Free speech the issue

by | Feb 1, 2018 | Featured, Uncategorized

It didn’t take long for Dr. Jordan B. Peterson to book a new venue in Edmonton. Just days after the Citadel Theatre’s abrupt cancellation of Peterson’s Feb. 12 book tour date, Hyatt Place Edmonton-Downtown swooped in and booked the author. Tickets were gone within hours of release at $50 a pop, and per Peterson’s Twitter account, second date is in the works. Peterson is currently promoting his self-help book 12 Rules to Life: An Antidote to Chaos, which was released Tuesday.

Was the cancellation worth all the hassle? Whether Peterson and the Citadel had a signed agreement or a handshake sort of deal is fuzzy but the reasoning that Peterson doesn’t fit their “mandate” is leaving many, including myself, confused.

The Citadel has since apologized for cancelling the talk and Peterson has accepted the gesture, but the issue isn’t resolved. LGBTQ activists expressed in a Jan. 16 Metro article that they were worried Peterson could “embolden” anti-LGBTQ views. It seems that this extra light shone on the professor has brought more attention to his Edmonton appearance than without it.

Although, Peterson’s recent European leg of the tour is stirring up lots of conversation already. The biggest moment, his appearance on BBC Channel 4 interviewed by Cathy Newman, had the British press churning out articles left and right in response to the combative interview. Channel 4 said they had to increase its security after Newman began receiving threats. For some strange reason, the psychology professor creates a response.

Peterson earned new listeners, connecting with young people looking for responsibility in England. Locally, he’s earning more ears and interest in his birth province due to the Citadel cancellation.

His talks can be characterized as a self-help session from a clinical psychologist in these difficult times. Why the outrage? The loads of support from young people who’ve listened to his messages of responsibility and values, not to mention his publishing record in the academic world, would’ve made this a different discussion a couple years ago. But now it appears that the sweeping institution of LGBTQ can shut down a talk they may disagree with.

When it comes to free speech, it’s important to keep in mind Peterson has the right to speak, but the Citadel didn’t have to host him. Since a deal was essentially already in place, it appears the Citadel changed their tune when louder voices came knocking.

If they were worried about the potential of Peterson to “embolden” anti-LGBTQ views, which may be a valid concern, they could’ve booked whoever they wanted the next night to refute his claims.

Better yet, if he were truly reprehensible they should’ve arranged a debate with an academic with an opposite stance to wipe him off the floor. Or pit him against an interviewer in the style of Cathy Newman. If the concern is his criticism of Bill C-16, which is not the subject of his book and is never used to harm transgender people, why not hear his argument and then beat it? Why is stifling the argument the goal and not defeating the argument?

Whether or not you agree with Peterson’s fairly mild, and in his words “classical liberal” views, he certainly is not a racist or trans-phobic. With his hundreds of hours of lectures online, if a smoking gun were to be found it would’ve happened already.

He is not a vague zealot or a vulgar mean-spirited character in the vein of Milo Yiannopoulos. He’s touring with a message that could help people. This book was in the works before his criticisms of Bill C-16 were public. He’s a serious person who wants to engage in discussion and debate. And this recent controversy has only “emboldened” people’s interest in Peterson. Instances like the Citadel make many feel the principle of free speech is under attack.

By stifling his ability to speak, instead of defeating his views in the public forum, LGBTQ activists have given Peterson the opportunity to connect with even more people.

It also raises the question: If they won’t engage Peterson in dialogue, aren’t they proving his arguments have more sense than they care to admit?

– Michael Menzies, Senior Editor

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