Look who’s stepping into Jordan Peterson’s ark

In the biblical account of the Deluge, contained in the Old Testament book of Genesis, Noah is ordered by God to construct an ark and fill it with male and female specimens of every animal species, including humans. ‘I am about to bring on the Flood,’ God tells Noah, ‘to eliminate everywhere all flesh in which there is the breath of life.’

Thus saved from the world’s reduction to what Barry L Bandstra called its ‘pre-creation state of watery chaos’—God’s punishment on Noah’s sinful contemporaries—the virtuous patriarch and his offspring go on to perpetuate the human race. It’s a happy ending for Noah and his family (there is even a rainbow) but, as Ari Handel, cowriter of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (2014), put it, ‘Noah isn’t a cutesy kid’s story—it’s an apocalyptic story. It’s about the end of the world.’

At face value it is odd, then, that Jordan Peterson’s new venture, The Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC), should boast an acronym designed to invoke the story of Noah while simultaneously railing against ‘the false idol of apocalyptic ideology.’ Look closer, however, and the contradiction resolves itself in a familiar, albeit familiarly veiled, way. The apocalypse is indeed here, only it isn’t global heating that poses an existential risk to humanity but the usual culture war suspects: atheism, non-nuclear families, green energy, market regulation and so on.

When the group’s ‘Statement of Vision and Invitation’, unmistakably authored by the deeply religious Peterson, closes with the words ‘welcome aboard the arc’, the inference is clear: join us, the pious few, or prepare to be washed away with the rest of the unrighteous masses. (It’s also hard to miss, in the document’s reference to a ‘pathway out of the desert’, an obvious allusion to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and towards the Promised Land.)

Although first touted in January via Peterson’s latest appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast (where else?), ARC’s launch only registered in Australia last week with the news that gurning Liberal Party revenants Tony Abbott and John Howard had been conscripted onto its advisory board. They join a group of Australians about as unrepresentative of the full political spectrum as you’d expect: Shadow Minister for Defence Andrew Hastie, former National Party leader John Anderson, ex-Queensland Liberal-National Senator Amanda Stoker, and Howard-era Chief Scientist Robin Batterham. The sextet completes what can only be described as a salad bag of weirdos and has-beens: Climate contrarians Bjørn Lomborg and Michael Shellenberger rub shoulders with pronatalist advocates, baronesses, and executives and shareholders of GB News, a Fox-like cesspool of misinformation, conspiracism, and LGBTQI+ demonisation (more on the group’s ties to GB News later).

According to its Statement of Vision, ARC is ‘a new movement of hopeful vision, local, national and international in its aim and scope, aimed at the collective, voluntary establishment of a maximally attractive route forward.’ True to form for Peterson, that could mean just about anything. Clearly, though, the group sees itself as a bulwark against Godless ennui and various kinds of what it regards as progressive catastrophism. If there is one orthodoxy detectable throughout the Statement, it is the idea—not new, but most often associated in modern times with Harvard psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker—that humans have become less violent and more altruistic over time (an assertion that has been in fact thoroughly debunked). As Enlightenment ideals of rational inquiry and empiricism grow in influence, this view goes, a ‘civilising process’ takes place whereby violence and cruelty radically decline.

As befits a project of the endlessly gifting contemporary right, what binds ARC together is not a series of bold, iconoclastic questions or ideas but a single, increasingly tired one: anti-political correctness. Peterson is no stranger to giving the thinnest and most specious of ideas a veneer of intellectuality.

ARC’s Statement of Vision is an unsurprising salmagundi of anti-wokeism, positive psychology, and reactionary politics, all of it given a patina of ennobling religiosity. It is also plainly influenced by Peterson’s recent embracement of the kinds of conspiracy theories which flourish within the same alt-right circles long sympathetic to, and even idolatrising of, Peterson. On Joe Rogan, he made it clear that ARC’s genesis had, in part, been catalysed by the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset—a vague set of Covid recovery protocols that has been turned by online conspiracy theorists into a virtual call to arms against what ARC’s Statement of Vision calls ‘the limits to growth and opportunity made increasingly mandatory by a coterie of concerned and hypothetically expert elites.’

Whereas, in Peterson’s view, organisations like the WEF operate as unaccountable, quasi-totalitarian enclaves of globalist power, ARC is anti-elitist and transparent—a curious description given its links to pro-Brexit hedge fund billionaire Paul Marshall, a key investor in conservative opinion outlets GB News and UnHerd, and Legatum, a thinktank funded by the controversial Dubai-based investment firm of the same name. None of this, of course, is declared on ARC’s website.

ARC’s inaugural in-person talkfest is due to take place in London around Halloween, appropriately enough. No doubt, amidst the gnawing of meat-only canapes, there will be much talk of the climate crisis as an article of faith among the progressive elites determined to impose their technocratic utopia on everybody else. But whether it is unprecedented megafires in Peterson’s own Canada, record low levels of sea ice in the Antarctic, or the increasing probability of the world passing five disastrous climate tipping points, the future really is taking shape as a biblical catastrophe—however far ARC’s billionaire-backed denialists can stretch their decidedly un-Enlightenment refusal of uncomfortable facts.

Those who keep faith in the idea of human improvement ought to take the climate crisis as their starting point, not proof that there is a vast left-wing conspiracy to run down our prospects as a species. The straw men integral to ARC’s vision of a traditionalist, God-fearing, market-friendly future wouldn’t survive the first hint of a twenty-first century Deluge.


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Ben Brooker

Ben Brooker is a writer, editor, and critic based on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation. His work has been featured by Overland, Australian Book Review, The Saturday Paper, MeanjinKill Your Darlings, and others in Australia and overseas.

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  1. It’s taken me years to recover from the nightmares those two ghouls planted in my subconscious.
    Out damn spots !!

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