In its Sunday opinion section, Berlingske ran a “debate interview” with Alex Vanopslagh, the chairman of Denmark’s libertarian Liberal Alliance party.
The first three sentences set the table:
On the bookshelf in Alex Vanopslagh’s office in Christiansborg stands a copy of a dangerous book.
A book whose author can get both (communist green party) Enhedslisten’s Pernille Skipper and a big part of the identity-politics left wing up in arms.
With his critiques of identity-politics, feminist victim narratives, and his consistent message about the necessity of self-discipline and responsibility for one’s own life, the conservative Canadian psychologist and so-called self-help guru Jordan Peterson is a hated figure in progressive circles.
We’re informed that Alex Vanopslagh doesn’t just have Jordan Peterson on his bookshelf: back in June of 2022, he attended a “controversial” dinner event with the man himself, along with numerous other Danish luminaries of divergent political backgrounds.
Berlingske calls it controversial without scare quotes, basing that assessment on two data points.
The first is Pernille Skipper’s reaction to news of the dinner having taken place: she shot out a tweet declaring:
This is fucking wild. Fanatic church holds a dinner for a notorious misogynist—and a minister, a party leader, a media boss, and a famous actor. In Denmark. Was it his suggestion of forced monogamy as a solution to wife-killings you wanted to hear more about?!
Skipper’s tweet is pretty “fucking wild” in its own right, in that she’s clearly attacking Jordan Peterson from a perspective of total ignorance.
The second data point is that the aforementioned dinner party “prompted Zetland editor-in-chief Lea Korsgaard to elaborate on the background for her participation in a dinner with a ‘dangerous man with dangerous thoughts’.”
“A dangerous man with dangerous thoughts” isn’t a phrase Korsgaard herself used in her own article.
On the contrary, it’s a phrase she herself used to describe how others—like Pernille Skipper—view Peterson:
To some, Jordan B. Peterson is known as former-star-professor-now-YouTube-celebrity, the man behind the self-help bestseller 12 Rules for Life, and one of the leading conservative voices in the West’s fierce culture war with itself, if not—as he has been called in The New York Times—”the most influential intellectual in the Western world right now.” To others, he will be known as a dangerous man with dangerous thoughts.
Korsgaard’s article is genuinely fair and balanced: she describes how she wrangled an invitation to the dinner and why she chose to attend. She describes what she perceived to be Peterson’s strong points (his calls for self-reliance) and his weak points (an all-meat diet that he’s chosen for himself and which she fears his followers may emulate).
She’s also appalled by his position on the climate, one he shares with Danish scientist and internationally renowned “climate skeptic” Bjorn Lomborg, who also happened to be a guest at this controversial dinner.
Korsgaard shares her feelings about Peterson very freely in the closing paragraphs of the article. After citing a bit from the conservative manifesto in which he wrote that “The will to reach out in good faith across race, gender, economic class, and political temperament is … the very embodiment of truth,” she lays it all out there:
I like Jordan B. Peterson when he writes like this. I don’t like it when in his videos and in his talks he says things like that in a way that makes it sound like it’s mostly everyone else, and especially those on the left, who need to do better listening. I find Jordan B. Peterson’s denial of the climate crisis reprehensible. I find his description of how responsibility is loaded with meaning beautiful, if not exactly true. I think it’s great that he gets young men, especially, to read and seek knowledge, to take their lives seriously. I find it insanely provocative that he’s chosen the day the birth control pill was introduced as the start date of “the demoralization of the West,” and do not agree with his view of women. I’m also not much for looking for simple answers in the world of the lobster to complex questions in human culture. I know that most doctors in their right mind would call the meat diet a serious health risk. I think Jordan B. Peterson’s idea that today it is freedom—not obligations—that makes us mentally ill is important and worth talking about more.
Do you have to vouch for everything a person thinks, says, and does in order to have dinner with that person? Apparently yes, if random types on Twitter and their rants are to be believed. My table would be empty if that were the case. There would be days when I couldn’t even share a bite of food with myself. There would be a culture that collapsed because no one tried to look for the truth alongside those whose visions they didn’t share.
Just as Korsgaard doesn’t agree with everything Peterson says (or her interpretations of what he says), I myself don’t agree with everything Korsgaard says about him. But we’re clearly in agreement that the pursuit of truth requires some intellectual friction.
The comment thread to Korsgaard’s article is interesting in that it’s very clearly divided into two camps: those expressing admiration for Peterson (including many who share the author’s reservations about some of his ideas), and those who seem to share the belief that he is indeed a dangerous man with dangerous ideas. The former outnumber the latter, which I find encouraging, but the question remains: what’s so dangerous about Jordan Peterson?
It’s not a new question.
How dangerous is Jordan B Peterson, the rightwing professor who “hit a hornets’ nest?”
The Guardian, 7 Feb 2018
What’s so Dangerous About Jordan Peterson?
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 17 Jan 2018
Biased Objectivity: Why Jordan B. Peterson, Right Wing Professor, is Dangerous
The Teen Mag, 24 Apr 2017
HOW DANGEROUS IS JORDAN PETERSON?
Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 10 Oct 2018
Self-styled self-help guru Jordan Peterson is a dangerous thug
Crikey, 7 Jun 2021
Back around the time when the organism of the establishment press was just beginning to formulate its proper collective response to the invading virus it perceived in Peterson, I was watching old videos of his college lectures on—well, everything. Mostly I remember them as an examination of the universal psychological impulses out of which humanity crafted its religions, its religious texts, and its religious imagery. It was sober, rational, and deeply interesting stuff (for me). I didn’t find it controversial or political in the least.
I’ve followed his development into a one-man global intellectual superpower ever since, and at this point I agree with the “random crazies on Twitter.” I, too, believe that Jordan B. Peterson is a dangerous man with dangerous ideas.
And thank God for that!
Peterson is a danger to the Marxists, the green hysterics, and the global leftist establishment (the GLOB) because his ideas are dangerous to their own. As they continue their push for collectivism, identitarianism, and green societal suicide, Peterson is the foremost intellectual standing against them.
“Understand biological reality, because it cannot be negotiated away. Take ownership of your life. Be responsible and accountable. Be honest with yourself and others. Don’t blame others for your own failures.”
Anyone frightened by such simple and sensible guidelines deserves to be frightened.
I can’t think of a single living person, with the possible exception of the venerable Thomas Sowell, whose ideas are more important to the citizens of the western world right now. Peterson’s ideas, like Sowell’s, are an invaluable innoculation against the collectivism being pushed by the political, cultural, and academic establishment of almost every western nation.
It was the quest for ever more individual liberty and autonomy that built western civilization: it is the push to reverse that trend that is now its greatest peril—the push to move the locus of power from the individual to the state, to roll back freedoms of speech and assembly, to enforce equality of condition rather than equality of opportunity. To make skin color, sex, and sexuality determinant instead of irrelevant.
We can defeat Russia. We can defeat the CCP. But none of that will matter if we first defeat ourselves.
So Jordan Peterson is indeed a dangerous man with dangerous ideas.
Here’s hoping he inspires even more.