The Intellectual Fraudulence of Jordan Peterson (apropos of Daniel Karasik)

Daniel,

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:

  1. his factual claims (premises) are true;
  2.  his assumptions are reasonable;
  3. 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.”

Central to Peterson’s objection, and yours, is the claim that Bill C-16 marks “[the first time that] the government, advised by radical leftist social justice warriors, has decided what we must say, instead of what we can’t say.” Or, as you put it (rather more hysterically):

The left should be freaking out over a federal law proposing not just to restrict speech…but require it. A legal principle has a lasting and general applicability. Today that principle could make it criminally punishable not to call someone “ze” if that’s what ze wants…

It’s unclear which “radical leftist social justice warriors” now populate the center-right administration of the Trudeau government, but never we mind. The propositions you both make here can be easily tested against the existing facts. The text of the Bill itself, readily available to anyone with access to Google and a clue, contains no mention of gender pronouns whatsoever. We must look elsewhere for proof of your claims.

As you know, the relevant sections of the Canadian Criminal Code are §318 and §319. The former reads as follows:

As there is no conceivable way the use or misuse of pronouns can be construed as “advocating genocide”, your claim fails its first test. Perhaps it will fare better w/r/t §319. Let us examine both of its concomitant parts in order:

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The relevant phrase here, of course, is “breach of the peace.” As we’ll continue to see, both you and Mr. Peterson rely on prima facie readings of the specific text of legislation as the source of its meaning; this is not at all how laws function, as you would know had either of you bothered to do even basic research on the matter. “Breach of the peace,” while prima facie vague and undefined, has a specific legal meaning which has been determined by decades of juridical precedent.

We find the salient definition in Frey v. Fedoruk et al., a 1950 Supreme Court of Canada case in which the presiding judge, Justice Kerwin, defined a “breach of the peace” with reference to the 10th edition of Clerk and Lindsell on Torts:

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This remains standard. It is, I think quite obviously, an extraordinarily high burden of proof for any accuser to bear. Moreover, it puts you and Mr. Peterson in a rather uncomfortable conceptual pretzel: in order to prove that Bill C-16 risks the kinds of censorship you describe, you have to prove that the refusal to use particular personal pronouns carries a probable risk of physical violence against trans people and the gender-nonconformist;  then, in order to defend the position you began with, you need to demonstrate that this violence is preferable to the curtailing of free pronoun-use. This is the essence of the Oakes test, and not only have neither you nor Mr. Peterson attempted it, it seems to not have even occurred to you that might need to.

So far, Peterson’s claims have turned out to be factually incorrect, in a very basic sense, when tested against the actual text, context, intent, and praxis of two thirds of the relevant sections of the Canadian Criminal Code. We shall now direct our attention to the last third, §319(2), which is a more complicated matter and deserves serious consideration:

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There are principled and sophisticated arguments to be made against the inclusion of §319(2) in the Criminal Code, not least by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, of which I am a member. Sadly, neither you nor Mr. Peterson appear interested in making them. I don’t see any particular need to make them for you;  you may seek them out, should you care to.

As it stands, we must address your actual claims and actual arguments w/r/t Bill C-16, and compare them against the facts of the matter: how §319(2) has been used and interpreted in the past (it’s juridical precedent), and what reasonable assumptions there are to be made about its use post-Bill C-16.

Peterson’s claim, which you amplify, is that Bill C-16 would make it “illegal” for an individual to refuse to use the chosen pronouns of a trans person or gender non-conformist. Given that the text of the Bill – and the sections of the Criminal Code and Human Rights Act  it affects – make not a single mention of pronouns, what is his evidence of this? He refers only to a single line of definitional text in the Ontario Human Rights Code:

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Here we see quite clearly that Jordan Peterson – and by extension, you, in this instance  – is quite simply a vulgar propagandist and not a scholar. If he had bothered to learn anything about the way Canadian law works, he would know that the Ontario Human Rights Code is a piece of provincial legislation (hence “Ontario”) designed to remedy civil grievances. That you both fail to apprehend even the most basic difference between federal criminal law and provincial civil law is really quite remarkable.

In his YouTube lecture of September 27th, whence this whole business began, Peterson attempts to bridge the space between these two discrete pieces of legislation by employing equal measures of dishonesty and paranoia, evoking a sense of conspiracy that would be at home in any Donald Trump speech. He claims that, despite not having time “to do this properly” (20:10) and without having read “extensively (because extensively would be a lot)” (5:10) about the issues underlying the matter – in other words, without knowing what he’s talking about – he feels “scared” by the new legislation. He feels that the Ontario Human Rights Commission is “the biggest enemy of freedom currently extant in Canada” (31:39), which is the sort of thing one expects to find written in feces on the wall of a bathroom stall. Then again, what else could one expect from a man who finds a bank’s decision to no longer use the word “flip-chart” (because “flip” is a derogatory term for people from the Philippines) as “reminiscent of the worst of the ideologues in the 1980s and before that” (13:50 – referring I guess to Ceaușescu or something)? It’s a comparison that would make Lady Bracknell proud.

According to Peterson, “social justice warrior-type activists are overrepresented  in the current provincial government” (31:56 – names, please?).  This, according to him, is because “the current premiere is a lesbian in her sexual preference” (32:09). It follows, in the peyote dream of Peterson’s logic, that because the LGBT community has a “very sophisticated radical fringe” and he “can’t help but see the hand of that” in the relevant portions of human rights law he cites (32:35), that the same cabal of SJWs who wrote the OHRC legislation are also behind Bill C-16 and the relevant changes, and (we might suppose) are also fixing the global market and replacing politicians with lizardmen as well.

He says all of that while presenting a slide that looks like this:

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“Wording on their site…is identical to that on the Canadian Department of Justice.”

Note that this is the sole piece of evidence Peterson gives to support his claim that Bill C-16 will incorporate the policing of pronouns into the Criminal Code: that the Department of Justice has “identical wording” in its definition of gender expression to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. I feel the need to stress this a third time. He claims that in 2013, “radical SJW-type activists” wrote changes to the OHRC; he then claims that these same people contributed to Bill C-16, three years later, and that therefore (!?) it “criminalizes” pronoun misuse, and his proof of this is that a section of text from the Department of Justice (!?!?) is “identically” worded. This is so logically tenuous, to say nothing of legally and politically ignorant, that it’s frankly shocking that Peterson is allowed anywhere near a classroom.

More to the point: it isn’t even true.

Here is gender expression as defined by the Canadian Department of Justice:

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Here are the two definitions side-by-side:

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Clearly, Jordan Peterson uses the word identical differently than we do on planet Earth.

Section 7.4 of the Ontario Human Rights Code states that gender-based harassment can include “Refusing to refer to a person by their self-identified name and proper personal pronoun.” This is the only piece of legislation that mentions this. It is a piece of provincial civil legislation, and has no established binding force on Bill C-16.

Nevertheless, let’s humour Mr. Peterson and take a closer look at it. The dichotomy both he and you have erected between “restrict[ing] speech” and “requir[ing] it” is a false and sophistic one, based purely on semantics, as quickly becomes apparent when one thinks about it for more than the thirty seconds it takes to dismiss it as a nefarious creation of the “censorious left.” Consider the following thought-experiment:

Suppose I am a professor of some scientifically dubious field like, say, clinical psychology. Suppose it is my radical, countercultural view that black people are not truly human. Sure, there is an enormous body of scientific and conceptual work that seems to indicate otherwise – but I remain unconvinced. I’ve read books that seem to show that black people are more stupid than white people. In fact, there are scientific studies that suggest that black people are genetically more similar to bonobos and chimps.

I have friends and colleagues who are also not convinced that black people are human, really, but are afraid of the PC backlash from radical, SJW neo-Marxists should our views become public. Sometimes I go home after work and make excruciatingly dull YouTube videos in which I talk about how I don’t think black people are human, and sometimes the university at which I teach sends me letters telling me to stop.

However, I am principled, so I continue to persist in my view that black people aren’t human. Now, there is a student in my class who is black. I am not mean to this student. I don’t treat the student any differently than I do the others. However, the student insists on having me refer to it as “Michael.” It also takes offense when I refer to it as “it,”  even though this is the pronoun I use when I encounter animals in other circumstances. I find it silly to imagine that an animal should be able to choose its name and pronoun.  Instead, I call it Barnabas, which is a much  funnier name than Michael, and anyway he looks like a Barnabas. Besides which, if I had to learn a new name to refer to everything well – that would just be untenable!

So every class, this student comes and sits in my lecture and I wave and say, “Hello Barnabas!” And when Barnabas pouts and says, “My name is Michael,” I say to it: “It is my sincere, reasoned, philosophical belief that you are not capable of determining your own name. I do not accept that your name is Michael. To me you are, and will always be, Barnabas. I will continue to call you Barnabas, as is my preference,  and I resent your attempts, and the attempts of neototalitarian organizations like the Ontario Human Rights Commission, to require me to call you anything other than what I wish to call you, including Barnabas Mambo-Jambo Diggereedoo!”

Wouldn’t I be just such an asshole?

This is, of course, exactly what resisting the requirements of §7.4 entails. Jordan Peterson does not have the moral authority to decide which name or pronoun to refer to trans people, just as he does not have the moral authority to decide which name or pronoun to refer to black people, no matter how sincere or deeply felt his philosophical view of the matter.

§7.4, like the rest of the OHRC is a civil law intended to govern the daily interactions between individuals. It does not criminalize thought; Peterson is perfectly free to express whatever opinion about trans people he may wish (provided they do not meet the standards of hate speech described below), but in his day-to-day interactions with them, he is bound to behave, to use his word, in a “civilized” fashion.

You may claim that this is still an undue limitation on free speech. You may claim that not being able to refer to a black person as “it” is some fundamental encroachment from the “censorious left.” You may argue that society, “Marxist” or otherwise, suffers when we are not able to demean, dehumanize, and humiliate others whenever we feel the need. Yes, if you’d like, you may argue this – best of luck with it.

***

Now that we’ve shown Peterson’s reading of the Ontario Human Rights Code to be so much sophistic, intellectually fraudulent garbage, we can move on to more productive efforts. Namely, assessing the likelihood of pronoun misuse being criminalized under the only other piece of legislation relevant to the matter:  §319(2) of the Criminal Code.

Had you been interested in discussing the merits or demerits of the legislation actually under discussion – instead of simply regurgitating right-wing faux-libertarian platitudes – you would have done the reading necessary to understand how §319(2) is applied in the real world (as opposed to Peterson’s imaginary one).  It is this labour to which we turn our efforts now.

Under the proposed legislation, the misuse of pronouns would be considered criminal hate speech if and only if it constitutes a wilful promotion of hatred.  Again, you and Mr. Peterson have chosen to rely purely on prima facie readings of the literal text. As we have seen, this is not how law functions, and it is facile and ridiculous – to say nothing in of intellectually dishonest – to pretend otherwise.

Clarification can be found in R. v. Keegstra (1990):

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Here we see that by “wilful,” the courts mean to say that it must be shown that the accused possessed mens rea, the standard determinant for the criminal act. In other words, it is up to the Crown to show that misusing pronouns is a tactic intended to increase  “the most severe and deeply felt”  hatred of transpeople and gender nonconformists.  It needs to be proven that pronouns were misused out of active hatred, and not just conceptual or philosophical differences. This, again, as in any criminal case, is a very high burden of proof indeed. We find an even clearer definition of “hatred” in a recent civil case,  Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott (2013):

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Are the gender nonconformist “vilified”  by the misuse of pronouns? Are they made to appear evil, villainous, vile? Can you adduce anything that would make such an interpretation tenable?

When I mentioned my opposition to your defense of Peterson on Twitter (I decline to call it a “disagreement” –  disagreement implies conflicting interpretations of the facts; since Peterson’s view is not supported by any facts, the gulf between us here is better characterized as a difference in degrees of ignorance), you directed me to a Facebook conversation between yourself and NOW writer Jonathan Goldsbie. Goldsbie endeavored to correct you on many of the same points as I do here (though, there are places Goldsbie and I strongly disagree , mostly in terms of his reading of §319(2)). Your response to Goldsbie is startling.

First, answering the charge that your column refers not one jot to the actual text and praxis of the Bill itself, you claim that “[i]f the Sun‘s word limit had been 1000 and not 575, [I] would’ve be quacking all over the Bill.” To say that you couldn’t discuss what the Bill actually said and meant, in an article about the Bill, because of word limits is, frankly, total bullshit and well beneath your dignity to offer as a defense.

Then, when pushed to offer evidence of your point of view (i.e., cases which demonstrate that the hate speech laws in question  unduly curtail freedom of expression), you offer two. Interestingly, neither of them have anything whatsoever to do with gender identity or expression, a point that seems not to bother you. Nevertheless, let’s assess them on their own merits.

In the first, we find National Socialist Party of Canada-founder Terry Tremaine being sent to jail for violating a court order instructing him to remove certain online messages he’d posted in which he’d said the kinds of things about Jews we’d expect such a man to say. Had you done a basic amount of research on the matter, instead of just posting the first thing that showed up on your Google search, you’d find that the relevant section of the Human Rights Act under which he was charged – Section 13 – was stricken from the Act in 2013; Terry Tremaine is now free to publish anti-Semitic messages to his (very tiny) heart’s desire. His case, therefore, is not evidence of anything other than your inability to locate better evidence.

The second instance you cite is summed up (by you) in two words :”Mark Steyn?” Nobody (including you, I suspect) knows what you’re alluding to, here. I can only assume you’re referring to the 2007 suit brought against him by the Canadian Islamic Congress, a suit that was wholly dismissed by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2008.  I don’t care to speculate on how you’ve managed to not know that.

Having enumerated these two pieces of non-evidence, mostly without comment, you then effect some rather unlettered sophistry:

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I guess out of the “lots of” examples which you could employ in your service, you decided to go with  the two that fail to support your argument in any way. I’m not sure what I should make of that. True, it might be difficult to “prove conclusively that uv been denied housing bc ur non-binary”, though this just as true of any other identifiable group. Do you believe that landlords should have the right to deny black people housing on racial grounds? If so, you have very seriously misread the Adolph Reed article you yourself cited. I don’t know what the “vast majority of cases” are that you deem “injudicable,” since you don’t cite a single one.

Given that Jordan Peterson’s factual claims are totally false, his assumptions and speculations unreasonable and verging on the deranged, and his conclusions baseless and empty – why, again, did you feel it was necessary to defend him? You claim to be offering a “Marxist” defense, or at least to defend him “from the left”. Let’s take a closer look at what you think this means.

The first half of your column you spend repeating Peterson’s false claims and amplifying his hysterical, propagandistic conspiracy theories. There’s nothing at all leftist about it, and certainly nothing “Marxist” – they’re standard and decades-old right-wing talking points .

You attempt, falteringly, to reduce efforts to protect the civil liberties of marginalized groups to mere “liberal ‘diversity’ politics,” apparently ignoring what Adolph Reed actually wrote on the matter (really, you should go back and read that article, this time not just paying attention to the parts that vindicate your own feelings of perceived injustice).

You write things like “…you can be fined or thrown in jail for offering any criticism of [what you call “liberal ideals” but what are really just basic civil liberty protections, emphasis mine]…” which is unambiguously, factually false. Then, in a final struggle to work in some language that reads anything at all like it could rest apposite Karl Marx, you write:

But it’s no accident that many of his “oppressed critics, whatever their race or gender, are kids of the Canadian elite. If Peterson wanted to resist from the left instead of the libertarian right, he could argue – and he’d be damn correct –  that he’s taking a stand against an arrogant, repressive ruling class.

 First of all, it’s by no means clear that “many” of Peterson’s critics are “kids of the Canadian elite” (names, please?), but even if they were, why should that matter? Is that not just the essence of the ad hominem fallacy – to discredit the opinion of another not because of the substance of that opinion but because of some inalienable part of who they are?

Besides, even if many of Peterson’s critics are “elites” – so are many of his supporters, including you. I would hope it wouldn’t be too much for a political science major to understand that a property shared by two distinct objects cannot be of use in distinguishing between them. I guess it’s only elites other than you whom we should ignore. That you fail to get even a fallacious argument to work out in your favor speaks, I think, to just how crude and reductive your analysis of these matters is.

I am sympathetic to much of what thinkers like Adolph Reed and Rania Khalek have expressed w/r/t “identity politics.” I think you have very seriously misread them.  How you have managed to convince yourself that transpeople represent the “ruling class” and that the “bloody-toothed Leviathan of government” is somehow working to their benefit at the expense of Jordan Peterson’s right to be a colossal douchebag is well beyond my powers of intellection. The one in every three transpeople each year who commit suicide (more than twice the national rate) must not have been kept abreast of how cushy they had it as the new Canadian elites; the 20% who were physically or sexually abused last year for being trans and the 24% who were harassed by the police must not have been doing it right. The two-thirds of all transpeople in Ontario who avoid public spaces for fear of exactly people like Jordan Peterson must just not be, I don’t know, bougie enough.

The truth is, if you were interested in protecting free expression, you wouldn’t be expending energy defending charlatans and ideologues like Jordan Peterson. You wouldn’t be writing columns lambasting innocuous human rights legislation designed to protect the marginalized. You wouldn’t be contorting into intellectual pretzels in an effort to convince yourself that by speaking out against laws designed to protect transpeople, you were speaking out against neoliberal power centres. You wouldn’t be writing about Bill C-16

You’d be writing about Bill C-51, supported by the federal Liberals, which criminalizes “advocating or promoting terrorism,” and increases the state’s already sweeping surveillance powers. You’d be writing about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will severely limit, among other things, internet freedom and expression.

Granted, writing about those things – effected by the ultra-wealthy and powerful – would be less likely to earn you a paycheck from right-wing publications like the Toronto Sun. I wonder what Marx would say about that.

81 Comments The Intellectual Fraudulence of Jordan Peterson (apropos of Daniel Karasik)

  1. John Johnson

    I think you made very good points about petersons factual and legal basis for his opposition to bill C-16. You have more or less convinced me that there is no burgeoning neo-marxist conspiracy underlying this issue. However, your parable about Michael/Barnabus seems a rather disingenuous straw-man of what is actually a complicated subject

    “does not have the moral authority to decide which name or pronoun to refer to trans people, just as he does not have the moral authority to decide which name or pronoun to refer to black people”

    Sure but, who does have the moral authority? The ability to take a name and identify as one of two genders has been enshrined in our social contract since time immemorial. Questioning how and when we modify such very old tradition doesn’t really strike me so much as attempting to dehumanize a certain group (even if some people who would dehumanize that group would agree with me) and more of a serious question about how we approach the issue of modifying the social contract in general

    Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      Hi John, thanks for your comment.

      The “social contract,” as you put it, is by no means a clear object; by which I mean, you assume these conventions are the outgrowth of mutual agreements between actors of equal power. This is by no means obvious. The gender binary is a political and economic tool that have long served the interests of the privileged elite (see, for example, how ruthlessly and violently ideas of “femininity” and “masculinity” have been imposed on people throughout history). It is almost universally accepted that the traits Western/European cultures have associated with “male” and “female” have no identifiable basis in biology. So we have to ask ourselves, then: what is the basis of these categories?

      The “traditions” to which you refer are extremely narrow and Euro-centric; they are not biological “givens,” so much as social and cultural constructs, and there are many, many cultures which recognize far more than just two genders (cf. the Buginese of Sulawesi, Indonesia, who recognize no fewer than five separate genders). So this idea of how we “modify the social contract,” as it were, really just begs the question: what social contract? Who’s social contract? Why this social contract and not some other?

      The other, more pertinent point I was trying to make with that parable is that if we assume language use to be a manifestation of deeply held philosophical beliefs, and that therefore any institutional attempt to limit particular uses of language is necessarily a censorious attempt to curtail “free speech,” we run into a pretty large reductio ad absurdum – by the same logic, a university’s preventing of a professor from calling his black student “it” or even “nigger” is also a censorious attempt to curtail free speech. Either everything goes or not.

      Reply
  2. George Kozma (Geo Cosmos)

    I think Peterson just needs a public platform to become a popular celeb and to use this to disseminate his Jungian theory that antique myths can have a therapy effect.
    His main tenet, that the dopamine (good-feel hormone) gets produced if we imagine a Higher Power as an Ideal Future Goal is quoted from Norbert Weiner he says.
    The problem with this is only that in Hebrew there is no “god” only a Higher-Up (=eloha) whose name is exactly that – “yehaweh” means Futurator. So “god” does not exist – it eventually Will Exist if the precondition: love among humans (empathy) will create conditions for a longer life (eternal maybe) and than a Meshiah” /Greek: “Christ” maining anointed, ranked one / will appear etc.

    If he would disclose this original source (copyright Moses or Abraham) than he could not be so despising the Marxists – who, after all, are trying to raise empathy (love) and usher in the Future Era predicted by the Futurator Higher Power in ancient texts.

    I think that we never have a Direct Line to Reality/Future so all trends (bth Right and Left including extremes) must be expressed and may look like “truth” to many people.

    The idea that facts are neutral and value is mythically framed emotion helps people, so it is benevolent idea. It is true also that every time Marx (his tenets) was tried to be realized , somehow it created murderous states – and poverty.

    There is a need to have a “center right” camp which has a negative view of Marx and egalitarianism – but accept basic facts as neutral…and so all those who temperamentally shrink away from alt Right and Alt Left may imagine to find a safe haven.

    And this existing need found a hero – Jordan Peterson. I think if he has had a successful Freudian analysis (and not just Jungian) he could be described as someone who projects his hatred against his depressed father to the minorities (=fellow kids) on the Left and especially on gays and trans people because they are able to love men (too) and are not compelled to hate daddy.

    He will be elected a PM or a mayor somewhere and he even will be able to be among important leaders of a new centrist (rightist) party, so he will stay with us.

    I think both sides and the extremes too are beneficial and even their lies are very instructive.

    It is a pity he is not healed (as SSRIs need therapy and it is not enough to work as a therapist for healing). Becuse otherwise there are really inspired things in his two-layered truth claim.

    I even rooted for him for a few weeks – I live in an ex-Soviet country and his sympathy felt good – and I am a Jewish Rabbinical student so his basic ideas were known to me from the original version.

    Also, I was afraid of gays when young so I went to therapy and the compulsive eroto-maniac part-personality was healed by sex-less hugbuddies (advised by my therapist), so I am grateful for the decriminalization of the pertinent laws in the West.

    I am feeling sorry for him, because his brilliance – if he would not use dishonest tools like in the gender pronouns issue and in appropriating Jewish tenets without source – like Christians and Muslims tend to do since centuries – helps many people: the psychological issues he adressess are really perplexing for many of us /how to deal with myths vs facts/ and his is one of the less malevolent movements on the pallette.

    I can even imagine that he does have a supervisor (Freudians do have one) and will find a way to one down his harsh aggressivity and discover a real new place under the Sun where he really has no need to lie. As for now his petulant “I will not use pronouns I detest” makes him a trans/homophobic who needs a rehab. I root for him.

    Reply
  3. Ade

    Wow. I have not read an article with such thinly veiled hatred and bias in a while. Ever more surprising is the manner in which the author responds to comments. Although I don’t really have a horse in this race, I find it interesting that the U of T legal team decided Peterson’s videos were possibly breaking current provincial law. I’m sure you would remind us that you are focusing on federal c-16 and not provincial laws blah blah. However, it is concerning that the lawyers working for one of the biggest universities in the county came to such a conclusion about the legality of such a discussion (in the original videos). Regardless of its limitations (provincial vs federal), the possibility that the content of those videos could be considered illegal should concern us all.

    Reply
  4. Fergus Cloughley

    Great article. The comment section is interesting too. I think you may have touched a nerve. Make some youtube videos? Someone needs to counter the proliferation of all this madness…

    Reply
  5. Kevin

    “The two-thirds of all transpeople in Ontario who avoid public spaces for fear of exactly people like Jordan Peterson must just not be, I don’t know, bougie enough.”

    (names please)

    Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      Those statistics are from the the Trans Pulse Project’s 2015 report, which I linked to directly in the paragraph containing the passage you quoted. You would know this had you bothered to check.

      Reply
  6. Tony

    Honestly, this reads like something an bitter and jealous undergraduate would write. Is it really necessary to be sarcastic and spiteful when making an argument?

    Reply
  7. Jonathan

    Do you believe that Canada should have constitutional restrictions of government authority over thought, expression and speech, do you believe that verbal influence exists to an extent that diminishes or negates self liability, and do you believe that laws against inciting violence fail to address that?

    Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      To answer each of your questions individually:

      1) I’m not sure exactly what you mean by a “constitutional restriction of government authority” – if I am to take your sentence literally, then yes of course I believe there should be constitutional restrictions on the government’s authority over thought, expression, and speech, as does everyone morally sane.

      2) What is “verbal influence” and to what extent must it exist in order that it “diminishes or negates self-liability,” and also what is “self-liability”? This is literally gibberish.

      3) Because question 2) is nonsense, I can’t answer question 3) either. Laws against inciting violence fail to address what, exactly? The negation of self-liability by verbal influence? What on earth does that mean?

      Reply
  8. Colin Bolton

    *when it takes you at least 6000 words to refute an argument but nobody really listens because your opinion is garbage

    Clue in. I think I’ll take the word of a long practicing, licensed clinical psychologist over some dink behind a keyboard.

    Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      Whatever tickles you, Colin (Stuart?). If you prefer to take people of power and privilege “at their word” simply because of their power and privilege, you may be a good little sheep and do so. Best of luck with it.

      Reply
  9. Mariss

    Jesus. Having trouble dealing with your jealousy? Peterson is popular, is well respected, is successful as an intellectual. You are not.

    Deal.

    Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      Peterson is popular among the small minority of people like you who actually think comments like yours are sophisticated responses to argumentation. He is successful as a a propagandist and huckster showman, not as an intellectual.

      In your defense, believing that anyone who disagrees with your hero is blinded by mere “jealousy” is much easier than doing the work of understanding arguments and refuting them.

      Reply
  10. Greg

    Why do you keep mentioning the fact that it’s a 6000 word essay as if that’s impressive? Whole thing is offensively verbose.

    Reply
  11. Mancheeze

    My problem with Bill C 16 has nothing to do with pronouns or free speech. It has to do with women losing their sex based protections.

    That’s the real argument.

    Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      Women won’t lose their sex-based protections, so 1) no worries for you I guess and 2) therefor very much not the “real argument.” Thanks.

      Reply
  12. Dreaded Karltural Marxist

    Guess i’ll be the only one to say this, but I really enjoyed this piece and i’m glad that not everyone has bought into Peterson’s fabricated claims. I’d like to be hopeful, and think the points you raised will help convince people how ridiculous Peterson’s hysteria is, but it looks like his fans who are leaving comments are having trouble accepting that the dude who justifies their bigotry is factually wrong.

    I think there is a simple inconsistency regarding Peterson’s position which indicates how actively intellectually dishonest he is: If Peterson truly believes that it will be against the law to misgender somebody, then why is he so adamant that he will not be compelled to use their preferred pronouns?

    Is Peterson therefore admitting that he will be trying to break the law in the future due to his deeply held convictions?

    Reply
  13. Levinsky

    Step 1: Collectively accuse everyone you disagree with of not being liberal
    Step 2: Allow them to, in response to those accusations, be caught reiterating that they are in fact liberal one too many times
    Step 3: You can now preface every article about them with a passage about how they must not be liberal because they doth protest too much

    Reply
  14. Bob

    According to Peterson’s statement as a witness at the Senate hearing on Bill C-16, he chose his “level of analysis” of the bill to be “the context of interpretation surrounding the bill.” He first developed this “level of analysis” when he “scoured” the Ontario Human Rights Commission web pages looking for the surrounding policies. The Department of Justice, Peterson maintains, made a statement (which was later taken down) that said Bill C-16 would be interpreted in the “policy precedents already established by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.” One of which states, “refusing to refer to a person by their self-identified name and proper personal pronoun can be interpreted as harassment.” (This was the impetus for his videos.) Your strict “level of analysis” relies only on what the policy says, not on how it will be interpreted. Moreover, how the bill is to be interpreted, according to Peterson, is not based on your verbatim interpretation of the well-intentioned text of the legislation; rather, it will be interpreted within the context of surrounding policies. Maybe you should listen to the arguments that he lays on in the hearing.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnIAAkSNtqo&t=42s

    Reply
    1. Bob

      The above comment was written by a different Bob than the one who already responded to the discussion thread.

      Reply
      1. Bob

        That’s just the thing: He is not saying anything new. In the hearing, he condensed his entire argument against Bill C-16 and the precedents it might set. (This does give the impression of a slippery slope argument, which is, technically, illogical.) Your lengthy post on his supposed “intellectual fraudulence” seemed to avoid any form of counterargument because it focused on what he says, not what he means. Stripped of context, any argument can be spuriously refuted.

        Reply
        1. AlexanderAlexander

          I simply have to disagree with your characterization of my post and will have to let it stand for itself. I spent 6000 words outlining exactly why and how the assumption that the Bill criminalizes pronoun use is not borne out when considering the facts of juridical precedent and the ways in which hate speech laws actually function in a broader context. Nothing in Peterson’s testimony offered any challenge to what I’ve written (Jared Brown himself noted that Peterson was wrong on this issue, if you’ll recall).

          I didn’t discuss in as much depth his errors regarding, among other things, the Human Rights Act. I’ll be addressing those matters in the post to come.

          Reply
          1. Bob

            While we may disagree on the nature of Peterson’s argument, I look forward to reading your future posts on the subject.

          2. Bob (The Third)

            “Jared Brown himself noted that Peterson was wrong on this issue” that’s a very broad reinterpretation of what Brown had to say. When has disagreeing on like 5% of the message of another person ever translated to saying that the other person is flat-out wrong? You’re really not helping anybody by wordsmithing to the point that you offput people from your position.

            Would you here and now condemn the New York City law that allows for people to be fined for misgendering an individual, liable for up to $250,000?

          3. AlexanderAlexander

            Hi Bob,

            Jared Brown disagreed with Peterson’s interpretation of the law. That’s what I wrote – nothing more, nothing less. That’s not “wordsmithing,” it’s a statement of fact. Anyone who disbelieves me can easily check.

            Your question, which I’ll answer, is notable for what it doesn’t mention: that the New York City regulation is issued by the Commission on Human Rights and is a civil law, not a criminal one. The fines are restricted to “situations in which individuals intentionally and repeatedly target transgender and gender non-conforming people”. The burden of proof on intentionality is, as I’ve pointed out, extremely high. Not only that, but it only applies to particular contexts: namely, when providing jobs or housing (so or instance, a landlord or employer). This is extremely narrow and would leave Peterson (for example) untouched.

            Given these facts, no, I would not condemn the New York City civil law.

  15. Not Obligated to tell you my damn name.

    So, where shall we start with the errors, ambiguities and childish insults? I’d appreciate if you could keep this civil instead of acting sarcastically like with other commenters, or I’ll disengage and stop wasting my time.

    First. “It’s unclear which “radical leftist social justice warriors” now populate the center-right administration of the Trudeau government”

    What is this meant to imply? ‘centre-right’ means nothing in relation to your social views. I know plenty of self-described ‘centre-rightists’ who are progressive social justice types. The left-right dichotomy all over is a joke to describe social stances. Conservatism, progressivism and reactionary-ism are words to describe those. LR dichotomy is better used to economically-based thinking, and even then it’s not set in stone.

    Second. “The text of the Bill itself, readily available to anyone with access to Google and a clue, contains no mention of gender pronouns whatsoever. We must look elsewhere for proof of your claims.”

    “It is the presentation of gender through SUCH ASPECTS AS dress, hair, make-up, body language, and voice.” – where is the issue here? Canadian DoJ does not give set parameters of what constitutes ‘gender identity’. If it extends to things SUCH AS body language and makeup, why are you immediately assuming it doesn’t extend to gender pronouns? This is a huge ambiguity and another failing in your post. Regardless, the Ontario HRC definition remains this way in Ontario, subjecting an entire province to something closer to what Peterson claims.

    As for your job of defining what “hatred” is in this context – “Are the gender nonconformist “vilified” by the misuse of pronouns?”. Yes. They are. There are countless videos of this on the internet of this happening. Not to mention if you’re spent time recently in university campuses and even challenge what someone wants to be called you’ll usually end up in a shouting match because a gender-nonconforming person gets too hung up on it.

    “Can you adduce anything that would make such an interpretation tenable?”
    Riley Dennis is a fine example of this. Someone with a large and far-reaching audience who legitimately thinks “misgendering someone is an act of violence”. Violence is certainly vilifying. There are plenty more like this out there, let alone whether x person thinks your treating them with value vs your not treating them with value is, further adding ambiguity. No clear parameters? No clear limits. It’s whatever someone feels to be disparaging that can be grounds for it being taken to court, and as for “willingly” all it might require is corroboration and misquotation from other people who FEEL the intent/will to harm them. “active hatred, and not just conceptual or philosophical differences” – philosophical and conceptual differences can be active hatred. A BUF supporter who read A.R. Thomson and Mosley would actively hate Marxists because the philosophy of the latter is class antagonistic, which would be viewed as a threat to the Nation. I don’t know where this idea of “active hatred HAS to be irrational” idea came from.

    Thirdly. “certainly nothing “Marxist” – they’re standard and decades-old right-wing talking points .” – Intellectual dishonesty popping up here. Peterson, if you watch his lectures, regularly uses the term “neo-Marxist”, not just “Marxist”. There is in fact a distinction to be made here. “neo-Marxism” can be a political philosophy which adapted Marxism to deal with “stability of liberal democracies.” (Quick Google will help ya here). If you believe social issues are affecting the stability of our democracy, then of course this is included. These people exist as we have seen in the past months with the idea of Donald Trump being a ‘threat to our democracy’ for unnamed reasons, and that suddenly conservative social policy is going to destroy the society. I don’t even think Peterson is terribly correct here in using “neo-Marxist” or “Marxist”. The correct terms are “scum” and “cultural Marxists”. The rhetoric used by some civil rights unions, trans rights groups and these quote-on-quote “SJW types” in the government all express behaviours I match with ideas in Eros and Civilisation and The Authoritarian Personality. Also, your video leads me to a dead-end, but it’s probably some more ranting about ISR(Frankfurt) being socially conservative – precisely why I ignored it from the previous sentence.

    “protect the civil liberties of marginalized groups”

    So is this your stating that they are being disparaged?

    “The one in every three transpeople each year who commit suicide (more than twice the national rate” – emotional plea to try and arouse some sympathy. Doesn’t work too well, bud. The suicide rate for transgender individuals is not attributable to societal oppression because the suicide rate for far more oppressed and almost identically distributed groups is many, manyfold lower than the current suicide rate for transgender individuals.

    “The two-thirds of all transpeople in Ontario who avoid public spaces for fear of exactly people like Jordan Peterson must just not be, I don’t know, bougie enough.” Oh, so now he IS vilifying and literally scaring them away from public spaces? You spent paragraphs earlier trying to demonstrate how difficult it is to prove hatred, yet throw it all away to a pathological emotional appeal, demonstrating that merely requesting that respect is earned and not immediately deserved can be construed as vilification…

    Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      I didn’t ask you to engage, so if you want to “disengage” you’re more than welcome to.

      Since you helpfully enumerate your criticisms in a list, that’s how I’ll address them:

      1) The phrase isn’t meant to imply anything; it’s just an attempt to describe Trudeau’s politics. If you don’t like it, fine. It has no bearing on the arguments being made.

      2) I don’t make any of the assumptions you accuse of me making. In fact – I assume exactly the opposite, which is why I spent 6000 words addressing all the reasons people ordinarily assume the Bill will criminalize pronoun misuse. That’s just obvious.

      I don’t know if English is your second language or what, but your criticisms of the paragraph containing the phrase “gender nonconformist” make literally no sense at all and I don’t know what to make of them. I don’t know what internet videos have to do with anything.

      I didn’t claim that “active hatred HAS to be irrational.” Nowhere in my text can you find such a claim – otherwise, you’d have quoted it. You’re quite right that philosophical and conceptual differences can entail active hatred, but it’s not contingent. Lots of ordinary people disagree with others without hating them. I take it this is not the case with you. I don’t know who Riley Dennis is, but if he says what you say he does, I think he is wrong. In any case, it doesn’t matter, because the “violence” we are discussing here has a specific legal definition of “physical harm,” as you would know if your reading skills were a little better.

      3) None of what you write here has anything to do with what I wrote; I was addressing Daniel Karasik, who described his defense of Peterson as “Marxist.” I wasn’t addressing Peterson at all. Read better. Incidentally, the video I posted was of William F. Buckley Jr. discussing “political correctness.” You can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkJ2NvuQ0ko

      The suicide rate for transgender individuals is not attributable to societal oppression because the suicide rate for far more oppressed and almost identically distributed groups is many, manyfold lower than the current suicide rate for transgender individuals.

      Do you have a source for this? It wouldn’t matter even if you did, because your conclusion isn’t in any way proven by your premises. There are lots of ways for oppression to manifest – not just suicide. I’m also not sure how you calculate degrees of oppression in such a way to be statistically meaningful…

      I don’t understand your umbrage at my “emotional appeal,” as you put it. It’s manifestly obvious that people can be afraid of something without that something itself being guilty of hatred in a criminal sense. Moreover – and again, this would be clear to you if you actually read the piece – the excerpt to which you allude is not an “emotional appeal” at all, but simply evidence I cite against Daniel Karasik’s claim that transpeople represent a cultural or political “elite.”

      Reply
  16. Aaron Michaux

    Trudeau is “center-right” eh? The author must be from the “left pole”, where all dissenting opinion is right-wing. May I never suffer under his hopelessly partisan motivated reasoning.

    Reply
  17. Concerned Citizen

    oh I originally supported free speech but now I realize why supporting free speech is dumb. thanks rabbi

    Reply
  18. RobDog

    Just watch the Senate hearing Jordan testified in. If C-16 doesn’t threaten to compel unreasonable expression, then why did so many of the senators spend (waste?) so much time arguing in defense of what most reasonable people would call unreasonable compelled expression because it is just “polite, eh”?

    Use more common sense, less parroted sophistry from your activist lawyer friends.

    Speaking of, I found it adorable how fond you were of using that term, “sophistry”—especially when it came to dismissing the very idea that there is a distinction between restriction an compulsion, as “sophistic”, and then proceding to use the most sophistic pseudo-analogy I’ve ever read to defend this dismissal. Most people would not call that distinction sophistic. They’d call it self-evident. Just goes to show you’re the one living somewhere other than earth.

    Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      Oh you’re back already? You’re like my biggest fan.

      I have watched Peterson’s testimony, and I intend to write about it. Since you love me so much, keep an eye on this space.

      Again, I’m not bound to what some senators argued; I stand by what I myself argued, and only what I myself argued.

      Restriction and compulsion are, to use your phrase, self-evidently interrelated. By compelling certain actions, you restrict the alternatives; but restricting certain actions, you compel the alternatives – by definition. Even my activist lawyer friends know that.

      Reply
  19. David

    Alexander, great work. As you more or less say: if JP would just stop being an asshole the “debate” would be dissolve.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  20. Ian Conway

    The thing is, this isn’t brought up in a real court of law, its brought up in the Ontario human rights tribunal that is essentially a kangaroo court. Many of your explanations can merely be avoided because standards of burdens of proof can be deliberated at the courts wishes, they grant themselves that power.

    Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      Ian –

      You are completely wrong on a basic, factual level. My entire essay is in response to Peterson’s criticism of Bill C-16, which amends the Criminal Code, which means it regards federal criminal law in criminal courts. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, as I mentioned in my essay (which I guess you didn’t bother to read) is a body that remedies civil grievances in the province of Ontario. It has nothing whatever to do with Bill C-16.

      Do your homework next time.

      Reply
      1. Darren

        The government has indicated they will be using the Human Rights legislation as a guideline for enforcement of this bill, so they are certainly correlated. Considering “expression” is what one looks like in this context, it’s conceivable one could face charges of harassment for questioning the clothes somebody else wears. To a more concerning extent, it’s already been argued by the social justice warrior types (I truly think you underestimate their aggressive influene on victim-culture and culture as a whole) that due to the high suicide rates if transgenders, stating a refusal to use neutral pronouns could possibly be considered “advocating genocide”. I know, it seems crazy…that’s because it is. But I’m sure we can agree the gulags seemed crazy as well; it doesn’t make them any less real.

        As a side note, I believe your writing and commentary would greatly benefit in considering other positions as potentially well-informed, and absorbing them a bit more before planning your next retort. There is a high level of combative animosity that leaps through the screen, and it will likely push some readers away.

        All the best.

        Reply
        1. AlexanderAlexander

          Hi Darren,
          What you suggest is here is not actually meaningful – what is a “guideline for enforcement”? All criminal cases are subject to the fundamentals of criminal law; I don’t know who in the government “indicated this,” since you don’t offer a citation, but taking the statement at face value, it’s almost literally nonsense.

          As I’ve mentioned to other commenters, I don’t care that other people argue, for instance, that misuse of pronouns would “possibly be considered ‘advocating genocide.'” I don’t think they possible could be, for reasons that I think are self-evident. I’ve never encountered anyone who had a compelling case to make for this interpretation.

          Reply
      2. RobDog

        Maybe if you tried really hard you could be just a bit more intellectually dishonest.

        “This enactment amends the Canadian ***Human Rights Act*** to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.”

        https://openparliament.ca/bills/42-1/C-16/ (About one second on Google.)

        The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal was created to judge cases related to this Act, and it hardly matters whether we’re talking about provincial or federal tribunals if they all have their own versions of the same legislation. And as I understand it there is a very clear pathway to prison (via a Contempt of Court finding due to failure to comply with compelled speech and action) for anyone brought before any Human Rights Tribunal. So if your only defense of this bill is that it won’t be applied by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, that’s PRETTY FUCKIN WEAK, MAN.

        Reply
        1. AlexanderAlexander

          That’s not at all my only defense of the Bill, as you would know if you’d read my actual essay. I note that the Bill amends the HRA in the fourth paragraph; that you failed acknowledge this means you either didn’t read the essay, or you chose to lie about it.

          You are right to make this observation about Contempt of Court findings; I think there is room to oppose incarceration for non-violent offenses while also supporting the civil liberties of transgender people. Sophisticated people tend to have nuanced politics.

          Still, we make legislation in the here and now. I haven’t seen any compelling evidence that people like Jordan Peterson will come to greater harm through some convoluted manner of civil tribunals and Contempt of Court rulings than trans people will by having their basic civil liberties denied. Creating a more just society is a game of increments.

          Reply
  21. Andrew Buonaccorsi

    I don’t think Dr. Peterson precisely thinks there is a cabal or an organized conspiracy. I think that he believes in a sort of mob mentality situation in which a lot of people think and behave similarly without necessarily planning it out in a stereotypically evil way.

    I would also say that this article focuses on the wrong aspect of this situation. You are focusing on the spark that triggered the explosion, and not the long fuel buildup beforehand. That is what the right wing did with the Michael Brown shooting, they focused on the spark, which was a lie, in order to avoid the fuel, poverty and poor living conditions for black people in America. The reason Dr. Peterson has become a public figure is that people are accused of hate speech and compared with evil racists bigots for not accepting a radically neo-marxist view of gender. You did this in the article. There is ample evidence that gender differences in behavior are based highly on biology, and there is very little evidence that race differences in behavior are based mostly on biology.

    Since even you admit that one of the laws says that not referring to people by preferred pronouns could be gender harassment, you should admit that there is some basis to his claim that not using those pronouns could be illegal.

    I also think that it is quite frankly laughable to call Trudeau’s government center right. That is just patently false, Justin Trudeau even took part in HeForShe, which is a feminist movement, and is obviously not on the right.

    Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      Andrew,

      Neither you nor I know what Peterson actually thinks; I am concerned only with what he says.

      Your comparison of Jordan Peterson and people like him to poor, Black Americans is invidious in the extreme and morally – to say nothing of intellectually – deficient. The idea that straight, wealthy (Peterson is set to make $176,188.20 this year: http://www.sunshinelist.ca/) white men experience the same, or even a similar degree of stigma and marginalization for their views on gender as poor black males receive for being POOR BLACK MALES is transparently ludicrous and sort of demeaning for me to have to point out; if you want to press the point, go for it.

      I could phrase your more fundamental objection back to you in exactly the same tone – why is it that people who criticize the political and moral views of men like Jordan Peterson are dismissed as “radical neo-marxist” out to destroy free speech? Why is it that Jordan Peterson, in your view, is at liberty to espouse whatever view he has, immune to criticism, yet his detractors are not? Furthermore – WHAT THE FUCK IS A “NEO-MARXIST” VIEW OF GENDER? What does the surplus value theory of labour have to do with transgenderism? NOTHING – FUCKING NOTHING, THAT’S WHAT.

      Sorry, it’s been a day, just got a bit grumpy there.

      There is nothing at all Marxist in the idea that individuals can feel they do not match with the sex or gender they were assigned at birth; Marx was a 19th century theorist of capitalism and never wrote, or knew about, transgenderism or indeed gender at all. Try to think a little more critically about these epithets – they do have meaning, you know.

      Your position overall is stark nonsense; Peterson’s views are bigoted – as well as factually incorrect – as I tried to spend 6000 words arguing. You claim there is “ample evidence that gender difference in behavior is based highly on biology.” Even if this were true – and in point of fact it isn’t, the overwhelming consensus is that gendered behavior is determined by a combination of social and biological factors, just as all other behavior is – so what? What difference does it make to the matter under discussion? How does”gender difference in behavior” have any bearing on gender identity at all? (Which, by the way, does seem to be biologically determined: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/gender-identity-biological-study/story?id=293358540.

      I do admit there is some basis to the claim – I also spend several hundred words explaining why I think the claim is still wrong. DID YOU EVEN READ THE ESSAY?

      HeforShe represents, as does Trudeau, a neoliberal concept of feminism that is comfortable with the status quo. Feminism is a broad and varied discipline – as any intellectually rich discipline is. To say that a movement is ‘feminist’ not really meaningful. Trudeau’s feminism is one that is comfortable with the status quo of global capitalism – that is to say, what’s needed is not to change an exploitative system, but rather create equal and equivalent conditions of exploitation for all. This is a fundamentally right-wing position, and is borne out by the balance of his policies. If you think it’s possible to a feminist and sell weapons to the Saudis, then you have bigger problems than I am able to solve. Trudeau’s conservative tendencies are well-documented, here among elsewhere: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/09/justin-trudeau-unions-environment-arms-saudi-arabia/.

      Reply
      1. M. Dan Elliot

        Alexander, loved the piece. Great job.

        Just wanted to point out (in respect of your post to which I am replying) that what is sometimes called “Neo-Darwinism” (= Modern Synthesis) depends on several concepts (e.g. Mendelian genetics) that were unavailable to Darwin himself. Not sure where you’re going with your line of attack (in the comments) against Neo-Marxism, which (though not anywhere like as well defined as Neo-Darwinism) is certainly “a thing”. Fortunately (and as you have pointed out), nothing in your piece at large depends on the terms “Neo-Marxism” or “Marxism”, or on whether or not gender criticism can in any way be construed as Marxist.

        Cheers!

        Reply
  22. Stan Jones

    Peterson has annoyed me for many years through his too many appearances on TVO’s “The Agenda”. The problem with Peterson, as I see it, is that he accepts religion for pragmatic reasons not unlike many American Republicans. To them there is no moral “truth” so it’s whatever works for “me”. Suddenly Peterson is taking in over $30,000 per month from his “Patreon” supporters on YouTube. So we can’t expect Peterson to back off on any of this. He even posts what I believe are his UofT lectures to YouTube and that can’t be right. If confronted on this he’ll certainly bring out the “free speech” card and be sure of strong support from the right wing media.

    Reply
  23. Catherine

    Thank you for publishing this article, it was very detailed and helped me understand the Bill better. Theway Jordan Peterson spoke of C16 made me feel very paranoid and frankly shocked that Canada (Ontario) would be agaonst freedom of speech. However, through this slightly better understanding of the Bill I can now say he is a paranoid man who has riled up a lot of people for absolutely no specific reason. I think he’s doing it intentionally and enjoying his fame, which I don’t fault his for at all but at least don’t lretend to be an expert on the matter. Peterson repeatedly doesn’t care for these pronouns and doesn’t use them but hasn’t faced the ‘consequences’ he claims he would as hos freedom of speech roghts are being curtailed. Whoxh leads me to the conclusion that he is not denied any free speech and is unnecessarily causing disruption and shouldn’t be anywhere near a classroom. I doubt he’s a good shrink with so many biases of his own.

    Reply
  24. Cameron Rogers

    Thanks for this, Alexander.

    I find that Peterson often rails against the perils of ideologues, yet can’t seem to find the irony in his own spiteful refusal to grant a sense of civility to marginalized individuals like trans people. As you’ve pointed out, he makes vague allusions to some sort of SJW cabal that is working nefariously behind the scenes to undermine society. From what I can tell, these conspiratorial claims appear to be the basis of his refusal to use these pronouns. For the majority of us Canadians not entrenched in this fallaciously constructed existential battle of ideology I believe that granting the usage of these pronouns will be no problem.

    Reply
    1. Concerned Citizen

      Claiming he refuses to grant ‘civility’ to trans people is an attempt to dehumanize him and those of us who agree with him.

      Reply
  25. Caleb

    In the world of debate there’s no greater form of intellectual dishonesty than the ad hominem, and you seem to rely on that heavily when you try to discredit Peterson and his field of study. Your article reeks of animosity and dismissal towards these academic disciplines like political science and psychology, and in a sense towards academia in general. The irony is that with a very solid education you would learn that the ad hominem isn’t acceptable, but more importantly why it isn’t acceptable, mainly because you could use it to discredit just about every good argument that’s ever been put forth.

    I am by no means in love with the world of academia, and I think it has a lot of flaws, but what it does do well, at least in the time before the internet during which Jordan Peterson became a part of it, is provide a forum where ideas can be discussed and picked apart piece by piece and systematically challenged so that all that is left is either nothing or a solid but significantly less presumptuous argument. It’s taken a turn for the worst now with a strong bent on excessive publishing and research in order to get funding and revenue, but the academic tradition of rigor is still very much in tact.

    The only reason I say all of this is because if you tried submitting this article to be published with peer review in an academic journal, the details of why you are decidedly wrong on so many points would be exposed and you would be forced to correct what you’ve said in order to make a better argument. As a writer in the blogosphere, however, you are at full liberty to continue writing whatever you like without ever having to face its flaws, and without ever having really to correct what you’ve said to make more solid arguments. Jordan Peterson started out as something of a writer, but as his writing went through the rigors of academia, it was challenged and improved over time until it reached the point now where he now holds soild, well-formed theories very resistant to critique. Theories that may seem childish, presumptuous, or absurd on their face, but theories that really hold up even under deep scrutiny. These are theories in psychology, but also theories about the greater world, including the potential for new legislation to have a lot of disastrous unintended consequences that infringe on the most basic liberties we have come to rely upon in a modern democratic society.

    The whole point of debate like this is to find the truth in these issues. Legislation is supposed to be treated like a dialectic of ideas, where we’re supposed to find the best solutions that really make the world a better place. But this debate has been skewed, as Peterson points out, by crowds of idealogues on either side who think they’re right about everything. People, like writers whose opinions are never challenged, who think they already have the world figured out and so they get to attack people who disagree with them and dismiss their views outright simply because of where they come from. When there’s nothing left of this dialectic and intellectual honesty in the world, pretty much every idea coming out of anywhere becomes cancerous and dangerous, and only hurts the people of the world.

    Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      Oh boy, Caleb.

      I’ll say first, in your defense, that scolding me for my “dismissal” of political science (?) and psychology (well, yes…) and claiming that some imagined collective of peers in some hypothetical academic journal (which of the peer-reviewed academic journals do you suggest I submit to, exactly? Which is your favorite, Caleb?) would “expose” how wrong I am on “so many points,” – this is all probably a lot easier than actually doing the work of pointing out my errors and correcting them, which you have not even attempted to do.

      You claim that as a writer “in the blogosphere” I am at “full liberty to continue writing whatever you like without ever having to face its flaws, and without ever having really to correct what you’ve said[.]” The reality is quite the opposite; I would be more than happy to face any flaws in my argumentation and would delight in correcting any errors – if only someone would (or could) actually show that I have made any. Evidently, you’re not up to the task.

      Now, I may not have received a “very solid education,” mostly because skool suqz, but I do know what “the ad hominem” (as you ever so ineptly put it) actually is, which is to say that it is a form of fallacious argument that concerns itself with the character of the individual making the opposing case, rather than the substance of the case itself. If you can point out even a single instance where I do this, I’ll gladly correct it.

      I don’t quite know what to make of all this nonsense about Jordan Peterson’s theories holding up under “deep scrutiny.” They don’t hold up at all, for reasons I spent 6000 fucking words explaining. I don’t know if you actually read the essay or what. His “theories” are terribly reasoned, unsupported by evidence, and mostly hateful. You did notice, didn’t you, that Jordan Peterson has not submitted his views of the matter to anything like an academic journal?

      You’re right to point out that the point of legislation is to “make the world a better place.” I don’t quite know how it’s possible to have a debate between people who don’t “think they’re right.” (Jordan Peterson must not think he himself is right, according your characterization of him. In which case he is right. That is some fucking zen shit right there…). I think there’s plenty left of dialectic in this world, though perhaps not plenty of people who know how to use the word correctly.

      In short, Caleb, thanks for playing but GODDAMN.

      Reply
      1. Caleb

        The reason I bring up the use of the ad hominem (which, I may point out, is a perfectly legitimate of phrasing the term), is because of the recurrent way in which you characterize Peterson, people who defend his arguments, the person to whom this article is written, and now me, as being of an intellectually inferior sort marked by fraudulence, ineptitude, and a lack of deeper understanding of what we are talking about. The type of derisive language you use to insinuate that the people whose views you criticize are so markedly wrong functions to suggest to the reader that they are wrong in general, that it is okay to dismiss Peterson’s arguments because he is a “right wing” “fraud” unwilling to put forth “complex arguments.” To speak in a manner so hostile towards your opposition is persuasive, especially to readers who already agree with you or readers who don’t have a firm understanding of the issue. In academic discourse, however, the use of such language is entirely inappropriate. Jordan Peterson is an academic and an intellectual, somebody who is very open to seeing these problems in a different light, but when you write your article attacking him you turn him into an enemy and alienate him and his point of view. The point of a dialectic is to share your ideas and interpretations about these laws in a reasonable and moderate way, so that you can find the truth in Peterson’s argument and so Peterson can find the truth in yours, and so you both can move towards a better understanding of what this law means and whether or not it’s a good idea.

        As it stands, however, you’ve come into the debate thinking that you’re already right about everything. That you’re right about how laws will always be interpreted. That you’re right that the way you interpret this law is “how laws are really interpreted,” and so anyone who thinks differently has to be wrong by extension.

        A huge problem with this article is that it is not a deep scrutiny of Peterson’s argument. It is a very shallow scrutiny of the conclusions he reached about the implications of the law, and a deep exploration of a very different understanding of the implications of the law. You’ve already accused your opposition of the mistake of taking a prima facie reading of the law and going from there, but now you’re taking a prima facie reading of your opponent’s view and dismissing it from there. Again, the problem is that you think that your different understanding of the law is right, and so Peterson’s understanding is fraudulent and asinine in comparison. You think you’re right. Peterson (maybe) thinks he’s right. Two people making arguments descending from the basic assumptions that they’re right, but both cannot be right. Both can be wrong, or one can be right. When you think that you’re right, however, it’s only purely by luck that you are actually right, which has a very slim probability of being true. That is why if you want to be right about something, you can’t think that you’re right.

        It is very trippy stuff. Logic is a very strange subject with results that challenge some of our most basic intuitions about knowledge and truth. When you formulate a theory, believing it means that you close yourself off from the ability to know whether the theory makes any sense in the first place. I would suggest reading up on authors like Hegel, Wittgenstein, Russel, and Godel to get a better understanding of what I mean by all of this.

        As for academic journals, pick pretty much any prestigious law review of your choosing. Yours is essentially a legal argument anyway.

        Also, it was a mistake to say that peer review would be able to break down your article and show why you are wrong. I do not think that you are wrong, necessarily, since you obviously make a solid and well-connected argument. The more important thing is that making such an argument doesn’t make you right, and someone who makes a different argument doesn’t have to be wrong. I’m not doing a full breakdown myself because, for one, I am just one person who is only capable of finding one set of flaws. The purpose of peer review is so that your piece is submitted before several people who are extremely intelligent, well-read, and skilled in the art of argument. When they all find the same errors, then you know you have a problem. When I do it, it just looks like I’m disagreeing with you.

        And no, I don’t think I’m right about any of this. I said it because it makes sense, not because I believe it.

        Reply
        1. AlexanderAlexander

          I challenged you to specifically identify a single instance in which I commit the ad hominem fallacy and you failed to do so. This is telling.

          In part, I suspect this is because you yourself have only the most tenuous grasp on what, exactly, a fallacy is. Calling Jordan Peterson names (which I do) is not a fallacy; none of my arguments hinge on the names I call him. Had I written, “Jordan Peterson is wrong because he’s an asshole,” that would be an example of an ad hominem fallacy. I don’t write anything close to that. I guess you didn’t learn about this in all the Hegel you read.

          I never once “dismiss Peterson’s arguments because he is a ‘right wing’ ‘fraud’ unwilling to put forth ‘complex arguments'” (I don’t think I even use the phrase “complex arguments,” but whatevs). I notice you don’t quote me directly (though you do throw up quotations marks willy-nilly); the reason you don’t do this is obvious: I never said any of things you claim I said, and you know it.

          You claim that I’ve given a shallow reading of Peterson’s view; I don’t see how this is the case, since I quote from him directly and even present examples of the slides he uses to support his case (a courtesy you fail to extend to me). But fine; perhaps you could take a break from Zum intuitionistischen Aussagenkalkül and indicate on any level at all what the fuck his view is. I really can’t fathom why you’ve taken so much time out of your life to write these whining comments to me if you’re not going to offer literally A SINGLE counter-argument.

          Oh wait. I know why. It’s because you “don’t think you’re right about any of this.” You only said it “because it makes sense, not because you believe it.”

          (…?)

          Evidently my remark about “zen shit” was insufficiently gnomic for you to register as the sarcasm it was, because you’ve inflicted this utterly nonsensical rhapsody on “Logic” on me. The whole paragraph is total gibberish. “If you want to be right about something, you can’t think that you’re right”? Do, oh do point me to the proposition in the Tractatus where Wittgenstein makes that fatuous claim. I can’t wait.

          To say you’re not going to do a “full breakdown” of why I’m wrong because you’re “only one person” is hilarious and dumb and total bullshit and everyone reading this knows it.

          If you have something real to offer the conversation, I welcome it.

          Till then.

          Reply
        2. Willard

          > I challenged you to specifically identify a single instance in which I commit the ad hominem fallacy and you failed to do so. This is telling.

          The very next sentence attacks your interlocutor’s competence in identifying personal attacks:

          In part, I suspect this is because you yourself have only the most tenuous grasp on what, exactly, a fallacy is.

          “Ad hominem” can designate both personal attacks and an argument attacking a person’s characteristics. Some ad hom arguments ain’t even invalid. The key, as always, is relevance.

          Hope this helps.

          ***

          > I would suggest reading up on authors like Hegel, Wittgenstein, Russel, and Godel to get a better understanding of what I mean by all of this.

          I’m not sure why I’d need to read Hegel to grok what you have to say. It’s “Russell” and “Gödel,” BTW. Gödel. Srsly – he had little to “say,” and the little he said may be of little relevance here.

          And yes, I did read enough of these guys (including Hegel, nights I can’t unread now) to understand that your handwaving makes it look that you’re just eating more than you can chew. Being a pompous prick can’t be a felicitous way to deal with Caleb’s tone policing.

          Thank ne for nir concerns and be done with it.

          ***

          All that being said, I rather liked your argument, in particular:

          It’s unclear which “radical leftist social justice warriors” now populate the center-right administration of the Trudeau government

          Freedom Fighters say the darnednest things.

          Reply
          1. AlexanderAlexander

            Willard I have to pick a nit here about this “ad hominem” business.

            While I admit ’tis the general feather these days to throw around the phrase “ad hominem” as if it just had to do with “personal attacks,” I can’t possibly see what value or relevance the phrase has unless it describes those attacks which constitute the basis of an actual argument. I would never deny that I don’t make personal attacks against Jordan Peterson, or poor Caleb here. I make personal attacks against them all the time; it’s just that none of those attacks actually have any bearing whatsoever on the basis and substance of the arguments I make; those arguments stand up perfectly well on their own without them. I just like to sort of throw them in for color, and because I wasn’t adequately breastfed as a child, as you can probably tell since I just used two semi-colons in a single sentence.

            So for you or Caleb to tell me, “oh look, you’re making ad hominem remarks” is therefore utterly trivial and irrelevant to me – unless what you mean is that I’m committing a basic fallacy in my argumentation, which no one has been able to demonstrate that I have. I think you’re bang on when you call it mere “tone-policing.”

            Would also like to point out – since it was unclear from your comment – that it was Caleb, not I, who suggested that I need to read up on Hegel et al. So the hand-waving here is all Caleb’s (though I’m still obviously a pompous prick.)

          2. willard

            > I have to pick a nit here about this “ad hominem” business.

            You then will have to lose a bit more of your stack of chips, dear Alex.

            Your nit is irrelevant to Caleb’s point that your snark gets personal. It gets personal both in an ad hominem (“Suppose I am a professor of some scientifically dubious field like, say, clinical psychology”) way and in an ad personam way (“fraudulent mind”). That distinction is irrelevant to the fact that people usually use “ad hominem” to refer to personal attacks. In fact, ad hominem originally meant “calculated to appeal to the person addressed more than to impartial reason,” according to Thy Wiki. Usages trumps dictionaries as far as meaning is concerned. In doubt, check back Wittgenstein.

            Moreover, responding “but that’s not what an ad hominem argument really is” (paraphrasing) is unresponsive to Caleb’s point. If you had to write your argument for a more formal venue, you might have to tone down the snark quite a bit. This may not even change your argument, as it’s unrelated to the tone Caleb is trying to police.

            Personally, I could not care less about tone. That’s why I used the expression “pompous prick” earlier. In the eternal fight between snark and smarm, I have chosen my side:

            http://gawker.com/on-smarm-1476594977

            However, I care about argumentation theory, which has more to do with informal logic than formal logic. (For starters, there’s no concept of relevance in classical logic.) Responding to Caleb’s tone policing by parsing the expression “ad hominem” amounts to counter an irrelevancy with another irrelevancy. Your parsomatics aren’t even correct. That’s unwinnable.

            If you’re interested in argumentation theory, check for Douglas Walton’s work. He’s a Canadian. Always nice and polite. You’ll love him.

            ***

            I just found this report on Pedersen’s research. You might like this tidbit:

            While this study wasn’t specifically examining general political beliefs, they shed some light on overlapping policy issues. For one, the findings on PC-Authoritarianism highlight some similarities with right-wing authoritarianism. A common finding in the psychological literature is a positive association between conservative belief and sensitivity to disgust. In the current study, contamination disgust and the order and traditionalism dimension were all related, suggesting a greater similarity between PC-Authoritarians and Right-Wing authoritarians than either side would probably like to admit!

            https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-personality-of-political-correctness/

            I usually play ClimateBall and can assure you that this corresponds to my own experience. As I said earlier, Freedom Fighters say the darnednest things.

            Godspeed.

            W

          3. AlexanderAlexander

            If Caleb’s point is that if I were writing in academic environment I would have to “tone my snark down,” sure. If I were writing for a newspaper, I’d have to use fewer words. If I were writing in The New Republic, I’d have to be much less coherent. I don’t think it’s especially productive to sit around making arbitrary observations. I think it’s much more interesting to actually engage with the substance of ideas and arguments, which neither you nor Caleb have really done. I also think fretting about “argumentation theory” and “parsomatics” (a word you appear to have invented) instead of actual problems which actually affect the actual lives of actual people is ethically and politically problematic; I guess it could be a fun hobby, maybe, but I’ll never know because I prefer to spend my free time having sex with my wife.

  26. Jacob Russell

    I have several issues with this article even though I do appreciate it’s very detailed and thorough attempt to discredit Peterson as an ignorant bigot. I feel as if that’s an unfair categorization personally, but I appreciate the effort you put into it. I don’t know why you completely ignore the fact that many of his protesters and debate opponents have accused him of hate speech (even if it doesn’t fit the law based on your reading of it, it does certainly fit the law based on their reading of it). Some people in the trans community claim that Peterson inspires kids to kill themselves by using the wrong pronoun.. that elevates his mis-gendering to something much more dangerous than how you categorize it here. It could certainly be argued that mis-gendering someone is “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction”. That is not an incredible claim for most people who oppose Peterson’s beliefs. I also find that subbing out pronoun’s for nouns in your example (pretending that Peterson was racist instead of mis-gendering people) to be incredibly disingenuous. There are other problems but this comment format where I see less than a paragraph of what I’ve written thus far makes it almost impossible to present my opinions in an articulate manner. Perhaps I’ll write an article and link it to you sometime in the future. In any case, no offense intended on my part and I honestly do appreciate the work you’ve put into this… I simply don’t agree with most of it.

    Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      Hi Jacob,

      You seem like decent enough sort of guy but I’m not sure really what to do with this comment. I can tell you very simply that I ignore the fact that many of his (other) opponents accuse him of hate speech because I don’t care that they do and don’t think it’s even tangentially relevant to the argument I make. You claim that it “certainly does fit the law based on their reading of it,” whereas not in mine, to which I’ll just say that my reading of the law is based on what the law actually says and means in praxis, and the fact that others read it differently is meaningless to me unless that reading is supported by evidence, which it is not.

      You are right in suggesting that it “could it be argued that mis-gendering someone is ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.'” This amounts to the problem of mens rea I’ve identified and pronounced on in the essay, and I find it difficult to believe that the courts would find in this way. (No one suggesting that they would has ever been able to produce a shred of evidence to support this claim, to my knowledge).

      Contrary to your reading, I did not “sub out” pronouns for nouns in my example at all. “It” is a pronoun, as is “she,” and “he.” “Animal” is a noun, as is “man” or “woman.” Your accusation that my hypothetical was “disingenuous” is therefore baseless.

      Should you be inclined to write something of a riposte to my piece, I would look forward to reading it; feel free to link me to it. As it stands, I see nothing in your comment here which threatens the soundness my initial argument.

      Best,
      Alexander

      Reply
  27. Gavin James Campbell

    This is an excellent take-down on Peterson’s conspiratorial claims.

    And let’s be clear. Peterson’s background is not in law, or history, or religion, or philosophy. His background is in psychology. He’s constantly talking authoritatively on subjects that are not in his background.

    Reply
    1. Jacob Russell

      To be fair though, the author fully admits to being a drop out with no degree so I imagine you’d take his opinion even less seriously?

      I can’t speak to all of Peterson’s idea’s but as a Theology major with some philosophy training he’s in the ball park, at the very least, on those issues. Personally I think it’s much more constructive to take the ideas at face value and accept that even a dropout like Alexander here can still have valid opinions. If we are willing to accept that, perhaps we can offer the same courtesy to Dr. Peterson?

      Reply
    1. AlexanderAlexander

      Listen, Bob. If you’re going to undergo the effort of commenting on a website, it’s generally good form to have something to say. Admittedly, simply writing “Nonsense,” and then remarking on some other, non-relevant matter, and then linking to some article the author of which can barely string together a simple English sentence (“In dispute was the implications of…”?) – admittedly all this is much easier than actually pointing out my errors and correcting them. But it makes for much less interesting reading.

      Thanks for playing, Bob.

      Ta,
      Alexander

      Reply
  28. Jeannette Lambermont-Morey

    Holy crap, I enjoyed this exchange. I love and deeply respect both you (Alexander and Daniel) and so read what you each have to say with particular interest. I have learned a lot about a subject I was previously jabbering about in complete ignorance. Thank you both!

    Reply

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