JORDAN PETERSON TOYS WITH TRUTH
Does Jordan ignore evidence because he thinks his wisdom outweighs it? Or are baseless assertions strategic? the tweet that spoke a thousand words.
What is Jordan Peterson doing when he says that stricter gun control laws have about a zero percent chance of making a difference in violent attacks on schools, a view he shares with the NRA and for which there is zero evidence? What is he doing when he claims in his book, 12 Rules for Life, that environmentalists who want fewer human beings on the planet cause students to “suffer genuine declines in their mental health”? When pressed about this by Henry Mance in the Financial Times, he conceded “there is no hard evidence.” Does Jordan ignore evidence because he thinks his wisdom outweighs it? Or are such baseless assertions strategic?
I have known Jordan for 20 years. I knew him up close (and for five months very close, when he and his family lived with mine) and was following him intently when he rose to prominence as a free speech warrior, opposing Bill C-16 — an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act that added gender identity and expression to a list of protected groups. Considering other things he was saying and doing at the time I came to the sad conclusion that Jordan was not what he presented himself to be. He was not a free speech warrior. He was a defender of the social order — or his idea of what that should be. It seemed that he would defend it at any cost — even at the expense of truth.
Jordan publicly and angrily declared he would not comply with the Act. He would not address students using gender neutral pronouns. He made false claims about the Bill and the consequences of noncompliance. That was the beginning of an anger and a pattern of taking liberties with the truth which I had not seen in him before. That all appears in my very personal account of him which appeared on May 5, 2018 in The Toronto Star (https://www.thestar.com/opinion/2018/05/25/i-was-jordan-petersons-strongest-supporter-now-i-think-hes-dangerous.html).
There I wrote that I have a transgender daughter to make it clear that her gender was not my reason for objecting to Jordan’s position. I wrote it, as well, to preempt Jordan from using that to discredit what I wrote.
As expected, he tweeted my story to his followers with the accompanying message: Bernie Schiff, my good friend…
Also I called Bernie a couple of times after the telephone conversation he describes but he never called me back… It was our last conversation by his choice, not mine.
Warm, collegial and accurate. I was pleasantly surprised. He was taking the high road.
An hour later he took the low one, with this tweet:
And, finally. I know Bernie to be an indefatigable advocate for his daughter, who has faced serious health problems. As someone who has been in the same situation I can truly sympathize, and presume only that my reaction to C16 cut too close to the bone.
Jordan had figured out how to discredit what I wrote. Warm and collegial again (and now, I understood, seductive) but entirely and — if you know the facts — transparently misleading.
The insinuation that the nature of my daughter’s illness made me hypersensitive to his position on that bill is patently false. If there is some question about what he intended there is none about how it was received. After his tweet I received such as “Have Dr Peterson treat your daughter” or “Sorry you have such a sick daughter but don’t take it out on Jordan.” The truth is that my daughter’s illness is not related to gender, it is not psychiatric, and it is easily treated.
Furthermore, the experiences Jordan and I had with our daughters’ illnesses could not have been more different.
Jordan has a remarkable, smart and courageous daughter who has a chronic and threatening condition that had caused pain, anguish, life challenges and uncertainty for her and her family for much of her life. It is only recently, as they revealed on public television, that she figured out how to manage that condition through her diet. She averted what could otherwise have been a tragic outcome. She accomplished what her doctors could not.
My daughter’s condition was simple and easily treatable. She was born with hydrocephalus. The circulation of cerebrospinal fluid in her brain was impeded and while disastrous if untreated, it was easily rectified with a shunt that drains away excess fluid. When blocked it is easily repaired and requires about a week of recovery. My daughter was 20 when we met Jordan and in the preceding years had had three such problems. Our lives were easy. It is true that when she was one year old I feared she might suffer brain damage because of medical negligence. It soon became clear that she did not. When we met Jordan she had decided on an academic career over a promising one as a violinist. She went on to earn a PhD from the University of Chicago and a tenure track position at a prestigious academic institution in the United States. She had some problems along the way, but never suffered.
When I ended communications with Jordan because of Bill C-16 my daughter was preparing an invited paper to be presented, all expenses paid, to a small group of scholars in Jerusalem. We were not in distress. Far from it. She and our family were doing great. She had come out 5 years earlier, and she was very happy.
In short, Jordan’s allegation was blatantly false and manipulative. My daughter’s gender identity was never a problem for our family. Bill C16 did not cut close to the bone. I wrote my story because I was outraged by Jordan’s false representation of gender science, and of the bill itself. He betrayed the trust I placed in him when I helped secure his position at the University of Toronto.
Jordan’s tweet spoke a thousand words: It was a deliberate manipulation to discredit what I had written, and it exemplifies his willingness to distort truth in the service of his causes.
Apparently, Jordan is not only manipulative. He is also hypocritical. At the time of writing this Jordan is again in the news, suing Wilfred Laurier University for defamation of character over things said about him in (of all places) a private meeting! The irony and hypocrisy of that suit by an alleged champion of free speech cannot escape him. Unless of course, it does.