Jordan Peterson, transphobia
Today I would like to write a short, investigative thread which uses my first-hand knowledge of the academic world in order to answer one simple question: Who is Jordan Peterson, and where did he get where he is?
We all know, of course, who Jordan Peterson is. A reactionary transphobe and crypto-evangelical preacher for the internet age. But it seems to me that, even the most critical analyses of him and his work neglects to mention how he got where he is.
My argument will be a simple one: Jordan Peterson is the single best example we have of a white man failing his way to success. The extent to which his personal connections have been a factor in his professional and public attainment cannot be exaggerated.
The first thing anyone says about him is that he is a professor at the University of Toronto. The assumption is that he got there by working hard and producing good work, like every other academic. This is not the case.
In a 2018 article for The Star, Bernard Schiff, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, admitted that he is singlehandedly responsible for getting Peterson his professorship. In his article, Schiff writes:
'Several committee members now remind me that they agreed to hire him because they were “tired of hearing me shout over them.”'
This is an open admission that he, a powerful white man, singlehandedly used his academic influence to get his friend appointed professor.
Professorship and tenure are the holy grails of the academic profession. If you have them, you've truly "made it". And Peterson, with nothing other than one unbelievably bad book under his belt, had made it. But this was not enough. Naturally, you would expect him to use this incredibly privileged position as a launchpad for the international phase of his career. But even this was too challenging: Peterson still needed help from his influential friends.
This is where the debate between him and Slavoj Žižek comes in. Compared to Peterson, Žižek's pedigree is without question. Most people have forgotten about it now, but there was a time, following the publication of The Sublime Object Of Ideology, when Žižek was held in the same regard as Judith Butler or Ernesto Laclau. Suffice to say, Žižek earned his stripes. Peterson never did. So how did the two come to share a stage in Toronto?
Peterson challenged Žižek more than a year before their debate took place. But few commentators have picked up on who the official organisers of the debate were: a mysterious organisation under the name of Ralston College.
What, I hear you ask, is Ralston College? Well, technically speaking, Ralston College does not exist. This is where things get interesting.
Ralston College is supposed to be an opening-soon institute of higher education in Savannah. Its stated purpose is to combat the "rampant politicization" and "oppressive speech codes" of established universities. Its slogan, "sermo liber vita ipsa", means "free speech is life" in Latin. I am not joking.
The president of Ralston College is Stephen Blackwood, the quiet young man who moderated the Person-Žižek debate.
The only other notable thing Blackwood has done with his life, is moderate a debate between Peterson and fellow reactionary Roger Scruton, this time in Cambridge University. These two events, Peterson-Žižek and Peterson-Scruton, are the only two things that Ralston College has, to this day, actually done.
The next question is: why am I talking about Ralston College in the first place, if this institution does not even exist?
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