The Canals of Mars? Troy Parfitt and Jordan Peterson

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was erroneously believed that there were “canals” on the planet Mars. These were a network of long straight lines… observed by astronomers using early low-resolution telescopes without photography… Around the turn of the century there was even speculation that they were engineering works, irrigation canals constructed by a civilization of intelligent aliens indigenous to Mars.

I’ve known Troy Parfitt for several years. I edited two of his books, and I’ve read the others. Our tastes in literature and music are similar. We’ve only met in person a handful of times, but I consider him a friend. 

Nearly two years ago, Troy began telling me about disturbing similarities between the words of Jordan B. Peterson, the Canadian superstar-professor/bestselling author, and those of Adolf Hitler. In a series of emails, and later in Facebook posts, he shared examples of what he described as Peterson’s plagiarism of the Nazi leader’s writings. 

I could see that the language was somewhat similar, but I wasn’t convinced that Peterson lifted so many phrases and ideas from Hitler. I wondered if the wordings Troy highlighted weren’t somewhat common constructions — like “a topsy-turvy world” or “something for everyone” — and I told him so. But what to one person is nothing more than blurry lines on the surface of a dead planet is to another proof of the Martians’ engineering genius.

Back in September 2019, I spent most of one day with Troy. We discussed Peterson and some other topics. He was (and remains, if our regular correspondence is anything to go by) reasonable and reasoning. His eyes did not swivel. I saw no foam on his lips. 

While we were driving through rural Taiwan, roughly equidistant between where he lives and where I’m based, he asked me to take a look at the foreword of his just-published book about Peterson, The Devil and His Due. It was the part that was giving him the most trouble, and he realized if it wasn’t any good, a lot of readers wouldn’t get into the chapters where he compares Peterson’s lectures and writing with those of Hitler, Jung, and others. 

He didn’t say so, but I think he approached me because he knew I’m skeptical about his thesis. Also, I hadn’t (and still haven’t) read the main body of the book, so there was no risk I’d unconsciously depend on something that appears later in the book in order to get his drift. He asked for no-holds-barred feedback. I gave it, inasmuch as it was necessary, and wished him the best of luck. 

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