Friday 20 October 2023

Freedom of Speech, Jordan Peterson, and I believe therefore it's true.

Never have so many knowing so little said so much.

At first glance, the cartoon by Shovel seems amusing. But the more I look at it, the more I see a strange transformation of the public dialog. Maybe it's always existed, but it seems more pronounced with electronic communications and the proliferation of social media. Years ago, your average nutjob stood at the corner on a soapbox with a megaphone, spouting whatever nonsense he wanted. Now, he's on Facebook or Twitter with a reach of millions, sometimes tens of millions if not more. Studies have revealed that rumors spread faster than the truth. It's almost as if the design of human communications is geared toward the bad, not the good.

How common is common knowledge? Two plus two equals four. The Earth is not flat. I've been struck over the past few years in this era of t****, MAGA, and Qanon conspiracists, that what I thought was common has turned out to be not so common. On top of it, the Dunning-Kruger Effect has proven that those with so-called uncommon knowledge are very much convinced they're right. Referring back to bad winning over good, people seem to be more accepting of rumored information than questioning anything. They make little effort to confirm what they hear as true or not. I make mention of Pizzagate: Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee were running a child sex ring out of basement of a pizzeria in a suburb of Washington DC. I heard this and immediately dismissed it as false, however, one man, from North Carolina, loaded up his car with guns, drove to the pizzeria and shot a lock off a door, looking for the children. At his trial, he admitted he had been duped. Upon hearing all this, I was startled by this man's lack of critical thinking. There is bad in the world. Unfortunately, so many people are running around blaming all sorts of unrelated things. I think of Marjorie Taylor Greene saying that Jewish space lasers caused the wildfires in California. Or the supposed perversion of American children by drag queens. These people are lacking so much real-world knowledge, they lash out with wild, unfounded theories, trying to make sense of the world.

Jordan Peterson
Full disclosure: I don't know Jordan Peterson. I've never read his books, attended his lectures, or looked at his YouTube videos. My acquaintance with this controversial Canadian comes from him popping up in newspaper articles about the umbrage over some public statement he's pronounced about the latest issue. I've been curious as to why he always seems to get himself into hot water but it seems evident to me now that his problem is that he's arrogant. He's so sure he's right, he can't see when he's wrong. That seems to pretty much sum up the attitude of the Right, including conservatives, Qanon conspiracy theorists, and MAGA followers.
Yumi Nu, cover model for Sports Illustrated
On May 16, 2022, Jordan Peterson declared a Sports Illustrated model "not beautiful" and sparked quite a backlash. (source, source, Peterson's tweet)

Sample responses:

Man: "Sheesh. Big fan here. I find my girlfriend with a body type like this quite beautiful. Dial it back a bit homie."

Woman: "Why do men feel it's their duty to publicly pronounce their view on the attractiveness of women? Couldn't you just keep it to yourself?"

Over the years, in this blog, I've discussed body image of both women and men. We live in a society very much affected by some sort of idealized body type published in various media. Women are supposed to look like a Victoria Secrets model; anything less is "not beautiful" as Peterson put it. But is that actually true?

Years ago, a fellow blogger Erica Jagger published a series of boudoir shoots of various women. I found each woman attractive in their own right. They weren't models per se, but they were attractive. How startling to read their struggles with self-image and the ensuing lack of confidence. I would have loved to have coffee with each one of them as yes, each one of them was attractive. Old saying: Confidence is the sexiest of all characteristics.

I'm fond of the saying: "Does a goldfish know its living in a fishbowl?" Do any of us fully understand the society we live in where we are bombarded with messages both overt and subliminal, inculcating us with a value system we have no say about and do not necessarily understand?

Peterson, in declaring himself the arbiter of female beauty, is oblivious to how his own tastes have been formulated by the traditions of Victoria Secrets. Like others on the right, he has a laser-like focus on this supposed evil of "wokeness". He's arguing against Sports Illustrated being woke by putting a plus-sized model on the cover, not realizing the magazine was only giving women other than Victoria Secrets models their due. Woke means being fair and inclusive but critics think that's a bad thing. Well, it's a bad thing until people are unfair or not inclusive to these critics. It amuses me how critics hate being criticized.

Elliot Page, transgender man
Page came out in December 2020. In June 2022, Peterson had his Twitter account suspended when he tweeted: "Remember when pride was a sin? And Ellen Page just had her breasts removed by a criminal physician.” (source) Apparently, Peterson is "infamous for his anti-trans stance. He once claimed on Joe Rogan’s podcast that being transgender is a result of a 'contagion' and similar to 'satanic ritual abuse.'".

On July 12/2022, I wrote Dave Chappelle, Ricky Gervais, J. K. Rowling, and the Third Gender, a 3,125 words, 10-minute read examination of transgender. I discovered that transgender has existed for thousands of years and been readily accepted in other cultures. but which is, according to Wikipedia (referencing Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History (2007) by Richard Warms, Richard L. Warms, R. Jon McGee), still somewhat new to mainstream western culture and conceptual thought. And what do we do when confronted with something new, outside our own experience? We don't believe it and we mock it. If you haven't personally experienced it, it can't be true.

Rowling has gotten herself into trouble by declaring there are only two sexes, the sex with which you are born. For her, there is no distinction between the physical and the psychological. In my analysis, I enumerate numerous examples I've encountered which led me to conclude that transgender is very real. Just because I'm not transgender doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Once again, Peterson hasn't done his homework, knowing nothing about history, knowing nothing outside the realm of his own life.

Canada's response to Covid
In an opinion piece (National Post, January 10, 2022), Peterson explained the inconveniences he’s had to suffer due to restrictions related to the responses of various governments to Covid. After a visit to Tennessee during which he enjoyed the openness of the Covid-related rules, he wondered why Canada couldn't open itself up like Tennessee or Florida. Fair enough. I compared the death rates from Covid of the two countries (my blog) and discovered that the United States and all of its individual states had death rates several times greater than Canada. In fact, I estimated that if the United States had responded to Covid the same way Canada had, over 600,000 Americans would have been alive, but they were dead from Covid. While Florida Governor Ron DeSantis loves to brag about how his state has handled the pandemic, I estimated than over 40,000 Floridians had needlessly died from Covid due to his lack of preventative measures. Peterson, in a fit of self-centeredness, paid no heed to the benefits of Canada's policies but only looked at his own inconvenience. The joke was that if Peterson had got his wish and Canada had opened up and consequently, more Canadians died, he didn't know he could have very well been one of those who died from the disease.

The College of Psychologists of Ontario
In November 2022, the College ordered Peterson to undergo a coaching program on professionalism in public statements after the College received a number of complaints about Peterson's online comments about the above issues. (source) There was a hue and a cry, especially from Peterson about his freedom of speech, but the CBC as of August 2023 reports an Ontario court upheld the ruling against Peterson. Was his freedom of speech infringed? Does he have the right to say what he said?

Protecting the Brand
Back in the early 2000s, the company I worked for decided to put in place a social media policy. I conducted part of the preliminary investigation and discovered the following. A company or an organisation has the right to protect itself, its brand or its reputation. The most obvious case I ran across had Company X firing employee Y after it discovered Y was running a neo-Nazi website. A subsequent court battle saw the firing upheld after it determined that Company X had the right to distance itself from Nazism as it would threaten its sales since the vast majority of the population were against Nazism.

If I take that and apply it to The College of Psychologists, the College has the right to protect its brand or its credibility in the eyes of the public. I suppose Peterson has the right to say what he wants to say but the public also has the right to voice their opinion and criticize Peterson for his, well, unorthodox views. Anybody has the right to say two plus two equals five but everybody else has the right to disagree. And like Company X, the public can decide to shop elsewhere where Nazism is not promoted.

Freedom of Speech
Do any of us have the right to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater? (Wikipedia) The part of the debate which seems to be always missing is whether or not what somebody says is causing harm. If the two of us are sitting in a bar on a Saturday night, you can say anything you want. Who are you going to harm? It's only the two of us. But what if you're a public figure with an audience of millions of viewers? Your word is influential, and the question of your freedom of speech and even offhanded comments must include whether or not you're doing good or causing harm.

The president of the United States has to one of, if not the most influential person on the planet. When the president speaks, people listen.

Donald J. t**** took every opportunity to downplay the pandemic, to call it a hoax, to convince people not to take preventative measures, not to wear masks, not social distance, not get vaccinated, not follow vaccine mandates, and not get boosted. I believe t**** should be held criminally negligent for the needless deaths of over 600,000 Americans. Unlike you or me, the president has the ear of all Americans with the power to influence them in their daily lives. What he says counts.

I would add that anybody who's in the public eye, Jordan Peterson, others like Joe Rogan, Fox News and its minions, etc. do not have so-called freedom of speech, they can't say what they think; they can't just give their opinion. They have a responsibility to research their ideas because of the influential power over their audience. t**** asked if disinfectants could be used against Covid. Reports then popped up about people poisoning themselves trying to self-medicate with bleach. Sure, you can easily dismiss these people as stupid but let me repeat: The president of the United States suggested it; it's got to be true!

Peterson like many confuse the issue of the freedom of speech, their freedom, with their responsibility as a public figure. Even an offhanded comment may be taken as the gospel, and some people could follow through with the idea. Joe Rogan, professional comic and podcaster, was a strong proponent of ivermectin as a means to fight Covid. (my blog) This was disproven but Joe ignored the science, along with many others including t****. The Washington Poison Center, Seattle, Washington, reported a five-fold increase in calls regarding ivermectin. People look at those in the public eye with trust and will follow their recommendations even if those recommendations are pure, unadulterated bullsh*t.

Am I being fair in my criticism of Peterson?
Just now, I re-read the following Wikipedia articles: Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, and Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. I note the following:

Believing Peterson to be famous for his personality rather than his "bonkers" philosophy, [James Marriott of The Times] said that Peterson "may have mistaken his personality for a philosophical system".

I can't help feeling there's something wrong here. The very fact he wrote 12 Rules for Life then 12 More Rules smacks of a certain pretentiousness. He does have his fans but I have no intention of rushing out to buy his books or start watching his YouTube channel.

I see that Peterson has used the term "woke". I'm sorry, once I hear somebody use this term I know they are not objectively looking at the world. They are closed-minded with an ideological slant on life. During a court case between Gov. Ron DeSantis and Disney where DeSantis accused Disney of being woke, the judge asked for a definition of the word, and an attorney for DeSantis said that it referred to being aware of social injustices. I don't understand. Why is being aware of social injustices a bad thing? How did this term become a catch-all for everything The Right supposedly hates? And I have to ask: What's the opposite of woke? Asleep? Unconscious? Dead? I'd rather be woke than any of those things.

I stand by my comments on the above issues. Peterson was wrong. He should not have said what he said. And The College is right to demand he take remedial training.

Final Word
I'm fond of the line attributed to Socrates: "I know nothing". I'm also fond of the aphorism: "The more I know the less I know." However, in this era of t**** and MAGA, I've been surprised, shocked, and sometimes appalled at those clearly demonstrating the Dunning-Kruger Effect. They couldn't possibly know the right answer and yet, they are so very convinced they do. They're missing pieces of the puzzle; they're not asking the right questions; and they're ignoring holes in their argumentation. It is far more important to these people to win the debate than to be right. In fact, finding "the truth" in quotation marks is of no importance. Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing.

In my piece on Cancel Culture (2,600 words, 10-minute read), I discovered that those who scream about the injustice of being so-called cancelled, have opened their mouths and let fly with racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, along with lies, misinformation, distortion of the facts, conspiracy theories and outright stupidity, coupled with an attitude of anti-education, anti-science, anti-expertise, anti-government, and anti-authority goddamnit, nobody's gonna tell me what to do! In other words, they deserved to be slapped silly. It's freedom of speech; it's not freedom to be stupid.

Peterson's stance against transgender shows he knows nothing about history. His take on Covid ignores science and statistics. And his comment about the Sports Illustrated model is just mean. Like so many today on the Right, he's arrogant, so convinced he's right, he can't see when he's wrong. He's supposedly going to take whatever remedial course was prescribed by the College, but I feel certain he's not going to "get it". He feels he has the right to say what he wants to say because of freedom of speech not realising that his opinion is not "The Truth".

I said I don't know Peterson and don't follow him other than the stories which pop up in my news feed. However, my interest right now is how Peterson is representative of everything wrong with today's modern world: "I believe therefore it's true." We all want to understand. We all want a comforting explanation of what's going on in the world, but we must be cautious. In desiring that comforting explanation, we can jump to conclusions rather than making the effort to uncover "The Truth". I ran across a meme which humorously explains it all:

Science doesn't give a f*ck about your opinion.


Wikipedia: Jordan Peterson
Jordan Bernt Peterson (born 12 June 1962) is a Canadian psychologist, author, and media commentator. Often described as conservative, he began to receive widespread attention in the late 2010s for his views on cultural and political issues. Peterson has described himself as a classic British liberal and a traditionalist.

During the pandemic, outraged by the B.S. being passed around as scientific fact, I wrote a number of articles on various issues, carefully researching what I claimed as "fact" so as to be able to back up my so-called opinion with scientific evidence.

Ivermectin: I'm not taking medical advice from Joe Rogan. - Nov 9/2021
From the outset of the pandemic, the supposed antiviral properties of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin has been bandied about left, right, and center. Even if expert sources of information like the CDC and the FDA said not to use it, people, especially those on the right led by Fox News, kept pushing ivermectin “propaganda”. Has anybody read the science, and if they did, did they understand what they were looking at? The slightest hint of anything positive has turned into possibility and if it doesn’t kill you, what the heck, what harm could it do? Who knows? It may very well do something!

The problem isn’t so much what people say, it’s that we listen. - Feb 14/2022
I don’t listen to Joe Rogan. I never have listened to him, and I have no intention of doing so. Problem solved.

In fact, I don’t listen and never have listened to t****, Fox News, whether it be Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Jeannine Piro, Jesse Waters, et al., or any other source on the Right such as Alex Jones, Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens, formerly Rush Limbaugh, etc. Of course, clips crop up in newscasts, but I never tune into any of these people. Problem solved.

It occurs to me that the problem isn’t so much that any of these people are talking, it’s that we’re, I mean, you’re listening. Why are you listening?

Covid: What if the U.S. was like Canada? - Feb 3/2022
Comparing the death rate of Canada with the U.S. and its individual states as of February 3, 2022. I believe t**** and Ron DeSantis should be held criminally negligent for their handling of the Covid pandemic.


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