Canadian psychologist and self-help author Jordan Peterson was suspended from Twitter a few weeks ago, yet his presence still looms large over the platform.
Peterson, once a prominent figure in the culture wars, has become a bit of a meme, now infamous for his strict all-beef diet, and for bursting into tears during interviews, seemingly at random.
Twitter users delight in Peterson’s antics, finding great amusement in the stark contrast between Peterson’s weighty self-seriousness, and the absurdity of his outbursts. Peterson’s now-legendary Sports Illustrated tweet is a perfect example, in which Peterson described a curvy model wearing a swimsuit as “authoritarian” and “not beautiful.”
That tweet led to Peterson being widely mocked, which motivated him to quit Twitter entirely, or at least, threaten to. But Peterson’s self-imposed exile didn’t last long, and soon, his tweets took on a more combative tone, culminating in a cruel tweet referencing the actor Elliot Page.
Peterson referred to Page, who is transgender, by his deadname, writing: “Remember when pride was a sin? And Ellen Page just had her breasts removed by a criminal physician.”
This was a violation of Twitter’s terms of service, and just seems like a nasty thing to do – Page himself has never mentioned Peterson, and it is unclear why Peterson went out of his way to target him.
Hence, Peterson’s account was suspended, ready to be reactivated after Peterson deleted the offending tweet. Instead, Peterson doubled down, declaring that he would never, ever delete the tweet. In an act of hateful solidarity, fellow right-wing culture warrior Dave Rubin shared a screenshot of Peterson’s original tweet, and got his account suspended as well.
Rubin, however, decided to comply and delete the tweet, seemingly recognizing that Twitter is an important marketing tool of the extremely online culture warrior.
Peterson, however, just couldn’t get over it; in response to his suspension, he posted an unhinged, 14-minute video on Instagram, dressed like a Batman villain and appearing to read from a teleprompter, breaking down every single word of his tweet, declaring that he would “rather die” than delete it.
The video became a viral hit, and was soon edited down into short segments and shared across the platform; one short clip of Peterson saying “up yours, woke moralists – we’ll see who cancels who!” exploded into a popular meme.
In a sense, Peterson cancelled himself, by cutting off his own access to Twitter – clearly, the right to misgender random strangers is vitally important to the man. Amusingly, Elliot Page never bothered to respond to the controversy, and is probably baffled by the right-wing obsession with him.
Peterson might have lost access to a powerful promotional platform, but days after his suspension, it was announced that he was joining The Daily Wire, an influential right-wing publication, which has expanded into its own streaming platform, The Daily Wire+.
Despite Peterson’s best efforts to cancel himself, his voice will continue to be heard by loyal Daily Wire subscribers – and Twitter users.