Unleashing grumpy-old-man Skynet on the academic world
November 18, 2017 11:35 AM   Subscribe

 
"I’m hard-pressed to find a course on Chaucer that comes this close to promising to clear my thetans." just slays me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:47 AM on November 18, 2017 [28 favorites]


“Postmodern neo-Marxism” is Peterson’s nemesis

I imagine it's fairly safe to assume that Peterson is not particularly familiar with Kant, Hegel, Feuerbach, the Young Hegelians, (or for that matter, Bentham, Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, or Mill) or any of the historical or philosophical context out of which the oeuvre of Marx emerged? Marx is just a proxy for bad, right?

Anti-intellectual "intellectuals" are weird. I suppose it's not a surprise that they'd also be under-read.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:16 PM on November 18, 2017 [13 favorites]


Also, doesn't he sound just like Rand 2.0? Not just the culty stuff, but this weird compulsion to take the grand scope of human endeavor for the purpose of sorting it into two boxes:

Good and Bad.

That's really boring way to spend your time. It's really only interesting to folks who are more concerned with being right than actually learning anything new.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:21 PM on November 18, 2017 [14 favorites]


"Postmodern" in certain circles (particularly the new atheist/rationalist/skeptic circles I ran screaming from awhile back) is a shibboleth for "feelings matter more than facts", for "nothing is really real so everybody's opinion is equally valid no matter what", and other similar caricatures. To a certain kind of psuedointellectual ignoramus, it means a belief in the invalidation of objectivity, empiricism, and progress.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:25 PM on November 18, 2017 [47 favorites]


One more and I'm done:

You’ll never hear him use the phrase “We must secure a future for our white children”; what you will hear him say is that, while there does appear to be a causal relationship between empowering women and economic growth, we have to consider whether this is good for society, “‘’cause the birth rate is plummeting.”

Birth rates plummeting a good thing, you fucking dolt.*

Hans Rosling has an incredibly awesome video about this, which is much better use of your time than this putz.

* Oh, and in the developed world, birth rates tend to be higher in countries with a broad safety net and a society that supports women and children. Gee, I wonder why?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:27 PM on November 18, 2017 [20 favorites]


Wait, leotrotsky, so are you saying that a broad safety net and a society that supports women and children is a bad thing? ;-)
posted by clawsoon at 12:35 PM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also, doesn't he sound just like Rand 2.0?

Yes, that might just be it.

[taking the grand scope of human endeavor is a] really boring way to spend your time. It's really only interesting to folks who are more concerned with being right than actually learning anything new.

It's not an academically rigorous way to spend your time, which makes Peterson's whole thing about protecting the liberal academy kind of self-contradictory. It is, however, a great way to have fun! And absolutely not about being more right than learning anything.

For example, I'm on my second run through the 2008-2017 era of Malvyn Bragg's In Our Time podcast. The end of the Kant episode was fascinating--that was an interesting learning moment, I guess we all have foibles?
posted by Chuckles at 12:36 PM on November 18, 2017 [5 favorites]


I work at another Canadian institution, where one of our faculty (completely extraneous to his area of research and expertise) has drunk deep the Peterson Flavor-Aid and routinely embarrasses himself and all of us by writing dumbass op-eds that the National Post (of course) publishes.

It's frustrating to see people who are so damn smart in some ways be so completely stupid in others. Logic a five-year-old could drive a truck straight through. Complete obliviousness to basic facts. So many strawmen you could mount concurrent revivals of The Wiz on every stage in North America. It's maddening.
posted by Shepherd at 12:52 PM on November 18, 2017 [38 favorites]


And.. Probably more Rand ∧ Hubbard ⇒ (alt?) Rightenology
posted by Chuckles at 12:54 PM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


Couching bullshit talking points in what sounds like academic language isn't intellectualism. It's like Cartman not knowing the difference between being nice and putting on a nice sweater, or one of the Sovereign Citizen movementeers shouting "Joinder! Joinder!" while not knowing what any of their legal terms or theories actually mean.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:59 PM on November 18, 2017 [8 favorites]


He currently has legions of fans hanging on his every YouTubed word; he’s now hauling in around USD $50,000 a month through crowdfunding.

See here's the thing, this kind of pandering to people's reactionary views while pretending you put some thought into it actually pays.
posted by subdee at 12:59 PM on November 18, 2017 [9 favorites]


While I understand that making your enemies ridiculous is a time-honoured tactic, the danger this guy and his followers pose to trans folks is extremely real and serious, and reading this AFAIK cis writer making jokes about it feels pretty bad.
posted by ITheCosmos at 1:02 PM on November 18, 2017 [7 favorites]


So many strawmen you could mount concurrent revivals of The Wiz on every stage in North America.

That...that's a beautiful turn of the phrase.
posted by notsnot at 1:21 PM on November 18, 2017 [18 favorites]


That...that's a beautiful turn of the phrase.

It is not. I was going for a Wizard of Oz thing with the scarecrow but then I didn't think it was ever a stage musical so I tried The Wiz, and it's all clunky and dumb.
posted by Shepherd at 1:29 PM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


Probably more Rand ∧ Hubbard ⇒ (alt?) Rightenology

Wasn't it Rand who, at a cocktail party, bet Hubbard $100 that he couldn't start a religion and make a profit of it?
posted by acb at 1:34 PM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


"Postmodern" in certain circles is a shibboleth for "feelings matter more than facts", for "nothing is really real so everybody's opinion is equally valid no matter what", and other similar caricatures.
Well, "alt-right" and other "alt-"idiocy is a shibboleth for "feelings matter more than facts", and "MY feelings are really real so everybody else's opinion is invalid". The Most Special Snowflakes in Western Society today.

And they can be divided into several Oz-related groups, strawmen, tinmen, cowardly lions, flying monkeys and phony wizards (with Jordan Peterson being a "Sean Connery in diapers" added for color).
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:37 PM on November 18, 2017 [9 favorites]


I've been a fan of his for a while (I'm an old white guy, after all)... but it was when he claimed that the cultural marxist claim that patriarchy was invented 350 years ago... that I started to reconsider.

White Patriarchy, (and White Privilege), as it turns out, was invented after Bacon's Rebellion in 1676.

I've noticed I go through a pattern, find something interesting, dive deep, find out the flaws, move on... if you don't pick on his fans too hard, they won't dig in and get stuck there.

As they say on Race Bait (a great podcast, btw) approach this with a generosity of spirit.
posted by MikeWarot at 1:44 PM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


A noted cognitive psychologist who I worked for for a couple years once gave lectures to the CIA on improving black site interrogation methods. (I didn’t learn this until after the fact, and the research group I worked with couldn’t have been further from that topic.) When it comes to assholes who dabble in and publish pop psych I’ll take the mouthy alt-righties over the insidiously fascist clever ones any day.
posted by supercres at 2:42 PM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


Wasn't it Rand who, at a cocktail party, bet Hubbard $100 that he couldn't start a religion and make a profit of it?

Heinlein, supposedly.
posted by Brian B. at 2:51 PM on November 18, 2017 [6 favorites]


> "It is not. I was going for a Wizard of Oz thing with the scarecrow but then I didn't think it was ever a stage musical ..."

It was, actually. There was a 1902 version with a long, successful Broadway run, a 1942 one based on the film which has frequent revivals, The Marvelous Land of Oz from 1981, the Royal Shakespeare Company's adaptation in 1987, the 2000 version from the Toronto Civic Light Opera Company, and of course the Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice one from 2011.
posted by kyrademon at 3:16 PM on November 18, 2017 [7 favorites]


So I actually took two of Peterson's classes, about fifteen years ago, when I was just a young _morning and Alt-Right was a keyboard shortcut and Peterson was somebody you've never heard of.

He was, at the time -- and believe me how uncomfortable it is to write this now -- a great professor. He was that charismatic prof who just makes the world *make sense*. He inspired a lot of my classmates to choose psychology as their major and even as their career. There was a very active facebook group called "Jordan Peterson Blew My Mind" or some such.

His topic was this sort of neo-Jungian or Lacanian approach to personality psychology built around dialectics, where meaning and personal growth are derived from the synthesis of opposites. The Known vs the Unknown, the Hero's Journey, all that stuff. He introduced us to Solzhenitsyn (which I sadly note probably only reflected his Marxism obsession), and the principles of CBT and mindfulness, and the value of stoic self-reflection. And none of his alt-right ideas ever made an appearance in that class -- well, as far as I can remember, which is sort of a frightening thought.

The tragic thing, when I think back, is that his ideas at that time were highly compatible with modern gender identity. One of his core examples of dialectics that we navigate in order to build our personalities was the male/female binary. Now, he meant it largely in terms of defining yourself as independent from both your mother and your father. But it would not be a big step from where he was at to realizing that, well, for many people generating your personal synthesis of the male/female binary has even more complexity. How interesting that should have been to him! How compelling he should have found intersex and trans* stories!

Instead, I guess he came to a crossroads when social change made him personally uncomfortable, and he chose to go with reactionary politics over intellectual honesty. An unusually stark case of someone just straight up choosing A Path Of Evil. He had the tools to help and he chose to hurt instead. And I often think back to that wide-eyed undergrad eating up every word Peterson was saying, and I think: there but for the grace of Whoever go I.

I still have one of the books he wrote. I haven't decided what to do with it. Most likely I will leave it in front of his office one day with a very disappointed message written in Sharpie on the cover.
posted by saturday_morning at 3:34 PM on November 18, 2017 [68 favorites]


While I understand that making your enemies ridiculous is a time-honoured tactic, the danger this guy and his followers pose to trans folks is extremely real and serious, and reading this AFAIK cis writer making jokes about it feels pretty bad.

To give a bit of local context, Peterson has been taken very seriously at U of T. When he took his dumb pronoun stand, there were a lot of video responses, demonstrations, faculty statements, op-eds, etc. If the present article were the one and only response to Peterson that the community had mustered, then I'd agree that it'd be the wrong approach. But within that wider context, adding a piss-take doesn't seem guilty of neglecting the harm he could do. The author also ends by making your point:

in between his long rambling pseudo-academic takes on common self-help advice and his weird fixation on Disney movies, is a dreadfully serious message.

What he’s telling you is that certain people—most of them women and minorities—are trying to destroy not only our freedom to spite nonbinary university students for kicks, but all of Western civilization and the idea of objective truth itself. He’s telling you that when someone tells you racism is still a problem and that something should be done about it, they are, at best, a dupe and, at worst, part of a Marxist conspiracy to destroy your way of life.

Peterson says he only thinks of it as a “non-violent war.” But when you insist the stakes are that high, the opposition that pernicious, who’s to say where the chips will fall?

posted by Beardman at 3:40 PM on November 18, 2017 [10 favorites]


White Patriarchy, (and White Privilege), as it turns out, was invented after Bacon's Rebellion in 1676.

This is most certainly not just garden-variety wrong, but epically wrong.
posted by jokeefe at 4:00 PM on November 18, 2017 [9 favorites]


Addendum: You might try to make a case for this if you were only talking about American history, and even then just a particular take on it. But using "white patriarchy and white privilege" in this sense is wildly overshooting the mark.
posted by jokeefe at 4:03 PM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


You’ll never hear him use the phrase “We must secure a future for our white children”; what you will hear him say is that, while there does appear to be a causal relationship between empowering women and economic growth, we have to consider whether this is good for society, “cause the birth rate is plummeting".

I understand that the birth rate remains high in Africa and Asia; so he doesn't have to worry that we're going to run out of people. Oh, wait.
posted by jokeefe at 4:05 PM on November 18, 2017 [13 favorites]


Can someone tell me what the hell MikeWarot is talking about? I literally don't understand his point.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:19 PM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


If I were compelled to speak to what MikeWarot was saying, I'd summary quote it as, "I liked JP, but then he said the Filthy Marxists believed something obviously crazy, and I was like... come on that's ridiculous. Then I looked into it, and not only are the Filthy Marxists saying something like that, but actually well holy shit it's kinda true. So now my mind has been opened on that topic, but also I realize JP is not very good at thinking. I'm on a personal journey here don't @ me."
posted by fleacircus at 5:04 PM on November 18, 2017 [20 favorites]


Is Jordan Peterson the stupid man’s smart person?
Nah, Carl of Swindon™ is the Stupid Man's Smart Person.

Jordan Petersen is "hahahaha, I almost picked Carl of Swindon™ as my choice of a Smart Person, but you librulz are right, that guy sucks. ...oh shiiiiiit, I picked another not very Smart Person here, didn't I? Damn, I'm so confused!"
posted by wwwwolf at 5:15 PM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


Carl of Swindon... is that like Tom of Finland or something?
posted by Naberius at 5:38 PM on November 18, 2017 [7 favorites]


So I actually took two of Peterson's classes, about fifteen years ago, when I was just a young _morning and Alt-Right was a keyboard shortcut and Peterson was somebody you've never heard of.

He was, at the time -- and believe me how uncomfortable it is to write this now -- a great professor. He was that charismatic prof who just makes the world *make sense*. He inspired a lot of my classmates to choose psychology as their major and even as their career.


I met someone recently who had also had Peterson as a professor about 15 years ago - and said that he had been brilliant and sensible then. But they had met him again recently and realised that he was ... different. It wasn't just that his ideas had radicalized, he acted differently (maybe even moved differently) - his personality had changed.

We were chatting about this because I had begun to wonder (based on his current paranoia) whether he was suffering from a mental or neurological illness. If his personality has actually changed, maybe he does have some brain damage or something - and the person I was talking to thought it was plausible.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe he's just a racist, sexist, transphobic man who hates the progress of civilization and will stop it by any means necessary. But part of me wishes that it is illness, because maybe then it's treatable.
posted by jb at 5:57 PM on November 18, 2017 [12 favorites]


Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe he's just a racist, sexist, transphobic man who hates the progress of civilization and will stop it by any means necessary. But part of me wishes that it is illness, because maybe then it's treatable.

It could just be that being a hateful bigot tends to cramp your psyche in ways that are immediately perceptible to anyone around you. I know plenty of people who experience actual paranoia as part of mental illness, and it doesn't make them into abhorrent assholes. Some people just radicalize because they feel powerless and small.
posted by lilies.lilies at 6:15 PM on November 18, 2017 [9 favorites]


I am on a personal journey... I see that some of the things he says are wrong.... but lots of it is consistent with my view of the world. I'm not going to dispute that people see him as a bigot, but I don't personally think he's too far off base.

As for @'ing me... I have no idea what that means.
posted by MikeWarot at 6:24 PM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


MikeWarot: If someone posits that women have not been oppressed throughout history I feel like I can safely discard the bulk of the rest.
posted by Cosine at 6:30 PM on November 18, 2017 [20 favorites]


Cosine: I've never heard him say that women haven't been oppressed. He's never claimed that that sex is binary, nor sexual attraction, etc. For me, his main argument seems to be "don't burn down western civilization because it isn't perfect".
He opposed a law in Canada because it had two major flaws: It completely bypassed all of English Common law and it's precedent. It wrote into law something factually wrong, that all aspects of gender are orthogonal to each other, with no correlation.

Again, that's my perception, and I certainly haven't seen/read everything he's ever produced.
posted by MikeWarot at 6:39 PM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


“The idea that women were oppressed throughout history is an appalling theory.”
posted by Cosine at 6:59 PM on November 18, 2017 [11 favorites]


I'm struggling, because my bullshit meter isn't working on Peterson quite yet. My various leftist readings are concerned about other things and aren't designed to equip me to refute his ideas. He plainly articulates worldviews that my more conservative parents, relatives, or friends might support. That information could be useful for me in my own process of understanding people different than me.

FTA:
"…what you will hear him say is that, while there does appear to be a causal relationship between empowering women and economic growth, we have to consider whether this is good for society, “‘’cause the birth rate is plummeting.”"

Original video, paraphrasing his response to a seminar question:
I think the status quo is actually a pretty good job. How fast could you hope for things to change? Look at women since 1970s: it's changed so fast that people can't keep up. By the way, it's not obvious that it's particularly good for women—now, you could make a case that it's good for society, maybe; it's a tough one, eh, 'cause the birth rate has plummeted; maybe you don't care about that because maybe you think there's overpopulation already, whatever; but it isn't that easy to figure out when something is working properly. One of things we do know is that to the degree rights are extended to women economic prosperity follows. So you can see worldwide that societies that have done this most extensively also seem to flourishing, economically. We [social scientists/psychologists] think that's a causal relationship. But women have paid a big price for that. First of all for women who are middle class or lower, their lives have essentially fallen apart, because marriage is restricted to the rich. … [Then he talks about women lawyer's experiences with the glass ceiling, and pathological male drive for competition. He also mentions class privilege w.r.t. the classroom, since this is a visiting lecture for college students.]

I think full quote in its original academic context shows his personal conservatism as employing a certain attitude of intellectual inquiry and scientific pragmatism that can have appeal. Social scientists are motivated by the political question of what approach is good for society, and use science to illuminate causality and quantify costs as well as benefits, whereas Tabatha Southey's point of view construes these broader intellectual issues as offensive (and pernicious that a professor would talk about this in lecture). Like, I could probably make a case that Peterson is committing some form of scientism. Except that, a lot of what he's saying in the above quote is actually a recognized, accepted global-view picture of many Marxists and leftists. So these interrelationships between what people are saying and claims about what each other has said is really tangled and complicated. It's hard.
posted by polymodus at 7:06 PM on November 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


"The dumb person's smart person" sums it up nicely but man is that some sad shit: I fall on the side of neurological disease to explain his twist towards the hateful and dumb (my grandfather had a similar progression, turned out it was brain cancer. Obviously it doesn't have to be cancer that wrecks its havoc, but count me as not surprised if the transformation turns out to be organic.)
Also, he's clearly really really smart because he's making 50,000$ a month sounding off like he's a dummy. I wish I got paid that kind of cash for being a mouthy dope.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:17 PM on November 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


Peterson first made the news and became a belle of the alt-right when, in September 2016,

Has it really only been a year that this guy has been a thing? It feels like forever.
posted by edeezy at 8:28 PM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


If his personality has actually changed, maybe he does have some brain damage or something - and the person I was talking to thought it was plausible.

I think it's quite possible that he has a neurological disorder. I remember watching him on TVO around 10 years ago discussing Jungian archetypes, and he seemed thoughtful and insightful. Since then he's become paranoid and irrational (thinking that Marxists are a threat is like the classic old school symptom of paranoia). He should get proper medical attention.
posted by ovvl at 9:17 PM on November 18, 2017 [6 favorites]




tl;dr - Jordan Peterson is Philippe Rushton 2.0.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:25 PM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


"Life before the 20th century for most people was brutal beyond comparison. The idea that women were an oppressed minority under those conditions is insane.

People worked 16 hours a day hand to mouth. My grandmother was a farmer’s wife in Saskatchewan. She showed me a picture of the firewood she chopped before winter. They lived in a log cabin that was not quite as big as the first floor of this house. And the woodpile that she chopped was three times as long, and just as high. And that’s what she did in her spare time because she was also cooking for a threshing crew, taking care of her four kids, working on other people’s farms as a maid, and taking care of the animals.

Then in the 20th century, people got rich enough that some women were able to work outside the home. That started in the 1920s, and really accelerated up through World War II because women were pulled into factories while the men went off to war. The men fought, and died, and that’s pretty much the history of humanity.

And then in the 50s, when Betty Friedan started to whine about the plight of women, it’s like, the soldiers came home from the war, everyone started a family, the women pulled in from the factories because they wanted to have kids, and that’s when they got all oppressed.

There was no equality for women before the birth control pill. It’s completely insane to assume that anything like that could’ve possibly occurred. And the feminists think they produced a revolution in the 1960s that freed women. What freed women was the pill, and we’ll see how that works out. There’s some evidence that women on the pill don’t like masculine men because of changes in hormonal balance. You can test a woman’s preference in men. You can show them pictures of men and change the jaw width, and what you find is that women who aren’t on the pill like wide-jawed men when they’re ovulating, and they like narrow-jawed men when they’re not, and the narrow-jawed men are less aggressive. Well all women on the pill are as if they’re not ovulating, so it’s possible that a lot of the antipathy that exists right now between women and men exists because of the birth control pill. The idea that women were discriminated against across the course of history is appalling."


What even do you say to someone who holds views like that?
posted by Secret Sparrow at 9:36 PM on November 18, 2017 [21 favorites]


What even do you say to someone who holds views like that?

Well, I have a few words, but I'm pretty sure they'd get the comment nuked.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:42 PM on November 18, 2017 [15 favorites]


"There was no equality for women before the birth control pill. ... The idea that women were discriminated against across the course of history is appalling."

I'm trying to figure out how those two statements go together. Is he trying to say that pre-pill inequality wasn't the result of discrimination? Or... what?
posted by clawsoon at 10:21 PM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to figure out how those two statements go together. Is he trying to say that pre-pill inequality wasn't the result of discrimination? Or... what?

Oh, the underlying argument parses fine to me:

"Life before the 20th century for most people was brutal beyond comparison. The idea that women were an oppressed minority under those conditions is insane...

*snip*

And then in the 50s, when Betty Friedan started to whine about the plight of women, it’s like, the soldiers came home from the war, everyone started a family, the women pulled in from the factories because they wanted to have kids, and that’s when they got all oppressed.


Paraphrased: 'for most of human history, women knew their place. Lookit my anecdotes about it.'

There was no equality for women before the birth control pill.

'The pill allowed women to exceed their station unnaturally.'

There’s some evidence that women on the pill don’t like masculine men because of changes in hormonal balance.

'Lookit how unnatural this is, and it's feminizing us too!'

Well all women on the pill are as if they’re not ovulating, so it’s possible that a lot of the antipathy that exists right now between women and men exists because of the birth control pill.

'We should get them back in their place before we're destroyed.'

The idea that women were discriminated against across the course of history is appalling."

'Putting women in their place isn't discrimination, it's just restoring the natural balance.'

It's a whole lot of dogwhistles for 'women should be chattel, just like you guys want.'

tl;dr: he may not be a Nazi, but he's close enough that I'm comfortable just dumping the fucker in with them.
posted by mordax at 10:35 PM on November 18, 2017 [30 favorites]


We were chatting about this because I had begun to wonder (based on his current paranoia) whether he was suffering from a mental or neurological illness. If his personality has actually changed, maybe he does have some brain damage or something - and the person I was talking to thought it was plausible.

I tend to think he has "found a profitable niche" disorder.
posted by atoxyl at 10:35 PM on November 18, 2017 [15 favorites]


Is he trying to say that pre-pill inequality wasn't the result of discrimination?

I would guess he means that pre-pill women were oppressed by a biological role that did not affect men, and that any couple were equally oppressed by class.
posted by Brian B. at 10:43 PM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


the narrow-jawed men are less aggressive
Every racist, sexist, pseudo-intellectual construct has at least one cornerstone made of phrenology.
posted by Horkus at 11:14 PM on November 18, 2017 [36 favorites]


There's a problem with calling for not reflexively dismissing an argument that questions a popular truth. Sure, that popular truth can be pretty shallow! But it's inevitably based on a much more nuanced and detailed argument that, almost always, has already refuted whatever iconoclastic claptrap is being reheated and served up as new insight.

The argument that the pill might be interfering with the natural order and with women's biology has also been made about bicycles. Underlying both is this idea about what the 'natural order ' even is that is usually nowhere near sophisticated enough to be realistic, which is why it usually relies on prejudice to paper over the gaps.
posted by Merus at 11:37 PM on November 18, 2017 [17 favorites]


This bit just about made me crack up:

Peterson’s videos go on and on. It’s like opening up a tab for one of those bird’s nest webcams at the height of its popularity: Lots of people are watching, you feel like you should too, but nothing is happening. You keep checking back, the viewer numbers have risen, but the scene is just so grey and drab. You can make out a white object on your screen that may or may not be cracking up, but as time goes on you start to think, “This thing was not incubated properly.”

And of course...
Metafilter: a white object on your screen that may or may not be cracking up
posted by Arandia at 2:29 AM on November 19, 2017 [8 favorites]


Thanks, mordax and Brian B. That makes the argument clear.

If Peterson comes up in discussions with a relative or friend who's figuring out life and the world, as he does for me, and you need some specific examples to counter this line of thinking, you might find the position of women in early Sumeria interesting, or the way that delayed marriage (E. A. Wrigley: Population and History) and infanticide (Sarah Blaffer Hrdy: Mother Nature) were used as forms of birth control long before the pill came along.
posted by clawsoon at 6:47 AM on November 19, 2017 [4 favorites]


I hate having to waste brain cycles on this guy, but he slagged A.W. Peet and physics profs are too tribal to ignore a threat to one of our own. But this blew my mind:
JP: The mere fact that professor Peet would like to be addressed by a particular pronoun does not mean that I am required to address him by that pronoun. That doesn't mean that I deny his existence or the existence of people who don't fit neatly in binary gender categories. I reserve the right to use my own language and I'm perfectly willing to take that to its conclusion. If it's the case that I can't use my language the way that I see fit, because I'm using my language to formulate and articulate the truth in the clearest manner I can possibly manage and if that lands me in legal trouble — well, so be it. [emphasis added]
Prof. Peet has never been a "him". But I guess Peterson's formulation of the truth doesn't include the possibility of AFAB physics professors.
posted by heatherlogan at 7:37 AM on November 19, 2017 [9 favorites]


Here is what I do not understand about J.P.'s rap and I have failed at getting any good data so if somebody could point me in a fruitful direction I would appreciate it greatly:

why isn't the Big-5 personality factor theory held under closer scrutiny? The default seems it is as reliable as the Law of Gravity. And the guy who invented it worked for an intelligence agency, first; and every one of those factors is a lever for exercising state control, second.

A friend's translation of the Big 5:

Conscientiousness; if you don't have this you are worthless.
Agreeableness; if you don't have this you are a troublemaker.
Openness; if you don't have this you will be obsolete by age 36.
Neuroticism; if you have this you are dangerous.
Extroversion; if you don't have this you are a loser.

Whenever I mention this people look at me like I am talking Klingon so I have given up. I think J.P. was a fraud from his first day in grad school.

If anybody knows of a decent Big 5 takedown I would very very very much appreciate seeing it.
posted by bukvich at 7:43 AM on November 19, 2017 [3 favorites]


Wasn't Big 5 developed for nuclear submarine crew members? Then isn't it perfect for people who want to live in cramped, noisy conditions, willing to risk a painful, sudden and wet* death in the dark, all for the off chance of destroying half of humanity?

*: okay, if there's a hull breach at depth, very hot everything-catch-fire-briefly in the dark kinda cold, wet death. PV gotta mRT, after all
posted by scruss at 8:17 AM on November 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


And the guy who invented it worked for an intelligence agency

Per Wikipedia, "The Big five personality traits was the model to comprehend the relationship between personality and academic behaviors. This model was defined by several independent sets of researchers. [...] At least four sets of researchers have worked independently for decades on this problem and have identified generally the same five factors".
posted by asterix at 8:19 AM on November 19, 2017 [3 favorites]


the narrow-jawed men are less aggressive
Every racist, sexist, pseudo-intellectual construct has at least one cornerstone made of phrenology.
posted by Horkus at 11:14 PM on November 18 [13 favorites +]


ok - in the interests of our side being accurate in our position, that narrow-jawed line is not a belief held by Mr. Peterson but rather his relaying of ...

some evidence that women on the pill don’t like masculine men because of changes in hormonal balance. You can test a woman’s preference in men. You can show them pictures of men and change the jaw width, and what you find is that women who aren’t on the pill like wide-jawed men when they’re ovulating, and they like narrow-jawed men when they’re not, and the narrow-jawed men are less aggressive.

I can't speak for the evidence or where it came from, but as stated by him, this doesn't really present as evidence of the man's phrenology.
posted by philip-random at 8:30 AM on November 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


Can I have a grant to play audio of Henry Rollins spoken word shows to differently ovulating wimmenz?
posted by thelonius at 8:34 AM on November 19, 2017 [9 favorites]


I've heard of a handful of studies which concluded that women on the pill have their manliness priorities backward according to evo-psych theorizing. I'm pretty sure that most of the studies were of the low-n sort which has produced such robust and reproducible results over in social psychology. (Next up: How Power Posing Alters Jawline Perception In Women Menstruating Synchronously.)
posted by clawsoon at 8:57 AM on November 19, 2017 [10 favorites]


No Katie Price joke?

The classic problem with defending a status quo against innovation is that the status quo is usually the result of previous innovation. Things are always going to change, because they've always been changing.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:52 AM on November 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


ok - in the interests of our side being accurate in our position

IMO, it's really important not to worry about this kind of stuff in this scenario. When I hear someone like Dr. Jen Gunter talking about the dangers of the pill, I'll listen, and not a second sooner. Peterson is a transparent and conniving liar, per the link offered by mandolin conspiracy above. If he told me the sky was blue, I'd insist on cracking a window and checking for myself.

On a broader note: I've known plenty of right-wing reactionaries, and I don't believe in labeling anybody crazy and moving on - I'm a big fan of trying to understand what makes everybody tick, even monsters. (Hell, especially monsters.) I've tried talking to them plenty. I've also listened plenty. (It's why I don't do much of either anymore - I feel like I've spent enough time at the precipice of that particular abyss.)

For most of us here, we like to talk in good faith in the hope of learning something. We want to use words to winnow out the truth, even if it leads to places we don't care to be.

For true believers of this kind of rhetoric, arguing is a dominance game. They love it. Words are a bludgeon that they can use to force people to give them concessions and otherwise make them feel better about themselves. Even ones who honestly don't want to put the rest of us in ovens or shackles think of this sort of thing as a game you win, not a way to figure out things you might not want to hear.

We shouldn't get lost in the weeds with the stuff they have to say. Just pay attention to the underlying messages. If you want to engage - whether angrily, (like I'd be inclined to), or with the 'generosity of spirit' that MikeWarot asked for above - either way? Appeal to emotions, not facts.
posted by mordax at 11:19 AM on November 19, 2017 [8 favorites]


mordax: If you want to engage - whether angrily, (like I'd be inclined to), or with the 'generosity of spirit' that MikeWarot asked for above - either way? Appeal to emotions, not facts.

I've found that a couple of things make a difference. Part of it is connecting. It's easy to dismiss an enemy. It's harder to dismiss someone who cares about you. Another part of it is introducing facts which are just at the outside edge of what they're willing to believe, facts that make their view of the world more complicated.

That's not to contradict you, but to just add a bit of my own experience.
posted by clawsoon at 11:39 AM on November 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


That's not to contradict you, but to just add a bit of my own experience.

This is a fair point, and I think what you said there is accurate.
posted by mordax at 12:13 PM on November 19, 2017


I love a good takedown as much as anybody, but is there anybody more aware of the Canadian or alt-right context who can tell me why busting Jordan Peterson isn't shooting fish in a barrel? I thought performatively offensive, self-appointed contrarian professors like him were a dime a dozen. Should I be more familiar with this guy, cause I'm like "Who he?"
posted by jonp72 at 12:24 PM on November 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


University of Toronto Professors Warn Jordan Peterson is Planning a Targeted Harassment Campaign
Jordan Peterson, a professor at U of T’s Department of Psychology, gained public notoriety last year after refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns while interacting with transgender students and publicly criticizing human rights legislation aimed at protecting gender identity against discrimination.

Since donning the mask of a free speech warrior, Peterson leveraged his publicity to become a cult hero to the alt-right and generate over half a million dollars in online donations, regularly raging against women, marginalized groups and an imagined enemy he calls “postmodern neo-Marxists.”
The letter to administrators notes faculty first learned of Peterson’s plans through “publicly available online videos”:
These videos describe the website as asking people to upload course descriptions, along with professor names, and then using AI software (called a “postmodern lexicon detector”) to rank them for “postmodern neo-Marxian” content, which he describes as a corruption that needs to removed from the university.
The letter also notes concern with Peterson’s “violence-tinged language”:
It is particularly concerning that Peterson uses violence-tinged language to describe the courses he hopes to prevent people from taking, describing them as corrupt, reprehensible, malevolent, a plague, and even ‘bordering on murderous’, and describing his overall project as part of a war.
[...]
[D]espite portraying himself as a champion of “free speech,” Peterson has a long list of “reprehensible” and “corrupt” academic disciplines he thinks “have to go”:
They can use the website to distinguish between people who are credible and people who aren’t and maybe we can drop the damn enrollment in those horrible courses by 75% over the next three years … it’s in their best interest both, I would say, spiritually and economically to avoid those courses and those disciplines like the plague and then maybe we can get the disciplines that have become entirely corrupt and the ones that started that way to put themselves back together before they run themselves out of existence completely, and I might as well name a few of the disciplines that I think are particularly reprehensible to begin with … So, as I said already, women’s studies, and all the ethnic studies and racial studies groups, man, those things have to go and the faster they go the better. It would have been better had they never been part of the university to begin with as far as I can tell. Sociology, that’s corrupt. Anthropology, that’s corrupt. English literature, that’s corrupt. Maybe the worse offenders are the faculties of education.
Peterson also had this to say about law professors:
I learned that law has actually become corrupt as well.
The letter also calls attention to Peterson’s at times violent tone, quoting one video where Peterson suggests anyone who speaks like a “postmodern neo-Marxist” should be “punched in the nose hard enough to knock you out.”

Concerned faculty say the violent rhetoric is especially disturbing in light of Peterson’s fixation on women and racialized groups:
In public online remarks more broadly, Prof. Peterson regularly describes women and gender studies and what he refers to as ‘racial and ethnic group studies’ as pathological, a cancer, and in other strongly denigrating terms. The launch of this website must be put in this context in order to fully understand it as a platform that will generate harassment.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:42 PM on November 19, 2017 [13 favorites]


The tl;dr is that, despite his crowing about freedom of speech, it turns out that Peterson's actually a virulent bigot who's willing to use the language and tactics of Nazis (both modern and classic) to advance his agenda. I honestly don't know why the U of T is keeping him on, because it seems like just a matter of time until one of his internet disciples tries to bring about another École Polytechnique massacre, and his language is getting ever closer to incitement.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:51 PM on November 19, 2017 [11 favorites]


For me, his main argument seems to be "don't burn down western civilization because it isn't perfect".

By “burn down” he means correct or improve.

By “western civilization” he means white, anglophone, protestant, straight, cis, male supremacy.

By “isn’t” he means is.

Hope that helps.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:27 PM on November 19, 2017 [9 favorites]


why isn't the Big-5 personality factor theory held under closer scrutiny? The default seems it is as reliable as the Law of Gravity.

I don't have any specific links right now but my impression is the reason it's held in high regard, relatively, is that it's just about the only personality model to be validated in terms of consistency, stability and predictive value. Exactly how stable or predictive it is definitely is subject to debate, though, as is whether there are other measurable traits missing from the model.
posted by atoxyl at 2:29 PM on November 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


The Prime of Mr. Jordan Peterson
posted by No Robots at 3:34 PM on November 19, 2017


Rachel Giese: University of Toronto Prof Jordan Peterson’s Dangerous Views On Why Men Assault Women
Last week, he tweeted to over 253,000 followers: “With all the accusations of sex assault emerging (eg Louis CK) we are going to soon remember why sex was traditionally enshrined in marriage.” That earned him over 5,000 retweets and 17,000 likes, and later he added, “It’s possible that sex is so dangerous that it has to be encapsulated within a socially-sanctioned construct.”

Wait, let’s get this straight: The decline of traditional marriage is what led Roy Moore to paw at teenagers, and drove Louis C.K. to pull his penis out in the company of female comics? Like many of Peterson’s notions, it’s presented as pseudo-profound but soon wilts under scrutiny. So let’s scrutinize: First, it’s not sex itself that’s the problem, but sex without consent. Second, marital rape exists. And finally, let’s not forget: many of the powerful, famous men who currently stand accused of sexual assault happen to be married.

While a brief consideration of reality proves Peterson’s theory about sex assault is just plain wrong, it lines up with beliefs he’s frequently shared with his half a million YouTube subscribers that biology and evolution dictate gender roles and behaviour. His own evolution from serious scholar of psychology and religion to the favourite philosopher of contrarians and conservatives can be traced to a 2016 viral YouTube video in which Peterson voiced his objections to genderless pronouns like “they” and “them.” He feels laws and policies meant to recognize and accommodate transgender people undermined the concept of binary gender and are a sign of left-wing extremism.

His traditional views on gender, his disdain for political correctness, his staunch defence of free speech and his denouncement of “radical left-wingers and social justice warriors” are popular and lucrative. He earns tens of thousands of dollars each month from supporters on Patreon. The rightwing website Rebel Media has raised more than $170,000 for his research after he was denied federal funding.
Speaking of his connections to Rebel Media, Peterson was quite happy to pal around with them even after one of them praised the white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, although apparently chilling with the actual Nazis at the Daily Stormer may have been a bit too awkward for him to (publicly) associate with.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:47 PM on November 19, 2017 [11 favorites]


There is something very unsettling about the confluence of bad ideas and distasteful supporters behind Peterson. The above quotes provided by zombieflanders have incredibly scary implications.

My initial beef with him came from his infuriating use of the word truth. He tries to redefine it with some sort of Jungian baggage that implies truth must contribute to the greater good of humanity and then try to cleave it from a concept of objective facts.

Then he goes on to rail against the bogeyman of postmodernism and a culturalneomaristwhatervism.

You can't:
A. Redefine truth as whatever you think is good.
B. Make your entire schtick about the dangers of postmodernism.

Also, Peterson seems to have somehow taken the worst aspects of the internet Skepticism-MRA continuum and reintroduced a Catholic worldview with tinges of a conservative Muslim conception sexual apartheid. Now people who started this journey as Atheists on the internet are espousing a truly odd constellation of very angry beliefs. Reminds me of the Atlantic piece detailing how Anglin went from a vegan, anti-racist hippie to the founder of the Daily Stormer. Half of this shit has nothing to do with ideology and just finding a group of people you can be angry with while propping up a inflated threat to your own existence.

This all goes back to how social media and the internet are making everyone worse, more extreme versions of themselves. The other issue is that people are incentivised to keep moving in more radical directions. Peterson has received so much money and notoriety for his work, how can he ever tone it down now?

*That being said, I do believe that he believes he's working for the greater good. I don't think there's anything dishonest about his motives. He just took a wrong turn and has been rewarded for it.
posted by Telf at 6:41 PM on November 19, 2017 [8 favorites]


Telf: He just took a wrong turn and has been rewarded for it.

I'm increasingly surprised that civilization manages to reproduce itself at all, given that so much has to be taught anew to each new generation. There are so many wrong turns available to take, and at most the few short decades of a person's life to correct them.
posted by clawsoon at 6:52 PM on November 19, 2017 [4 favorites]


I just hope we still have some kind of sane anchor/lighthouse for people to correct towards.

I'm very worried that we're spending too much time battling the caricatures of groups we disagree with on the internet rather than engaging with normal, healthy people who might have slightly different ideas, but are still basically normal human beings. (By normal I mean people engaging other with empathy and not sliding into some complete groupthink version of solipsism.)

What I fear is that we've created this Batman vs Joker scenario where one side needs to feed off the animosity of the other and things keep escalating meanwhile people in the middle are like "what the fuck is a marxism?" I mean, do normal people care about Jordan Peterson or his equivalent on the left? Or maybe the internet killed all the normies. Maybe we're just coasting along as a society on fumes of rage and outgrouping.

That being said, I haven't lived in the US in about 10 years and everything I know about America now comes from new reports and podcasts. I hope it's not as crazy as it sounds through media.
posted by Telf at 7:06 PM on November 19, 2017 [5 favorites]


His topic was this sort of neo-Jungian or Lacanian approach to personality psychology

Just wanted to say that I found this bizarrely ironic given that Lacan is a darling of postmodern and poststructuralist critical theory, and a lightning rod for famous anti-postmodernists like Alan Sokal.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:29 PM on November 19, 2017 [6 favorites]


You can't:
A. Redefine truth as whatever you think is good.
B. Make your entire schtick about the dangers of postmodernism.


QFT (or for aletheia or whatever)
posted by thelonius at 7:33 PM on November 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


I found Peterson's Wikipedia page to be informative on his position. He's from a small town and though that is not a criticism, it tells me why he won't just look the other way on PC, because he probably feels it would have suppressed his folksy upbringing, denying his existence. He may have been influenced by Ayn Rand as a teen. He is thought of by colleagues as conservative, and clings to tradition to the point of citing it as a mode of research. From his interview linked above, he is dumb wrong about Trump being a moderate and equal in narcissism to Hillary Clinton, but I believe he is correct in telling his students they would have been Nazis if they were magically placed in Nazi Germany, by reason of being normal civic followers of the reigning culture.
posted by Brian B. at 7:35 PM on November 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


I like how all the pictures of this guy is of him demonstratively teaching. He’s energized, lemme say. He’s teaching the youth this shit? Why are they still paying him to teach this shit?

It’s kinda a relief, also, to know that there are Canadians that are as nazi pieces of shit as we have down south. It means it’s not just a thing down here. It’s a relief, because it means the crazies are everywhere. It’s a relief because it means we all share the fight.
posted by valkane at 8:12 PM on November 19, 2017 [1 favorite]



I love a good takedown as much as anybody, but is there anybody more aware of the Canadian or alt-right context who can tell me why busting Jordan Peterson isn't shooting fish in a barrel? I thought performatively offensive, self-appointed contrarian professors like him were a dime a dozen. Should I be more familiar with this guy, cause I'm like "Who he?"


If you're not Canadian and don't have anything much to do with universities, nah, there's no reason to be familiar with Peterson. He does seem to be a rallying point for the branch of the Alt Right in Canada that is trying to recruit at or undermine Canadian universities. I've a colleague who has started parroting the same talking points, for example. None of the other faculty at my campus seem to take anything our local guy says seriously, but he does have a small but possibly growing student fan club, which is kind of a problem.

There's also been a broader issue of de-funding and general institutional lack of support for women's and gender studies programs at universities across Canada; plus concerns about the future of some other humanities departments at many smaller universities, what with the corporatization of higher ed (Canada doesn't have the liberal arts college tradition that the US has, and the dominant discourse across all universities here seems to be of students as consumers and a university education as essentially white collar job training). So Peterson's attacks on those departments strikes an already sore nerve for a number of other university faculty I think.
posted by eviemath at 8:19 PM on November 19, 2017 [9 favorites]


Also, Canadian politeness means that people have been bending over backwards a little to not appear to infringe on Peterson's rights or academic freedom. Combine that with a status quo that's a bit clueless about these issues so doesn't recognize the racist or misogynistic dog whistles in Peterson's speech, and you get the situation where folks at UofT who were originally harmed by Peterson's words and actions have had a bit of a struggle to get their university or the broader Canadian academic community to pay attention.
posted by eviemath at 8:25 PM on November 19, 2017 [9 favorites]


I just looked at another video clip where Peterson says that political correctness is fundamentally due to the agreeableness trait. I think that's an interesting hypothesis. He then claims that too much agreeableness is detrimental to child development, and thus seems to believe that emphasizing this trait at the family level and also the level of sociopolitical institutions is long run harmful.

What's kind of neat is he can say a whole bunch of things I've never thought of, like in this clip he raises number of interesting questions. Their answers I don't know, while some of his stories and examples are unsettlingly plausible. But I've also noticed a pattern--he is bad at drawing sound conclusions, because his analytic style is weak. In that single clip there's too many individually interesting points, but there's no rigorous argument to follow like in a modern philosophy or even a STEM lecture, and so the result is a nonsequitur and argument from authority. So I'm finding what he's saying interesting but also problematic.
posted by polymodus at 3:25 AM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


What's kind of neat is he can say a whole bunch of things I've never thought of, like in this clip he raises number of interesting questions. Their answers I don't know, while some of his stories and examples are unsettlingly plausible. But I've also noticed a pattern--he is bad at drawing sound conclusions, because his analytic style is weak. In that single clip there's too many individually interesting points, but there's no rigorous argument to follow like in a modern philosophy or even a STEM lecture, and so the result is a nonsequitur and argument from authority. So I'm finding what he's saying interesting but also problematic.

Yes, thank you. This is how I feel about Peterson as he currently exists. When he's talking about less political stuff, like about psychology or mythology, his views are much clearer. He throws in the odd editorial, larky remark, but they are distinguishable from the more scholarly thread. When he's talking about political topics, it's an unclear mix of astute observations, larky remarks, and unexamined emotional paroxysm.

The result is that sometimes he makes compelling observations, but sometimes he spouts embarrassingly stupid shit. I wish he could tell the difference, but in the past year especially, it seems he can't, so I find it hard to really trust anything he says. This was not true of Jordan Peterson prior to, say, 2015.

I think a similar fate befell Noam Chomsky. When he's in his actual area of expertise, he's a firehose of brilliance. And his earlier political work has a similar fire to it, even if it was not as rigorously argued. But as he developed a culty following and, from what I can tell, started identifying as America's Intellectual Leftist Gadfly, he became a blowhard. Now Chomsky strikes me as someone who has very little worthwhile to say, but is expert at making other people feel stupid or reprobate for not sharing his views. Sometimes he's still on the money, and when he is he's awesome. But I can't view him as an intellectual or moral authority anymore.

It's sad to watch, but maybe it's an occupational hazard of being a brilliant, successful contrarian.
posted by andrewpcone at 8:30 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


polymodus: that might be an interesting hypothesis if political correctness were actually a real thing, not a buzzword of the backlash against progressivism from the late 1980s/early 1990s. It was the "liberal snowflake" of 20-30 years ago, and is still too partisan or negatively loaded of a term to serve as a useful basis for defining any category for academic study. Part of the (academic) problem with Peterson (and, correspondingly, my colleague) is that he's very opaque about his assumptions, and also can also be quite selective about what information or sides to a story he is presenting. He's an unreliable narrator. So, sure, be intrigued I guess - but follow that up with due diligence in doing your own research on the topics, using multiple sources that tell more sides to the story. This will also help you find out where the more serious conversations on those topics that piqued your interest are occuring.
posted by eviemath at 3:57 AM on November 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


eviemath: I think what Peterson means by "political correctness" is a preoccupation with terminology and with telling other people how to use language. Specifically, it is the belief that deviating from the received terminology constitutes injury to the corresponding people. That is something that not everyone agrees on.

In this setting, "political correctness" is not a general anti-progressive buzzword. I mean, sure that's how it's used at Breitbart and such, but it isn't the way Peterson and his ilk use it. From my reading of Peterson, he isn't against, for example, the acceptance of trans people generally, and he does not label that as "political correctness."

I mean, sure, it's a politically loaded term, but so what? People can study politically loaded terms. Like, if Peterson publishes a paper about political correctness in which the term is defined and quantified, then fine. I don't think he's obligated to define it more rigorously when he's ranting on Youtube.

As for selective presentation, again, so what? Let's not pretend that left leaning academics are bastions of objectivity when it comes to reporting on politically sensitive matters. It is certainly better when people at least try to be objective, but some academics end up in more of a soapboxy role, and I think that's fine. No one should learn from only Peterson as if his views are received truth, but I don't think anyone, least of all Peterson, is advocating that.
posted by andrewpcone at 8:18 AM on November 21, 2017


Specifically, it is the belief that deviating from the received terminology constitutes injury to the corresponding people. That is something that not everyone agrees on.

The injury, particularly among marginalized groups, is largely agreed-upon. Peterson knows this, and it goes beyond just not caring, he's attempting to use it to harass and silence those already-marginalized groups. Contrarianism based on really poor scientific and logical underpinnings is kind of a baseline level of horrible amongst Peterson's ilk, but the vehemence behind it is scary.

In this setting, "political correctness" is not a general anti-progressive buzzword. I mean, sure that's how it's used at Breitbart and such, but it isn't the way Peterson and his ilk use it. From my reading of Peterson, he isn't against, for example, the acceptance of trans people generally, and he does not label that as "political correctness."

Using the correct terms is a major part of the acceptance of trans people. He's aware of that and argues against it not just from a place of anger, but also of extreme bad faith. And yes, Peterson is one of the more visible people that uses and weaponizes the term as a way to limit the rights of people and their political power.

As for selective presentation, again, so what? Let's not pretend that left leaning academics are bastions of objectivity when it comes to reporting on politically sensitive matters.

Enough with the "both sides do it" arguments. It's absolutely heavily weighted, and much of the power at state institutions that ultimately have control over universities is very strongly tilted towards conservatives and, in many cases, out-and-out bigots.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:27 AM on November 21, 2017 [9 favorites]


Abigail Curlew: For Trans Folks, Free Speech Can Be Silencing
To have the existence of your identity made into a debate within a classroom setting directly impacts trans students. And due to the number of us who are forced to stay in the closet for fear of the impacts of discrimination—an instructor can’t even be certain who is and isn’t transgender in their class.

There are tangible consequences to being transgender in the university. I began my transition shortly before my MA convocation ceremony at Queen’s University. It was certainly a surprise for my peers and professors when I came to the ceremony presenting as a woman. Largely, my colleagues were accepting. But one professor ignored me flat out in a blatant exercise in transphobia. For a graduate student, our professional integrity is intimately tied up with our social connections. There is a reason most of us stay in the closet. There is the omnipresent chance of having doors slammed in your face.

To return the controversy about Lindsay Shepherd, the topic of trans folks has been conveniently sidestepped in favour of oversimplified arguments for free speech in universities. In these arguments, the instructor’s right to present opinions supersedes a trans person’s right to be treated with dignity and respect. This is important, because after all, we pay taxes and tuition just like our cisgender counterparts.

Trans folks have been historically marginalized by academics who have been embroiled in debates concerning the authenticity of our existence. Many of these debates have centered around the medicalization of our identity through pseudo-scientific diagnosis of “transvestic fetishism,” “transvestic disorder,” and “gender identity disorder.” Up until 2013, scientific consensus had reduced our very personhood to a mental illness. This is further aggravated by the refusal to acknowledge our existence through the act of misgendering. This is when a someone refers to a transgender person by the sex they were assigned at birth which delegitimizes our right to our identity.

The threat that we face from instructors who insist that they must have a right to revoke our dignity because they do not recognize us as real persons has a silencing effect on many people who identify as transgender. This is compounded with the wider societal intolerance towards us. I spent 28 years of my life in the closet for fear of the harassment, stigmatization, and violence that accompanies being an openly identified trans person.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:22 AM on November 26, 2017 [6 favorites]


I missed this thread and just posted a double. I'm glad the issue is being discussed here. Now I just have to scroll and catch up.
posted by Fizz at 10:18 AM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Here is the post I made in case anyone wants to dig into the subject of free speech and the recent controversy that happened here in Canada at Laurier University.

Laurier University Apologizes to TA For Jordan Peterson Censorship Drama [Vice News]
“The brouhaha all started when Lindsay Shepherd, a graduate student at the university, played a clip from TVO’s The Agenda with Peterson, a U of T professor, debating against the use of gender-neutral pronouns—the subject that has garnered him significant fame and criticism globally. Shepherd played the video for a class of first-year communications students. Shepherd, the teaching assistant, was told by university officials that by showing the clip—which had been aired on public television—that she was creating a “toxic environment” for her students. The professor that conducted the meeting, Dr. Nathan Rambukkana, indicated that might have broken the law and, at one point, said the clip “is like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler.”[...] Shepherd secretly recorded the meeting and released it to media several days ago which led to the incident becoming talking point regarding freedom of speech on post-secondary campuses.”
• Here’s the full recording of Wilfrid Laurier reprimanding Lindsay Shepherd for showing a Jordan Peterson video [National Post]
“Nevertheless, after an anonymous student complained, Shepherd found herself reprimanded for violating the school’s Gendered and Sexual Violence policy. In a subsequent meeting with university officials, she was accused of creating a “toxic” and “problematic” environment that constituted violence against transgendered students. She was also falsely told that she had broken the law. Shepherd recorded the meeting. Audio and selected transcripts are below. The voices are of Shepherd, her supervising professor Nathan Rambukkana, another professor, Herbert Pimlott, as well as Adria Joel, manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support at the school.”
• Why Wilfrid Laurier University's president apologized to Lindsay Shepherd [CBC.ca]
“MacLatchy said the Waterloo, Ont. university regrets how the meeting between Shepherd and her professors were conducted. "The issue was how — the format of — the meeting [that] was held and the discussion that went on about a question that had happened in the tutorial," said MacLatchy. MacLatchy said she was "shocked" at how Shepherd was treated when she heard the recording of the meeting, which was publicly released by Shepherd on Tuesday. "It's not who we are as a university and it doesn't represent what we stand for at Laurier," MacLatchy said. Nathan Rambukkana, the professor who conducted the meeting with Shepherd, also apologized to her through an open letter. MacLatchy said she wants to apologize to Shepherd in person and said her office has reached out to set up a meeting. "We're waiting to hear back from her," she said.”
• Free speech protest at Wilfrid Laurier University caps turbulent week [Globe and Mail]
“A petition organized by several faculty members at Wilfrid Laurier has gathered almost a thousand signatures in the past two days. It demands that Laurier adopt the principles of free speech articulated by the University of Chicago that place free expression above all other values. "We wanted to bring to the fore a tried and true method that has been used at 30 universities in the United States," said David Millard Haskell, an associate professor in religion and culture at WLU who was one of the professors who began the petition. "What happened to Lindsay Shepherd would not have happened or at least she would have had a defence," he said. The incident is the latest in a string of controversies about free speech at Canadian universities this fall, which have included incidents at Dalhousie University and the University of British Columbia. They have highlighted a conflict between free expression and demands for protection from harassment. Such concerns are legitimate but they cannot be allowed to override the exchange of ideas, said James Turk, the director of Ryerson University's Centre for Free Expression.”
• Suppressing TVO video, stifling free speech, is making Wilfrid Laurier unsafe [Toronto Star]
“To her credit, during her inquisition Shepherd had the courage to suggest that it was not the duty of the university to make students comfortable but to make them think. Had she been given more chance to speak, she might have also noted that claiming certain ideas can make a classroom “unsafe” is, for the most part, an unscientific ruse used by many to simply rationalize censorship. I base that conclusion on psychologist Scott Lilienfeld’s recent groundbreaking study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. He reviewed the existing scholarship on the effects of normal exposure to ideas one finds offensive and found there “are many claims about psychological harm done by such microaggressions” but “there is little to no empirical evidence to support such claims.” Other research shows that being exposed to opposing views makes the vast majority of students mentally more resilient, not fragile.”
• Jordan Peterson and the big mistake of university censors [Maclean's]
“I think it’s difficult for many straight, cisgendered people to deal with trans people because thinking about gender identity threatens their own identity in some way, and it’s lazy and selfish for them to refuse to deal with their own issues. Because gender is so emotional, young trans people face huge challenges being accepted, which is a matter of survival. Peterson is the very picture of white straight male privilege, griping about being told what to do by people that were once subordinate to people like him, ignoring the pressing needs of people who need to be accepted if they are to survive. For that reason, though, he is performing a valuable function. When society changes, as it is changing now, thankfully, in the way it treats trans people, we need to have a debate about it. To have a debate, someone has to be right and someone else—Peterson, in this case—has to be wrong. What is worrying is that universities are trying to stop the debate from taking place.”
posted by Fizz at 10:24 AM on November 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


I missed this thread and just posted a double. I'm glad the issue is being discussed here. Now I just have to scroll and catch up.

I feel like if you had read the link I posted just above, which directly addressed the WLU issue, you might not have been so quick to post a bunch of links that included the National Post, a publication with a long and nasty history of transphobia.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:46 AM on November 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


I mean, this site just lost at least a half-dozen members over other members' intense need to rules-lawyer how transgender people should be treated without necessarily including them (let alone their concerns) in the conversation.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:53 AM on November 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


Fizz transported those links over from a post he'd just had deleted, on my pretty standard mod suggestion to do so when we delete a detailed but duplicative post. It wasn't a direct response to this thread or to your comment. It's completely fine to note your concern about some of those links but is totally possible to do it without framing it as an adversarial thing like this.
posted by cortex at 11:02 AM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


From Fizz's stuff ...

Peterson is the very picture of white straight male privilege, griping about being told what to do by people that were once subordinate to people like him, ignoring the pressing needs of people who need to be accepted if they are to survive. For that reason, though, he is performing a valuable function. When society changes, as it is changing now, thankfully, in the way it treats trans people, we need to have a debate about it. To have a debate, someone has to be right and someone else—Peterson, in this case—has to be wrong. What is worrying is that universities are trying to stop the debate from taking place.”

this is an important point, I think. I realize for trans folks that these debates can be painful to the point of punishing, and at the very least f***ing annoying, but it's ultimately the stuff of democracy, free discussion, whatever you want to call it. You've got to let people say their piece, so that you can then pick that piece apart. To instead just shut it down, shout it down, force it down ... I can't help but fear that something worse will erupt from the shadows elsewhere.
posted by philip-random at 12:23 PM on November 27, 2017


You've got to let people say their piece, so that you can then pick that piece apart.

I'd disagree with that insofar as "you" as in the universe where it is necessary that it be possible is different from "you" as in any given individual person or context where it's not necessary to inflict that shit on people then and there.

I say that of course as someone who shuts shit down on the website they run without imagining they're shutting that down universally; there's stuff that you can say, and in some wide far-reaching sense should be physically permitted to say, that you sure as shit are not entitled to say on MetaFilter, and the distinction between those two ideas is important.

And I think that gets lost in the free speech absolutism that drives a lot of these scenarios. Because real harm done to people on the receiving end of someone "saying their piece" matters, and should matter more than it often does to the folks standing safely outside that region of harm and talking grand principles.
posted by cortex at 12:29 PM on November 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


I can't help but fear that something worse will erupt from the shadows elsewhere.

Like what? They'll be assaulted and murdered on a regular basis for who they are? Or they'll be denied partners and families, educations and careers? That they'll have their voices erased from discussions about their very existence, and be used as pawns by bigots like Peterson in actual spoken-out-loud attempts to stifle free speech rather than hypotheticals?
posted by zombieflanders at 12:36 PM on November 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


The thing is, in a lot of these specific cases, "free speech" is a red herring. What is wrong with the situation, if anything, is related to something else. Eg. the Wilfred Laurier TA, Shepherd, made a poor pedagogical choice that, it sounds like from the recording of her meeting, was not even really her pedagogical choice to make if she was just TAing a recitation section accompanying a course that her supervisor was the actual instructor of record for. That said, any meeting or hearing about that should have included an advocate for her as a matter of worker's rights. This was not an academic freedom of inquiry context (unless she was conducting education research on the students in her recitation section, but in that case a Research Ethics Board would have reviewed her lesson plans ahead of time, given that the research would have involved human or animal subjects (namely, humans)). Peterson's antics are similar. (The fact that what he says in his classes or on youtube doesn't have to go through peer review and be scientifically verifiable is probably related to why he chooses to pull his transphobic (etc.) routines in those contexts instead of limiting it to his research, of course.) The teaching context is different than the research context, and thus different rights and responsibilities apply.

For those of us who teach, our job is to challenge students intellectually, on the particular subject of the courses. But we know from research on how people learn that in order for students to be able to take the intellectual risks necessary to learn well, and in order for students to be able to handle the intellectual discomfort we put them through and actually learn something productive from the experience, they need to feel like the classroom is not too risky in all other ways. Part of academic freedom is the freedom to choose which academically valid subject areas we offer courses to students in. But the undergraduate classroom is not, primarily, the locus of creation of new academic knowledge. And part of academic integrity is teaching only topics that we have the requisite expertise in, and that have been validated by peer review. Allowing open debate on whether trans students actually exist or not, when some of the students sitting in the room are potentially transgendered, serves no valid pedagogical purpose in almost any university class(*).

Like, if a plumber was installing new sinks and toilets as part of a bathroom renovation for, let's say, some public municipal building, I'd hope that whoever contracted the plumber's services would respect their technical expertise and let them make their own choices about all sorts of details relevant to the job (what piping or connectors to use, etc.) without micromanaging. But if the plumber, in doing the job for which they were contracted, smeared shit all over the walls, I don't think most of us would buy "it's an art installation; you're censoring my freedom of expression!" as an excuse to avoid consequences for that choice of action on their part.

(* I've seen a convincing argument that advanced journalism students may need to learn how to safely, productively, and professionally manage reporting on issues that may have major direct personal consequences for them. Like courses that teach front-line emergency responders or other medical professionals about self-care, such a course should probably be taught by someone with expertise in trauma care, of course.)
posted by eviemath at 1:58 PM on November 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


zombieflanders -- my fear is that what will erupt is everything you list multiplied. Because the toxicity inherent in what Peterson is saying will go underground, ferment, foment ... and so on.

I mean, I don't know what's going on in everybody else's Facebook feed, but ever since this thread got going (and I started following some of the links), this guy's stuff is EVERYWHERE. If it wasn't real (ie: he wasn't presenting as clear-eyed and heroic to some), it would be approaching Monty Python levels of absurdity.

Jordan Peterson on how he met his wife
Jordan Peterson on sleep paralysis
Jordan Peterson on breastfeeding
Jordan Peterson on open relationships + overweight girlfriends
Jordan Peterson on the effects of cleaning your room
Jordan Peterson on universal basic income
Jordan Peterson on suicide + breakfast

... and I guess I'm hoping that absurdity ends up winning the day, point at the devil and laugh at him.
posted by philip-random at 2:15 PM on November 27, 2017


> my fear is that what will erupt is everything you list multiplied. Because the toxicity inherent in what Peterson is saying will go underground, ferment, foment ... and so on.

People have been saying shit like this out loud and in public for decades. It's only in very (very!) recent years that there has been pushback on any of it. If you haven't been aware that his views are not new and have not been muttered only in secret places where no one else could hear, congratulations. Blatant and violent transphobia is like the least new thing ever. "Respectable," medicalized transphobia is also the least new thing.
posted by rtha at 2:23 PM on November 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


... and I guess I'm hoping that absurdity ends up winning the day, point at the devil and laugh at him.

It doesn't work. I mean, they tried that with Hitler. More recently, everybody tried that with Trump.

The thing is, there's some portion of the population, (the crazy 27%), who are irredeemably awful. Nothing will fix them. Nothing will let us just age past them. They're always going to be here. The danger isn't them in the shadows, the danger is them running the show - they must never be given a foothold, a space, legitimization. We don't need to debate with them, we need to make sure they're kept away from the levers of power so they can't hurt anybody with their awful shit.
posted by mordax at 2:27 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


my fear is that what will erupt is everything you list multiplied.

I don't buy that theory for a second. All of this has been happening for decades and was multiplied because the voices of marginalized people--voices that have been silenced through murders and suicides and de facto suppression of their speech--were deemed to be less important than a privileged concept of free speech. The progress, the ability of marginalized people's voices to be heard, should never be secondary to a concept of free speech that will always be weighted against them.

I'd also like to point out that the article you ended up lauding for its view on free speech was directly rebutted by the one I linked to earlier, which was penned by a transgender journalist. She spoke directly to the ideas you've been bringing up, and it's frustrating that the very real concerns that she brought up (backed up by her experiences) are being subordinated to yet another free speech absolutist POV that refuses to consider the long history of the erasure of transgender speech to engage in hand-wringing over hypothetical situations.

and I guess I'm hoping that absurdity ends up winning the day, point at the devil and laugh at him

The events of the last couple years make a mockery of this entire idea. The devil has become flesh, multiplied into millions of angry bigots who hold most of the levers of power. I don't know how anyone can look at the attacks on transgender people at both an individual level and as a group and claim that absurdity will end up winning the day, just as long as we let the angry bigots get equal say as the people they want silent or dead.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:40 PM on November 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


Blatant and violent transphobia is like the least new thing ever. "Respectable," medicalized transphobia is also the least new thing.

What's new is the movement to shut the Petersons up, which I support. What I suppose I'm undecided on is the means being utilized. I hear what's being said here, and more to the point, I feel the depth of frustration that's driving it. And if Peterson ends up being driven from academia because of it, well I'll hardly be crying any tears.

But again -- in the face of those absurd levels of Youtube presence, how exactly would that silence him anyway?
posted by philip-random at 2:51 PM on November 27, 2017


If you want an example of how these supposed defenses of free speech are actually arguments in favor of structural (if not personal) violence against these groups:

@nelsonlflores:
Here is an example of speech being violent.

Transphobes claim using preferred pronouns violates free speech.

This dehumanizes trans people.

This dehumanization leads to the murder of trans people.

Refusals to use preferred pronouns creates the context for these murders.
Also, just in case anybody thinks Laurier is just a free speech warrior who's fighting against those mean ol' SJW bullies, she sure seems to be a fan of bullying aimed at anyone protecting transgender students. She's also a supporter of the former Rebel Media "journalist" who (as I mentioned above) supported the Charlottesville marchers and likes to hang around the Daily Stormer crew. So I think it's pretty clear her ulterior motives, like that of Peterson and his ilk, are to stifle the speech of marginalized groups while complaining that she's the one being oppressed.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:56 PM on November 27, 2017 [7 favorites]


the Wilfred Laurier TA, Shepherd, made a poor pedagogical choice that, it sounds like from the recording of her meeting, was not even really her pedagogical choice to make if she was just TAing a recitation section accompanying a course that her supervisor was the actual instructor of record for

Is she, as she says, a leftist victimised by oppression?

I invite folks to closely study her twitter feed and the feeds of those she retweets, and decide for yourself.
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:06 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


Ahhhh I see Shepherd's latest move online is to hook up with Ezra Levant and Rebel Media, and to start casting doubts on claims about trans suicide.
posted by Theta States at 10:50 AM on November 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


Ira Wells' The Professor of Piffle article in The Walrus must've been written before the Shepherd/Rebel Media link became clear.
posted by scruss at 2:42 PM on November 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


Someone in my sangha was discussing this stupid shit-head online and seemed to think that his backlash was reasonable, what with people being forced to use pronouns they aren't comfortable with. Liberal convert Zen sangha, this person making the comment is a friend of mine, or at least is friendly to me, we've had comradely conversations and spend a lot of time together. I'm trans, he knows I'm trans. And yet, somehow.

I don't think we talk much about this effect of gadabout internet shitheads, they have a marvelous way of becoming part of the fucking discourse all over the place, and injecting their gadabout shithead ideas into the minds of people who don't really have an opinion either way. And you'd think I'd be used to this by now, but it hurts every time.

ANyway.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 3:28 PM on November 28, 2017 [4 favorites]


And I think that gets lost in the free speech absolutism that drives a lot of these scenarios. Because real harm done to people on the receiving end of someone "saying their piece" matters, and should matter more than it often does to the folks standing safely outside that region of harm and talking grand principles.

I would not go against free speech in theory anytime soon, because it seems like the extreme right is looking to take this piece of high ground from the disorganized left which always claimed it. This is because the extreme right has no traditional social values to speak of, and it worked like a charm with the second amendment. Also, as a practical consideration, modifying free speech concerning the freedom to express oneself will cost the latter its grand principle status among those same bystanders.
posted by Brian B. at 4:06 PM on November 28, 2017


Canadian Media Just Created Another Alt-Right Superstar (Cw: transphobia and violence)
posted by frimble at 11:27 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


Jordan Peterson vape master
posted by philip-random at 11:36 PM on December 1, 2017


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