It seems that controversy follows Jordan Peterson wherever he goes. It’s hard for him to escape the bitter teeth of progressivism. In a world forever diving deeper into relativism, his definite truths for how you can make your life a little bit better pierce unwanting ears. We’re plagued by nihilism. Thus, when director Patricia Marcoccia and producer Maziar Ghaderi set out to make a documentary about him, they were quickly met with conflict, anger, and threats of violence.
I had the pleasure of talking to Maziar and Patricia about their documentary and its place in the present culture war.
The Origins of the Film
I was really curious why the film existed in the first place. What leads someone to create a documentary about Jordan Peterson, I wondered. Patricia Marcoccia, the director of a film, explained that The Rise of Jordan Peterson was not her original plan.
“I had known about Jordan Peterson’s work since 2003,” Patricia explained. At the time, she was an undergraduate student studying psychology, taking many philosophy courses. Patricia described herself as “very much in that existential phase of trying to figure out all the big questions.” What is purpose? What is meaning? It was at this point that Patricia came across Maps of Meaning, Jordan Peterson‘s first book.
“I had this thought at the back of my mind for many years,” Patrica said, “to make a documentary about him. I thought there was an interesting story behind the profound ideas and behind the person who’s writing about these ideas.” Patricia felt like there was something interesting and important in his desire to get to the bottom of the question of evil. “So I finally approached him in Spring 2015 about making a film. We had a few meetings, I showed him some work, and I learned more about what was happening in his life.”
As a result, Patricia decided to focus the film on Jordan’s friendship with a native carver named Charles Joseph. “They had this really interesting friendship.” It revolved around art, healing, and dreams, according to Patricia. “For a year and a half, I was following the story of their friendship. Charles’s family was actually adopting Jordan as a part of their family.”
However, things changed in the Fall of 2016 when Jordan released the Professor Against Political Correctness videos. “It came as a big surprise,” Patricia said. Both Patricia and Charles “had no idea it was coming”. She then “started following what was happening on campus,” filming rallies and talking to people who were for and against him.
“Pretty quickly, I realized I had to shift gears and put what I was initially working on pause.” It was at this point that she decided to “create a whole new film to try to make sense of this new phenomenon emerging”.
Counter-Productive Push Back
Watching these widespread protests go down on college campuses, I realized that those who are called out often benefit from the publicity. I wondered if the documentary experienced a similar effect from the attacks on it.
According to Maziar Ghaderi, the documentary’s producer, the pushback did help in the publicity of the film. “It’s that typical line where they say ‘we don’t want to give Jordan Peterson a platform’,” Maziar said, “but what they’re doing with those messages and those threats” is getting more people to talk about the film. All the unprofessional cancellations surrounding the film, as well as the threats received, only got people talking about the documentary.
“It’s a non-ideological film,” Maziar told me. It “shows different points of view” and “offers dignity and space to the people that have critiqued Jordan.” They’re in the film and Maziar thinks that they have better arguments for and against Peterson in their film than anyone else has.
“We’re basically getting lumped up into this kind of polarized culture war.” According to Maziar, some people on the left don’t really understand what the film is about but attack it anyway. They go after the film despite its balanced nature.
He explained that “the chatter around the film is really going to help push the iTunes digital sales.” Maziar thinks that The Rise of Jordan Peterson will have a good lifespan on there. This is good because “a lot of these events are curated by the administrators and gatekeepers of these film festivals and art house cinemas and they’re really not giving us the time of day.” But it doesn’t matter, because thanks to the digital age people can still access it online.
The Guillotine for Jordan Peterson?
Curious, I asked the producer if he or Patricia were every directly threatened as a result of the film. “Yeah,” Maziar said, “there was this kid from Antifa in Portland who sent us messages.”
They had a screening at a church just outside of Portland, and the pastor of the church received threats. “This kid was like ‘I’m going to bring out the guillotine’,” Maziar told me. “You look him up and it’s a know 20-year-old kid. Yess we had these threats, but in the end, nothing ever happens.” Thankfully, they never showed up. The church had a lot of security in preparation for the event. Antifa has brought a lot of bad press to Portland. Hillsboro, the nearby town the church resided in, wanted to avoid getting this same bad press. “Hillsboro didn’t want to have that same reputation, so they were very diligent about taking care of this.”
However, Maziar said that “it really pumped up publicity for the film. They really shot themselves in the foot with these threats.” However, he said that at the moment recieving threats of a guillotine is quite scary and pretty annoying.
Antifa and the Struggle for Meaning
Why did the film generate such a visceral and absurd reaction? What’s the motivation of these Antifa groups? They’re boosting the film, and it will still come out, so why do they continue in this manner? Maziar was kind enough to shed life on their ridiculous actions.
“The reason we were drawn to Jordan’s work from the very beginning had to do with his research and exploration of the significance of meaning,” Maziar explained. “So these Antifa kids,” with their Mao tattoos and their Che Guevera t-shirts, “are also looking for meaning.” Like anyone else, they want some kind of purpose in their lives, “so they get together and they cover their faces”. As they march around wearing all black, “they feel very strong in their mob”.
Maziar found it funny that “a lot of these guys would benefit from the things the Jordan speaks about on the philosophical level”. Even if they disagree with his politics, they can find truth in his purpose-focused philosophical outlook. “Tou shouldn’t be cutting people out of your life because of [their politics], but when it comes to the philosophy, it’s something that we all can get behind.”
He says that the members of these Antifa groups are “looking for meaning and when they’re together and they feel like they’re doing the right thing” they find meaning in that. “They walk away from the situation,” Maziar said, “thinking ‘Yes! We shut down the fascist! We’re on the right path! We are the righteous!'”.
Across the political spectrum, these mob-like groups are only looking for meaning. They want a greater purpose. For Antifa, that comes out in attacking and silencing the people that could give them the most guidance. “These guys are looking for it in the wrong place.”
Where to Find ‘The Rise of Jordan Peterson’
Where can you find The Rise of Jordan Peterson?
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