Supposed 'Free Speech' Warrior Jordan Peterson Sues University Because Silly Professor Said Some Mean Things About Him

from the the-intellectual-derp-web dept

I have to admit that until earlier this year, I’d never heard of Jordan Peterson. I first heard about him when he was on Russ Robert’s Econtalk podcast, and it was sort of a weird discussion to go into blind, without any knowledge of Peterson. That’s because throughout the podcast I found him to be extremely defensive, as if he was constantly under attack and had to parry away an onslaught of criticism. Other than that, I thought he had a few interesting ideas, mixed in with some nutty ideas. Soon after, I suddenly seemed to be hearing about him everywhere. In the last two months, the NY Times did a giant profile on him (in which he does not come off very well). He then played a major role in another bizarre and silly profile of what has been dubbed the “Intellectual Dark Web” — a network of hilariously self-important people who seem to think they’re oppressed for having thoughts out of the mainstream… even though the NY Times article goes on to describe how they all (with Peterson leading the pack) have massive followings, pack stadiums, sell insane numbers of books, and make crazy amounts of money from crowdfunding.

A core piece of that NY Times editor Bari Weiss article was the ill-supported claim that “free speech is under siege” and that these members of the “Intellectual Dark Web” were the renegades being shunned for speaking the truth that no one wanted to hear. To me, it seemed more like they were a bunch of self-important semi-hucksters who lots and lots of people were listening to, but who some people have criticized — and they take that to mean that free speech is under attack. The more I read and watched about Peterson in particular, the more frustrating everything around him became. He certainly spews a lot of pseudo-intellectual nonsense, but so do many of the people who are angry at him. Many of the critiques of Peterson are, at best, sloppy and inaccurate. And Peterson has perfected playing the obtuse victim.

He’s obviously very intelligent and is able to key in on the inaccurate representations of him, and uses that as a wedge to try to discredit those who are criticizing him. But the debates always seem to be more about misunderstanding both sides, and Peterson often appears to embrace the idea that he’s a victim in all of this because people do such a poor job attacking his ideas (even if they’re nutty and borderline nonsensical). This now famous interview between Peterson and Channel 4’s Cathy Newman is a good example of this — as is the also famous video of Peterson debating some angry students. In both cases, the criticisms that people are making of Peterson’s ideology and viewpoints are a caricature — and Peterson seizes on the misrepresentations, but does so in a fascinating way. Rather than trying to increase understanding and agreement, both sides just dig in and speak entirely at cross purposes. It’s entertaining for people who support Peterson, who get to mock the silly misrepresentations of his critics, as well as for those who dislike Peterson, who get to mock his appearance of evading and sidestepping direct questions. It’s all theater, and no one comes out of these any wiser. No one is trying to move towards more understanding. They all seem to embrace the misunderstanding as evidence of just how wrong the other side is.

Of course, part of the irony is that as he’s perfected playing victim to what he (perhaps reasonably) considers to be unfair criticism, he seems to be adapting the very same stance that he accuses “the radical left” and “snowflakes” of embracing: he becomes quite intolerant of his critics. And now it’s reached a new level of ridiculousness (again on all sides) with Peterson suing Wilfrid Laurier University for defamation. It’s not often you see people who claim to be free speech warriors suing people for defamation, and especially not just because they said some not nice stuff about him. But, it appears that Peterson is really trying to come out as both a free speech defender… and a victim of free speech at the same time.

And, to be clear, the actions of Wilfrid Laurier University are completely preposterous and deserve to be mocked widely as they have been. It involved a teaching assistant at the school, Lindsay Shepherd, who had showed a clip of Peterson discussing gender pronouns (a topic that Peterson has strong feelings about) in a class. Shepherd does not appear supportive of Peterson’s position, but was clearly using the clip to inspire a conversation. That seems laudable. What seems preposterous is what happened next: Shepherd was pulled into a disciplinary hearing and basically told that merely playing video of a public debate of Peterson potentially violated the human rights of students and was the equivalent of playing a clip of Hitler. Shepherd recorded the meeting and it’s incredibly stupid. Shepherd, quite reasonably points out what she was trying to do, and the administrators come off as a caricature of the overly politically correct morons that some people (incorrectly) assume run every campus these days. Listening to the whole thing, is painful. Shepherd comes out looking reasonable. The school looks ridiculous. Indeed, the school apologized last fall soon after the audio of her meeting went viral.

Last week Shepherd sued the University herself, with claims of harassment, intentional infliction of nervous shock, negligence and constructive dismissal. It’s interesting to note that within the filing, Shepherd’s suit directly claims that the professors and administrators in the meeting with her defamed Peterson with their inaccurate portrayals of Peterson. Her own lawsuit, though, does not have any defamation claims.

And, then, this week, Peterson filed his suit — employing the same lawyer as Shephard. In a statement, Peterson claims that he decided to do so after seeing Shepherd’s lawsuit and speaking with her lawyer. Again, irony abounds, as his statement sounds quite a bit like those he was criticizing — stating that he hopes this makes them think twice before saying mean things about him. He first says he decided to file the lawsuit because he felt that the university “had learned very little from its public embarrassment,” and therefore apparently needed the power of the state to fine them for their own speech? That seems… very unlike a “free speech warrior.” And then there’s this:

I thought that two lawsuits might make the point, better than one. I’m hoping that the combination of two lawsuits might be enough to convince careless university professors and administrators blinded by their own ideology, to be much more circumspect in their actions and their words.

That… does not seem like someone who is a free speech warrior. That… does not seem like someone who believes in open debate. Even as ridiculous and silly as the University’s actions were — and they deserve tremendous mockery for their hysterical and bizarre response to Shepherd’s lesson — responding by suing for defamation is crazy. Canada, unfortunately, has defamation laws that strongly favor the plaintiff making the claims — unlike in the US where we have a strong First Amendment — but already experts seem to be suggesting his case is unlikely to succeed. If it were filed in the US, based on what I listened to of the meeting between Shepherd and the professors/administrators at the university, the lawsuit would be laughed out of court, and would be blasted as a censorial attempt to silence someone for protected speech, even if that speech is nonsense. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to read the full complaint by Peterson as it does not appear to be readily available, so at this point I am only going off of the source material of the recording that Shepherd made, along with the claims that it is the content of that recording that is the basis of Peterson’s defamation claims. If there is something more in the actual complaint, I would be happy to revise my opinion of the situation.

The whole thing seems ridiculous, frankly, as with so many of the debates around Peterson. Lots of people are making silly arguments and talking at cross purposes. Almost everyone comes off looking silly. However, just because debates get silly and heated, or just because some professors or teachers make silly claims, the idea of running to the courts and crying defamation, while directly claiming you hope the lawsuit will silence other professors at other universities certainly suggests that Peterson is no friend to free speech.

And this brings us back around to the whole “Intellectual Dark Web” thing. This case suggests the same ridiculous pattern. This is not deep thinkers being oppressed for their heretical great ideas. These are insecure, thin-skinned people with silly ideas, playing victim when other silly people make silly statements about them. Everyone gets to play victim. No one seeks to actually build up more understanding or reasoned debate. Instead, everyone just gets to dig in on their own silly positions. It’s not the Intellectual Dark Web. It’s the Intellectual Derp Web. And now it’s attacking free speech, while pretending to be staunch defenders of free speech. Derp.

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Comments on “Supposed 'Free Speech' Warrior Jordan Peterson Sues University Because Silly Professor Said Some Mean Things About Him”

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379 Comments
Unanimous Cow Herd says:

Re: Re: Re:

He’s actually a pretty decent guy trying to bring some down to earth common sense to a mass of people who are constantly on the outrage train. If you listen to what the “inquisitors” from Laurier were saying about him, it does seem that it meets the bar of “provably false” and “done with malice”. I don’t necessarily agree with taking the route of lawsuits either, but agree he’s likely doing it to send a message.

Masnick, who admittedly knows little of Peterson, should have stayed out of this.

Pieter Hulshoff (profile) says:

Wilfrid Laurier

I think the main reason for this lawsuit is that in spite of the promises made by Wilfrid Laurier to prevent this problem from happening in the future, nothing effective has really been done to solve this issue. In stead, Lindsay Shepherd has been harassed to the point where she has now decided to sue. From what I’ve seen of professor Peterson, his lawsuit is more meant to support hers, and to get Wilfrid Laurier to actually start doing something about the problem than it is to stop the defamation. He does not strike me as the type to feel victimized.

When it comes to freedom of speech though, I do think he has some very valid points, especially when it comes to education. We’ve all seen the different dramas play out at the schools, with teachers being harassed and fired under pressure of snowflake students, and school boards actually going along with this insanity. The controversies surrounding professor Weinstein and Joshua Sutcliffe are rather fresh on my mind, and they are just two of the many.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is the Lobster Guy?

You… haven’t really read the entirety of this theory.

The whole lobster thing is a way of referring to hierarchies in humanity. Lobsters have complex hierarchies that have evolved over millions of years, even longer than humanity has been doing the same. It’s to demonstrate the unavoidable nature of hierarchies here on Earth in general, because we evolved in a similar way.

Doesn’t mean we’re absolutely helpless to every hierarchy there is, but it’s difficult for me to deny its consistent influence on human beings.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is the Lobster Guy?

I haven’t read his works – psychology isn’t one of my interests.
But I have heard from some of my biologist friends that his view on lobsters didn’t accurately represent the species. The lobsters seem to be more of a parable than an actual example. Hence “Lobster Buy” being about the first and only thing I knew about him before today.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This is the Lobster Guy?

Here’s what really bugs me about the lobsters, and it’s the one line he brings up every time: "Their brains run on serotonin, just like ours."

Now, that’s true, but it’s some deeply dishonest rhetoric. Because it’s true about virtually every single organism with a nervous system that exists or ever has existed. He says it to suggest some special reason that we are talking about lobsters, because they have so much in common with us.

It’s very much like the briefly-infamous Simon Sinek, and many other pop anti-tech people, who point out that "checking Facebook gives you a hit of dopamine – just like gambling, or drinking, or smoking" without bothering to mention that, indeed, just about every positive feeling in your life has involved dopamine, and you could compare it just as easily to "seeing a friend" or "hugging a loved one".

And so that becomes my question about Peterson’s lobsters: why are we talking about lobsters, and what really is his point? Why not talk about, for example, primates – who are much more similar to us in every way (and, yes, whose brains also "run on serotonin")? Well, he does occasionally – though, as far as I can tell, only about the common chimpanzee, our second-closest relative and the one whose behaviour best fits his overall thesis (inasmuch as such a thing can be discerned).

What he doesn’t address is that the primate world is actually full of a HUGE variety of social orders, sexual norms, behavioural patterns, etc. ranging from the hierarchical and tribal to the freewheeling and anarchical. That becomes even more true when you talk about the entire kingdom of animals with serotonin in their brains.

So he uses lobsters to make some point about hierarchies existing in nature. He uses primates to make points about violence and tribalism. He’s even invoked the herd-camouflage of zebras to explain why, in his view, academics are scared to speak out about anything. (That was in his conversation with Camille Paglia. It could be argued he intended only as an analogy – but as usual, it’s very, very difficult to pin down what he actually means by these things when he invokes them).

And that, really, is the problem with biological determinism (which certainly seems to be a persistent theme, at least, in his ideas) in general. You can find an example in nature of just about any human behaviour you can name. You can find lots of complex and varied behaviours in our own evolutionary history. There is significant and ongoing study into how various instincts and drives evolved, and into the balance of the roles of biology and language and culture in developing them.

It has never felt to me that Peterson is honestly grappling with those ideas. Rather, it has always felt like he is cherrypicking examples that support his worldview, and not even acknowledging the existence of counterexamples.

And, to me, "their brains run on serotonin, just like ours" is exemplary of that problem. Anyone engaged in honest inquiry, or anyone trying to honestly and fairly educate someone in the subject, would not say that without also talking about the near-universality of serotonin and acknowledging that it is also present in many animals with behaviours that are completely alien to us, and many animals that do not have hierarchical social structures.

Pieter Hulshoff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This is the Lobster Guy?

I think one of the reasons he’s chosen this example is to counter the thought that hierarchical structures in society are solely caused by patriarchal oppression as some people claim. Though it’s true that not all species live in a hierarchical structure, we humans are hardly the only species that do. The lobster is one of the oldest species still alive today that shows similar patterns to humans in this regard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is the Lobster Guy?

hierarchical structures in society are solely caused by patriarchal oppression as some people claim

Right… so that’s the other thing I really struggle with. Who actually claims that? I’ve heard Peterson say "Marxists believe hierarchies are unnatural and artificial" but like… I’ve never read a Marxist who denies that hierarchies exist in nature. I think maybe Engels soooorta flirted with the idea and invoked Rousseau? As far as I know, though, there is no unifying biological theory in Marxism, and quite a lot of debate on that front.

I don’t doubt you could find some modern thinkers espousing a view of artificial hierarchies that could be discredited by talking about biology, but I think you’ll find that for the most part it’s a lot more sophisticated – and requires a more sophisticated rebuttal – than that.

I mean, come on: if someone’s theory can really be knocked down by the mere existence of hierarchies in nature, well, then it was a facile theory. It is common knowledge that lots of animals have hierarchies. It seems the height of arrogance and condescension on Peterson’s part to assume that simply pointing out the existence of lobster hierarchies will make leftists’ heads explode all across the land.

Talking about social and cultural oppression such as patriarchy and class divisions is not equivalent to claiming all hierarchy is purely an artificial human construct. It is, rather, looking at the (to me obvious) fact that, beyond biology, our language and culture and means of organizing society also exhibits a huge and arguably much larger influence on what hierarchies we have and how they are structured, and questioning whether our most oppressive such hierarchies are inevitable and natural or are, in fact, also the result of a long history of social choices both intentional and coincidental/arbitrary, in which case we have the power to change them.

Pieter Hulshoff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 This is the Lobster Guy?

Blaming patriarchal oppression for many of the problems in society today is actually a very common view in many of the humanities, like women’s studies. Professor Peterson regards these views as post-modern/neo-marxist, and has explained how these political views have come to life. I don’t have sufficient knowledge of this field to determine whether he’s correct here. I have however seen the results of these extreme left views, and it scares me more than a little.

In a recent debate, professor Peterson asked a, in my opinion, very relevant question: at what point does the left go too far? As a society, we have set relatively clear boundaries on when the right goes too far, but we seem hardly able to do the same on the left. Professor Peterson draws the line at identity politics, and ideas like pushing for equity. As a left voting Dutch person (a country where Democrats are considered right wing (somewhere between D66 and VVD)), I think he has a valid point here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 This is the Lobster Guy?

In a recent debate, professor Peterson asked a, in my opinion, very relevant question: at what point does the left go too far? As a society, we have set relatively clear boundaries on when the right goes too far, but we seem hardly able to do the same on the left.

That’s a very weird statement to me. Take the US, for example: the left-wing presence of Bernie Sanders was ultimately defeated, and many fairly mild socialist ideas are consistently criticized and rejected by other Democrats. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is president and pressing into highly distressing extremes of right-wing policy, but continues to enjoy massive popular support from Republican voters and growing but still minimal and largely-symbolic resistance from within the party.

To me that doesn’t line up with your characterization of society reining in the right but letting the left run free.

keithzg (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 left vs. right

Yeah, as someone who is on the far-left side of things (inasmuch as something like a linear continuum can ever make any sort of sense for a topic as multidimensional as politics), it’s constantly darkly amusing how right-wing voices are constantly decrying how downtrodden they are even as they increasingly get everything they want that’s actually practically possible, while those same people they decry as terribly far left like Nancy Pelosi are actually inveterate defenders of the status quo who are engaged in an almost outright overt campaign of repression against even moderately left-wing voices within the Democratic party.

I mean hell, since Canada is part of the conversation here, as a dual-citizen living in Canada it’s always so baffling to me that the single-payer option is talked about by establishment Democrats in the U.S. like it’s a pie-in-the-sky impossibility, as if it doesn’t exist on the northern side of the border. And any Democrat speaking vocally about single-payer is liable to be ostracized by the DCCC.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 left vs. right

That’s a false dichotomy. It’s saying since some ideas from one side are ignored, the other side can’t possibly have the same problems, or perhaps worse problems.

If, let’s say, Olivia Chow was organizing meetings about controversial topics, but was often shouted down by young people who interrupted her with megaphones, had fire alarms pulled whenever she wanted to speak in a booked auditorium, and called a communist and Chairman Mao often when it’s nowhere near true, I’d think that was just as deplorable.

I’m not a “free speech for me and none for thee” type.

Pieter Hulshoff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 This is the Lobster Guy?

This part of the discussion is not so much about which direction the population is leaning, but what is being taught as doctrine in schools. I think if extreme right-wing ideas were being used as doctrine in schools, professor Peterson would be just as up in arms as he is now. He has studied the results of such doctrines, both on the left and on the right, for decades, and it scares him deeply. Perhaps we should be scared as well.

Looking at my own country, it is clear that extreme ideas, both on the left and on the right, are becoming more popular. After the last election we had a hell of a time forming a government without including parties from the end of the political spectrum. Professor Peterson is actually warning about that too: if you push extreme leftist ideas too far, people who are left out tend to be pushed farther to the right. I think his popularity has actually prevented many people, especially young men, from embracing far right-wing ideas.

As for Trump? I just hope people are starting to realize what he’s doing to the world, the country and their lives. I think many people hoped for something different, since the same as before wouldn’t have improved their lives either. I guess they can see now that different is not necessarily better…

Pieter Hulshoff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 This is the Lobster Guy?

Let’s start with one: equality of outcome.

Please explain to me why it’s not racist that in some schools, Asian students need 450 more points than Black students on their SATS in order to get admitted?

While I understand the wish for diversity by these schools, I can also see how these measures can cause enormous resentment in Asian students. I’m all for equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome can have some serious consequences for the future.

You see similar issues when it comes to gender equity or salary equity.

Professor Peterson is hardly the only one warning about the idea of equality of outcome (often called equity) as the only acceptable solution in many humanities studies. He just seems better than most at attracting people’s attention to the matter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 This is the Lobster Guy?

Please explain to me why it’s not racist that in some schools, Asian students need 450 more points than Black students on their SATS in order to get admitted?

You state that as though it is a policy. It is not. It is an attempt by some people studying racial bias in college admissions to quantify that in terms of the equivalent adjustment to an SAT score. The people studying that, by the way, were making the case that Asians are discriminated against, because of an apparent disparity in approved college applications – e.g. an inequality of outcome, precisely the thing you are claiming people shouldn’t focus on.

It is also something that was only happening in a small handful of schools.

Discrimination is real, and drawing the line between equality of opportunity and of outcome is not always so easy. There’s plenty of room for debate, including on things like affirmative action programs. But schools are not teaching the "extreme leftist" idea of total equality of outcome as "doctrine". Indeed the thing you are referring to is not even a matter of teaching at all – it’s a matter of admission practices.

Try again, better example please.

Pieter Hulshoff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 This is the Lobster Guy?

While I agree that this has so far been happening in a limited amount of schools, it is certainly an example of a policy towards equality of outcome. The preferred result is to have a diversity in the school that resembles society, and in order to achieve that position of equity, equality of opportunity goes out the door. In general, equity and equality of opportunity are mutually exclusive.

Equity however is certainly a focus of many humanities studies, as can even be found in the title of said studies. Equity is not posed as one of many theories there, but as the only acceptable outcome. If you hold a different view, you’d better not mention it on your exam or you will fail.

I do not have sufficient information to claim that this is a wide spread practice, like professor Peterson claims, but that it’s happening on multiple schools is certainly beyond debate.

Sum Guy says:

Re: Re: Re:9 This is the Lobster

Look up the difference between “equality of opportunity” vs “equality of outcome”. For those on the left, it’s not enough that we have equality of opportunity enshrined in law, civil rights, etc. Over the past few decades, that hasn’t worked. There is still a gap (on a variety of scales) between blacks and whites (in the USA at least, Canada not having a similar large minority group). So now the tactic is to seek equality of outcome. Paintings of Shakespear are taken down from the walls of english departments and replaced by some obscure black authors. If you want to know more about this whole phenomena in more detail, look up the definition of “cultural marxism”. This is what is firmly entrenched in universities in US/Canada. It leads to odd thinking – such as that math (as a field of study) is flawed because it has no moral dimension to it.

Sum Guy says:

Re: Re: Re:11 This is the

cultural marxism

A social and political movement that promotes unreason and irrationality through the guise of various ’causes’, often promoted by so-called ‘social justice warriors’. These causes and their proponents are often contradictory and are almost never rooted in fact. Indeed, true argument or discussion with proponents of these causes is almost impossible, as most attempts at discourse descend quickly into shouting, name-calling and chanting of slogans.

Otherwise known as the ‘regressive Left’ – a play on their contradictory nature, specifically on how SJWs describe themselves as ‘progressive’ yet display strong authoritarian, ‘regressive’ tendencies. This term is even often used by members of the true Left who take reasonable stances based on logic and evidence, and are eager to distance themselves from the fanatics who have effectively hijacked their side of the political spectrum.

NOTE: Naturally, Cultural Marxism itself is described by SJWs as a ‘conspiracy theory’, in an attempt to delegitimise their critics.

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cultural%20marxism

Sum Guy says:

Re: Re: Re:13 This is the

This video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8pPbrbJJQs&bpctr=1529810318

I think summarizes nicely what is generally meant by cultural marxism. And by the way, if you can put forward a cogent argument or explanation as to why Google is partially censoring that video, I’d like to hear it.

From what I’ve seen of Peterson’s video’s and interviews, many or most of what he focuses on or as asked to speak on is generally about topics on this subject.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 This is the Lobster

Paintings of Shakespear are taken down from the walls of english departments and replaced by some obscure black authors.

In one single school, in 2016, one single English Department voted to replace one single portrait of Shakespeare with a portrait of poet Audrey Lorde.

Meanwhile, Shakespeare continues to be the most famous playwright of all time, a mandatory part of most high school curricula, the centerpiece of English literature and drama courses in universities around the world. Virtually all of his plays are staged regularly in every city and town with a theater. I know of at least three different Shakespeare plays going up within 20 minutes of my house in the next month.

Your persecution complex is showing.

Sum Guy says:

Re: Re: Re:11 This is the Lobster

Maybe I also included stories like this in my generalization about shakespear portraits:

https://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/yale-university-english-students-urge-department-to-decolonise-white-male-reading-list-a7062031.html

In a petition launched by undergraduates at Yale University in Connecticut, the US, students have said they oppose the continued existence of a module known as ‘major English poets’ which they need in order to be able to study further.

According to the English department’s site, students are asked to spend two semesters “in the company of major English poets,” adding: “Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, and John Donne in the fall; John Milton, Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth, and T. S. Eliot…in the spring.”

The students, though, have said it is “unacceptable” that a Yale student considering studying English literature “might read only white, male authors,” adding how a lack of works by women, people of colour, and “queer folk harms all students,” regardless of their identity.

The students further argue the module is “especially hostile to students of colour,” and say that, when they are “made to feel so alienated that they get up and leave the room, something is wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:12 This is the Lobster

BTW, I assumed the first time was a typo and said nothing, but since you’ve now written "Shakespear" a second time:

I’d think someone who is so passionate about defending the greats of western culture from the onslaught of cultural marxists would, at least, learn how to spell Shakespeare

Is it possible that you… don’t actually give a shit about the material you are defending? When was the last time you went to see some Shakespeare performed? For me it was last year – how about you?

Pieter Hulshoff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 This is the Lobster Guy?

Ok, second example: critical race theory, where one racial group is taught to have significant privilege over another racial group.

While I believe that on average, a member of one racial group may have an advantage over a member of another racial group, this says very little about a random member of these groups. As such, any group based policy to correct the average will likely result in the serious disadvantage of a random member of said groups, yet such policies are exactly what are being advocated in these classes.

(Note that I’m now posing my own thoughts on this matter rather than professor Peterson’s thoughts)

Dude says:

Re: Re: Re: This is the Lobster Guy?

Well, of course he’s cherrypicking. No person or species is perfect, including the sources of inspiration he draws from. He sheds a light on things that can be compared to our own lives, if they fit with his goal of demonstrating a point.

He quotes the Bible all the time in 12 Rules, but he leaves a lot of the bad shit out, too. He’s very careful to avoid a lot of the indefensible parts of Leviticus or the letters of Paul, because he’d be teaching a completely different set of principles if he did that. He also doesn’t say much about the Song of Solomon because that’s basically porn and wouldn’t be very relevant to the book. 😀

I’m very much the same way. Hell, I’ve got a quotes.txt file filled with quotes from figures throughout history who downright terrify me, but sometimes they say some profound and insightful things which at least help you understand the human condition from a perspective you may have never considered.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is the Lobster Guy?

He quotes the Bible all the time in 12 Rules, but he leaves a lot of the bad shit out, too.

You have rather put your finger on one the problems with his ideas: it is very, very hard to tell whether Peterson is offering something as an analogy or as evidence

When Peterson quotes the bible, it is essentially clear that he is doing so illustratively and analogically. When he invokes biology, however, it seems to me (though again, it’s hard to pin down) that he is offering actual evidence to disprove various ideas.

Cherrypicking analogies and illustrations is fine – that’s just creative expression. Cherrypicking evidence is not.

Chick says:

Re: Re: Re:3 This is the Lobster Guy?

So… he picked things that were relevant to his points and left other things out?

Even if he wasn’t stating things comprehensively, and who can; we’ve only got so much life and so much brains and so much education. That book is Jordan Peterson’s subjective truth with help from objective facts.

Sure you’re not the one cherry-picking? It’s a self-help book from a clinical psychologist, not a book of evolutionary habits of all the species of the world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 This is the Lobster Guy?

Evidence?

12 Rules for Life is a book of advice, compiled from several subjective stories, experiences and resources. It’s not a biological or medical journal.

Good for you, you have determined that this book doesn’t contain material that it never claimed to contain in the first place. What’s next, you’re going to complain that it failed to help you fix your car?

Bob says:

Re: Re: Re: This is the Lobster Guy?

It’s intellectually lazy to criticize someone for failing to talk about animals that do not fit into a dominance hierarchy without naming a few, or at least naming the relevant body of scientific research that studies animal psychology.

Also, I understand what you are saying, I believe you are taking his statements out of context. The lack of brevity and conciseness in your retort opens your audience up to believe whatever they want to believe which is likely what you are doing right now.

Your post should have been 3 sentences.

Anonymous Coward says:

While I’m generally a fan of Peterson (and disagree with you that he spews pseudo-intellectual nonsense, speaking as a student of comparative mythology), I do think that maybe he’s going a bit too far. I just watched his video explaining why (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkNv4LFpGf4) and have come to the following collection of opinions:

Yes, many people defame Peterson on a regular basis (yet it doesn’t seem to really affect his profitability, if 12 Rules For Life is any indication). I’d get sick of being called alt-right or compared to Hitler almost every single day if I were him. However, I don’t think that ideas said in a private meeting, no matter how incorrect, would constitute defamation (though, I’m not quite familiar on Canada’s defamation laws, so I can’t say). Based on his claims, it sounds like his case is built upon the youtube video posted by Shepherd (I’m not sure of any others in which the faculty make those statements).

Were there legitimate cases of defamation against Peterson wrt this lawsuit, I don’t think it would make Peterson a hypocrite. Supporting free speech doesn’t mean you have to accept people making blatantly false statements against you, especially if those statements are harmful to you (and, in Peterson’s case, there have been events he attended in which riots broke out, because people called him a Nazi).

I think the big issue is: there’s a loud group of people in academia trying to stifle the free exchange of ideas, and people like Peterson (and the other IDWs) are combating that using reason and debate, granted, affixed to their respective realms of expertise (and in Peterson’s case, that’s clinical psychology and Jungian lobsters).

Ultimately, I think his lawsuit is misguided in this case, and possibly abusive of the legal system (I’m not entirely sure to what extent I mean by that). It makes more sense as a support mechanism as Pieter said above.

Anonymous Coward says:

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I think the big issue is: there’s a loud group of people in academia trying to stifle the free exchange of ideas, and people like Peterson (and the other IDWs) are combating that using reason and debate

I don’t know that I’m prepared to give him that credit. Because here’s the thing: the most robust, most solid, most well-reasoned opposition to his ideas come from the fields he has categorically dismissed as a postmodern quasi-conspiracy, and an "indoctrination cult". The very people he should be engaged with in reason and debate – people with expertise in the very real, not-frivolous social sciences like critical race and gender theory – are the one group he prefers to simply delegitimize.

Proposing a website listing humanities professors that he feels are part of a postmodern indoctrination cult, and expressing the hope that they will be abandoned and defunded, and even explicitly saying he believes a significant number of the modern humanities and social sciences should be eliminated from universities – while simultaneously complaining that HE is a victim of intolerance for certain ideas, and claiming that his failure to attain funding for a research project was a political attack on his free speech – does not strike me as reason and debate.

Pieter Hulshoff (profile) says:

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Rightly or wrongly, he feels that these ideas regarding identity politics follow the same doctrines that have lead to the deaths of hundreds of millions over the past century, and should be stopped in their tracks if in any reasonable way possible. It does not matter to him whether it’s the left or right that plays these identity politic games, but since it’s mostly the left pushing them in universities these days (and because similar ideas from the right are discarded by the general population as ridiculous) his main focus is on the games played by the extreme left.

I don’t know whether his fears are true in a way that should concern us all, but the man has studied the results of these kinds of ideas for decades, so I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’ve also seen where these ideas are leading at the moment, and if this is just the start then we are indeed heading for some very unpleasant things in the future.

Pieter Hulshoff (profile) says:

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From what I’ve understood from his lectures, he feels that the same kind of identity politics and totalitarian views are at the base of all these atrocities. To some of these people, deviating even a little from the common view can result in being viewed as a nazi, biggot or misogynist, which is sufficient reason to prevent you from speaking at all. Just look at what happened to professor Weinstein.

Anonymous Coward says:

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I know that "identity politics" has become this scary term with lots of baggage, but I think at this point you need to unpack what you mean by it.

Meanwhile, I think it’s pretty absurd to say that social studies like critical race and gender theory are advocating totalitarianism – a.ka. "a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state"

Again, saying that is just like saying Peterson is a Nazi. It really seems like you are completely fine with hyperbole and opinionated characterizations like that on one side, while labeling them defamation on the other.

Pieter Hulshoff (profile) says:

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I’m not defending my own views on the matter here; we’re discussing professor Peterson’s views. I’ve already stated in previous posts that I think this lawsuit was not one of his better moves, and I think there’s an alternative motive behind it. He doesn’t appear to be too quick to sue people for defamation though, considering all the things people yell at him, but for one reason or another he has drawn a line here. We’ll have to see how this one plays out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hey Mike, just wondering — and I admit I’m completely biased here — but have you read 12 Rules for Life?

I had never watched any of his YouTube videos, but I heard good things about it and got my mother to buy it for me for my birthday. Having read it and being on my second reading of it right now, I think that if you read it, you’d have a better perspective of where he’s coming from, in a lot of ways.

He’s really passionate about wanting humanity to pull itself up by its bootstraps. In my opinion, and probably his as well, there is a big problem with academic institutions not having the sense of personal responsibility to future generations that they really, really should. I can completely understand why he’d initiate this lawsuit. He’s being… oh, what’s a good word for it… “parental” with them, so that they can do the best for the students under their care.

WLU is one of the worst universities in Canada in terms of spreading victimhood and Marxism. I’m Canadian, just for full disclosure, but also to let you know that I have more of a vested interest in keeping my finger on this pulse. UofT isn’t much better (I live in Toronto, I see Antifa posters all over the place promoting violence and tribalism,) but WLU is cray-cray even by our standards.

I don’t believe Peterson is in the wrong, here. I think he’s trying to exercise his legal rights in order to kick people not upside the head, but towards the right way to behave with society. Politically speaking, I seriously can’t place the guy. I don’t think that he’s left or right or anything, the only thing he seems to be opposed to is hypocrisy and lies.

If you haven’t read his latest book, I implore you to do so in your own time. I’m a person who has struggled a lot in my own life and continues to do so, but of all the self-help bullshit I’ve heard and read and seen, his model and his perspective really does make sense. Not gonna lie, it’s hard. Damn hard. It’ll make you think in ways that HURT. But that’s the point.

I understand your position, as a journalist, and that Peterson makes a very easy target for ridicule and contempt, but I think that for that very reason it would do you well to understand more about the person you are writing about. Peterson himself suffers from lifelong depression and has fought hard to even be in the position he’s in among society, and (semi-spoiler alert) he’s witnessed a lot of suffering in his own family — real, physical suffering — so he knows what it’s like to feel pain and to contemplate dark thoughts and to have to wrestle with the unfairness of life.

Anonymous Coward says:

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Just realized I should disclose a bit more here. Didn’t realize my partner was participating here already, but this and the above post are from another person than the identical IP that has posted earlier in this thread.

I really need to get an account here. I admit it, I have registration fatigue. 😛