The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

Free Speech & the Cult of Peterson

Peterson, center. Bigot fanboys on each side.

Many of the Jordan Peterson cult members are petulant babies, demanding others give them, or give Peterson, what they want.

A group of them started badgering and insulting the Libertarians Concerned Facebook page for posting a criticism of Peterson. In particular we noted that Peterson claimed a Canadian law made it illegal for him to misgender trans students at his university and would send him to prison if he did. That law did no such thing and law professors and legal societies tried to tell Peterson he was off in La-La Land, but like your typical L. Ron Hubbard in search of a Scientology, Peterson was already using it to form his own personal following of fratboys and bigots and raking in the cash from them—$80,000 a month.

Bigotry can be profitable.

These followers seem to think freedom of speech means someone else is obliged to pay for the podium, someone else must give them the microphone, and someone else is required to provide them an audience.

These children seem to have differing views as to who was “violating” Peterson’s freedom of speech. Many claim the Canadian government did it — no such thing happened, but that doesn’t stop them. Others argued the university told him he couldn’t misgender trans students in the classroom.

The first didn’t happen and I haven’t researched the second yet, but lets assume the university did do this. Why misgender a trans person on purpose other than to be offensive? Peterson knows it’s offensive and said he will do it anyway.

Now I see the basic principle at work being Peterson is a university employee and students pay to be there and thus are customers. The employer, the university, said to the employee “You have to be respectful to our customers when on the clock since you work for us.” Peterson’s response is: “WAAA! WAAAA! You’re violating my freedom of speech.”

I’ve seen this sort of nonsense before. Employee at a bank harangues a customer about “the Lord.” Customer tells the bank they didn’t come there to be preached to but to do their banking. Bank chastises the employee who then files a law suit through Religious Right “legal” outfit claiming it’s discrimination and a violation of freedom of speech.

A fundamentalist physician used the hospital messaging system to send anti-gay messages to all employees of the hospital even though the system is not to be used for personal politicking. When he ignored the requests to stop, claiming he has rights as a Christian to use other people’s property to preach hate, they took away his privilege to practice at their hospital. He went to another Religious Right law outfit and screamed discrimination and tried to sue the hospital.

Employers are paying individuals to be on the clock and work for them. While employees of any company or institution they are not free to use the resources of others for their own preaching purposes—and it doesn’t matter what they are preaching. Unless the employer says “Yes, you can push alt-Right hate and bigotry to customers,” that right doesn’t exist. The content isn’t what matters. If an employee were a fanatical flower arranger they still don’t have the right to lecture customers about flowers: perhaps if they worked for a florist, but even then only with the employer’s approval.

The right to free speech means the right to use your own resources, or resources of others freely provided to you, to preach whatever nonsense or profound belief you may hold. It gives you freedom, but it doesn’t obligate others to hand you soap boxes, microphones or pulpits. As Ayn Rand noted, free speech “does not mean the right to demand the financial support or the material means to express your views at the expense of other men who may not wish to support you. Freedom of speech includes the freedom not to agree, not to listen and not to support one’s own antagonists. A ‘right’ does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one’s own effort.”

You have the right to look at pornography and pleasure yourself—that doesn’t mean you get to do it in my living room and I have to lend you the bed or my computer screen for you hobby.

One of Peterson’s cultboys told us that Peterson “has the right to say whatever the fuck he wants, wherever the fuck he wants.” This means Peterson has rights, but no one else. Peterson’s “right” supersedes their rights. Rights then are not equal, he has privileges and others are his servants.

Your right to freedom of speech doesn’t mean I’m obliged to allow you to use my pages to express your views. Similarly my freedom of speech doesn’t mean I can post this on your page and you’re obliged to leave it up for your audience to see. Equality of rights before the laws gives both of us the same rights.

Invariably the likes of Peterson and other alt-Right figures is that they demand free speech for themselves—meaning others subsidize their speech in some way—while they refuse to allow others access to their pages. Of course, having access to a page of a fanatical follower or fratboy worshippers is of little value. Speaking to people with open minds, driven by evidence is of value. Talking to cult members has little value—talking to Peterson’s fratboys is like trying to tell members of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints that Warren Jeffs is a child molesting fraud. The moment you start to speak they stick their fingers in their ears and hum loudly or, worse, get aggressive, loud, abrasive and insulting.

I won’t recount the names and insults used by these defenders of Western civilization—but they were anything but polite or fitting for real intellectuals.

I did use it as an opportunity to check out the Facebook profile of these individuals in question. To say the least it wasn’t surprising how they all clung to a handful of hateful, right-wing sites.

I saw people who listed Mein Kampf as one of their favorite books and then screamed if anyone dare suggest he’s a Nazi. His page was covered with groups praising the Nazi military, gun groups, preppers, anti-Semites, and Holocaust revisionists. Along with these he “liked” Trump, Tucker Carlson, so-called militias and the misnamed Mises Institute. It was a cluster-fuck of hate and angry authoritarianism—some of it even pretending to be libertarian.

Say what you want, but use your page not mine. Preach what you want, but from your own podium—no one else is obliged to provide you with one at their expense. Your right to free speech does NOT entitle you to my resources in order for you to insult others, including me. This rule applies to all of us equally—even to the tin pot Messiah from Toronto.

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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.