NOTE: The Omnivore isn't a Peterson expert--has never been to a lecture, and has only watched a bit of him on YouTube. If it weren't for a request, The Omnivore wouldn't have written this. That said, The Omnivore is never wrong so you can take this to the bank.
Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto. He first came on The Omnivore's radar for refusing to use people's "preferred pronouns." Over time, The Omnivore saw that he had written a self-help book that sold a bundle, and then became a cultural celebrity and thanks to YouTube and word of mouth.
The Text of Jordan Peterson
Jordan Peterson is selling two things--a text and a subtext. His text is that the human experience is a battle between order and chaos--interpreted as good and evil or value and waste. People who are having trouble in life are being overwhelmed by chaos and need to change the narrative of their life towards order.
This is done by some basic and good advice: stand up straight, clean your damn room, etc. The 12 Rules book that he sold is grounded on this good advice and Peterson is apparently an interesting writer leaning hard on Jungian philosophy and some unusual comparisons (even lobsters have hierarchies--used to make a case for hierarchies in real life).
As we know, today there a bunch of young people who have a deep sense of dissatisfaction with their lives and we can all agree they could stand to clean their fucking rooms. As Jordan's advice on this level is both pretty good and interestingly delivered this text is fine and people who are signing up for his teachings are probably getting good value for their attention.
The SubText of Jordan Peterson
The subtext, on the other hand is Jordan Peterson taking on The Left (or "the radical left" as he puts it). On this ground he has a general constellation of basic gripes about the concepts of systemic racism, intrinsic bias, and attempts to legally provide "equal access" (in his formulation that's "equality of outcome"--meaning the loser is turned into a winner).
He also has some leanings towards phrasing things in a way that is sometimes taken for misogyny (his NYT Interview he talks about the value of Enforced Monogamy--meaning societies that promote monogamy through cultural tropes--not societies that don't, for example, let women divorce).
The Omnivore is here to tell you that the "secret sauce" in Jordan Peterson's success isn't his text. There is no limit of good, solid advice that, if you take it, will turn your life around. Show up, chin up, try your best, clean your damn room, dress well, etc. That's not the mystery.
What is appealing about Jordan's product is that it is combined with an alight-right signal that, like VideoDrome, "does the damage."
Why Is This Successful?
The Omnivore is going to guess that the vast majority of Peterson's fans are young and white. The Omnivore is going to guess that most of them skew male. For these people they, like many today, are struggling economically and socially. Some of this is not their fault (we have created a world where you either start out with a college degree and prospects--and crushing debt, or no college degree and very few prospects). Some of this, however, is that modern young men have run into problems with dating and, enough of them have decided that the problem ain't them--it's women.
This core problem, spread across a vast swath of white-guy demographics has the hard-core incels on one end, the successful but awkward geek who thinks he deserves a 9-or-10 girl because of his stock options closer to the middle, and then goes to people who have a job and decent social skills--but are finding a lot more competition from either women in the workforce or minorities in the workforce / dating scene than they like.
Everyone has resentments--but the alt-righty signal that Peterson emits carries through deeply to these guys. They hear Enforced Monogamy and think that sounds like a bloody good idea. Didn't No-Fault Divorce (combined with contraception) ruin western culture?
They are told that the radical left is performing nefarious acts of subversion--maybe "Cultural Marxism" or the "Postmodern Agenda" (Peterson's preferred term, apparently) and it boils down to someone telling them that:
- They have it EASY FOR BEING WHITE MEN (fuck, no, they think: I can't get a date--I don't have it easy!)
- They should feel GUILTY FOR HAVING IT EASY (adding insult to injury here)
- They NEED TO PUT THOSE WOMEN AND FREAKS' WISHES FIRST (whether it be calling a guy by "her" or not calling people on the Call of Duty Server the N-word or hoes, these scolds are vicious and, if they could, would castrate them!)
There are a lot of voices out in society amplifying these signals--so if you get a taste of it--and you like it--you can easily slake your thirst for being the real victim here--and listening to the dapper professor stand tall against the forces of emasculation.
Do they know this is what's selling it to them? No. Probably not.
Is Jordan aware? Well, kind of. He talks in two modes. The first is the pretty reasonable guy. The second is "the far left is about to totally Stalin us--death camps, re-education. SNIP-SNIP!" He knows he can't do the latter too much--so it's the spice--and apparently his house is full of pictures of the Soviet revolution and shit--so maybe he gets off on the idea of fighting the leftist armies enough that he isn't fully aware of what he's doing (the more you are emotionally invested in a position, the less clearly you can usually see yourself with regards to it).
But whatever the case, know that Jordan is both giving good advice--and preaching some general culture-war bullshit to people who desperately want an enemy on the left to blame for their personal failures.
YES: The Omnivore realizes that the above is a complete oxymoron with respect to Jordan's teachings being counter victimization. It is like a Zen Koan. Mediate on it until you understand, son.