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Pray for Jordan Peterson in the woke lions’ den


THE knives are out for Jordan Peterson again. Having vilified him in the media and hounded him from a leading professorship, his opponents are now trying to destroy his right to practise his basic work of clinical psychology.

Peterson was a respected, if not widely known, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto until he spoke out against two developments. First he objected to a federal amendment to add gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act; second he complained about his university’s plans for mandatory anti-bias training. He also stood up for masculinity, which he argued was under attack.

Soon protesters began disrupting Peterson’s lectures. As the storm grew, so did his international celebrity. His 2018 book 12 Rules for Life and world lectureship tour promoting the book catapulted him to an extraordinary level of celebrity for a mere ‘professor’. Melanie Phillips described him as ‘a kind of secular prophet . . . in an era of lobotomised conformism’ and Cathy Newman greatly increased his profile in a disastrous Channel 4 interview. 

Peterson was attacked by the combined might of the woke North American academic establishment. The liberal media on both sides of the Atlantic began a prolonged campaign to destroy him. Cambridge University feebly and egregiously rescinded their invitation to him to be a visiting lecturer in the school of divinity in face of bullying by staff and students.

As his life became more difficult, Peterson was trapped into resignation from his tenured Toronto professorship. In his resignation statement he said that qualified and supremely trained heterosexual white male graduate students face a negligible chance of being offered university research positions, despite stellar scientific dossiers. He commented that this was partly because of diversity, inclusivity and equity mandates but also that his students were unacceptable precisely because they were his students. He said he was an academic persona non grata because of his unacceptable philosophical positions. 

The sustained attacks coupled with his wife’s terminal illness triggered a major nervous breakdown, and because of his notoriety, the best North American doctors refused to treat him. In desperation his daughter took him to Moscow where he ended up in intensive treatment for prescribed drug addiction which he went on to warn against. As he was recovering he resumed his measured attacks on those dedicated to preaching inappropriately about racial issues and ‘social justice’ to the exclusion of reason. As he became stronger and more vocal, his enemies decided to break him once and for all. This time they are using his professional integrity.

Peterson’s regulatory body, the College of Psychologists of Ontario, has demanded Peterson undertake a social media ‘coaching program’ because of his remarks on Twitter. In short he is being ordered off to re-education camp. The first attempt to silence him was in 2018 when a complaint was filed that Peterson’s tweets were ‘transphobic, sexist and racist’. The tweets given in evidence were none of those things and the complaint was dismissed.

The latest case against him was filed last March. The report from the college extraordinarily covers 446 pages and targets not only his tweets, but his appearance on the Joe Rogan Podcast where his views on climate change and other issues were deemed unacceptable. How his views on climate change raised on that podcast might relate to his professional standing is unclear. The implication is that only ‘experts’ may discuss issues in the public domain. So now Peterson is being threatened with losing his clinical practice unless he undergoes ‘media training’ which he must pay for himself.

As Peterson himself rightly points out, this breeds self-censorship. Given that there are governing boards for most professions, a climate of fear will spread. Careers take decades to build, and most people need their jobs to support their family, and pay their mortgage.

Peterson has filed an application for judicial review with the Ontario Divisional Court and he’s now speaking openly about the barrage of politically motivated complaints.

Last week Peterson took to Twitter, the scene of many of his ‘crimes’, to say enough is enough. He submits to the Court that in seeking to discipline him, the Ontario College of Psychologists is infringing upon his charter rights to free expression. The legal document argues that Peterson’s statements are ‘far removed from the practice of psychology’. The submission also states ‘regulating this type of speech from College members, including disciplining College members for making these types of statements, is an inherently and categorically unreasonable limitation of members’ freedom of expression.’ Further, the comments were brought to the attention of the College ‘not by patients or colleagues, but members of the public who object to [Peterson’s] opinions’.

This may become a major test of the ability of academics and health professionals to speak openly about important issues. I can only wish Professor Peterson Godspeed and fervently hope that he prevails.

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John Tethys
John Tethys
John Tethys, from Yorkshire, is a recently retired university lecturer in one of the clinical sciences.

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