Jordan Peterson: Who is the professor whose interview with Cathy Newman sparked online abuse?

Self-described cultural critic attracted devout following in 2016 for his anti-political correctness videos

Lucy Pasha-Robinson@lucypasha
Saturday 20 January 2018 19:41
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Jordan Peterson leaves Cathy Newman speechless in debate on transgender rights

Jordan Peterson has become something of an internet celebrity in recent years.

The clinical psychologist was relatively unknown outside of his field until 2016 when his profile exploded.

Since then, he has attracted a slew of predominantly young, male followers who credit his no-nonsense, “anti-snowflake” advice for helping them turn their lives around.

This week, his name made headlines around the world after a combative interview with Channel 4’s Cathy Newman forced the channel to seek “security advice” after she was hit with a torrent of misogynistic abuse.

But who is the Canadian professor turned self-help guru?

The 55-year-old is a University of Toronto professor of psychology and opponent of political correctness.

The self-described cultural critic became the subject of sustained media attention in 2016 after uploading a series of videos criticising the Canadian government’s Bill C-16.

The bill proposed including gender identity and orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act, making it illegal to discriminate based on outward expression of gender.

But Peterson argued the bill was in direct opposition to free speech and said he would refuse to use gender-neutral pronouns if requested by a non-binary student.

He later clarified he would not use new, neutral pronouns like “ze” but did not object to addressing trans people by their preferred traditional pronoun, the BBC reported.

His YouTube channel hosts a slew of other videos, including criticism of identity politics, postmodern feminism and the ideology of white privilege.

Other videos praise the power of mythology and the bible and the sanctity of marriage.

Peterson’s videos have clocked up 150 million views and he has over 300,000 Twitter followers.

He is currently on tour promoting his new book, 12 Rules for Life. Events in London drew large crowds but elsewhere, venues have cancelled appearances at short notice due to opposition.

What are his beliefs?

He describes his views as “classic British liberal…temperamentally I am high on openness which tilts me to the left, although I am also conscientious which tilts me to the right. Philosophically I am an individualist, not a collectivist of the right or the left. Metaphysically I am an American pragmatist who has been strongly influenced by the psychoanalytic and clinical thinking of Freud and Jung,” according to the Guardian.

Why is he so controversial?

Critics have accused Peterson of being a ”provocateur”, a member of the “alt-right” and a transphobe, labels he has shunned on multiple occasions. He has also been called the “stupid man’s smart person”.

He has criticised “political correctness” relating to topics including transgender rights, cultural appropriation, and environmentalism. He has also expressed views that social justice activism is really an authoritarian movement in disguise.

Peterson has also been criticised for not calling off his fanbase when they “hound” opponents with online abuse.

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