“There are two journalistic activities that will always bring you a come-back,” George Orwell wrote in 1944. “One is to attack the Catholics and the other is to defend the Jews.”

By “come-back” Orwell meant that you will receive a “wad of anti-Semitic letters” if you stand up for Jews. His observation still seems true. Witness the comment section underneath University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson’s recent essay “On the so-called ‘Jewish Question,” which is a critique of right-wing anti-Semitism.

Like the bigots of the 1940s who attacked Orwell, today’s white supremacists responded to Peterson’s article with anti-Semitic bile. They resented the psychologist calling them “ever-so-pathological.” Nor did they much like him describing their ideas as “the lowest form of intellectual enterprise.” Especially hateful to them was Peterson’s flattering portrayal of Jews as intelligent, studious, and open to new experiences.

What was most astounding, though, wasn’t the vitriol directed at Peterson—it was how journalist Amy Spiro, writing in the Jerusalem Post, chose to describe the event.

In Spiro’s telling, Peterson wasn’t the target of right-wing anti-Semites; he was sort of one of them—a suspicious “right-wing personality” with “solid appeal among disaffected, angry young white men.” She claimed that Peterson has “appeared to falter when asked about Jewish control and power” and the essay which sparked the anti-Semitic response was only Peterson’s belated effort “to put the issue [of his possible anti-Semitism] to rest.”

Associating Peterson with “angry white men” has become something of a trope. TheGuardian tells readers that Peterson spreads ideas “for the explicit purpose of promoting white nationalism.” Vox claims that he “gives white men permission to stop pretending that they care about other people’s grievances.” At the Independent they say that Peterson shows that “when white men feel they are losing power, any level of nastiness is possible.” And the New York Review of Books—not to be outdone—argues that Peterson’s ideas are a kind of “fascist mysticism” which harks back to anti-Semitic theories of the 19th and 20th centuries.

These charges are flatly unfair to Peterson.

There is not a shred of evidence he supports white nationalism. He has spent decades warning about the pathologies of fascism. His newest book, Twelve Rules for Life, has a forward by the eminent psychiatrist Norman Doidge, whose father survived Auschwitz. Doidge, a long-time friend of Peterson’s, writes: “To understand ideology, Jordan read extensively about not only the Soviet gulag, but also the Holocaust and the rise of Nazism. I had never before met a person, born Christian and of my generation, who was so utterly tormented by what happened in Europe to the Jews, and who had worked so hard to understand how it could have occurred.”

It’s utterly unserious. And if Peterson really does have the ear of “disaffected, angry young white men,” then this is undoubtedly a good thing. He’s just the man who might be able to talk them off the ledge—and maybe save Jews one less worry.

Peterson’s magnum opus, Maps of Meaning, is in many ways a 500-page warning about the psychological forces that drove the Nazis. Videos of his classes show him decrying the Nazi mindset, warning about the resentments that made it possible,telling his students that Hitler was even worse than they realize, but also sternly cautioning them that even ordinary people, like themselves, can “end up in very bad places one step at a time—so you got to watch those steps.” To help his students guard their steps, he recommends such anti-Nazi books as The Rise and Fall of the Third ReichOrdinary Men, and Man’s Search for Meaning.

So where do these allegations come from? Camille Paglia plausibly suggests they are “pure propaganda used as a weapon by unscrupulous ideologues to attempt to destroy independent or dissident thinkers [like Peterson] who do not follow the ‘party line.’”

Besides calumny, they’re also a distraction. Jews have real threats to worry about right now. They are the chief victim of religiously-motivated hate crimes, according to FBI data. Synagogues around the world require armed guards. In France, Jews are savagely murdered. In England, the Labor party is led by a member of a private group that promotes holocaust deniers. In the United States, influential leaders in the Women’s March enjoy close ties with anti-Semites such as Louis Farrakhan, while elsewhere white nationalists shout “Jews will not replace us.” In the Middle East, a propaganda organ for Turkey’s president now urges 57 Muslim countries to form a global army to destroy the world’s only Jewish state.

And given all this, the New York Review of Books warns us about Jordan Peterson?

It’s utterly unserious. And if Peterson really does have the ear of “disaffected, angry young white men,” then this is undoubtedly a good thing. He’s just the man who might be able to talk them off the ledge—and maybe save Jews one less worry.

Contributed by Jonah Cohen, communications director for CAMERA.

This article originally appeared in The Weekly Standard.

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