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Anonymous cowards cry over Jordan Peterson's new book
Employees of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson's publisher want his new book burned before it's even gone to print
It didn’t take long for Dr. Jordan B. Peterson to find himself attacked after finally returning to public life after some very serious health concerns laid him out for nearly a year. A day after announcing his new book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life, Peterson’s publisher faced a backlash from some of its own employees, per Vice.
Several Penguin Random House Canada employees confronted management about the company’s decision to publish a new book by controversial Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson at an emotional town hall Monday, and dozens more have filed anonymous complaints, according to four workers who spoke to VICE World News.
Note, firstly, the framing of this article: Peterson is “controversial” right out of the gate, making the casual reader immediately sympathetic toward his anonymous critics.
Four Penguin Random House Canada employees, who did not want to be named due to concerns over their employment, said the company held a town hall about the book Monday, during which executives defended the decision to publish Peterson while employees cited their concerns about platforming someone who is popular in far-right circles.
“He is an icon of hate speech and transphobia and the fact that he’s an icon of white supremacy, regardless of the content of his book, I’m not proud to work for a company that publishes him,” a junior employee who is a member of the LGBTQ community and who attended the town hall told VICE World News.
Another employee said “people were crying in the meeting about how Jordan Peterson has affected their lives.” They said one co-worker discussed how Peterson had radicalized their father and another talked about how publishing the book will negatively affect their non-binary friend.
Continuing with the theme of using language to frame a discussion, one of the anonymous employees complains that Peterson “radicalized their father,” as if Peterson is a terrorist converting people into suicide bombers or the leader of a Charles Manson-esque murder cult. Dr. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto who has also lectured at Harvard University. Credentials aren’t necessarily an argument in and of themselves, but they certainly help make the case that Peterson is far from being a fringe figure.
Secondly, let’s compare these anonymous critics who “did not want to be named due to concerns over their employment” to the example of Peterson himself. When Peterson became a household name due to his opposition to Bill C-16, which we’ll get to in a moment, he didn’t hide his identity. He took a stand regardless of how it would affect his employment or career opportunities. Obviously it worked out extremely well for him, but he couldn’t have known that beforehand. For all he knew he was committing career-suicide, and he’s certainly faced plenty of trouble from the University of Toronto, where he’s still technically employed, but he had the courage to stand by his convictions publicly.
Yet we’re expected to empathize with the crybabies who are unwilling to put their reputation or name behind their criticisms of the author of a book that they admittedly haven’t read.
This is not to suggest that all grants of anonymity are inherently bad, as the critics of repressive regimes around the world are granted anonymity for the very good reason that it may save their lives. However, it’s clearly nothing more than cowardice to try to destroy the reputation of a person by hurling evidence-free accusations at them while refusing to disclose your identity.
Regardless, why are these people upset with Peterson in the first place, referring to him as “an icon of hate speech and transphobia?” It has to do with his public opposition to Bill C-16 in Canada, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.
The bill is intended to protect individuals from discrimination within the sphere of federal jurisdiction and from being the targets of hate propaganda, as a consequence of their gender identity or their gender expression. The bill adds “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the list of characteristics of identifiable groups protected from hate propaganda in the Criminal Code. It also adds that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on a person’s gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance for a court to consider when imposing a criminal sentence.
Here is Peterson’s explanation for why he opposed Bill C-16:
One of the more controversial things I said in the videos was that I would not use what have come to be known as “preferred pronouns” to refer to people who believe that their gender does not fit neatly into the traditional categories of male and female. The gist of the counter-argument was: “Why won’t the mean professor change the way he speaks, if doing so would spare some vulnerable peoples’ feelings?” (A National Post columnist described me as a “jerk.”) There are a few reasons why I took this stand.
First, I will never use words I hate, like the trendy and artificially constructed words “zhe” and “zher.” These words are at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century.
I have been studying authoritarianism on the right and the left for 35 years. I wrote a book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, on the topic, which explores how ideologies hijack language and belief. As a result of my studies, I have come to believe that Marxism is a murderous ideology. I believe its practitioners in modern universities should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to promote such vicious, untenable and anti-human ideas, and for indoctrinating their students with these beliefs. I am therefore not going to mouth Marxist words. That would make me a puppet of the radical left, and that is not going to happen. Period.
It is, in Peterson’s view, and I happen to agree, fundamentally an issue of free speech. If you were born a male but tell me that you prefer to be considered a woman, then I have no problem complying with your wishes based on simple politeness. However, this is not the same as me being forced to comply with your wishes under threat of fine or imprisonment. My opinion or my speech regarding another person cannot actually harm them, and so cannot be a violation of their rights.
If I were of the opinion that someone born a male is a male and must act and dress like a male and then I tried to enforce this belief on a transgender person, then I would be violating their rights. I cannot force someone to use male pronouns or to dress in typically male clothing against their will simply because I believe they’re a male, but by the same logic they cannot force me to use female pronouns, or made-up pronouns like “zhe” or “zher,” or to accept their gender-identity against my will, because that would be a violation of my rights.
Again, I am personally willing to use whatever pronouns, unless they’re made-up, a person prefers that I use for them in a conversation, and if a biological male believes that they’re actually a woman, or vice versa, then I am in no position to question them and wish them nothing but the best. As far as I can tell, this is the same position that Peterson holds. From a now archived article from Vice (accessed on November 27, 2020):
Peterson told VICE Thursday that he had never actually interacted with a student who asked to be addressed by their preferred pronouns, but refused to confirm or deny whether he would actually comply with a request if asked by a future student to do so. Instead, Peterson said the issue is "complex" and "cannot be simplified" to a yes or no answer.
"It would depend on how they asked me," he told VICE. "If I could detect that there was a chip on their shoulder, or that they were [asking me] with political motives, then I would probably say no...If I could have a conversation like the one we're having now, I could probably meet them on an equal level."
The issue at hand is that of force. Are we going to have a civil discussion where you ask me to respect your preferred sense of gender-identity, or are you going to threaten to call the police on me if I won’t validate your feelings? Under the former scenario the worst-case is that we simply agree to disagree on the issue while respecting each other’s rights to believe and say whatever we want, whereas in the latter my right to freedom of speech and belief is violated.
Insisting that the right to freedom of speech be upheld and respected is not transphobic nor does it “erase” trans-people. Speech and belief may be transphobic in specific application, but the act of defending the rights to these things is not itself inherently transphobic. It seems clear that Dr. Peterson is doing nothing more than defending the liberal values of freedom of speech and freedom of belief, be they offensive or not, and his critics are attempting to malign him by claiming that this makes him personally transphobic or bigoted because they want special privileges granted to themselves under the law.
One thing that Peterson’s critics ought to consider is: How would banning Peterson’s new book from being published actually help their position? Asking the publisher not to publish his book would seem to indicate that they can’t actually defend their position, and simply want Peterson to be silenced. This would do nothing more than galvanize Peterson’s supporters and make enemies of those who might otherwise be sympathetic to your views.
From a strategic point of view, I want the people I disagree with to speak as loudly and as often as possible so that I can point out why I think they’re wrong and convince others of my point of view. If nothing else, I want them to basically hang themselves.
Look at the example of right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Milo was considered the face of the alt-right by many on the left, and yet no matter how many protests they engaged in or how many of his events they got canceled or how many times they called him a white supremacist he just kept gaining in popularity. Anyone who would talk to, interview, or host Milo was attacked for “platforming” him, and yet it was giving him a platform to speak that ultimately led to his downfall when he tried to explain that he believes some children are able to consent to sexual acts with adults because he believed that he was able to do so as a teenage boy.
Now I’m not saying there’s much of a comparison to be made between Milo Yiannopoulos and Jordan Peterson, though Peterson’s critics would like us all to believe that there is, but if I disagreed with Peterson I would want him to be able to speak freely so that he might say something to discredit himself, as Milo did, or so that I can, at the very least, attempt to make a better argument to stand against his in the public sphere and cause him and his ideas to lose support in that manner.
It may seem like a cliché, but the best way to combat bad ideas is to expose them to good ideas in as open a manner as possible. I happen to think that Jordan Peterson is a great intellectual with very interesting ideas and ways of thinking about the world that have helped me in my own life, and I’m looking forward to reading Beyond Order, but not everything he says is going to be correct, and de-platforming him and refusing to publish his book would simply confine his bad ideas to an echo chamber where they won’t be challenged or corrected. This is something, which should be of interest to his critics, that Dr. Peterson himself fully acknowledges, including in the video where he announces his new book. He states that he hopes this book will improve on his previous book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, because there has been such an open discussion of the ideas that he put forth in the book and the many lectures he did around the world to promote it that it has helped him refine his own thinking over the years.
This is, simply put, nothing more than the liberal worldview put into application, but self-professed liberals have long since abandoned liberalism in favor of progressive culture-wars by using corporate and state power to try to remake society in their image. This is what Jordan Peterson actually stands in opposition to, and this is why they want to destroy him.