This, by Adam Ramsay in Opendemocracy, is magnificent. It’s about toxic masculinity, male depression and the siren call of bad actors, and it’s endlessly quotable:
The event was a sort of rally for far Right forces hoping to storm the European elections. But the combination of speakers seemed a bit incongruous: Catholic bishops and alt-Right YouTube stars; Italian far Right politicians and American evangelical pastors. While most started their speeches by announcing the enormous number of children they had fathered – as though success comes with the capacity to ejaculate – they were otherwise an odd mix.
It also heaps deserved derision on Jordan Peterson.
[we] watched in horror as the alt-Right Canadian psychology professor conquered YouTube. Like an addictive substance, he lured depressed young men back to the toxic behaviours and power hierarchies which crushed their souls. And he won fame.
…He encourages fans to accept their place in a world where we almost all suffer from collective and unconscious racism, sexism and snobbery, rather than seeking to change it.
Grifters’ amplification of toxic masculinity is a key factor in the rise of the far right.
The attraction of these movements shouldn’t be surprising. If you are the sort of person who is accustomed to being given power by social hierarchies – white, male, straight – then those who tell you to wield that power with pride, that doing so will make you feel alive, will always be a source of temptation.
One reason that openDemocracy’s Tracking the Backlash project focuses on the war on women’s and LGBTQI rights is that toxic masculinity is a key ingredient in the cocktail that has intoxicated so many young men in recent years, and drawn them into far Right movements.
Just as we can’t fully understand the rise of Trump without understanding Gamergate, incels, and the 4Chan community, we can’t understand the elite institutions driving us to authoritarian capitalism without understanding the sociology, psychology and social movements of toxic masculinity.
Ramsay’s references to the Queer Eye programme will no doubt annoy some readers and make others conclude that this is an unserious article, but it’s a useful device to talk about masculinity (because masculinity itself is absolutely not a bad thing; the problem is with regressive, reactionary, repressive ideas of what men should and shouldn’t be).
I thought this was insightful:
Wages have been stagnant in the US for decades, and millions who believed that by now they would have entered the middle class have discovered that they are very definitely working class.
For Jordan Peterson, the solution to this situation – and the reason he is beloved of the powerful – is to accept it. The sixth of his famous ‘12 Rules for Life’ – the title of his bestselling 2018 book – is “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.” In other words, ‘know your place’.
And his implicit message goes a lot further than that. The prominence that he – and so many of his fellow travellers – give to their refusal to accept trans people only makes sense when you understand that for them, there is no greater sin than refusing to accept your place in the social hierarchy. After all, if you endlessly work hard to accept your rank in a world which makes you miserable, you resent no one more than those who refuse to follow. To be trans is to transgress against their world order, and they can’t stand it.
Peterson’s message isn’t just “Don’t change the world.” It’s “Don’t change who the world tells you that you are.” And it does profound damage.