Cineplex stands up for free speech, will show Jordan Peterson film
Canadian cinemagoers can be clear about the stance that Cineplex has taken with regard to free speech and free expression.
Cineplex had allowed for the very controversial anti-abortion film Unplanned to be screened in theatres around the country. They now have permitted The Rise of Jordan Peterson documentary to play in their theatres across the country. In fact, they are the only documented theatre company in the country to screen The Rise of Jordan Peterson.
The Post Millennial already revealed that the Imagine Cinemas theatre chain refused to play the Jordan Peterson flick. We now see that Cineplex is taking the lead in playing the film, championing free speech, even if they disagree with the views of Dr. Peterson.
It is worthwhile to know that Unplanned was screened under the Imagine Cinemas brand, there is much more to this story than we will ever know. Imagine Cinemas seems to flip flop around when it comes to films that should be safeguarded under the rights of free expression.
The avoidance of playing the Peterson film at Imagine Cinemas further proves that the morals of being a censure-free cinema are out the door. The morals of being a cinema who does censure films surely better fits the mould of Imagine Cinemas.
Cineplex’s executive director of communications, Sarah Van Lange stated that they “will be screening this movie tonight [September 26] at Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas and VIP, with the possibility of additional, one-night-only screenings at select locations later in October.”
The Carlton Cinema (a subsidiary of Imagine Cinemas), where the film was cancelled is a mere two blocks from the Yonge-Dundas theatre. Interestingly enough, both theatres are in the same riding—Toronto Centre, a riding with a Liberal stronghold, yet a much larger theatre chain (Cineplex) is going to screen a documentary that due to the topic is seen at much smaller, independent theatres. The Yonge Dundas theatre is “technically” on Ryerson campus if you count the theatre space the university uses for lectures.
For a campus that is on top of all things “social justice,” there has been no backlash or even comment on the Peterson film being played in the theatre. While there are a handful of students at Ryerson such as myself who are avid fans and supporters of Dr. Peterson, most students who I come across seem to highly disregard him as offensive, and even hateful in one instance, which was shocking.
It is surprising that students at a campus like Ryerson did not know about the film’s scheduled screenings, because when the word on a “problematic” issue goes around at Ryerson, it spreads like wildfire.
While Cineplex playing host to just two films of hotly controversial interest a small number, it clearly shows that Cineplex has the corporate courage to screen films that may tip the boundaries and comfort for some moviegoers.
Opposition to Cineplex’s choices of films to screen will always continue. However, Cineplex is the only theatre chain in the country it seems to at least take risks, even if there are no rewards.
Van Lange went on to say that Cineplex “have been showing movies for over 100 years and controversial films on the big screen are not new to us. Cineplex has a long legacy of not censoring content and our role as a film exhibitor is to provide our guests with movie choices.”
Cineplex can be seen simply based on its willingness to present contentious films that it is indeed the only movie experience of its kind in the country. Every local Cineplex location should be a go-to spot for any free speech advocate.
Ellis Jacob, the CEO said that by ensuring films are not censured, the concepts of diversity, and unique thought can be showcased. He is right to say that most Canadians do not want to see a country that does not allow for divergent opinions to be on display.
Cineplex is shining brightly as a platform for free speech. It is a stage that in the future I imagine will continue to courageously allow films that deal with issues of moral conscience to play and to know that in the cause of free expression, they are fighting a good cause. Cineplex is known by most Canadians as the largest stage for a film to be screened on and should be lauded for its decision to allow The Rise of Jordan Peterson to be played on its screens.
The line between freedom of speech and the freedom to incite violence is one of the hardest distinctions to put into practice. Toby Young, however, who has recently created the Free Speech Union, may have a better idea than most.
Two years ago, when Theresa May was still the prime minister of the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party appointed Toby Young as a member of the Board of the Office for Students. Despite it being an unpaid position, Young quickly accepted it, and yet within a few days, he had not only lost that job but four others.
Young suffered from the sordid affliction of conservatism, and because of this, his qualifications were overlooked. Almost as soon as he was appointed, legions of “offence archaeologists” began to excavate through decades of articles—inevitably digging up artifacts that would soon cost him his livelihood.
“They dug up some stuff, took it out of context, and portrayed me as a bigot,” said Young. “It was trial by social media: guilty until proven innocent and, by the way, you’re not going to have a chance to defend yourself. I ended up not only having to step down from the regulator, but also from four other positions, including my day job running an education charity. It was brutal—I lost two stone.”
By appointing Young—who perhaps was even an overqualified candidate—the British Conservative Party had committed the unpardonable sin. They had appointed someone with the exact virtues needed for the position: industry knowledge, a public profile, and, most importantly, outspoken and lucid principles. And yet, it was precisely these qualities that led to Young’s downfall.
Within hours, the platoons of the progressives had trudged through decades of articles and social media posts. At one point, all ten of the Spectator’s most viewed articles in their archive, which dates back to 1828, were authored by Young. As the editor of Spectator noted, “Young’s army of detractors were hard at work.”
Young’s ordeal is not as remote as it may seem. These tactics—owing in part to their efficacy—have begun to seep into democracy itself. Take, for instance, Justin Trudeau’s tactics in the 2019 election, where the Liberal apparatus took the form “of a constant barrage of oppo research deployed against Conservative candidates.”
Mercifully enough for the Conservatives, the state-funded offence excavator, indulgent in its smugness, was retired after Justin Trudeau’s penchant for blackface emerged. Nevertheless, within a few weeks, the Liberal Party had time to craft and exhibit the online transgressions of six separate opposition candidates.
All this has sent an unequivocal message to Conservatives: If you dare oppose the prevailing orthodoxy of the day—or in the case of those Conservative candidates, dare oppose Canada’s natural governing party—you will suffer first public humiliation and then unemployment.
“Free speech has never been in more peril across the Anglosphere than at any time since the Second World War,” said Young. “Why? Because the regressive Left has launched a ferocious attack on free speech and the progressive Left doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to defend it.”
As a result of this, Young has launched the first major revolt against those who no longer value free-speech or ideological diversity. With a group of internationally recognized academics, public intellectuals, and journalists, Young has created the Free Speech Union, aimed at defending those who have exercised their right to free speech. “I want to stop the same thing happening to other people, which is why I’ve set up the union,” said Young.
The Free Speech Union is perhaps the only available means to defend yourself against the tactics of the far-left. If you are a member, the union will mobilize an army of supporters to defend you against outrage mobs. They will also launch counter-petitions, defend you in the media, and provide legal assistance whenever it is reasonably possible.
“We will challenge outrage mobs in a variety of ways,” said Young. “If bullies come after one of our members on social media, we’ll go after them. If the woke witch-finders start a petition demanding that one of our members is fired, we’ll start a counter-petition. If one of our British-based members faces a disciplinary process—or is fired—we’ll give them access to legal advice and, if necessary, help them crowd-fund to pay their costs. The enemies of free speech hunt in packs; its defenders need to band together too.”
Speaking to The Post Millennial, the prolific National Post columnist Jonathan Kay commended the ambition of the union. “I hope it works,” he said. Kay, however, did express caution over the capability of the union: “the problem is that if somebody really wants to cancel someone, the pressure points come from within their own professional milieus. The cancellers don’t care if you’re in some kind of free speech union. It would only work if thousands and thousands of people joined it.”
The good news is that the Free Speech Union is well on its way to garnering this support. Speaking about the reception the Union has received, Young said that “it has been very well received by conservatives and by some members of the progressive left.”
One example of this is the Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole, who told The Post Millennial that “free speech is the foundation of a free and democratic society. Conservatives need to stand united against the threat posed by “cancel culture.” The left is trying to intimidate into silence conservatives—and even those on the left who question the most extreme views. This is a real threat that we need to take seriously.”
The Free Speech Union has suffered some criticism from the usual candidates. The regressive Left, for instance, have “done their best to portray it as an organization that’s been set up to protect male, pale and stale conservatives like me from the consequences of hate speech.”
This attempted portrayal may be a difficult task for Young’s army of detractors. So far, the five-person Board of Directors includes a gay man and a woman of colour, making the Free Speech Union, as Young said, “more diverse, in every sense, than the BBC.”
Speaking on the necessity for free speech, Young paraphrased Ira Glasser, the former head of the ACLU: “speech restrictions are like poison gas. They seem like a great weapon when you’ve got your target in sight. But then the wind shifts.”
Combative metaphors aside, it would be more constructive for the regressive left to join the union, or at least not work against it. After all, Young’s detractors proclaim themselves to be liberals. Shouldn’t they commit to a cause that defends the central tenet of liberalism: free speech? To silence any voice is to impoverish the world and our decision-making capacity. The free speech Young is trying to protect is our individual liberty: we negate it at our cost.
Twitter has censored an official video released by RNC Research, which is managed by the Republican Party in the United States. In the video, manufacturing workers in the “blue collar room” praise President Donald Trump for his work on strengthening the US economy.
Subtitled “I’ve seen it getting better and better,” the RNC Research video was flagged by Twitter as a piece of media containing “potentially sensitive content.” Precisely what is “sensitive” about the President’s accomplishments is something only Twitter’s moderation team—and no one else—knows.
The censorship was quickly pointed out by Steve Guest, the GOP’s Rapid Response Director, who was signal boosted by the President’s son, Donald Trump Jr., who wrote: “This is a disgrace. Something we should be celebrating the social media masters are censoring such bullsh*t!”
In recent days, the social media platform has come under fire for its move to crack down on “doctored” videos and other forms of deceptive media, including memes. Journalists in the mainstream media cried foul earlier today over a “deceptively edited” video published by the Mike Bloomberg campaign account that showed him mocking his opponents with the sound of crickets playing in the background.
Following the outcry, a company spokesperson for Twitter told Huffington Post that the Bloomberg video would “likely” be labelled as manipulated media under its new rules, which take effect next month.
The rules may be forthcoming, but Twitter—it seems—is already hard at work to prevent any of Trump’s accomplishments from gaining any traction.
Twitter is working out ways to combat misinformation on the platform, and one of the ideas, per a leaked draft to NBC, is to add warning labels beneath perceived lies and misinformation.
Posts by politicians or their campaigns would be vetted by verified fact-checkers and journalists. Presumably, these people would be entirely objective and able to parse information evenly, cleanly, and without any personal bias whatsoever.
This effort comes in the wake of a rollout of a new policy from Twitter to detect and delete deep fakes and manipulated videos. The new system would also enable something of a social credit component, where “users could earn ‘points’ and a ‘community badge’ if they ‘contribute in good faith and act like a good neighbour’ and ‘provide critical context to help people understand information they see.”
Per NBC, “The points system could prevent trolls or political ideologues from becoming moderators if they differ too often from the broader community in what they mark as false or misleading.” What that means is that one, lone, dissenting voice, that does not go along with the opinion of everyone else, could lose their status as a moderator simply because they are willing to diverge from the group opinion. Having an opinion that differs too often will be reason for invalidation.
That an entire group thinks one thing does not make it true. Truth is not discerned by the number of people who believe it. In fact, the mere fact of total consensus is reason enough to investigate.
Warning labels are present in many aspects of life. They are on both prescription and over the counter drugs, on car seats, side view mirrors, and at the edge of cliffs suggesting we not get too close. Health Canada and the US FDA require ingredients labelling on foods. Tobacco products are covered with images of diseased lungs per government regulation. Information is not something that should come with a warning label.
This is not new, but it is more insidious, given just how much information the public currently consumes. In the 1990s, Tipper Gore advocated for warnings labels to come on albums, and she succeeded. Perhaps nothing was more enticing to a kid than an album with the black and white label reading: Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics. Books by renowned authors like James Joyce were banned for their sexual content.
Tech giants are concerned over their complicity in making misleading or downright incorrect information available for public consumption. They are worried that, as a result of their proprietary algorithms, stories and posts that contain inaccuracies will appear on users’ feeds. What the tech companies want is a corrective. They want to fix it. They want to be able to slap a warning label on there, give it a splashy Pantone shade, and let the issue drop, solved.
If the standard for misinformation were to be applied equally across ideologies, the BuzzFeed’s and Vox’s Twitter feeds would be very colourful indeed. But there’s no reason to believe that will be the case, given past examples. From the dirty Trump dossier to the Covington kids hoax to Jussie Smollett, misinformation flows freely from the woke outlets. And they are always given a pass by big tech.
Andy Ngo had to delete his tweet stating facts from the Human Rights Campaign because they were inconvenient to the progressive narrative. Meghan Murphy is still banned from Twitter for speaking a simple biological truth.
Here’s a thought experiment: How would Twitter categorize this tweet from Hillary Clinton? Is there enough evidence of collusion to warrant her calling Trump Putin’s Puppet?
Twitter’s plan to know what is true based on what the largest quantity of verified moderators believe is true is thoroughly flawed. The plight of heterodox thinkers on Twitter has been well documented, with those who diverge from the common narrative banned or threatened with deletion. Twitter does not know how to discern fact from fiction, and their plan of labelling information with warning labels will stifle truth and discourse, not advance it. The truth is that Twitter is the last place to trust when it comes to the truth.
Working in the media for over two decades has afforded me the chance to meet many of my heroes. Some encounters lived up to expectation and others were small disasters.
Lighting up an imported stogie with Robert Lantos in his midtown home was delightful. Sitting under a cabana at the Beverly Hilton with Gary Shandling was heavenly. And sitting in the green room with the late Don Rickles in Montreal was emotionally orgasmic.
But how do I describe my exchange with Jordan Peterson?
Let me give it my best shot. Some moons ago, a friend of mine was one of Peterson’s students. She spoke of her intriguing psychology professor and promised that she would let me tag along for a morning lecture at U of T. I passed it off as a flip invite that would never come to be—but I secretly hoped I was wrong.
Sure enough, one day, as I had my face buried in paperwork at my Summerhill intern desk, my friend Sarah stopped by out of nowhere. She told me to pack up my stuff and escorted me to class with her. I should have never doubted her.
Sarah and I did a fast parallel park on Bloor Street West and sauntered over to The Arts and Sciences Building. Cue Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me.” Sound the trumpets. I was in Peterson’s world.
I guess you might say Peterson was enjoying relative obscurity then, in as much as genius can ever be truly obscure. It tends to illuminate, even under the dim of low wattage bulbs. But compared to his ubiquitous fame now, he was an unknown.
The lecture hall filled quicker than a king-sized beer mug at happy hour. The empty glass of water at the podium was a prolepsis for some of Peterson’s epic rants and proliferating insights. The excitement was palpable. And so was the budding adoration for the professor at the helm.
“This guy’s lectures are dope. The best Prof in Canada. Dude’s got game” proclaimed a well-tattooed man sitting one row under me.
I took another look around as Dr. Peterson made his way to the podium. To my surprise, students were devoid of the glassy film that usually covers the eyes of hopeful graduates. Laptops were fully charged. Pens were dipped in fresh ink. Hangovers were whipped into submission by copious amounts of caffeine and adrenaline.
This was not the lecture hall culture that I remembered. This was a brave new world known as Peterson’s Playhouse. Peterson wore blue jeans with a dark cardigan and a dress shirt underneath. He was clean-shaven with an ashen pallor. He was dark under the eyes and looked quite exhausted— which as I understand it now, was insomnia’s doing.
After gathering his thoughts, Peterson started lecturing. He quickly led us into a comprehensive examination of why both individuals and groups participate in social conflict, and the reasoning and motivation individuals take to support their belief systems (ideological identification) that result in mass killing and pathological atrocity.
Just another day at the office for Alberta’s most influential intellectual export. Midway into his 2-hour lecture, Peterson started to speak about the Holocaust and the horrors of Auschwitz. He did this as an academic adjunct to his primary supposition about belief systems.
Unexpectedly, he went into a searing psychological examination of the Nazis and the hundreds of thousands of German soldiers who were left bereft of human conscience as they dangled in the throws of ideological imposition by the Hitler regime.
Now I have attended many Holocaust remembrance events over the years. Each one, heart-rending in its own way. I have sat with survivors of the camps—each conversation sending shivers down my spine and taking me into the deepest recesses of spiritual pause.
But this was something different. Peterson struck an isolated chord.
Maybe it was the surprise of seeing a gentile Professor speaking with such passion and conviction about a topic that was so personal to me. I am not quite sure. But as Peterson’s voice cracked with raw emotion, I felt my own connection with the worst tragedy of Jewish history, grow deeper and stronger.
“We read about the Holocaust, and study it now, but we have no way to actually comprehend this kind of evil. This kind of unbridled malevolence,” Peterson said, eyes watering and body trembling.
“You don’t think it can happen again, well guess again man,” the professor exclaimed.
“Don’t underestimate the human capacity for evil. And it lives in all of us. You need to know how bad you CAN be, to commit to how good you MUST be,” said Peterson, as though it was his last breath.
I was so taken by the emotional power of the lecture that I waited 40 minutes after class to shake Peterson’s hand and thank him personally. I watched from a distance as he met his perfunctory obligations and shook hands with students.
The line moved quite slowly but I finally got to meet him.
“How can I help you, young man,” he said to me playfully.
“I just wanted to thank you, Professor, for such an amazing lecture,” I said. “As a Jewish person
I found your words about the Holocaust to be soul-stirring. I did not expect such words in a university environment,” I said nervously.
He said, “What is your aspiration? What are you hoping to do in life?”
I said, “I am a poet and aspiring writer, director, producer.”
“Well, history is in the hands of our best writers. So make us proud,” he said with a smile.
I would like to say the chat went on longer but that was it. Over before it really began. Some shlemiel came out of nowhere and nudged me to the side with an oversized Macbook. I could have sued. Diamond and Diamond could have sent me into early retirement with that one.
When I see Peterson on the big American talk shows or speaking at sold-out theatres across the world, I think back to the early lecture I attended. Was there any sign back then of the international fame that awaited him? Was he earmarked for world influence?
I don’t think anyone, including him, could have predicted the Peterson phenomenon. But I do think he was always an eminently smart and compelling character. And his proclivity to hold firm on his beliefs, and still confess deep vulnerability, was so rare.
So yeah, I think the signs were always there from the beginning.
Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos has dominated the best-sellers charts in dozens of countries. Estimates say the popular self-help book has moved in excess of 3 million copies worldwide. The book has given inspiration, insight and hope to struggling folks in virtually every corner of the globe.
Thank you, Dr. Peterson, for doing so much good. I can always say, I knew you—briefly—way back when.
In recent weeks, there has been much written about Peterson’s health challenges (and near-death experience) with a dependency on and severe reaction to clonazepam, a commonly prescribed drug in the benzodiazepine family. He started taking the drug shortly after he found out his wife, Tammy, had terminal cancer.
When a prominent self-help guru loses his footing, I suppose there is a sense of irony and morbid curiosity that naturally ensues. But that does not justify kicking a guy while he’s down. Some of the remarks directed at Peterson and his family, since news of his medical condition emerged, have been downright grisly.
It’s sad that being ill and bed-ridden in Russia gave his political adversaries an opening for rancour and an opportunity to push their own twisted agendas.
But this is the world we live in.
Be that as it may—even if Peterson were to never speak publicly again, I am convinced history would remember him as a brave friend to humanity. Maybe not the kind that one expected or summoned for. But one that said what needed to be said. And one that did what needed to be done.