In Praise of Strategic Ignorance

Jordan Peterson is a terrible person. Or maybe he isn’t; I’m not really sure.

To be honest, I barely know anything about Jordan Peterson. And that’s on purpose. Today, I’d like to introduce you to something I call “Strategic Ignorance.”

The concept is simple: going out of your way to avoid learning about a silly hot button topic. That what I’ve been doing with Jordan Peterson. Any time I see an article or tweet about him–pro or con–I ignore it.

As such, my knowledge of Peterson is delightfully slight. He’s a psychiatrist, I think? Or maybe something like evolutionary psychologist. But anyway, he has incendiary opinions on . . . gender? Morality? And his growing influence is either an existential threat to society or its last great hope. I have no idea. For all I know, he could be the lost heir to the throne of Bohemia.

I really can’t recommend strategic ignorance highly enough. My reasons include:

  • You don’t need an opinion on everything. It is easy for those of us who spend too much time on Twitter to think that we have to have a take on everything. Any time a contrived controversy makes angry people on your timeline angrier, you must advertise to the world that you have the correct take. That you’ve read the right sources, appropriated the right angle, and will therefore present a conventionally thoughtful opinion.

But here’s the thing (looks behind shoulder) you don’t have to do that. It’s perfectly acceptable to say that you don’t have enough information. And you are under no obligation to hop on every outrage wave that laps against your timeline.

  • Avoid needless anger. If I did a dive on Jordan Peterson, there’s a chance it would make me angry. Maybe because his critics unfairly malign him. Maybe because his ideas are too dangerous to merit his following. But what’s the point of that be? Peterson doesn’t matter in my daily life. I don’t have any relatives or close friends who support him, and (as far as I can tell) his ideas have made my life neither better nor worse.

And I don’t know about you, but being in an anger funk over something I read on Twitter is about the worst way possible to spend an evening.

  • Train yourself on what issues actually matter. Strategic ignorance doesn’t work with everything. Some issues are so important that you have an obligation to learn about it. For instance, you should be able to defend your religious beliefs. And you should have an opinion on, say, Trump’s border policies. Or maybe the Congressional candidates in your district. But those issues are few and far between. The vast majority of “controversies” are far less important. And learning to tell the difference is an important skill for all of us.

And when you do find a “controversial” issue that isn’t actually important, you have the freedom to do one of the most beautiful things in our social media-addled age: shrug and go about your day.

So if you think that Jordan Peterson is important enough for me to learn about, please let me know. But I will tell you there’s a 99% chance I’ll just, well, shrug and go about my day.

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Photo by IJ Clark

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