By Collin Wynter
Dr Jordan Peterson has weathered his fair share of controversy over the years. Whether it be to stand up against compelled speech in Canada, defend against misrepresentations of his work, or to put a journalist in their place, he has done so with a degree of integrity that is hard to come by these days. He has written three books so far and has authored more than a hundred peer reviewed articles. His seminal work, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (1999), explores the truth of narrative and its underpinning to human psychology. He followed this with two popular books, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018) and Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life (2021). The release of the former book launched him into a world wide speaking tour. He sold out stadiums and spoke publicly in over 150 engagements. His written work, along with hisYouTube channel andwebsite which hosts several years of complete lectures, interviews, snippets- and now a podcast– has garnered millions upon millions of views. His followers span the globe. As do his critics. As important as it is to criticize a work, it is even more important to bother to read it. It is acceptable to misunderstand a work. It is not acceptable to misrepresent it.
Peterson’s work, and himself personally, have been attacked on fallacious grounds on multiple occasions. He has been confronted by hostile journalists, Canadian senators, in public and in print. But who would have thought the latest attack would come from Marvel, a comic book publisher? But that is exactly what has happened, thanks to Ta-Nehisi Coates, writer for Black Panther, and now, Captain America comics. It is in Captain America where we see a deliberate attempt to vilify Peterson’s concepts.
Just a quick refresher. Captain America is a character in Marvel comics that fought the Nazis. He was frozen in time and was awakened in the ‘current’ day. He is meant to be the embodiment of America. Fighter for justice and freedom. Leader of the Avengers. He who does what is right. He fights against the Red Skull, a Nazi and represents everything that America is against. And it is to the Red Skull, that Coates attributes Peterson’s work. Thereby implicitly stating that his work is to be considered something so vile, that only Nazis would dream of it having ay value.
In one panel of the comic, Coates depicts Red Skull along side captions including: “10 Rules for Life” and “Order and Chaos” (obvious likening to Peterson’s work); as well as a caption: “Karl Leuger’s Genius” (whose anti-semitism may have been a blue print for Hitler’s Nazism). From this depiction alone you can see the obvious: Peterson’s work is to be seen as a blueprint for evil. But it does not stop there.
In another part of the comic Captain America admonishes young men who are attracted to Red Skull (ie: Peterson’s work) as actually being “weak”, having the audacity to look “for purpose” and shockingly told they are “secretly great”. By falling for these tropes, these men will become fanatics and will “fight back” and even “die for” them. As you may guess, Peterson is none too keen on the maligning of his work:
“Do I really live in a universe where Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a Captain America comic featuring a parody of my ideas as part of the philosophy of the arch villain red Skull?”
Oh, but he does. In fact, we all do. And it’s terrifying.
Instead of being fair with Peterson’s work and providing a critical, professional analysis, Coates circumscribes that debate. He uses the comic book to proliferate a fraudulent conception Peterson’s views. To do so on social media is one thing. To do so using a publishing company that is geared toward youth is completely another. One data set states: 86% of readership is 0-14. However, this is indicative of the ‘Left’, otherwise known as the woke. These tactics include inculcating children into their ideology. In fact, it should be considered a primary goal. It is widely documented that the school system, kid’s televisionand kid’s books are diminishing the sense of the individual in favour of socialized identity.
Peterson has explained on multiple occasions, in his written work, online lectures, public talks, and in interviews, that he has studied totalitarianism for most of his adult life. A desire was to understand why reasonable persons can commit acts of atrocity. This is why he speaks to young men (and women) about developing a sense of self. A strong sense of self is the bulwark against indoctrination.
So, why would Coates, an author himself, a peer, someone who possibly had his own ideas misrepresented, endeavour to poison the well for Peterson? Was this simply trying to garner attention? Alas, it probably is not so. Looking back to a conversation Coates had with John McWhorter on BloggingHeadsTv (Dec 20, 2017) provides some clarification as to Coates’s motivations.
The conversation was to be about criticism of McWhorter’s work All About The Beat (2008). I will not go into the details of the discussion. Instead I will focus on what sparked the exchange.
In the podcast, after sharing some pleasantries, McWhorter points out Coates called him a bully on social media. “You think I’m a bully, explain”, McWhorter said. Coates not having reviewed his post, was not familiar with the “context”, and requested McWhorter to reanimate his memory.
Apparently Coates considered McWhorter to be dismissive of HipHop culture as being a valid medium for intellectual discourse; That McWhorter was speaking to white folks; And that he was not presenting the other side of the story. I encourage you to listen to the discussion below
Note how Coates used social media to disseminate a perception about McWhorter’s ideas without discussing them with McWhorter first? Everyone is welcome to their own opinion. But where does opinion and professional criticism blur? They are not mutually exclusive. I will mention that Coates does apologize. But damage to McWhorter’s reputation had already been accomplished.
Why would Coates behave in such a manner as to defame peers instead of providing an intellectually honest critique? This seems to be an act of damaging ones own reputation as a reliable source of criticism. The woke ideology he reveres may be interfering with what was once considered professional courtesy.
As Gad Saad, author of the Parasitic Mind(2020), states clearly:
“Once these mind viruses [woke ideology] take hold of one’s neural circuitry, the afflicted person loses the ability to use reason, logic and science to navigate the world.” (p20)
To my knowledge, Peterson has not requested a retraction of the comic book, but even if he did so, the damage has already been done. Just like in McWhorter’s case, Coates disseminates attacks without first discussing his concerns with the author of the work he is drawing into contention. The comic has been distributed and many thousands(?) of copies are in the public sphere. It would be impossible to have them all returned. If any. Perhaps given to the nonpareil of his topic, or perhaps to his extensive clinical practice, or perhaps to decades of lecturing, Peterson appears to have chosen a magnanimous approach to this situation.
At first, Peterson’s reaction was, “[w]hat the hell?”, but it quickly turned about face, as memes exploded on Twitter. The absurdity of comparing Peterson’s ideas to Red Skull became a fun game. Peterson owned the memes and shared them with his followers. An over dubbed clip of a Captain America movie appeared. My personal favourite is the animated short of Marvel heroes attacking Red Skull only to find out his ideas are not bad, but in fact extremely useful (Red Skull being voiced by ‘Peterson’s ideas’).
One follower recommend Peterson create some march with the Red Skull memes. Although it does not appear that he has done this (very wise- copyright!) he has created merch with a lobster logo which he found via Twitter (who said social media was useless waste of time?).
For those of you who do not know, Peterson used the biology of the lobster to discuss natural animal group hierarchies (please review his work for details, as this does not give it justice). Just to note, this concept, too, has been mocked by some ‘elite’ professionals.
The idea of merch and the logo of the lobster culminated in over than 50k in 24 hours (And of of this date May 17, 2021 reached over 100k). “All going to charity,” his daughter Mikhaila Peterson tweeted out. Generosity in the face of conflict. Can there be anything more magnanimous?
This whole scenario is a shining example of Peterson’s work. How to face the trials and tribulations of life while maintaining a sense of decorum. I recommend his work for any individual willing to learn with an open mind. Even Ta-Nehisi Coates. Especially. You may not necessarily agree with everything he writes, and that is important. To blindly follow along with anyone is to place yourself at their mercy. And many have no mercy to show.
It will be interesting to see if Coates will apologize. Perhaps he will try to spin this as to helping benefit the charitable giving? If my words seem unkind or perhaps unfair, I am happy to repudiate everything I say when I see the change in behaviour. But to use comic books to malign Peterson, a Canadian, with Marvel whom I was a fan of, with ideas that are actually benefiting many people, seems unconscionable to me.To disagree in debate is acceptable. To sideline someone makes one question their integrity.
Should Coates should be removed from Marvel? Will he receive any sort of reprimand for his assassination attempt? Will he be put through the ringer on social media and cancelled? Will the story arch allow for redemption? Doubtful. It is a recurring theme in the pop culture sphere, that when explicit immoral woke ideology in action is caught red handed, the’ Left’ will not talk about it or admit any wrong doing. I have not heard of any comeuppance at this point.
Instead, they seemed to ignore it and pretend like it never happened. Thinking how to be more subtle next time. Or perhaps hopping that their ideas take root at a younger age. Using comic books to influence youth and to malign people’s work should be considered libel. Are there any superheroes at Marvel who will stand up to this villainy?
If you need some inspiration, take it from Peterson. He truly is a superhero. But unlike the drawn figure, he is superhero come to life. Moral courage, intellectual fortitude, and quick wit. He absorbs all that is thrown at him. He has a super human desire to do what is right, to stand up and speak out against what is wrong.