Congressman Gianforte has a strange affinity for bigots. In addition to donating to discriminatory organizations that support barbaric conversion therapy practices and donating to white supremacists legislative candidates, it appears he admires right-wing pop philosophers who have expressed retrograde, harmful views as well.
During his November 19, 2019 telephone town hall, Gianforte expressed his admiration for controversial Canadian right-wing personality Jordan Peterson. American Bridge captured the audio:
And, you know, if you’ve ever been in relationship that long you know two people don’t agree on everything all the time. So, for my part, I always- I follow one of Jim … Jordan Peterson’s 12 rules for life which is that I go into every conversation expecting to learn something …and I’ve found in Congress that I don’t have to agree with somebody on everything to find something that we can work together on.
That’s hardly revolutionary advice–one could hardly open a self-help book without reading that we should try to learn from others–but it’s telling that Gianfore chose to credit Peterson, who has come under fire for his discriminatory and xenophobic views for the rather obvious and anodyne truth that we should listen to people rather than punch them.
Peterson is hardly the person Gianforte should turn to for new insight. He came to fame for his Facebook rants in which he expressed the familiar rage of conservative men couched in a Canadian accent, becoming something of a media sensation in conservative circles across the U.S.
The truth is that many of Peterson’s views are rather abhorrent. For instance, according to Vox, Peterson believes feminists have an unfulfilled desire for brutal domination by men:
“Jordan Peterson is also a right-wing internet celebrity who has claimed that feminists have ‘an unconscious wish for brutal male domination,’ referred to developing nations as ‘pits of catastrophe’ in a speech to a Dutch far-right group, and recently told a Times reporter that he supported ‘enforced monogamy.”
Seeking to explain why young men commit acts of terror, Peterson blamed women and called for “enforced monogamy“:
Recently, a young man named Alek Minassian drove through Toronto trying to kill people with his van. […]Violent attacks are what happens when men do not have partners, Mr. Peterson says, and society needs to work to make sure those men are married. ‘He was angry at God because women were rejecting him,’ Mr. Peterson says of the Toronto killer. ‘The cure for that is enfrced monogamy. That’s actually why monogamy emerges.’ Mr. Peterson does not pause when he says this. Enforced monogamy is, to him, simply a rational solution. Otherwise women will all only go for the most high-status men, he explains, and that couldn’t make either gender happy in the end. ‘Half the men fail,’ he says, meaning that they don’t procreate. ‘And no one cares about the men who fail.’”
Aside from his retrograde views that women exist to serve men, Peterson also defends the idea that men somehow deserve more positions of leadership in the workplace than women. Again from the New York Times:
“The left, he believes, refuses to admit that men might be in charge because they are better at it. ‘The people who hold that our culture is an oppressive patriarchy, they don’t want to admit that the current hierarchy might be predicated on competence,’ he said.”
What’s more, Peterson believes that gay couples are inferior parents and has expressed views about sexual assault and workplace harassment that are positively horrifying.
Gianforte may be right: we almost certainly can learn from every person we encounter. It’s fair to say, though, that what we can learn from his praise of Mr. Peterson is that Gianforte prefers that those views come from the same well of sexism and bigotry that have characterized the careers of both.
Journalist Tabatha Southey, who brilliantly called Peterson “the stupid man’s smart person,” captured his worldview as well as anyone:
“Peterson’s secret sauce is to provide an academic veneer to a lot of old-school rightwing cant, including the notion that most academia is corrupt and evil, and banal self-help patter,” says Southey. “He’s very much a cult thing, in every regard. I think he’s a goof, which does not mean he’s not dangerous.”
It’s great that Congressman Gianforte is reading some self-help literature. Perhaps it was mandated after he assaulted a reporter on election eve, but if he’s going to ingest and then promote some cliches about listening to others, it would be better for Gianforte—and the people he is supposed to represent—if he started listening to the voices of those who have been marginalized and victimized, rather than indulging his worst impulses by listening to someone who’s telling him it’s perfectly acceptable to discriminate and treat women as objects.
Listening to voices like that might help Gianforte finally learn some important truths that have evaded him his whole life.