Earlier today, I joined fellow civil rights supporters in speaking out against Jordan Peterson. I’m one of many writers who has extensively examined the misrepresentations at the heart of Peterson’s political advocacy. But as much digital ink as we’ve spilled saying why Peterson is wrong, we too often fail to say what a progressive alternative to his individual worldview could be, including for the young men who flock to his shows. So I offered one up here for men (and others!) who are interested in advancing justice in society and, well, having a good time doing it.
Video of our speakout below and with my remarks (I skipped over a few bits in the interest of time). We had a lot of good conversations with Peterson fans and folks who were just interested in what he had to say. A lot of people were not familiar with his advocacy in Canada. Two white nationalists hollered at us, one guy in a MAGA hat who spouted some “Proud Boy” rhetoric and another guy with white nationalist tattoos who didn’t like an organizer pointing out his tattoos.
My name is Aaron Huertas and I’m a working class white guy from South Jersey. I grew up on Bruce Springsteen, professional wrestling and American history.
I’m here today because I’ve read my history and Jordan Peterson has not.
I’ve made a career here in DC doing two things:
We’re speaking out today as progressive men to offer an alternative to Jordan Peterson. Because he ignores the great history of civil rights movements. And he misuses his authority as an academic psychologist to distract from civil rights debates.
At his core Jordan Peterson doesn’t understand discrimination. He thinks the only way we exist in the world is as individuals. And if you’re an individual who isn’t discriminated against, yeah, it’s easier to think you’re just an individual!
But I’ve been discriminated against because of my class. When you grow up working class you learn that you’re less than, that you’re gonna be a smoker and a druggie and you’re gonna go to jail if you don’t watch your back. That your labor is worth less than everybody’s elses.
So I understand that. And when I talk to the working class women in my life, I know they face double discrimination because of their gender. And when I talk to working class black women in my life, I know they face triple discrimination because of their race, too. Add to that where you’re from, who you love, what language you speak, you name it. And I don’t think people who aren’t the same as me are trying to threaten me or take anything from me—I see other people who are trying to survive and thrive in this world together.
I have no guilt about what I born into or the advantages I’ve had. But what I do have is a responsibility. And that responsibility is to stand with women and people of color against injustice:
Now Jordan Peterson came to fame complaining about a civil rights law in Canada that would do things like protect transgender people from getting kicked out of their housing for who they are. He said the state was trying to force him to use gender pronouns he didn’t like. That was a conspiracy theory.
Civil rights lawyers told him you’re wrong. Civil rights scholars told him you’re wrong. Trans activists told him you’re wrong. The legislators who wrote the bill told him you’re wrong.
And every time, he said, nope, this debate is actually all about me.
That’s not just misguided and silly—it’s selfish and it’s so narrow-minded.
When journalists ask Jordan Peterson about #MeToo, he says it’s about how women and men aren’t getting along in the workplace.
No. It’s about predatory men attacking and harassing women.
And we have a real civil rights debate in this country about it. Sexual predators are finally being brought to justice. States are expanding the statute of limitation for sex crimes.
But Jordan Peterson doesn’t talk about that. He says you can’t go too far left! The Maoists made everyone dress the same! That’s really what he wants to contribute to the conversation, complaining about how people in China dressed under communism.
Now Jordan Peterson claims he’s not political. But he’s an individualist ideologue who punches left. He says he’s saving young men from becoming right wing reactionaries by teaching them to be individuals. But he doesn’t offer any proof that he’s done that. Meanwhile, dozens of videos a day go up on Youtube from right wing groups promoting Peterson’s views. He shares his platform with people who spread discredited race science and he poses for pictures with white nationalists who use him for propaganda purposes.
Jordan Peterson is an irresponsible academic. He’s an irresponsible advocate. He’s weighing on laws and debates on which he has no expertise. He’s ignoring and misrepresenting the positions of civil rights advocates.
Peterson wants to celebrate individual freedom. But there is no such thing as individual freedom in a world where people still face discrimination over who they are.
Jordan Peterson is here to give his followers excuses to ignore discrimination.
I’m here to say that fighting discrimination together makes a better world for all of us.
Aaron Huertas is a science communicator and public relations professional who lives in Washington, DC.