After watching Governor Greg Abbott sign away a huge chunk of Texas’ reproductive rights, I can certainly understand why the prospect of anyone beating him can seem appealing. Particularly when the challenges so far look like they are coming from the right in the form of former state Sen. Don Huffines or possibly Texas GOP Chair Allen West. Against such a collection of loathsome gargoyles, would actor and long-rumored potential candidate Matthew McConaughey really be so bad? Certainly, a recent poll of Austinites found they would be alright alright alright with that. Sorry, I am legally obligated by the Dad Joke Guild to use that bit at least once, and it won’t happen again.
Let’s not rush to elect the star of the worst Stephen King adaptation ever just because he’s burnt orange for life and seems like a nice enough dude, though. For one, McConaughey is entirely too chummy with Canada’s most famous alt-right gateway drug, Dr. Prof. Jordan B. Peterson.
If this is your first time hearing about Peterson, I want to congratulate you on avoiding the parts of the internet that make people into lunatics. He is a Canadian psychologist who became a viral sensation after his country passed a law designating deliberate misgendering of people a form of discrimination. Under the guise of freedom of speech, Peterson became an alt-right darling by pretending that evil social justice warriors were waiting in his classroom to force him to lick the boots of the transgender illuminati. He’s since maneuvered this persecution complex into a vast and profitable media empire, mostly by giving incels and dudes whose dads didn’t tell them they loved them a father figure reinforcing their chauvinism in an extremely toxic way.
The stars aligned for the McConaughey/Peterson tag team earlier this year when McConaughey was promoting his memoir Greenlights and appeared on Peterson’s podcast. In the acknowledgments of the book, McConaughey thanks Peterson, and has been in correspondence with the psychologist for over a year. Apparently, McConaughey found a lot to like in Peterson’s bestseller, 12 Rules for Life, which is basically just AA for guys who think feminism is why they are miserable.
The interview is mostly benign, and McConaughey is obviously a gifted storyteller. However, the spell gets broken a bit when Peterson rushes to the defense of comedian Louis C.K. and laments the loss of his work in the #MeToo era. McConaughey responds:
“Yes. Yes. I mean, I think you’re leaning into a lot of what we call cancel culture today. You know, in the name of rehabilitation, we have to have a world in which we are able to grow and evolve, if that’s what we’re trying to do. Now... I’m not for repeat offenders or tyrants, but if someone screws up and they have sincere—they sincerely want retribution (sic), I think it’s fair to give.”
For a reminder, Louis C.K. didn’t make an off-color joke and get dragged down by a Twitter harassment campaign. He masturbated in front of multiple women who absolutely didn’t want him to do that and trapped them in the room so they had to watch him. That’s not a boo boo that made snowflakes cry; that’s serial sexual assault.
It’s disturbing that McConaughey apparently picked up some of the worst subtext of Peterson’s work, that women are chaotic and inherently the cause of men’s downfalls. The psychologist is a proto-fascist who has some incredibly disturbing ideas of the roles of men in society. Like a lot of fascists, he weaves his chauvinism into a web of pseudo-mysticism, drawing on the work of Carl Jung to create a spiritual component on why he views women as metaphorical dragons that must be conquered by the order represented by men.
And for someone that pretends hard to be all about free speech, he sure seemed happy at one point to follow in Nazi footsteps when it came to destroying what he calls post-modern neo-Marxism (a fancy update of an old Nazi scare-phrase: kulturbolschewismus). The Nazis famously burned texts in a 1933 fire, mostly books about LGBT issues that were considered antithetical to the image of the gender roles demanded by the fascists. Peterson doesn’t have a torch, but he did have the same idea. He wanted to create a website where “dangerous” courses and teachers could be listed, an act that definitely would have led to widespread harassment and targeting in a post-Gamergate world.
“Women's studies, and all the ethnic studies and racial studies groups, man, those things have to go and the faster they go the better,” he said. “It would have been better if they had never been part of the university to begin with as far as I can tell. Sociology, that's corrupt. Anthropology, that's corrupt. English literature, that's corrupt. Maybe the worst offenders are the faculties of education.”
We’ve already got a regime in Texas that has banned Critical Race Theory in a way that makes it clear climate change and LGBT issues are next on the list. Would McConaughey, clearly in adoration of Peterson and his sexist bullshit, really be better than Abbott in this regard? After all, at least Texas Republicans stopped at high school.
I am genuinely glad that McConaughey found some healing in Peterson’s work. A lot of dudes have because our society still doesn’t put much stock in men seeking therapy. They end up turning to gurus and daddies for their strength, and a lot of the advice in 12 Rules for Life is just stock standard self-help that is inoffensive. It’s no worse than, and in many ways better, than something like The Secret.
However, McConaughey appears to have gone beyond the basic and moved into disciple, and that’s unsettling. Peterson is messianic, and has said before that his wife has prophetic dreams where he is the savior of the world. At one point, in an interview with the CBC, he said this legitimately terrifying bit of nonsense regarding right-wing violence.
“So, you can consider this a prophecy from me if you want. Inside the collective is a beast and the beast uses its fists. If you wake up the beast then violence emerges. I'm afraid that this continual pushing by radical left wingers is going to wake up the beast."
The thought of a man with this mindset having the ear of the governor is honestly scary. McConaughey may have the image of an easy-going gentleman who only wants to get along, but if his association with Peterson is any indication then there is a thread of deep misogyny and hate that finds worth in the psychologist’s words. I worry that having so powerful an acolyte, Peterson will cultivate him into a twisted tree which the Texas right will hang even more of our rights and protections from.
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