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Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson has recently taken to Twitter, reacting against several published images from the forthcoming Captain America #28 comic, written by author, essayist, and Atlantic contributor Ta-Nehisi Coates
Peterson tweeted his reactions to the character of Red Skull, the apparent villain of the comic issue, who throughout his Marvel comic run is depicted as a Nazi and war criminal. In Coates’ latest Captain America issue, Red Skull appears to be using rhetoric similar to Peterson’s. In one panel, Red Skull is depicted on a laptop screen, as if the viewer were watching a YouTube video (one of Peterson’s platforms); beside Red Skull are the words “Ten Rules for Life”—a seeming reference to Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.
Peterson tweeted an image of this panel—which also includes labels like “chaos and order” (themes Peterson often discusses, and a possible reference to his own latest book Beyond Order) “the feminist trap,” and “Karl Lueger’s genius” (a reference to an Austrian politician whose anti-Semitism is regarded a precursor to Adolf Hitler’s). While these latter quotes don’t seem to be direct references to Peterson, their proximity to an explicitly Peterson-inspired title makes the case for some connection. Beside an image of the comic panel, Peterson captioned his tweet: “What the hell?”
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A series of other panels now circulating on Twitter depict Captain America outlining Red Skull’s appeal—and so, comic readers might infer, Peterson’s: “It’s the same for all of them, young men. Weak. Looking for purpose … He tells them what they’ve always longed to hear. That they are secretly great. That the whole world is against them. That if they’re truly men, they’ll fight back.”
Peterson responded to these panels by tweeting, “Do I really live in a universe where Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a Captain America comic featuring a parody of my ideas as part of the philosophy of the arch villain Red Skull?”
The comparison is likely to be especially irksome to Peterson, whose academic work has, among other things, centered on issues of belief and ideology—particularly how it leads participants to commit atrocities. Peterson’s early work focussed on Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Red Skull represents the former.
Whatever the nature of the allusion, Coates, whose run of Captain America comics has been going since 2018, and will wrap with Captain America #30, isn’t likely to see too much of Peterson’s followers’ vitriol. He’s been off Twitter for years. And off Twitter is probably the smartest place to be.
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