Peter Hitchens sparks row over Jordan Peterson ‘cult’
Writing on Twitter, Hitchens insisted Peterson, who shot to fame in 2016, has an obsessive following. Hitchens’ followers, many of whom backed Peterson, proceeded to exchange retorts with the Mail on Sunday columnist.
Clinical psychologist and lecturer Peterson was relatively unknown until his campaign against political correctness at his workplace, the University of Toronto, hit the headlines.
The professor uploaded videos in which he said he would not accept the Canadian government’s Bill C-16, which proposed including gender identity and orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act, thus making it illegal to discriminate based on outward expression of gender.
Peterson said he would not accept new terms like “ze” instead of he or she. With 150 million views on his videos and over 300,000 Twitter followers, the academic who described his thinking as “classic British liberal” has amassed a fan base which the combative Hitchens subsequently challenged.
Posting on Twitter, Hitchens dismissed Peterson’s followers, writing: “I am familiar with what appears to be a cult surrounding Jordan Peterson, and the more I am pestered about it, the more I ignore it.”
I am familiar with what appears to be a cult surrounding Jordan Peterson, and the more I am pestered about it, the more I ignore it. https://t.co/8DMraJzebV— Peter Hitchens (@ClarkeMicah) January 18, 2018
But for Hitchens, who himself calls out “politically correct fads,” there was no ignoring what followed.
It pains me to see an intelligent man shun another man simply because he is being over advertised. Peterson is amazing, give him a chance— Jonny Knight (@joniuk) January 19, 2018
Its not a cult. He's just an intelligent commentator who has fought an equally intelligent battle against the worst excesses of the left wingers in Canada. Also a defender of Christianity.....Peter!!!!— Dawsy 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@dawsy_h) January 18, 2018
Others said they were unashamed to be followers.
One said: “He is the kind of lecturer I remember and unfortunately now quite rare. Most just regurgitate whatever politically correct mantra is flavour of the month. You would benefit from a more open mind and less apathy.”
Though Hitchens, never shy of an argument didn't back down.
That is precisely why I do not claim it is a cult. I say that it *appears to be* one. I am not interested enough to pursue the matter. But the swarms of JBP supporters now surrounding me resemble new atheists and Big Dope propagandists in their angry fervour.— Peter Hitchens (@ClarkeMicah) January 18, 2018
Peterson has shot to fame in the UK thanks to a television interview with Channel 4 News’ Cathy Newman. In what has quickly become an infamous moment, the journalist was left speechless after clashing with Peterson for some 30 minutes, during which the psychologist disputed supposed myths around the gender pay gap, and challenged Newman’s beliefs on equality.
Newman put to Peterson that his right to free speech should not trump a person’s right to choose their gender, to which he responded: “In order to be able to think you have to risk being offensive. Look at the conversation we are having right now.
“You are certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth, why should you have the right to do that?
“It’s been rather uncomfortable.”
The exchange left the reporter speechless, before she said: “You got me.”
Peterson is currently promoting his new book, 12 Rules for Life. Writing in the Financial Times Julian Baggini wrote: “In headline form, most of his rules are simply timeless good sense... The problem is that when Peterson fleshes them out, they carry more flab than meat.”
Huge numbers turned out to see Peterson in London while other events were banned because of growing outrage over his views, leading his supporters to decry that Peterson’s freedom of speech was being curtailed.
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