Jordan Peterson was vilified for his crusade against political correctness and is now seriously ill

In a dramatic video published on YouTube last week, a woman looked to the camera and delivered a deeply personal announcement.

She revealed that her father, Jordan Peterson, the famous ‘professor against political correctness’, was in intensive care in Russia after being hospitalised following a severe dependence on benzodiazepines – a class of anti-anxiety pills.

‘He nearly died several times,’ she says solemnly in the clip that has been viewed more than 2.4 million times. 

Plain speaking: Jordan Peterson in a confrontational interview with Channel 4 News’ Cathy Newman and, below, with Douglas Murray

‘He almost died from what the medical system did to him in the West.’

Explaining why he was in Russia, not exactly a free society, Mikhaila Peterson says: ‘The doctors here aren’t influenced by the pharmaceutical companies.

‘They don’t believe in treating symptoms caused by medications, by adding in more medications and have the guts to medically detox someone from benzodiazepines.’

Of course, for the Canadian psychologist’s family, the notion that he’s been left with ‘neurological damage’, as Mikhaila says, is a tragedy. 

But it is also an immense tragedy for everyone who cares about the culture wars that dominate so much of our lives today.

For the 57-year-old, who has been the most talked-about thinker on our planet in recent times, has bravely battled the political-correctness ninjas harder than anyone else. In an age of newly imposed, often suffocating dogmas, he said what people know to be true about a whole range of issues.

That women and men are biologically different. That people ought to take responsibility for their own lives. 

That modern life often seems hollow and meaningless.

But there was a very great cost to pay for being the cause célèbre of telling the truth. Becoming Public Enemy No 1 may have helped lead him to where he is today.

Peterson first came to public notice in his native Toronto by refusing to use so-called ‘compelled speech’ – for example, being compelled by law to refer to a trans person by their chosen pronoun. 

He was not ‘transphobic’, as his critics claimed, but he was motivated by a simple refusal to allow governments in a free society to dictate what people are allowed to say.

From that first storm, he seemed to start fires wherever he went. 

And always singeing the people who tried to get the better of him. 

His YouTube channel, where he posted lectures and speeches, racked up tens of millions of views. 

Pilloried for speaking sense, parts of the Left-wing media tried to destroy him.

One of the most famous examples came during a visit to the UK in 2018 when Channel 4 News’ Cathy Newman spent half an hour trying to put words in Peterson’s mouth. 

Attempting to catch him out on trans rights and women’s equality, she tried in vain to twist what he said to fit her own ideological agenda. 

Clips from the interview went viral and, like other attempts to destroy Peterson, only helped gain him a larger audience.

In 2018 his book Twelve Rules For Life was published and it instantly became a global No 1 bestseller. 

He was quickly selling out arenas on speaking tours. 

Though his audience were of all ages and backgrounds, he struck a particular chord with the young.

In a society whose guiding ethos is ‘do whatever feels good’ and then ‘spend your spare time saving the planet’, Peterson had a different message. 

It included some reboots of good, old-fashioned values. Sit up straight. 

Put your own house in order. He told people if they couldn’t even keep their room clean it was unlikely that they were going to be much use reordering society or the planet. 

He advised people to develop meaningful relationships. He recommended delayed, rather than instant, gratification. 

And he invited people to live their lives as though they had purpose: to consider that this life we are living is more than just some shallow consumer game.

High price: Close friend Douglas Murray reveals the famous 'professor against political correctness' has paid a high price

High price: Close friend Douglas Murray reveals the famous ‘professor against political correctness’ has paid a high price 

When I first saw him deliver a lecture in London, the atmosphere was electric.

In a tour-de-force, Peterson explained the virtues of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, the significance of myth and the relevance of great stories from the past to people’s lives today.

It was religious and secular – familiar and radical.

By this point, we had become friends and we appeared on stage together in two venues. 

Together with our friend, the philosopher Sam Harris, we appeared at the 3Arena in Dublin and the O2 Arena in London. On both occasions, some 10,000 people turned out to hear us discuss God, politics and society.

I have no doubt that the majority of the audience was there to see Jordan, and he deserved it.

Inevitably, he’s made countless enemies. Not only among people who disliked his message, but among people who had never seen anything like this thinker’s stardom and were jealous.

He was constantly abused on Twitter, while publications printed hit-pieces and slanders incessantly. 

Fury: Students and the faculty at Cambridge University were in uproar at the decision to pull the plug on his visiting fellowship

Fury: Students and the faculty at Cambridge University were in uproar at the decision to pull the plug on his visiting fellowship

Then, last March, his visiting fellowship at Cambridge University was rescinded after a backlash from the faculty and students.

Looking for excuses not to host the world’s most famous professor, they pretended to be horrified by a photo of him at a fan meet-and-greet standing next to a man wearing a T-shirt with the slogan ‘I am a proud Islamophobe’. 

The cowards at Cambridge said that by standing there, Peterson had ‘casually endorsed’ the man.

Meanwhile, people around him were worried about his crazy schedule. A speech in a different city – often a different country – every day. And media interviews at all hours.

Last April, his wife Tammy was diagnosed with terminal cancer. 

Trying to cope with the strain, Jordan began taking increased doses of the anti-anxiety drug benzodiazepine.

He has always been frank and open about his history of depression and has tried to advise other people on how to cope with this dreadful affliction.

Last September, his daughter Mikhaila announced her father had checked himself into rehab. 

Then this week we got the awful news. 

In her message, Mikhaila, who suffers from arthritis and an autoimmune disorder which she treats by eating a controversial all-meat diet, announced he has been trying to get off the medication for the past eight months.

I wish the reaction to this terrible news had been kinder. 

But it is a feature of our toxic age that people who like to present themselves as the kindest can be relied upon to be vicious as hell in a cause they think is good. 

Those social-justice activists who Peterson exposed when he was well are now being vile because he cannot remonstrate.

The Independent website attacked him as an ‘alt-right figurehead’ who has attracted ‘widespread accusations of transphobia’.

The Guardian journalist Suzanne Moore tweeted gleefully: ‘Hello Editor types. Jordan Peterson holed up in rehab in Russia. F*** me gently with a chainsaw… let me do that story. Come on!’

A fellow Canadian academic, Amir Attaran, wrote on Twitter under the hashtag ‘Karma’: ‘Jordan Peterson, oracle to gullible young men, preacher of macho toughness, and hectoring bully to ‘snowflakes’, is addicted to strong drugs and his brain riddled with ‘neurological damage’.

‘He deserves as much sympathy as he showed others.’

And these are just three notable examples of the sewer of abuse directed his way.

So perhaps I could say a few words of support for him?

I have known a few remarkable people in my time. The best of them, inevitably, have fans.

Fans: The novelist Martin Amis said you can tell who fans are as they shake on meeting their heroes but in Peterson's case his fans would tell him that he made a difference to their lives

Fans: The novelist Martin Amis said you can tell who fans are as they shake on meeting their heroes but in Peterson’s case his fans would tell him that he made a difference to their lives

You can tell the fans, as the novelist Martin Amis once wrote, because they shake when they meet their heroes. 

With Jordan Peterson it wasn’t like that. Walking down any street with him, or sitting next to him in book-signing queues, I saw first-hand what other people heard about. 

In the 20 or 30 seconds that people might have him to themselves, they didn’t tell him how much they loved his work.

They told him what a difference he had made to their lives.

A great author is lucky if this is said to them even a few times in their lives. Peterson was told it multiple times every evening.

I’ll never forget a man in his 20s who came over after one event. 

While Peterson signed his book, he related that 18 months earlier he had been living in a bedsit, spending his time gaming and smoking too much marijuana. 

Today, he said he was married, holding down a job and his wife was expecting their first child. 

This, he said, was all because of Peterson. I’ve heard similar stories many times.

A serious and grown-up society would take lessons from such a phenomenon. 

Instead of dismissing him, deriding him or trying to catch him out, it would recognise that we live in a society where plenty of people are willing to tell easy untruths but too few people are willing to tell difficult, necessary truths.

It would also realise that underneath the glitz and technology of the modern age, there lies a deep lack of purpose – a chaos – that for young people in particular can be utterly terrifying and which almost no one addresses. Peterson has sought to address that chaos. 

Not with grandiose plans but with small, achievable steps. All bolstered by a knowledge and curiosity that was frankly awesome as well as inspiring. 

At no point has he held himself out to be a saint. And not once has he suggested that he has all the answers.

But he knows where the answers do not lie. And he knows that we can live lives of deeper meaning and purpose than this shallow and retributive age pretends.

Jordan Peterson is a remarkable man. 

But he’s still a man, with all the frailties and failings that condition involves. 

His daughter says that he is on the mend. And I know I say on behalf of millions of people: ‘Get well soon, my friend. Our world has need of you.’