Monday, December 5, 2016

Dr. Jordan Peterson is ready to go to jail for free speech

Who will bell the cat? That is the eternal question raised by the mice in Beatrix Potter's Tailor of Gloucester.

That is also the question in our age, with respect to the identity politics totalitarians, the gentle folks that I have called ideological terrorists.

Now comes Dr. Jordan B Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, to do battle on the question of enforcing lefty norms on gender pronouns. This is the notion, pushed by the left, that people have a right to demand how you address them and refer to them. We are talking about the famous xe/xhe pronouns.

Dr. Peterson has announced that he will not abide by this convention, that is enforced in Ontario by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. He has been warned by his university, but instead has written op-eds and published youTube videos and submitted to interviews.

Peterson says that neither you or I should have the power to demand how other people address us. The reason is "compelled speech," and the US Supreme Court has ruled that compelled speech is unacceptable, and this is to protect not just the rights of the speaker but of the listener. Says Peterson:
The listener has the right to be informed and instructed without being unduly influenced by hidden sources. If your speech is compelled, it isn’t YOU who is talking, it’s some other entity that’s compelling your speech. 
Yes, but don't people have a right to be treated with respect? No, they don't, says Peterson.
[Y]ou have no right to demand from me that I do anything with regards to you that’s respectful. The best you can hope for from me is sceptical neutrality and courageous trust. That’s it. That’s what you get from me. 
 But why not be nice? No reason in the world, providing the niceness is not compelled. But what do "skeptical neutrality" and "courageous trust" mean?
Skeptical neutrality is ‘you’re a bucket of snakes, just like me. However, if you’re willing to abide by your word, and I’m willing to abide by my word, then we’re able to engage in mutually beneficial interactions, so that’s what we’re going to do’. The reason I said courageous trust is to distinguish it from naiveté. Naive people think that everybody’s good. That’s false, everybody’s not good. But acting in a manner that’s hostile and sceptical and anti-social is completely counter-productive. So what you do if you’re a mature person is you say ‘well, yeah, you’ve got a dark side, so do I.
In fact, of course, skeptical neutrality and courageous trust are exactly what capitalism and the free enterprise system demand of us.

Then we get to hate speech laws. If you make hate speech illegal then you drive the speakers of hate underground; you repress them in the strict "psycho-analytical sense." And that's bad.
If you drive them underground, it’s not like they stop talking to each other, they just don’t talk to anyone who disagrees with them. That’s a really bad idea and that’s what’s happening in the United States right now. Half of the country doesn’t talk to the other half. Do you know what you call people you don’t talk to? Enemies. 
And do you know what happens with enemies that don't talk to each other? War.
If you stop talking to people, you either submit to them, or you go to war with them
 So that is the point of requiring people to call kings "your majesty." It demonstrates submission. The person that doesn't call the king "your majesty" is a rebel. Ditto transgender pronouns.

Yes, but what about violent rhetoric that actually leads to violence? The question for Peterson is which makes it worse. He argues that repressing hate speech makes things worse. By pushing people underground you make them paranoid; you put them into a ghetto where the only people they talk to are people that agree with them; you "make them into heroes in their own eyes."

I think that for me the money quote is the idea that compelled speech presents us with an option: to submit or go to war. That is the whole truth about the left, from the French Revolution to the present day. It is all about cultural and political and economic submission. It is Lenin's famous "who whom," his reduction of human society to the bare question of force: who has the power to force others to submit to his power.

And the truth is that most of us, most of the time, would rather submit than fight.

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