I believe that I’ve already mentioned the fact that there’s a person out there in cyberspace who’s been obsessively monitoring and putting a malignant spin on everything I say and do for the past six years or so. (He’s even reported on my children’s purchases from Amazon.com and, in one case, managed to locate an obscure blog — of which even I myself wasn’t aware — in which somebody mentioned some long-forgotten minor prank of mine from a stay in Israel back in 1978 that he could spin as anti-Semitic.) My stalker, whom I suspect to be at least slightly unhinged, posts anonymously about me on a predominantly agnostic/atheist message board where participants sometimes seem to compete with one another to find new ways to express how insignificant and contemptible I am.
He’s their star.
He’s sought to portray me over the past several years as a thug harboring violent fantasies, a religious bigot, a voyeur, a smear-monger, a racist, an anti-Semite, a liar, a mercenary, a fascist, a spy, a deliberate saboteur of careers, a misogynist, a Nazi-sympathizer, a conscious destroyer of family relationships, and so forth. Every few weeks, he breaks a stunning story — almost always largely or totally false — about my latest imaginary dressing-down by a fictional faction of the Twelve, my supposed antagonism toward fellow-LDS academic friends of mine, my alleged role in strong-arming massive multi-million-dollar donations to the Maxwell Institute from unwilling Latter-day Saints, etc., etc.
It’s funny, in a bleak sort of way. And his audience absolutely laps it up.
In a blog post last week, I mentioned the hopelessness of a writer when confronted by hostile readers who don’t even want to understand.
My Malevolent Stalker, as I’ve called him, has now, it seems, offered a kind of textbook illustration of how such “readers” set about to distort and misrepresent those whom they’re determined to defame.
A week ago, I pronounced Groundhog Day “The Greatest Movie Ever Made.” (Disclaimer: I really, really like this movie, but I wasn’t being entirely serious when I declared it the greatest film of all time.)
Characteristically, my Stalker latched onto my joking comment, in that post, about liking the part of the original Manchurian Candidate in which the character played by Angela Lansbury is shot. Acknowledging that Ms. Lansbury is famously talented and reputed to be one of the nicest people in show business, I nevertheless admitted that I have an “irrational” dislike of her as an actress. It’s unjust, but I simply don’t enjoy watching her.
My Stalker, though, took my comment about Ms. Lansbury entirely seriously. Or, at least, he pretended to do so. According to him, I really want to see her dead. He chose to take it as expressing my literal wish to see Ms. Lansbury, and not merely her film character, die violently. Accordingly, as usual, he huffily expressed his shock and moral outrage at my supposed depravity.
Dr. Peterson, he reported, “takes great delight in seeing Angela Lansbury, of Murder, She Wrote, killed by a bullet from a gun.” (Of course, the subject wasn’t actually her lovable character in that popular television series — which I have never, ever, watched, partly because I couldn’t endure her — but her murderous, cynical, treacherous, child-abusing, treasonous, Communist-collaborator character, Mrs. Iselin, in The Manchurian Candidate.)
“I cannot figure out,” my stalker told his credulous audience, “why Dr. Peterson would so relish watching the major female character get ‘shot.’” ”I personally will not brand him a ‘misogynist,’” he chastely concluded, having already intimated that I am, in fact, a misogynist who favors violence against women. ”If that’s a title he deserves, I will leave it to others to apply it to him.”
Whereupon, as he well knew they would, his disciples proceeded to apply it to me with gusto.
Of course, as is his wont, he failed to mention some obvious facts that cut against his attempt to portray me as a hater of women. (I’m not sure exactly why: He could simply have shown me to be a murderous hater of humankind as a whole.)
Notably, in the very same post where I said that I enjoyed the scene in which Mrs. Iselin gets her just and long-overdue deserts, I also jestingly claimed that one of my favorite scenes in Titanic comes when Leonardo DiCaprio (another actor who has, at least historically, irked me) freezes to death in the North Atlantic, and, finally, asked whether anybody could point me to a film in which Hugh Grant, whose simpering performances have marred several movies that I actually like, meets his reward.
Neither DiCaprio nor Grant is female, so far as I’m aware. But to mention them would have complicated the Stalker’s carefully crafted narrative of Peterson-as-misogynist. (Perhaps I’m also violently anti-Italian-American and Anglophobic?)
Anyway, that’s a nice example of how deliberately dishonest misreaders do their unseemly work.