Thin-skinned Jordan Peterson is wrong about everything but right about Twitter

Thin-skinned Jordan Peterson is wrong about everything but right about Twitter

Published May 17, 2022
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The academic has quit the platform in a huff after he was criticised for calling the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Yumi Nu ‘not beautiful’

Jordan Peterson is an academic, an internet personality, and a big fan of beef. A man of many accomplishments, he’s most famous for writing a bestselling book called 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos while simultaneously living what can only be described as an incredibly chaotic life.

The latest Peterson drama comes to us via Twitter, which the academic has just dramatically announced he will be “departing” forever. Don’t worry, he’s not going to go quietly into that tweetless night; Peterson has promised us all a long article explaining his problems with the platform soon. For now, however, he wants us all to know that Twitter is a hellhole which makes your life infinitely worse.

“The endless flood of vicious insult [sic] is really not something that can be experienced anywhere else,” Peterson tweeted on Monday, “If I have something to say I’ll write an article or make a video. If the issue is not important enough to justify that then perhaps it would be best to just let it go.”

He adds, “I like to follow the people I know but I think the incentive structure of the platform makes it intrinsically and dangerously insane.”

I may not agree with Peterson on much but he’s spot on there. And I, for one, am really glad that the man once described in the New York Times as “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world”, has finally discovered what everyone else has been banging on about for years. Women and marginalized people, in particular, have been sounding the alarm about how Twitter, along with other social media platforms, ignores violence and abuse on the platform. They have been sounding the alarm about the intrinsically dangerous incentive structures of social media platforms, which prioritize engagement above everything else. But, you know, nothing in life is really important until a rich white guy starts paying attention.

What made Peterson turn on Twitter? (Which by the way, he doesn’t seem to have actually left yet.) It’s not entirely clear but it seems that he’s upset that some people criticized him on Monday after he tweeted a picture of Yumi Nu on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition with the caption: “Sorry. Not beautiful. And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.” The most influential public intellectual in the western world, ladies and gentleman! We are blessed that he takes time out from intellectual-ing to share his lofty thoughts on women’s bodies. If Twitter had been around during the age of enlightenment we’d presumably have had Immanuel Kant furiously leaning over his keyboard typing: “the Queen of Prussia is NOT hot. Sorry. Don’t critique my reasoning.”

One rule for public life in the modern age – certainly one that every woman in the public eye has discovered – is that you have to develop a very thick skin. Peterson’s, however, seems to be like tissue paper. Today’s Twitter meltdown isn’t the first time he has reacted very badly to criticism. There was the infamous time, for example, when the Indian essayist Pankaj Mishra accused Peterson of peddling “fascist mysticism”. Peterson, in turn, called Mishra an “arrogant, racist son of a bitch” and proclaimed: “If you were in my room at the moment, I’d slap you happily.”

And let’s not forget when Peterson took extreme offence at an interview by Decca Aitkenhead in the Sunday Times and immediately cancelled all other media appearances. “I do not think that it is mere thin-skinned sensitivity on my part to believe that I would have fared no worse had I discussed my affairs with an avowed enemy,” Peterson wrote on his blog.

What makes Peterson’s aversion to criticism extra hilarious is that one of the rules in his famous book is “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.” Peterson’s own house, alas, is a complete mess. The man is a self-proclaimed free speech warrior who has made a living arguing that people should be able to say whatever the hell they like and offend whoever they like. Snowflakes be damned! But when people use their freedom of speech to criticize him? That’s a step too far! Like every prominent person who likes developing “rules” for other people to live by, Peterson doesn’t seem to think they apply to him.