I trust that our online paths have crossed often enough for you to know that I generally enjoy your work and I think you produce essays which stand on their own merits. I was not kept abreast of the Facebook “shitstorm,” as you put it, because I am never on Facebook except when I’m shamelessly promoting a blog post such as this, but I did think the vitriol of some of the comments on your “How to save the Canadian Theatre” piece seemed outbalanced and unfair.
All that being allowed, I have to say that your latest column in the Toronto Sun, in which you offer a stumbling defence of Jordan Peterson, is an unfortunate work; as a piece of argumentation it is ill-informed, lazy, and well beneath the standard which I’ve become accustomed to enjoying from you.
You remarked lately on Twitter that you’re a “disillusioned liberal gone left,” and indeed, you seem to be undergoing some effort to let everyone know it; well, to borrow a potentially spurious tag about a certain Teamsters representative: being a leftist is a bit like being ladylike; if you have to say that you are, you probably ain’t. No matter how many times you repeat your claim to “leftist” bona fides, you can’t simply affirm what has to be proven. It’s not that I doubt you; it’s just that I sort of wish you wouldn’t keep saying it all the time.
Jordan Peterson has lately appointed himself a critic of the federal Liberal government’s proposed Bill C-16, a brief amendment to the Canadian Criminal Code and Human Rights Act. The amendment consists in adding “gender identity” and “gender expression” – previously non-enumerated by the Charter – to those sections of the relevant legislation that prohibit discrimination and “hate speech” towards identifiable groups. The thrust of Peterson’s advocacy, echoed and enthusiastically embraced by you, is that this constitutes a “serious restriction of freedom of speech”. You write that it is “necessary,” therefore, to defend Jordan Peterson. Plainly, such a thing is “necessary” if and only if the following conditions can be satisfied:
- his factual claims (premises) are true;
- his assumptions are reasonable;
- his conclusions are justifiable.
This being the case, let us turn now to a more careful study of what it is we’re meant to be “defending.”