Categories: AnalysisCanadian NewsOpinionPolitics

Only a Country like Canada Could Produce a Guy (so filled with Envy) like Jesse Brown

The trope “Tall Poppy Syndrome” refers to the impulse in some countries, Canada amongst them, to cut down to size any cultural peer who achieves uncommonly high status and international success. It is a particularly pronounced phenomenon amongst left-leaning tribes in academia and the punditocracy.

Canadian psychologist and academic Jordan B. Peterson presently reigns as the tallest poppy Canada has produced in recent memory (or maybe ever). As predictably as night follows day, Peterson’s meteoric rise drew out some long Canadian scythes. Their prey has to date, however, remained unbloodied.

Journalist Tabatha Southey’s dull blade didn’t even cause a nick on Peterson’s neck with her puerile attack, sneeringly titled “Is Jordan Peterson the stupid man’s smart person?” And University of Toronto English Literature lecturer Ira Wells, who published his under fact-checked, near-slanderous “The Professor of Piffle” in The Walrus magazine, was himself mowed to stubble by writer Paul Benedetti in his piece, “The Peterson Principle: Intellectual Complexity and Journalistic Incompetence.”

Now Jesse Brown, publisher of, has taken his whack at the poppy in a New York Times op-ed, “Only a country like Canada could Produce a Guy like Jordan Peterson.” For the average reader, unfamiliar with Peterson’s oeuvre, it probably seemed quite reasonable. But to anyone who has acquired a deep familiarity with Peterson’s public work and value system – and Jesse Brown is clearly not amongst them – Brown’s piece is a truly tawdry hit job.

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Brown’s thesis, conceived so as to spare himself time delving into Peterson’s oeuvre and any intellectual rigour in engaging on the front of ideas, posits Peterson as a national straw figure representing a few broadly-defined Canadian characteristics. In this way, he can triumphantly shoot down the notion that Peterson is in any way, you know, special.

For Peterson, Brown says, is not the least bit extraordinary. Nothing to see here, folks, so please move along. There is nothing fresh, original or brilliant in his best-selling book, Twelve Rules for Life (which I am pretty sure Brown has not read more than 20 pages of, if that). Those hundreds of videotaped lectures on the Bible and the ideas of Solzhenitsyn, Dostoevsky, Jung, and Jesus are of no importance or interest whatsoever.

The approximately 200 million views of his appearances on his own YouTube channel and those of others:? None of it suggests we have before us anyone deserving of any right-thinking individual’s attention.

That famous Channel 4 interview with Cathy Newman, watched by 8.4 million viewers? Pfft! There is nothing in it whatsoever to tell us about feminism or media bias. The only people watching must all be “disaffected males.” (This is Canadaland-speak for “deplorables” – and by the way, three of those viewings are mine.)

In fact, Brown informs us, Jordan Peterson is actually just a typical Canadian, “the default setting of the Canadian male: a dull but stern dad.” Peterson is even a symbol of “our national preference for stasis.” (Stasis. Jordan Peterson. Jordan Peterson. Stasis. Sorry, not computing.)

So, according to Brown’s logic, any dull but stern dad in Canada could have mirrored Peterson’s trajectory, if only he adds to that description “ a reserve of barely contained hostility toward anyone who might rock [his] boat.” Could the next default Canadian male to rocket to celebrity be Jesse Brown? After all, he is dull and stern, and he too has a “boat,” with the clinching fact that he registers “barely contained hostility” on Twitter to anyone who rocks it.

Seriously, this dud op-ed is embarrassingly jejune for someone who poses as a responsible journalist, not to mention riddled with inaccuracies and clichés, and therefore a blot on the NYT’s opinion-page landscape.

For example, Brown refers to Peterson’s book’s “sixth rule for life,” in which chapter he criticizes young social activists who presume to tell the world how to set itself in order before they have learned to think for themselves – i.e. before setting their own house in order. Brown claims this argument would have prevented Martin Luther King “from ever speaking up.” But MLK only became an activist in grad school after acquiring two undergraduate degrees, so in fact, he bears out Peterson’s argument, not Brown’s.

Brown also references Peterson’s remarks on young activists – “It’s just not right to tell people…that they should go out and change the socioeconomic structure of the culture!” – as part of a “fiery sermon.” But these words were delivered in a one-on-one interview. I’ve seen it. They were not part of a sermon, nor were his firmly straightforward comments “fiery.”

Moreover, Peterson did not “leverage” his defiant stance against Bill C-16 because the bill concerned gender expression, as Brown suggests. Peterson’s beef wasn’t about gender. He is against compelled speech of any kind. Brown’s insouciant waving off of Peterson’s legitimate principled objections demonstrates that he has no appreciation for the seriousness of C-16’s freedom-of-speech implications.

Finally, Brown really should know better than to play that now-tired and tiresome card of the “previously obscure” academic. Come on. Albert Einstein and Bill Gates were also once “previously obscure.” The fact that Brown resorted to such a cheap shot, though, says more about him than about Peterson.

And you know what it says? It says, “I can barely contain my rage that somebody who doesn’t share my ideas and values, someone who is a less worthy Canadian than I, is being rewarded with mass attention, admiration and money that rightfully should be mine, if there was any justice in the world. I am so envious I can hardly bear it.”

Get over yourself, Jesse Brown. Peterson is where he is, fair and square, because masses and masses of people are hungry for the verities and common sense and classically liberal values he stands for.

He is famous because in the current cultural climate, dominated by the velvet totalitarianism embraced by our chattering classes, vanishingly few members of the intelligentsia have the courage to face down the ideological mobbing they get from you and your ilk when they speak their mind and conscience.

Jordan B. Peterson is not the “default” Canadian. He is not the default anyone. He is unique. And you’re not. Deal with it.


  • Thanks Barbara for writing a Canadian article.
    Before retiring I had a few opportunities to read Walrus, while sitting in (guess where?) the Air Canada Lounge & I always came away wonder which Canadians walrus spoke for.
    The values that Jordan Peterson advances are those that productive, taxpayers were brought up with.
    Many of us were wondering if Canada had abandoned those values.
    Listening to CBC, reading MacLean's, or of course Walrus, would lead people to believe that the Canada that raised us & provided our work ethic was dead & buried.
    Thank you, Dr. Jordan Peterson, please, just keep on doing what you're doing.
    Thanks again, Barbara for swimming against the illusionary tide of CBC et al.

  • Fascinating bit of rhetoric. None of you are qualified to comment (you mention pundits and columnists and no academics of note), and your argument is simply that Peterson is great because his books sell. You gesture towards his oeuvre and values yet those remain undefined and vague. There is no substance here. There is the same unreflected regurgitation of Jordan's unsupported and legally dubious arguments about C 16, a seriously spun account of the tiresome pronoun pontificating that so grasps your imaginarium, and that's about it. You like Jordan because he attacks the same targets you are paid to blather about in a semi honest/cogent fashion. To whit you make zero effort to articulate any of Peterson's fundamental arguments (perhaps because you haven't read him either) nor do you try to engage with the critiques of poor research, erroneous scientific 'facts', dubious and unsubstantiated methods, incorrect arguments about thinkers read in secondary sources and vast generalisations riddled with contradictions and errors. It's purple prose ad copy with CPC buzz word salad tossed with nasty and petty character attacks. You deride a 'vanishing intelligentsia' but this is not intellectual analysis. How great would it have been to offer a substantive critique of his work. Once was a time when those in your station could. Instead you have reduced yourself to a cheerleader for a man who no longer needs one while visciously attacking your perceived rivals. It's simply trite and banal.

  • Great article! Petersen is simply too logical, too decent, and too accurate for the left and their social justice nut bars to stand. SO they attack, attack, attack! And it only makes him stronger. Go ahead leftist establishment media. Try to destroy him. You'll only make his stronger. :)

  • I've found that most critics haven't listened to even one full lecture - it shows when they start bashing. As for the bill C-16 issue, if you don't agree with fighting compelled speech then I suggest you don't comment. It's offensive lol.

    • Read C-16. It doesn't say anything about 'compelled speech'. This is JBP's interpretation. I personally think he has it wrong and since nobody has been charged under it for not using pronouns I'm not sure how you can think he's right. I agree with most of what JBP says but I think he's off on this one.

  • That the NYT was willing to publish anything from so called journalist Jesse Brown shows how low they've sunk. This guy encouraged doxing, wasted tax payer money on a trial that amounted to key witnesses lying to the police and emailing each other DURING the trial! The whole thing started with information Brown's good friend had--no conflict of interest at all there. He continues to slander people who have been proven innocent in a court of law. How does anyone still take this guy seriously?
    In essence, Jesse Brown is only interested in Jesse Brown.

  • It's easy to see all of the human flaws and to want the imperfect mankind fall and not rise again. What is hard is to look at mankind with compassion and to help people get back on their feet. This is the main difference between Jordan Peterson and the extremists on the left. He genuinely wants to help people and he has been doing it for decades through his clinical practice. He has just found a way to scale it up, that's all. Meanwhile, the "virtuous" leftists insist on bringing mankind down, now. Who would you rather follow: Someone who believes in you and is showing you a path of self-betterment, or someone who has contempt for you and who wants to see you on your knees?

  • I'm still waiting for Dr. Peterson to address my question on his thoughts on The Panopticon, and modern day mass surveillance.

  • A total and utter takedown. Barbara and Rex Murphy ought to be given the Order of Canada.

    Signed, a black man.

  • I'm seventy years old and recently introduced to Jordan Peterson's YouTube videos. All I see is a person genuinely doing his best to advise people on how to better their lives. Is there something wrong with this? I'm in complete agreement with your article Barbara. Peace

  • The rebellion and disgust at the idea of cleaning up your own room before telling others how to live their lives says a lot more about its opponents than it does about the idea itself. Dr. King, had he lived in today's media spotlight, would have to do a hell of a lot of house cleaning (almost literally, by keeping his many mistresses out of it) to regain credibility. His message is 100% valid, but today's attack culture would see him discredited. Everyone needs to look deeply inside their own closets and see what could use some straightening before doing the white glove test on their neighbors' homes. I think there was a Bible verse about "removing the beam from your own eye"....

  • Jesse Brown is a jealous little twerp. For a time I actually donated to his Patreon account but soon quit when I realized just what he was.

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Barbara Kay

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