue a rare apology. Jeb Bush being branded as ‘low energy’, although not a personal scandal, was a brilliant rhetorical move on Trump’s part, and instantly created a negative image in the minds of voters of Jeb’s lack of leadership ability.

One of the most valuable artifacts is Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester, which was purchased in 1993 for $30.8 million at Christie’s in New York, although it’s worth much more now. If tapes exist of Trump making a racial slur on one of his TV shows or a smoking gun linking Trump to supposed election fraud, such evidence would become the most the most valuable artifacts in existence. They would be worth probably a billion dollars each, which is the cost of a presidential campaign, except with victory virtually assured. I don’t think anything like that exists, but it shows the power of evidence that calls into doubt moral character, versus fact-checking, which by comparison is ineffective. In the final weeks of the 2016 election, when the polls began to turn around in Trump’s favor, the New York Times, the Hillary campaign, and the Washington Post were desperate for any shred of incriminating information from Trump’s personal and business life, combing through every document they could get their hands on in the hope of finding anything; they had given up on policy long ago.

To expose Dr. Peterson (or any person who has cultivated a cult-like following) would require uncovering something so awful about his personal life or practice (use your imagination) that it makes his followers not want anything to do with him, not because the badness of the act in and of itself, but what it says about the character of his followers by having anything to do with him. Thus, following him is to be seen as condoning this awful act.

Dr. Peterson addressing the criticism in Jordanetics makes his fans like him even more, because it shows intellectual humility, contrition, and objectivity on his part. Most of Jordan Peterson’s fans, many of whom are not devout Christians, are not going to care that much if his interpretation of the literalness of Christ is inconsistent with orthodoxy. Maybe a few will care, but not nearly enough to move the needle much. They don’t care if Dr. Peterson pretended to not know who Milo is, because although I agree with Vox that that it was an underhanded thing to do, it’s just not much of a moral oversight pretending to not know someone who is perceived by one’s own fans as being an extremist and not deserving of recognition. Same for the Faith Goldy de-platforming incident (which may not be Dr. Peterson’s fault as Vox claims it is); she is part off the out-group, so Dr. Peterson’s fans are not going to have much sympathy for her, nor feel any indignation against Dr. Peterson.