Heard of Jordan Peterson? If not, it seems inevitable that will happen soon, given his viral videos and headlines referring to the "Jordan Peterson Moment" and the "Jordan Peterson Phenomenon." Peterson is a 55-year-old psychologist at the University of Toronto whose latest book, 12 Rules for Life, has become an international best-seller. In fact, Peterson has managed to become "one of the most influential—and polarizing—public intellectuals in the English-speaking world," writes Kelefa Sanneh in the New Yorker. Some basics about him:
- A theme, and critique: Peterson "delivers stern fatherly lectures to young men on how to be honorable, upright, and self-disciplined—how to grow up and take responsibility for their own lives," writes David Brooks in the New York Times. The message has found an audience, though Brooks says it "sounds to me like vague exhortatory banality." Peterson's "recipe for self-improvement is solitary, nonrelational, unemotional," and Brooks thinks "the lives of young men can be improved more through loving attachment than through Peterson's joyless and graceless calls to self-sacrifice."
- The interview: Virtually every story about Peterson refers to this interview of him by Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News in Britain earlier this year. In it, he defends his view that men need to "grow the hell up," and the gist of much commentary is that Peterson came up against a hostile interviewer and won convincingly. At the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf has a detailed critique, faulting Newman for trying to "put words into the academic's mouth."