I thought this profile was fair, but the Petersons did not appreciate it.
The superstar psychologist, scourge of snowflakes, and his daughter, Mikhaila, explain how he unravelled — and their bizarre journey to find a cure…
I thought this was going to be a normal interview with Jordan Peterson. After speaking with him at length, and with his daughter for even longer, I no longer have any idea what it is. I don’t know if this is a story about drug dependency, or doctors, or Peterson family dynamics — or a parable about toxic masculinity. Whatever else it is, it’s very strange…
If his rise to fame was dramatic, what has happened since he disappeared from public view 18 months ago sounds fantastical — in his daughter’s words it is “like a horror movie”. A movie in which her father gets hooked on benzodiazepines, becomes suicidal, is hospitalised for his own safety and then diagnosed with schizophrenia. Against his doctors’ advice she flies him to Russia to be placed in an induced coma. He emerges delirious, unable to walk, and ricochets from one rehab centre to another, ending up in a Serbian clinic where he contracts Covid-19. Back home in Canada at last, from where he speaks to me earlier this month, he breaks down in floods of tears and has to leave the room. When I ask if he feels angry with himself for taking benzodiazepines, his daughter jumps in, arms waving — “Hold on, hold on!” — and tries to bring the interview to a close.
If this was a movie, its director would unquestionably be the 28-year-old Mikhaila Peterson, CEO of her father’s company. She and her Russian husband appear to have assumed full charge of his affairs, so before I am allowed to speak to him I must first talk to her. Unrecognisable from the ordinary-looking brunette from photos just a few years ago, Mikhaila today is a glossy, pouting Barbie blonde, and talks with the zealous, spiky conviction of a President Trump press spokeswoman.
A friend says:
Jordan Peterson is nihilism 101. There is no lesson. So had Jordan not achieved the wealth from a fatuous message delivered beautifully and got depressed, hooked on benzos while relying on his teaching/clinical job, he’d be up the creek. Just another guy who ‘failed at life.’ There is no lesson here. Some win some lose. ‘All men are deceitful’–Psalms
And I consider myself a fan of his. I enjoy his classroom lectures immensely. I do know that I lost more respect for him tweeting that Kavanaugh should voluntarily withdraw from nomination to SCOTUS because of unsubstantiated accusation, than I did for his benzo addiction/ cover up, daughter wackiness in speaking on his behalf. The latter is a personal issue, the former an issue of principle. Although to build a career on personal responsibility while getting hooked on benzos and first covering it up, might be principle issue as well.
As a nihilist though I know that we value people not on principle but on their charm/likability, as much as we then like to translate basic charm/appearance into some virtue to convince ourselves morality not likability guide us when it does not.
We don’t get attracted to the virtues of a fat chick. (Virgil)
Dear Ms. Agnew:
I reread this polite, positive, and hopeful interview request letter of today after the promised Sunday Times piece on my daughter and I was published.
I can’t help but be struck by the vast gap between what was offered and the resulting interview, which no reasonable reader could possibly consider “celebrating (!) my life and career so far” (as indicated by an overwhelming majority of the readers of this piece, at least as indicated by their public comments, already numbering in the hundreds). In consequence, I have decided to write you and ask you for your opinion on what has happened as a consequence of your invitation.
The words you chose in your invitation – for example, “hoping that he is doing better,””such an exhausting, uncompromising virus,””it must be an incredibly stressful time for you all,””when the time feels right” were couched in such markedly friendly and supportive language that I allowed myself to trust the Times to deliver the story in the manner you proposed. I believed in good faith that my life and career as well as my health would be discussed fairly and without prejudice. My editors and publishers at Penguin Random House evinced the same faith, relying on their belief in the integrity of your paper.
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. And what was done to my daughter–who uprooted her husband and small daughter more than a dozen times to accompany and care for me in four countries in the last year while simultaneously dealing with her own severe health issues (skeptically described by your author) and the near death of her mother–was brutally unfair, callous and cold. Her illness, thoroughly documented over multiple years at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, resulted in the shattering and painful disintegration of her right hip and left ankle and their surgical replacement of both before she was seventeen. She had 38 joints afflicted with degenerative arthritis, suffering from one of the most severe cases of juvenile RA her attending physicians had ever encountered. Her prognosis at age eight was continual, multiple joint replacements if exactly the sort that eventually occurred. In her teenage years, she walked around on what were essentially two broken legs for more than a year while we arranged for corrective surgeries, whole her mother and I desperately searched for medical expertise across many countries. And she managed to stay in school and forged forwards unstoppably despite all that. There is simply no excuse for Aikenhead to imply that the reality of all this is somehow questionable, as she clearly did when she opened her discussion of Mikhaila’s illness with the words “according to her website.” No. Not “according to her website,” with the sly intimation of falsehood hinted at by such phrasing. Actually. In painful reality. Over many long years and immediately verifiable – or not – by a simple request to the medical authorities involved.
I am frankly stunned by the degree of sheer cruelty and spite manifested by your journalist, Decca Aitkenhead and by the degree of misrepresentation (if that’s what it was) necessary to entice me into speaking as I did with her, with no intention on my part other than to answer the questions she put to me as clearly and honestly as my deeply flawed self could manage. Given the manner in which you crafted your invitation to me, I can’t understand how you can in good conscience accept what transpired.
Dr Jordan B Peterson