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As the director of the Institute of Gremlins 2 Studies, I know a thing or two about pseudo-academic nonsense. I am not talking about the beloved Institute, of course, we are 100% serious about our work and hold ourselves to extremely high standards.
No, I’m talking about other academics. Especially Toronto-based professor Jordan Peterson, who has in recent months became a media sensation.
When I first set out to write this piece, I expected to be penning a vicious takedown. But after watching hours and hours of videos, I remain in awe at Peterson’s accomplishment.
Never before have I encountered such a complex, intelligent, and daring work of satire. This “Jordan Peterson” character is the most cutting-edge performance art I have ever encountered. No sincere leftist commentary has ever exposed the link between seemingly banal conservativism and borderline-fascism in such an easily understandable way. This one-man-show is the bumbling Canadian answer to Laibach. As an expert in pseudo-academic nonsense, I have to salute my superior on this one.
“Jordan Peterson” is a work of parody known as stiob: “an overidentification with the person or idea at which it is directed and that it is often impossible to tell if stiob is sincere support, ridicule, or a mixture of the two.” Stiob arose from the late Soviet years, during the Brezhnev era. There are many eerie similarities between that time and our own – the government was largely ran by a cadre of septuagenarians, wages had stagnated, yet all official narratives insisted that there was no alternative. The horizon of possible futures was closed. Into this fray, a new form of parody emerged, one that was often indistinguishable from the thing it was criticizing.
Take, for example, the Slovenian industrial band Laibach. Their artwork and performances are rife with totalitarian imagery, which leads many to wonder whether or not the band themselves are fascist. Laibach can be seen as an example of “stiob”, employing a strategy of subversive affirmation or over-identification in order to tease out truths that cynical distance could not. It is not “satire” as we would usually understand the word.
Many in the West have tried to inhabit this mode. Take for example, the pseudo-conservative pundit character of “The Colbert Report”, or the witless, cringe-inducing Alan Partridge. However, both of these characters often appear accompanied by a laugh track, and their antics are confined to clear comedic contexts.
This Jordan Peterson character, however, is something else altogether. His commitment to the bit is commendable. Peterson is portrayed as a pompous, self-serious buffoon. Though I have to admit, the fake Canadian accent is a bit over-the-top, it really challenges the believability of the character.
Despite his recent notoriety, the most towering accomplishment Peterson leaves behind is his earlier book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief.…