Jordan Peterson, a Canadian psychology professor whose diva antics over free speech propelled him into a pop culture career as an author, is not extending the same courtesy to another professor and writer named Kate Manne, as he is threatening to sue her for calling him a misogynist.
If you want freedom of speech to be a thing, then you have to accept everyone’s freedom of speech, even when they call you a misogynist.
As someone who writes books for a living, not everyone is enthralled with me, and have said very nasty things about me in a public forum over the years. (Mind you, they also send me lots of nasty email messages, too).
I don’t sue them because I am a defender of free speech, and in a world of 7.4 billion people, lots of people are not going to think you are special.
As in, pretty much all 7.4 billion people who all think they are way better than you, minus your mom and the person who has a crush on you.
Fame is a roulette wheel, and the chances of you always winning are nil.
You are one of the rare lucky ones if half the people in a public who know who you are actually like you. When TVQs were all the rage in the 1980s, only three people had somewhat more than 50%: The Pope, Bill Cosby, and Michael J. Fox. Let that one land in your brain.
Peterson does not seem to get this whole public career thing. He was used to the lecture halls where students were a captive audience who had to behave themselves if they wanted to pass any course, not just his. That is a controlled environment and an unnatural one that is rigged to favour authority and its decrees. It forms unnatural habits and reinforces unrealistic expectations of life outside of academia, and if you spend decades under that kind of environment, your expectations once you reach a different realm where the rules are vastly different and the outcomes less predictable as they are not rigged by tradition, habit, rote, or routine will not be met. You must adjust your expectations accordingly.
If you are intelligent and teachable.
I have taught in controlled environments, and I know how easy it is to think your are in control, but I also worked as a journalist, and I know that control is an illusion. You cannot control your own narrative in a world of social media.
The article in the Cut fails to mention that Peterson’s lawyer Howard Levitt just so happens to be a columnist in the National Post, a newspaper that has repeatedly bristled at #MeToo, women’s rights, and has been openly partisan in its defending of Steven Galloway…and had written at length about many of things that led to the lawsuit against Winfred Laurier University in the first place.
The Post needs further scrutiny because it certainly does not behave in ways one would expect of an objective disseminator of information.
If you are going to make a case of free speech, be advised it applies to people who are not impressed with you. You cannot rig the public forum the way you can rig a university or a court.
But Peterson is doing Manne a huge favour. He has just given her free publicity and a legitimate news peg to breakout as a serious public voice for feminism, the same way his detractors gave it to him under the same set of circumstances.
Manne is no Cathy Newman, a television host who was used to a rigged battleground and could not handle Peterson. Manne is an academic and knows the same intellectual tricks as Peterson. Nor is she a clueless New York Times reporter whose predictable sophistry is easy to dismantle.
Had he ignored the article, the impact would have been minimal as it was actually nothing that his detractors hadn’t already said before, but by drawing attention to it, people are primed and triggered to wonder about Peterson’s own limitations and weaknesses…